Communal Politics in Delhi

The Delhi Assembly elections have been announced. Even before the official announcement of the elections, communal tensions were systematically stoked in the city by India’s ruling political party in collusion with a pliant Delhi Police.

Delhi is now witnessing the exact same pattern that has already been tried and tested in Western Uttar Pradesh by the BJP under Amit Shah. The CPI(ML) has recently published a booklet with the findings of an in-depth fact-finding into series of communal incidents in Western UP preceding elections there. The pattern revealed that systematically, every small incident (from children quarrelling to fruit trees bordering neighbours’ homes, to elopements, to loudspeakers in religious institutions or festivals) was escalated into a communal incident. A ‘Hindu-Muslim’ twist was given to the most innocuous of incidents. And over and above this, systematic venom was propagated against the Muslim community, branding them as ‘rapists’, ‘threats to our mothers and daughters’, and ‘terrorists’.

In Delhi, at Trilokpuri, Bawana, Mundka and Nand Nagri, the same pattern is being seen. At Trilokpuri, for instance, a brawl amongst some drunken youth – both Hindu and Muslim – on the night of Diwali, was given a communal colour with the help of rumours. The quarrel itself subsided in the night itself. But a former BJP MLA held a large meeting at his house, following which systematic stone-pelting and violence took place the next day. The police, instead of imposing prohibitory orders and making preventive arrests, allowed the violence to continue for two more days. And while the police has arrested many young men (mostly Muslim, some Hindu, but with little evidence against any), they have yet to touch the former BJP MLA who held the meeting at his house!

In Bawana, the police’s role is even more questionable. Here, at the time of Eid, rumours of ‘cow slaughter’ were stoked, in response to which the police conducted ‘raids’ of Muslim homes in a slum cluster. The occasion of a Muslim festival was turned into a climate of terror for them, with Hindutva groups indulging openly in posters and leaflets spreading hatred against the festival, with no action from the police. Again, on the eve of Muharram, venom was spread against the impending Taziya procession. Posters and leaflets appeared, branding the Taziya (which is a procession of mourning and self-flagellation) as a ‘show of strength’ by the minority community. The police, which is directly under the Modi Government in Delhi, did not assure the minority that they could hold their procession safely without threat of violence. Instead, they told the minority community to curtail the route of their Taziya procession if they wanted to be safe. The minority community complied. Yet, a ‘mahapanchayat’ with thousands of people from the dominant Jat community, was allowed by the police, with the open purpose of preventing the Taziya procession from taking place.

The sitting BJP MLA attended and addressed the mahapanchayat, openly branding the Muslim community as ‘them’ who are a threat to ‘our mothers and daughters’, and branding the Taziya procession as a ‘show of strength’. He congratulated youth for joining the mahapanchayat, which would not ‘allow’ the Taziya to follow its usual route. From the dais, speeches were made branding Muslims as ‘outsiders’ to the nation in which Hindus were ‘original inhabitants’. Calls for violence were openly issued from the dais, and announcements were made that participants would be ‘secretly’ intimated about plans for violence on the day of Muharram. Yet the police booked no cases against those making inflammatory speeches inciting violence. Mahapanchayats were the platforms for mobilizing violence in Muzaffarnagar – yet such a mahapanchayat with the explicit purpose of obstructing a yearly minority religious procession was allowed by the police.

What is the message that India’s ruling party, the BJP, and the Delhi Police directly controlled by the Home Ministry of Modi’s Government, is giving to the minority? The message seems to be what Golwalkar, the RSS founder, said in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, in 1939:

“… the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen’s rights.”

It cannot be a coincidence that Modi is the first PM in independent India not to greet the nation on the occasion of Eid, and to address the public on the occasion of Vijayadashami. The message is unmistakeable – that the minority’s religious occasions are ‘foreign’ to the ‘nation’, and will not be graced with recognition and acceptance by the Prime Minister.

The fact that Muslims’ Taziya procession can be curtailed with the approval of the police, in India’s national capital under pressure from Hindutva outfits that openly threaten violence if it follows its route, is an alarming symptom of India’s shrinking democracy. The Modi Government likes to boast of ‘good governance’ and ‘strong leadership’. No governance and leadership is worth much in a democracy if it is unable to ensure that the minorities can live without fear.

The fact that BJP is seeking to foment communal tensions ahead of elections in Delhi, actually reveals its insecurity as to the outcome of those elections. It is aware that the people are not impressed with the way in which the Modi Government has broken its promise to bring down prices, bring back black money, ensure justice for women, and has instead unleashed an offensive against the rights o workers. The communal ploys are a desperate attempt to take attention away from these burning questions, by the tactics of divide and rule. Democratic forces are determined to defeat this ploy, and recognise and resist the BJP’s communal tactics.

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