Friday, March 01, 2013

Theocracy Via Democracy

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Consolidation of ‘majority’ community after careful vilification of minorities at different places have resulted in massive mandates both at the Centre in 1985 as well as in Gujarat post 2002. Such trends are dangerous but continuously being used by political parties for their own purposes. India cannot afford to repeat them as it would only be at the cost of peace and stability of the country.
A fatal incident on this day exactly 11 years back in a nondescript town of Godhra in Gujarat changed the face of the state and misused by the ruling elite of the state for its political purposes. On February 27th, 2002, S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt by the miscreants killing 59 innocent travellers in the train. It was a heinous crime which jolted everyone who listened and saw the eye witnessed account. After that what happened in Gujarat is a blot to the democratic governance anywhere in the world. It was said that that the Godhra’s carnage was instigated by the Muslims and hence the people had a right to ‘teach’ them a good lesson. For days the state of Gujarat forgot its ‘rajdharma’ and allowed the anti-social communal elements solidly supported by the state and its administration to butcher and kill Muslims all over the state.
The state machinery abdicated its responsibility to act as a protector for all the people living in the state irrespective of their religion. Instead, its leader had a field day, vilifying Muslims and instigating the goons and thugs of the Hindutva variety. In the next fortnight we saw the worst kind of slaughtering of innocent people in Gujarat with active participation of the state authorities in connivance with the political thugs who were out rightly spreading hatred for their political gains.
Over three thousand Muslims were killed in the so-called ‘communal riots’ which were nothing but organized pogroms by the state. Gujarat state was systematically isolating Muslims and the power elite there communalized the entire operation. The relief camps tell the story of the fear in the minds of Muslims. The goons were given political protection and some of them became Ministers too but since they were so called upper caste Hindus hence nothing matter.  Contrary to this, Muslims were targeted by the police and arrested for reacting.

There is no doubt that the incident of Godhra was carnage of innocent people yet it is the duty of the state to investigate the incident impartially and protect the people. You cannot allow the Muslims of Ahemedbad, Baroda, Bharuch and elsewhere to be killed by the religious thugs in the name of ‘retaliation’ for the Godhra carnage. It is sad that the Indian state has allowed itself to be hijacked and communalized by such majoritarian tendencies where any crime committed by a criminal belonging to minority community is painted as the ‘activity’ and ‘thought’ of the community and hence to ‘rectify’ the champions of ‘Hindu nationalism’ must take to street and teach them a lesson.  Gujarat incident of a communalized state is not the only one in the history of India but it continues with our selective targeting and leakages of the information through media to vitiate the atmosphere. Prior to Gujarat we saw the state managed pogrom of Sikhs in Delhi in the aftermath of her assassination by those who happened to be Sikhs. The goons this time belong to the Congress Party but in their faith and belief they were not different than the thugs of Gujarat who killed Muslims in the Post Godhra carnage. For years, every Sikh in Delhi had to bear the brunt of being a ‘terrorist’ and traitor who felt happy when ‘Indira Gandhi was assassinated’.

For years the majoritarian tendencies find ways to violently oppose the assertion of the minorities and marginalized and tag them. The duty of a secular state is to handle these issues with great sensitivity and utmost impartiality. But in these cases and later on many other occasions, Indian state actually turned out to be a Hindu state which has to ‘honor’ the sensitivity of the ‘upper castes’ but react violently to the reactions and assertions of minorities and marginalized. One can compare these things with violence against Muslims in the aftermath of Ayodhya demolition in 1992. There have been communal disturbances in different parts of the country including Mumbai but the perpetrators of these riots only got legitimacy through manipulating our electoral system.  The so called majority people got power and prestige and legitimized their anger in the name of ‘national’ ‘sentiments’ or people’s consciousness but our jails were filled with Muslim youths in the name of terrorism.

It is shocking what our home minister admitted in parliament the other day replying to question raised by some of the members of parliaments such as Basudeb Acharia of Communist Party of India ( Marxist) who was backed by RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, SP suprimo Mulayam Singh Yadav and others. Minister of State for Home Affairs (MoS) RPN Singh evaded his direct question. He said, "Terrorism has no colour or religion and if any case of prolonged incarceration of any individual belonging to any community without any charge sheet against him is brought to light, the government will take appropriate action to ensure justice."

The minister said that Section 211 of IPC gave a person the right to seek compensation in case he had been falsely implicated in a case. He said under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act if a charge sheet is not filed within 180 days against an arrested person, he is entitled to bail."

In reply, MoS RPN Singh said, "The National Investigation Agency (NIA), set up after the Mumbai terror attack, has investigated 52 cases and arrested 334 people since 2009. Out of the 334, over 200 youths are Muslims. We don't have details on member of other religions who have been arrested by the NIA on terror charges."

 "NIA has filed chargesheet in 29 cases while 23 are under investigation," the minister said.

It is interesting to note how the government and the authorities work according to prevailing prejudices in our system against Muslims. How is it that the Minister has data about the Muslim arrested youths but not about others. At the one end, the government continues to inform us that its agencies are doing their best and on the other side the political authority of the government is being clearly violated by the communalists inside the intelligence agencies.

How will the government explain to us the number of arrests made by them in the aftermath of killings of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Babari demolition and post Godhra riots. The government acted fast on individual cases where the Muslim and Sikh individuals were the ‘direct’ perpetrators of the crime but remained mute when they were the victims of a hate crime instigated by political interest groups resulting in mass killings of Muslims and Sikhs.

It is not just the government and its intelligence set up but carefully planned strategy of the Hindu nationalists to keep the issue of ‘terrorism’ as an offensive so that anybody who talks of justice to people is termed as ‘traitor’.  The issue of Afzal Guru is similar and the disgraceful way in which his case was handled at least his last moment resulted in Kashmir feeling alienated. Major political parties including PDP and National Conference actually have demanded the government to return Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru’s body to their families. Parties like BJP and Congress are opposed to it making it clear that he was ‘anti national’ and his dead body would only raise passions. But the hypocracy of both these parties is exposed when the government does not act with same will in the other cases of death penalty such as the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. The Punjab assembly passed resolution against the hanging of the person who happened to be a Sikh. In fact, many times, SGPC has often glorified the killers of Indira Gandhi. Similarly, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi are together in their opposition of death penalty against the killers of Rajiv Gandhi as well as the gang members of Veerappan, the notorious sandalwood smuggler. All of a sudden our sympathies have risen and none oppose commutation of death penalties into life imprisonment. It becomes an election issue only when the crime is committed by a ‘Muslim’ and that is why the Congress government agreed to everything that the Hindutva outfits were demanding. The only problem at the moment is that there are not many of their fellows waiting for gallows as that process will take time. Problem is that political parties are not against death penalty but only wake up when they have to make a political capital out of it. Therefore, it is time for India to completely abolish capital punishment so that these politicization of crime stops immediately.

Some time back a senior army officer told me that Maoists are our own people and hence the army cannot wage a war against them. I was amazed because the same idea does not come when the army battle in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland or Kashmir. Why are the people in these regions not our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, why no sympathy is generated for them and the answer lies in the complete communal mindset prevailing in our system where Muslims, or people from north east are not our own and looked down in suspicion. Such a stereotyping of communities is dangerous for the well-being of our society and national integration. India needs to grow up and speak up against communal agenda of political parties as well as our power elite which strengthen stereotyping of communities for their own political benefit. Such unlawful arrests as well as vilification of Muslims in particular will only alienate them further and help those who want the gap between different communities grow so that their agendas for a divisive India succeed. We must stand and counted against such dangerous stereotyping which is against our national interest. Any political victory after marginalizing the minorities will not strengthen democracy but will only benefit those who wish to install Hindu theocracy in India under the garb of democracy.

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