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EDITORIAL: 16-31 January 2002

Communal cancer travels South

The communal killings in Calicut and large-scale arson there, are a grim reminder as to how fast the tentacles of communal demon are spreading in areas so far left out. The hateful culture of riots and communal division in our society, so far restricted to the Cow belt and more so in a few cities like Meerut, Aligarh, Kanpur and Mumbai, should start worrying the majority of the Bharatvasis. Though for a group of people, who in fact make a miniscule minority in the sea of a billion-strong peace-loving people of the country, it may be a coup of sorts. By vitiating the cool and calm environs of Kerala they succeeded to force ordinary people to take to the streets and get involved in what used to be a pastime of this ilk of hoodlums and hate-mongers in the North.

Five people were killed and several shops and houses were set afire in Calicut district, in what seems to be an act of well-planned minority bashing by people who are fervently trying to vitiate the atmosphere in this peace-loving town. It seems to be a repeat of what happened there just a few weeks ago when similar scenes were enacted by these very people.

It is distressing to note that the elements who are in full-time occupation of spoiling the communal-friendly atmosphere in areas still free of their demonic ambit have at long last started reaping the fruits of hatred. This is despite the fact that this particular area of the calm south so far resisted the temptation of treading a path so fervently preached by a certain northern ilk.

Communal tension is alien to the South and more particularly in the case of Kerala. Here Muslims, Hindus and Christians have co-existed peacefully for many centuries. Muslims and Christians both came to this part of the country first - Muslims in the seventh century and Christians a few centuries earlier. And since then, all the three communities have cohabited with exemplary peace. This tranquility has been of great help to the tiny-coastal state, where though natural wealth abounds, industrialisation is weak. Despite this fact the state has been an example of sorts for the rest of the country in education and all other human development indices. This peaceful coexistence of the three communities thus far has brought out the state from brink of backwardness and has propelled it to the top of the country with almost total urbanization. Though this tiny state makes only around two percent of the more than one billion population of the country, it has the distinction of having three international airports and some of the best educational institutions and topnotch medical, including Ayurvedic, facilities. Several Malayali newspapers are being published by all communities including Muslims and Christians and these have circulation running in hundreds of thousands of copies daily. The state also boasts of some of the largest circulation periodicals in the country. All of this could be a relic of past if the hate-mongers are given a free hand.

This trend started in early nineties when the Sangh parivar, fresh from its mammoth electoral successes and victory over Babri Masjid, set its sights on the South. Hindu Munnani and several other such organizations were sprung up and given a free hand to malign the whole social set-up. And they have indeed been successful in their heinous agenda.

Kerala people should indeed be commended for resisting this trend for so long. Trouble is just beginning. And people from all communities so far have successfully resisted the designs of the hate-mongers. They have failed thus far to win even a single Parliament or assembly seat despite deploying their top rung leadership to grab any opportunity. This fact is an achievement in itself and should indeed be commended. 

Concrete efforts are needed to contain their designs. Muslims too meanwhile have failed to stand up. They will have to come out of the closet not only in Kerala but in the whole of the communally-infested country and align with secular forces all around to defeat these nefarious plans. It has been observed that Muslims take least concrete stands on issues that directly confront them. Though other secular brethren have come forward to their rescue, they themselves have somehow shrugged off their responsibility. The example of Delhi University teacher Syed AR Geelani who is still under custody for his alleged role in Parliament attack is a chilling reminder. Not a single Muslim leader or organisation has raised a voice over his illegal suspension from his teaching post despite the fact that nothing has been substantiated so far about his alleged involvement in the case. The police case alone has no bearing. The case has to be judged by a court of law. It were people like ND Pancholi, some Kerala human rights activists and Delhi University employees who went to Tihar Jail and tried to ascertain the facts. Geelani told him that he is innocent. It is the duty of our organisations to afford him the opportunity of a fair trial. So far he has been only tried and found guilty by our infamous national media.

These issues cannot be simply shrugged off or wished away. Muslim leaders as well as all secular forces will have to take a quick look at what seems to be well-designed efforts to malign the environment and vitiate it so much that there is no point of return. Efforts, indeed sincere and concrete efforts, are urgently needed (SUR).

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