Just before the first phase of elections in Gujarat the current Chief Minister made a controversial remark referring to the “fake encounter” of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. His own government has gone on record stating that it’s a fake encounter – but Modi has justified it stating that Sohrabuddin has been involved in extortions and other criminal activities. The Supreme Court of India is examining this extra-judicial murder currently.
With just days to go before the election he decided to invoke Sohrabuddin’s murder. In a rhetorical fashion he asked the crowd what could be done to people like Sohrabuddin and exhorted the response, “Maro, maro” (Kill him, kill him). This has come under a lot of flak from different quarters – justifiably.
Modi’s stand has come as no surprise to me. He won a landslide victory in the previous election for patronising the ghastly riots in Gujarat. For such a person Sohrabuddin is a perfect symbol – a Muslim person believed to be involved in criminal activities. His elections are won by polarising communities and it was to his advantage to bring in the communal card. What surprised and shocked me was the editorial by my erstwhile idol – Cho Ramasamy.
Cho was known for his remarkable political acumen and wit – but more than that for a bold sense of integrity. I saw him as a rare intellectual who would take public stands against his friends if he believed they did wrong. This ability in him and his audacity in taking public stands under pressure won him thousands of admirers; I was one of them.
His editorial in Thuglak of 19 Dec 2007 has shaken my confidence in him. Cho is not politically innocent to know that Sohrabuddin symbolises Muslims and Modi’s reference to him was to polarise communities. Cho though chose to write that the speech has no religious basis! He went on to praise the ‘voters’ of Gujarat for not being infuriated with Modi’s speech. A appalling position for an intellectual who shapes public opinion in this country. He then goes on to sing praises for the fake encounter and Modi’s resolve in matters like this.
Cho has been a great supporter of Modi for sometime. I wish that a public intellectual of Cho’s stature chose not to patronise someone who sponsored the riots and terrorizes thousands even today. Cho chose to do otherwise. If it were the Cho that I once knew, he would at least have condemned the efforts to promote hatred while endorsing Modi at large. But alas, he has failed to do so. In supporting Modi, that too on a highly condemned act, Cho has proved that he still has the ability to do plain speaking. Unfortunately for us, he has retained the plain speak but has lost the integrity.