Carnage And The Motives: Anti Muslim Violence And Anti Sikh Massacre
By Ram Puniyani
01 July, 2012
Last few months (June 2012) Narendra Modi has been much in news for his spectacular rise in BJP hierarchy and his projection as the BJP nominee for the future Prime Minister. That there is blood on the hands of Modi, carnage of 2002 Gujarat, cannot be washed off with any amount of pouring the water of ‘myth of vibrant Gujarat’. Modi-BJP is also labeled as Fascist by many social scientists-activists. On many a political debates on TV or other forum, when such charges are labeled against Modi-BJP pat comes the reply, if Modi is fascist for Gujarat carnage, what about the Congress-the anti Sikh pogrom of 1984. Its true murder is a murder, inexcusable, irrespective of who does it. In that sense Congress is also guilty of letting Anti Sikh pogrom take place right under its nose, many of its cadres-leaders instigating the riot, while the police machinery at best looking the other way round.
But that’s just a part of the story. It’s at the level of political process that these carnages, Gujarat and Delhi, cannot be equated and have totally different politics at the back of it. There are carnages which are a part of deeper political processes, and there are other carnages which are accidental, revengeful and ‘one go’ affair, where political motives if at all are of temporary nature. The Delhi massacre falls in the second category.
On 30h January 1984, Indira Gandhi was walking in her compound to give an interview, and right there her Sikh bodyguards gunned her down. Indira Gandhi was advised to remove the Sikh body guards in the wake of operation Blue Star. In This operation by Indian army Golden Temple was attacked, to evacuate Khalistani militants hiding there. Mrs. Gandhi refused remove Sikhs from her team of body guards rhetorically asking, are we not secular? After her murder the atmosphere in Delhi got charged, the newly sworn Prime Minister was glum, being covered by the TV camera, while the massacre-anti Sikh pogrom started outside. Rajiv Gandhi at this point uttered that infamous sentence, ‘When a big tree falls, the Earth shakes’. This was a signal enough for the rioters, the elements from Congress, those shaken by Indira’s murder and lumpen-elements to go on with their job. Rajiv Gandhi visited the riot areas on third day, military was called and peace came in. The process of justice and reconciliation began, some semblance of rehabilitation came through, some semblance of justice began but still a number of those involved in the crime have not been punished. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh both expressed regret, remorse in their own way. This was a ‘one go’ political madness in which Sikhs were targeted in the wake of the murder of Indira Gandhi. There was no deeper-long term political agenda. It was a sort of political insanity, momentary and tragic, painful and horrifying which tormented the Sikh community, a political accident so to say.
Gujarat is a different cup of tea. From the decade of 1990, with BJP government coming to power, all the wings of RSS combine, VHP, Bajrang Dal and their patriarch RSS came to full scale, unrestrained activity. RSS Chief Rajendra Singh declared that Gujarat is the ‘Laboratory of Hindu Rashtra’. Different villages of Gujarat started putting the hoarding outside their villages. ‘Welcome to so and so village of Hindu Rashtra’. Adivasi areas started seeing the intimidation of Christians; Muslim youth were attacked for inter-religious marriages. Meanwhile BJP was losing the grip on the electoral arena and in the forthcoming 2002 assembly elections; the fear was that BJP may lose. Here came the Godhra, Sabarmati train burning, 58 Kar Sevaks, innocents got burnt alive. The local administration said it is not pre planned act. Modi had his own calculations; he instantly declared that it is premeditated act by local Muslim in collaboration with the Pakistan’s ISI and International terrorism.
The burnt bodies of Kar Sevaks were taken in a procession on the instructions of Modi. VHP called for a Bandh and as per Citizens Tribunal report and the affidavit of Sanjiv Bhatt, Modi instructed the state administration to sit back and to let the Hindus vent their anger. Modi did not visit the riot affected areas for weeks, till another swayamsevak, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, gathered courage to visit the victims in Shah Alam camp and Modi accompanied him. The mayhem went on and on for months. Refugee camps run by the state were wound up, no rehabilitation, relief and remorse from the state machinery.
The polarization process in the state, the ghettotization of Muslims is more or less complete by now and Muslims have been relegated to second class citizenship in the state. While few affluent Muslim businessmen are turning to Modi for their survival, the average Muslims are living the life of all round neglect. Most of those who were alleged to be part of leading the mobs, got rewarded, re-elected, though some of them are cooling their heels in the jails under different charges. Gujarat carnage was one more, and most horrifying in the chain of anti Muslim violence which began from the Jabalpur one in 1961 and passing through the other horrific riots of Meerut Malyana, Bhagalpur, Bhivandi, Mumbai in all of which the anti Muslim one’s. The percentage of Muslim victims so has been 90%. In many of these the inquiry commissions have showed the role of organizations affiliated to RSS or its ideology of Hindu Rashtra.
The carnage of Gujarat is a part of the series of anti Muslim violence being spearheaded by the divisive ideology of religion based nationalism. In the same ‘ideological violence’ has come in anti Christian violence peaking in Kandhmal in August 2008.
The issue of Anti Sikh pogrom, equally condemnable has to be seen in a different light. While the anti Muslim and anti Christian violence is guided by the ideological agenda, the anti Sikh violence was a political accident taken advantage of by Congress. It passed off leaving bitter social realities. The anti Muslim-anti Christian violence is the part of slowly developing agenda of Hindu Rashtra, the goal of RSS in this country. This agenda of RSS has streaks of authoritarian ideologies. Social scientists look for analogies for analyzing social-political phenomenon. In case of Modi, who is part of the RSS agenda at political level, their inner differences notwithstanding, the carnage of Gujarat is an expression of Fascism, as politics of religion based nationalism. Like fascism it targets minorities (Jews were targeted in Germany). It asserts its supremacy as a race or religion and harps on the glorious past where the caste and gender hierarchies were the norms. Translated in contemporary times it means abolition of democracy, abolition of liberal space, looking down upon the plural ethos of the nation and turning to the social stratification of earlier times.
While Fascism word is used very often, what is it exactly? Is it a just a dictatorship or is it just massacre of minorities or is there something more to it? These two are the key ingredients of fascism. The other major pillar of fascism is an intimidation of weaker sections through street violence, abolition of democracy and the creation of hysteria around the infallible leader. Hitler was one such, who wanted nation based on German (Aryan Race), he persecuted the Jews and then Communists, He was glorified as the infallible leader, he usurped all the powers in his hands and did have an aggressive stance towards not only the ‘others’ in the country but also the ‘other nations. Hitler was also the favorite of big capitalists. Is any political leader on Indian political chess board close to these analogies?
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.
Due to a recent spate of abusive, racist and xenophobic comments we are forced to revise our comment policy and has put all comments on moderation que.