[ WEDNESDAY, MAY 08, 2002 1:40:14 AM ]
M V KAMATH
ONE question that keeps recurring on the recent riots is the role
of the opposition parties and the indifference, if not total
cowardice, they showed during all those grim incidents. What, for
example, is the nature of the Muslim psyche in Godhra? Since
Independence there have been at least four major communal riots
in this town. It has a centre for Islamic studies, the funding of
which remains a mystery. According to reports, the Muslim
community is divided in Godhra, and as recently as December
2001, there were apparently clashes between the liberal and
reactionary elements among the Muslims.
Reactionary Muslim elements have apparently again made
Godhra their home and no doubt the burning of Sabarmati
Express coaches was at their instigation. As of the moment, no
newspaper has considered it worth its while to make a study of
Godhra in all its ramifications.
A similar study is called for of the mindset of Hindus in
Ahmedabad vis-a-vis Muslims; why is it that Ahmedabad is so
prone to communal riots? Are we to believe that it is only after
the BJP came to power that communal rioting became
fashionable? And would it be correct to say that only Hindus
belonging to the sangh parivar took to the streets in an orgy of
burning, looting and killing?
What, one would like to know, were Hindus who are politically
with the Congress and other opposition parties doing when the
killings were going on? Why did they remain silent? Surely,
Hindus allegedly belonging to the sangh parivar are drawn from
the same economic class as the Congress or CPM Hindus?
Why didn’t these Hindus rush to the streets to stop the rioting?
Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi is being pilloried for not
calling in the army within minutes of being informed of the rioting.
But couldn’t the local Congress party have summoned all
Congress Hindus to come out and defend Muslims? Is that too
much to ask?
And what was Congress president Sonia Gandhi doing? Couldn’t
she have put in a phone call to the Gujarat Pradesh Congress
Committee chief and ordered him to send every Congress MLA
and every municipal corporator to march unitedly to the riot-prone
area in an effort to restore peace and goodwill? Additionally every
Congress MP — not to mention every opposition MP — should
have made an immediate beeline to Ahmedabad to defend
Muslims against the alleged sangh parivar onslaught. Sonia
Gandhi should have arranged it at short notice.
What is the point in mocking Gujaratis for taking to violence in
Gandhi’s Gujarat? And where were Gandhian Congress Hindus
when the killings and arson were going on in the city? What kind
of Gandhian spirit did they exhibit? If one Gandhi could march
through Noakhali to restore peace there, surely there must be at
least a few hundred Congress Gandhians who could have braved
the wrath of the rioters in Ahmedabad? If no one else would have
dared to, shouldn’t Sonia Gandhi at least have flown to
Ahmedabad to organise resistance to the rioters?
Time was when the Congress had a volunteer organisation called
the Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD). Volunteers of the RSD were always
available to control massive crowds that came to hear Congress
leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal
Nehru. The RSD was a disciplined organisation and its volunteers
had a vision — the liberation of the country.
Following Independence, the RSD fell into disarray and now has
practically vanished. Why hasn’t the Congress made any effort to
resurrect it? Could it be that the Congress knows that such a
body would attract no one from among the youth? There
reportedly is a Congress youth association.
The English media obviously is not aware of the fact that there is
growing resentment against it among substantial sections of
Hindus, transcending party lines. When Hindus — not just of the
sangh parivar — are attacked day in and day out by the
English-speaking chatterati that control the English media,
tension builds up among all Hindus, irrespective of their political
According to knowledgeable sources, the rioters were from all
classes and parties. The damage unwittingly being done to the
Hindu psyche by the so-called secularists needs to be
understood. It has so far gone unchallenged. The majority of the
Hindus feel assaulted from all sides. The silent Hindu majority is
quivering with anger at the writings of some of our English
national dailies and some of the television channels.
A foreign writer, Koenraad Elst, has described this tendency
among Hindus in India as ‘negationism’. The Hindus revel in
self-flagellation. It results in two developments: One, it
encourages Muslims to extremism and unwillingness to
compromise, and two, it further deepens Hindu resentment
against Muslims. We know with what disastrous consequences.
It is very noble on the part of educated Hindus to take all the
blame for any rioting on themselves. But these educated Hindus
look down on those less fortunate than themselves, attacking
their religiosity in unbecoming ways.
Here is an instance of action and reaction: The more the
chatterati look down on the hurt feelings of those who strongly
believe in their religion and their gods, the greater is the reaction
of the latter and the vicious cycle steadily gets enlarged until
emotions explode in unmitigated fury. This is not to suggest that
Hindu communalism should be condoned but one wonders
whether this would have reached the depths it has, had it not
been for the feeling that for 50 years in free India, Muslims have
been pampered beyond limits.
The media focus has been almost entirely on so-called Hindu
communalism, which one national paper has been pleased to
dismiss airily as majoritarianism. It is as if in India it is a crime to
belong to the majority religion. On the Ayodhya issue, for
instance, the national press has been uniformly hostile towards
the VHP which has only served to strengthen its resolve to fight
more bitterly than ever. Meanwhile, the question of helping all
those who have suffered grievous losses during the Gujarat riots
needs to be addressed.
Every MP gets Rs 2 crore each year for spending in his
constituency. The amount due to all Gujarat MPs must now be
diverted to the relief and welfare of the riot victims. Indeed, if
MLAs get similar benefits from the Gujarat legislative assembly,
those allowances too should be diverted to aid the riot victims.
That is the least that one can do to help them get back on their