People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 29, 2007
Communal Goons Turn Marriages Into Nightmares
WHILE the Sangh Parivar’s hoodlum brigade was busy creating in Bhopal, the state’s capital, a hullabaloo following the marriage of Priyanka Wadhwani and Mohd Umar, there was also a new element in the whole drama this time --- our “national media” was also in the field to make the news juicy and exciting, rather provocative. Since the formation of a BJP government in Madhya Pradesh, marriages are tending to become a big occasion for creating communal frenzy and conflict in the state. It is another thing that Priyanka and Umar have been more fortunate than several others --- they are at least up till now safe from the saffronite goons.
Luck was not so favourable for a handicapped orphaned girl in Jabalpur. The rickshaw-puller who married him had to bear the wrath of Hindutva champions in full measure; and they beat him as many as four times --- --- twice in the police station of the area and twice in the district collector’s office. Despite the mandatory provision of solemnisation of a court marriage within 30 days of receiving an application, the collector of Jabalpur sat tight upon their application for three and a half months. The Bajrang Dal and RSS goons created a ruckus against the intended marriage of an orphan and handicapped Hindu girl with a Christian rickshaw-puller, dubbing it as a big threat against the Hindu religion.
Though Priyanka and Umar escaped the wrath of the saffron brigade in large measure, even if not fully, it was the common people of Bhopal who had to face the heat of arson, traffic jams and roadside goondaism for full two weeks.
Nor could the relatives of the couple escape the torture after these two young persons thought Bhopal was unsafe for their marriage, ran away and got married in Mumbai. The police illegally lifted Umar’s brother, Shakil, from his house and kept him in unlawful detention in the Koh-e-Fiza police station for seven days. Shakil’s wife Aparajita, an IAS officer in Delhi, could not do anything except taking food to the police station for her husband everyday. With the help of the Janwadi Mahila Samiti (JMS, state affiliate of the All India Democratic Women’s Association), she kept trying to contact the state’s chief minister and home minister, but failed. Along with JMS leaders, she did meet the state’s director general of police, Pawar, but it was a far more frustrating and far less reassuring experience. Not only the police chief distanced himself from his constitutional responsibility, he even sermonised the delegation about the necessity of respecting the feelings of Priyanka’s parents --- and the feelings of course of the communal organisations also. He did not pay any heed to the JMS suggestion that, if there was any doubt about the legitimacy of the Priyanka-Umar marriage, the girl could be summoned and her statement recorded by a magistrate. He also kept mum on the issue of Shakil’s illegal detention in a police station. This DGP, like the state government, cared more for the noise created by the communal organisations than for the legal and constitutional right of the 22 years old Priyanka to have a life partner of her choice.
The bureaucracy and the police in Madhya Pradesh have been bowing low before the Sangh Parivar’s hoodlums during the last three and a half years even after they have created such a ruckus on more than 3,000 occasions.
On the other hand, the RSS controlled Sindhi panchayat virtually kidnapped Priyanka’s parents and kept them in its custody for days together. While there was a whole lot of noise against this marriage, no TV channel was able (or did not care!?) to contact Priyanka’s parents and show them live. Nor did they sign any memorandum or press statement. It was only a handful of Bajrangis who, in presence of TV cameras, jammed the roads in the name of the Sindhi community’s hurt feelings. To rescue them from the embarrassment of low mobilisation and meagre support, the police always took care to reach the spot in full measure and (though unnecessarily) divert the traffic, trying to give the impression of a huge crowd ahead.
Even though the Mumabi High Court and Jabalpur High Court have issued clear instructions to the police and administration to provide protection to Priyanka and Umar, a team of Madhya Pradesh Police did reach Mumbai to interrogate (terrorise!?) them.
Several organisations of women organised a demonstration against the moves to create communal frenzy and the studied inaction of the state government. Through a press conference, they also warned the state government of an intense agitation in case it did not curb such fratricidal moves.
The Bhopal unit of the CPI(M) staged a demonstration in front of the chief minister’s house on April 15 and severely condemned the state government’s protection to the communal depredations. The irony was that, only a hundred metres away from the demonstration’s venue, the chief minister was addressing a meeting called by the Dhakad Kshatriya Panchayat and advising his caste fellows not to have any relations of roti (food) and beti (marriage) outside their caste.
The CPI(M) as well as the JMS has demanded that the state government curb the unconstitutional activities of various caste panchayats also.
To make the whole issue provocative, it was necessary that the propaganda remain one-sided. The national as well as local media saw to it that rumours remain afloat and the feelings of a few are projected as the feelings of the entire city. There are also grounds to say that several women and young girls were projected as Sindhis and their incendiary remarks were well propagated. Yet, not one of such gatherings had a participation of more than one and a half dozen individuals. In contrast, the far bigger mobilisations by women’s organisations or by the CPI(M) deserved not a single line in the press, nor a single byte in TV channels. The two “fastest growing newspapers of India” had had their own mutual competition, and they kept cooking up stories to endear themselves to the Sangh Parivar.
But the people of Bhopal gave a most fitting reply to all such incendiary activities that are out to violate the law of the land. Despite all the dirty games played by the media, there was no tension in the city, nor any untoward incident took place. Those knowing about the history of Bhopal are aware of the city’s tradition of communal harmony --- even at the height of fratricidal riots accompanying the partition in 1947, Bhopal not only maintained its calm but also gave shelter to the people of both the religions. Even more interesting was the fact that camps for the immigrant Sindhis from Pakistan and for the Muslims uprooted from other places were erected at one and the same site --- at Bairagarh. Though the state government has, under the pressure of the saffron brigade, changed its name from Bairagarh to Hirdaram Nagar, it has been unable to erase the tradition of communal harmony from the people’s psyche.
In the latest episode also, it was the Sindhi girls who first and most intensely protested against the Sindhi panchayat’s edict that girls must not use mobile phones, must not go out with their male friends and must not wear any head cover so that they are easily identifiable. The number of these girls protesting such a nonsensical and dictatorial edict was far more than of those whom the TV cameras kept in focus.
This edict of the RSS controlled Sindhi panchayat has in reality terrorised the same people whom it purported to ‘protect.’ After the Priyanka-Umar episode, there were two more marriages of the kind, but these girls’ parents have preferred to go underground instead of lodging any report with the police. Their fear was that the Sindhi panchayat could abduct them as well, and the saffron goons might play their dirtiest kind of politics in their name.
Protesting against and severely lambasting such kind of politics, the MP state unit of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) has asked the fundamentalist forces to explain why the youth are not getting any job or why a large number are unable to complete their studies. These, the DYFI said, are more important questions to reply than to tell the people what they should not wear or whom they should not marry.
The DYFI has also made it clear that remaining informed about the real nature of communal depredations and maintaining utmost caution and vigil is the best way to uproot from our midst the deadly disease called communalism.