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Intimidating Trident: Communalism 2003
by Ram Puniyani

[January 1, 2004 ]

The year 2003 had many a disturbing events. These are
portents for the polity of India as a secular
democracy. The backdrop of Gujarat carnage was too
heavy in the social conscience to be overcome. The
tragedy of Gujarat violence was followed by the
massive victory of the ëbutcher of Gujaratí, due to
whose acts of commission and omission the carnage took
the honorific scale unprecedented in the post
independence India. The nation was stunned to watch
the gross abuse of the human and democratic values,
with the active connivance of the state machinery. The
connivance of state apparatus was so gross that it
will be better to call it a state sponsored anti
Muslim pogrom. Apart from its many firsts, the
violation of the women of minority community, the
state hostility to those who tried to provide some
relief to the riot victims was unimaginable in any
society in the current times. The face of a frightened
Muslim pleading for mercy stated the nature of
violence and the state of mind of minorities in
Gujarat. The slitting open the womb of Kausar Bano to
burn her unborn baby underlined the scale of hatred,
which by now has become the part of social psyche all
over and more so in Gujarat.

Muslims in Godhra were presented as the culprits and
the whole genocide was presented as a reaction to the
burning of the train. Interestingly the Godhra tragedy
again highlights the state of the affairs and the
manipulation of events. There was no room to question
the Modi's spot investigation that Muslims have burnt
the train, there was no place for introspecting the
reasons for the train burning, who did it, as the
aggressive propaganda dished out the theory that
'they' have burnt the train in collaboration with the
ISI and international terrorism, ëweí the Hindus are
under threat and so lets retaliate. By a sleight of
hand the active violence was presented as a reaction
of the unfortunate event, which could have been
investigated properly and guilty of the crime punished
in an impartial manner. This bogus theory exposed
itself, but not in the popular psyche, and the
well-planned pogrom unleashed itself. The question was
that if it was a reaction, than why the neighboring
Hindu of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan are not taking
revenge? The questions it raised were innumerable. But
the popular psyche did accept the Modi thesis and a
section of people unleashed the first major
anti-Minority pogrom of 21st century, well coordinated
by different wings of RSS and its affiliates, Sangh
Parivar (SP).

How come that the one who presided over the biggest
genocide, of course with due protection from the
fellow swaymsevaks in the central govt., the Prime
minister and Home minister, could come back to power
in such a massive majority? This was simple enough to
explain as the polarization brought about due to
pogrom was highlighted continuously and majority
community was given the signal that defeat of Mr. Modi
is equivalent to victory of Pakistan, the country with
our permanent enemy status, and of international
terrorism. Also the inroads which BJPs affiliate,
Vanvasi Kalyan Ashsram (VKA) has made in the adivisi
areas did the rest, by winning over a large to section
of Adiviais to the politics of Hate.

Emerging as a Hero from the electoral battles, Mr.
Modiís arrogance reached sky high. The process of
giving justice to the Gujarat victims is being
obstructed in all possible ways. To begin with Justice
Shah-Nanvati commission, which has been appointed to
investigate the Gujarat riots, has been giving the
signals that it is going to play to the tunes of RSS
and its affiliates. Mr. Shah is a known RSS
sympathizer. Supreme Court had quashed his judgments
in TADA cases against Muslims. Mr. Nanavati also once
a while drops a line, which shows as do where do his
sympathies lie. The FIR's have not been filed in
innumerable cases and in few cases, which have come
up, the witnesses have been intimidated by the state
authorities and the sundry politicians who were
involved in the riots. The case of Best Bakery said it
all. Zahira Sheikh, whose twelve relatives were burnt
alive, initially gave the evidence against the
culprits. Later under the threats and pressures, most
of the witnesses along with her turned hostile and
retracted their statements and in the court denied
that she had seen any of the accused. Many a civil
liberties groups helped her and in the case filed in
the Supreme court, the court reprimanded Modi for his
governments failure to book the culprits of the riots
and to provide due protection to the victims and those
deposing in the courts. Since it is perceived that
situation in Gujarat is totally hostile to the
minorities and those seeking justice, it is being
argued that hearing of riot related cases be shifted
out of Gujarat since the atmosphere there is not
conducive to the proper conduct of the riot related
cases so they should be shifted out.

Many a social activists have started perceiving that
the menacing grip of the state is strangulating the
civil liberties in general and those of minorities in
particular. the same is exemplified times and over
again. Mallika Sarabhai, one of the most respected
names in Gujarat is being hounded for raising her
voice against the atrocities of the state. She has
been one of petitioners in the public interest
litigation in the case file in the Supreme Court. She
had also raised her voice against the carnage in
Gujarat. The state Govt. managed to put up one of the
ex-applicants to Sarabhai's dance troupe, and cooked
up a false case. The matter went to the extent of
putting hear behind bars, for trafficking, violation
of visa laws and for fraud. Sarabhaiís Darshana
Academy had duly returned the deposit to the
applicant, there was no violation of any of the norms
of the land. She had to appeal to courts to avoid her
arrest and to ensure that the Modi Govt. does not
victimize her. After the genocide, it is a different
Gujarat, one feel the Big Brother Modi breathing down
one's neck all the time. A prelude to a Fascist state?

In one of the other ongoing court cases, Dara Singh
the culprit involved in the murder of Pastor Graham
Stains was sentenced to death. One recalls here that
Dara Singh has nebulous links with different wings of
Sangh Parivar. After he committed this crime, the Home
minister, Advani, went on to exonerate his links with
Bajrang Dal. M.M.Joshi and others went into assert
that the murder of Pastor stains is part of an
international conspiracy to destabilize the BJP led
coalition. Also Dilp Sing Judeo who is the champion of
Gharvapasi, reconversion of Adivasis to Hinduism,
vowed to fight Dara Singh's case in the courts. On
having been reprimanded by the RSS-BJP top brass for
this, he retracted. Incidentally, Judeoís brother took
the brief for Dara Singh.

The NRI funding of RSS and its progeny has been
brought to the surface by the human rights groups
based in US. The web site SACW and Sabrang prepared a
report on this expose. RSS sympathizers have set up
IDRF, and have been projecting it as a charity
organization supporting the work in India. The report
points out that most of its funds go to the RSS
affiliates and a large chunk of this is used in the
hate propaganda and in Hindutvasing the Adivasis.
Those NRI's looking for an avenue to do charity are
presented with IDRF as a non-sectarian charity
organization. These funds have played a major role in
doctoring the psyche of the masses leading to various
acts of violence against minorities.

As per the order of Allahabad High Court,
Archeological Survey of India (ASI) undertook the
excavation at the site where Babri mosque was
demolished. The report goes on to say that a massive
structure of 10 century, the one like the temple
existed at the site. This conclusion of ASI totally
goes against its own findings. It has conveniently
ignored uncomfortable findings in order to forcibly
prove the existence of temple. While the Sangh Parivar
has quietly picked up on this and is going around
saying that a massive Ram Temple existed and was
demolished, the discerning archeologists have quashed
the ASI thesis in a very convincing manner.
The report has not "taken into account" certain
features of the western -wall of the pre-Babri Masjid
chamber. The burnt brick wall of the pre-Babri Masjid
structure had a carved stone laid in the foundation.
If this finding is analyzed it precluded the
possibility of the structure being associated with
Hindus, since they never used carved stone in
foundation. Many an outstanding
archeologists-historians have refuted the possibility
of the temple being there on the ground of the same
The project undertaken by the MHRD to saffronise the
school textbooks reached it culmination in the release
of new textbooks. These new lots are a blot on the
academic standards so far achieved by Indian
historiography. Not only is there a heavy Hindutva
slant in these, they are also blatant in their
anti-Minorityism, anti-weaker sections of society and
these books eulogize the fascist type of Nationalism.
What shows the caliber of the writers of the books is
that have lifted paragraphs and pages from the US
books in the matters of World affairs. And on the top
of this, the naked plagiarism is being defended by the
MHRD minister. One is sure that these books will
create a havoc in the times to come as the central
core of these is paying blind obeisance to the
traditions, glorification of all the obscurantist
values and to spread hate against the Muslims and
Christians in blatant and subtle way.

The fact that communalization process is not just
restricted to North Indian states became clear in
various incidents in other states. In Madhya Pardesh
Uma Bharati tried to kick start her election campaign
with by making an issue around Bhojshala/mosque issue.
Fortunately her ploy did not work. The Baba Budan giri
dargah in Karnatkak has been repeatedly brought to
fore and the Sangh brigade aims to convert it into
Ayodhya of South. Every year they are holding a rally
to declare that it is Datta Pitham, which has been
converted by Muslims rulers into a Dargahg. In current
yearís function, the peace protesters were arrested in
large number while the state Govt. silently watched
the rally by Sangh Parivar, which spewed poison
against minorities. Kerala is another state giving the
danger signals. This state has large number of RSS
shakhas. The Marad incident of clash between two
groups of fishermen was communalized and the Muslim
residents of the village had to flee and take shelter
in a refugee camp. The subtle undercurrents of RSS
work are getting visible in most of the states. With
BJP led coalition coming to power at the center this
has got a boost and lot of official patronage is being
showered on the organizations related to RSS, which
primarily aim at its usual agenda, which spread myths
against minorities which in turn form a fertile ground
for the riots and other processes in due course of
time. Also the flood of dollars in the RSS affiliates
is another worrisome problem, adding grist to the
already existing threats posed by their activities.

The results of the assembly elections (MP, Rajasthan,
Chattisgargh) are the major worrisome factor. Every
victory of BJP leads it further to its tightening grip
on the civil and democratic institutions. By now the
other opportunist political formations have started
lending a ladder to the BJP's rise to power. The ilk
of George Fernandez, who is a symbol of the
opportunist politics to the core, is rising and BJP is
able to use such people to the hilt for its agenda and
the dirty work. In order to retain their privileges
and power this type of leaders are the oneís to defend
the rape of women in Gujarat or to put a cover to the
acts like ghastly burning of Pastor Stains. This
victory of BJP gives another signal and that pertains
to its 'success' in social engineering. By now the
affiliates of BJP have infiltrated in the remote areas
through Vanvasi kalyan Ahsrams which are not only
Hinduisng Adivasis but also Hidnutvaising them.
Gujarat showed as to how cleverly RSS can use Dalits
and Adivasis as its foot soldiers in conducting the
anti minority pogroms. These elections are showing
that RSS grip on Adivasi areas is risesing and now
through the medium of identity politics it can draw
the adivasis to its electoral fold. In a way BJP seems
to be emerging as a core pole in the electoral arena.
One, it is able to negotiate coalitions, taking
advantage of the power hunger of the opportunist
electoral formations. Two, it is able to give them the
RSS-Hindu identity through VKA etc. Three, by
providing upwardly mobile channels to a section of
them they are able to increase their base. And lastly,
the Sanskritisation process, which ensures that this
semi affluent section of Adiviasis falls in the lap of
SP, also grips a very small section of Adivasis.

The policies in external affairs are leading the
country in the lap of the US imperialism. One knows
during the colonial period of our country, RSS was not
opposed to the British rule as such but was focusing
its energies on opposing the political stream, which
trying to build India as a modern Indian Nation state,
the national stream under the leadership of Gandhi.
Even during America's aggression against Vietnam, RSS
might have been one of the few organizations in the
world to blatantly support the American policies.
India, which was the leader of Non Aligned movement
has been gradually shifting its stance to become the
client state of Unites states. This became very
obvious when India offered all the support to US in
its aggression against Afghanistan. The same
wavelength is continuing and US is recognizing that
India under the BJP can become another reliable ally
for its global ambitions of imposing Globalization on
his terms.

The impact of this Modi type intimidation on the
Muslim minorities is in the adverse direction. The
ghettoization of Muslim minorities, which increased in
the mid eighties, is rising further. This in turn is
leading to the further growth of Muslim fundamentalism
in the pockets of population.

Overall the scene is quiet dismal, especially after
the results of three state assemblies. If one analyses
the electoral percentage, one is clear that the total
votes polled by BJP are not significant except in
parts of the country. But combined with the different
strategies and with the coalitions, it is able to walk
away with the cake. It is a clever Machiavellian move,
which is keeping it in the center of power. Since BJP
is tied to the apron strings of RSS and is electoral
wing of Sangh Parivar, the danger becomes all the
more. If the trajectory is not checked it will aim at
a majority on its own, then subduing the allies it
will manipulate the social and political processes in
such a way that over a period of time it brings in the
agenda of Hindu Rashtra.

The response of the communities has been very divers.
A sign of hope has emerged from the Human rights
groups who have undertaken the work of spreading the
values of pluralism and harmony in the communities.
This being done through various channels, though most
welcome is too little too late. Amongst the Muslim
communities while on one hand there is rise of
obscurantist values, on the other various groups and
trusts working amongst them have been taking up the
issues related to education and self-employment in a
serious way. Again the efforts are miniscule compared
to the problem on hand.

The efforts at political level will fructify only if
the society gets a respite at electoral level and at
social level. The need is to ensure that under no
circumstance the communal powers come to power. Every
stint in power leads them to strengthening their grip
at the social level. This further erodes the
pluralistic values and its impact is on all aspects of
National life. The Nation is at the crossroads once
again. The threat of communal fascism is rising by the
day and the efforts to deal with this should aim at
forming a sort of platform for egalitarian society,
addressing the issues of people at day-to-day level.
The positive alternative of a society where the values
emerging from our freedom struggle and those enshrined
in our constitution is strengthened has to be our
priority. The fragmentation of secularists at
political and social level is most detrimental. One
can say with some degree of confidence that even now
the overall majority of society is fed up with the
impact of communal politics, the adverse effects of
the politics of Hindutva. The majority of Nation wants
the issues to be brought back to the oneís related to
bread, butter, shelter and employment. The tragedy is,
the center of gravity of our polity is gradually
shifting. The challenge is not only to hold it but
also to put forth a positive alternative of secular
democracy, the one committed to not only to the people
of one or other religion but to all Indian citizens.
The issue is that we all deserve the status of equal
citizens irrespective of our caste creed and gender.
The issue at stake is that the choice of those who
struggled for our freedom has to be brought back as
the major concern of the nation, the concerns related
to a decent social and political existence.
Communalism is rising by default, it is as much the
success of the long work of RSS and its progeny as
much it is due to the failure of the progressive
people to understand the multiple dimensions of
social, economic and cultural life of the people in
all its rich complexity.