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Thousands of human torches amid encircling darkness in Gujarat
By Syed Shahabuddin

Continued from

Over the last decades, as Gujarat has prospered it has also been polarized on communal lines. It is a strange phenomenon, all over the country, that education and development have both contributed to the communalization of the society. Today the rising Hindu middle class, not the Hindu masses, are the standard bearers of the Hindutva ideology, partly because the Jan Sangh and its later incarnation the Bharatiya Janata Party targeted them. Perhaps with money and education came the vicious political consciousness that the country belongs to the Hindus, that Hindu dominance must prevail over the non-Hindus, that the Hindu personality of the nation must be projected, that, in contradistinction to Pakistan, India should be a Hindu State. Perhaps the Muslim Gujarati was seen as an unwanted competitor in the economic field. This explains why since the 80’s the Hindu mobs have been led not by the goondas, the lumpen elements, but by men and women, educated professionals of the emergent middle class. That also explains why the Hindu mobs have looted and burnt Muslim commercial establishments, industrial units, hotels and restaurants, apart from Masjids and Mazars to cripple the Muslim community. It is not surprising that members of the Muslim elite have been selectively targeted. It is genocide and economicide rolled into one.

In a segmented society like ours, democracy tends to strengthen the dividing line between groups, religion, caste, linguistic, ethnic, because the electoral system caters to formation of combinations, which struggle for supremacy and power. If the electorate is polarized on communal lines, Hindu majoriatrianism will prevail. This will obviously benefit the high castes who occupy an established position in society, at the cost of the religious minorities as well as the low castes, tribals, the dalits etc. in Gujarat Muslims were never in the power game; only occasionally, by the grace of the ruling party, a few became MLA’s or MP’s were elected. As far as one can recall, after 1977, when the late lamented and brutally torched Ahsan Jaffery was elected to the Lok Sabha, there has been no Muslim MP. In the Rajya Sabha, there have been a few. But largely they keep on the right side of the system, strictly avoiding ‘communal issues’. Apart from under-representation the other consequence is that even a national party like the Congress, committed to secularism, has to cater to Hindu sentiments. In supporting even genuine Muslim or Christian grievances or raising humanitarian question, it will carefully test the waters, lest it alienates the prevailing Hindu sentiments and thus gives advantage to the BJP. 

Today, Muslims are getting so disenchanted with the political system that some are mentally prepared even for self-disenfranchisement or boycott of elections, though any such tendencies can only help the Hindu communal forces.

But the fact remains that even in time of distress, the secular parties are not prepared to give a political fight to the Sangh Parivar. All they do is to make statements and at election time make common cause with the caste groups, disgruntled with the BJP dispensation.

No one knows what actually happened in Godhra. Only the judicial inquiry may bring out the truth. It appears to have been a mindless outburst of the poor Muslims, living and working in the neighbourhood of the railway track, after continuous needling and humiliation by the karsevaks for many days. Whatever the provocation, there can be no justification for deliberate killing. But how can the Godhra killing justify what happened all over Gujarat in the next five days? Anyway, the BJP slogans of ‘riot-free society’ and a ‘society without fear’ have lost all meaning and credibility.

To anyone who has followed the march of the devil across the country during the last 50 years, ‘Gujarat 2002’ is all déjà vu. Every episode, every story, has its parallel in the past. But there is a certain cold-blooded calculation, a systematic organization to mark out the area of operation in advance, a conspirational collusion on the part of the administration and the police, a ruthless nod, a clear wink from the powers that be, which makes Gujarat unique.

And the utter helplessness of the target groups, whether Muslims or Christians or tribals. The nation is too big, the country too large, to shame our conscience into action. Gujarats will come and go. Soon everything will be forgotten. Life will resume its dreary course. Some will gloat over their exploits. Some will learn to camouflage, to disguise themselves, change their names, dress, hair style, to avoid detection and remain alive in times of trouble; some will seek safety in ghettos; some may simply live on as alienated, rootless beings; some may turn bitter and nurse revenge.

The ‘Gujarat 2002’, with thousands of human torches turned into ashes, is a small event, as compared to Ahmedabad 1969, Nellie 1983 or Bhagalpur 1989, but thanks to TV coverage, it has shocked the world into realization that behind our development and progress lurk the demons of destruction. Can these demons be exorcised? That is the question. It looks they cannot be, because the Sangh Parivar has succeeded, through 75 years of ceaseless and zealous endeavour, to redefine Hinduism, remake Hindu personality, indeed, to redefine the Indian society, the Indian State and the Indian Culture.

Indian Nationalism stands already transformed into Hindu Nationalism. Indian Secularism is being transformed before our eyes into Hindu Secularism. Will Muslim Indians learn to live as a ‘protected species’ in Hindu India?

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