Rajat Sharma

Modi’s tears and words: Commitment to democracy

AKBParliament was witness to poignant scenes of emotion on Tuesday when the nation’s tallest leader had tears in his eyes when he was bidding farewell to the leader of the opposition. This was a unique moment which I was praying for, since decades.

It was a day of farewell for Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the senior Congress leaders and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha. In his speech bidding adieu to Azad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recollected a terror attack that took place in Srinagar 14 years ago, when Azad was the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. Terrorists had lobbed a grenade at a bus carrying tourists from Gujarat, in which four tourists died.

Modi was then the chief minister of Gujarat. On Tuesday, Modi said:“Ghulam Nabi ji was the first to call me after the incident. During that call he could not stop crying…I will never forget the efforts made by Azad ji and Pranab Ji in sending the bodies of those killed in an army transport aircraft to Gujarat.” At that time, Azad had personally gone to the airport, sought forgiveness from the surviving tourists and stayed in touch with Modi till the aircraft reached Gujarat.

Azad had tears in his eyes when he narrated how he called Modi and told him how he would face the parents of the children who died in the attack. “They had come here for tourism and I am sending back the bodies of their loved ones”, said Azad

Modi said: “He (Azad) could not stop crying, he talked to me like a family member. Power comes and goes but very few know how to handle it. I respect him as a friend because what he had done over these years.” The entire House watched in stunned silence as both the top leaders made emotional speeches. Members thumped their desks in appreciation of the words of affection from both Modi and Azad.

People who have never seen Modi weeping may have been surprised over Tuesday’s incident, but I know it for sure that though Modi appear tough on surface, he has a soft heart that can sway with emotion. Modi is always tough when duty beckons. At such times, he is a tough administrator and a negotiator. But in matters of relationships and in situations where the needy require help, Modi becomes emotional. I have seen tears in Modi’s eyes several times in the past when he was overcome with emotion.

On Tuesday, Modi, while praising Azad, said though he may have retired but he would continue to work for the betterment of the nation. “He may not continue as member of Rajya Sabha, but the doors of Prime Minister’s residence will always remain open for him”, Modi said.

I know Narendra Modi for the last 40 years, and I have known Ghulam Nabi Azad since the time when he was the chief of Indian Youth Congress. I was then a reporter. Based on my personal experience with both the leaders, I can certainly say that even though both of them are shrewd political players, but when matters of relationships arise, heart rules over mind. Both of them have soft corners in their hearts and they often become emotional.

Some critics may question why Modi wept publicly in Rajya Sabha, because a Prime Minister should never appear weak by shedding tears in public. But, I believe, a Prime Minister is also a human being, and if one is overcome with waves of emotion, it is better to allow tears to provide a channel for emotion. At least, on Tuesday, the nation came to know that the Prime Minister has a soft heart inside, he knows how to offer respect to those in the Opposition, and how he values personal relationships. He has a large heart to face the most vitriolic attack from the opposition, and has also the strength to say what is right for the nation.

This is the inherent strength of our strong democracy, where dissent is not translated into personal enmity. The nation is first and foremost, our democracy should rule supreme. That is why, on Tuesday, Ghulam Nabi Azad said, he was proud to be an Indian Muslim and there is no place on earth except India, that is the safest for Muslims. Azad said, “When I look at Pakistan, I feel how fortunate are we. We feel proud to be Indian Muslims because there are many Islamic countries which are racked with infightings among Muslims. They are destroying themselves.”

Those who try to instigate and instil fear among Muslims in India must watch what Azad said in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. Azad said, he comes from a place in Jammu region in a state where Muslims are in majority, but whenever he contested student union elections, he got 100 per cent votes from Hindu Kashmiri Pandits. But when he finds the conditions in which Kashmiri Pandits are living, he has a feeling of sorrow for them. He wants that militancy should end with the Valley and the Pandits must return to their homes.

Ghulam Nabi Azad is a true patriot. I recall an incident that took place when he was the CM. He had invited me over lunch. At lunch, he got information that there had been a terrorist attack and an encounter was in progress. Both of us left the lunch and left for the scene of encounter. Even as the chief minister was taking updates from his officials, shots rang out from inside a building, and security personnel practically forced the CM to sit in his vehicle and leave. Azad told the officials to carry on with their task, and that not a single terrorist must survive. “I stand with you like a rock”, he told the police officers.

Today, when I recollect that incident, I want to salute Azad for his exemplary work. Leaders like Azad fought militancy over the years, and in the last six years, it is Modi who has struck fear in the hearts of terrorists. The situation in the Valley has undergone a major transformation, and the praise came from none other than an MP from Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party in Rajya Sabha. Mir Mohammed Fayaz, praised the Centre for bringing Ujjwala and other developmental schemes to Jammu and Kashmir. He appreciated the fact that Union Ministers were now listening to the issues concerning the state. He said, Kashmir was now witnessing major strides in development and people’s representatives and local officials were now getting more funds for different schemes.

Contrast this with the dire warning that PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti gave when Article 370 was abolished in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019. She had then said that rivers of blood will flow in the valley and there will not be a single person to carry the tricolour. Today 4G internet service is back, schools and colleges are reopening, hospitals and roads are in better shape, and work is going on fast to provide jobs, electricity and water to the people.

There were free and fair elections for District Development Councils recently, and the atmosphere is now ripe for ‘Jamhooriyat, Kashmriyat, Insaaniyat’. I am sure the days will soon return when the youths of Kashmir will hold laptops in their hands, instead of rifles, Kashmiri Pandits will be able to return to their homes and one can hear the bells ringing in temples throughout the Valley. The people of Kashmir will then say with pride that they are part of our great nation.

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