Can you even imagine Indian politics, or even India, without Murdabad? Who in this country has not seen a protest with people shouting “murdabad” after the name of a politician? Murdabad literally means death be upon you. In Gujarat, though, wishing death upon Narendra Modi can land you in jail. After the chief minister contracted swine flu, one Umesh Anupchandra Jain in Surat sent his friend Nirav Jagdishchandra Rana an SMS that read: “Jay Shree Ram. Narendra Modi ne swine flu positive. Bhagwan ene jaldi uthavi le aevi prarthna. Jaisi karni vaisi bharni.” That translates as: ‘Jai Shri Ram. Narendra Modi is swine flu positive. Let’s pray that god takes him away soon. As you sow, so you reap.’
So what if the recipient, Nirav, further circulated this to another 500 people? And so what if some of those were Modi fans, who were infuriated enough to go to the police station with it? What in those words gives the police the right to arrest Umesh and Nirav under charges of promoting enmity between groups, criminal conspiracy and abetting a crime, besides the IT Act. The irony of the Narendra Modi government accusing somebody of promoting enmity amongst groups. You may say it’s in bad taste, you may invoke Gandhi and say and eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. But jail for an innocuous SMS makes Gujarat a police state.
While Nirav is a suspended NSUI member, both Umesh and Nirav are members of one ‘Vishwa Hindu Sewa Samiti’. Had they been Muslims, perhaps the charges would have been terrorism-related. The VHSS was formed in support of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur who is an accused in the Malegaon blasts case. The Surat police is now grilling Nirav to know his “motive” to do so. Such is the state of personal freedom in Gujarat that to make a wish on SMS can get you behind bars. Ideal time for another satyagraha. But that isn’t happening either, in a state where civic bodies have called off their strike (demanding such things as higher wages) until Modi gets well.
This is not the first time that sms-ing in Gujarat has landed a more-Hindutva-than-thou leader in jail. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashwin Patel had similarly been arrested in 2008 for sending out SMS-es that were not just ‘defamatory’ but even ‘seditious’! While granting him bail the judge wondered if the police knew what sedition meant. Gujarat might as well start narco-analysing its citizens to find out if they need to be jailed for thinking ill of Modi.
Some elections ago, Modi’s chief opponent was not the Congress but ‘Mian Musharraff’. Musharraf’s Pakistan soon became Asif Ali Zardari’s, and the Pakistan government started rounding up people sending Zardari jokes on SMS. Mian Modi’s Gujarat is doing the same.