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In a fresh Opinion piece, New York Times calls Modi sectarian, unapologetically divisive

By Our Representative
Continuing with foreign newspapers’ barrage of attack on Narendra Modi, the New York Times’ Opinion Page has carried yet an article (April 18, 2014) regretting, “As candidate for prime minister, Modi has not given up his sectarian ways.” Written by Basharat Peer and titled “Being Muslim under Narendra Modi”, the article sidesteps the illusion being created around Modi being a tea seller who has grown to become “brave and just” (as pictured in a widely circulated comic book “Bal Narendra”). It underscores, “If anything Modi’s public record paints the picture of a leader unapologetically divisive and sectarian.”
Peer – who has authored “Curfewed Night,” a memoir of the conflict in Kashmir – recalls, “It was on (Modi’s) watch as chief minister that more than 1,000 people, many of them Muslims, were killed throughout Gujarat in 2002, when rioting erupted after some 60 Hindus died in a burning train in Godhra”, adding, “A Human Rights Watch report that year asserted that the state government and local police officials were complicit in the carnage.” Even so many years after the riots, “Modi has not visited the camps of the Muslims displaced by the violence or apologized for his government’s failure to protect a minority.”
Instead, the author states, Modi “has described the reprisal killings of Muslims that year as a simple ‘reaction’ to an ‘action,’ namely the deaths of the Hindu train passengers — and has said he felt as sad about them as would a passenger in a car that accidentally ran over a puppy.” He adds, Modi’s “only regret, he once told a reporter for this paper, was failing to manage the media fallout.”
Insisting that nor has the BJP -- termed as “Hindu nationalist” – tried to amend its ways, Peer, who was in India and Ahmedabad for an election watch tour, says, “Of the 449 BJP candidates now running for seats in the lower house of Parliament, all but eight are Hindu. The party’s latest election manifesto reintroduces a proposal to build a temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of a medieval mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, even though the destruction of that mosque by Hindu extremists and BJP supporters in 1992 devolved into violence that killed several thousand people.”
Referring to Amit Shah, who is currently BJP in charge managing UP for the party, the New York Times commentary says, the former Gujarat minister is Modi’s “closest aide” and “is awaiting trial for the murder of three people the police suspect of plotting to assassinate Modi.” It adds, Shah has made “speeches inciting anti-Muslim sentiment among Hindu voters, including in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, despite an outbreak of sectarian violence there last September.”
Referring to Ahmedabad, which was affected by the riots, the author says, the city “ceases to swagger in Juhapura, a southwestern neighborhood and the city’s largest Muslim ghetto.” The way this Muslim ghetto has been treated suggests, according to him, that “a BJP victory in the general election would increase marginalization and vulnerability among India’s 165 million Muslims.” He also refers to the massive network of Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) which has grown all over, saying it is plying, ironically on “People’s Path.”
Pointing out that Ahmedabad that is Gujarat’s largest city, and has become a wealthy metropolis of about six million people and three million private vehicles, with office complexes, high-rise apartments, busy markets and shopping malls, which have replaced the poor villages that once dotted the land, Peer recalls how he rode around there last week on the back of a friend’s scooter to get a feel of the ghetto where 400,000 people live.
“On the dusty main street was a smattering of white and beige apartment blocks and shopping centers. A multistory building announced itself in neon signs as a community hall; a restaurant boasted of having air-conditioning. The deeper we went into the neighborhood, the narrower the streets, the shabbier the buildings, the thicker the crowds. The edge of the ghetto came abruptly. Just behind us was a row of tiny, single-story houses with peeling paint. Up ahead, in an empty space the size of a soccer field, children chased one another, jumping over heaps of broken bricks”, he says, guoting his friend, to say, this was The Border.
“Beyond the field was a massive concrete wall topped with barbed wire and oval surveillance cameras. On the other side, we could see a neat row of beige apartment blocks with air conditioners securely attached to the windows — housing for middle-class Hindu families. Modi’s engines of growth seem to have stalled on The Border. His acclaimed bus network ends a few miles before Juhapura. The route of a planned metro rail line also stops short of the neighborhood. The same goes for the city’s gas pipelines, which are operated by a company belonging to a billionaire businessman close to Modi”, the author says.

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