Hindu Vivek Kendra

    Title: Srikrishna Commission Report: Perception of Hindus and Muslims
    Comment of Hindu Vivek Kendra
    AUTHOR: Hindu Vivek Kendra
    Publishers: Hindu Vivek Kendra
    Date: October 98.

We are enclosing here with excerpts from the report prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Science. TISS was asked by the Srikrishna Commission to undertake an analysis of the causative factors for the riots from the perspective of socio-economic, demographic and political factors.

The enclosed excerpts did not find mention in the final report of the Commission. It narrates the responses of Hindus and Muslims not to the causes of riots as such but their perception of the society and relationships. The Hindu responses closely represent what is branded as the Hindutva view point. The TISS report says, "We were a bit surprised that right across the occupation status categories, the Hindus, whom we interviewed, held almost similar views." The fact that the authors of the report are surprised is very much surprising. Does this not indicate their alienation from the way the society is thinking? And yet this institute is considered to be a premier one in its field.

Amongst the Muslims there is a clear indication of the rejection by the masses of what is projected as their leaders. Yet, the Commission has given importance to these leaders. In this respect, too, we think, the Commission has failed in the larger task that has been allotted to it, and has come to conclusions on the basis of people who have very little empathy for the society that they are supposed to be working in.

Growing attraction of the Hindutva

It is one of the paradoxes of the modern Indian politics that the forces of Hindutva have been able to achieve since 1985, what could not be achieved in their life time by Hedgewar, Savarkar and Golwalkar. As said earlier, the leaders of Jana Sangh in fifties caused more amusement than evoke serious following or response. But, since 1985 the appeal went home and the Hindu psyche started getting consolidated and increasingly large number of the Hindus became vulnerable to the communal appeals. Certain political factors have helped the process.

We were a bit surprised that right across the occupational status categories, the Hindus, whom we interviewed, held almost similar views. There were variations only on minor points.

(i) Almost all the Hindus felt that the Governments, and the Congress Government in particular, have been appeasing the Muslims, who used to constitute a vote bank of the Congress. The Hindu respondents mentioned the following instances of appeasement: the reversal by the parliament of the Shah Bano Judgment, the Muslim blocking the public roads on Fridays for namaz, the banning of Salman Rushdie's book, use of loudspeakers on the Masjid minarets, the Centre's compromise on the question of the release of the kidnapped daughter of a Central Minister, the Muslim reaction against the proposed cooperation between the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Anjuman -I-Islam in Bombay, the Muslim opposition to Vande Mataram, creation of Malappuram district in Kerala, etc. One top level south Indian engineer said:

"Why not a common civil code? why reverse the Supreme court judgment? The Shah Bano episode hurts. Nobody has ill-treated the Muslims. There is so much equality. In which non-Muslim country would you find this?"

Another corporate executive said: "The Shah Bano case was the turning point. The Rajiv Gandhi amendment to the Cr.P.C. regarding the Muslim divorcees came as a shock. This enraged me." He also added that the Maha Arati launched by the Shiv Sena in Bombay was a "damn good" idea. The less educated Hindus also expressed similar sort of feelings by referring to "large families of the Muslims", "separate rights for their community", etc.

(ii) Many Hindus felt that the growing corruption and criminalisation of politics made them turn to the Hindutva. One of the respondents said that yet another turning point in the Hindu psyche was the sullying of the clean image of Rajiv Gandhi. This created a political vacuum which was partially occupied by the Hindutva forces. People became fed up and their resistance to communal appeals also broke down.

(iii) A good number of Marathi-speaking respondents, particularly of the middle and lower occupational strata said that the Shiv Sena in Bombay has helped the common Marathi speaking persons. The party's leader had, they felt, captured the imagination of the youth. Some appreciated the work of the Shiv Sena "Sthaniya Lokadhikar Samitis".

One South Indian engineer said that Thackeray's means and the way he spoke could be faulted, but the Hindus generally felt that here was one person who spoke openly what was in his mind and what was in the minds of the Hindus. "Other pseudo-secular politicians were double-tongued". Writing twelve years ago, Gupta (1982: 91) records how the Shiv Sena took up the causes of Bhyandar salt workers, better bus services to the villages, storage facilities for fishermen, and the plight of those peasants in New Bombay, whose lands were acquired.

(iv) The Pakistan factor also could have contributed to the breakdown of the resistance of the Hindu mind to the communal appeals. One non-Marathi speaking engineer said when the Pakistan-abetted terrorists started indiscriminate killings of the Hindus first in the Punjab and then in Kashmir, and media, particularly the television, gave wide coverage to these events, the Hindu mind started getting consolidated. Incidentally, one highly erudite Muslim journalist also held the same view.

(v) Many Hindu respondents felt that whereas the Muslims are driven by an unusual sense of religious zeal, and are highly united among themselves, Hinduism is a tolerant religion. This is not a new theme. But the alleged fanaticism of the Muslims and the alleged tolerance of the Hindus are being vehemently articulated now.

Most of the Hindus who gave their opinion on the matter, felt that India was an exemplary secular state. Some argued that Hinduism itself was secular. The general trend of the opinion was that in no other non-Muslim country did the Muslims enjoy so much freedom. But, a few felt that we are a pseudo-secular state; to be secular we should behave like Indians first and Indians last.

(vi) Unfortunately, many Hindus suspected the loyalty of the Muslim to India. Invariably, they applied the litmus test of cricket. There was the unvarying refrain that many Muslim celebrated by bursting crackers a Pakistan cricket victory over India. When asked whether they had actually seen a single Muslim bursting crackers, one or two said yes. One respondent said that even a murder had taken place on the issue of bursting of crackers. The others swore that they had heard this from very reliable friends. One emphatically said that he had seen a joyous sense on the face of the Muslims, whenever Pakistan beat India in cricket.

In this way the very Hindus who used to ignore the Muslims in the fifties, or make a snide remark or two against the Jana Sangh and the RSS, have almost become obsessed with the Muslim question.

The Muslim Psyche

(i) In regard to the vexatious questions of the uniform civil code and the Shah Bano case, the Muslim opinion appeared to be divided. Some persons, regardless of their social status, argued in favour of a uniform civil code. Many dodged the question. Still, some others maintained that, if different communities have to co-exist in the country, different civil codes are necessary.

Again, some Muslims discreetly suggested that the Shah Bano case was politicized, and that it should not have been entertained by the Supreme Court. It should have been decided within the community. Almost an equal number felt that the judgment was right and the humanitarian angle should have prevailed over the religious angle. One argued that the Muslim women experienced considerable insecurity because of the Muslim personal law.

(ii) A large number of the Muslims felt that there is discrimination against the Muslim, that the insecurity among them is growing, and that the Hindu psyche had changed. There is a general feeling among the Muslim that their under representation in the Government bureaucracy and in the professional field is the result of direct or indirect discrimination against them. One of our Muslim respondents said that the Muslim were forced to form their own neighborhood for housing as a result of the discrimination against them. Many of the cooperative societies, according to him, either openly or covertly deny them membership with excuses, such as that the society is for the vegetarians. One said that the stereotypes against the Muslim persisted. A few felt that the political vacuum in the country is being occupied by the growing Hindu fundamentalism. Some hastened to add that they themselves had not experienced any discrimination or insecurity and that their Hindu friends had not changed their attitudes towards them as individuals.

In contrast, the Hindus attributed the under-representation of the Muslim in certain prominent walks of life to the closed nature of their own community. Some Muslim also shared this view. It is worth quoting the remarks of one top Muslim executive in an engineering company. He said: "The system - political institutional - as a whole is secular. The question of discrimination simply does not arise. Where are the Muslim candidates applying for jobs in a company like this? In fact, I have been instructed to broad base my recruitment. But, the Muslim prefer to be petty shop keepers."

(iii) The growing feeling of insecurity among the Muslim is partly the result of the successive communal riots in India since the 1960's. They have also generated a feeling among the Muslims that they have to protect themselves by resisting attack on them. The riots have also created a feeling among the Muslims that they are not accepted in India as part of the nation. This feeling has got strengthened with the Hindus' suspicion of the loyalty of the Muslims to the nation.

(iv) It is interesting to note that most of the Muslim respondents feel that the Muslim League or the Muslim elite do not represent the Muslim masses. Many called the Muslim League fundamentalist. The few rich and modern Muslim are totally isolated from the Muslim masses. The vast majority of the masses of the Muslims are poor and are under the sway of the Mullas and politicians. Both these leadership religious and political have been interested in maintaining the separate identity of the Muslims and exploiting it. The have not been interested in getting the Muslims into the modern social system, if not blocked it. These were the views expressed by the Muslim respondents.

On the whole one finds that the picture that emerges is a mixed one. We find Muslim speaking in different voices (which is not a bad thing in itself). But on three counts there is a good deal of unanimity: (a) almost all of them agree that the Muslim League and Muslim elite do not serve the community a whole, (b) the Muslims are experiencing insecurity and discrimination, and (c) there is a lot of hesitancy in endorsing uniform civil code.

The change in Hindu and Muslim psyche show that, in spite of the cosmopolitan character of Bombay city, the ethnic difference between the Muslim and Hindus in Bombay has persisted. Differences in religious rituals, food habits, dressing styles and the general occupational pursuits as well as certain negative stereotypes have kept both the groups different and even separated. Some type of physical segregation between the two groups also can be noticed in housing, whether it is in slums and chawls or in middle class cooperative societies.