On this Winter Solstice, I am a Gujarati
Date: 11 Jan 2008
On this Winter Solstice, I am a Gujarati
January 11, 2008
The Gujarat election results were announced on a very appropriate day: the
day after Winter Solstice, the beginning of the movement of the Sun towards
the north. Uttarayanam is auspicious, a time of new beginnings; this is the
time for which the aged Bhishma waited, in excruciating pain on the
sara-sayya, bed of arrows. If we are lucky, we will be seeing a new
beginning in the Indian political scenario as well.
John Kennedy said famously in the-Cold-War-era besieged Berlin after the
Wall was built: Ich bin ein Berliner. He meant to say, "I am,
metaphorically, one of you Berliners, and I stand by you". Today, the
Gujarati feels besieged by an unrelenting barrage of negative propaganda
that portrays them all, collectively and individually, as monsters. All
decent people must stand by Gujaratis, because unprincipled rogues are
attacking them willy-nilly.
This demonisation is a major reason why Gujaratis turned out in droves to
elect Modi; the second reason is the UPA's obvious antipathy towards Hindus,
which is coming back to haunt them.
The demonisation has reached epidemic proportions. For instance, when there
were bomb blasts in trains in Mumbai in July 2006, a prominent media maven
wrote in Newsweek magazine something that in effect said, 'the target of the
bombs was rich Gujaratis, and so it's revenge for the Gujarat riots.' The
matter-of-fact tone suggested that the author believed this was acceptable,
poetic justice. Killing innocent Gujaratis is just fine and dandy, the man
In fact, he was very wrong. Gujaratis are not bloodthirsty maniacs
single-mindedly going out there to kill innocent Mohammedans for sport -- as
in the fantasy version (created by the media) of the Godhra torching of the
Sabarmati Express and the subsequent riots. The fact is that the Gujaratis,
mild-mannered and apolitical, have been pushed to the wall by extreme
violence against them. They were an enraged, blind mob in the aftermath of
the Godhra carnage.
Let us remember what happened: A group of 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from
Ayodhya, mostly women and children, were burned alive in a railway coach
when the train was stopped in a Mohammedan area. Commonsense suggests, given
that a large crowd of Mohammedans had gathered at 7 am in an area that had
seen widespread infiltration by extremists, that there was some malice
aforethought and it is likely that the Mohammedans in fact set the train on
fire. Nobody else had the motive or the means.
Torching 59 women and children, most sane people would concede, is extreme
provocation. Consider what the Americans did when there was similar grave
provocation against them, and 3,000 of them were killed on 9/11. I said then
that they didn't riot because they knew the State would take revenge for
them (unlike in India). The American military invaded Iraq, and have killed
some 500,000 Mohammedans so far, in addition to destroying large parts of
Iraq. This, in addition to the estimated 500,000 Iraqi children -- an entire
generation -- killed because of punishing American embargos. The kill ratio:
500,000 to 3,000 -- seventeen to one.
And these Iraqis had practically nothing to do with 9/11, the perpetrators
being mostly Saudi Arabian nationals (who, of course, are 'untouchable',
given the Saudi understanding with the oilmen running America). The toll on
lives and property has been horrific, see Iraq: The Hidden Human Cost from
The New York Review of Books. The little girl with her skull neatly severed
and her eyes open; the little girl in the blue dress with her lower torso
blown off: who is paying the price for their murders?
Unlike violence-prone Americans, Gujaratis cannot generally be accused of
random bloodshed. The image, largely true, that most of us have of Gujaratis
is that they are a peaceful, quiet, vegetarian people with a strong sense of
morals and ethics. They are traders par excellence, and as such keep a low
Historically, Gujaratis have been more victimised than victimisers. The sad
tale of the Somnath temple -- looted and sacked innumerable times by
Mohammedan invaders, yet rebuilt painstakingly each time -- shows both the
persistence and the pain. The Gujaratis, despite their prowess as traders,
apparently did not have the weapons to secure their riches.
It may be noted in passing, however, that Gujarati Mohammedan traders took
their religion to the rajahs of Indonesia, and thus caused the end of the
Hindu-Buddhist civilisation that had thrived there for a millennium.
Similarly, a Gujarati pilot showed the Portuguese pirate Vasco da Gama the
path across the Arabian Sea following the monsoon winds: This led to the
spree of European Christian imperialism.
The experience of Gujaratis in East Africa has also been instructive: They
flourished as traders in much of the region, so much so that black dictators
saw it fit to unceremoniously eject them and confiscate their property: Idi
Amin Dada of Uganda was only the most vicious of the lot. Yet the Gujaratis
picked themselves up, went to the UK or the US, and thrived through sheer
hard work. Today Gujaratis dominate the hospitality industry, controlling
some 60 per cent of all hotel rooms in the US.
According to Joel Kotkin, California sociologist and author of Tribes,
Gujaratis form a cohesive group, one with a strong sense of community. He
recounts the diamond-merchants now ensconced on 47th Street in New York,
competing with and displacing Hassidic Jews in the business. He marvels that
Gujaratis will entrust a million dollars worth of uncut diamonds to a fellow
Gujarati on nothing more than a handshake. And invariably he will deliver it
as expected. Their sense of honour and devotion to their tribe -- and surely
the fear of excommunication -- ensures good behaviour.
It is this amour-propre of the Gujarati -- what they call Gujarati Asmita --
that the Communist-dominated and Christian-influenced English Language Media
of India attacked relentlessly by positing that each and every Gujarati was
a fascist, Nazi, communal, murderer. (Which is quite interesting considering
that the ELM is the apologist for the true fascists, the killers of
Nandigram [Images]. See my column, Communism as Fascism). Willing
collaborators in the foreign media picked this up and broadcast it -- all
the better to prepare the ground for a withering assault by
conversion-happy, soul-harvesting Christian evangelists on Gujarat.
Anyone with a subaltern perspective, anyone who has supported the underdog,
will have to empathise with the Gujarati: The might of the world media and
the church as well as all of the power of the State apparatus has been
ranged against them. They are strictly underdogs.
This last is a purely local phenomenon, one might argue: The vote was about
injured Gujarati pride. Yes, that is true, and therefore it may not be
replicable elsewhere. But lack of development is something anyone can
appreciate: As was seen in the UPA's debacle in Himachal Pradesh. Besides,
the fear of terrorism is also widespread: Witness Benazir Bhutto's [Images]
assassination and the continued descent of Pakistan into chaos. Therefore,
the other elements of the Modi campaign can easily be re-used. The UPA will
be hard put to counter these; and the 'Big Mo' is with the BJP.
Thus the Gujarat elections have ensured 100 per cent that there will be no
early national elections in 2008. The Communists will continue to run
rampant, and thus the India-US nuclear deal will be sacrificed by the UPA in
a desperate attempt to hang on to office. This is the right outcome for the
wrong reason, but it's acceptable. All in all, not a bad situation even
though the nation has to endure UPA misrule for another year.
Comments welcome at my blog at http://rajeev2007.wordpress.com