The first time that our Deputy Prime Minister admitted that something wrong had happened in Gujarat in the early part of 2002 was when he was pressed on the point in London and could not get away with trotting out a bromide dead-pan as he usually does. This was in August, over five months after the so-called riots. During those months, Shri Advani had remained mostly still, the only stirrings having been to say that Our Man Modi was in control.
Shri Advani could not have been truer to the facts: indeed Narendra Modi had been in control all through. It is not difficult to picture him, and near clones of him, out on the streets, distributing gas cylinders and other weapons to his specially assigned, specially summoned, and well rewarded goons. "Here, have my cell phone, and make sure you keep me informed of how many women you rape, how many infants you skewer. I must tot up our gaurav."
In London in August, Shri Advani described what had happened in Gujarat as "outrageous and indefensible". It is significant that he did not identify anyone as guilty. He can now say, without batting an eye, that his sidekicks committed no outrages, that there is no need for him to defend them. A very bad happening, he will admit, but he will not speak of the saffron scarves around the heads of the rapists and murderers. There will be no mention of the barbarities by so-called Hindus, not a whisper about State complicity. There will not be a drop of red on the saffron angavastram. Just a very bad thing. Sigh. Shrug.
None may object to what he has said for it is the truth. It is just that far too many other truths are left unstated. For Shri Advani, the truth is what is convenient. It is also fractional: for he speaks exclusively in half-truths.
When visiting Pravasi Bharatiyas at the recent bash did not succumb to the efforts to co-opt them, persisting instead with questions and showing that they would not tamely take bullshit for answers, Shri Advani again was forced to admit that Gujarat had been regrettable and to assure them that it would never be repeated. It has been said by observers that when the strong, silent man makes such admissions, he speaks under his breath as if afraid of being overheard by the walls.
And what of the poet-statesman Shri Vajpayee? In late March 2002 he describes the Gujarat violence as "a blot on the face of India"; but in Goa on 12 April he shrieks about the World Evil of Islam, which is everywhere and always "jehadi". He also says, while Muslims are still being killed daily in Gujarat, that they are responsible for the violence. Does he have evidence? Of course not. Why bother about something so petty?
In New York in September, Shri Vajpayee concedes that Gujarat was "an aberration". But in December, the Prime Minister of India attends the swearing in of the Chief Minister of the very province, an action for which none can recall a precedent, and pats his Golden Boy´s back. But then again, on holiday back in Goa, he emits "musings" suited to the world´s palate. A series of flip-flops eminently and calculatedly acrobatic.
As I have argued elsewhere (Mainstream, 5 October 2002), the stock response of the Sangh Parivar to questions about their misdeeds is one of these two: outright lies or complete silence. The Parivar issues to each of its operatives the same two faces. While one squad puts on Face A, the other wears Face B. Then they switch. And so it goes.
This may have been thought up as a pseudo-Vedic development of the good cop, bad cop routine. It remains to be seen how many they will fool with it. One day all must see the real face, the third one.