Communal Politics Climax and Downfall

Asghar Ali Engineer

Posted Nov 20, 2005      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Asghar Ali Engineer

Secular Perspective 1-15 October, 2005.

Communal politics, being highly emotional, is heady and creates strong illusion of success. Those who indulge in communal politics create emotional hysteria among their followers. However, every observer of such politics knows that such hysteria does not last long and disappears as quickly as it creates such hysteria. It is like strong heady wine. We in India have had many experiences such emotional politics.

The best example is that of partition hysteria. The Muslim League had no concrete programme of action. It had one point programme: creation of Pakistan. The direct action day resulted in massacre of thousands of people. Well, Pakistan did come into existence at the cost of one million lives and it could never become a democracy, let alone a stable democracy. And soon Muslim League disappeared from the scene, a Party which created a country did not survive longer than a decade. Even when it was revived later during Zia-ul-Haqs time it could not capture the imagination of the people. It remained almost a dead horse. It was Pakistan PeopleҒs Party (PPP) which became very popular in late sixties and early seventies.

Pakistan was also a heady wine for a section of Muslims in pre-independence India. But it did not bring any concrete benefit to Muslim masses. Only the elite benifted. It is important to note that though communal hysteria is created in the masses but it benefits politically and economically only the elite of the community. The masses are ultimately left high and dry. Masses are made to believe that the movement is for them and they often sacrifice their lives under that illusion. After the hysteria they realise that they were used as an instrument.

When I was investigating the Ahmedabad riots of 1981, which deeply affected the dalits too, some dalit leaders told me that now we have understood the game of the BJP and they use us as instruments for their politics. Now we will refuse to become their hatha (instrument) and kill Muslims. But communal politics is quite heady and these poor dalits again became their instrument in 1992 and 2002.

The late eighties saw communal politics at its height in India. The BJP which had adopted sober programme in 1980 (of secularism and Gandhian socialism) lost 1984 elections very badly and could get as less as two seats in Parliament. Then the BJP began to play communal game with a vengeance and by 1990 created a hysteria among the Hindu masses (especially the OBCs and Dalits) on the issue of Ram temple. The slogan mandir wahin banaenge (we will construct Ram temple there only i.e. at the site of Babri Masjid) successfully created mass hysteria along the Hindus and a sense of great insecurity among Muslims.

The BJP began to touch new heights, especially in the Hindi heartland in 1990 when L.K.Advani took out Rath Yatra for arousing mass hysteria among the Hindus. Many secularists had then pointed out that the Rath Yatra was undertaken to counter the promulgation of the implementation of Mandal Commission as its implementation had created great enthusiasm among the lower caste Hindus and they were going to lend massive support to Mr. V.P. Singh, the then Prime Minister and the BJP wanted to win over these low caste Hindus. The BJP had no economic or welfare programme for them which V.P. Singh had so it played the mandir card to create mass hysteria among them.

You need an otherђ and particularly a religious otherђ against whom such a hysteria can be created. For Muslim League it was the Hindu and for the BJP the Muslim. Muslims were transformed into an enemy, which need to be attacked. Muslims were projected as descendents of Babar who was an invader and so the slogan babar ki aulad jao Pakistan aur Qabrastan (O! children of Babar go to Pakistan or to qabrastan). Muslims could be easily targeted as there is long history behind that and so it was easy to create a mass hysteria against them.

Mr. L.K. Advani became an instant hero and wherever he went during his rath yatra he attracted large number of people. And not only Advani but also other leaders like Sadhvi Rithambara and Uma Bharti who became star attraction as they spewed poison against Muslims and Rithambara did in even sexually suggestive language. Also, there was back ground to it. The people of India were tired of long Congress role and the Congress leaders became synonymous with corruption and Mr. Advani and others projected the Congress as a party with a differenceӔ, a clean party which could provide alternative to the Congress misrule. And Muslims were projected as the pampered minority and responsible for keeping the Congress in power.

Thus Muslims could be doubly targeted in creating a mass hysteria. They were children of those who demolished their temples, particularly the Ram temple at Ayodhya and those who were responsible for keeping the corrupt Congress in power. The BJP thus came to power though with the help of other ӑsecular allies. And now mass hysteria began to recede as it happened in the case of Muslim League in Pakistan.

Now the BJP had to face hard realities of ruling over the country. Neither it could do anything for constructing the temple nor it could maintain its party with a differenceҔ which it had so assiduously projected. The mass hysteria was over and hard realities were staring in its face. Also being in coalition it had to follow the coalition dharma (coalition religion) and it could not afford to antagonise its secularђ partners. Thus it could neither satisfy its extremist friends among Hindutvawadis, nor could it satisfy its secular friends and supporters. It could not deliver on any front.

Sometimes it had to boost up its extremist image and some times its moderate one. The extremists became more extremists creating un-resolvable dilemmas. The VHP wanted temple to be constructed and BJP would not only loose its other allies but would also defy constitutional provisions by defying law courts, if it at all tried to construct the Ram Temple. Caught in this dilemma the BJP fast lost its image even as a Hindutva party, let alone a party with clean image. The media exposed several scandals of corruption.

The communal forces succeed in raising such mass hysteria but soon get thoroughly discredited and no amount of efforts can revive them. The people feel cheated by them and they loose all support and even begun to disintegrate. The BJP is facing similar dilemma today. Mr. Advani, who was the main architect of BJPs image building is being asked to quit his job as the President of that party. His exit is really disgraceful for him. The RSS and VHP hotheads are extracting their pound of flesh. AdvaniҒs remarks about Jinnahs secularism can hardly be swallowed by extremists. They do not think; they only believe in some dogmas and for them Jinnah is a villain in toto and cannot be thought of otherwise. But that is not the only reason for AdvaniҒs exit. But the Jinnah controversy provided an excuse which the Sangh Parivar was looking for.

Mr. Narendra Modis fate is no different either. He also used the technique of mass hysteria to win the Gujarat assembly elections with two-third majority. The whole Sangh Parivar celebrated his victory and Modi began to be projected as a role model for entire Parivar. The young leaders of Sangh Parivar even said that we have found a model for winning elections (i.e. massacre minorities, create hysteria and win elections) and we will use this model to win elections in other states.

But soon they were in for a shock. Let alone others Narendra Modi began to loose his following among his own Party members. The mass hysteria soon evaporated and Narendra ModiҒs dictatorial ways alienated his followers. The dissidents from his party are now demanding his resignation or removal from the chief ministership of Gujarat. His communal oratorical skills are of no help to him. So far he has been protected by Shri L.K.Advani but now Mr. Advani himself is in serious trouble.

Thus from great hero Modi is fast sliding towards political oblivion. People like Advani or Narendra Modi have nothing to be proud of nor will they ever be remembered for any positive contribution towards greatness of India. If anything they will be remembered for causing deaths of hundreds of innocent people through their provocative speeches. Even Shri A.B. Vajpayee is not likely to go down in history as a sober statesman though he aspires to be one. He failed to show courage of conviction to take action against Narendra Modi when he was provoking carnage against minorities.

The fate of Shiv Sena, another communal outfit from Maharashtra is no different. It once proudly claimed to be the only genuine Hindutvawadi party and Bal Thackeray even claimed publicly that his boys struck first blow at Babri Masjid. Today Shiv Sena is in deep trouble. It also came to power by trashing minorities and was responsible for Mumbai riots of 1992-93 which had, like the Gujarat riots of 2002, had shaken the conscience of the whole nation.   

Bal Thackerays hold on the Marathi people has been seriously weakened. His followers whom he took great pride in, are deserting him. It is a sinking ship now. Its vote base is being fast eroded. It may soon find itself on the margins of Maharashtra politics. Its strong holds are crumbling.

Thus it will be seen that o political party can survive on communal fare for long. Like a heady wine it goes up fast but then declines even faster. Such parties do not have any base or even ideals to claim peopleҒs support. Hate politics has serious limitations.           

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Centre for Study of Society and Secularism