Let it be said of Narendra Modi that he is petty, that he does not forget easily, and that he never forgives. He had long disliked The Times of India (TOI), which was once the only really liberal newspaper in Ahmedabad.

When Dileep Padgaonkar (then TOI managing editor), B.G. Verghese and I went to Modi for an inquiry report in 2002, Modi took up the “Newton’s third law" story that the TOI had run, being most upset with it because it revealed how casually Modi took retaliatory violence.

I remembered that meeting years later when my friends Bharat Desai and Prashant Dayal, the editor and senior reporter for TOI in Ahmedabad, were charged with sedition. Now the TOI can be accused of many things, but sedition is hardly among them.

Modi was then, as he is still, the home minister of Gujarat and he must have enjoyed the panic with which the journalists would have reacted to this heavy-handedness from the state.

What should we expect from a Modi Sarkar? I predict: no quarter and no mercy.

He will continue his tyrannical (I use the word in the classical sense) ways as he has in Gujarat.

One of the things all Indians, including Modi voters, should be ashamed of is how we have allowed Modi to treat Rahul Sharma. This brave Indian Police Service, or IPS, officer tracked the movements of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) thugs who participated in the rioting. He did so by going to mobile phone operators and securing data from their signal towers to track cellphones. This is how we came to establish that Modi’s minister for women and child development, Maya Kodnani, was involved in the murder of 97 Gujaratis, among them 33 children and 32 women, in Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad.

Sharma should have been decorated for his initiative, but instead he is persecuted.

Modi charged him under the Official Secrets Act for not handing over this data, instead giving it to a commission of inquiry. Why on earth would Sharma give such vital evidence to the people trying to conceal it? He acted correctly, courageously and patriotically. But Modi sees him as an implacable enemy and thus began an ordeal for Sharma, which has continued for over a decade.

Last month, the media reported that Sharma “has filed three petitions in the CAT (Central Administrative Tribunal) alleging harassment by the state government and other superior officers to him stating that as he had submitted various crucial evidences before Justice Retd K.G. Nanavati (actually, G.T. Nanavati) and Akshay Mehta commissions probing 2002 riots indicting the government, he is being targeted."

“In one of the three petitions, he contended that the state government has issued charge sheet and held back his promotion with malafide intentions."

“On December 6 last year ahead of December 7—the day when the promotions were declared—he was charge sheeted for the case of a missing CD, which contains crucial records of 2002 riots," he said in the petition.

“Charges of fake signature were also made by the state government with malafide intentions to stop his promotion," he alleged in the petition.

“While serving as Rajkot DIG, Sharma was given six show-cause notices and 52 letters were sent to him alleging his misconduct as an officer." Some notices, he says, “were issued giving frivolous reasons. One such reason was ‘giving cash awards’ to driver and other subordinates while another was doing spelling mistakes," the second petition said.

Yes, spelling mistakes. Let it not be said, as I have told you, that Modi is not petty or vindictive.

Now the only reason Gujaratis have got any justice for the crimes against them is the work of social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand. Not the Supreme Court, not the Congress party, not the media or its columnists. Setalvad’s dogged persistence in following up on cases that everybody had moved on from and begun to view with some irritation has given Gujaratis dignity and a sense of resistance.

She is a genuine heroine who is being slowly martyred and tortured by Modi, as a disinterested nation looks elsewhere. The latest that Modi has done against Setalvad is to have Gujarat’s crime branch go through her credit card statements and accuse her of buying booze from money donated for her activism. This is the sort of third-rate pettiness Modi likes descending to, because as a nation we allow him to. This constant mischief from Modi keeps Setalvad away from the work Modi is afraid of.

He has always abused the home ministry under him and I wish my bookie would offer me odds against Modi keeping the Union home ministry. Modi has no restraint and little sense of boundaries. Even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the RSS, remains upset with him after the Sanjay Joshi episode.

There are others. I shudder to think of what will become of Sharma and Setalvad and people like them after 16 May.

Like all tyrants, Modi has a fundamentally primitive view of criticism. Those who oppose, those who write against what he says and does are enemies and he must fix them before they harm him. They should watch out.

Also Read | Aakar’s previous Lounge columns

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