People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 09, 2007
Defeat Communal Forces
As we go to press, the election campaign in the states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh is in full swing. In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress party has just about begun to accept the shock of an early election, struggling against a strong anti-incumbency factor operating amongst the people. The BJP, on the other hand, has been plagued by intense infighting. Hence, it is a little early to offer any prognosis. In both these states, the BSP, having announced that it shall contest all the seats, has thrown the spanner of uncertainty in the outcome of the results. Of the seven seats that the CPI(M) is contesting in Himachal Pradesh, the Shimla seat, which the CPI(M) won in 1992, offers the best prospects. In Gujarat, the CPI(M) is contesting in its traditional stronghold, Bhavnagar (North).
It is, indeed, ominous that Narendra Modi launched his full-scale election campaign to the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat in the week that marks the 15th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Having spent, according to media reports, in the last six months, Rs 750 crore of the state money on propaganda – equivalent to the amount spent annually by Gujarat on social welfare and nutrition – highlighting the economic `achievements’ of Gujarat, he has now fallen back on core Hindutva as the election mascot. At the campaign-launch rally, he described the `double ruled plus’ sign on the new Rs 2 coin as a cross alluding to the influence of UPA chairperson on the country and by inference rousing sentiments of maltreatment of the majority Hindu community through minority appeasement. It is clear that as elections draw closer, the plank of development would be rapidly replaced by sharpening communal polarisation. In the process, far from showing any remorse or repentance for the 2002 State-sponsored communal carnage, this will increasingly be portrayed as the assertion of the `Hindu pride’.
Apart from the fact that the victims of the carnage continue to languish and the perpetrators, in many cases, continue to roam around scot-free, around 21,800 of the one and a half lakh people rendered homeless continue to live as internal refugees unable to return to their homes. The recent Tehelka exposures have, as we had noted earlier, reconfirmed the role of the state, its administration and the police in the ghastly riots of 2002. Such is the fragility of India’s secular democracy in Gujarat that even well-meaning secular elements fight shy of highlighting these exposures lest it invoke memories of 2002 leading to the consolidation of the Hindu vote bank!
Intensifying the communal pitch, Modi justified the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheik and his wife, Kauserbi. The case of his killing in an alleged encounter stands before the apex court today. Instead of waiting for the judicial process to conclude, Modi exhorted the audience at an election rally asking them what should be done to a man who stored illegal arms. Some in the crowd chanted that he should be killed. Modi took this as an endorsement and said: “Well, that is it”. This reminds us of an incident in Hitler’s Germany at the time of the ascendancy of Nazi fascism, when Skarlek brothers, alleged criminals, were hanged at the order of the crowd with the justification that why should the State waste its time and resources in allowing them to face a trial in the courts. This is fascist justice that Modi is emulating. Under a modern democracy, even hardened criminals must be treated under the law of the land, which is based on the time tested principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Modern civil societies have since long denounced attitudes like those which suggest that it is no crime for a sex worker to be raped, or, a criminal to be hanged without being provided an opportunity to defend themselves. Such norms, however, are an anathema to Modi’s “vibrant” Gujarat.
Given such trends, these elections in Gujarat will, once again, serve as a barometer measuring the strength of India’s secular democracy. As argued often in these columns in the past, given India’s rich diversity and vast plurality, the only way to sustain India’s unity and integrity is by strengthening the bonds of commonality amongst this diversity and not by seeking to impose a uniformity upon this diversity. Such an imposition is precisely what the communal forces seek, thus, harming not only the security and welfare of the minorities but endangering the very future of India. The need of the hour in Gujarat particularly as also in Himachal Pradesh is for all well-meaning Indians who cherish secular democracy and who have the future of our country at heart to unite to defeat the communal forces in Gujarat.