(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 19, 2008
Platitudes Will Not Do !
Act Firmly Now !!
THE 14th National Integration Council (NIC) meeting held on October 13, 2008, it was hoped, would come up with some tangible concrete measures to contain the continuing inhuman communal violence against the religious minorities, particularly Christians, in various parts of the country apart from strengthening the efforts to contain terrorism. Unfortunately, there was a plethora of platitudes, but very little in the way of concrete action!
In the midst of nearly all chief ministers of the country, leaders of all major political parties, a large number of members of the union cabinet and leading lights from the media and the civil society, the prime minister said that “mindless militancy” needed to be met with the “requisite amount of force” adding that this should be “tempered by reason and justice”. In the absence of any concrete plan of action, such pious statements, repeated by many, ended as a mere declaration of intent rather than any commitment to action.
The CPI(M)’s intervention as well as the personally signed letter sent by Jyoti Basu and the speech of the Kerala chief minister, V S Achuthanandan are being reproduced elsewhere in this issue (see pages 8-9). These contain the CPI(M)’s considered points of view and, hence, these are not repeated here.
In the spate of attacks against the Christian minorities in Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere in the country, the role of the Bajrang Dal has been very obvious. In fact, by its own admission, the Bajrang Dal does not refute its role. On the contrary, some statements indicate that it takes pride in such attacks. It was only natural that amongst the 40 speakers who took the floor at the meeting, many called for stringent action against the Bajrang Dal. Further, there was a clear call to treat all militant outfits, irrespective of their religious denomination, who indulge in whipping up communal passions, on an equal footing.
Naturally, the BJP president and its various chief ministers, unable to justify the Bajrang Dal activities sought to deflect the discussions towards containing terrorism rather than targeting the saffron outfits. When it became clear that the bulk of the participants were, in fact, calling upon the union government to take decisive measures, in which it had so far failed, against both communal violence and terrorism, the BJP changed tune. Its president sought to portray that the terroristic activities of Bajrang Dal and other saffron outfits cannot be termed as anti-national because these outfits are “nationalistic”. In this effort, they were suitably aided by the comments of the National Security Advisor, a day earlier, who had virtually rejected a ban on the Bajrang Dal by saying that “SIMI and the Bajrang Dal are not two sides of the same coin”. While there were strident calls in the meeting asking the UPA government to reject this understanding, the union home minister, while summing up the discussions and producing a non-controversial (therefore, unanimously accepted) resolution refused to mention the Bajrang Dal or its incendiary communal campaigns.
It is, indeed, ironic that the NIC was meeting on a day which marks the silver jubilee of the launching of the Bajrang Dal (October 13, 1983). At a meeting to observe this occasion, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, Togadia, is reported to have said, “We just limit ourselves to Hinduon ka jagaran, but if you still ban us, and lay a hand on our langots (loincloth), we will remind you of your nani”. Songs recited at the meeting threatened the religious minorities of how they should behave etc. “You may maintain your relations with Babar, but if you want to live in India, you have to pay obeisance to Ram”. There were references that Azamgarh has become a “mini Pakistan”, “if two Christians die, the UPA calls us communal” etc etc. What else does all this amount to other than the rousing of communal passions? When the BJP president hails the Bajrang Dal as a nationalist organisation, he is doing nothing else than what the RSS has been preaching for over eight decades, in its efforts to establish a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra”, that only Hindus are nationalists. Others, by definition, are, therefore, anti-national.
Stringent action against the Bajrang Dal, under the Unlawful Activities Act, was, thus, raised by the CPI(M) in the NIC meeting. It was left to the railway minister to assure the NIC that actions can be taken only by the union cabinet and the widespread sentiment expressed would be respected. Only time will tell if the UPA government remains committed to its declared objective of fighting the communal forces. Its track record, so far, however, inspires no confidence.
The government clarified that there was no need for any new draconian law to contain terrorism, maintaining that the existing laws were sufficient. This is welcome. So was the fact that many echoed the CPI(M)’s caution that targeting and persecution of minorities, particularly Muslims, in the name of fighting terrorism is counter-productive. However, on the question of its failure to intervene to contain the continuing weeks long attacks on the Christians in Orissa, the government refused to inform the NIC whether it had invoked Article 355 of the Constitution which allows the union government to protect states against internal disturbances.
Therefore, on both the crucial issues of containing the intensification of communal polarisation by taking stringent measures against the perpetrators like the Bajrang Dal and in failing to discharge its responsibilities as the union government in intervening to protect the right to life of the Christian minorities, the UPA government did not make any commitment. This is, indeed, unfortunate. The NIC was, thus, reduced to a platform for the delivery of endless speeches. Mouthing platitudes is no solution for maintaining communal harmony or strengthening the secular democratic foundations of modern India. The UPA government must, at least now, firmly act.