Cho Ramaswamy’s disappointing editorial 6

This public intellectual makes his integrity history

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.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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6 thoughts on “Cho Ramaswamy’s disappointing editorial

  • Prabhakar

    Mr Vivek, Please underestand Shorabudin did not symbolise Islam but was a shame to it. He symbolised terrorism and violence. When Veerappan was done in by an encounter by Jaya Government, it was acclaimed. Why should there be a different yardstick for Shorabudin? I you are going to get your intellect masked by the consistent and completely unreasonable campaign by Congress, which according to me is a party that symbolises political dishonesty in this country and the english media, which plays the sychopantic sidekick to the so-called secularists, then I pity you. Modi’s achievements in Gujarat are too great to be understood by people with clouded perceptions. This nation has seen many riots, massacres, mass killings (e.g Anti Sikh riots,Bombay killings etc.)sponsored by political leaders or ignited by mass fury and for nothing other than Gujarat riots, the media has crucified any single person like what they did to Modi. Did they dare to do anything to Jagdish Tytler? Can they even talk about Karunanidhi whose son organised holliganism in Madurai which saw the killings of three Dinamalar employees? Please look at Modi’s monumental acheivements – a CM who brought the State to No. 1 position in so many spheres without attracting a single charge of corruption. If intellectuals cannot also think fairly and holistically, the country cannot prosper.

  • vivek

    Dear Prabhakar: I condemn the Sikh riots, Bhagalpur and every other riot. Gujarat is recent and the violence continues silently. I appreciate a government that is not corrupt – a rarity in India today. That does not mean that I should condone the massacre, and the vigourous push for hatred that has become a part of the brand of Hindutva today.

  • raja

    yes, polarising communities is not good eventually in a few years from now there will be civil war. I still donot know what has won the third term ie polarisation or few good things .

    It is not difficult to deliver good governance. Jaya in the last tenure did things like rain water harvesting, state govt employee issue which means that we need determination and good person at the top.

    I wonder why media is concentrating on programs like dance and song reality shows. programs like Lead India of TOI can create more leaders and one good guy for 2 terms will make all the change required. It is not at all difficult.

  • Girish

    Before anyone says N.Modi sponsored riots, go to gujarat and talk to an ordinary citizen and find out on your own. Even check Gujarati news media from whole gujarat, figers are truly pointed at some minority people not Modi. Even 10 km from my home town, in small village, riots were started because a lone Hindu returning home at 9PM was killed by minority. After a 3 days village got rid of minority. Police was helpless against large mob and can’t be present at all the places at all the time.

  • Ranji Clt

    “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.”

    So, if someone tells something which is not agreeable by you, you will loose confidence on them? it’s ridiculous.

    Vivek, why do you want to symbolize sohrabudheen for islam? he’an indian citizen, if he’s done something worng, the court will take care, but in some cases the court also will be helpless. in such cases encounter is the only way, otherwise someone from outside should do it. anyway the gujrat govt eliminated a criminal not a good samaritan.
    why don’t you think about the people in leh instead for giving tears for this kind of criminals??

    i will tell you onething, sohrabudheen is not a muslim and not a human being, neither islam nor any other religion tells to such things. AK47 , granades and magazines are siezed from his house.

    • Vivek Post author

      Ranjit: Thank you for your comment. The post is not about Shorabudin: I am not his sympathizer, but I am not one to think that encounters are the only option. We can have a longer discussion about it, but let me shift to what this post is about: Cho’s editorial on Modi’s use of the killing for electoral purpose. There have been many times in the past when I have disagreed with the views of Cho, but on all these occasions I saw a point in his stand. What made him such an admirable person at that time was that he had the rare ability to be someone’s supporter and criticise those things about them that he considered wrong. Cho has a lot of remarkable characteristics: remarkable wit, tremendous political understanding, and the list can go on. What distinguished him sharply from other public intellectuals I know of was his ability to distinguish between his support for people and their actions. I could have accepted it if he continued to support Modi while criticizing him for spreading hatred and polarizing communities. Cho failed to do this, and instead chose to whitewash the crime vocally. In doing it, he has become just another intelligent partisan, not the man of bold integrity that he once was.