Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ahmedabad Diary – The Idea of the Hindu State

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Mall Rats in an Ahmedabad mall

The city’s Hindu youth have all but forgotten the 2002 anti-Muslim progroms.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The young tattoo artist in Ahmedabad’s Dev-Arc’s mall started laughing when told that many Indians outside Gujarat think of Mr Narendra Modi as a communal politician who looked the other way as over 1,200 Muslims were killed in 2002 riots. “Modi is a real mard. He has so much power in him that he can change the world in a single day,” said 19-year-old artist Mr Pancal Sureshbhai. After a pause, he added, “I don’t care about the riots and I don’t have Muslim friends.”

On SG Highway, the city hub boasting shining malls and glitzy temples, it is like being in a maja ma world. Here Mr Modi is a Hindu Hirday Samrat, the 2002 riots are forgotten, and the Muslims are invisible even though they comprise 11.2 per cent of the city’s population.

Statistics reveal that Gujarat has economically progressed since Mr Modi assumed power in 2001. But the young Gujaratis have slid deeper into communal mindsets.

“Modi has made Ahmedabad a mega city,” Mr Sureshbhai said while etching a red-coloured dragon on the arms of a customer, his first for the day. The slump effect has taken the life out of Ahmedabad malls. On a weekend afternoon, there was hardly a crowd. Not a soul at the astrologer’s stall, no one doing bungee jumping, no browsers at the free internet kiosk. “The slump has affected my business,” admitted Mr Sureshbhai, “but I have faith in Modi.”

This blind trust in Gujarat chief minister is shared by Mr Pallav Khalkas, 23, even though he recently lost his job due to the recession. He was a steward at a Mexican restaurant in the city’s Iscon Mega Mall but last month the place shut down for want of customers. “Economy has made a hell of my life but you don’t have to worry as long as Modi is around,” he said. Instead, Mr Khalkas is more bothered about how the outside world thinks of Mr Modi. “I feel bad when people demonize him,” he said. What about Mr Modi’s role in 2002 riots? “It happened because of the situation,” he explained: “Insaan bura nahi hota (a man is never bad).”

For Mr Haresh Kumar, 25, who sell ice-cream at a McDonald’s kiosk in Ahmedabad’s Law Bazaar, a popular hangout zone among the young, there is nothing bura (bad) about Modi. “I love Modi more than I love Amitabh Bachchan,” he swooned. “Because of this man there are more bridges, less traffic, less pollution and a more beautiful riverfront.”

Others hold a less charitable view of Gujarat chief minister. “People are fascinated by the makeup of Vibrant Gujarat which has become a byword for success, but only the majority community has gained from the progress in recent years,” said Ms Esther David, an eminent Ahmedabad-based author and artist. “The ghettoization is total in Ahmedabad, Hindus don’t care about the feelings for Muslims, and Modi has been very successful in creating, selling and nurturing the idea of a Hindu state.”

Mr Modi is given the credit for changing the look of Ahmedabad not just by his hardcore fans but also by outsiders who were once skeptical about the Gujarat chief minister. “My image of Modi before I came to study in Ahmedabad in 2006 was completely different,” said Delhi’s Ms Namrata Bhattacharya, 20, who is a third year student at the city’s prestigious National Institute of Design.

Taking time out in a Gujarati restaurant in Law Bazaar, she had just ordered a meal for herself. “However, when I started living here and saw the kind of upgradation that has taken place in this city, I was amazed,” she added. Ms Bhattacharya pointed there are now better public transport and safer environment for girls. What about Mr Modi’s record in riots? “It’s more important to get power supply and food than fretting on how the Gujarat government treats its Muslims,” Ms Bhattacharya said while fiddling around with her khichdi and karhi.

Not all admirers of Mr Modi are unconcerned at the riots that took place under his watch. “Muslims were killed by Hindus and that was horrible,” said Mr Anand Vasantlal Shah, 22, a textile trader, “but I’ll still vote for BJP for there’s no one who has the courage to challenge Modi.” Perhaps it is this macho image that has made Mr Modi so invincible among his fans.

“Earlier we Hindus always felt threatened by the Mian log (Muslims) but then Modi came and it was gratifying to hear a mainstream politician talking so openly against Muslims,” said Mr Manish Patel, 31. He owns a saree shop in a small town near Ahmedabad but comes each weekend to shop around in the city malls.

When pointed out that it is due to Muslim bashing that Mr Modi is controversial across India, Mr Patel retorted, “People opposed Mahatama Gandhi, too.”

7 comments:

Kartikey said...

Was this a survey of Gujarati young men? The city’s Hindu youth...

And is Esther David a sum-total of feelings of all the minority people?

A misleading title and a collection of comments.

manoj said...

its not just the matter of riots....its matter of commodification of values...............its just the gift of western system which is meaningless.
just eat your brothers and live.
one day this will collapse becoz civilization was based on co-operation ...not on commodification

Milan Kuchhal said...

Mr.Modi actually change the picture of Gujraat, he is really a man with vision and have ability to complete the task,

Charges against him for those riots were serious and can't forgive him for that.........

MILAN KUCHHAL

Anonymous said...

True for many Ahmadabad's (its time ti change this Muslim name also) face has changed (not of the whole Gujarat), in terms of better infrastructure, but tell me which big Indian city hasn’t. Times when Sensex was churning out money, GDP growth was upwards of 8%, FDI & FII were pouring in, infrastructure improved through out.

May be people of Gujarat deserve Modi, for there choice of the leader depends on his Manhood...may be rest of the men in Gujarat are not man enough. How can they like cowards (or I should say impotent) turn there back on 2002 Riots?? (By which I mean, burning children alive, raping woman & slaughtering men).

Then I ask my self why wouldn’t they??? Modi did not go on to the streets killing people nor did he order somebody to do the same, perhaps they were these people of Gujarat (so called Vibrant Gujarat) who looted, killed, raped & slaughtered. How can these people go against there Protector who saved them from long hands of the law, which were cut short or rather cut off by the beloved leader so that people can find salvation- amusement -delight- pleasure- happiness- fun or whatever that pleases there souls in killing raping & slaughtering. YES!!! They were VIBRANT in doing so & that makes a Vibrant Gujarat.
You Vibrant people have a win-win situation no body except me is blaming you for all this, because the world is blaming MODI, the BJP, the RSS, the VHP & many find Muslims themselves responsible for what happened….Don’t worry no human is blaming you, nor will the History (no history book blamed Germans for what Hitler did, no book blamed the then people of India for what Aurangzeb did , no body blames population of Afghanistan & Pakistan for what Taliban and AL-Qaeda are doing, no body blames Americans for what Nuclear bombs did)…..but perhaps the GOD will. Tell me one thing….Gujarat is Vibrant…it reaped all the fruits of Indian Development, but why rest of India is also feeling the burns of fire which was lit in Gujarat. I don’t understand how can so called VIBRANT AHMADABAD ( so called Gujarat) with 80% literacy rate can not choose between right & wrong , between good & evil.


VARUN

Pooja said...

I've argued on more than one occasion with people who thing Modi is the best thing that ever happened to Gujarat.

How can anyone compensate the riots with economic development?

Anonymous said...

Modi has damaged the very secular image of our country. muslims were killed, and they were innocent, and the man responsible was him. he is generating hatred among the people of india. if i could, i would first crush his balls with a hammer before crushing his head!
people grow up, love each other, dont spread hatred. hatred is bad, and so is modi!

Vishal said...

2 out of 10

MAS, I like your writing style, the way you look for touchness in small things, you paint a story not only with words but you create visions via visuals but there usualy are gaps in our research, failure to authenticate source info, mostly opinion based statements rather than referenciable statements from reputed acedemic facts from primary sources (as opposed to secondary sources), lack of validity in your research results............incorrect data sampling and analysis techniques, and I can go on and on.....


PS: The reader is a PhD Researcher with Uni of South Australia in Leaadership Effectiveness.