Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi is being both petulant and petty in refusing to tender an apology for the post-Godhra riots of 2002. He has been doggedly stonewalling the suggestion, on the ground that he had done no wrong.
In the 2002 riots more than 2,000 persons, majority of them Muslim, were put to death by blood-thirsty mobs. Life-long trauma has been caused to members of as many families which will never be able to forget the horrors they went through. The whole of India was plunged into shock because of what happened in Gujarat and it is yet to come out of it.
It is immaterial where the instigation came from. The fact of murder, mayhem and arson is undisputed and indisputable. Equally so is the fact that they occurred under Modi’s watch.
Apology doesn’t mean any personal stigma or indication of personal culpability. It simply means expressing, as a human being, unbounded sorrow for what happened and setting an example in nobility and humanity. It raises the stature of the person tendering the apology in the eyes of the world.
I wish to bring to the notice of Modi some deeply touching instances of nations and their governments as a whole offering apologies for events that had occurred centuries ago for which the present ruling establishments could not be held responsible or blameworthy.
In February 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised in a speech to Parliament in Canberra for White Australia's policy of Indigenous assimilation during the first seven decades of the 20th century and for the “profound grief, suffering, hurt and loss” for “the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture”, and “for the breaking up of families and communities” of Australia's Indigenous people, and their descendants.
Mark his words Modi: “As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry. And I offer you this apology without qualification.”
In April 2009, US Congress, in a solemn resolution unanimously adopted, expressed its deeply felt remorse at the “long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes” and apologised on behalf of the people of the US “to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States”.
In February 2010, the Japanese Foreign Minister apologised to South Korea for the more than three decades of occupation calling it “a tragic incident for Koreans when they were deprived of their nation and their identity”.
The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in which more than 4,000 Sikhs were done to death following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by a Sikh bodyguard are brought up by many Modi sympathisers the moment post-Godhra riots in Gujarat are mentioned.
Here again, it is necessary to take note of the unconditional apology offered in Parliament by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to the following effect: “I have no hesitation in apologising not only to the Sikh community but the whole nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood and what’s enshrined in our Constitution. So I am not standing on any false prestige. On behalf of our government, on behalf of the entire people of this country, I bow my head in shame that such a thing took place.”
He apologised once again to the Sikh community of the US and Canada in 2010 while on a visit to Toronto for the “horrible crimes … (which)… should never have happened.”
Modi’s adamant refusal is doing him no good. It is only making him seem arrogant and insensitive, besides fuelling suspicions about his connivance.
It is surprising that one whose achievements have earned high praise from different quarters, including an effusive tribute to his leadership from the Time magazine, should exhibit such behaviour.