People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 42

October 26, 2008



Grave Threats To Our Secular, Democratic Edifice

THE attacks on Christians in Kandhmal district of Orissa or in Karnataka or in other parts of the country, and the recent events in Dhule in Maharashtra, Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh and Adilabad in Andhra Pradesh are not just attacks against the religious minorities. Equally, they are also attacks on the secular and democratic fabric of our society and politics. These attacks become all the more ominous because the UPA regime at the centre has dismally failed in checking and countering them. This requires that all the forces --- political, non-political and social, which stand for a secular and democratic India --- unitedly face this threat head on. The “Convention against Communalism and Attacks on Democracy,” held in the national capital on October 18 was a step in that very direction.

Cuttack archbishop Raphael Cheenath from Orissa, Delhi’s archbishop Vincent Concession, Jamia Millia vice chancellor Professor Mushirul Hasan, Kamal Mitra Chenoy (president, JNU Teachers Association), women’s movement leader Kamla Bhasin, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar, S K Pandey (president, Delhi Union of Journalists), and Shoaib Iqbal (MLA from Matia Mahal area in Delhi) also addressed the convention along with CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, JD(S) president H D Deve Gowda, and TDP parliamentary group’s leader Yerran Naidu. The Mavlankar Hall in downtown Delhi was packed capacity on the occasion. S P Gupta presided over the convention, called for at the initiative of several political, non-political and social workers, while Seema Mustafa conducted the proceedings.

While the audience were unanimous that the government must swiftly act against the Bajrang Dal and similar outfits, many of the speakers noted the sad fact that the central government was avoiding any such action despite having the support from all the secular forces. In this regard, speaker after speaker pointed to the dismal failure of the recent session of National Integration Council. Many of the speakers lambasted the “terrorism versus communalism” argument as one based on a false dichotomy, stressed their complementarity and demanded that the government must take stern action against both of them, without any discrimination.

Prakash Karat underlined the seriousness of the danger being posed by the anti-minority attacks. He said these attacks were a warning bell for “the Indian state based on democracy and secularism.” He pointed out that the situation in Kandhmal could not be brought under control despite the deployment of a full 100 companies of the CRPF there. The administration and the police force in the district are fully with the communal forces. It means that the secular edifice of our constitution is simply non-obtaining in Kandhmal. One has to properly grasp the meaning of the way the constitution has been rendered ineffective there.

The CPI(M) leader also underlined the dismal failure of the central government vis-à-vis these attacks being launched by the Hindutva forces. There was a BJP-controlled NDA government at the centre in 2002, at the time of the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Leaders of the opposition parties at that time met the president of India to insist that the constitution must be defended. The president then wrote a letter to the prime minister, asking for immediate dispatch of the army to the state. But we see no central intervention now that a secular government holds the reins of power at the centre. Karat emphatically said that this failure has only emboldened the forces that are launching attacks on our secular constitution.

Insisting on the need of grasping this danger in all its dimensions, Karat reminded that the RSS had penetrated deep into the system during the six years of BJP controlled NDA rule. Attacks are going on in BJP ruled states with impunity. Anti-Christian violence has taken place in Orissa over the last several years. According to a report, one incidence of communal violence, on an average, is taking place in Madhya Pradesh. A similar situation prevails in Rajasthan. In Karnataka, churches have been regularly attacked in Dakshin Kannad and some other districts. But, compared to the members of pro-Hindutva outfits, more Christians have been arrested in the state in a bid to smother their protest. The government’s own data leave no doubt about this reality.

The question, thus, is not only of communal attacks on the minorities but of the increasing communalisation of the state power and its organs. This danger has to be grasped in order to evolve a suitable strategy to counter the threat.

In this regard Karat clarified that, normally, the CPI(M) is not in favour of banning an organisation, but here the question is different. As the laws of the land provide for ban on organisations involved in anti-national activities, and as some organisations have been banned on this ground, the question naturally arises as to why there is no such action against the Bajrang Dal and similar organisations under the same provisions. There is no dearth of evidence showing the involvement of these outfits in anti-minority violence and justifying their banning.

The CPI(M) general secretary said that even today the strength of secular forces far outweighs that of the communal forces. But, unfortunately, several secular formations are not displaying the necessary political will to defend our secularism. Karat said all the opposition parties have always being prepared to corporate to government all the issue of fighting communalism. Some constituents of the UPA it self have being demanding action against those attacking the minorities. At the prime minister hesitated and, instead of initiating action, he called a meeting of the National Integration Council so that the issue could be pushed into the cold storage after speeches. Karat reminded that there was absolutely no condemnation of communal violence in the draft resolution prepared by the home ministry for the NIC meeting; this was added later after the secular formations insisted upon it. Karat asked: are these attacks on minorities no terrorism? He said we have to deal with the perpetrators of these attacks in the same way as we deal with terrorists.

The CPI(M) leader forcefully lambasted Advani’s game of justifying these attacks on the “terrorism versus nationalism” argument. He emphasised that it was not a question of nationalism what of terrorist violence. In the last few decades, unfortunately, the general rule is that the regime does not move against the Hindutva forces and their attacks. In this context, he refer to the Srikrishna commission report about the Mumbai riots following the Babri demolition. Their was no actions against the guilty officers and leaders even though the commission had specifically named them. Karat forcefully said such experiences lead the minorities to believe that they are not going to get justice here and that the secular regime cannot protect them. It is this despondency which compels some members of the minorities to take to extremism. The police and administration are committing serious excesses against the minorities, thus pushing a section of Muslim youth to the path of terrorism. Terming it as a vicious circle, Karat stressed the need of breaking it. But the Congress party is avoiding any direct confrontation with the majority communalism. However, it must understand that its vacillations and prevarications will harm the nation as well as this party itself. He made a serious warring that just one inch concession to the forces of majority communalism will enable them to push one mile ahead.

Concluding, Karat stressed the need of bringing all the secular and democratic forces to one platform and to bring them to the streets so as to defeat the serious communal challenge. He referred to the fact that secular political formations are divided at the moment and their unity is not expected right now in view of the impending elections. Yet, social workers and organisations may move to create platforms for bringing all the forces together. Karat said that this initiative, taken in the national capital, may be taken to the other Indian states so that all the secular and democratic forces may be brought into the thick of the anti-communal struggle.

Archbishop Cheenath forcefully refuted the BJD-BJP government’s claim that normalcy has been restored in Kandhmal in Orissa. He asked: how could the government claim of normalcy when more than 15,000 people were languishing in refugee camps away from their hearth and home, have reached as far as Bhubaneswar in search of security and prefer the miserable refugee camp life over that in their original villages? On the basis of his personal knowledge, he said that not only are the dalit Christians being force to convert to Hinduism; the families of those living outside are also being pressurised to make these people return and adopt Hinduism. He said 68 persons had been killed so far in the anti-Christian carnage. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda expressed deep disappointment over the UPA government’s attitude which had made even the recent NIC meeting a meaningless exercise. He wanted to know what was preventing the centre to act against the Bajrang Dal and allied outfits when they had themselves accepted their involvement in the anti-Christian violence in Kandhmal. He asked: why was the prime minister so helpless vis-à-vis the Hindutva forces? Referring to the anti-Christian violence in Karnataka, he insisted on the need of a programme of minority protection and suggested that representatives of all political formations must meet the prime minister on this issue.

Yerran Naidu (TDP) expressed concern over the growing communal depredations in the country, adding that the centre has totally failed to protect the minorities’ rights. He is not even prepared to move under article 355 of the constitution. He assured that the secular parties would, in the coming parliamentary session, asked the government to explain why it did not fulfil its constitutional duty. He also referred to the communal violence at Bhainsa in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, saying that six persons of a single minority family were burnt alive there even though prohibitory orders were in force there.

Professor Mushirul Hasan said we have failed to make the society secular even though we have adopted a secular constitution. The real task is to make the society secular. He underlined that the real challenge is to destroy the “communal perspective” and this task is far bigger than fighting the RSS and Hindutva forces. However, the role of secular politics in defending the country’s secular edifice has weakened over the years. He also pointed out that majorityism is increasingly being equated with nationalism; the majority community is ipso facto taken as the nation’s defender while the minorities are dubbed as outsiders and divisive. In its place, we need to bring in the concept of nation based on citizenship, one which may ensure equal rights for the minorities and thereby usher into a truly secular state. The struggle is to change he people’s way of viewing the world. Concluding, he said that there was a great deal of resent and uneasiness among the Muslims.

A B Bardhan likened the situation today to that created by communal forces preceding and after the Babri Masjid’s demolition. In recent days, attacks on Muslims and Christians have taken place in as many as 10 states of the country. The Sangh Parivar has been raising the bogey as to why there was a discussion on its activities while, instead, it should have taken place on terrorism. But the communal attacks have also taken innocent lives just like terrorists are doing. Bardhan insisted that politics and religion must be firmly kept separated. Lambasting the bogey of conversion being used as a justification of anti-Christian attacks, he said the constitution of India allows voluntary conversion but not any forced conversion or any so called reconversion by force. The CPI leader said the real fight is to defend our secular fabric, of which a part is the fight for protection of the minorities. In this context, he warned that any growth of a seize mentality among the minorities can lead to dangerous consequences for our unity and integrity. Here he demanded a judicial probe into the Batala House encounter as it has raised many disturbing questions.

The convention concluded with the adoption of a resolution which put forward the following demands:


India, as a secular and democratic republic, faces major challenges today. The RSS and the BJP, with their front organisations, the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, have mounted a savage attack on the Christians and Muslims in different part of the country. Tens of thousands of Christians are in refugee camps in Orissa. Churches are being attacked in the states. Priests have been killed and nuns assaulted. Violence in Assam shows a similar pattern. A series of attacks have also taken place on the minority in Dhule, Maharashtra, Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh and lastly in Bhainsa town in Adilabad district (AP). Divisiveness and hate is being used by the unscrupulous to polarise communities in preparation for the forthcoming Assembly and general elections.

The spate of bomb explosions in Delhi, Ahemdabad, Jaipur, Bangalore and other places, confirm that extremists want to disrupt communal harmony and the social fabric of our society. While terrorism must be combated with resolve, the Indian state’s security agencies must not be allowed to indiscriminately harass innocents in its name. The mass communal violence against minorities, the states’ inability to provide either protection or justice to the victims of communal violence, continuing discrimination at all levels increase the alienation of the minorities, particularly youth, making it all the move difficult for the community to isolate the extremist elements in its midst. This convention demands that governments take immediate measures to restore the confidence and trust of the minorities, and also tackle the socio-economic problems, particularly with regard to employment and education, on a war footing.

The convention condemns the absence of will demonstrated by both the central and relevant state governments in either taking effective steps to control the violence or in providing justice to the minorities. In the case of Orissa and Karnataka, there is clear evidence of the stat government being complicit on the attack against the minorities. In congress run sttes like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh the large-scale arrests and victimisation of the minorities must stop.

The convention demands that