Does BJP owe an apology for Gujarat genocide?

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has walked out of an interview with Karan Thapar for the CNN-IBN programme, Devil’s Advocate. Below is the transcript of the few minutes that were recorded before Modi felt the heat of Thapar’s questioning on the 2002 pogrom which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently termed a “holocaust“.

Modi and his minders in the BJP believe that he was only exercising his “freedom” in walking out of the powwow when asked about his “image problem”. But, in spite of Gujarat’s supposed development under Modi, does the “Modern Day Nero” owe an explanation to the world for what happened in 2002? Or is a modern day hero?

If Manmohan Singh could apologise for the anti-Sikh progrom of 1984, although he was in no way involved, should the BJP pick up the cue and apologise for the post-Godhra genocide, in spite of or regardless of the provocation? Or is Modi right in showing an aggressive interviewer the door in the name of Gujarati asmita and being unapologetic?

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Karan Thapar: Mr Narendra Modi, let’s start by talking about you. In the six years that you have been the CM of Gujarat, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has declared Gujarat to be the best administered state. India Today, on two separate occasions, declared that you are the most efficient chief minister. And despite that people still call you to your face a mass murderer and they accuse you of being prejudiced against Muslims? Do you have an image problem?

Narendra Modi: I think it’s not proper to say that (there are) people. There are two or three persons who talk in this terminology and I always say God bless them.

Q: You are saying this is the conspiracy of two or three persons only?

Modi: I have not said so.

Q: But you are saying it’s only two or three people.

Modi: This is the information I have. It’s the people’s voice.

Q: Can I point out to you that in September 2003, the Supreme Court said that they had lost faith in the Gujarat government? In April 2004, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said that you were like a modern day Nero who looks the other side when helpless children and innocent women were being burnt. The Supreme Court seems to have a problem with you.

Modi: I have a small request to make. Please go through the SC judgment. If there is anything in writing, I’ll be happy to know everything.

Q: There was nothing in writing, you are right. It was an observation.

Modi: If it is in (the) judgment, then I’ll be happy to give you the answer.

Q: But do you mean a criticism by the chief justice in court doesn’t matter?

Modi: It’s a simple request. Please go through the court judgment. Hand out the sentence you are quoting and let the people know it.

Q: OK. It wasn’t just an open comment made by the Chief Justice. In August 2004, the Supreme Court reopened some 2,100 cases out of a total of around 4,600 — almost 40 per cent — and they did so because they believed that justice hadn’t happened in Gujarat.

Modi: I’ll be happy. Ultimately, the court of law will take the judgment.

Q: But isn’t this the reason that despite the fact (that) India Today called you the best chief minister, (and) the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation says Gujarat is the best administered state, tens of millions say Modi is prejudiced against the Muslims. This is why I ask you do you have an image problem?

Modi: Actually, I have not spent a single minute on my image. And that can also be a reason. I am busy with my work. I am committed to Gujarat, I am dedicated to Gujarat. I never talk about my image, (have) never spent a single minute for my image, and confusions may be there.

Q: I’ll tell you what the problem is, even five years after the Gujarat killings of 2002, the ghost of Godhra still haunts you. Why have you not done more to allay that ghost?

Modi: This I give it to media persons like Karan Thapar. Let them enjoy.

Q: Can I suggest something to you?

Modi: I have no problem.

Q: Why can’t you say that you regret the killings that happened? Why can’t you say maybe the government should have done more to protect Muslims?

Modi: What I had to say I have said at that time, and you can find out my statements.

Q: Just say it again.

Modi: Not necessary I have to talk about in 2007 everything you want to talk about.

Q: But by not saying it again, by not letting people hear the message repeatedly, you are allowing an image contrary to the interest of Gujarat to continue. It’s in your hands to change it.

Modi: (Takes the microphone off.) I’ll have to rest. I need some water.

Q: Paani (water).

Modi: Dosti bani rahe. Bas. I’ll be happy. You came here. I am happy and thankful to you. I can’t do this interview. It’s OK your things are. Apne ideas hain, aap bolte rahiye, aap karte rahiye. Three-four questions I’ve already enjoyed. Nahin please.

Q: But Modi saab…

Modi: Nahin please, Karan

Q: But Modi saab

Modi: Karan, dekho main dostana sambhand rakhna chahta hoon, aap usko koshish kariye…

Q: Mujhe ek cheez samjhaiye, Sir. I am not talking about doing anything wrong. I am saying why can’t you correct your image?

Modi: This is not the time. Uske liye aap mujhe 2002 mein mile hote, 2003 mein mile hote, main sab kar leta.