I admit, to my embarrassment, that I was not totally anti-BJP back in 1999. They had softened their Ram-temple, Muslim-bashing rhetoric substantially; I didn't think much of their leaders, but didn't think they would be any worse than the Congress or the other parties.
Then Gujarat 2002 happened and I decided never to have any further truck with their sympathisers.
Now Tehelka has revealed exactly how the riots were orchestrated by the state machinery, headed by Narendra Modi. Complicity is not the word. They organised the whole thing.
The reaction has been predictable. Opposing politicians have demanded Modi's resignation or removal. The BJP, while not really refuting the stories, has questioned the motives behind the article: "How is it that this magazine never carries an expose on Congress either at the Centre or states?" The media seems to think that this confirms what we all knew anyway. The Hindu's N Ram, never short of words where it doesn't matter, has not yet editorialised on this topic, nor did his paper give the story any importance when it broke. But today, at least, it carries a couple of front-page stories. Abi summarises the reactions of some other newspapers.
I took some time writing my own reaction, but the blogosphere has mostly beaten me to it. Prem Panicker, in particular, deals well with the standard defensive reactions. I haven't yet spotted anyone willing to identify themselves in Modi's defence. But there are lots of anonymous comments asking things like "What about the Godhra train? What about the 1984 Sikh riots? What about the Kashmiri Pandits?", as if any of those lessened the importance of this outrage, or that our acknowledging and addressing this outrage would weaken our response to those other outrages.
So let's get that out of the way first: yes, these and other such occurrences should all be condemned. In particular, the 1984 purging of Sikhs in the capital was a genocide by any definition. Rajiv Gandhi may or may not have been complicit, but most certainly winked and nodded at it ("When a great tree falls, the earth shakes"). Other Congress leaders in Delhi were complicit, and some were actively organising the affair. It is a disgrace that no action has been taken against any of them to this day; some, such as H. K. L. Bhagat, have died unpunished. As an example of state terror, 1984 Delhi was just as bad as 2002 Gujarat. The Kashmiri pandits have suffered too long. Godhra was an atrocity, regardless of whether it was spontaneous or premeditated, and regardless of what the provocation (if any) may have been. There have been many, many more such incidents where Muslims were not the victims; all of them should be condemned and we should try to ensure they never happen again.
Ok, that's out of the way. Here's what I want to say: though many of those incidents -- in particular, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots -- equalled or exceeded Gujarat in barbarity and had just as much connivance from those who are supposed to protect us, Gujarat was worse. Because what happened in Gujarat arose from an ideology that has been poisoning our lives since well before independence; and that ideology is not just alive and well, but given respectability by the participation in our political process of parties such as the BJP and the Shiv Sena.
It amazes me that people bother to protest when the RSS, or its offshoots like the BJP, are labelled "fascist". The founders of this organisation, such as M. S. Golwalkar, quite openly modelled the RSS after fascist European organisations of the 1930s. The inspiration ranged from their supremacist ideology down to cosmetic details like the wearing of shorts at their "shakhas". And Hindu supremacism is every bit as evil as white or "Aryan" supremacism.
The ideology has not changed one iota since those days. From Golwalkar's time, the RSS and its offshoots have continuously striven towards the same goal; and all the "incidents" punctuating their history since then -- such as Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, the Babri masjid demolition, numerous riots including the 1993 Mumbai riots -- all stem from that ideology: Hindus (of a particular description) are supreme, and don't dare to be nice to Muslims.
So Gujarat was not a one-off like the 1984 riots. It was the culmination of the RSS routemap towards taking over Indian society. It was everything that this crowd had been working towards since before independence. Even in 2002, many commentators were calling Gujarat a laboratory. The goal is to follow this laboratory trial with country-wide field tests, and then release it on the nation.
That is why Gujarat was so unspeakably bad. If it goes unpunished, and even worse, if it appears that civil society wants it to go unpunished, if Modi is allowed to get away with it, it is the green signal to the RSS that they can go forward. It is the start of India's slide into fascism. If you thought Gujarat was bad, wait for phase 2 of the RSS's laboratory trials.