Sunday, December 23, 2007

'Merchants of fear' win!

My oh my, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), a Hindu nationalist movement, has convincingly won the Gurajat elections. They won 117 out of 182 seats, with Congress winning 59 and six seats going to the smaller parties. The victory will boost the BJP as it challenges Congress in the run-up to a general election due in the next 18 months.

It marks a big victory for BJP chief Narendra Modi, who is credited with pursuing successful economic policies. At the same time, Modi and his party have often been criticised for the treatment of religious minorities, particularly the 2002 religious riots that broke out after nearly sixty Hindus wree killed when a train was set on fire in Godhra town, allegedly by a Muslim mob. According to investigative journalists working for Tehelka, one of the best sources of news in India, this proved inaccurate.

According to official figures, more than 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims. The state administration was accused of not doing enough to stop the riots. It earned Modi the reputation of being an Indian version of the Roman emperor Nero (who watched Rome burn).
Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi reportedly described the opposition-ruled government in the state as 'merchants of fear and death'.

The present victory must be an absolute blow in the face of the survivors of the 2002 massacre, amongst them the parents of Azhar, a twelve-year-old boy who went missing during the riots, which inspired Indian film director Rahul Dholakia to make Parzania with a class performance of Naseeruddin Shah who plays the Parsee father of the boy Parzan.

I saw the film only two months ago when Naseeruddin was in the Netherlands and I had the honor to interview this first-rate Indian actor for my newspaper. We talked about many things, amongst them Parzania and the infamous role the BJP played in this tragedy.

On the internet, some call the Gurajat killings 'a minor mistake', but what if this party wins the national elections? What would be the impact on international politics? Another minor mistake perhaps waiting in the dark ... ?

P.S. This is Azhar who until this very day is still missing.