In the wake of the Gujarat genocide, many a mask has fallen one after the other. We are witnessing the 'naked glory' of those claiming to be secular, as ingrained in their 'glorious tradition' but new meanings are also being added to this word.
The litmus test of this in a way was the response of BJP, Vajapyee&Co., to the most elementary demand for dismissal of the architect-in-chief of the Gujarat carnage, Mr. Narendra Modi. While defending his fellow swayamsewak our 'poet-prime minister', dropped not only his mask but all pretense to even attempt to hide his khakhi-knickers and the trishul well placed in the pockets thereof.
Thundered the swayamsevak: "Wherever there are Muslims in the world there is strife. Islam has come to mean forcing their opinion through terror and fear". Putting the blame of the Gujarat genocide on the victims themselves, he went on to assert, "Gujarat tragedy would not have occurred had the Godhra train massacre not taken place... Who sparked the fire?... How did it spread?". What was Mr. Narendra Modi's Newtonian formulation, again?
The RSS warrior role was complete by saying that what happened in Gujarat was deplorable BUT that those who "lit the fire" were to be blamed. In a nutshell, the venom, which the RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal spread in society, was neatly encapsulated and delivered by Mr. Vajpayee in his much-admired 'masterly' fashion.
While protecting the butcher of Gujarat, the BJP also called for elections in Gujarat, a move, which Mr. Shanta Kumar dubbed as doing politics on the corpses of the riot victims, a few days ago. Surely, Mr. Shanta Kumar will have to pay in due course for not being able to keep some of his left over humanism, despite being a swayamsevak, under wraps.
With this, the path is open for the BJP to chart the course for electoral success by encashing the polarization brought in by the ghastly events of a bleeding state. How come every time a riot occurs, the communal forces become strong? Why was BJP showing electoral decline in the last many elections it faced?
But then there was the pre-poll survey sponsored by Mr. Modi at the peak of the pogrom (denied, of course but documented proof exists) which did show the chances of BJP winning the elections in the wake of the violence. While many of us may simplistically believe that after seeing BJP hands bloodied in violence, most people would shun the party like plague, the laboratory results (or survey predictions) are revealing gains for the party. Surely, BJP leadership is going by the proven formula -- riot-polarization and thereby electoral success for communal forces.
Analysis of different riots during last 50 years has shown that while riots may invite disgust and repulsion amongst some people, a large section easily buys the story that it is the communal forces, which have protected them from the aggression of the "enemy".
During Mumbai riots we witnessed the police-Shiv Sena complicity ravaging the streets and unleashing violence; those in the spell of 'Manufactured Hatred' gleefully approving and following the saffron bandwagon; and of course the lumpen taking advantage of the situation to fill their coffers or to control a piece of real estate.
I am told that many Mumbai residents wrote back to their families in the villages applauding the mercies of Lord Ram in providing Shiv Sena as a saviour from the 'organized conspiracy of the Islamic Fundamentalists'. Some, undiscriminating amongst us, might have been swayed, but Shrikrishna Commission's brilliant work confirmed the findings of the public tribunal headed by Justice Daud and Justice Suresh that it was Shiv Sena which had organized the anti-Muslim pogrom.
The 'brilliance' of communal outfits lies precisely here. They were successful in propagating that the murder of mathadi workers or burning of the Bane family by some miscreants was in fact a handiwork of the aggressive Muslims. It is worth recalling that the Hindu Hriday Samrat (King of Hindu Hearts) Balasaheb Thackeray gave a call for violence after these two acts by writing in his mouth piece Saamna: "Hindunni Ata Akramak Vhayal have" (Hindus should become aggressive now). Rest is too well known to be recounted.
A similar pattern seems to be under play in the wake of the Godhra tragedy. The coach is torched on 27th Feb. By the same evening, word is spread that ISI along with local complying Muslims has attacked the Hindus. The secularists as usual do not condemn the act so the Hindu souls are deeply pained. The next day, organized carnage stalks the streets of Gujarat and the warriors of Sangh Parivar well equipped with swords, maps of Muslim house holds, business houses and holy places, has rivers of blood flowing there. The survivors are forced into make-shift camps, unattended by the state and humiliated by their plight of living in Hindu Rajya, the state of Chote Sardar, Mr. Modi.
One knows that the aggressive communal forces need a pretext for their survival. The eclipsing electoral fortunes were too obvious to the wily strategists of Sangh Parivar, who were 'needing' a Godhra to happen for their own very existence. Bereft of such situations they see their own decline too visible.
What in fact was needed was proper investigation of the tragedy, as to who provoked, why it happened, and its logical next step to punish the guilty. Surely the state is well equipped to do this elementary business? But if that is done, the whole 'benefits' of Godhra are lost!
So, within a single day even when all those who matter amongst the Muslim community -- yes, even the secularists and the Human rights activists -- are protesting their heart's anguish out in the streets, or condemning this barbaric Godhra, The lathis (the origional RSS weapon), the trishuls (the symbol of most aggressive RSS wing VHP and Bajarang Dal, currently in use) and more innovative gas cylinders (any resemblance with Hitlers gas chambers is purely incidental) come in to action.
The hurt of Hindus is coordinated through mobile phones and the foot soldiers brave it out sharing the loot of business establishments owned by the 'enemies' of Hindu Rashtra, the Muslims.
Many an inquiry commission report has shown that many a time, preceding the riots, fear-pyschosis is raised
to such a
high pitch by the militant Hinduttva outfits that the minorities, feeling cornered, with their backs against the walls and out-numbered, have been forced into 'throwing the first stone' or 'starting the fire' (Who Castes The First Stone?, Teesta Setalvad, Communalism Combat, March 1998).
These inquiry commissions (Jagmohan; Ahmadabad 1969, Madan; Bhiwandi 1970, Vithayathil;Tellicherry 1971, Venugopal; Kanyakumari 1982), the reports of Bhagalpur , Jamshedpur and lastly Mumbai riots have demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubt that the propaganda -- 'Muslims have started the riot' -- is the triggering point for unleashing the 'much needed' riots to strengthen the base for communal politics.
When Mr. Vajpayee says that Muslims stared the fire, he is following the mould and mindset, which has built the BJP. Be it the ghastly riots or the Ram Temple movement, the role of Majoritarain communal force is absolutely clear, and made clearer after the cool headed study of the riot reports. But by the time reports are dug up from the archives and cited, the 'job' is already done, and the foundation for a new electoral success already laid down.
Now, one hopes the election Commission will wake up and see the dangers of holding elections in a state, which has suffered such an intense trauma, a state where the whole minority community today is petrified and a state where lakhs are staying in the refugee camps.
What one wonders about is the many faces of a man called Atal Bihari Vajpayee (surely his heart-rending query in Gujarat about which face to show the the world was genuine -- after all he's got so many, he has to wonder). At one time he wrote, (Frontline August,1997) "We dont fish for votes in the rivers of blood".
This was probably before his many masks were ripped off by his politics for Hindu Rashtra. Now while eagerly preparing his boats and fishing nets to catch the electoral fish in Gujarat he must be busy composing another poem and another suitable formulation, which can act as a brand new mask for the new occasion.
(The author, teaches at IIT and works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai)