Beyond the NIC Deliberations

After a lapse of more than three years the National Integration Council met last week against a backdrop of raging communal violence in several parts of the country punctuated by periodic bomb-blasts in major cities. The response of the state to such a situation conforms to a by now familiar, almost predictable pattern. The NIC deliberations only reflected and reaffirmed this pattern.

In the face of communal violence unleashed by the Sangh Parivar, the state withdraws into a shell of inaction, or openly stands by the perpetrators and protagonists of such violence, depending upon whether the reins of the state are in the hands of the Congress/UPA or the BJP/NDA. In the wake of a terrorist incident, the same state however becomes hyperactive. The police swings into action, arrests and encounters follow suit, and we are treated to an official propaganda blitzkrieg with sensational stories as to how the state has just busted some ‘terror modules’ or killed or arrested some dreaded ‘terrorist masterminds’.

While the police establishment reduces the whole question of tackling terrorism to a no-holds-barred battle between ‘terrorist masterminds’ and ‘encounter specialists’ in which the courts and constitution must not play spoilsport, the political establishment launches a competitive chorus for a hard state and tough anti-terror laws. The BJP demands re-enactment of POTA, the Congress rules out bringing back any law that has already been exposed and discredited in public experience, promising to introduce tougher new laws instead of the good old TADA or POTA.

In his speech at the NIC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered all the customary ‘secular’ and ‘democratic’ shibboleths that we often hear these days even from his ‘counterpart-in-waiting’ Mr. LK Advani who however refused to attend the NIC meeting, reportedly peeved that his name figured at the 137th position in the list of invitees! The PM called for avoiding any “impression that any community, or sections amongst them, are being targeted, or that some kind of profiling is being attempted”. He also reiterated his commitment to the Constitution and the principles of civil liberties and democratic rights: “We should not be provoked to suspend or subvert a democratic process in the search for solutions. A democracy has a special onus in that it has to ensure protection of civil liberties even as it seeks to enforce law and order.”

Perhaps all this talk about not subverting the democratic process was meant to justify the UPA government’s refusal to take any action against Sangh outfits like the Bajrang Dal, VHP or the Hindu Yuva Vahini. In Delhi, the police versions regarding the Jamia Nagar encounter have raised precisely the kind of questions that Manmohan Singh says should be avoided, but the UPA government has refused to set up a judicial enquiry headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge to resolve the issue on the plea that such a step would demoralise the police!

With the government limiting its role to empty phrases and deliberate inaction against the perpetrators of communal violence, NDA constituents were emboldened to offer all kinds of arguments in their own support. Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik attributed the Kandhamal attacks on Christians to ‘conflict of interests’ between SCs and STs, leaving it to the Centre to decide if Bajrang Dal should be banned. Rajnath Singh condemned any comparison between ‘banned terrorist organisations like SIMI’ and ‘legal nationalist outfits affiliated to the Sangh’ while Bajrang Dal functionaries openly dared the Centre to ban the organisation and face the consequences! Sushma Swaraj accused the UPA of failing to distinguish between extremism, which is linked to ‘home-grown sentiment’, and terrorism, which according to her, is all about secession!

While the NDA speakers boldly advocated their point of view, the CPI(M) said little except reiterating the party’s unstinted support to any official campaign against terrorism. The party refrained from demanding a ban on the Sangh outfits; and instead of explaining the context in which India is increasingly internalising the threat of terrorism, Yechury only harped on the anti-national argument to denounce terrorism.

By equating terrorism with secessionism, the propagandists and ideologues of the Sangh brigade are trying to pitch their variety of ‘nationalism’ as the most powerful anti-terrorist antidote. And this, like most Sangh claims, is based on complete lies. If secessionist sentiment prevails in any part of the country, that too is very much a home-grown sentiment and this recognition is central to any quest for a political solution to secessionist campaigns. Moreover, the terrorist incidents now taking place across the country have little to do with any secessionist sentiment brewing in any part of the country. These incidents are rather a reflection of, and reaction to, the combination of the following three factors: the relentless Sangh campaign of communal violence, the growing involvement of India in the US-led global war, and the increasingly unmistakable communal bias of the Indian state in most of its affairs and actions.

At a time when communalism and terrorism are growing in a dangerous spiral, the campaign against communalism and terrorism must be firmly anchored in the secular, democratic, anti-imperialist agenda of the Indian people.

Liberation Archive