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Whither Promises? Two Years of UPA and Communal Amity
By Ram Puniyani

United Progressive Alliance came to power in the backdrop of the massive Gujarat carnage and a worsening communalization of society. Efforts to bring in harmony and integration were incorporated in the common minimum program. This CMP did promise to work for controlling the rising communalization. It promised to promote amity in the society, it aimed at winning over the confidence of minorities and to improve their lot. Where do matters stand two years down the line as the Govt. is completing its two years in the office?

POTA had become synonymous with the imprisoning a section of Muslim youth in particular and putting them behind the bars in the aftermath of one or the act of terror. The arbitrary nature of this law was a major source of torment for a section of community. While UPA did withdraw it, it failed to do so from the retrospective effect with the result that a large section of people which was in the jails continues to be there. The communal violence bill which was presented, was drafted on the assumption that police and administration do not have enough powers during the violence. So with more powers under their belt they will be able to control the riot, that?s what the bill provided for. As such the matters are the other way around. It is the complicity of these sections with rioters, it is their proactive role in the violence that carnage begins and continues. After the protests by human rights groups the bill was taken back for reworking and despite a lapse of a long time one is not hearing much about it. The need is to bring in a bill, which can punish those in the seats of powers and not doing their assigned duty to control the violence. The bill failed to provide suitable clauses against gendered violence and provisions for the adequate relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the violence.

On the positive side, the UPA did take up the issue of communalized text books and after the gap of two years, better books are coming out from the NCERT stable, only pity is that while they cater to a small section of students a large number of students have to follow the books by state education boards, many of which are very communal in nature and leave a lot to be desired as for as the suitability for the growing children is concerned.

The role of this government in the potentially dangerous Baroda riots needs to be given half a clap. The state administration and the complicit communal organizations like VHP, RSS and Bajrang dal etc are having a field day in this Hindu Rashtra of Gujarat. The pressure put by the human rights groups did have its impact and the central intervention brought a halt to the carnage unleashed by the Sangh combine and state and municipal administrations, which in Gujarat, have become part of the Sangh combine.

While most of the things are not taken serious note of as many of these issues come under the purview of state Govt., time has come to see that if any incident has deeper repercussions on the national unity they should be taken up by center in all sincerity. The aim of winning over the confidence of minorities is no where in sight, currently the minorities have to hide in their cocoons for security. The Rajinder Sacchar Committee report is keenly awaited but the glimpses of it as coming through some section of media show that the social and human development indices of Muslims have slid in the downward direction. One awaits the Govt response on the plans to develop education and employment schemes for minorities. The much promised commission for minority education is nowhere in sight. The attempts to curtail the acts of terror have been restricted to the Muslims names alone. In a major blast which occurred in Nanded on 6th April in the house of RSS sympathizers, the people who got accidentally killed while making the bomb belonged to Bajrang Dal. Proper investigation of this blast is nowhere in sight.

The creeping fascism through the change in attitudes of the Administration and Police is slowly strangulating the society. These are the visible parts of communalization of society due to the deeper processes at work. The intense propaganda and word of mouth campaign by the communal forces has vitiated the social thinking to the hilt and the emotional divide between religious communities is increasing, with every passing day the possibility of the divide being bridged appears to be a very difficult prospect. If this is not addressed through the awareness programs of communal harmony we cannot hope for the prospering of the Indian identity, Indian nation. The sectarian identities around religion are already flourishing. UPA governments? promises will remain totally unfulfilled if the riots are not controlled. During last few years the faith based obscurantist trends as manifested in Babas, Acharyas and Bapus is on the rise. Criticsing them has become hazardous and some of them are now adorning the status of brand ambassadors of states, with all the state functionaries attending and bowing to them. The constitution tells us to uphold the rational though and spirit, now and open embrace with blind faith is shamelessly visible.
In adivasi areas the development funds are being channeled to promote religiosity as witnessed in the Shabri Kumbh festival in Dangs. The places of religious worship of the minority community are being taken over or demolished with the full cooperation from local authorities. The civil society is becoming more and more apathetic to the plight of minorities. This in turn is resulting in the development of sectarian thinking amongst minorities themselves who have started feeling that they are outcastes, being pushed out from the concept of the national community. The ghettotisation, the division between minority-majority, is sowing the seeds which can take the form of violence on the pretext of even a small incident.

Though the Govt. has constituted National in Integration Council, its hardly playing any role in integrating the nation, currently its no more than the listening post for the authorities that be, if at all. UPA is acting in a sluggish manner to the serious threats to the body politic of our society and nation. A mere patch work will not do, mere running to control the Barodas won?t do, what we need is a far sighted approach to weed out the communal thought process and associated activities of communal nature.