Communal Violence, Yawn
By Poonam I Kaushish
It never ceases to surprise how our polity is swiftly sinking into the marshy cesspool of bloodied religious intolerance. Whereby, the pseudo-secular wheel seems to have turned a full circle. Clearly, communal violence is once again the cause celebre this week.
In the past fortnight religious hatred barred its poisonous blood-soaked fangs during the Ram Navami festivities in West Bengal’s Burdwan district and Bihar’s Samastipur and Aurangabad. In the former, saffron outfits clashed with the police for defying Mamata’s Government’s ban on sword-wielding rallies on the auspicious day. In the later, BJP, Bajran Dal and RSS activists took on Muslims while processions were being taken out resulting in scores dead and many injured.
Predictably, this led to a slug fest between Trinamool and BJP at one end and jailed Lalu’s RJD and Nitish’s NDA Government at the other, with all indulging in “competitive communalism” accusing each other of triggering communal polarisation of voters prior to General elections next year. Never mind, if Hindus were terrified to return home and Muslims scared to step out.
Thundered an angry Mamata: “Did Lord Ram ask anybody to rally with arms and swords? Can we leave the State’s Administration and law and order in the hands of these hooligans, who are defaming Ram?” Adding to the fracas Union Minister Babul Supriyo lost his cool and threatened to “skin” people who confronted and shouted slogans against him when he visited his constituency Asansol. Thereby, fuelling the situation.
But this is not the first or last time when our netas have played to the gallery. Recall, last October when an offensive Facebook post of a 17-year-old apparently led to benumbing violence in Bengal’s Baduria converting it into a war zone. The situation deteriorated to such an extent that locals Hindus felt like aliens in their own land as they were outnumbered by Muslims who had converted the district into an extension of Bangladesh.
Alongside, in blatant disregard to secular State values, Mamata provided honorariums to Imams and Muezzins from State Government funds and prohibited Durga Puja immersion processions after 4 pm to accommodate Muharram processions, disregarding the common Bengalis’ attachment to the festivities.
This too led to a public spat between Mamata and BJP which degenerated into a bitter fight, with the Trinamool accusing the Saffron Sangh of playing petty communal politics. Stormy petrel Mamata ticked of Governor Tripathi for crossing the ‘Constitutional line’ by reminding him that the “Raj Bhavan cannot be the BJP’s office”, drawing a sharp reaction from the Governor, “It would be better if the Chief Minister and her colleagues worked for maintaining law and order instead of accusing him.” Sic.
Given our polity’s obsession with numbers coupled with appeasement rhetoric underscores the games politicians play at the altar of political expediency. The skullduggery of conciliation given the political worth of 20% Muslim electorate, leaders and Mamata is no exception, go on an overdrive, encouraging Maulvis like the one who offered a prize to anyone who could blacken the face of Modi or turning a blind eye to Maulanas who banTV, music, photography and interaction with Kaffirs.
It is no secret that ‘secular’ leaders and Governments have encouraged appeasement of minorities without offering any real development to them, which results in recurring violence in a State and spreads across many districts. Add to this the cavalier attitude towards governance combined with relentless lollipops to Muslims has become a deadly brew.
The problem has got aggravated with the onset of social media. Right-wing elements associated with both Hindu and Muslim organisations are always ready to fill the gap left by the vernacular media because of their silence on communal violence. Primarily, as it is difficult to stop the spread of hate messages through social media on a daily basis.
Shockingly, India ranks fourth worst in the world for religious intolerance among 198 countries with religious hostility trailing only Syria, Nigeria and Iraq according to the Pew Research Centre. More than 4,500 people have been killed in 10,000 communal violence incidents since Godhra 2002, J&K 2008, Muzaffarnagar 2013, Meerut 2014 et al, read over two incidents every day somewhere in India.
Alas, instead of mourning, Parties have reaped electoral benefit out of this divisive politics using religious communities as loyal blocks during elections. Add to this the practise of framing laws, policy and strategy aimed at assuaging the religious minorities or majority Hindu community has reared the ugly head of ‘vote bank politics’ to wean away chunks of voters from the stranglehold of other Parties.
The BJP and its Hindutva Brigade invariably argues that India’s fragile social peace is times out of number shattered by attempts to ‘appease’ Muslims and other minority religious communities. It accuses the Congress of putting minority communalism above Hindus and what is good for the community.
Consequently, justifing it’s Ghar Wapasi programme, Bhagwath Geeta teachings in Haryana’s school curriculum and Gujarat’s anti-conversion laws which do not allow people to adopt a religion without permission from the district magistrate as attempts to dismantle minority religions and rectify distortions in Hinduism. Big deal if social prejudices are becoming deeper and social schisms widening further.
Certainly, warped religious nationalism spun by self-styled religious-political authorities and their cheerleaders who consider members of a certain community as pariahs and who spread fear and hate amongst the minority community need to be taught a lesson. Else, who will be safe in this country?
Questionably, what do protesters of such incidents achieve? Zilch. Only the aam aadmi and innocent security men became targets. In fact nobody has the right to indulge in combustible attacks. All forget that violence does not achieve anything and neither does insult of a religious figures.
Undoubtedly, no matter what the provocation, the rule of law cannot be made to go for a toss. Nothing justifies violence or the call to commit violence in direct contravention of the law. If a Hindu has anger against his Muslim brethren or vice-versa they should take up the legal battle against them.
Tomorrow, anyone looking to settle a personal score could accuse someone of being a beef-eating Muslim or a Ram bhakt. And without a second thought, a mob may lynch that person. Even worse, they could charge someone with sedition by accusing them of supporting Pakistan’s cricket team in the Champions Trophy as was done in Madhya Pradesh a while back.
Importantly, for Parties it is all about political survival not national interest. For power, they will go to any extent. There is no desire to uphold equal respect for various faiths. Instead unashamedly they use religion to increase their so-called popularity with voters. A political ploy to divide people on religious lines and gain votes!
Tragically, our netas seem to suffer no sense of guilt or qualms of conscience by fanning the communal quick sand. All fail to understand that appeasement or turning a blind eye does not create legends but only Frankensteins who devour the very people they claim to represent by pushing them on a path of fundamentalism. Time they thought beyond vote-bank politics and looked at the perilous implications of their decisions.
The country is being pushed towards brazen communalism, ignoring national interest. India’s destiny is larger than the petty minds of secular-communal forces. All forget that when one rides a communal tiger it is near impossible to dismount. What gives? —– INFA