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Whenever would-be prime ministerial candidates of the country for the 2014 elections is being discussed, it cannot be complete without mentioning Narendra Modi, who is, by far, way ahead of any other person across the political spectrum. It is also equally important to make an intellectual analysis as to why Modi, who took charge of a communally surcharged state being a non-starter as a politician in 2002, has reached this level of popularity across the country where no other politician has been able to reach.
You may hate him or you may like him but you cannot ignore him. The journey which Narendra Modi has covered - from being the most hated figure in 2002 to a probable prime ministerial candidate in 2014 - is astounding. Modi's approach has undoubtedly given him the status of a statesman and the architect of the Gujarat growth model.
This could be counted as one of the reasons for the minorities, including the Muslims gravitating towards Narendra Modi. The fruits of this model have touched more or less all sections of the society, and has been inclusive beyond doubt.
The nation did watch the UPA back-patting itself on completing 9 years and the nation also watched Narendra Modi completing 10 years as the Gujarat CM. And no doubt, the applause goes to Narendra Modi. The million-dollar question now is, "What changes have been made in Gujarat in these ten years? And why this gravitation towards Narendra Modi is now creeping across the country?"
Modi and Gujarat are development symbols for the nation. Although the scars of 2002 still remain but it was not just an enigma that more than 31 per cent of the Muslims voted for the BJP in the 2012 Assembly elections. Media has not yet realised this. The reality has not yet dawned that 6 out of 8 Muslim-majority constituencies were won by BJP candidates last December. And this momentum of the Muslims overwhelmingly voting for the BJP continued in the local elections of February 2013. Modi has been time-tested several times in the past decade and this is perhaps the first decade in the last 60 years when Gujarat remained riot-free. The reason was simple. Modi has given the Gujaratis the boon of peace and justice which money can't buy. And across civilisations of the world, people have liked a leader who can provide them peace and justice because prosperity is bound to follow if these are made available to the people.
There are number of reasons for the Muslims of Gujarat to move beyond the 2002 riots, primarily because in the 9 major cases of rioting and arson, the perpetrators of the crime were convicted, justice prevailed and the rule of law was established.
Recently, India's most well-known film script-writer Salim Khan (actor Salmaan Khan's father) has said to a senior journalist in an interview: "Does anyone remember who the chief minister of Maharashtra was during the Mumbai riots which were no less deadly than the Gujarat riots of 2002? Does anyone recall the name of the chief minister of UP during Malliana and Meerut riots or that of the Bihar CM when the Bhagalpur or Jamshedpur riots under Congress regimes took place? Do we hear names of earlier chief ministers of Gujarat under whose charge, hundreds of riots took place in post-Independence India? Does anyone remember who was in-charge of Delhi's security when the 1984 massacre of Sikhs took place in the capital of India? How come Narendra Modi has been singled out as the Devil Incarnate as if he personally carried out all the killings during the riots of 2002?" No speck of doubt about what Salim Khan has said.
Modi, in fact, has given a new formula of inclusive development to our secular country by removing the labels of religion, castes and creed. He approaches the people as one and designs schemes intended to benefit all Gujaratis, thus eliminating the evil divide and rule formula of vote-bank politics from which the country is suffering from. No help or aid or scheme has been launched in Gujarat in the last 11 years in the name of religion or caste. This could be the quintessence of inclusive growth with communal harmony.
No wonder we see the highly respected and eminent Muslim scholar Maulana Vastanvi, a Gujarati Muslim himself, saying that, "Gujarati muslims had benefited from the inclusive development policies of Modi's government." Unfortunately he was forced to resign from his post as Vice-Chancellor of Deoband for saying so.
Another prominent Islamic scholar, Maulana Mehmood Madni of Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind, had agreed that Muslims in Gujarat were better off in many disciplines as compared to other states.
Yet another prominent non-resident Gujarati Lord Adam Patel of the UK, during his visit to India, met Modi at Gandhinagar and appreciated his peace initiatives and the inclusive prosperity among the Muslims of Gujarat.
Not only the Muslims of Gujarat, in a recent interview given to 'Milli Gazette', former IG of Police, Maharashtra, SM Mushrif said: "The most safe place for Muslims today is Gujarat." He further says that the state of Maharashtra has done the greatest damage to the Muslim community which is ruled by so-called secular parties like the NCP and the Congress for the last 10 years. So many cannot be wrong at the same time; there remains no doubt about why Muslims are gravitating towards Modi.
No wonder the Modi hate campaigners are finding a hard time to sell their part of story because they are in stark contrast with the ground reality in spite of repeated media-trials.
I remember Mahesh Bhatt, the renowned film director ,once speaking from a Jamiatul Ulema -e-Hind platform in Surat, said and I quote him: "Narendra Modi, sun rahe ho? Jis mazhab ko tum aaye din kehte ho ki ye aatankvadiyon ki gangotri hai, uske Rasool ne kya kaha hai...".as he quoted a Hadith of the Prophet. Mahesh Bhatt soon received a call from Narendra Modi. Modi told him, "Maheshbhai, Musalmaan 5 aaiye, 50 aaiye, 500 aaiye, 5000 aaiye, main milne ko taiyyar hoon, main aapki saari problems ko solve karne ke liye taiyyar hoon. Main aapko ye hi kehna chahta hoon ki main available hoon." Film director Mahesh Bhatt had put forward this to the Islamic leaders of Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind and to the Muslim community in general.
Here the CM seems to have won over the hearts not by practising divide and rule but by ensuring inclusiveness and submissiveness to the people. Taking into context the Muslims of Gujarat, they had never seen such inclusiveness and such a discrimination-free society. The only thing, every Gujarati was looking for, was development.
We all know that the worst riot in post-Partition India happened in 1969 in Ahmedabad and more than 5000 Muslims were killed in that systematic massacre. Because there was no 247 media those days, earlier riots were not documented. At that time Gujarat was ruled by the Congress and Hitendra Desai was the CM while Indira Gandhi was in power at the Centre. Forget about punishment, not even a single charge sheet was filed. The Jagmohan Commission report is there for everyone to see. Whole communities were wiped out without a trace. Has anyone documented where these 5000 families have gone?
In the past, people of Gujarat always lived under the fear of communal riots but efforts and endeavours of prominent Muslims had made it possible for numerous Muslim delegations - Islamic scholars, businessmen, youth, women and even street hawkers to meet Modi. He has met them all and given an ear to their grievances. This was something the Muslims had not seen in the last 40 years of Congress rule. Muslim madarsas were supported. Madarsa students, who had never seen or gone to a school, got a chance to appear for SSC and class XIIth examinations. The famous Sarkhej Roza which was in dilapidated condition was renovated and restored. The numbers of Muslim-owned schools and hospitals in the state have increased. Economic prosperity too has visited Muslim households and as a result, the record turn-out by Muslims to vote for Narendra Modi.
It is important to understand that inclusive growth has benefitted the minority community and we can see that through various growth indicators. Some of them are:
This, being a season of preparations for the Hajj pilgrimage, it is important to see that the total quota for Hajj travellers in Gujarat is 3,500 seats whereas applications for Hajj have exceeded the count of 41,000 already. Going for Hajj is an indicator of economic prosperity of a family because in Islam, it is mandatory to fulfil all your social obligations before going on Hajj.
Gujarat has two of the fastest growing districts in the country and they are Kutch and Bharuch and both these districts have large Muslim populations and there has been unprecedented growth in these districts. Kutch has about 35 per cent Muslim population and Bharuch has around 20 per cent Muslim population.
Similarly, if one looks at the two-wheeler vehicle registration at various RTO's in Gujarat, almost 18 per cent of the vehicles are registered in the names of Muslims who form less than 10 per cent of the total population of the state. Similarly, the registration of 4-wheeler vehicles is also much higher than the communitys proportionate population.
The number of Muslims employed in the police force is 12 per cent in Gujarat,. while Muslims employed by the Gujarat state government is around 10 per cent of the total sarkari workforce.
Yes, we all agree that there was massive destruction of lives and property and Muslims did suffer a lot in 2002. But this was not the first time. Before this, major riots have occurred in Gujarat in 1969, 87, 89, 90, 92. In each one of these riots, many Muslims lost their lives and property worth crores of rupees was looted, but never were the perpetrators of the crime punished. Even FIR's were not registered. The government of the day would not dare to confront the arsonists. But now, for the first time, not only in the history of Gujarat but even elsewhere in the country, more than 200 miscreants belonging to the majority faith have been convicted for their roles in the 2002 riots. Out of these 200 convicts, 150 have been given life imprisonment. Although all these convictions have happened due to the involvement of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, the role of the Gujarat government in ensuring justice cannot be ignored. These convictions have been like a balm on the wounds of the victims.
Two more cases are at a very advanced stage of conviction: Naroda Gam and Gulburga society where again the convictions of the perpetrators and arsonists are foregone conclusions.
Apart from justice, this government has been able to provide a terror-free atmosphere. So as compared to earlier when a Muslim could not even venture out to some parts, today he or she can freely move around and there is terror-free interaction between the communities. Such an atmosphere was unseen anywhere before 2002 in Gujarat.
People praise the riverfront project on the banks of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad but people forget that there were some 13000 families living on the bank of the Sabarmati for the last 50 years. Every single family has been rehabilitated in beautiful apartments and 68 per cent of these families were Muslim. No discrimination was done by the state government. The Gujarat government has raised schemes for the weaker sections of the society and there is not a single incident where Muslims have been discriminated.
In spite of the Modi government being reprimanded for not implementing any minority-related financial schemes, Gujarat Minorities Finance Development Corporation has disbursed over Rs 60 crore in the last 10 years. Modi is portrayed as anti-minority whereas the experience of the minorities in Gujarat is that Modi is a very minority-friendly person. Not surprisingly, most Christians vote for Modi. They have never complained against his regime.
In the words of V V Augustine from Kerala, who used to frequently interact with Modi during his tenure as a member of the National Minorities Commission, "People who spread the canard that Modi is against the minorities are reflecting their own political biases. My experience is totally different. He listens very carefully and acts very fast in case of genuine problems. As a member of the Minorities Commission, I dealt with several states. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar governments have also been good. But no chief minister is as good, as strong and determined as Modi. Now even Muslims realise that Modi is good for them. There are two kinds of Muslims in Gujarat - the rich and the poor. My experience tells me the poor Muslims are solidly with Modi because a riot-free Gujarat and a resurgent economy with new opportunities have benefited the poorer Muslims far more dramatically. It has provided them avenues of upward mobility. Truth is truth, how can I deny facts?"
The end result today is that Gujarat has seen its first ever post-Independence riot-free decade with inclusivene growth. Muslims have gravitated towards Narendra Modi and Modi, the most hated figure in 2002, is the most suitable prime ministerial material for the country in 2013.
Views expressed are personal and they do not reflect the editorial position of IBNLive.
More about Zafar Sareshwala
Zafar Sareshwala is the CEO & MD of Parsoli Motors.