Modi and Gujarati Muslims: An Urgent Perspective

In July 2011, Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanavi was abruptly removed from his post as the Rector of the Darul Ulum at Deoband after just four months into the job. His ‘crime’ was to have made some brief remarks concerning Gujarat. (Here is one version.)

“Muslims in Gujarat have progressed during Modi’s rule. Muslims have benefited from the state’s development model and are enjoying its fruits. Gujarat and its Muslims have forgotten the wounds of 2002 riots and are progressing.”

That was nine years after the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002. The uproar against Vastanavi was deafening. As if no healing or recovery in Gujarat was even thinkable, not to suggest actually possible.

Now Madhu Purnima Kishwar, the veteran feminist/activist editor of “Manushi,” has started publishing the results of her recent extensive research and interviews in Gujarat, under the title “Modi Nama.” This is how the first installment begins: 

The political discourse in India is so vitiated by Modi phobia that even if you express happiness at the quality of roads in rural Gujarat or 24×7 power supply in the villages and towns of Gujarat, you are branded a “supporter of fascism.” It is politically fashionable to defend Kashmiri secessionists, press for peaceful engagement with the Pakistani establishment which sends terror brigades to India and project murderous Maoists as saviours of the poor. But to say a word in appreciation of governance reforms in Gujarat is to commit political hara-kiri—you are forever tainted and tarred with the colours of fascism.

This intellectual terror created by the anti Modi Brigade pushed me to find out for myself why this obsessive anxiety about Modi? Why do “secularists” not want to be reminded that Gujarat has been riot free since 2002? Why don’t they want to document what made Gujarat—a state that witnessed hundreds of riots post-Independence leading to deep mutual estrangement between Hindus and Muslims—experience its first riot free decade after Independence under Modi’s rule? What do Gujarat Muslims have to say about it? Why they are not allowed to speak for themselves?

This installment mainly consists of what she heard from four persons knowledgeable about the communal situation in Gujarat, and most particularly what one of them, Zafar Sareshwala, related at length about his own changing views.  While the views Kishwar reports may go against our absolute convictions, they nevertheless deserve some patient attention.

The next two installments deal (2) the actions taken by the Modi administration in the wake of the riots, and (3) some indicators of the economic life of Gujarati Muslims. The fourth is an extensive interview with a Muslim woman who left the Congress to join the BJP.

Since the publication of the above serious, albeit acrimonious, exchanges have occurred between Madhu Kishwar and her critics. I found the following useful for own thinking.

1. January 15, 2013. Zahir Janmohamed’s “Open letter.

2. April 17, 2013. Kishwar’s response, followed by Janmohamed’s comments. I may mention that Kishwar had titled her piece: “Victimhood as Ideology.”

3. April 18, 2013. Aditya Nigam, also in Kafila.





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