2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Angry Graffiti: Why Amartya Sen Won’t Have Narendra Modi As His Prime Minister

The Argumentative Indian enters a debate he’d like Indians to engage with

New Delhi, July 22: Narendra Modi’s incipient bid for prime ministership has received stinging disapproval from public intellectual and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. “I do not want Modi to be my Prime Minister,” Sen told journalist Sagarika Ghose in an interview that aired on CNN-IBN “As an Indian citizen I could say we Indians don’t want a situation where the minorities feel insecure and could legitimately thing that there was organised violence against them in 2002. That’s a terrible record. As an Indian citizen I do not want an Indian Prime Minister who has that kind of record.”

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Sen’s remarks come at a time when Modi’s anointment as the BJP-NDA’s prime ministerial nominee for 2014 is being given final shape on the political anvil. RSS bosses have signalled approval from their Nagpur shadows. Modi’s party boss, Rajnath Singh, is on a PR mission the United States, calling him the most popular leader across the land and lobbying to have travel barriers imposed on the Gujarat chief minister following the 2002 anti-Muslim mayhem abrogated.  His party spokespersons are in overdrive, pre-promoting his candidacy and protecting him from censure by rivals for flagrant and provocative references to India’s Muslims. He has likened his grief over the killing of thousands of Muslims under his watch in Gujarat to emotions he would feel if a kutte ka bachcha, or puppy, were to come under the wheel of his car. He also chose to disparage the Congress’ brand of secularism likening it to the burqa, the public attire of many Muslim women. Some of these statements have been made in the course of Modi’s revved up effort to define his vision of India to varied audiences. Continue reading “Angry Graffiti: Why Amartya Sen Won’t Have Narendra Modi As His Prime Minister”

2006, Baroda, Reportage, Tehelka

The Secular Lies of Vadodara

Sankarshan Thakur visits a torn city whose communal neuroses go beyond Narendra Modi and recent riots. First published in Tehelka on May 20, 2006.

The driver’s saying, no way, his taxi isn’t going any further. He is shaking his head and looking as if to say, “You must be mad even to ask.”

Champaner Gate? “Nai saab, apun kaa jaan kaa bhi to fikir hai; biwi, baal-bachcha hai, nai saab, yahin chhodo.”

We walk the teeming rivulet lanes of the old town, a crazy baroque of medieval finery embossed with coarse masonry; carved timber held together by garish tiling, a block of cement smothering evidence of a fallen balustrade, a rusty water-cooler rammed into what was once some refined Parsi’s gable, style choked by substance.

We return late afternoon near-swayed by the intransigent driver’s reason. Champaner Gate isn’t so much the opening on a wizened town breathing through layer upon layer of coexistent time. It is more a gash cleaved in the minds of its people. 1969. 1971. 1978. 1982. 1983. 1987. 1991. 1992. 1993. 1995. 1998. 2000. 2002. 2002 again and again. 2005. April 2006. The tear has been ripped too oft, too savagely for sutures to work. Continue reading “The Secular Lies of Vadodara”

2007, Baroda, Reportage, Tehelka

How to Elect a Fascism

Narendra Modi has married progress to Hindutva with a diabolical brilliance the Congress has offered few answers to. SANKARSHAN THAKUR reports.First published in Tehelka on December 29, 2007

Mask of the Man
Mask of the Man

MR MEHTA told me a simple and quite stunning thing: To understand Gujarat, understand Gujaratis first, there is nothing that matters more to them than dhando and dharma, business and religion. Would it be in that order, Mr Mehta? Quite, he said, what dharma are you going to do on an empty stomach? But please understand this carefully because a lot of you don’t, Gujarat is what Gujaratis make it, not what people like you want it to be, don’t fit our image to the requirements of your frame.

It had begun with a casual remark on the flight from Delhi to Vadodara, but slowly turned into a long and blunt discourse on understanding Gujaratis. “So you are one of those people,” he had said, with no wish to veil his sardonic tone, “You will go to Gujarat and tell the world what a terrible place it is, what a terrible people Gujaratis are.” Continue reading “How to Elect a Fascism”

2006, Ahmedabad, Reportage, Tehelka

Who Killed Haren Pandya?

The probe into the murder of Haren Pandya closed in just six months. But, as the POTA trial against 18 men progresses, too many doubts have arisen about the prosecution’s case. Sankarshan Thakur investigates. First published in Tehelka, 19 August 2006.

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Fact: this is how Haren Pandya was found in his white Maruti 800 (GJ 1 AP 4606) near midtown Ahmedabad’s Law Gardens by Neelesh Bhatt, his secretary for close to two decades, a little after 10 on the morning of March 26, 2003: shot, sprawled, apparently dead, on the driver’s seat, his head rolled to the left, his feet almost stuck into the steering.

Continue reading “Who Killed Haren Pandya?”