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Sociologists need to find out...

Sociologists need to find out...

Author: Prafull Goradia
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 31, 2002

The killings in Godhra and Gujarat are a sharp reminder that riots are not infrequent in our country. Since 1893, there have not been many years that have passed without riots anywhere in the subcontinent. Earlier, there might have been occurrences without records being available in English. In that inaugural year, the provocation was cow slaughter and the places were Mumbai and Azamgarh.

While Christians also eat beef but never has one come across a Christian riot or a Hindu-Christian collective clash. The Christians have also ruled India and more comprehensively than Muslim potentates. In fact, it is also not true that desecration of temples had a Muslim monopoly. Christian iconoclasts in the early decades of the last century were as ruthless. Our problems in the North-East would have been fewer but for the brainwashing of the tribals with regard to their equation with New Delhi. Oddly enough, there isn't any record of a Christian riot, wherein some apologists argue that there is no difference except that the Muslims are a much larger minority than the Christians, and therefore, the potential for a clash with the latter is that much less. This is true but experience shows zero Christian rioting and not "less" rioting.

Second, communal rioting does not take place across the country. It usually takes place in a city, town or a district, occasionally spreading to other parts or even a neighbouring State. There are more Christians in Tamil Nadu than there are Muslims. In Kerala, there are Christians and Muslims in large numbers, with the former exceeding the latter, but never has one heard of the former getting involved in physical clashes. This is not to lay blame on any religion or community. The comparison is to underline the need for an investigation by sociologists regarding the causes of riots. Apparently, sociology has regrettably overlooked its duty towards the innocent lives that suffer every time there is a riot. Even more than a duty, the sociologists owe an obligation to humanity as it's the common man who suffers. As in the case of Gujarat, people unconcerned with Godhra, terrorism or politics, have suffered the most, while the criminals who indulged in arson and killing are unlikely to be punished.

Besides, it must be noted that there are more Christians in Gujarat than is the popular perception. Almost 15 per cent of the State's population is Adivasi, spread across the southern and the eastern districts like Baroda, Surat, Valsad, Panchmahal and Sabarkantha. And let's not forget the tiny district of the Dangs, which was in focus three years ago. Yet, to this day, there has been no riot, nor a Christian or a Hindu been killed as a result of this or any other tension. Surely, it is more than sufficient food for thought for the sociologists to research on. In the absence of any worthwhile empirical study, myths are likely to flourish.

Hindu nationalist scholars believe that riots are an expression of a deep-rooted frustration suffered by the Muslims, who are a minority in a country, or rather in a society where the writ of the Shariat does not run. This is not to suggest that this complex thought is on the mind of the miscreant who lights the flame of a riot. Also, it is not that he is aware that if he were a momin or a devout Muslim, it would be his duty to get kafirs or non-believers to surrender to the will of Allah. If he cannot do it by persuasion, he has to resort to jihad or war for the sake of God and religion.

If, however, jihad is not possible, or the prospects of its success hopeless, the momin should resort to hijrat. The Holy Prophet himself set the first example when he migrated or performed hijrat from Mecca to Madina. That was the only way he could save Islam from being virtually stillborn. When the British Government proved unbending in its policy towards retaining the Khalifa of all Sunni Islam on the throne of Turkey, the Indian Muslims became despondent. In 1920, several hundred thousand Indian Muslims undertook hijrat to Afghanistan which was a Darul Islam. Only about 20,000 of them could enter the Afghan country and settle there.

Mahatma Gandhi also recommended hijrat to Sindhi Hindus when they were oppressed with riots in Sukkur and Shikarpur. He justified his advice by saying: "Planned hijrat requires courage and forethought. The second book of the Old Testament, known as Exodus. It is an account of the planned flight of the Israelites"(page 74, Volume 71; Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi; Publications Division, GOI).

In sharp contrast to the nationalist perception, the secularists believe that communal riots are provoked by Hindu militants like those who insist on building a Ram temple at Ayodhya. So there are two sharply opposed opinions. It's time our sociologists undertook research to establish facts and distinguish them from fiction so that opinions based on ideological predilections can be buried. The hope is that the resulting analysis will provide the basis for pursuing appropriate measures to pre-empt communal riots.

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