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Cynical on Godhra


The Economic Times, Jan. 17, 2005

The [retired Supreme Court] Justice U.C. [Umesh Chandra] Banerjee Committee's interim report may have attributed the Sabarmati Express fire at Godhra, to 'accident,' but there's more to it than meets the eye.

That the committee was set up by railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in September 2004 to score a few political brownie points is undeniable.

The timing of the interim report - just weeks before socially polarised Bihar and Jharkhand go to the polls - only provides further credence to such suspicions. That being so, the fact that Nitish Kumar had failed to order an inquiry into the incident, in his capacity as the railway minister, can't be defended.

What is equally indefensible is the fact that the then deputy P.M., Mr. L.K. Advani, and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, despite the unavailability of tangible evidence, termed the burning of the S6 coach as a 'terrorist act.'

To that extent, Lalu's declaration that he will press murder charges against those found guilty of suppressing and distorting facts that led to the riots might be technically correct. What is, however, cause for concern is Lalu's cynical view of secularism.

His attempt at falsifying the B.J.P.'s claim that the Gujarat riots had an immediate provocation underscores the poverty of his secular politics. The riots, irrespective of whether they had an immediate provocation or not, are indefensible.

Lalu's secularism, which emanates from the electoral arithmetic of caste-community combinations, only serves to perpetuate the prevailing paradigm of identity politics, rather than move away from it.

It's this reigning ideology of patronage as politics that has eroded the credibility of our institutions - whether it be a probe committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge, or the C.B.I.

The alacrity with which ministers use their executive powers to order inquiries or withdraw cases to appease various constituencies, is symptomatic of the canker at the heart of Indian polity.

Instances in the recent past, of cases against Advani, Satish Sharma and Mayawati being withdrawn by the C.B.I. without any credible explanation, indicates how the political class has openly mocked at the autonomy of such institutions. People must reject politicians who demolish assorted institutions of the Republic, to build their secular facade.