Had the SIT not balked at asking questions on issues of far greater consequence,
Modi would have most likely been facing a
trial, as recommended by another Supreme
Court appointee, amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran.
After SIT and an Ahmedabad magisterial
court gave Modi a clean chit, what legal recourse do Zakia Jafri and others wanting to
prove his and his government’s complicity in
the riots have, apart from appealing against
the magistrate’s order in a higher court?
The matter is now before the Gujarat high
court. Given the wide range of unasked ques-
tions and the wealth of material on record, I
hope that the high court or at least the Supre-
me Court will make amends and reject the
SIT’s finding that there was not enough pros-
ecutable evidence against Modi and others.
In the prevailing political environment,
the independence of the judiciary will be
tested more than ever before.
Is there a legal provision in the Constitution by which the entire fact-finding exercise conducted into the post-Godhra killings
can be redone and Modi summoned again
by a new investigation team?
I don’t think there is a need to order a fresh
investigation into the complaint... As
Ramachandran said in his report to the
Supreme Court, the existing material is
more than sufficient to prosecute Modi and
other high-ups of his regime.
Could the SC have perhaps forced the SIT
to ask questions that mattered?
When a bench headed by Justice Arijit Pa-
sayat referred Zakia Jafri’s complaint to the
SIT in April 2009, it appeared to have push-
ed the envelope of accountability, as Accused
No 1 named by the complainant (Zakia
Jafri) was none other than Modi.
This expectation of accountability was,
however, belied by the subsequent bench
headed by Justice D K Jain as it proved to be
lax in various ways in its monitoring of the
The final nail in the coffin was the Supreme Court’s sudden decision in September
2011 to cease the monitoring of the investigation, thereby emboldening the SIT to ride
roughshod over Ramachandran’s recommendation to initiate criminal proceedings
against Modi and others.
Do you fear the establishment will hound
you? You have mentioned in the book that
your e-mail was hacked and the SIT’s closure
report alleged you helped IPS officer Sanjiv
Bhatt in filing an affidavit in court against
Modi — if Modi becomes prime minister?
Any attempt to hound me would be an op-
portunity for me to question the veracity of
the SIT’s observation against me. For, the
very e-mail annexed by the SIT shows that
when Bhatt sent me his draft affidavit, the
only addition I suggested was all of one sen-
tence, explaining his compulsion for approa-
ching the Supreme Court.
Yet, in a bid to malign an independent
journalist breathing down its neck, the SIT
claimed I had advised Bhatt ‘to incorporate a
few more paragraphs drafted’ by me.
This distortion by the SIT has been picked
up by Modi trolls to divert attention from the
issues raised by my book.
Dear Mr Modi,
Iguess you and I have not really met or been in dialogue and yet I feel I have to address this letter to you because democracy demands that transparency, the courage
to say no openly to you.
You seem to be in sight of victory as the
Modi wave and the Modi juggernaut rolls its
way to Delhi. At your moment of inevitability, one has to challenge you, not because you
are Canute’s tide but because certain issues
As a member of an informal opposition, I
want to list out some reasons why you cannot
be prime minister. Such an argument does
not need comparisons with A B Vajpayee or
an equivalence with Jawaharlal Nehru. What
I want to challenge is your worldview, your
behavior and the way you have responded to
Firstly, I want to say that one is surprised by
the bully-boy attitude you have. You showed
great dignity about your child marriage —
both the dignity of silence and restraint. One
wishes that as a potential PM you would
extend that dignity to your opponents, to
your enemies, to dissent in any form.
I can understand that as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak that you wear
uniforms. The sadness is that your concepts
too march in uniformity. It creates a violence
of concepts. Think of how you define secularism as the highest patriotism, the ultimate
loyalty to the nation. Secularism separates religion and State. By allocating patriotism as
the religion of the nation-State, you blur categories.
For the RSS and for you, the nation and
society are one, but by making society and
nation coterminous, one is destroying the
social, the little socials of the nukkad, the vil-
lage, the tribe, the community, civil society.
All disappear in your loyalty to one organism,
the nation masquerading as the nation-State.
Concepts are crucial and life-giving. Your
definition of secularism destroys diversity,
syncretism and in doing so, you damage the
polity more than any pseudo-secularist.
Concepts need to breathe. They are ways of
life and they need to exist on irony, paradox,
ambiguity and laughter.
You seem to prefer official languages to the
joys of dialect, and that saddens me. Often
tyranny begins in uniforms. The marching
orders follow inevitably.
Your friends often call you a victim of 2002,
claiming you have been insulted and maligned. They insist that the Special Investigation
Team has cleared you. The question I want to
ask is what the difference between guilt and
responsibility. To use a less Newtonian metaphor, the riots were spontaneous combustion. Does that mean that you are indifferent
to the fires created, to the lives lost?
Is there a responsibility for the aftermath of
the riots or will Gujarat go down in history as
the first state which refused to respond to the
victims of a riot, claiming camps should be
closed down as they are breeding grounds for
minorities and dissent? Is that the asmita
(pride) you are talking about? How can a
decent society not accept responsibility for
victims of violence?
You did wonders with rehabilitation in the
Bhuj earthquake. Are riots merely gross
inversions of that world? For one got you the
Sasakawa award. Should the other get you
the Orwell prize for the decade? The list of
missing and displaced is high and the nor-
malcy that exists shows that people have
never come to terms with that violence.
You have failed as a healer, and healing
and inclusiveness are skills of a statesman.
You are a politician who does not know to
apologize or forgive. What then are your
claims or dreams of an inclusive society?
You talk of your origins with pride and
you reclaimed them with a double vigor
after Mani Shankar Aiyar idiotically called
you the chaiwallah. Chai is a beautiful
drink and chai dhaba is a great place for
conversation and friendship for the panchayats of democracy. Drinking chai is an
act of sharing creates a sense of equality. It
is good to be proud of origins, create publicity around the chai shop.
But your chai dhaba with its patented sin-
gle window caters only to the Adanis, the Tat-
as, and the Ambanis. No wonder business-
men across the world want to have tea with
you. Is that tea different or is it only a way of
covering the fact it is the corporations who
sip tea with you? As PM, are you going to be
chaiwallah for the Ambanis? You have to
clarify this. Will your regime mean business
as usual for the Ambanis and Adani? What
happens to the small man and his tea shop
It is like your talk of development as a panacea. Development is a method and a problematic one at that. It has shadows, costs, it
displaces people; it can be a form of violence.
One has to ask what kind of a gift of development you are offering. Modern India has to
be a new social contract between the tribal,
the craft, the agricultural and the industrial
How does each choose their way of life?
How do each of them engage with the other
while choosing their way of life? Being a
real estate agent for corporations hungry
for land does not make for development.
You will need to institute a social and ecological audit of the Adanis, the Tatas and
the Ambanis. Parading them as your stakeholders shows little thought of the costs of
Professor Amartya Sen and a wonderfully
pragmatic Pakistani economist called Mah-oob-ul Haq elaborated the idea of Human
Development. Read the report and tell us
where Gujarat really stands. Gujarat is home
to some of the great tribal, nomadic populations and some of great craft societies. What
will happen to them when development
I see you as a man who has split the
nation into two. A Vajpayee or even L K
Advani would hold it together. One senses
you cannot do this. To heal, to apologize,
and to glue together a nation seems beyond
you. I have other questions but this could
be a gentle start to a conversation. I wonder
if you will allow this when you permit so little in the party itself. I would be grateful if
you would reflect a bit on my questions.
Dr Shiv Visvanathan, an anthropologist,
is currently a professor at the O P Jindal
Shiv Visvanathan writes to Modi because democracy
demands that transparency, the courage to say no openly
‘Had SIT not balked, Modi would have been facing trial’
Narendra Modi in 2002, soon after the Gujarat riots
‘I see you as a man who
has split the nation into two’