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Home > Communalism Repository > India: Sangh Parivar and Communal Riots

India: Sangh Parivar and Communal Riots

by Irfan Engineer, 19 October 2013

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(Part 1)

(Secular Perspective October 16-31, 2013)

In an attempt to hide their culpability in communal riots, the BJP often argues that more communal riots have taken place under Congress regime as compared to their regime. The argument is fallacious as the Congress has ruled the country and various states much longer than BJP. Secondly, Congress ruled state governments are practically throughout the length and breadth of the country. Therefore one is comparing longer term of the Congress in wider geographical area with shorter term of the BJP. It is like comparing apples to oranges.

However, more important point is the BJP spokespersons’ attempts to obfuscate and invisibilise the real role of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar attached politicians in raising the communal temperature of the country by incessantly polarizing every possible issue on communal lines. Since its inception, the RSS has used communal violence as a tool to strengthen its organization, as indeed the Muslim League orchestrated communal violence in 1946 and used it as a tool to achieve its objective of Pakistan. The RSS continuously propagates that Hindus are in danger and / or injustice is being done to the Hindus. In the pre-Independence era, Jinnah did a similar propaganda and saw every action of the Congress with a jaundiced eye and interpreted every measure to be anti-Muslim. Followers of Hindutva ideology continuously propagate that all terrorists are Muslims even though the proposition is false to their own knowledge. Advani’s rath yatra similarly propagated distorted history and falsehood about existence of Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya; claiming the temple to be on a precise spot which was birth place of Ram; that the temple was demolished by Babar; that Babri Masjid is a symbol of subjugation of Hindus by Muslim regime. As Jinnah unfortunately succeeded in persuading a section of influential and propertied class Muslims that they would not get justice in united India, followers of Hindutva ideology similarly have succeeded in convincing a section of upper class and upper caste Hindus that indeed their interests are inimical to those of the Muslim community (as if the community is undiversified and share same interests), that Muslims are anti-nationals, polygamous, a bunch of criminals, violent, etc. etc.

Communalists, like the followers of Hindutva ideology, ratchet up tension between the two communities over an issue which may seem insignificant and even routine, e.g. the murder of two mathadi workers in Mumbai in January 1993. Shiv Sena ratcheted up the issue and through its news paper Samnaa, continuously propagated as if the routine sounding murder amounted to huge injustice on the entire Hindu community. Even before investigation conclusion was drawn that Muslims are guilty and that entire Muslim community was guilty of the murder. Or take the recent Muzaffarnagar communal riots. The riots occurred under the SP regime. However, the SP is at the most guilty of omissions – of allowing the “Jat Mahapanchayats” to take place with the attendees armed with deadly weapons in a charged atmosphere where communally inciting speeches were likely to be given and were given. The riots were not a natural reaction to the incident of killing of Sachin and Gaurav, who in turn were killed as they Shahnawaz. Attempts to create communal tensions were going on much before even before the incident. The incident of murder of Sachin and Gaurav was used to ratchet up tensions by widely circulating a fake video of an incident that happened in Pakistan. The BJP MLA is alleged to have done that. The fake video inflamed the sensations and emotions and mobilized the people to Jat Mahapanchayat who could then be incited to take revenge leading to communal riots. There would have been no riots without the circulation of the fake video; without the Jat Mahapanchayat; without collecting and distributing arms; without mobilizing funds for movements of the emotionally charged crowds and without pre-marking the targets to be attacked during the riots. Whom would you hold more culpable for the riots – the SP govt. for their omissions or the planner, organizers and executioner of the riots in Muzaffarnagar?

Of late, routine inter-religious love affairs are declared by the Hindu Nationalist forces to be “love jihad” without an iota of evidence or truth in it. Continuously repeating the falsehood umpteen times using the media and pamphlets escalates the conflict between the two communities. The other issues that have been utilized to ratchet up the communal conflict are a cow being shooed away by a hawker, who happens to be a Muslim, or non-payment of a hotel bill or by insisting on a particular route for a religious procession, deliberately playing loud music near places of worship during religious processions etc.

Eruption of a riot takes place, according to psychologist Sudhir Kakar after a considerable degree of tension between the two communities has been built up by communal organizations. Riot is then bursting of a boil, the eruption of pus, of ‘bad blood’ between Hindus and Muslims which has been accumulated over a few days and even weeks in a particular location. In riot prone cities like Ahmedabad, the boil is more like a festering sore. Besides the ultimate cause, a riot has immediate tension and precipitating incident. Immediate tension occurs when religious identities come to the forefront because of a perceived threat to this particular social identity. For example constant propaganda that injustice is meted out to the Hindus in “their own country” or that minorities are being appeased in the country that belongs to Hindus. The threat may be a constructed one based on collective distortion of the meaning of a real event, which makes them act as Hindus or Muslims. Demonstration of this religious identity on part of one community causes, as a response, the other community to mobilize based their religious identity. This spiral of perceived or misperceived threats and reactive counter postures raises tensions between the two communities. During the period of tension, religious identity of the individual is heightened and they increasingly think themselves as Hindus, or Muslims or Christians. When group salience becomes high, the individual thinks and behaves in conformity with the stereotypical characteristics of the category ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ rather than according to her or his individual personality dispositions. Thus social identity dominates in the period of social tensions and individuals conform to their stereotypes leading to homogenization and depersonalization. The tension is also constituted of strong effects and emotions and raw passions.

Rowena Robinson in her book – Tremors of Violence – Muslim Survivors of Ethnic Strife in Western India – reproduces the text from leaflets of Vishwa Hindu Parishad openly circulated after Gujarat Violence in 2002 and signed by the state general secretary Chinubhai Patel “We will cut them and their blood will flow like rivers. ‘We will kill Muslims the way we destroyed Babri mosque’. This is followed by a poem ‘[t]he volcano which was inactive ... has erupted. It has burnt the arse of miyas and made them dance nude. We have untied the penises that were tied till now. We have widened the tight vaginas of the bibis...’

To measure communalism of a political party based merely on number of riots or number of casualties during the communal riots under their regime, as the BJP spokespersons persuade us to do, will therefore lead us to fallacious conclusions. The source of communal attitudes is equally culpable for the riots that take place.

This is not to argue that Congress led Governments are not culpable whenever riots take place under their regime. The culpability of the ruling party may be of different nature. The culpability of the administration is that of omission, i.e. failure to take timely, appropriate and necessary actions to prevent riots when there are early warnings of the riots as the tension is being ratcheted up over incident of ordinary nature. The culpability is compounded further if there is a failure to control riots immediately after it breaks out by immediately arresting the communal goondas, imposing curfew and using minimum necessary but effective force on rioting mobs. However, in the case of Gujarat 2002 riots, the interest of planners and conspirators of the riots culpable for offence of commissions and the interests of the ruling regime committing the offence of omissions and commissions became identical.

The Inquiry Commissions Reports on Communal Riots:

The Inquiry Commissions appointed to give their reports on the causes of riots have, after properly appreciating the evidence before them more often than not, blamed the communal organizations following Hindutva ideology and having Hindu Nationalism as their political goal. If Congress led regimes were blamed for offences of omissions, the Commissions also blamed the sister organizations of the then Jan Sangh and now the BJP. Let us look at the observations of some of the Inquiry Commissions very briefly for the lack of space.

The Raghubar Dayal Commission appointed to give its findings on the causes of communal riots in Sholapur, Maharashtra, in September 1967 observed that the Hindu Maha sabha and Muslim league were active in the incident, as they wanted to use the incident for their political purpose.

The same commission was appointed to study the communal disturbances in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, between 13 to15 October, 1967. The Commission found that Jan Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha and other communal minded Hindus were involved in the agitation and had contributed to communal tensions just before the Jaganath temple incident. Jana Sangh workers were found to be participating in riots. According to the Commission, the Jan Sangh workers and communal minded persons created trouble and spread rumors.

The D. P. Madon Commission, investigating Riots in Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad, in the year 1970 found that the following organizations were operating in Bhiwandi which fomented communal tension in the said places:

1) The Bhiwandi Branch of the All-India Majlis Tameer-E-Millat,

2) The Bhiwandi Branch of the Shiv Sena,

3) The Bhiwandi Branch of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh,

4) The Bhiwandi Seva Samiti,

5) The Rashtriya Utsav Mandal.

The Madon Commission found that Bal Thackeray, made a communal speech about Bhiwandi and its Muslim inhabitants at a Shiv Sena meeting held in Thane on May 30, 1969 in the course of which he referred to Bhiwandi as a second Pakistan and said that such shameful incidents were taking place in Bhiwandi that he was ashamed to speak about them in the presence of ladies.

The Madon Commission further found that the news of the Bhiwandi disturbance and exaggerated rumours were circulated in Jalgaon, inflaming the communal passions of the Hindus against the Muslims. As the tension heightened, an ordinary quarrel which took place at the ‘Pan’ shop at the Rath Chowk between a Muslim and some Hindus at about 2.45 pm on May 8, 1970 triggered off the riot.

The Madon Commission also held the communal activities of the Jalgaon City Branch of the Jan Sangh and the Shree Ram Tarun Mandal managed by the Jalgaon City Branch of the Jan Sangh responsible for the communal riots in Jalgaon in the background of impending Municipal politics. Stones were thrown on the Jumma Mosque situated in Maniyar Wada usually at the time of the night prayers to heighten tensions.

(To be continued in the next issue………….)