Genocide, My Foot!

Genocide, My Foot!

Genocide, My Foot! To determine whether genocide had actually occurred in Gujarat, we will have to understand its wide-ranging definition in the 1948...

Known to his adversaries variously as maut ka saudagar, Hindu Fuehrer, murderer and butcher of Gujarat, Narendra Damodardas Modi has survived more than a decade of media fiction, abuse, fabrication, vilification, hearsay, and farcical trials by kangaroo courts chaired ironically by former judges of the Supreme Court. The latest episode in his saga of survival is the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court’s rejection of a widow’s protest petition to set aside a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team report declaring Modi had no role in the killing of Ehsan Jafri, the petitioner’s husband.

What is significant is that the media have underplayed a crucial part of magistrate BJ Ganatra’s observations made while dismissing Zakia Jafri’s petition. The magistrate referred to the terms ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’ used in her petition and dismissed both terms as “foreign” not applicable (to this case). There is no doubt that Zakia had lifted these terms from the English media that liberally used insensate epithets like pogrom, Holocaust, genocide, massacre etc. to describe Gujarat riots. Imagine a group of editors visiting Gujarat post facto describe the state as killing fields. What scholarship!
The magistrate said, “Based on all the witness statements and documents on record, this court has to see whether the Gulberg Society incident (in which the petitioner’s husband was killed) was because of a conspiracy by powerful people in the state government or not. And whether, as the complainant says, this can be called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’.”
The court examined the origin of these expressions and noted that “ethnic cleansing”was first used during the struggle that broke out over the division of Yugoslavia, where people were killed based on community. And “genocide is a Greek and Latin usage which means the killing of people on the basis of race.”
To determine whether genocide had actually occurred in Gujarat, we will have to understand its wide-ranging definition in the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. The convention has a history and context. It is the work of Raphael Lemkin, whose family was a victim of Hitler's Jewish repression in the Third Reich. He single-handedly drafted and lobbied the convention at the UN. Lemkin had Nazis in mind. It must be remembered that the convention owes its birth to the accident of the Allies winning the war.
Editorial narcissists have played a populist game in using the word “genocide.” In trying to selectively appease the victims, they dangerously pitted one community against another in order to either satisfy certain interest groups or promote electoral agendas. These are divisive games that won for some of the players Padma awards and membership in the National Integration Council.
The media failed to consider the implications of the word. First, genocide will attract the provisions of the 1948 convention and thus impart an international dimension to the problem (remember the Kashmir albatross), even though the guilty men can be tried in a domestic court. Second, it provides handle to anti-national forces to have the case heard outside the country. It is the repeated use of this word that encouraged the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom to put India in the dock. The interest shown in the Gujarat riots by countries like Canada, Switzerland, European Union and the United States was only a preamble to seeking a full-fledged trial by an international tribunal. As a result, the world would have tried not Modi but India. It is like the attempt to describe social prejudices as racism and take the issue to the Durban conference on racism.
India has witnessed hundreds of communal riots in the past in which both Hindus and Muslims have died. Are Gujarat riots in which 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed any match to the State-sponsored killings in Calcutta in August 1946? Mohammed Ali Jinnah called for Direct Action that had set off the Great Calcutta Killings. They had the blessings of Bengal Prime Minister Suhrawardy.
In my view, describing the Gujarat events as genocide is aimed at surrendering national jurisdiction in the matter and inviting international intervention to spite the BJP. If what we want is punishment for Modi, the Indian Penal Code or even a law like POTA meets the needs. The hundreds of NGOs in the country and PIL lawyers can approach a domestic court. Any other action would imply lack of faith in our judicial system and an ardent desire to embarrass the country.
Once the case is before a domestic court, the latter will decide whether it is genocide or some other crime (as did the Ahmedabad court) that can be tried under the law of the land. Imagine how unwittingly our media have fabricated all the evidence that the foreign diplomats needed to convince themselves of the fact of genocide. Those who talk of justice forget the principles of jurisprudence and journalism too. Jurisprudence treats everyone as innocent till his guilt is proved. Trial by press violates the principles of journalism.
The editor who called Narendra Modi Hindu Fuehrer did not know what Hitler had done and why. The great newspaper in the South, that described some fanatics who broke up a party of revelers at Mangalore as Hindu Taliban, did not know that there was no Taliban-type beheading or public flogging of the revelers in Mangalore.
The media must ask themselves why none of the newspapers or NGOs approached the Supreme Court, which had taken up cases suo moto based on news items and post cards. While God alone can save this country from its politicians and, I may add, the press. I am reminded of an Oscar Wilde epigram: In the olden days you had the rack. Today, you have the press.
(The writer is a senior Indian
journalist who now lives in the US.
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