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Communal strife in India

January 23, 2011


NO year in India has been riot-free. Some years like 1992-93 post Babri Masjid demolition, 2002 when Gujarat witnessed major communal catastrophe, 2008 when there occurred Kandhamal riots are more prominent. The year 2010 of course did not witness major riots like those in Mumbai in 1992-93. However, some riots were really disturbing and also one cannot be oblivious of ever increasing trend of communalisation due to all-out efforts being made by RSS and its other outfits. Even a moderate party like Congress has felt danger from communalism and tried to focus attack on communal BJP in its own interest. The BJP may not be upfront in promoting communal politics for various reasons but is using other organisations of Sangh Parivar to do so. The BJP is in power in a few states and it is going all out to promote RSS in these states and also to recruit people with the RSS background in various government services which itself is great danger to our secularism.

The Congress’s focus on communalism in its 84th session is more symbolic than substantial. It is still not ready to take on communal bull by its horns but is fighting it rather sheepishly. The Congress is the only national party with secular ideology but is not honest as it should be in fighting menace of communalism.

Otherwise there is no reason why India cannot be riot-free.According to the Home Ministry data, between 2001 and 2009 as many as 6,541 communal clashes occurred and 2,234 persons were killed.

Though the number of communal clashes may be correct officially the number of casualties is never reported accurately in official records for various reasons.

In 2002 in Gujarat alone, all non-official sources agree, the number of deaths was 2000. But official sources are showing number of deaths between 2001 sand 2009 as 2,234 which means that minus Gujarat total number of dead over a period of 8 years is only 234 which can hardly be accurate.

In 2009 the last riot had taken place on December 30 in Bhilwada, Rajasthan. This year too Rajasthan witnessed two horrible riots. The Sangh Parivar is doing everything possible to convert Rajasthan into Gujarat. Maharashtra too is communally very sensitive state though it has always been ruled by the Congress except for one term i.e. from 1995 to 2000 by the Shiv Sena-BJP.

The first riot in 2009, as per our record, took place in Evatmahal, Maharashtra on January 16. The apparent cause was the rumour that Shivaji’s and Bal Thackeray’s photographs have been blackened in the College Chowk. The Shivsainiks came out on the road and started pelting stones on shops, buses and other vehicles. The police, however, brought the situation under control without any loss of life. The police arrested 50 Shivsainiks for rioting.

Karnataka, especially South Karnataka, is another communally sensitive area. The Ramsena has become hyper active after the BJP came to power. Both Christians and Muslims are being attacked in this state. Attacks on churches and mosques have increased. Shimoga in Karnataka and Bareilly in UP experienced communal violence on the occasion of Prophet’s birthday. On March 2 Muslims were to take out Julus-e-Muhammadi. There were thousands of Muslims in the procession when some Hindus objected to procession being taken from a particular route. Bareilly has no history of communal violence. Both sides were throwing stones and attacking vehicles and houses.

Since Holi and Prophet’s birthday coincided Muslims decided to take out julus two days later but Shabani Mian of Anjuman-e-Khuddam-e-Rasul did not agree to defer and hence for the last two years two processions were being taken out and this year it resulted in communal eruption. Some say Mayawati felt insecure as the Congress was performing well and that she had secret understanding with the BJP to polarise Hindu and Muslim vote. It is true that the Congress and BSP are at loggerhead and would not mind engineering communal violence. Communal violence is a political phenomenon, not religious one.

Thus Bariely remained under curfew for a long time which it had not witnessed before and sustained huge losses of property. This riot, mainly due to rivalry between Congress and BSP assumed national importance.

Next it was turn of Hyderabad on March 30. Hyderabad, an old city, is communally highly sensitive, thanks to rivalry between Majli-s-Ittihadul Muslimin and BJP. In the old city the poorest of poor Muslims live along with Hindus some of whom are traders and supporters of BJP. Most of the poor Muslims support the Majlis. Majlis is trying to increase its political clout and hence decided to celebrate Prophet’s birthday on a grand scale which later resulted in riots.

There is a view that the BJP wanted to increase its base in the area and hence sent VHP cadres to provoke communal violence to consolidate the Hindu vote.

Since the BJP has lost elections in Rajasthan it is trying to use communal card to come back to power. The Congress is not ready even to understand this.

The writer is chairman of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.