By: M.R. Lalu
A terrible madness has gripped India’s civic culture recently and a pattern of violence began to cripple its essential principles of concomitance deeply. In Manipur the rivalries between the two communities turned out to create born-chilling scenes of acrimony that we watched with compassion. It was all about disputes that the political class deliberately left unsettled and the tremors of horror are yet to subside and there came another incident of hot-blooded rioting and arson. This time it was a Hindu-Muslim riot in Nuh, Haryana, and the latest to enroll into the array of incidents of barbarity that India has enlisted in its history. Being the world’s largest functioning pluralistic democracy, every single riot in India would send shockwaves of horror and disruptive impulses across the country. And to curb this collective insanity in a complex social atmosphere such as India needs a cohesive framework. Though a small landscape, violence in tiny Manipur disturbed us severely and the warring communities deserve a certain level of sympathy and a sincere solution to what they keep shedding their blood for.
But the inflammability of what has happened in Haryana seems to be truly potential to burn the country. The prominent question is what this madness is for. While we read into the acrimony between the two major religions, the reality that tiptoes with its repulsive ignominy is that we cannot watch it without taking sides. India seems to have systematically divided its conscience into a bipolar setting- a deeply polarized society. The Haryana violence has its implications and political applicability. A sudden biased judgement of the Hindu-Muslim riots in Nuh would land you on the terrains of a majoritarian aggression, a well calibrated design by the right wing extremism that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be blamed to have woven before its crucial state elections and the election for its hat trick national victory. This may not be true. But the blemish would go deeper as an aspirational India bleeds from within and its international sheen faces tricky questions. Western media would joyfully nibble on the perilous dilemma of the democratic giant. The ruinous images of acrimony would go further and of course, there is no sign of relief emerging in the horizon. Indeed this has been a season of despair for the common man. From Manipur to Bengal to Haryana, violence was at its peak and nothing seems to help him with hope.
Reports say that a religious procession by one section of the Hindus was brutally attacked by a Muslim mob which included young boys and teenagers. This is indicative of the fact that the impact of enmity is passing to the next generation and we need to be sure that this madness is not going to end. Every riot is symptomatic of the horrific side of religions playing their nasty role. Same was the case in Haryana too. See the level of intolerance.
A Hindu religious procession can’t pass through an area dominated by the Muslims. But the Muslim community enjoys unsuspected freedom to shout their faith through loudspeakers everyday five times and a country that is overwhelmingly populated by the Hindus did never think to check this through violence or legislation. This is not the first time the riotous behaviour of a particular religion was displayed in its full force and brutality. The aggression in Gurugram was later justified as a befitting reply.
The Hindus in India should be aware of the fact that their ethical base never allows them to be violent. Had that been the case, like India’s Islamic neighbourhood, the religious minority here would have faced persecution instigated by the majority on a daily basis. Religious minorities in India are safer than minority religions in our neighbourhood. They enjoy India’s congenial atmosphere to flourish and expand their demographic reach to different areas. But wherever they managed to outnumber other religions, intolerance was the outcome. Semitic religions with their hard fenced boundaries have undeniably been incapable of maintaining cohesiveness with other religions. When the radicalized religious orthodoxy turns intolerant and violent in the streets, diverse views fail to find space for coexistence in the society. The predicament stands undiluted and the error of the past keeps haunting the present more vigorously, unquestionably damaging the prospects of our future and this is a dangerous scenario.
The political impact of the riots is sure to stay until elections in the pipeline are over with inflicting narratives polarizing the votary further. The issue of Gyanvapi and the excavation exercise carried out by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) would come out with its report in expected lines. Undoubtedly, the presence of a ruined temple under the controversial structure will be its conclusion. This would further exacerbate the aggression and floodgates for a thousand Babris might be opened. AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owasi’s fear of such a situation on the way is legitimate. But Owaisi systematically plays the usual victim card as the ASI report is awaited. He says the report of ASI would help the Hindus to set fresh narratives all over the country. Probably he was indicating that the Hindus would demand more excavations for liberating their temples from disputed Islamic monuments. His call for deradicalisation for every community was a balancing act, a narrative he intelligently set to generalize extremism in every religion.
I am shocked and dismayed and justifiably angry at the insensitivity with which the political class and the elected representatives debated the Manipur imbroglio in the parliament. There have not been social disorders of this magnitude that we have been facing in Manipur, Bengal and Haryana for the last few weeks and of course the threat level has been raised from substantial to severe. Between Hindus and Muslims, it is animosity buried under the debris of time for centuries raising its hood but the engraving effect of the wounds would stay deeper, starker and profounder preserving the memories for the future.
Unfortunately, the debate in the parliament with the opposition seeking a no-trust vote against the Modi administration could not evaluate the issue verifying genuine aspects in detail. The opposition fiercely planned to put the government on the mat but the Prime Minister’s reply had shattered all hopes of the I.N.D.I.A block which appeared to have lost a convincing purpose behind its move. The opposition’s identity is enmeshed in its dark history and evidently their new makeover could not categorically generate better outcomes. With its G20 presidency and its resounding impact on global diplomacy, what is happening in India would be heard louder across the world. The Prime Minister’s assurance to reinstate peace in Manipur should be taken at face value. India can’t afford to be at war with itself but to clear the path to progress more and more inclusive engagements between the warring clans and religions would be required. Unfortunately, this cannot happen unless they get ready to set aside their conflicting issues and pave the way for a peaceful middle path. (The author is a freelance journalist)