Sunday, May 31, 2015

Nivedita Menon on the open secret of communal violence at election time

What’s wrong with these headlines? (Answer: It’s Election time, Stupid)

ballabgarh

This one image should be issued as a ceremonial postage stamp to commemorate one year of Modi’s rule. We have said it many times already, but here it is, once more, with feeling – this is a bloody, violent Hindutvavaadi regime, with a cool headed, coldly vicious master-mind at its head – he of the Swarovski eye glasses, the 10 Lakh Rupee Suit, the diamond Movado watch – he of the infinite silences on All That Matters.
While Modi spouts the inanity beti bachao beti padhao, his menacing goon brigade massed behind his sheltering shadow, chants bahu lao, beti bachao, trying to whip up a storm over the non-existent “love jihad”.
While Arun Jaitley “meets Christians” and Rajnath Singh meaninglessly snaps, “All those who are in India will stay in India” (in response to the remark by BJP’s tame Muslim, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, that people who eat beef should go to Pakistan) – minorities are being systematically targeted both by mobs and by the state – churches burnt and vandalized, beef banned, homes burnt, innocent people killed for belonging to the wrong religion, businesses targeted, middle class professional Muslims denied residences.
But the key strategy is to foment communal violence around the time of elections, a strategy that failed the BJP in Delhi, but it’s just the way they are trained – the BJP, its baap the RSS and the sundry Hindutvavaadi outfits that run around beating up lovers and women (of all religions) and attacking minorities. They just keep on going, hoping achhi hogi (ab ki baar) fasal matdaan ki.
A reminder follows of some things I have written about earlier on Kafila. But since they keep reproducing their mythology, I guess we will have to keep repeating our counter arguments.
One – there was a spate of ‘communal violence’ in Uttar Pradesh after the Lok Sabha results of May 2014,60 percent of which were near by-poll seats. A ninth of all communal incidents since May 16, 2014 have been Dalits versus Muslims, of which 70 percent were near by-poll seats! This was revealed in an outstanding series of investigative reports by Appu Esthose Suresh in The Indian Express. 
Two major issues were identified by Suresh as triggering violence:
a) Loudspeakers. Groups and political parties have transformed loudspeakers at places of worship into powerful instruments of communal polarisation, leading to clashes between Hindus and Muslims. In as many as 120 of the 600 odd communal incidents, the trigger for violence was seen to lie in a clash involving the use of loudspeakers. In many cases as we know, even when the issue is amicably resolved by the local groups, Hindutvavaadi outfits descend on the scene to ensure that no resolution endures.
b) Elopements. Consider just one example – In Village Gaineridan, Police Station Jahanabad, on May 20th, a Muslim family took away by force their daughter, who had married a Jatav boy. Local BJP leaders demanded security for the Hindu family and the return of the Muslim girl to her husband, leading to tensions.
And compare it to BJP’s response in the case of Village Lisadi, Police Station Lisadi Gate, Meerut, where on May 30th, the local BJP leadership got involved after a Jatav girl eloped with a Muslim boy, to bring back the girl.  (Beti bachao, bahu lao!)
Two – let us refamiliarize ourselves with what Paul Brass terms ‘institutionalized systems of riot production‘. The term ‘riot’ is a deliberate misnomer, suggesting spontaneous and unpredictable mass action.
In fact, ‘communal riots’ in India involve, Brass demonstrated through extensive studies, carefully calibrated activities by people with precisely designated roles and responsibilities – informants, propagandists, journalists who produce propaganda as news.
Brass noted two particularly important roles – that of ‘fire tenders’ who keep embers of communal violence alive by bringing to the notice of authorities, police and the public, situations known to be ‘sensitive’ – genuine or bogus; and that of ‘conversion specialists’ whose job is to convert incidents with riot potential by inciting crowds, or by signalling already planted people to start the violent action.
And now finally, let us look at how those headlines on Ballabhgarh should have read in the first place:
And buried on P 10 in The Hindu (whose front page headline is reproduced above):
Panchayat polls worsen tensions. (On-line, the two stories are one continuing story).
Panchayat polls are coming up in August.
Modi’s criminal gangs are on the prowl again.
That’s all there is to it. Mystery solved.
See also:

NB (from a note I added on Signs and Promises, May 29, 2014) - Mr Baliyan now says he wants people to talk to him 'about sugar or farmers' issues, rather than harp on riots. I want to leave the riots behind, and want peace to return to Muzaffarnagar," (In late March, his co-accused, BJP MP Hukum Singh, of Kairana, said he would not allow Muzzafarnagar riot refugees to vote). This is a tried and tested method of manipulating public mentality - selective memory combined  with contempt for law and justice. Why should we forget, Mr Baliyan? Mr Modi hasn't forgotten, so why should we? A political movement which wants us to always remember 1528 (the date of Babar's alleged destruction of the Ram Temple) - keeps asking us to forget 2002. (No one even asks us to forget 2008, because it is forgotten anyway, who bothers about Kandhamal? Or for that matter the frightening Staines judgement, (2011) which 'forgot' that two little boys were also burned alive along with their father, Graham Staines in 1998?) Now Mr Baliyan wants us to forget 2013. But what does all this mean? Should the FIR vanish? Should the trial be dragged on for decades, like the Babri Masjid demolition case? Should the police forget about the case, as the J&K police have avoided pursuing hundreds of cases of murder of Kashmiri civilians by persons known to have participated in terrorist actions? Or maybe Mr Baliyan is signalling that the police leave out crucial evidence, as they are believed to have done in Zakia Jafris petition? Should men accused of inciting violence and communal hatred be outside the purview of law and justice because they want us to forget what they did? Should the surviving victims of the 1984 carnage also forget about justice? Why have a justice system at all?

Prime Minister Modi's elevation of Baliyan is a signal to all of us who believe in justice and the constitution - it is up to us (including Mr Baliyan) to decipher what kind of signal it is. I'm sure the message has been received, loud and clear. There is a long tradition in India, of elected representatives presiding over violence so massive that even the most efficient crime prevention system would collapse under the weight of criminality - and then asking everyone to forget, move on, not harp on the past. There is an FIR registered against Mr Modi as well, on the orders of the Election Commission. He poured ridicule on the Commission, and the fate of the investigation is anyone's guess, now that he is Prime Minister. Yes, the signs are clear. Some people are above the law, and some kind of crimes must not be cognised as crimes  at all. They are part of the never-ending cycle of communal revenge that our country has endured for many decades. We are a world-class power where genocide has been a common place. 

The Gujarat government has reinstated suspended police officer G.L. Singhal, who was charge-sheeted in the Ishrat Jahan extra judical killings, and was the Investigating Officer who falsely implicated, tortured and framed 6 innocent Muslim men in the Akshardham case. The Supreme Court recently severely castigated the Gujarat police on this count. Even before the election results,the chief supervisory officer investigating the cases was relieved of the charge: See Sleuth probing Gujarat encounters shifted, probe hit

We can see that justice is a top priority for Mr Modi - but what kind of priority? The constitution, to which both Mr Modi and Mr Baliyan and Ms Anandiben have sworn allegiance, still contains a criminal justice system. They may all want us to forget Muzaffarnagar, encounter killings etc, but the justice system is not bound by their wishes Judges and officials are servants of the constitution, not of the government of the day. Let us see whether they stand by their oath. DS