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Communalism And The Myth

By Ambrose Pinto

04 November, 2008
Deccan Herald

Right at the start, it is important to state that in interpreting communal violence in any part of the country it is wrong to state that the two communities that are in conflict represent the sentiments of the two communities.

Communalists do not represent their communities at all. So, it is wrong to state that India had or has Hindu-Muslim or Hindu-Christian clashes.

Those responsible for violence make believe that violence is due to natural animosity between Hindus and Christians/Muslims. This is a blatant lie. There was and there is no animosity between communities at all in India. In fact, all communities have lived in harmony and peace for years and they still do. Wherever there have been stories of violence, there are several incidents of attempts by neighbours irrespective of their religious affiliation to mitigate the sufferings of their afflicted neighbours by heroic acts in the midst of frenzied inhumanity.
Kandhamal in Orissa, Mangalore in Karnataka and even Gujarat — that have been most affected by violence in recent years — have plenty of stories of protection of the victims. Across India, majority of the Hindus — who are committed to a secular, religiously pluralist society — have made very clear their outrage at the violence on minorities.

Even the minorities have refused to be a part of communalists in their own community. In fact, it is a large section of the media — for the most part that is practically owned and managed by the majority community — that has been behind the secular campaign against communal forces. It is, therefore, totally wrong and absurd to term the communal violence as violence between communities.

The second myth about communalism is that it is due to majority spontaneous outburst and anger against minority wrong-doings. This is again a campaign by communalists to divide communities and to consolidate the so-called majority fragmented vote-bank on the basis of castes and sub-castes and loyalties to different political parties.

Christians are accused of aggressive conversions and Muslims are termed as terrorists and anti-nationals. Since the myths are repeated day after day in the media, it is assumed to be true by uncritical masses and becomes the common sense of the common people. That is what the communalists desire and want the people of the majority community to internalise. But the facts may be very different.

The Christian population, for example, has dwindled after every head count. The latest census figures show that the Christians actually lost 40,00,000. The violent attacks on the Christians, their institutions, religious places, property and businesses are on the basis of fabricated stories and hate campaigns.

Similarly, Muslims — as a community — are targeted without any or little evidence, as responsible for the various bomb blasts taking place in the country. There is a concerted attempt to portray all members of the Muslim community as ‘terrorists and extremists’ — to be arbitrarily arrested, tortured and killed in fake encounters. Unfortunately, sections of the media have supported the communalists. In the process, the Muslim contribution to the nation is totally forgotten.

While freedom of thought and expression is a must for a liberal democracy, a liberal democracy should not tolerate speech that incites violence and speech that is geared to false propaganda against vulnerable communities. Silence by the state on occasions of the kind can be injurious for secularism and the greater good of democracy. All of us — as members of one human community — irrespective of caste, community and religion need to be united to fight the communal threat since it will destroy all of us.

(The writer is principal, St Joseph’s College, Bangalore)

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