Persistence Of A Sore: Communal Violence Today
By Ram Puniyani
04 December, 2012
The events taking place in different parts of the country in October-November 2012 have been very disturbing to say the least. It is the continuance and recurrence of communal events, communal violence in different parts of the country, in UP, Assam and Hyderabad in particular. In UP since the Akhilesh Yadav Government has come to power there has taken place a series of acts of violence. Since Samajwadi Party took over the reins of the state in March 2012, in the past few months’ communal violence took place in Mathura, Pratapgarh, Bareilly, Meerut, Allahabad and Lucknow. The latest in the series has been the tragic events of Faizabad, where On 24 October 2012, when the immersion procession of Durga was going on, a girl was molested by few miscreants. Making this as a pretext few people started stone throwing in the nearby areas. A rumor was spread in Faizabad that Muslims are doing the stone throwing. The mob went on to burn nearly 25 shops of Muslim traders. They also rampaged the office of bilingual (Urdu and Hindi) paper Aap Ki Takat. This paper is continuously giving the message of Peace and calling for Hindu-Muslim unity. They also vandalized the mosque.
According to activist Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri, this was a pre-planned attack. The editor of the paper Manzar Mehdi feels, this is an attempt to silence the voice of peace. The police took long time to reach the spot and did not intervene effectively. Similarly the fire brigade also took four hours to reach, by which time the shops were totally destroyed.
In the far off Assam, the recurrence of violence resulted in the death of six people, and it seemed whether there is going to be recurrence of the tragic incidents of July 2012, when nearly four lakh, mainly Muslims, were displaced and sixty people died. Assam violence was a bit different than others as here the number of displaced were much more and it seemed that there is a plan to get the Bodo areas cleared from the presence of the Muslims. Here one also saw that in the process of rehabilitation the Government is having a lopsided approach and Muslims are not being rehabilitated as many of them do not fuilfil the criterion of proper records due to various reasons. This was one case of violence where apart from police playing its role of a mere onlooker, the propaganda, based on misconceptions was made the base of violence. It has been propagated that Muslims are infiltrators, Bangldeshis and have been encroaching the lands of Bodos. Lot has been written to dispel this myth. Muslims have mainly been coming from Bengal from 18th Century due to the British policy of reducing the pressure on overpopulated Bengal and to ensure that the stretches of Assam, having low population density are populated. Since the perceptions have made a deep root in social common sense, the violence against Muslims, the citizens of Assam-India have gone on and communal forces have taken full advantage of that.
The third incidence is from the Southern state of Andhra, where the historic monument of Charminar is being vandalized by putting up renovation of Bhagyalaxmi temple, which is abutting the Charminar. This violates the norms of Archaeological Survey of India. The plea of ASI that the changes in temple may damage the Minar and that this an illegal act is falling on the deaf years and government has been letting the act of desecration of Charminar going on, much to the annoyance of the people of old city of Hyderabad and historic Charminar area. There have been minor skirmishes due to which many a people have been injured and the area saw the curfew for some time.
These three incidents are very typical of as to what goes on to make a communal violence. There is preplanning in these acts, as is clear in all these cases. The pretext and rumours about violation of the modesty of women, is very much visible in the case of Faizabad. In case of Faizabad, apart from intimidating the minorities, burning their shops, the ransacking of the office of bilingual paper, Aap Ki Taqat is very symbolic. This paper is bilingual, Urdu and Hindi. Its belief is that Hindu Muslims are brothers and Hindi-Urdu are sisters. It has been talking of peace in Ayodhay and is opposed the communal politics which led to Babri demolition. In UP while the Samajvadi party (SP) is very much in the total control of situation, how come violence is taking place? SP has been always claiming to be secular and in past many a times it has come forward to protect the values of secularism. There seem to be deeper forces which are beyond the control of SP, or does SP sees a political benefit in letting violence happen remains to be seen. It is painfully obvious in case of UP, Faizabad also that police machinery is not interested in controlling the violence, even when it can. It either helps the rioters or looks the other way round when the violence is taking place. In Hyderabad one sees the use of historical places to incite the communal tension. How systematically communal forces built up the Ram Temple campaign leading to demolition of Babri Masjid is a sad reminder to what can happen in Hyderabad. In Ayodhya also Babri Masjid was a monument under control of ASI, but with political hysteria built around it, it was demolished in the broad day light with state, police very much in the know of things.
The multiple factors which lead to communal violence remain unaddressed so the recurrence of these acts of violence goes on in such a painful way. Social activists and scholars have pointed out the role of communal forces, state machinery, irrespective of who is in power; the role of rumours, the ‘social common sense’ targeted against minorities persists. It is very sure that unless the problem is dealt with in its totality the country will keep suffering the pain of this violence and minorities in particular will keep suffering. It also reminds us as to what is the state of our democracy and the need for an effective and balanced Communal Violence Bill? No democracy can be satisfactory unless the minorities are safe and secure and are having equity in economic matters. These incidents are reminders to all those having faith and longing for a peaceful, secular, democratic society that we need to work against those who operate on communal ground, we need to ensure that social misconceptions are removed and an atmosphere of amity is created and that pressures have to bring in Communal Violence prevention Bill to punish the acts of commission or omission by political authorities and the police forces..
Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD.
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