Hatred and Bloodshed to win Votes – Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad
Teesta Setalvad

Opinion Polls way ahead of the next general elections predictedthree things: a sharp decline in the popularity of the ruling UPA, the failureof India’s main opposition to pick upsuccessfully on this disillusionment of the voter, and finally therefore a hugeuncertainty on what shape the next government will take and who will head it.

The main opposition party, desperate to grab power, by fair meansor foul, stalled Parliament for two years not allowing any constructivelegislative process underway. The ruling Congress allowed the disruption tolodge itself into national consciousness earning itself the label of indecisive,inept and of course, corrupt. It was only in the recent Monsoon session,towards the end, that a new focus and direction was found and the Food Billsand the Land Acquisition Bills passed, ignoring the BJP sulks and tantrums. Twopromises made by the UPA have been kept, on hunger and land. One remains ashattered broken promise.

Nearly a decade back, in 2004, UPA I swept to power in a wave ofchange. While the arrogance of the NDA’s India Shining campaign has been givensole credit, the reaction of the real India to the horrors of Gujarat 2002,have been, typically underestimated. The vocal, Hindu upper class would rathernot acknowledge this electoral judgement of democratic India against brute andunashamed state sponsored violence. A stark promise that remains unfulfilledwas to enact a law to ensure protect the lives and properties of religiousminorities from mass and targeted and violence by a special law that held thepolice and administration liable if they failed to act. A bad first draft in2005 was shelved after protests from a wide spectrum of groups until the NACduring the term of UPA II, after a two year long process, sent a Draft togovernment in April 2011. The Preventionof Communal and Targeted Violence (PCTV) and Justice and Reparations Bill hasbeen sought to be killed before its birth.

The home ministry under Chidambaram instead of re-working and finalizingthe NAC recommendations into a final UPA II government draft deliberately putit up for discussion before the National Integration Council (NIC). The BJP,VHP and RSS responsible then and now in Muzaffarnagar for fomenting hatred andviolence were the most vocal opponents. But the litmus test is for a governmentovertly wedded to its 2004 promise, Will it deliver?

Campaigners for such a law including this writer have urged thegovernment to present a final version of the Draft, table it before the Rajya Sabhaand send it to a Standing Committee for deliberations. We are not asking for ahasty passage of the law as happened in the case of the Land Acquisition Bills.What then stalls the government from keeping its promise? Is it pure opportunismor soft communalism?

The tragic recent killings – over 50 dead as this morning’s tollis counted – in western UP (Muzaffarnagar) demand just such a law. AkhileshYadav and his father have no answer for why the administration allowedaggressively armed and violent mobilizations like the ‘Mahapanchayats’ in thedistrict in early September (7) when there had been tensions since August 27. Transferringan SP and DM, that too in the midst of fast escalating conflict, made mattersworse. The answer we demand is, will there be prosecution of these officers,the SP and DM? The brazen violation ofcurfew by the BJP and other organizations that were part of the organizers ofthis violent rally is typical; it happened in 19 districts of Gujarat in 2002post Godhra. Worse still, mobile and email and face book were used to spreadlies; the kind of lies the RSS has spread since the first ever attack ofcommunal took place in Jabalpur in 1961; a relationship between a bidi-worker man(happened to be Muslim) and a Hindu girl was portrayed for the initial days asa case of ‘abduction’ to justify brute violence against Muslims. Today inMuzaffarnagar a similar narrative is in place. An alleged rape of a Dalit by allegelyMuslim youth needed to be investigated fairly and promptly which was also notdone. Today the RSS-VHP, organizations that brazenly violate the law and inciteintra community tensions are propagating fabricating theories of ‘love jehad’to justifting ‘the anger unleashed against Muslims.’ (Sudarshan, a UP VHPleader in The Hindu today).

If however the prevention of communal violence law had been inplace, an Independent National level and District level Monitoring mechanismwould have been in place; the officers and administrators could have been heldliable in a court of law, Victims and Survivors would have been empowered toaccess investigation papers and fight their own legal battles independent ofinept governments; hate speech and hate writing could be prosecuted; deemedsanction would not hamper such legal efforts and, most important of all, justreparation and compensation would be their due. Having such a law in placewould not necessarily have put an end to such communal mobilizations andviolence but acted as a strong deterrent and preventive. In the run up to thenext elections (2014) UPA II needs to be held to this promise, chastised for anunforgiveable delay.

Along with the VHP, the media and each one of us should put theBJP on the mat. Days after Narendra Modi, whom the Concerned Citizens Tribunalheaded by Justices Krishna Iyer, PB Sawant and Suresh called ‘ the solearchitect of a state sponsored genocide’ was selected Campaign in Charge forhis party – unmindful of the serious charges pending against him in a court oflaw – he sent his dubious confidante Amit Shah to Uttar Pradesh. Shah withindays raised communal temperatures by speaking of the perennial BJP fall-back ‘Ramtemple at Ayodhya.’ Within weeks of this VHP launched the Kosi yatra that wasstopped by Akhilesh and Mulayam who were however hamstringed with the JatMahapanchayat at Muzaffarnagar? Why? Were they like the BJP (who has openly saidthat the Modi-Shah combo is to polarize and get more votes in the vital northIndian state) also trying, cynically, to bank on violence and polarisation toreap electoral dividends?

A Jat leader from Rajasthan, now with the BJP gleeful toldjournalists on Monday, “ Now we will win 21 seats here, in Western UP.” Can thecrass and sinister politics of the BJP nationally, ever be any clearer. Why isthe national media shy of putting India’s main opposition party on the mat forthe politics of killing, hatred and division?

If this country is to besaved from the fires of communal violence yet again, the media more than anyoneelse should pull off its kid gloves when it speaks to Modi and the BJP. Modicannot and should not be protected from the developments on the ground atMuzaffarnagar. What is his take? Where does he stand? Buying 5,000 skullcapsand Burqas is not an answer.

FIRs for inflammatory speeches, it has been reported have beenfiled against 4 BJP leaders, one Congress leader and one politician of the BSP.Subramanian Swamy and Praveen Togadia, both pathological in their hatreds forminorities have been booked for abusive and incendiary ‘twitters’. What aboutthe Communal Statements that violate Indian Penal Law being made by the RSS,VHP etc? What about the video and email trail? We know the track record ofcompromise of the SP and BJP in the Varun Gandhi ‘hate speech case.’ Afterregistration of FIRs will offences be forgotten? Or the cases taken to theirlogical conclusion?

Post Script: Amidst all the gore, reports of compassion andkindness save our sanity and India’s social fabric. Even as politicians let usdown, the impressive home of Bijender Singh, the Jat pradhan of Kharad villagewelcomed with warm and open arms, 150 Muslim families, mostly women andchildren and the elderly. For over two days, with food from his rations, Singhand his gentle wife looked after their welcome guests. He did it at somepersonal risk. “We all could hear the shouts. `Let us attack this house’,`Let’s scale these walls’, `Force them to come out’. This was after word hadspread that Muslim families had taken shelter in the house. But no one daredcome in. Had they done so, we would have been prepared to handle them,”says the heavyset Singh. Unbending, hestuck to his faith and refused to buckle. Except Sagir Ahmed the elderly son ofan Army jawaan stationed in the North east who had — believing in his safety—refused to takeshelter, and who was mercilessly victim of communal hatred, Bijender Singh andhis wife’s exemplary moral courage deserves to be show cased and emulated.

This is our real India and Bharat. Not the false one sought to be constructed on division and blood.

(First Published in Rashtrya Sahara)

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