Riots: India's secularism a recipe for disaster

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muzzafarnagar-riots
What does a majority mandate in India mean? A license to go berserk? The way the ruling parties in a number of electorally key states conduct themselves, one wonders. It is not only a tragedy that we have learned to justify our democracy as a means more than an end. It is also something which endangers the future of our democracy.

Samajwadi Party in UP

Take for example, the ongoing communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party (SP), which claims to believe in socialist ideals, came to power with a thumping win in early 2012 and a young chief minister raised hope that the northern state, which has been historically a political laboratory, will find itself advancing towards a new horizon. But the hopes were soon dashed and even before two years have passed, the SP leadership is found indulging in the same old 'secular' politics, even under a young leader.

JD(U) in Bihar

In the neighbouring Bihar, another powerful regime, which also practises 'secularism', is seen silent when a dreaded terrorist is caught in the state, fearing that its vote-bank could tilt away if it spoke against the man who had planned the end of several innocent lives. Deadly clashes also broke out in Nawada while a Mahadalit was killed in a dispute over unfurling the Tricolour on the occasion of the Independence Day.

But whenever there occurred a problem, the state government led by Nitish Kumar passed the buck over to the BJP with whom his party severed all ties in June.

Trinamool Congress in West Bengal

We go further east and we see another chief minister, who created history two years ago by pulling down a 34-year-old regime, being questioned by the court for announcing stipends for the Imams, a move which was objected against by many previously.

Calling the minorities as 'vote-bank' is a humiliation of the democracy

The Mamata Banerjee government of West Bengal and also the media, both local and national, were accused of taking the communal clashes in Canning in February this year lightly. But Banerjee showed a great determination to stop BJP leader Uma Bharati from carrying out her Ganga Samagra Yatra in September last year. She also made it a point to champion rebel-poet Kazi Nazrul Islam whenever she got a chance.

Her administration also showed great urgency in going ahead to set up the Aligarh Muslim University campus in the state but not clearing the obstacles on the way of setting up an AIIMS-like hospital.

Isn't there a common connection between the functioning of all these ruling parties? Each of them have a strong antipathy for the BJP for that is inevitably going to ruin their poll prospects, whether in the state or at the national stage. Nitish Kumar is the latest leader to ditch the BJP to reassert his 'secular' orientation. The SP loves to engage in a bout with the Hindutva forces to show how much it feels for the minorities. Mamata Banerjee can't really gather the courage to walk towards the BJP even after bashing the Congress. But ultimately, what is India's gain?

Who is communal and who's not

Nothing but a ticking time-bomb. The focus in the contemporary Indian political discourse is very one-dimensional. There is an open assertion that only the right-wing camp has done this country more harm by means of instigating communal violence. It is true that the rise of right-wing politics in the 1980s and early 1990s wasn't desirable in a diverse democracy like India but the phenomenon can be more explained as a reaction to the communal undertones of the secular politics that India had seen till then.

The Ayodhya episode couldn't have originated in the late 1940s had the local administration acted honestly and timely to douse the initial flames. But it was allowed to snowball and the saffron forces are blamed today for the Babri tragedy of December 1992.

Today, the 'communal' BJP has realised that the Hindutva energy has been exhausted to deliver any major yields now and Atal Bihari Vajpayee's six-year rule established its softer side. In Gujarat, Narendra Modi has stressed development for over a decade now and the state hasn't seen a single riot in this time. Whereas communal clashes were once regular in Gujarat. But still the secular pundits and the media go on playing the old records while the secular forces decide to engage with outfits like VHP to reap political benefits in their own state.

When the BJP has decided to retreat from practising communal politics, a secular party like the SP decides to talk to the VHP to project its pro-minority stand. A question arises: How many Muslims are yet ready to vote for these 'secular' leaders?

Do minorities prefer the 'secularists'?

If public mood is assessed, not many minorities will be pleased with these 'secular' overtures for they have actually done little for them. No secular party, including the Congress, has offered any realistic scope for development to the minorities in terms of education and development all these years. Populist measures before the elections are not going to ease the discomfort of the sections who have been dubbed as 'vote-banks' who come handy when it comes to getting closer to the power. It is an irony that the 'secular' outfits cater little to the hopes and aspirations of the country's vast urban and educated middle-class, who are more able to judge true secularism.

But when a leader like Narendra Modi tries to get closer to this class through by establishing himself as a pro-governance leader, his detractors go all-out to confine him within the image of 2002. That helps strategically for the detractors have little to offer to the India that aspires to make it big. For them, backwardness and communalism in the garb of secularism are the only viable political currencies.

Treating minorities as vote-bank is humiliating

The confinement of the minorities as a vote-bank is such a humiliation for a multicultural nation like India. This seemed to continue till the time the minority sections are exposed to an overall development but the over-enthusiastic 'secular' parties might have undone their own hard work.

Reports suggest that the Muslim communities are now being influenced by community heads, who have gained prominence as a result of the hopeless philanthropy of the secularists. And these leaders are not going to let the 'secular' parties steal their show easily through shallow promises.

A greater part of the great Indian tamasha might have been played out.

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