People's Democracy

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


No. 14

April 04, 2010



Competitive Communalism

Leads to Riots in Hyderabad

N S Arjun


AFTER a long gap of nearly eight years, common people of old city of Hyderabad are once again facing the brunt of competitive communal politics of Majlis-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (MIM) and Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress government's utter failure in anticipating the trouble and more starkly in quelling it in the initial stages is threatening the secular fabric of the city apart from affecting the poor and vulnerable sections in the curfew bound areas.

With nearly 36 hours of continuous curfew clamped in 25 police station limits in Hyderabad, the people living in those areas, particularly those who can find a square meal a day only through hard labour, are the worst affected. Thanks to government's continuing failure, children are going without milk and elders without any essential commodities. Under pressure, the city police commissioner has announced relaxation of curfew for two hours on the morning of April 1 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.  However, he made it clear that there could be restrictions in place during that time to prevent further clashes. The relaxation passed off peacefully at the time of writing this.




The fundamentalist MIM party's vice like grip on the Muslim community in the old city of Hyderabad, has recently been challenged by various forces, including the Left parties. The old city has a population of around 18 lakhs in the 65.63 square km area. It is densely populated relative to the new city where around 20.3 lakh people live in 134.05 square km area. The old city is much neglected and under developed when compared to the new city. In fact, there has been sharp regress in many developmental aspects in the recent past. There is rampant unemployment, particularly among the educated lot also due to discrimination in hiring. Even public sector banks consciously deny loans to minority people in old city, citing high rate of defaults. The public amenities are also bare minimum.

Yet, the MIM leaders have thrived in this atmosphere, making millions through business, corruption, extortion etc. The family of party supremo has built a vast network of educational institutes, hospitals etc which generate huge resources for them. The MIM had firm grip on local people using the fundamentalist card and frequent riots in the past. Of late, particularly with the entry of CPI(M) and other Left forces in the political arena of old city, the disenchantment of people with MIM got a fillip. A break away faction also mounted a challenge to the MIM supremacy. Although, MIM won most of the seats in the elections to the state assembly held last year, the party had to stretch itself and spend unprecedented amounts of money to retain the seats. The BJP too was losing steam in the Hindu areas of the old city, as was seen in the recent assembly elections.

In this backdrop, both the parties seem to have come to the conclusion that they can rejuvenate themselves by falling back on fundamentalist agenda and consolidate their base. The MIM decided to use the recent Milad-un-Nabi festival on February 27 precisely for this purpose while the BJP chose the Sri Rama Navami and Hanuman Jayanthi festivals. The MIM spent a lot to ensure grand celebration of Milad-un-Nabi. It got the entire old city painted in green with huge banners, festoons, flags put up in the entire old city, more prominently in Hindu populated areas. The usual norm is that these banners and festoons have to be removed by those who put them up immediately after the event is over. Otherwise the municipal corporation steps in and removes them along with slapping of fine on the organisers for failing to remove them. This time both did not happen. The MIM did not remove the festoons and the municipal corporation looked the other way for an entire month. It gave a picture of an aggressive MIM to the ordinary Hindus living in old city.

The BJP, systematically preparing for precisely such an atmosphere, decided to make full use of it. On the eve of Sri Rama Navami festival on March 24, it went about removing those banners and festoons and putting up the saffron variety in their place. A clash ensued in Madannapet area of the old city, which was contained with the intervention of police and elders of the area. The government, particularly its intelligence wing, should have got an inkling of the communal tension in the old city from this episode. But it utterly failed to gauge the situation. A few days later, on Saturday, March 27, another clash occurred in Moosa Bowli area of old city when saffron flags were being put up. The swift manner in which the trouble spread with mobs throwing stones at each other and places of worship damaged pointed to a prior planning. The police force was late to react and around 13 people were injured in the clashes. The next day, on Sunday, further clashes occurred in newer areas and one person died in stabbing incident.

The BJP actively worked for communalisation in order to come out of its stagnation. Just few days before Sri Rama Navami, it had got VHP leader Acharya Dharmendra to Hyderabad and held a big meeting in old city area where inflammatory speeches were delivered. Earlier, a few months ago RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat was in city where a big parade of swayamsevaks was organised. With a young leader taking over as state president of the party, BJP is actively trying to push its fundamentalist agenda. CPI(M) state secretary B V Raghavulu has charged that it is trying to replicate Karnataka experiment in the state by using communal riots as a vehicle for its growth.




The Hindu fundamentalist forces' efforts to utilise the present situation to create terror among minorities and spread communal polarisation beyond the old city area were facilitated by the weak state administration. These forces. Led by Bajrang Dal and Hindu Vahini, used Hanuman Jayanthi, which fell on March 30, to fulfill their aim. Usually it used to be an occasion where a few hundreds would take out a rally observing the Jayanthi but this time a massive mobilisation of around 5000 persons on motorbikes was undertaken. Even the route was changed in order to pass through minority community areas in the new city. Brandishing saffron headscarves, saffron flags and lathis, this menacing crowd was granted royal passage by the police and administration at a time when curfew was still in place in the old city and communal tensions were at a peak. At the head of the procession was a trolley on which were a cow and calf, with a banner proclaiming 'protection of cow'.

That the intention of this show of strength was to terrorise the minorities and spread the clashes to the new city was clear to everyone except the government. As the rally reached Musheerabad area, the bikers branched off from the main rally into the lanes and bylanes housing the minorities and raised slogans against them. They then rejoined the main rally. They beat up indiscriminately anyone they suspected of being Muslims. The shops with Muslim names lining the main road were vandalised and the owners beaten up. The small dargahs were also not spared. As the rally reached further, the desired impact was there with Muslims hearing about these attacks, came on to the roads and indulged in stone throwing. The police realising late the potential trouble with the rally, forced all shops on the route to down their shutters! However, attacks occurred even in Secunderabad area, which is a rarity even in the worst of communal riots in the past. It is the same police which stopped DYFI activists from taking out a peace rally the next day from Sundarayya Park in the city.




Eleven Left parties held a meeting at CPI state committee office and appealed to all political parties and people helping in restoration of peace and communal harmony in the city. They have also decided to conduct a peace rally in the city shortly. CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) New Democracy, CPI(ML), SUCI, AIFB, RSP, MCCI(U), CPI(ML) Liberation were among the parties that took part in the meeting. CPI(M) state secretary B V Raghavulu charged that both the communal forces belonging to both communities are consciously instigating communal tensions. He demanded judicial inquiry into the communal clashes. CPI state secretary K Narayana felt that these clashes were not spontaneous and that much planning went into creating such a situation. He castigated the police for granting permission to Bajrang Dal and Hindu Vahini to take out huge procession on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanthi. The Left leaders appealed to the media to show more restraint in their coverage of the communal clashes.

Responding to queries about charges that these clashes could also be a fallout of the internal political struggle in the Congress party, Raghavulu said that it was a section of Congress leaders who were making these charges and it is for the Congress party to clarify on it.

That both minority and majority communalism feed on each other is once again being proved right by the happenings in Hyderabad. It now falls on the democratic sections of the society to rally the people in defence of secularism.