ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nemesis of Narendra Modi?

Will the Ishrat Jahan false encounter case thwart Narendra Modi's juggernaut or will it also go nowhere in the labyrinth of the Indian politico-judicial system?

Narendra Modi is already slated for the big job by his party, not an unremarkable feat for a man who ran a tea stall near Ahmedabad bus terminus before he became a full-time pracharak (propagator) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). His rise since then has been meteoric. After becoming the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001 he immediately transformed the state into a Hindutva laboratory by implementing the tacit dictum of his mentors in the RSS to build a Hindu nation by subordinating those whom they perceive as a threat to Hinduism, mainly Muslims and Christians. Within a year a shocking genocide of Muslims was executed as a “Newtonian” reaction to an unfortunate event of fire in a coach of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra station in which 58 people, including 25 women and 15 children, supposedly kar sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya, were burnt to death. He remained unrepentant, using the pogrom against Muslims to build up his image as a Hindutva hero, going on to enact fake encounters of innocent Muslims, painting them as Islamist terrorists who were out to assassinate him. With this image, he won successive elections with increasing margins and became the longest serving chief minister of Gujarat.

Modi has largely succeeded in his goal of consolidating the majority community behind him by “teaching a lesson” to Muslims. He has also almost weathered the legal storm that could incriminate him for the communal carnage with the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) giving him a clean chit. The cases of fake encounters of Sohrabuddin, the murder of his wife Kaiser Bi, his friend Prajapati and many others have also slipped past him. His maintenance of strategic calm in the face of these favourable developments has further brightened his image as a no-nonsense statesman devoted to development of the state and catapulted him to the national centre stage as a possible candidate for the prime ministership. However, a case of an encounter killing, in which a teenaged college student from Mumbra (Ishrat Jahan) along with three others were projected as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT) operatives out to kill Modi, appears to hold out some hope for justice. A recent statement of an accused police officer before a magistrate implicates Modi in this case. Whether the blood of this innocent girl from a lower middle class Muslim family will thwart Modi’s juggernaut or will it also go nowhere in the labyrinth of the great Indian politico-judicial system is yet to be seen.

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