Is ‘Riot Free India’ a Possibility?
After the tabling of Nanavati Commission report (August 2005), we have once more seen the face of our polity in the mirror, the defects and flaws in implementation of democratic ethos are there for us to give a serious thought once more. The first thing, which emerges, is about the sequence and the major victims of the communal violence. Starting from Jabalpur riot (1961), Hindu-Muslim riots have gone on and on, the last one being the horrific anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, in the aftermath of burning of Sabarmati express at Godhra. These riots have been projected as Hindu Muslim riots but the statistics tell a different tale. In the data released by the ministry of Home affirms that prior to the Babri demolition, the percentage of Muslim victims in these riots had been 80%. (In the total population Muslims are 12.6%). Post Babri demolition the ratio might have become more adverse to Muslims.
The second minority to be on the target has been the one dealt in the report mentioned above, the Sikh community. In the single and intense anti Sikh pogrom (1984) around 3000 Sikhs were butchered in most merciless fashion. The third on the firing line has been the Christian community, amongst them particularly the nuns and priests, working in the remote areas. In this violence the most horrific case has been the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stuart Stains along with his two sons, Philip and Timothy (Ages, 11 and 7). Apart from this glaring act many a nuns and priests have been done to death, and an additional tool of community humiliation, rape, has been used against the nuns at places.
The inquiry commissions have been instituted off and on, not all of them have been satisfactory for various reasons. But surely some of them have been outstanding in their approach from judicial and human rights angel. Justice Jagmohan, Madon and Shrikrishna being few examples of that. In most of the anti Muslim riots the investigation commissions have shown the RSS links of some organization floated at times by RSS swayamsevaks for the specific purpose of the riots, apart from the deeper role of RSS ongoing program of ‘Hate minorities propaganda’, which keeps going on ceaselessly through its vast and frighteningly organized network of trained, indoctrinated swaymsevak.
In the anti-Sikh pogrom the PUCL report was a work of outstanding quality. Various reports on this riot did put the blame on second rung of Congress leadership, while the top leadership occupying the throne, was apparently too grieved to discharge the constitutional duty at that time.
The anti-Christina violence has been investigated only once at official level, Wadhva Commission after the murder of Pastor Stains. This commission while not totally satisfactory in some aspects did point the finger to Dara Singh, who was convicted initially for the death sentence, which later was reduced to life imprisonment. This commission report did point out that the allegation that Pastor Stains was ‘converting’ is totally baseless. It is not the place the debate whether or not preaching one’s religion is a crime or a perfectly valid legal and social activity. Apart from this many a human rights groups have come out with significant reports on this issue and practically all of them conclude that the propaganda of conversion activity is a manufactured myth and that one can see the hand of RSS affiliates, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal’s in all such acts of violence. The writer of these lines also happened to be part of few of these committees and needless to say one is amazed as to how cleverly RSS has laid and continues to lay the mines to trap the missionaries working in remote areas.
The second most disturbing general observation is that while on one hand it is the innocents who are killed in the communal violence, the perpetrators and planners of the riots generally go unpunished, many a times their social and political prestige also goes up. Shiv Sena, a close cousin of BJP, was the leading force in Mumbai riots. Its supreme leader, Balasaheb Thackeray, was elevated as Hindu Hriday Samrat (Emperor of Hindu Hearts) after leading the Mumbai riots. Narendra Modi was given the same prefix, after he "successfully” presided over the Gujarat carnage. Dara Sing was also anointed, Hindu Dharm Rakshak (Protector of Hindu Faith). And seems to be the lone exception who is in the jail for his crime. What connects these different events of anti-minority violence? Is there a method in the madness, which grips the section of society? One cannot fully generalize from these acts of violence but some observations do stare us in the face. The first one is the strengthening of the communal forces in the area where the riots take place. Starting from the decade of sixties various add on factors have also been aiding in the communal violence, like settling the business rivalry, grabbing the land by the builder lobby. The major aftermath of communal violence has been the electoral strengthening of those who have led the riots. Congress in 1984, Shiv Sena in 92-93 and BJP in post 2002 elections. These parties improved their electoral performance. Some do say that BJP lost the 2004 elections at national level due to Gujarat, but one wishes this conjecture were right. In Gujarat BJP did emerge as a more powerful force.
The biggest common factor, which underlies the communal violence and, which needs bigger highlighting is the intense demonization of that particular community prior to the riots. This acute demonization rides on the ongoing chronic demonization, which is part of the program of communal outfits. In case of anti Sikh riots it was a temporary phenomenon, where every Sikh was made to look like Bhindranwale, a terrorist. In case of Muslims it is an ongoing process, which began before the partition tragedy and keeps building itself by the day. In case of Christians the propaganda was intensified in the mid nineties and violence followed in due course. The major players in the anti minority violence have been the RSS along with its progeny and the Congress. While RSS and its progeny has well-oiled machinery for spreading hate on sustained basis for Congress it was a one go affair in the anti Sikh pogrom.
It is not to exonerate Congress for its other acts of omission and sometimes commission, which either let the violence go on and sometimes even initiate and perpetuate it. The crucial difference is that RSS combine has specialized in demonizing the minorities. As far as Muslims are concerned, the building blocks of demonization are constituted by the communal history, the bunkum about temple destructions; forcible conversions and torture of Hindus, particularly atrocities on Hindu women. From contemporary social phenomenon four wives twenty children and the fanatic nature of Islam. Lately what has been propagated is that all terrorists are Muslims, due to the teachings of Maadrassas and nature of Islam. Most of these have been shown to be totally baseless at worst and small fragment of the larger canvass of truth at best. Needless to say that fragment of truth is more dangerous than a lie.
About Sikhs, their being terrorists, became a fodder for the popular understanding for quite sometime. That Christian missionaries convert is equally rooted in the popular imagination today. Again what is common in most of the components of social common sense is the uniform projection of the whole community. Few Sikhs indulged in terrorism, all Sikhs are looked at as terrorists. Few Muslims took up the terror tactics; all Muslims get dubbed as terrorists. Muslim Kings destroyed temples like Somanth, for wealth or for insulting ‘our’ religion is irrelevant here. ‘Let’s avenge that historical phenomenon’, list the places to be destroyed one after the other. Christian Missionaries do conversion activity, let’s burn them in remote places while at the same time pressurizing them to admit ‘our’ children in their schools and colleges in cities! We will not go in to the motives behind this propaganda and its totally manufactured character here, what we have to see is that the germs of this understanding. This ‘call a dog as mad’, to prepare ground to kill it, is widely being practiced in a systematic and ‘socially approved’ fashion. One has a firm understating that punishing the guilty is the first prerequisite for future riot prevention. The other most essential step, which is crucial for riot free India is effectively combating the outpourings of Hate Spreading factories. The demonization of minorities seems to be the ground on which violence stands and sustains itself. No measures for the riot free India can be complete without bringing to halt the stereotyping the minorities and effectively neutralizing the ‘hate other’ propaganda.