In a well-attended book launch function held at a five star hotel yesterday, Union Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said that the vilification campaign against Narendra Modi for his alleged complicity in the 2002 riots in Gujarat began with an interview published in a leading newspaper where it was claimed that the then Chief Minister of the State had said that the riots were a fallout of the incident of Godhra railway station where miscreants of a community had set the Sabarmati Express on fire. On questioning Modi, Jaitley said, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat said that he had never met the interviewer and such an interview had never taken place.
Jaitley said that the series of anti-government reports and articles in newspapers and magazines started after that fabricated interview furthering Modi’s alleged action-reaction credo was published. Days later, the newspaper published a semblance of an apology in a hardly traceable corner of one of its editions, occupying 1 or 2 square inch of space, alongside the space for letters to the editor, the minister said. The newspaper’s management then conceded to Jaitley that it had made up the interview by posing questions and seeking their answers from different sources.
This shocking revelation of blatant violation of journalistic ethics followed a statement by the author of the book, Narendra Modi: The Gamechanger, Sudesh Verma that the said newspaper, which none of the speakers named, had sought a bribe from the Bharatiya Janata Party and had threatened to defame the NDA Government at the Centre and BJP Government in Gujarat in case the party did not pay up. Verma, who is also an activist, senior journalist and columnist of सिर्फ़ News, said that the party refused to oblige the newspaper, after which the vilification campaign against Modi began.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Information & Broadcasting and also of Environment & Forests Prakash Javadekar said the media was, these days, indulging in speculations, projecting Prime Minister Modi as a dictator and authoritarian ruler. Javadekar said that the entire government machinery was on its toes working till late hours every day, but the Prime Minister’s Office was far from poking its nose in everybody’s affairs. Every ministry is autonomous but is now more accountable, he said.
Javadekar remarked that the people of Gujarat trusted Modi so much that when the then chief minister used to address rallies in the State, saying, “I will not eat”, the audience would complete the statement, shouting, “I will not let anybody eat”, where ‘eating’ referred to seeking kickbacks from deals.
Jaitley added to his colleague’s statement, sharing with the audience what a minister from Gujarat confided in him during the swearing-in ceremony of the present government on 26 May. He said that the minister from the State said that Modi worked on the principle, “न सोऊंगा, न सोने दूंगा” (I will not sleep and not let anybody sleep), adding that the Gujarat Government functionaries had been grinning and bearing with it for more than a decade and now it was the turn of their Union Government counterparts to live with the workaholic leader.
Being Modi, a coffee table book full of rare photographs of the prime minister, telling the story of the subject’s rise in politics pictorially, was another publication of Vitasta Publishing released on the occasion. Its authors are Paavani Sinha and Nikita Parmar.
The function was attended by Umesh Upadhyay, president (news) of Network 18, and Vikramjit S Sahney, chairman of Sun Foundation.
The speakers missed two vital aspects of the Modi story that are part of the first book. Upadhyay said that the result of the recent Lok Sabha elections showed that the people were eager to move beyond the 2002 riots. That suggests that Modi was guilty, but the people ought to gloss over his guilt to embrace his agenda of development! That’s not what the researchers of NMTG found out.
Research revealed a conspiracy beyond the allegations made by Jaitley and Verma above: The entire media campaign against Modi was carried out by a gang of journalists. First, all the anti-Modi books and articles, their indices and references show, were handiwork of a bunch of scribes known in Press circles as mutual friends, who quoted each other for 12 continuous years to project the then Gujarat Chief Minister as the villain of 2002. Second, when these journalists quoted from official documents like the report of the Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team, passages attributed to certain pages of the report were found to be non-existent in those pages. Furthermore, where they cited the Nanavati-Shah Commission report, they were actually cherry-picking portions from depositions by witnesses rather than the conclusion by the commission. In the conclusive part of the report, those depositions had been dismissed by the retired judges heading the inquiry.
While all kinds of inconsequential people were thanked by the speakers as one witnesses in a film award ceremony, none found it fit to mention in as many words that Modi was actually not guilty of complicity, connivance or negligence in his handling of the 2002 riots according to Verma’s book. The book, in fact, presents a chronology of incidents and government actions of those deadly months that shows Modi tried his level best to control and end the riots.