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Home > Communalism Repository > India and Secular Democracy

India and Secular Democracy

by Asghar Ali Engineer, 4 September 2012

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Asghar Ali Engineer

(Secular Perspective September 1-15, 2012)

Till yesterday many were saying that communal temperature has come down in the country and some even questioned wisdom of passing the Communal Violence and Targeted Violence Bill by the Parliament. People thought perhaps Gujarat riots have given enough shock to the country and now no major riots shall take place. And now we are not only witnessing series of riots in U.P. but also very major Gujarat like riot in Assam and now suddenly people from North East are being targeted in Southern states.

When Communal and Targeted Violence Bill was being debated in National Integration Council Mr. Sharad Yadav, the leader of Jana Dal United and an important ally of BJP-led NDA attacked the Bill as irrelevant as communal riots are not taking place in this country any more and this Bill will bring two laws - one for Hindus and another for Muslims (he was clearly towing BJP line) as under Moghul rule.

Not only the reference to Mogul rule was totally unjustified (this also shows how secular are the so called secular leaders of secular parties owing allegiance to R.M. Lohia) but also maintaining that there were no riots taking place in India. It was totally misleading statement. When Mr. Sharad Yadav was saying this in the National integration Council, number of riots had taken place in Rajasthan in Sarada, Mangalthana and Gopalgarh. In Gopalgarh 10 Meo Muslims were shot dead in cold blood inside a mosque by the Rajasthan police.

I took on Sharad Yadav and said either you do not read newspapers or deliberately ignoring several riots which have already taken place in last few months. And now what Yadavji will say about explosion of Assam and besides Bengali Muslims, how North East people are feeling insecure in whole country? Unfortunately the BJP-led NDA so severely attacked the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill that UPA-II seems to have quietly given up placing the Bill in Parliament.

The Congress led UPA had promised to enact this Bill in its 2004 manifesto in view of what had happened in Gujarat in 2002 and this is 2012 i.e. 8 long years and still it is hanging fire its fate is unknown. No one knows whether it will be passed at all. It seems the Govt. may quietly drop it. Had that Bill been passed I do not think riots in Assam would have taken place.

We wait for some major disaster for enactment of concerned law and then wait so long after the disaster that its urgency is lost and then either we pass its diluted version or wait for some other disaster to take place. As far as secularism is concerned the Congress is already on a weak ground and BJP is ever ready to promote it how can we ever hope to have strong secular democratic India?

How integrated and united we are has been shown by what happened in Assam after Gujarat and by threats of attack on North East people in South and other parts of India. Whoever sent these SMS is one question but more important question is why these few thousand SMSes could spread terror among North East Indians? This question is more important than who sent these SMSes.

We have completely exodus weakness to the neighbouring country supposing Pakistanis have done as alleged by the Government of India. The North Eastern people could be easily terrorized because these people are being repeatedly attacked in other parts of India and, if not attacked, seriously discriminated against. A simple SMS can so terrify them that they straight take to trains to Guwahati, a three day journey from their place of work. The exodus started from various destinations - Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow and several other places.

Why don’t they have confidence in fellow Indians from other parts of India and why they get terrified? In fact we have never treated them as one of us. Because of their different racial features we treat them as aliens. Their women are usually sexual targets in Delhi. Our education system is also to be largely blamed for lack of feeling of national integration in our country. What is use blaming Pakistan for spreading these messages? What have we done to create unity among all people of India?

Caste, religion, language, ethnicity and gender, all these are divisive forces. Our diversity, instead of becoming an asset and an enriching factor, has become our main weakness. Our politicians loose no opportunity to divide us for their votes and irony is every party accuses the other as creating its own vote banks. BJP attacks Congress and Congress the BJP for doing whatever it does for the sake of its vote bank.

Which party does not have its own vote bank, including smaller and regional parties? All calculations are made on the basis of these vote banks. These parties try to address everything on the basis of these vote banks, Dalits, Muslims, Brahmins, Rajputs, Yadavs and so on. Thus election in our country promotes division rather than any feeling of unity of people of India. This is so especially because our electoral system, copies blindly from the British system, is based on first past the pole.

It was okay for the British as they were largely homogenous society and mono-lingual and mono-cultural and hence this system could suit them. India, our leaders should have known, is bewilderingly diverse and hence such a system of first past the pole cannot suit us. Every election we see that winning candidates get 18 to 25 per cent of vote’s caste and still they claim they have won with majority. Such winning percentages are extremely ridiculous.

We have to bring radical reforms in our electoral system by making 51% as minimum for winning the seat. In that case the politicians will have to appeal to all voters rather than a small percentage of voters thus creating vote bank. Come election and vote bank politics start. Behind Assam riots also there is BJP’s vote-bank politics. It is backing Bodos to the hilt to get their votes in coming elections. It is promoting myth of Bangla Deshi infiltrators which is being repeated by BODO leaders to throw Bengali Muslims out of Bodoland territorial Council which also was created by NDA Govt. in 2003.

Same BJP accuses Congress of allowing Bangla Deshi Muslims to come to Assam to create its vote bank. In this accusation and counter-accusation truth is the victim. Fact is that if one takes seriously the figures being mentioned one has to accept as if one sixth of Bangla Desh is already in India. Tripura has more than 900 kms. of boarder with Bangla Desh and yet we hardly hear from Tripura about Bangla Deshis coming to their state and Assam has little more than 250 kms of boarder with Bangla Desh and we hear that thousands are marching into Assam.

Most of the Bengali Muslims now dubbed as Bangla Deshi had come to Assam before partition and when country was one and one could settle anywhere in one country. However, it was during AASU agitation that the issue was pursued with renewed vigour and resulted in Nelli and now it has resulted in Bodo-Muslim conflict. It has created more than 4 hundred thousand refugees - a mind boggling figure.

But all this division is political and result of political rivalry. Even today when politicians have made each of us so identity conscious, there appears to be unity among the common people and inspiring unity at that. Today only there is news that in one of the villages in Uttaranchal where there is no mosque, 800 Muslims said their Eid prayer inside a Gurudwara as outside it was raining heavily a picture in Times of India showed that a sadhu is sitting in the front (like an imam) and Muslims are sitting behind them praying. The very site was so inspiring.

If our leaders do not pursue divisive politics (like the British did) and our education system also inspires unity, people of India would work in unison and our resources would not be destroyed so often in petty conflicts in which one citizen appears to be enemy of another citizen. Some organizations are busy, day and night, creating animosity between people and that is why even petty quarrels between some citizens acquire violent form and in no time politicians would draw mobs onto the street assuming form of communal violence.

If our education system stresses unity of people and our common heritage it would result in wonders. Until my generation there was great appreciation of our shared heritage but subsequent generations have seen nothing but conflict and violence and hence communal violence is increasing day by day. British had followed divisive politics but our politicians (though one should not blame politics per se should not be blamed) have gone far ahead of British in dividing us.

Gandhiji wanted to pursue transformative politics which will transform citizens from within but our power hungry politicians are interested only in power politics which reinforces nothing but status quo and whatever change comes, comes for the worse. This politics does not transform us but freezes us into fixed identities.