Tamas, Once Again…

Editorial: October 2013

Hardnews Bureau Delhi

The Muzaffarnagar riots didnot take anyone by surprise — least of all Hardnews. In our August issue, we are embarrassed to say, we were prescient when we wrote about the Sangh Parivar strategy to revive its hate politics to polarize UP. This is their time-tested, ultimate card. Surely, we were not the only ones to know about this diabolical conspiracy. Everyone saw it coming: the police, district administration, local MLAs, MPs, the CM, the CM’s father, uncles, khap patriarchs, and so on. This fact was also known to the political class, the Central home ministry, intelligence agencies, sundry spies and spooks. There were mobile intercepts that suggested that professional rioters with sinister masterminds were back at the job they love best.

To its credit, the Union home ministry cautioned the chief secretaries of eight states about the threat of riots and suggested that they take preventive steps. Over the years, a successful template has been prepared at the district level to control riots or communal conflagration. What we need is a tough, uncompromising administration with sharp reflexes and early warning systems to ensure that the ‘rowdy elements and conspirators’ are put away to prevent them from carrying out their paid agenda. Also, the district administration has to ensure that rumours are not allowed to spread.

In Meerut, riot control was finessed by the district police to the extent that they put loudspeakers all over the city to allow the police chief to talk to the people directly and scotch all rumours which could trigger panic among the warring groups. In Muzaffarnagar, nothing seems to have helped. Worse, the engineered violence demolished many of the riot theories propounded by social scientists. In a seminal work, Votes and Violence, Steven Wilkinson writes that when a caste grouping aligns with the minority community to come to power, this social group ensures its protection. From this standpoint, the onus was on the Samajwadi Party (SP) to ensure that its minority support base remained protected. In fact, SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav took this protection theory to absurd levels; this only fed antagonism from other communities. Some SP luminaries like Azam Khan, revelling in the unnecessary importance they enjoy in this dispensation, only helped in feeding the stereotype.

So, what next? More riots before 2014 to reshape India’s polity on the lines masterminded by RSS buddies Amit Shah and NarendraModi, with the ‘Gujarat model’ as template?

So how did the riots take place? Surely, in the most expected, inevitable manner. In a diabolical, underground process perfected over time, the SanghParivar worked on the psyche of the majority community by breeding insecurity about their daughters and wives and how they were susceptible to the machinations of Muslim boys engaged in the mythical ‘Love Jihad’. There was an incident that got both the communities so riled that they spilled out onto the streets. The Jats held their inflammatory mahapanchayats to protect their ‘bahu-betis’; similarly, the minority community herded together against the violence of the majority community. Incidentally, both the congregations cut across party lines. It was apparent that hate politics had little space and time for rationality and tolerance.

Strangely, the riots began in the villages — this overturned the other theory that they are largely an urban phenomenon. So brutal were the killings (and rapes, as new testimonies prove), that doctors found it difficult to do post-mortems. We witnessed the exodus of thousands of Muslims, reminiscent of the dark, tragic times of the Partition, so evocatively depicted in Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas.

So, what next? More riots before 2014 to reshape India’s polity on the lines masterminded by RSS buddies Amit Shah and NarendraModi, with the ‘Gujarat model’ as template? Or, will the ‘secular’ Indian State, for once, choose to crack the whip, to protect the nation-state’s pluralist sanity?

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: OCTOBER 2013