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A Blame Game: Congress could have Curbed the Riots

A Blame Game: Congress could have Curbed the Riots

Author: M V Kamath
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 8, 2002
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=9207787

One question that keeps recurring on the recent riots is the role of the opposition parties and the indifference, if not total cowardice, they showed during all those grim incidents. What, for example, is the nature of the Muslim psyche in Godhra? Since Independence there have been at least four major communal riots in this town. It has a centre for Islamic studies, the funding of which remains a mystery. According to reports, the Muslim community is divided in Godhra, and as recently as December 2001, there were apparently clashes between the liberal and reactionary elements among the Muslims.

Reactionary Muslim elements have apparently again made Godhra their home and no doubt the burning of Sabarmati Express coaches was at their instigation. As of the moment, no newspaper has considered it worth its while to make a study of Godhra in all its ramifications.

A similar study is called for of the mindset of Hindus in Ahmedabad vis-a-vis Muslims; why is it that Ahmedabad is so prone to communal riots? Are we to believe that it is only after the BJP came to power that communal rioting became fashionable? And would it be correct to say that only Hindus belonging to the sangh parivar took to the streets in an orgy of burning, looting and killing?

What, one would like to know, were Hindus who are politically with the Congress and other opposition parties doing when the killings were going on? Why did they remain silent? Surely, Hindus allegedly belonging to the sangh parivar are drawn from the same economic class as the Congress or CPM Hindus? Why didn't these Hindus rush to the streets to stop the rioting? Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi is being pilloried for not calling in the army within minutes of being informed of the rioting. But couldn't the local Congress party have summoned all Congress Hindus to come out and defend Muslims? Is that too much to ask?

And what was Congress president Sonia Gandhi doing? Couldn't she have put in a phone call to the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief and ordered him to send every Congress MLA and every municipal corporator to march unitedly to the riot-prone area in an effort to restore peace and goodwill? Additionally every Congress MP - not to mention every opposition MP - should have made an immediate beeline to Ahmedabad to defend Muslims against the alleged sangh parivar onslaught. Sonia Gandhi should have arranged it at short notice.

What is the point in mocking Gujaratis for taking to violence in Gandhi's Gujarat? And where were Gandhian Congress Hindus when the killings and arson were going on in the city? What kind of Gandhian spirit did they exhibit? If one Gandhi could march through Noakhali to restore peace there, surely there must be at least a few hundred Congress Gandhians who could have braved the wrath of the rioters in Ahmedabad? If no one else would have dared to, shouldn't Sonia Gandhi at least have flown to Ahmedabad to organise resistance to the rioters?

Time was when the Congress had a volunteer organisation called the Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD). Volunteers of the RSD were always available to control massive crowds that came to hear Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru. The RSD was a disciplined organisation and its volunteers had a vision - the liberation of the country.

Following Independence, the RSD fell into disarray and now has practically vanished. Why hasn't the Congress made any effort to resurrect it? Could it be that the Congress knows that such a body would attract no one from among the youth? There reportedly is a Congress youth association.

The English media obviously is not aware of the fact that there is growing resentment against it among substantial sections of Hindus, transcending party lines. When Hindus - not just of the sangh parivar - are attacked day in and day out by the English- speaking chatterati that control the English media, tension builds up among all Hindus, irrespective of their political affiliation.

According to knowledgeable sources, the rioters were from all classes and parties. The damage unwittingly being done to the Hindu psyche by the so-called secularists needs to be understood. It has so far gone unchallenged. The majority of the Hindus feel assaulted from all sides. The silent Hindu majority is quivering with anger at the writings of some of our English national dailies and some of the television channels.

A foreign writer, Koenraad Elst, has described this tendency among Hindus in India as 'negationism'. The Hindus revel in self- flagellation. It results in two developments: One, it encourages Muslims to extremism and unwillingness to compromise, and two, it further deepens Hindu resentment against Muslims. We know with what disastrous consequences. It is very noble on the part of educated Hindus to take all the blame for any rioting on themselves. But these educated Hindus look down on those less fortunate than themselves, attacking their religiosity in unbecoming ways.

Here is an instance of action and reaction: The more the chatterati look down on the hurt feelings of those who strongly believe in their religion and their gods, the greater is the reaction of the latter and the vicious cycle steadily gets enlarged until emotions explode in unmitigated fury. This is not to suggest that Hindu communalism should be condoned but one wonders whether this would have reached the depths it has, had it not been for the feeling that for 50 years in free India, Muslims have been pampered beyond limits.

The media focus has been almost entirely on so-called Hindu communalism, which one national paper has been pleased to dismiss airily as majoritarianism. It is as if in India it is a crime to belong to the majority religion. On the Ayodhya issue, for instance, the national press has been uniformly hostile towards the VHP which has only served to strengthen its resolve to fight more bitterly than ever. Meanwhile, the question of helping all those who have suffered grievous losses during the Gujarat riots needs to be addressed.

Every MP gets Rs 2 crore each year for spending in his constituency. The amount due to all Gujarat MPs must now be diverted to the relief and welfare of the riot victims. Indeed, if MLAs get similar benefits from the Gujarat legislative assembly, those allowances too should be diverted to aid the riot victims. That is the least that one can do to help them get back on their feet.

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