Off to polls

In a manner of speaking

On September 8, BJP president Amit Shah virtually sounded the war bugle at a “closed-door” meeting of the party executive (reported by the press). Shah, in his typical, aggressive and impolite style declared that the opposition’s coalition was a dhakhosla (a sham) and a bharanti (illusion). The opposition alliance was based on falsehood and was “disruptionist”, according to him.

He also said the Prime Minister was making India, while the Congress and its allies stood with those who wanted to break India. The opposition stood “shamelessly” with those who worked against the nation, Shah claimed. In short, it was an equation between the patriotic BJP and the anti-national opposition.

This opening salvo cannot be accused of good taste, or polite language. Needless to say, if the opposition decides to talk in the same language, the political discourse is going to be bitter and acrimonious. Hopefully, the opposition is going to talk in a more civil manner.

Going by the tone and tenor of the speech, one is sure once again we are going to see dangerous communal polarisation like everytime before election. BJP has perfected the art of communal polarisation (and the concomitant anti-Muslim mass violence). The American academic Paul Brass likens it to a stage play. Like a play, every communal riot has a prepared script, its actors and its story. The staging of this macabre play is a political act that brings electoral victory to BJP.

So, which story are we going to see staged before the election? Love Jihad (Muslim boy running away with a Hindu girl)? Gau rakhsha (Muslims being butchered to protect Mother Cow)? Ghar Wapsi (forcible conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism)? So far, the enactment of the script and the murderous mobilisation with the help of riots has rarely failed to yield winning vote to the BJP.

However, this time round we are told by political-scene watchers that BJP’s support base has apparently begun to show signs of riot fatigue. So, they may not produce big riots like Gujarat 2002, or Muzaffarnagar 2013. Smaller, less spectacular, murders and lynchings would in any case continue to keep the hate cauldron boiling. Terrorist attacks can be mobilised to stage big riots, even though all terrorist attacks are not necessarily the handiwork of Muslims, like Malegaon graveyard blasts.

One wonders why the judiciary has not taken suo motto notice of it so far and prevented a single riot by forestalling it in its build-up, communal-mobilisation stage. Or, why can’t people refuse to be led to rioting on the basis of motivation with false propaganda. Also, why can’t the political class have a consensus not to allow hate speech, abuse and vilification of Muslims, which ultimately leads to anti-Muslim pogroms, periodically.

Do we know of any other society where this happens with such destructive effect so regularly? What is the political class doing to prevent this mischief? What does the judiciary want to do about it? And, can we do something to prevent policemen, riot after riot, from becoming part of the marauding band of rioters?

And, where does the mighty state go away as it sees rioting mobs, reinforced and protected by the police, advancing on Muslim localities? Can we give a thought to it? Will the state stop abdicating before mobs?

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