Interviewing Hitler

STRANGE that I had just finished reading George Sylvester Vierick’s landmark 1923 interview with Adolf Hitler when Indian TV channels went viral over a fellow Indian journalist’s meeting with Narendra Modi.

Shahid Siddiqui, a well-known Muslim editor of an Urdu daily, a description he seems comfortable with, was being accused of letting down India’s Muslims.

How could he do an interview with the man seen by his community as a murderer of their men, women and children? It was their burnt and mangled remains that he flaunted to win the 2002 elections in Gujarat, Siddiqui was reminded.

The Samajwadi Party, which counts on Muslim support for its success in Uttar Pradesh, was quick to announce Siddiqui’s dismissal from its ranks. He was once its MP in the Rajya Sabha. There is evidently a subtext to the story but we can put that on hold.

Much of the mainstream media has been quietly supporting Modi in recent months, not the least because their corporate owners are aligned with his pro-business politics. Manmohan Singh is suddenly passé. TV channels found in the Modi interview a chance to show him as a sympathiser of Muslims, not their enemy. Siddiqui struggled hard to underscore that he had asked Modi ‘tough’ questions and that he was still opposed to his politics.

Modi, as far as one could tell, didn’t shed new light on any of the charges he faces. He was asked by Siddiqui to apologise for the death of innocents under his watch. If that was a tough question, Modi’s answer deflected it neatly. He would prefer to be hanged ‘if’ found guilty rather than apologise for a crime he didn’t commit. That looked like a clean pair of heels, not the trapped quarry of an intrepid journalist’s guile.

Interviewing the famous and the notorious is one of the few privileges that good journalists live for. Their motives can be many and varied but it is their right to meet people whose views count. Oriana Fallaci gained fame with her Khomeini interview, something unthinkable with the galaxy of celebrities she had cross-examined earlier. David Frost revived his sagging career by paying for a series of interviews he did with the dethroned Richard Nixon. Muammar Qadhafi’s last interviewer was going to be busy soon after the life-time scoop, moving on with professional ease to the next assignment to report his gruesome death, all in the line of duty.

I have had my share of celebrity interviews but the one that haunts me was of a poor condemned Indian tailor in a prison cell in the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah. Abdul Aziz Parker pleaded his innocence to me. He showed a letter he had written to Indira Gandhi to help him out. Unfortunately, the text of the interview got leaked to prison officials and the man was executed by a firing squad moments before his story hit the newsstands. I have not been able to live it down, to put it mildly.

While journalists make and mar reputations of those they interview they seldom risk engaging with a cause that could harm their professional prestige. It would be harmful for journalism to imply that Shahid Siddiqui attempted some sort of public relations exercise on behalf of the man still shunned by a majority of Indians as suspect.

If there is something more eerie about Narendra Modi than his association with the state-backed massacre of Muslims it is his popularity with India’s middle classes. This is the surest tell-tale sign of a fascist surge. It is dangerously popular as opposed to other dictatorships.

A sample of how India’s Murdochian media is primed to stand with Modi’s brand of ultra-nationalist vigour came in the Mumbai terror nightmare. Popular TV anchors were happy to project as national sentiment the yearning of socialites, talk-show hostesses and advertising buffs who called for a range of responses — from the carpet-bombing of Pakistan to the suspension of the Indian parliament and the elevation of business tycoon Ratan Tata as prime minister.

Returning to Siddiqui’s meeting with Modi, there are more effective ways to expose someone’s culpability than to interview him. The matchless Tehelka sting operations in Gujarat come to mind. They caught key players in the pogroms, including Modi’s close associates and party leaders, either incriminating themselves or pointing the finger at him.

In the final analysis no amount of energetic journalism can uproot fascism. The last time someone made a serious attempt to weed it out from anywhere, the long and bloody battle carried the sobriquet of World War II.

There is practically no political air cover for the ground troops who are mainly selfless individuals determined to take a last stand against the juggernaut of bad blood. In a cynical vein, Modi’s candidature for the prime minister’s race will suit the listless Congress, which is eyeing his notoriety like a cat regards a bowl of cream. The man from Gujarat will usefully polarise the votes on communal lines, the party calculates — just what Rahul Gandhi needs to be projected as a secular alternative after Manmohan Singh.

General elections, however, are due only in 2014 and Modi has to pass a stringent test in Gujarat to become eligible for the big arena. The state goes for its five-yearly assembly polls in December this year and while the Congress is not likely to bother him seriously, some of Modi’s own right-wing satraps have dug in their heels to deny him a walkover.

Let’s see what was happening in Germany in 1923, seven years before Hitler became the Fuehrer. “When I take charge of Germany, I shall end tribute abroad and Bolshevism at home,” Hitler told Vierick in the hugely insightful interview. “Bolshevism is our greatest menace. Kill Bolshevism in Germany and you restore 70 million people to power.”

When Adolf Hitler announced this programme, “the advent of the Third Empire, which he proclaims seemed still at the end of the rainbow. Then came election after election. Each time the power of Hitler grew,” wrote Vierick, a German-American poet who became a Nazi partisan. It didn’t take away from the importance of the interview that both men belonged to the same side.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

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Comments (46) Closed

akhter husain
Aug 02, 2012 03:12pm
Mr Naqvi's intent seems to compare the two individuals of different ages,no more In fact , in my mind ,Hitler, unknowingly triggered the freedom for all enslaved people all over the world.Let us wait and see if he can do some thing like that.
Aug 02, 2012 03:12pm
Mr. Naqvi< is a respected and critical journalist. His article is balanced. provoked thoughts ; based on facts.. Of course , Indians can not see any wrong doing on Modi parts..Hitler also was not seen by millions of Germans as a fascist; until he was done .. millions of death and destruction.
Aug 02, 2012 03:57pm
Comparing hitler with modi ! come on ! i cant believe this has passed editor's table and its posted in Dawn website. Onse side there are good articles in Dawn and on the other side there is some typical developing country rightist articles These kind of articles are repulsive, it a shame for the daily
Aug 02, 2012 03:45pm
I have always wondered why Javed Naqvi lives in India still, if he has so many things to say about Hindu Muslim relationships in India, ( I have never heard him say anything positive about it ) Next time you visit pakistan, naqvi saab, just stay back.
Krish Chennai
Aug 02, 2012 03:19pm
Barely a year has passed, since the brilliant Ghulam Ahmed Vastanvi, was unfrocked as the Vice-Chancellor of the Deoband Seminary, for just venturing a good word that the Muslims have prospered and could prosper with full freedom, in Modi's Gujarat, and not a mention of him any more. Mr. Naqvi may do real justice in interviewing him.
Aug 02, 2012 01:19pm
To be able to accept criticism is a sign of a mature nation.
anil kumar
Aug 02, 2012 10:24am
He can't...because next day he will be abducted like Journalist Mr.Paul or the ex-pakistani governer by follower of religion of peace...He can't , because minories are being convtered on television as if it is a prime time show .He can't because he has to write up something regarding Babri or Godhra . He can't because he only sees from India point of view , never turns his eye around . A biased and hate-spreading article..
Aug 02, 2012 10:19am
Komal S
Aug 02, 2012 09:33am
An average indian congressman and a pakistani will sound exactly same on the crime committed by Modi. So i do not expect any Pakistanis to have a leanient view on Modi's involvement when we have our own ruling party in the center making serious accusations against him. Whether Modi is guilty or not, an average pakistani need to understand that we have a voiceferous group that is working hard to punish Modi and is working overtime to gather evidence. I am okay with Mr. Naqvi comparing Modi with Hitler(that is his personal opinion) but to say that india will support fascists is completely uncalled for. India in it's 60+ years of independence inspite of it's imperfections has seen only the numbers of the minorities grow and you see more conversions from majority community(read hindus) to minority community. Please tell us which part of the world you would see this.
ex-muslim Zaheer
Aug 02, 2012 11:09am
how about pakistanis persecuting thousands of hindus and christians everyday in pakistan...
ex-muslim Zaheer
Aug 02, 2012 11:06am
Naqvi does not find any fault in the pious Islamic system of Pakistan where thousands of minorities are persecuted everyday....
Aug 02, 2012 12:25pm
If we believe that a CM's first and foremost responsibility is the protection of lives of his people, Mr.Modi was either guilty or a failure in 2002. In my humble opinion, protection of people's lives has higher priority than economic growth, and Modi must explain why rioters ruled the streets unhindered for many days.
Aug 02, 2012 02:34am
The author conveniently forgets that the gujrat riots happened only because 200 hindu pilgrims were burned alive after extensive planning by some muslims in Godhra in the preceding few weeks. Had the train not been burnt, no riots would have taken place. But I guess in the author's dream world, minorities should be able to burn and rape people in the majority community without fearing any punishment or retaliation. Until that dream is accomplished, he will continue to compare truly secular leaders to mass murderers and attack muslim scholars who are objective in their analyses.
Aug 02, 2012 02:59am
I don't see the parallel with Hitler, because Modi has been in power for over a decade now, and his state has been possibly the most peaceful and prosperous - far from being branded as fascist, he has invited the reluctant praise of even his harshest critics - biased journalists with time on their hands excluded, of course. If we are to identify a malaise of the times, it is not increasing comfort of mainstream media with the man (where Modi bashing seems to continue unabated) or his own personal popularity (which rests mostly on performance and not his supposed anti-secular credentials) - but our hypocrisy in preferring to crucify Modi without proof wherein we will stoop to any level including drawing parallels with anyone from Genghis Khan to Hitler to make an increasingly stale and bitter point.
Cyrus Howell
Aug 02, 2012 04:03am
“When I take charge of Germany, I shall end tribute abroad and Bolshevism at home,” That was what the German people wanted to hear.
Aug 02, 2012 04:32am
There he goes again! Gujarat, Modi, Manmohan Singh, Fascism (which is everywhere in India)! Yes, he forgot Babri Masjid! Also, what happened to the U.S., Israel? For once I'd like to hear about his recent interviews. All of them seem to hae happened in the distant past? Maybe he dreamt them? His weekly writeups are all derivative (regurgitation of what others have done or written) and ad nauseam recitals of some "key" events and entities - Babri Masjid, Gujurat and fascist forces of Hindutva. Why don't the DAWN editors ask him to report on aspects of India - such as the economy, society, education, population pressures, infrastructure, advances in science and techology, business startups? I mean, ask for their money's worth as he's their "New Delhi corrspondent." Instead, he has basically been writing the same column in a variety of ways (with all kinds of distractions thrown in to fool the readers) for the past ten years.
Aug 02, 2012 04:47am
Just a lame attempt to cover his fellow jurno... who actually highlighted what Modi is ... The author is just fuming that the truth is comming to front ... Again typical vimsicality... Unless u think from authors brain ... u wont understand a word .. as usual ...
Aug 02, 2012 04:56am
Typical venom-spewing from an India-hater. So he sees India going the way of the Hitler's Germany, does he? If India was fascist, he wouldn't be able to sit in India and write this article. Give us something new, Mr Naqvi.
Aug 02, 2012 04:59am
How many years you will make business out of this? Grow up, India is moving ahead... If you see young educated spoiled brats of middle class wanting rock and roll as fascism, there has been something seriously gone wrong, and that is the reason why, I think, Muslims in the sub-continent are stuck with their medieval life... I have to watch a Tareek Fatah video now.
Aug 02, 2012 05:13am
I don't know what Javed is on when he writes..but I am sure its the premium cut out there
Aug 02, 2012 05:15am
Mr Naqvi - why are the so called secularists who are turning a blind eye to scores of tribes in Assam being uprooted from border areas not facists. Oh I forgot because the victims are not muslims
Aug 02, 2012 05:16am
The author says ,",If there is something more eerie about Narendra Modi than his association with the state-backed massacre of Muslims it is his popularity with India’s middle classes. This is the surest tell-tale sign of a fascist surge" No court has convicted mr.modi, and this guy in a hurry ( for what i dont know) already has judged himself.
Aug 02, 2012 05:51am
Mr. Naqvi, SC didn't find any fault with Modi. From your writing your predisposed to hate Modi and any Hindu orgs. Secondly please don't compare Hitler to Modi. In doing so, you are dignifying Hitler. Millions of Jews were sent to Gas chambers for not any of their fault. Jews didn't invade Germany and looted repeatedly, Jews didn't desecrate their Holy places, ultimately Jews didn't divide their country. Genocide has no comparison and no match in the history. Please stop spitting out you venom.
Proud Indian
Aug 02, 2012 05:24am
Why is that Pakistani journalists stop their classification of Indians upt Muslims only and do not take it further upto Shia, Sunni, Ahmedia etc. etc.
Aug 02, 2012 05:32am
As usual, Javed Naqvi at his best at projecting India in bad light and hot-bed of fascism. Whether Indian middle-class is turning to fascism or not, you psuedo-intellectuals are definitely guilty of crimes against humanity by wanting to promote ghetto and ' under-siege' mentality. The interview was recommended by some enlightened and intellectual muslims themselves. Infact in Gujarat all right minded muslims who want to dream and live better are supporting Modi. After all everyone yearns good life and progress is really happening in Gujarat. A case in point is blackout in 22 states in India while Gujarat was having electricity even in village. In India, riots are very difficult to control. If today people in a locality decide to slaughter the 20% mninorities living in their neighbourhood, I guarantee no one can stop us, congress Government or otherwise. What could Tarun Gogoi did in Assam? FYI, Gujarat maximum number of people died in police firing while controlling riot; a thing rare in Indian riots and certainly impossible in Pakistan. But false propoganda as unleashed by likes of you will not last long.
rk singh
Aug 02, 2012 05:40am
I dont agree with Mr.Naqvi. Muslims are doing well in Gujarat compared to other states. I agree some bad things happened in 2002. But the responsibility lies with Muslim community too for a
Aug 02, 2012 05:44am
blah blah blah blah.
Mustafa Razavi
Aug 02, 2012 06:14am
Praveen; No court has judged Adolf Hitler either. Narinder Modi is a mass murderer, if your courts didn't find it so, they are biased courts. You have your perceptions we have ours. Just as Jinnah said, our heroes are your villains, it is probably true vice versa too.
Aug 02, 2012 06:24am
I too live in gujrat and I m muslim, its true gujrat riots was a black chapter in indian history,thousands of innosent was slaughter and government could have handled the situation much betterly,but they couldent,but it was muslim communities faults too,godhra was happend first, innosent people have paid the price of culprits,but i tell you in gujrat and in india every one have equal rights equal chance every cast respect each other,i m muslim and i have lots of hindu friends and they all respect me and my cast,in india you go any where you can heare voice of azaan,and lets talk about narender modi he is best cm and only hope for india,his growth oriented polices has made gujraat as growth engine and prosperity have reached to every gujraatis,yeh its true he has done one mistake but congress has made thousands of mistakes and killed lakhs of peoples and congress is responsible for backwardness of indians and more of muslims,but with hard work and communal harmoner we indians have continued our growth, i really proud of my country jai hind
Aug 02, 2012 06:27am
Mr Jawed Naqvi ! Can you explain why the population of Hindus is reduced to less than 2% in Pakistan,where as muslim population is growing exponentially in India and other countries ????
Aug 02, 2012 06:26am
What was amazing was Modi's declaration that while 9% of Gujarat's population is Muslim, 12% of its Govt employees are Muslim. While in the more pro-Muslim Mamata Banerjee's Bengal, 24% of the population is Muslim, but only 2% of Govt employees are Muslim. It seems to me Modi should be blamed for the Govt's slow response during the riots, not for being anti-Muslim. If he were anti-Muslim, he's had 10 years since 2002 to make life for Gujarat's Muslims worse, and I always hear (even from Gujarati Muslims) that life is better. Going by his reputation, he should have treated Gujarat's Muslims like Hindus are treated in Pakistan, clearly he has not. Some Muslims love to tell tales of victimization and Modi is too good of an opportunity to pass up. Politicians also love repeating the story of 2002 because it is a way to vanquish Modi. The loss of not making him PM is for the Indian people, including India's Muslims. Lucky for Gujarat he has been repeatedly re-elected.
Aug 02, 2012 06:28am
For facist movement ...Mr. Naqvi should do some research on the ill treatment of minorities in Pakistan and Islamic countries instead of India.In India muslims (especially in Gujrat) are much better off than muslim in Pakistan. Mr. Modi is one of the dynamic leaders in the world and even after 10 years of that terrible incidence in Gujrat there is not an iota of evidence against him. Whereas in Pakistan terrorists like Osama bin Laden and co are given shelter!!!
Aug 02, 2012 06:29am
Comparing Modi to Hitler is ignorance. Genocide of Jews has no comparison in history. Jews didn't invade Germany, didn't rule their country ruthlessly, Jews didn't convert the Germans to their religion, still they were sent to Gas chambers by Hitler. Jews even didn't burn the coaches. Yes, Modi being a state head is responsible and should show remorse on the unfortunate event, even though it was a riot after the Godra event.
Aug 02, 2012 06:34am
Modi being a head of the state is partly responsible. But a Hitler?? No. Hitler sent the jews to gas chamber in , dMillions. What did they do? Jews didn't invade the Germany, didn't desecrate the Holy places, Jews didn't convert them and divide the country...didn't burn the people in the train either.
Aug 02, 2012 06:54am
"This is the surest tell-tale sign of a fascist surge." How perceptive of you. Now heed it, and please do not say you were not put on notice.
Aug 02, 2012 07:13am
I agree with Mr. Naqvi's fears. But the diversity of India, in contrast with Germany, will not allow fascists an easy walk to power. Today, in absence of leaders of genuine secular conviction the diversity of our country is the only potent guarantee against a quick slide to fascism or a military takeover.
Aug 02, 2012 07:37am
Yes. Your heroes will be our villains- Ajmal Kasab, Osama, Mehsud, Mullah Omar- all mass murderers. Our heroes will be heroes for entire world - Gandhi, Nehru, Tilak, APJ Kalam and even Naren Modi (see his coverage in world media)
Aug 02, 2012 07:48am
Just one thing Naqvi,.... Get a life.
U Gupta
Aug 02, 2012 12:12pm
Catchy heading forcing people to read your article.
Aug 02, 2012 08:31am
A LOT of sane, intelligent, decent people support Modi. And that is for good reasons.
Aug 02, 2012 08:43am
wow... indians dont have the heart to face criticism, do they?
Manoranjan Kumar
Aug 02, 2012 05:39pm
I will vote for Modi if he is made a Prime Ministerial Candidate of India.
Jay k Raman
Aug 02, 2012 06:09pm
Comparing Modi to Hitler is preposterous. Modi is a democratically elected leader not a dictator. The Pseudo secular English media in India is anti Modi, still the ordinary people love him. The Muslims in Gujrat are much better off than the Muslims in UP in every respect. Modi is not ready to play vote bank politics. Why should he apologize for a crime he believes he never committed?
Sapan Kapoor
Aug 02, 2012 06:09pm
Proud of you Murtaza :-)
Aug 03, 2012 02:22pm
Mr. Naqvi is Indian!
Aug 12, 2012 08:32am
Murtuza well said..