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May 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         May 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2018


This communal divide!

Hari Jaisingh

Communalism and fundamentalism are two monsters of modern India which pose a potent threat to the polity and keep social and political pots on the boil to the advantage of opportunistic politicians on both sides of the political divide at different times for electoral dividends.
After some years of calm and sanity, Bihar and parts of West Bengal recently got engulfed in communal riots during the Ram Navami celebrations. Lord Ram is a symbol of the Indian tradition of harmony, peace, fair play and social justice. He represents Mahatma Gandhi's dream concept of Ram Rajya. How come this occasion should become the play of some mischief elements?
In Bihar, communal clashes erupted in several districts of the state. In Samstipur district, some miscreants hurled footwear at a procession carrying the idol of Goddess Durga for immersion on the conclusion of Chaiti Navaratra festivities. Communal clashes flared in Aurangabad following a stone-pelting incident during a Ram Navami procession. It is said that Aurangabad town had no history of major communal violence.

Arijit Shashawat Union Minister of State Ashwini Kumar Choubey's son Arijit Shashawat was booked for rioting and inciting violence in Bhagalpur where clashes took place during an unauthorized procession taken out by the BJP, the Bajrang Dal and RSS activities. There were also incidents of religious processions carrying illegal weapons entering into Muslim localities shouting incendiary slogans. It also happened at Rosera in Samstipur.

Babul Supriyo after being attacked by TMC workers in a clash in Asansol district In West Bengal, the situation turned ugly after the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its political rival BJP organized several processions to celebrate Ram Navami. A senior police officer also reportedly lost a hand after a bomb was hurled at him during a clash in the Asansol-Raniganj area.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Babul Supriya reportedly threatened to "skin" those who shouted slogans against him during his Asansol visit. He is also alleged to have assaulted senior IPS officer Rupesh Kumar.
While the Ministry of Home Affairs sought a report from the Mamata Banerjee government on incidents of arson and violence, it has spared the Nitish Kumar government of Bihar. Evan BJP Chief Amit Shah has sent his four-member party team to West Bengal to look into the situation and report to him.

Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar Interestingly, BSP Chief Mayawati has accused the Centre of adopting double standards in dealing with state governments depending on whether they are led by the BJP or its rival parties. This is shameful, to say the least.
The West Bengal Chief Minister, on her part, has directed the DGP to instruct all SPs to take strong action against those who carried arms in the rallies. "Did Ram ask anybody to rally with arms and swords? Can we leave the State's administration and law and order in the hands of these hooligans, who are defaming Ram?," Mamata Banerjee asked.

Amit Shah In Bihar, the opposition RJD and Congress have accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of keeping silent over alleged attempts by BJP leaders in triggering communal polarization in the state since he is running the government with the support of the saffron party. I wonder why Nitish Kumar seemed "helpless". Has he become a prisoner of power games in the state? Be that as it may. Communalism is a poisonous brew of half-baked politics and pseudo-religious beliefs which aim at promoting narrow community and sectarian objectives.
It is a by-product of mutual suspicions sown and harvested through a long, chequered period of history. Today, communalism has become a political game being played in the name of religion. Over a period of time, it has acquired socio-economic overtones as well.
Both Bihar and UP had long spells of "backward" caste and Dalit rule since 1989-90. In a way, the ideological bulwark of "social justice" kept Hindutva on hold. However, of late everything seems to be in a state of drift. Amidst the on-going changing political equations, there is a sudden spurt in communal tension and violence in Bihar and UP.
Incidentally, Bihar and UP have a sizeable Muslim population. It offers "fertile ground" for a polarizing agenda, especially now.
In any case, the communal problem ought to be examined afresh dispassionately and objectively. There are currents, cross-currents and under-currents. In the first place, the dynamics of communalism needs to be measured with the traditional economic yardstick. Economic deprivation, Marxists would vouchsafe, is the root of most social conflicts.
In fact, poverty and economic suppression provide ready-made ingredients for communal conflicts.
Asghar Ali Engineer goes a step ahead and states that "it is only the sense of being left out in the economic race that generates communal conflict".
This might appear to be an oversimplification of a highly complex problem which has of late acquired politico-religious overtones.

Who is to blame for this sickening state of affairs? I would say the Indian leadership, which needs to see the problem in a new perspective. Even the Dalit restlessness ought to be viewed in a larger framework of social and economic injustice and deprivation!

This brings me to the second point, namely, people living in subhuman conditions which generate social tensions and provide combustible human material for anti-social elements.
The third – and the most dangerous – element in the lengthening shadow of communalism is the growing "communalization" of politics. Caste and communal considerations have virtually become second nature with most leaders, for instance, in the matter of distribution of tickets during election time and favoured treatment. Even ministerial selection is made on communal or caste lines.
In India, the politics of communalism has become "big business".
This scenario might appear paradoxical in a democratic polity, but in the absence of concerted efforts to evolve allinclusive secular traditions, a premium on communal divide is but natural.
The fourth disquieting element is the growing criminalization of politics as well as communalization of crime. These days, even known criminals try to gatecrash into the political arena. Communalism, for that matter, like water, flows from top downwards, engulfing both civic administration and police. The common man suffers most in the process.
Who is to blame for this sickening state of affairs? I would say the Indian leadership, which needs to see the problem in a new perspective. Even the Dalit restlessness ought to be viewed in a larger framework of social and economic injustice and deprivation !