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Apportioning The Blame Of
Communal Riots

By Ram Puniyani

02 May, 2004
Issues In Secular Politics

During the current elections (April-May 2004) many a Muslim leaders, or self proclaimed representatives of the community, like Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, came out with Fatwas to vote for BJP, to give it a chance. The argument was that during BJP regime only Gujarat riots have taken place while during Congress regimes thousands of riots have taken place.

Riots, communal violence have become a sad reality of India’s life. There are many an observations pertaining to the riots. The major one being that after every riot BJP in particular becomes stronger in that area. Also that the majority of the victims of riots in India are Muslims. The data from1961 to 1992, shows that during these four decades 80 percent of victims of communal violence have been Muslims. During the 1984 Delhi riots nearly 4000 Sikhs were done to death. In a similar vein another minority; Christians
saw the ghastly burning of Pastor Graham Stains along with his two minor sons.

Who is to be blamed for these riots? In case of 1984 anti Sikh riots the role of Congress was most abominable. In addition to overt role of Congress one
has to see the role of RSS also in this tragedy. In one of the articles in a Hindi Monthly, Pratipaksha, Nanaji Deshmukh a veteran of RSS wrote around that
time that there is a threat to the National unity, due to Sikh extremism, and so Rajiv Gandhi should be supported to the hilt. Needless to say it was Rajiv
Gandhi who blurted during these riots that when a big tree falls the ground shakes. The role of RSS during 1984 riots is anybody’s guess. It was around this time that Bajarang dal, the storm troopers of RSS was formed. The rise of Sikh militancy, rise of Bhindranwale, attack on Golden temple, operation blue star and murder of Indira Gandhi preceded the anti Sikh violence. The anti Sikh tragedy had different dynamics than the two other minorities (Muslims,
Christians) who have also been under the chopping block.

The Muslims and Christians have been targeted for slightly different reasons. The anti Christian violence has also not assumed the form of riot as such. While we talk of riot the major phenomenon which comes to mind is the so-called Hindu Muslim riot. From pre-partition times, this name stuck to such
skirmishes, which went to assume more and more horrendous proportions over a period of time. There are calls for bandh, calls for direct action or at
times an event is given the twist to project as if the community is under the threat of an attack so there is a need to take up arms.

This becomes possible to begin with due to the massive hatred spread against the ‘other’ community. In pre partition times Muslim League indulged in spreading anti Hindu poison and Hindu Mahadsabha-RSS indulged in
spreading anti Muslim venom. These sentiments of hatred against the ‘other’ community are the fertile soil in which particular events can be given a
communal twist, or calls for attacks in a veiled language can be given. So many an events can take place in the society but unless the inherent hatred
for the other community is there they cannot be translated into violent episodes.

After the partition process, those from amongst the hate spewing machines, Muslim communalism got deflated, Hindu Mahasabha got eclipsed and RSS
proliferated as the time passed by. It went on from strength to strength, and from organization to organization, manned by the Hate embodiments, the RSS swayamsevaks, whose core ideology is based on the Hate ‘other’. By now there are over 150 RSS progenies doing the job at various levels apart from those swayamsevaks who have infiltrated in media, education and bureaucracy.

Grounded on Hate, certain incidents are twisted to give it a provocative interpretation, a call for action to attack the other community. Sociologist
Dipanakar Gupta in one of his recent articles in a popular newspaper outlined the role of ethno-preneur in giving such a twist to the events. This soldier of
communal politics is on the look out for the chance to convert a Human tragedy into a ladder for his political enhancement, into enhancement of his
communal agenda, into converting it into a riot. In recent past two such ethno-preneurs can easily be discerned. The first one amongst these is Mr.
Balasaheb Thackeray, who gave an open call to Hindus to ‘deal’ with the rising attacks on them. The detailed analysis of the events of Mumbai riots shows that the scattered isolated, unrelated events of murder of Mathdi workers and the burning of Bane family was projected as the onslaught by Muslims on Hindus. And so the call that Hindus should become aggressive. The call was duly backed up by regular instructions. And than one sees over 900 dead bodies. One witnesses property worth 10000 crores going up the
smoke. Most of this is well chronicled and investigated in Shirkrishna Commission report. On the dead bodies of the riot victim’s Hindu community got its first Soul Emperor (Hindu Hriday Samrat), none other than Balasaheb Thackeray, who was the ethno-preneur

A train is burnt in Godhra. One is not sure how and why it has happened. it needs to be investigated and the guilty need punished. Here another ethno-preneur is lurking in the wings. Without wasting time he declares that this is the act of International terrorism, in association with the much-hated Pakistani ISI and their ‘natural associates’ the local Muslims. He instructs all those concerned in controlling the riot, to sit back and relax. Those given these instructions take the cue and duly assist the ‘process of revenge of Godhra’. Two thousand lives down the gutters of fire, twenty thousand worth property down the drain, another Hindu Soul Emperor emerges, Narendra Modi.

Prior to this many a riots had taken place. In most of the investigations of the riots, Madon (Bhivandi), Ahamdabad (Jagmohan) Kanyakumari (Vythathil)
Bhagalpur, Meerut and others the inquiry commissions did come to the conclusion that the role of ethno- preneur is generally played by some scattered RSS organization, especially put together for the purpose
but drawing from the existing organization already being conducted by a swayamsevak. Congress was ruling. Within Congress and within administration there are elements that have been communalized. Congress did not deal with riots in an effective manner, many a times it just looked the other way around, when the carnage was in progress. Guilty either got promoted (Thackeray, Modi) at worst and remains unpunished at

To look at riots just as to under whose regime they took place is to overlook the bigger reality. The truth of riots involves multiple factors and each of
this contributes at a different level. Pastor Stains burning took place under a particular regime, looking at that alone does not give us the full picture. We
have to see as to who is spreading the anti Christian venom in villages and Adivasi areas, which organization or individual is instigating others to
join in such inhuman acts a so on. Anti Muslim riots took place aplenty under Congress regime. We have to see who has been spreading hatred against this
community, who is instrumental in spreading the myths about them, which by now have become a social common sense. These myths spread systematically by different progeny of RSS, and this is the ground on which the events are taken up by ethno preneuers and converted into the riots, which benefit their political agenda.

Shahi imam and others’ observation that more riots took place under Congress regime is a very superficial and distorted way at looking at things. It does not help us in apportioning the blame of riots properly. We have to delve deep in order to understand the nature of these political formations to come to
conclusions, especially which are going to have a far-reaching effect on our political future. In that sense the worst of Congress crimes come nowhere close to the machinations of RSS which operate at multiple layers and which is making the life of minorities miserable in this country. It is this, which is a big obstacle to the efforts to get the justice for the weak sections of society.

The RSS like formations, and their progeny are in a different league altogether. Since they do not hold to the values of democracy, affirmative actions and human rights, they should not be compared with potentially democratic organizations, which under the grass root pressure can become better tailored for democratic polity.


"The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essense of inhumanity.

.......George Bernard Shaw