After the mass protests last week and demands for the resignation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) political gangster Narendra Modi, I’ve been checking out the follow-up reporting. The demonstrations were a spontaneous outpouring after more than a hundred people died from drinking toxic bootlegged alcohol in India; many more were poisoned. Modi is a hardline Hindu nationalist whose fundamentalist political positions have exacerbated Hindu-Muslim discord in Gujarat, the only part of India where there is an outright ban on alcohol. It should go without saying that Modi’s inflammatory policies play a significant role in contributing to social misery in Gujarat. Prohibition of drugs and alcohol doesn’t work, and the criminalisation of either is an authoritarian insanity.
Over the past couple of days news about Modi was mainly focused on matters other than toxic alcohol. For instance, former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta’s insistence that Modi should be cross-examined by the GT Nanavati Commission of Inquiry over his role in the post-Godhra riots of 2002. In an article for Akhbar (#3, July 20o2) entitled Ethnic Cleansing In Gujarat, Tanika Sarkar addressed these horrors, and responsibility for them must ultimately rest in part at Modi’s feet: “Communalism Combat published a comprehensive report of the situation in April (2002). According to its estimate, based on painstaking research, the death toll is at least 2000, economic losses among Muslims amount to Rs. 3500 crores, and more than 270 mosques and dargahs have been reduced to rubble. Of course, the death toll is necessarily underrated, since very large numbers of corpses were burnt to ashes after the killings. After April, moreover, there have been many more flare-ups, more of destruction and terror. What is going on there, judging from the nature of selected targets of violence, is clearly a process of ethnic cleansing, an elimination of the cultural, economic and demographic presence of the Muslim.”
Other news coming in yesterday on Modi included this from The Hindustan Times: “The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea seeking a probe against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the March 2003 killing of former state home minister Haren Pandya.” There are lots of pressures on Modi, and let’s just hope that one or more of them leads to this murderous creep being forced out of office. Returning to the toxic alcohol scandal, a few days ago much newspaper coverage was devoted to India Inc’s booze baron Vijay Mallya launching ‘a war of words’ against Modi by calling for an end to prohibition in Gujarat. Today, Express India reported that the Opposition Congress were demanding Modi give up his Home portfolio and that Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah, be sacked. I’ve lifted the following from that newspaper’s report:
“Making a startling revelation, the Opposition Congress leader (Shaktisinh Gohil) alleged that ‘notorious bootlegger’ Rasik Sodha Parmar, who is also a BJP councillor in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, was the main person behind the hooch tragedy in Ahmedabad. Parmar was also the Mahemdabad municipality president between March 2003 and September 2005, and had been detained under PASA and was refused bail by the Gujarat High Court, he said.
“Gohil also alleged that Parmar runs a huge distillery in Bodi Roja area near Mahemdabad, and gives Rs 1.5 lakh every week to the police in hafta. Parmar has employed as many as 14 agents and sub-agents to sell liquor, and Arvind Solanki who died in the Ahmedabad hooch tragedy two days ago was part of Parmar’s network.”
Modi’s response has been covered by the DNA website: “Reacting strongly to the criticism by the Opposition Congress, the Gujarat government… announced that it would amend the existing Prohibition law in the state, making it stricter by introducing capital punishment for guilty… the government said once the new law came into force, the guilty could be awarded even death punishment for hooch-related crimes. The law would also have provision for one-year imprisonment for police officials responsible for hooch crimes or any serious offence related to Prohibition…” So, as usual, it is one law for them – and far harsher laws for us!
On a lighter note, the recent toxic alcohol tragedy reminded me of the cult movie Street Trash. This 1987 horror-comedy was directed by Jim Moro and it details what happens when an unscrupulous New York liquor store owner flogs-off way past its sell-by-date bottles of Viper to derelicts at a dollar a pop. Anyone who drinks the poisoned booze dies in a spectacular shower of gore and melting body parts. Needless to say, one hobo is sitting on a toilet when he imbibes the toxic hooch, and there is even an infamous scene featuring a game of catch with the freshly dismembered dick of a down-and-out. Screenwriter Roy Frumkes has claimed: “I wrote it (Street Trash) to democratically offend every group on the planet, and as a result the youth market embraced it as a renegade work, and it played midnight shows.” Regardless, this flick simultaneously demonstrates via its ‘characterisation’ of bickering runaway brothers Fred and Kevin, that divided we are powerless but united we have a world to win. The working class needs to unite not just in Gujarat but also around the world, so that we can free ourselves not just from super-scum like Modi, but all politicians and bosses.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!