People's Democracy

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


No. 35

September 02, 2012




Nip Communal Polarisation in the Bud



AS we go to press, two judicial verdicts of immense significance have come. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence of death penalty and rejected the plea of Mohd Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist who carried out the ghastly 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.  166 people died and 238 were seriously injured during these attacks. A two-judge bench of the apex court held Kasab guilty of waging war against the country. 


A special trial court convicted 32 in the Gujarat’s Naroda Patiya massacre case in which 97 people of the minority community were killed during the post-Godhra communal carnage that took place in the state in 2002.  Those convicted under sections of criminal conspiracy and murder include a former minister in the Narendra Modi government and MLA from Naroda constituency and a prominent leader of the BJP who had in a sting operation conducted by Tehelka said he was proud of his role in inciting the riotous mob to kill and compared himself to Maharana Pratap. 


Though this conviction has come a decade after the massacre, both these judgments put together, to some extent, reinforce people’s confidence, which was fast eroding, in the system of delivery of justice in our country. 


While this may be so, other developments in various parts of the country are a cause for worry. The violence in the Bodoland areas of Assam has so far, according to official information, claimed the lives of nearly hundred people. More than two lakh people have been evicted from their homes and currently surviving in 224 relief camps set-up.  Social activists treat these figures as gross underestimates.  During the course of the past few weeks, these columns have carried reports on the ongoing clashes and a report by a team of CPI(M) members of parliament that visited the affected areas. 


Since the creation of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) in 2003, tensions were accumulating. Bodos comprise a third of the population in the BTAD areas consisting of four districts (carved out of eight districts of Assam in 2003).  Earlier in 1993, the then Congress government at the centre had ruled out a separate statehood for Bodos since they were a minority in their own land they were seeking as a separate state.  The population composition includes Muslims and adivasis apart from Bodos.  Since the Bodoland Territorial Council that runs the BTAD is dominated by the Bodos and perceived as being both anti-Muslim and anti-adivasi, tensions have been growing. Between 1996 and 1998, government figures show that 1,213 people died in Bodo-adivasi conflicts alone. Lakhs continue to live in relief camps even today. 


This violence and the loss of lives, most inhuman, has been widely condemned. However, this situation is being exploited for sharpening communal polarisation all across the country. It only shows how the extremist elements on both sides of the communal divide are ever battle-ready to exploit any and every opportunity to further their communal agenda. 


While there was a rare unanimity cutting across all political sections in the parliament in condemning this violence and calling for peace, the BJP was quick to raise the bogey of illegal `Bangladeshi immigration’ as the primary cause for the tensions.  On the other end, groups like the Raza Academy in Mumbai called for protests raising the issue of Muslims being attacked in Assam leading to violent clashes with the police.  Spreading like wild fire, fear was instilled amongst people from the North East in various parts of the country.  The scare in Karnataka was such that an exodus of people of the North East took place.  Mysteriously, special trains appeared to meet this exodus raising suspicions of the BJP state government’s complicity. The RSS outfits like the Sreerama Sena have been fomenting communal strife in the state in a systematic manner during the past few years. 


The RSS/BJP and their communal outfits are conducting a systematic campaign that illegal Muslim immigration from Bangladesh is threatening the local people of jobs and property. Of course, illegal immigration must be contained by fencing the borders which the CPI(M) has been demanding for a long time.  However, the provisional 2011 Census figures show that between 1991 and 2001, the decadal growth of population in Kokrajhar, from where the current phase of violence began, has been 14.49 per cent lower than the growth for Assam (18.92 per cent) and India (21.54 per cent). What strengthens the argument that the RSS/BJP’s communal campaign of Muslim immigration is a fabrication, is the fact that between 2001 and 2011, the decadal growth rate of   population in Kokrajhar declined to 5.19 per cent from 14.49 per cent.  Such are the facts.


On the other end of this spectrum, the All India United Democratic front (AIUDF), the second largest political party in the Assam assembly, though claiming to fight for the oppressed openly promotes  the cause of `Muslims for the right of Muslims’.  The Congress was short of majority after the 2006 elections.  It chose to ally with eleven Bodo legislators as against AIUDF’s ten.  This strengthened the perception of a communal divide and of the state government not being sympathetic to the Muslims. Further, the state government advocated refugee status to Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants while prevaricating over the issue of D-voter (doubtful voters) who are supposedly illegal Muslim immigrants. The Election Commission admits that there are only 1.5 lakh D-voters in the state.  This communal polarisation resulted, on the one hand, in a landslide victory for the Congress winning 78 in the 126-seat assembly. AIUDF, on the other hand, won 18 seats from the ten it had, to become the second largest party. 


While the Assam situation  needs to be sincerely addressed and the central government, which has claimed that the state government had ignored intelligence warnings, must seriously take stock of the situation to ensure the safety of life and liberty of people of all communities in Assam, what is worrisome is the fact that communal tensions are now spreading to various parts in the country. 


The BJP’s parliamentary tactics of disrupting proceedings on the Coalgate issue demanding the resignation of the prime minister is very convenient for the Congress in avoiding a structured discussion in the parliament that could well expose much more and force the government to be accountable.  The BJP’s tactics, however, seen in conjunction with the communal tensions that it is spreading outside amongst the people suggests that it is working towards forcing an early general election in the country and use communal polarisation for its electoral benefits.  In the bargain, it is also hoping to find new allies amongst those regional parties that also see gains in an early election. 


A potential danger for the consolidation of the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic is in the making.  This needs to be nipped in the bud. Such cynical rousing of communal polarisation for electoral gains must not be allowed to succeed. This must be decisively rejected.  The death of innocent people must be prevented and fracturing of the goodwill amongst India’s rich social plurality must be defeated. 


(August 29, 2012)