PUCLFeb. Bulletin, 2001

Communalism
-- By R.M. Pal


I

Violations of Human Rights like those caused by communal violence, and violation of Human Rights of Dalits, Minorities, Women, and Children have not received due attention from the middle class dominated civil society and opinion makers, and not even from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); it does not appear to be on government's agenda.

During freedom struggle two leaders-Mahatma Gandhi and M.N. Roy - took serious note of communalism and the Hindu Muslim question. Almost all other leaders under the Congress umbrella, including Jawaharlal Nehru maintained that once the British left, this problem (as also the question of human right violation caused by the hierarchical system) would be solved in no time. Gandhiji, however, often said, in most unambiguous terms, that unless these two evils are done way with, India has no right to Independence from British Raj. Ultimately he fell a victim to an intolerant cult-nationalism. Gandhiji was a religious man, and he had the same respect for other religions that he gave to his own, Hinduism. And he wanted the Hindus, as also other Indians, to follow his example and solve the Hindu Muslim question. Regrettably this approach has not helped in combating communalism.

M.N. Roy wrote a book, while in Jail 1930-36, Historical Role of Islam with a view to solving the Hindu Muslim question. He wrote: "although Islam came to India after it had played out its progressive role, and its leadership had been wrested from the learned and cultured Arabs, the revolutionary principles of the days of its origin and ascendancy were still inscribed on its flag." A critical study of History would reveal that Brahmanical orthodoxy having overwhelmed the Buddhist revolution; India of the eleventh and twelfth centuries must have been infested with multitudes of persecuted heretics who would eagerly welcome the message of Islam". Roy maintained that we must be clear as to the causes of the Muslim conquest of India so that we get rid "of the prejudices that makes the orthodox Hindu Look upon his Muslim neighbour as an inferior being. Unless a radical change of attitude is brought about by a sober sense of History, the communal question will never be solved."

Addressing the Muslims, Roy wrote: "few Muslims of our days may be conscious of the glorious part played on the stage of History by the faith they profess." Roy therefore urged upon both Hindus and Muslims to revive the positive aspects and the creative heritage of Islamic culture. "Indians, both Hindus and Muslims", Roy concluded, "could profitably draw inspiration from . . . [the] knowledge of Islam's contribution to human culture and a proper appreciation of the Historical value of that contribution would shock the Hindus out of their arrogant self satisfaction, and cure the narrow- mindedness of the Muslims for our day by bringing them face to face with the true spirit of the faith they profess". Our government and opinion makers must take Gandhi's approach minus the mystique and Roy's scientific approach to a solution of the problem seriously.


II


Massacre of Sikhs in 1984-General Aurora's affidavit" it is in the above context that we refer to the 1984 pogrom when more than three thousand Sikhs were brutally killed in Delhi alone. " Who are the Guilty?" has not yet been answered. The rulers and their officials have adopted all diabolical methods to see that the guilty are not punished. The government has now instituted another enquiry commission to go into the cruel killings with a view to identifying the guilty. A number of people have submitted sworn affidavits to the commission. The affidavit submitted by Lt. Gen (Retd) J.S. Aurora, hero of the Bangladesh war in 1971 is significant in that it indicates quite clearly that the government was not interested in protecting lives and property of the innocent Sikhs". The government allowed the communal riots to go on. We give below a summary of what general Aurora tells in his affidavit dated 21 September 2000:

We [Gen. Aurora, Air Chief Marshall Arjun Singh, Brig, Sukhjit - all retired at that time, and Patwant Singh] issued a joint statement on 31 October 1984 at 3.30 pm condemning the attempt on the life of the prime minister of India. We could make out that highly volatile situation was fast developing, which if not controlled and timely action not taken, it could flare up beyond all proportions and which could cause immense harm to the Sikhs and their families. We agreed to call upon the President Zail Singh. In our meeting with him on 1 November 84 we expressed our concern on the large-scale violence and looting which had erupted consequent to the killing of Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and requested him to use his good offices to the stop the bloodshed and destruction of properties. The President said, "I do not have powers to intervene." We were amazed to hear the said remark. On our insistence he agreed to speak to the Prime Minister later. We had also requested him to use the electronic media to stop the mob frenzy and save innocent Sikhs but he never did so. On our inquiries whether the Army was being called to restore law and order and normalcy, he said, "I am not in contact with the Home Minister, Shri Narasimha Rao", and he asked me to speak to him on the phone. I telephoned Mr. Rao from Rashtrapati Bhawan but was told that he was not available. Later on when we tried to fix a meeting with him, we were told that he was busy in some other meeting at his residence. We then barged into his house without appointment at about 3 p.m. and were surprised to see that there was no meeting in progress. The situation there looked very normal and did not reflect that half the city was in flames and murders were taking place over widespread areas. Was the army being called? He said, "It will be here in the evening". To our suggestions about co ordination between police and army as was done in 1947 at the Viceroy's house, the Home Minister casually replied, "We will see when the army noticed that he did not make any attempt or effort either to call the GOC of the Delhi area or to contact him. The Home Minister was grossly negligent in his approach to the events, which clearly reflected his connivance with the perpetrators of the heinous crimes being committed against the Sikhs with impunity. On 2 November of the Area Commander told us that no control room (as suggested by us to the Home Minister) had been set up. After about a week when we met the Lt. Governor of Delhi and asked him to take action against the guilty we were shocked when the L.G. mentioned that the police could not control the violence because for forty eight hours they were stunned as two of their own policemen had committed the heinous crime of murdering the Prime Minister. It was apparent that the government was not at all interested in protecting the lives and property of the innocent Sikhs.

General Aurora's account is reminiscent of the Dark Age. And, yet Pundit Nehru was so confident that this evil would disappear automatically once the British left.


III


Demolition of Babri Masjid: A number of civil society groups and activists hold meetings and demonstrations on 6 December every year to condemn the demolition of the Masjid and subsequent communal riots. This year, too, (2000AD) meetings were held. This year the opposition parties in the parliament raised questions apropos of the demolition. The opposition parties have demanded the resignation of three union Ministers against whom cases are pending in a court of law, on the charge that they were responsible for the demolition. Everyone including the Sangh Parivar knows who were responsible for the demolition of the Masjid. Ruchira Gupta, a correspondent in Business India at that time gave a graphic account of 6 December 1992- she was present throughout. She wrote a piece for PUCL Bulletin at our request which was published in the Bulletin January 1993. The leaders of the Parivar appear to have been trapped now. They now want to get away from this situation. The RSS Chief has come out with the "revelation" that a bomb explosion brought the Masjid down! Earlier it was claimed by some Hindutvavadi leaders that the Masjid had fallen down on its own! Note also the Prime Minister's statement, "the entire nation wants the Ram temple at Ayodhya". (We should be grateful for small mercies: the equally guilty Mr. Narasimha Rao, Prime Minister on 6 December 1992 has not come out with any new theory! He has conveniently forgotten his promise made on 6 December 1992 that the Masjid would be re-built.

Hindutvavadi leaders like the RSS chief have perfected and legitimized the art of doublespeak and the language of deceit, utter lies and hypocrisy like George Orwell's (The Animal Farm) four-legged dictator who quietly changed the original thesis of the revolution, four legs good, two legs bad" to "four legs good, two legs better"; and from "all animals are equal but some are more equal than others". The mindset behind this kind of deceit and lies is that if one goes on repeating a lie like the sheep in Orwell's animal farm chanting regularly the revised versions who begin to believe that these are the true lessons, the lie will become truth! Hitler's propaganda chief, Goebells in Nazi Germany had perfected this art: go on repeating a lie; it will be accepted as truth.

If there is one thing that has been made clear by 1984 Delhi, Ayodhya (as also by 1992-93 Mumbai and many other communal riots during the last 53 years) is that there is no place for political freedom, civil liberties, and tolerance in our country-these values have been made irrelevant by political reaction and social/ religious barbarism. In all these communal riots -- the Muslims, the Sikhs, and now the Christians are victims-there are violations of all standards of morality, justice and freedom. (The RSS chief has declared that the will tolerate only a swadeshis church for Christians. Encouraged by such arrogant announcements, assaults on Christians, rape of Christian women including nuns, destruction of churches, have been on the increase). Acts of barbarism are committed, and justified, in the name of faith, thus placing premium on ignorance and making the masses easy of exploitation.

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