Communalism is the menace not only for the target communities but also for those in whose name communal politics is played. In fact, it has landed the entire nation, its sovereignty and plural structure in jeopardy. It is common tendency to identify communalism with pre-independence era especially with the communal forces led by Jinnah. In the previous issues of Radiance we endeavoured to unravel the ugly face of communalism in India even after the Independence and to present how it penetrated its tentacles in the Indian soil and took the horrible form it wears today. But the discussion is incomplete if the way-out of this menace is not suggested. Though, it is true that there is no magic wand to treat this magic hazard yet an effort to do so, we hope, would be welcomed with an open heart.
Combating communalism is not the task of any one individual or group; it is a collective task. Everybody has to play his role, be it student or teacher, parents or children, shopkeeper or consumer, politician or voter – government or citizen. So, let’s come forward and take up the cudgel to fight the menace known as communalism.
To ease out my as well as your task I have divided the suggestions category wise for each of us to clearly understand his role in the battle against the communal forces.
ROLE OF SECULAR FORCES
The first and foremost task to combat communalism is to rectify the wrongs that the secular forces, intentionally or unintentionally, have committed over the years. These blunders in socio-politico affairs have proved to be lifeblood for the communalist forces who capitalised and reinterpreted upon these lapses and built the abominable structure of communalism on its foundation. For example, the extremist phase of our national movement was led by Tilak, Aurobindo and others. They looked more to indigenous institutions for the development of Indian nationalism and sought to rely on aggressive Hinduism rather than on constitutionalism and co-operation. In order to arouse anti-British feelings among the masses, they exploited festivals and cow protection campaign, etc. This obviously alienated people from other sections of society. Gandhiji’s talks of ‘Ram Rajya’ etc. were also misinterpreted by communalists. Therefore, such ambiguous terminologies and religious denominations must not be played with to arouse political mobilisation in future, especially in the plural society like India.
To defeat communalism the best strategy is the unity of the all secular forces irrespective of their political affiliations, religions, regions and priorities. The prime most priority of the all secular forces must be to eradicate every form of communalism from the country, root and branch.
Secular forces must never resort to what is termed as soft-Hindutva or majoritarianism – as any compromise with communal politics will strengthen the communal forces and shake the confidence of the masses in the secular forces, as was the case with the Congress Party in 1991 and earlier in 1977.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
The feeling of patriotism and love for one’s native land is appreciable and desirable as well. However, chauvinism and ultra-nationalism in the name of patriotism must not be allowed to take roots in the society. The terms like ‘anti-national’ or ‘foreigner’ must not be projected against a particular community or group lest it would arouse the feeling of isolation, segregation, rebellion and communalism in its members. For example, the statements of Bal Thackeray in which he dubbed all Muslims who do not sing vande mataram unpatriotic and agents of ISI. Terming Muslim concentration areas as mini–Pakistan, and blasphemous slogans like ‘musalman ke do hi sthan; Pakistan ya kabristan’ (Muslims can only live in Pakistan or graveyard) must be discouraged fought tooth and nail by all the secular forces and concerned citizens with full vigour. Outfits spreading rancour and threatening law and order (like MNS in Mumbai) must be banned without any delay.
Feelings of desperation, alienation and discrimination often give birth to one kind of communalism or the other. Hence, all the sections of the society must be treated equally and no sense of discrimination be allowed to prevail in the masses. Or else the discontentment will give rise to violence or separatist movements as is going on in Assam, Telengana and Vidarbha.
This feeling of discrimination could also erupt as a result of the policies of the government. For example, our government’s move to establish more-than-diplomatic ties with Israel and the recent growing relations with America. Our policies must be independent, keeping the values of non-alignment intact.
The Centre must have the power and authority to send peacekeeping forces in the states in case of eruption of communal flare-up in a State. Because sometimes communal state governments do not call additional forces to maintain law and order as violence is in their political interest – as was the case in UP of 1990s and in Gujarat of 2002. The demands made by Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav to arrest Advani and open fire on the violent mob in the states of Bihar and UP respectively were not given the appreciation they deserved. Such daring moves could have discouraged communal forces from the core.
Election Commission in Gujarat has done a commendable work by taking notice of the verbal altercations between Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi, and the use of the terms like “Maut Ka Saudagar” (merchant of death) in the last assembly elections. Going one-step further, it must also take notice of the communal remarks and the comments that are deliberately made to arouse communal feelings of the masses.
The government publishes advertisement issued in public interest in national dailies, to spread awareness regarding terrorism, etc. Such policies could be adopted to erase the false notions engraved in the minds of common populace. Such as the myth of polygamy of Muslims or the threat of Muslim population outnumbering the majority community, etc.
Commenting on the biased role of the police during the riots of 2002, the Times of India editorially registered its concern, “…the inaction of police and administration speaks for itself” (26 April 2002). This ‘inaction’ according to Omar Khalidi was also visible in Ahmedabad (1969), Hyderabad (1978), Moradabad (1980), Bhiwandi (1984), Meerut (1987), Bhagalpur (1989), Surat and Bombay (1993) etc. etc. Concrete steps are needed to de-politicise and de-communalise the security forces.
The composition of khaki is disproportionate to the core. Presence of Muslims in the CRPF, civil services and BSF is 5.5%, 3.2% and 4.5% respectively. SPG, RAW and IB are yet to see Muslims in their ranks. This unwritten code of our security forces must be done away with as soon as possible. The government must make efforts to create diversity in the ranks of our army, paramilitary forces and police. Adequate representation (according to the proportion of their population) of different communities in the security forces, though no guarantee of their neutral role, would help create a better environment.
ROLE OF MEDIA
On January 1, 1993 There was an article in Saamna under the caption, “Hindunni akramak vhayle have” (Hindus should become aggressive now. vol. 1 pg. 13). Freedom of speech does not include the liberty to instigate one community against another. The role played by media in nearly all the riots is egregious. I would be last to argue for the curtailment of freedom of speech of media. Nevertheless, when the choice is between curtailment of freedom of speech and bloodshed, I will choose the former. Publishers of such provocative articles must be punished; their licence must be confiscated if the offence is repeated.
Media houses must bear loss of non-sale of a few copies and TRPs instead of applying communal masala to their stories. This will be of great significance as a popular saying goes, “newspapers are the bible of the masses”. Media must be cautious enough before making headlines without any solid proof like “SIMI’s second coming” (Indian Express, March 2), “Bangalore hub of techchie terror network” (The Times of India, February 28), “Karnataka campuses breeding terrorists” (Pioneer, February 3), “Hubli is hub of terror in south” (Pioneer, February 4) etc. etc.
There must not be communal bias in covering events in the mainstream media; this was much evident recently after the seven terrorists of Hindu Munnani were arrested for triggering blasts in their own local RSS office and adjacent bus stop at Tenkasi (Tamil Nadu). The explosives discovered reportedly resemble those used in Makkah Masjid blasts. Persons arrested have already confessed of executing blasts to foment communal tension. Needless to say, the story was absent from nearly all mainstream dailies, weeklies, and channels.
Syllabus and curriculum especially at primary level must be under an independent committee not directly responsible to the government, to avoid any attempts like saffronisation of education in future. Efforts must be made to thwart the communal propaganda, based on falsification of history. History must be taught in its true colours. The characters of Aurangzeb, Mahmud Ghazni, Shivaji and Babar, etc. are ought to be presented strictly as they were. The events that could help in betterment of mutual relations between communities should be paid adequate attention in the syllabi, such as Aurangzeb’s funding to Vishwanath temple, Shivaji’s respect for the Qur’an during wars, etc.
Teachers must also be trained during their B.Ed, M.Ed courses on how they can create communal harmony in society. Because any single teacher could communalise at least 30-40 students a year and this is a big loss of human resources. If trained on right lines, they would be able to create a very healthy society.
Minorities must also note that communalism cannot be exterminated or even assuaged through another communalism. We have experienced it in past that the opposition of one community’s communalism by another community’s communalism resulted in what communalism is today. If another communalism is encouraged, we will certainly end up having a few Pakistansand Khalistans instead of a strong India.
Minorities (especially Muslims) should try to befriend with fellow communities and establish fraternal ties with them, they must also take an initiative to invite others on common platforms to redress common grievances. They are also required to present their religious teachings in their truest contexts and wipe out the misconceptions prevailing in the psyche of the laymen.
STUDENTS AND YOUTH
Democracy must be strengthened from the grassroots level and it must be ensured that the elections are fought on the basis of development issues and not on the basis of communal psyche of the masses. NGOs and college students must be given projects to go to villages and try to disseminate awareness and assuage their communal orientations. Because still after 60 years of the successful survival of democracy in India the political consciousness of the populace is not very much developed and still they are wasting their votes on caste, and communal lines. Or else the ‘mass murderer’ Modi would not have won the recent polls.
Students and youngsters must not be swayed up by popular slogans and derogatory references to the ‘other’. They must analytically scan through the irrationality of the communal arguments. Communal “forces” minus aggression of youth are everything but a force.
In schools and colleges besides literary, debating, environmental and creative writing societies, societies for communal harmony must be opened – whose work should be to harmonise the campus environment and de-communalise the ingenuous minds of students, which are often contaminated with filthy communal propaganda.
“Justice delayed is justice denied”. The justice delivery system must be fast as one sees that still the perpetrators of the 1984, 1993, and 2002 riots are wandering freely. This can eventually lead to a sense of discrimination in the affected communities. The judgments in the Bilkis Bano case must be welcomed in this regard. This must pave way for further bold judgements by judiciary. The riots cases plus the police atrocity and fake encounter cases must be judged outside the concerned state. The verdict must be quick, fearless as well as just. Special Fast Track courts could be of much help in this regard.
The Ayodhya imbroglio must be solved; any delay in judgment will allow the communal forces to capitalise on the issue more and more. Besides this, the persons like Ashok Singhal who openly goes on to discredit our Supreme Court by saying, “decision of sants will prevail over the decision of courts”, must be booked for this palpable “contempt of court”. Adequate security to every place of worship must be provided.
CREATION OF AN ENVIRONMENT
A feeling of understanding and co-operation must be encouraged in the diverse communities of India. An environment of give and take and peaceful coexistence must be developed. Instead of relying on communal propaganda, the intellectuals of a community must meet the intellectuals of another community to get authentic information or the truth behind the propaganda. For example, a Muslim fanatic killed Swami Shardhanand on December 23, 1926; Hindu communalists propagated the murder as secret agenda of Islamic jihad to cleanse Hindu leadership and to acquire power. This was alleged as the basic principle of Islamic jihad. In this scenario, responding to an appeal made by Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar, Maulana Maudoodi wrote a book entitled al-jihad fil Islam, in which he cleared all the misconceptions regarding jihad, but alas, this book was not introduced to non-Muslim circles. Secular forces also, out of ignorance, participated in the propaganda campaign unleashed by Hindutva communalists and the riots resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. Therefore, if anyone who wants to know whether or not madrasas are terrorist hubs instead of blindly endorsing any view, must go to a madrasa to find the truth for himself.
The attitude of balancing communalisms must be contained. For example, RSS along with its sister organisations is fanatically busy dividing India on communal lines, arousing communal hatred among Hindus against ‘others’ and even going to the extremes of violence and arson.It is therefore a truly communal organisation. But it is irony of ironies that secular forces are afraid of terming “only” RSS and its offshoots as communal; they want a counterpart of RSS (even if it does not exist) to strike a balance – or to exhibit their neutrality.This is only due to the fear that they may not be christened as “communalist”.For example, the government chose to ban Jamaat-e-Islami Hind besides Bajrang Dal and others in the aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition. This tendency to balance communalisms is catastrophic in two ways,
1) It gives legitimacy to the real communal outfits (old retaliation theory); and
2) The resources of non-communal forces are exhausted not in any productive work but just in refuting the charge of communal allegiance.
This attitude must be done away with; our society must be able to distinguish between its enemies and friends. Balancing communalism with non-communalism will be lethal for the cause of combating communalism.
Such and many other bold steps are indispensable to combat communalism. The power of communal forces has an inverse relationship with our ignorance and laziness. It must be noted that our tolerance ought not to touch the borders of cowardice in respect of communalism.