Shame on Rahul, Modi’s Competitive Communalism

Leading campaigners and PM aspirants of India’s main ruling class formations have shamefully sought to stigmatise Muzaffarnagar’s riot-affected in a highly callous and shameful game of competitive communalism.

Addressing a rally recently, Congress’ leading campaigner Rahul Gandhi made the claim that Muzaffarnagar’s riot victims have been contacted by Pakistan’s ISI. It is difficult to imagine a more insensitive, factually unfounded, and insulting remark for the riot-affected, who are yet unable to leave the refugee camps, and are too terrorised to return to their villages.

Rahul’s apologists say that his was not a communal remark - it was merely a clumsy but well-meant attempt to underline that the BJP, by engineering riots, creates a fertile ground for terrorism to breed. But this excuse does not hold water. Because painting riot victims as potential terrorists who are in touch with the ISI can be nothing but crude communal stereotyping.

For one thing, neither the UP Government nor the Home Ministry have admitted any intelligence inputs to back Rahul Gandhi’s claim. For him to suggest that the refugee camps are targets for ISI recruitment is actually to reinforce the communal stereotype that will stigmatise the people who, destitute and homeless, are trying to rebuild their lives after the communal violence.

Besides, the plight of the riot-refugees in the UP camps, vulnerable to hunger, homelessness and epidemics, is equally an indictment of the sheer apathy and neglect of the State and Central governments. After all, what stopped these Governments from acting to prevent the communal pogrom? And what stops them today from ensuring adequate relief, full compensation and timely rehabilitation for the riot-affected? The riot-affected lost their homes, their means of survival and loved ones. What have the Governments at the state and Centre done - ruled by the Samajwadi Party and Congress-UPA respectively - to ensure that those affected can return to a stable and secure life?

The UP Government has mocked the riot survivors with a report of its high-level committee claiming that “additional facilities” that victims of the riots are receiving in relief camps is “a reason for them to not go back to their homes”.

Can Rahul’s remark be brushed aside as a mere gaffe, an embarrassing but well-intentioned faux-pas by him? Unfortunately, the track record of Congress governments at the Centre and in states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra show otherwise. These Governments and their police and intelligence agencies have indulged in the same policy of witch-hunt of innocent Muslims - refusing to free such innocents even when faced with evidence that the blasts (like Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif, Samjhauta or Mecca Masjid) were the handiworks of the outfits linked to the hydra-headed Hindutva brigade. These governments have avoided compensating or apologising to those innocents who continue to be victims of witch-hunt, with their families and future ruined. Rahul’s remark only reflects the communal common sense ingrained by the Congress in its cadres.

While the Congress and Samajwadi Party compete to add salt to the wounds of the riot-affected, Narendra Modi’s attempts to cash in on Rahul Gandhi’s statement and attack him for ‘questioning the patriotism of Indian Muslims’ reek of hypocrisy. Mr. Modi needs to be reminded that he had referred to the refugee camps housing those rendered homeless by the 2002 Gujarat carnage, as ‘baby producing factories’. And his bosses in the RSS, with elections in mind, have recently trotted out the bogey of ‘Muslims breeding too many children’, by instructing Hindus to have at least 3 children.

Not only that, there are still more than 20000 of Gujarat’s riot-affected minorities living in ‘transit camps’ - the Gujarat Government is trying to forcibly evict them while they have no homes to go back to, and those who committed the massacre still roam free, creating an atmosphere of terror. In this situation, Modi’s attempts to score points against Rahul by shedding crocodile tears for the dignity of the Muzaffarnagar victims are shameful. Moreover, Modi’s invoking of the ‘national security’ plank in the context of Rahul’s remark again contributes to the profiling of the minority community and especially its riot-affected.

The attempts of the BJP, Congress and SP to use the plight of the riot-affected as political fodder, and to demean and insult them in the process, must be firmly rebuffed. While BJP’s bloody track record of communal pogroms and political campaign of stereotyping Muslims as potential ‘terrorists’ cannot be covered up with the fig leaf of Modi’s carefully scripted ‘Muslim references’ in his speeches, we cannot allow the question of secularism to be trivialised and demeaned by the Congress, SP and other self-styled ‘secular’ opportunists.

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