By not taking Modi head on over fake encounters, the party may be doing itself a disservice, says Mukul Sinha
A NEW type of disorder, bordering on the psychosomatic, seems to have afflicted the Congress in Gujarat. Why else would it develop cold feet over attacking its political opponent, the BJP, out of fear that the latter would gain from it? For the past 10 years, the Congress has consciously avoided exposing and indicting Narendra Modi in several cases in which Muslims were killed in fake encounters. For example, the ham-handed manner in which former home minister Amit Shah was allowed to slip through the law’s net did nothing to inspire confidence in the investigations.
The fear originates from a notion that the electorate in Gujarat is highly polarised. Despite being in power at the Centre, the Congress refuses to give a free hand to the CBI to investigate Modi’s role in the fake encounters, fearing a backlash from the majority community in the upcoming poll.
However, the reality may be quite the contrary. In fact, the local media has done a good job in boldly exposing the monstrosity of the fake encounters. It is unlikely that the media would have turned around without the majority opinion going against the killing of innocent Muslims, especially the two innocent women, Kauser Bi and Ishrat Jahan. This turnaround will be a major factor in the coming election.
It may be recalled that it was not because of any “development” gimmick that the Modi-led BJP won the 2002 and 2007 Assembly polls. In 2012, however, Modi is seeking another term as the chief minister by conjuring that very trick. Admittedly, the BJP won the 2002 election on the communal plank alone. Rabble-rousers like Sadhvi Ritambhara and Acharya Dharmendra had been marshalled to garner support for Modi and his party, with dramatic results.
In the 2007 election, instead of helping the investigation in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, Sonia Gandhi was saddled with the disastrous slogan of calling Modi a “maut ka saudagar”.Modi was prompt in turning that into his favour. During his campaign, he would call upon the crowds to say aloud what should be done to a “terrorist” like Sohrabuddin. Invariably, this would give rise to full-throated cries of “kill the terrorists!” Clearly, communal polarisation had determined the outcome of the 2007 poll as well.
Even now, there is no serious attempt to investigate any of the four well-documented cases of fake encounters. No chargesheet has been filed in the Sadiq Jamal case yet, where the Gujarat High Court had directed the CBI to take over the probe. In the Ishrat Jahan case, despite the high court holding it to be a fake encounter, the CBI has not made even a single arrest in the past year. In the Sohrabuddin case, the murder of his wife Kauser Bi remains a mystery. The Tulsi Prajapati investigation, too, is stuck in several litigations. Surprisingly, the CBI did not arrest anyone despite filing a chargesheet against 20 persons accused in this murder case.
After messing up all these cases, can the Central government, under which the CBI functions, expect any kudos? For the BJP, it is a gain by default. And a double whammy: the BJP denigrates the CBI by calling it the “Congress Bureau of Investigation”; yet, on the other hand, it gets the fullest advantage of this “cold feet” approach of the Congress.
Mukul Sinha is a lawyer-activist