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Contours of communalism in India

Published Sep 11, 2013 12:13pm


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In this Sept 9, 2013 photo, Indian army soldiers patrol as a woman walks past during a curfew imposed following deadly clashes between Hindus and Muslims at Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh state, India. — Photo by AP
In this Sept 9, 2013 photo, Indian army soldiers patrol as a woman walks past during a curfew imposed following deadly clashes between Hindus and Muslims at Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh state, India. — Photo by AP

There are always two major dimensions to communal violence that need to be investigated and understood for a proper analysis of what constitutes a traumatic, brutal attack on the freedoms and rights of citizens of a secular India. One is of course the complete failure and at times the complicity of the state in preventing the violence and/or controlling it well in time. The second, that is often disregarded but cannot be without serious consequences for secularism, is not really who ignited the violence but who created the conditions and the environment to make a town, village or area communally volatile.

In Muzaffarnagar there is clear evidence of both dimensions. Many have been killed, brutally; hundreds injured and thousands displaced as fear overtakes even the rural countryside that had remained relatively free of communal violence over the turbulent decades since Independence. This writer received several messages from western Uttar Pradesh over the last three weeks at least, pointing towards growing communal tension in the area. It now turns out that there was sufficient intelligence information of the same, with the Akhilesh Yadav government being informed about the impending violence. Nothing was done as the state government slept.

Instead a mahapanchayat that was little more than a gathering of political leaders from the BJP in particular was allowed to be held in the tense areas, spewing venom and inciting the villagers to take recourse to violence. The state government again ignored the provocative speeches until Muzaffarnagar burst out in flames. Given the widespread violence the state police, never competent or able, was reduced to the role of a bystander with the Army being called in to maintain law and order. Such has been the viciousness that even the Army that is out in strength is finding it difficult to contain the violence and is struggling to restore some levels of peace and equilibrium.

There is a demand now for President's rule in Uttar Pradesh and given the failure of the Samajwadi party government to tackle the communal violence that is overtaking UP, New Delhi should consider this seriously. The Chief Minister is too young and inexperienced to handle the situation and is now in that strange position where he is being attacked not just by the opposition but also by worthies from his own party, like the notorious Azam Khan. Samajwadi party President Mulayam Singh Yadav is being credited with a temper tantrum by sections of the media quoting sources. These ‘sources’ point out that ‘Netaji’ is furious with the administration, and perhaps his son as well.

The point that needs to be made here is that Akhilesh Yadav was very reluctant to become the Chief Minister, but was forced into that position by his father and uncles who now control him, and barely let the man breathe. This is not to say that he would have handled the situation any better, but to underline the fact that he was never really given a chance. And as Mulayam Singh should have known better than any other, governing UP requires exceptional administrative and political capabilities that the young man could not be expected to have brought to the job at the first instance.

So while heads roll, and the politicians slug it out, the second dimension of the violence could well find itself relegated to the background, particularly, as this would suit the BJP and its supporters in industry and the media. There was a design behind the decision to send henchman Amit Shah to Uttar Pradesh. And this is becoming more and more evident now as the BJP hand in the violence becomes visible. As a writer who has extensively covered communal violence all over the country, the story really lies in the days of preparation. Here a well knit propaganda machinery comes into play, spreading rumours and falsehoods and convincing its own vote bank that it is under threat of violence from the “other”. In the 1970s till the late 1990s this was the handiwork of both the RSS and the Jamaat-i-Islami but subsequently the latter has weakened substantially and lost the network required to spread rumours in the same manner as before. To cite a small example. Aligarh in the 1980s erupted in violence. The reason was an altercation between a biryani seller and a customer. In Muzaffarnagar the ostensible reason being given is an eve teasing incident. The actual incidents are just a trigger and quite meaningless as the ‘preparations’ by the communal forces turn the targeted town into a tinder box, where even a sneeze could be enough to ignite a fire. The conspirators have to just sit and wait it out, as given the high voltage tension, violence is inevitable.

The people as always pay the price. In the midst of the gloom, there is the story of two villagers who have resisted the violence through sanity and reason. Instead of arming themselves with knives and daggers to draw blood of the ‘other’ they have exposed the ‘conspiracy’ taking the lead to preach sense and secularism. Unfortunately the communal forces in India now have a field day in spreading the politics of hate, as there is really no counter force to stop them in their tracks. It does seem that in the initial stages, the Samajwadi party was going along with the BJP in triggering off relatively smaller incidents of communal violence, so that their respective vote banks could be consolidated. But now clearly this has boomeranged, with the violence shaking the stability of the government. It was bound to, but opportunist politicians cannot see beyond their nose, and this is where organisations like the RSS score. Instead of blaming the state government alone, Mr Azam Khan must also introspect and realise how his kind of politics also helps vitiate the secular environment.

The UP government, if it manages to remain in power now, must take immediate steps to ensure that no violence takes place as the country gears up for elections. Action has to be taken to prevent this, not just through the law and order machinery, but through a secular campaign in which all non-communal political parties participate. UP and Bihar are the target states for those determined to come to power by any means. These should also become the target states for the secular forces who should work together to ensure that the propaganda of lies is quashed before it spreads, and is overwhelmed by the message of peace and harmony. Sounds good, but of course easier said than done.

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman

By arrangement with The Statesman/ANN

Comments (32) Closed

Sandeep Sep 11, 2013 12:51pm

SEEMA MUSTAFA whatever are your resources you forgot to mention that there 1 Panchayat also done by Muslim couple of days before to Mahapanchayat. This all happened because of UP Govt Muslim appeasement policy. Eve-teasing taken place on 27 August, girl was Hindu. When her brothers confronted the eve-teaser, there was argument & fight happened & resulted into the death of Shahanawaz (eve-teaser) & after that both brothers of Hindu girl was also lynched by Muslim mob. Police instead taking corrective action at that time have filed the case against Girls parent & this has aroused the anti Muslim sentiment in the town. Samajwadi Party is just working for Muslims in the state & wanted to win their votes at any cost. Govt needs to be neutral. Corrective action taken on 27 Aug would have prevented the blood bath but than Politicians from both side wanted, specially SP Muslim appeasement policy have resulted into this.

K G Surendran Sep 11, 2013 01:05pm

A very balanced article which captures in essence the undercurrents of communalism prevailing in the present political landscape of India considering that general elections are around the corner. Politicians across the spectrum revel in divide and rule for their own short term interests, everything else be DAMNED. It is for citizens to be alert and call their bluff since politicians are an integral part of democracy, so one has to suffer them, though there are a few who do commendable work.

Raj Sep 11, 2013 01:27pm

"Instead a mahapanchayat that was little more than a gathering of political leaders from the BJP in particular was allowed to be held in the tense areas, spewing venom and inciting the villagers to take recourse to violence. "

Seema, Why dont you elaborate to the readers why this "Mahapanchayat" was organised in the first place??? Dont you think you have been very economic with truth when you say that its only BJP leaders (BJP leaders in particular), it was attended by all the Jat leaders cutting across parties. And I didn't find any so called Seculars protesting for the same reasons for which the Mahapanchyath was organised. And I dont see any noise from the secular brigade... Oh Ok...This time the death toll is on the majority community... sorry my bad... And unlike Godhra, I dont see any one baying for the CM's blood this time. He along with his party (inaction in order to protect their minority vote bank) is the reason why the Jat farmers had to call for a mahapanchyath. You are not just a Sickular a first rate hypocrite too...

nitish Sep 11, 2013 03:14pm

Author is making assessment in absolute delusion .Muslims should respect woman irrespective of religion...that is the real issue. There r many cases of rape in which hindu girl is brutally assaulted by muslim man.As a responsible citizen of our country we dont want to make it communal issue.But then it cant be taken as granted as if Hindus r timid,cant fight..blah blah..This violence is as a result of dissatisfaction among community.If police would have arrested muslim mob attacking brothers of the girl and would have acted on time,this whole incidence could easily be avoided..But instead they arrested family members of girl and charged few members from that specific community..Rest mahapnchayat and violence followed.You cant get away with real issue ..can you..I want to make a point that this politics of vote bank is doing no good with our society..We have to get away with it...

Tusharnath Giri Sep 11, 2013 04:29pm

This is one of the best written article. Seema Mustafa has portrayed the prevailing political scenario in Uttar Pradesh in its totality. No doubt communal violence is a blot for a secular India.

kuldeep Sep 11, 2013 05:35pm

I love u dawn, for at least some people have the guts to say what is reality. Here in India everybody is blaming BJP but can BJP do this alone... No... never it was orchestrated by BJP but the real director are people from SP and Mr. Azam Khan himself. Bravo........... Newspapers like you hold the sanity of print media alive.

Gautam Majumdar Sep 11, 2013 07:08pm

There is so much happening in India. Why did this newspaper choose only this story ? Why is a newspaper of a theocratic state so interested in "secularism" ? It is difficult for a theocratic state to understand the "contours of secularism" . If you analyze India's politics you will realize that if the Congress party was secular the other parties would not have risen. Samajwadi party or TMC or Congress are all wolves of the same pack . They thrive on pseudo secularism and divide-and-rule policy. Any opposition to this norm is termed by all including Seema Mustafa as communal.

Saravanan Sep 11, 2013 07:14pm

Congratulations on an insightful and true article. And being consistent in exposing everything that is wrong with the Indian Society, at a newspaper belonging to a very friendly country!

What does the newspaper and the author achieve with such articles? Widen the already existing divide between our countries, especially people who instinctively mistrust each other? And why is that it is almost impossible to see in these pages ANYTHING which is positive on India? Yes, India has a LONG way to go in solving its problems, so as Pakistan, but let us all try, in our own ways...

Vinay Sep 11, 2013 07:34pm

A very biased article that "manufactures" facts and makes convenient assumptions regarding these events in order to malign the BJP. On the one hand, the author correctly assails the role of "propaganda machinery" in such violence, but on the other, she does exactly that in the article. The term for that in the English language is: Hypocrisy.

sid Sep 11, 2013 08:51pm

Another pseudo secularist article.........BJP-RSS BJP-RSS.....1984 riots,west bengal roits,Hyderabad riots 1990 etc etc all done by Whom??????which party was in power...........??????Indians will now tear apart parties hiding behind burka of secularism...........

jk Sep 11, 2013 09:12pm

As ever, the Hindus turn out to be pure angels and the Muslims, the villan. How can an eve teasing incident lead to someone death? The lynching was the pure result of an over-handed actions by the Hindus. Eve teasing goes on all over the country, nobody dies from it.

Arun Sep 11, 2013 11:14pm

The points made are very valid - that there are instigators who create the conditions for violence, and then the state machinery does not act or acts selectively to stop violence. The author would have some credibility if she accused both sides, and not just Hindus. Muslims have also played a role in creating the conditions for violence. Gatherings at Masjids are often used to create hate, and need to focus on religion, not politics.

Dahir Sep 11, 2013 11:30pm

The article states that a communal riot indicates failure or complicity of state do you then explain the fact that there were communal riots during the reign of Akbar and other Mughals and the British.secondly,there are no communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan after events that would often start a communal riot in India.Does this indicate impartiality of state in Pakistan.Finally,the author says Uttar Pradesh government did not act preventively when there were reports of a volatile situation.does preventive action mean indefinite curfew in entire state.could the situation have been worse if an attempt was made to stop an armed this not the same party which did not desist from opening fire on sadhus and karsevaks to protect the babri mosque in 1986.Does this state government not have Muslim leaders like azam khan in top positions.

ali ahmed Sep 11, 2013 11:43pm

@kuldeep:pity in the end it is minority muslims to be blamed, typical hindu mentality

ali ahmed Sep 11, 2013 11:44pm

@nitish: in the end fault is of muslims, typical hindu mentality.

ali ahmed Sep 11, 2013 11:50pm

@Sandeep: yes sandeep agree with you muslims are at fault, they had always been, the correct measure should have been taken by Muhammad bin Qasim, GHauri, Ghaznavi, Babur by eliminating all hindus but even those great people made mistakes nee not to worry we wont make the same mistake again

Saad(DXB) Sep 12, 2013 12:29am

Hahahha... I never thought I would live to see the day when Indians are giving thumbs down to comments by other Indians on a Pakistani news site.

Bharat Sep 12, 2013 01:59am

Let us put two and two together. In the UK it is. Known that the sexual crimes committed against south Indians, are mostly against Pakistani women. Presumably, and looking at the reputations, this is from Pakistani men. The same problem exists in most of Europe. In that continent, some 8% of the population are believed to be responsible for about 40% of sexual crime against women. That 8% is Muslim. You need to look at the facts. Look at the woods ... Not just the trees.

humanity_crying Sep 12, 2013 02:49am

@kuldeep: press in India can't blaim Azam Khan otherwise there secular credientials will be hurt

Ashoka Sep 12, 2013 07:37am

Dear Author, you are in a great delusion and may God show some delusion. I dont know where from you got so disgusting report about MujjafarNagar riots, small small things turns in to bigger. Muslim guy molested Hindu girl. The brothers of Hindu girls had fight with the Muslim guy and they stabbed him. the incident should have been reported to Police here. But instead of that both Hindu brothers were killed brutally by Muslim groups. Incident should have been handled here. but No on the another hand, police charged the parents of two brothers at the order of Mr. Ajam Khan, the local leader of the state. So the Panchayat was called to dissolve the issue. When the people were returning from Panchayat, they were attacked with muslim people with swords and AK 47. So from here the story started of riots. Now what the hell BJP did wrong in the matter ?

Ajaya K Dutt Sep 12, 2013 07:52am

So. Mahapanchayat should not have been allowed, even though brothers who were trying to defend their sister from sexual harassment were killed. Provocative statements were made at Panchayat.

But it was attendees at Panchayat that were attacked with swords, knives and guns. They were the ones killed in first bout of in a pre-planned way. Who was instigating the killers. Perhaps some communities do not need instigation to start the killings.

What a tragedy that writer has blamed BJP and everybody else but the root cause of it.

I hope, and I am afraid it is an exercise in futility, that Islamic community shall recognize that defenders of community are the actual curse of the community; both from the pulpit as well as from moral gutters.

I hope that Islamic community sheds the concept of Ummah limited to Muslims only. Insaaniyat should be more important than Islamiyat.

Shehzad Zafar Sep 12, 2013 09:54am

Hindus time is near my brothers in India. Pakistan has become a China wall for their protection but this wall is crumbling fast and in 20 to 25 years Hindus will be washing your bathrooms like they have done for past 800 years.

Kumar Sep 12, 2013 10:38am

Men of an specific community are just too much attracted towards of women of other community , they think of inferior to them and try to molest her and want to get away with the help of local police, MLA, MP or minister, but when they can't do it, incidents like these occur.

darashikho Sep 12, 2013 03:16pm

This writer is totally biased and has no knowledge of ground realities. A hindu girl was molested and when her brothers protested, they were killed by the muslim mob. The police which is controlled by Azam Khan did nothing and instead arrested the family members of the girl. Naturally the Jat community got angry and called the Panchayat cutting across party lines. the people returning from this panchayat where attacked by the muslim mob. They called for it. We are not gulams held in your right hand, we will give back harder.

ayesha siddiqui Sep 12, 2013 05:11pm

why is dawn bothered,,,, enough sectarian clashes right here, lol

Anil Rana Sep 12, 2013 07:42pm

Without knowing the facts writer has made assumptions and totally biased as it just states RSS/BJP initiated Mahapanchayat, need to really do sincere journalism, the fact is Muslims initiated Mahapanchayat on 30th August and then Jats called the Mahapanchayat on 7th Sep in which Congress, SP and BJP leaders were present after which Mob attacked and riots started, would request writer to visit the place and then write anything otherwise anyone can write their own version...

vikash kumar Sep 12, 2013 08:34pm

see the difference in pakistan ,they rape hindu girl ,the force fully convert them to islam .but in india muslims are so free that even they fight with hindus . india is a country where each realigion is treated equally .......yeh there are some problems right now but after all we all are INDIAN.'''''''''' ONE INDIA.

Andy Sep 12, 2013 08:58pm

Please google "Series of Rapes Behind Muzaffarnagar Riots" and will get the answer about so called secularism in India.

Dahir Sep 13, 2013 12:16am

@ali ahmed: Read history.armies sent by bin Qasim and his successors were annihilated at battle of Rajasthan . Ghori suffered many defeats from bhimdeo,mulraj and prithviraj before he won.ghazni succeeded in what you said and that area is now part of Pakistan.what if your ancestors were Hindu and Buddhist

bali brahmabhatta Sep 13, 2013 01:28am

@ali ahmed: in the end fault is of Hindus, typical muslim mentality.

Sumeet Kumar Sep 13, 2013 02:00am

@darashikho: The article talks about the politics working behind the scene which is highly complex for many people to understand. So few people who are under-age and do not have the analytic ability to differentiate between right and wrong should refrain from reading such articles. Well, one can always give some advice to such people about watching some 'sentimental BOLLYWOOD' movie or read some other gangster stuff.

Sumeet Kumar Sep 13, 2013 02:09am

@darashikho: The article is about a greater problem of communalism in India and the politics going on about it behind the scene. But since you are so sensitive towards one particular community hence may be you are not getting the entire picture. And also somebody's transgression does give one the right to pay back in kind.