DEFEAT COMMUNAL FORCES IN THE FORTHCOMING GENERAL ELECTIONS
By Irfan Engineer
UPA – II, now in minority but supported from outside by SP, BSP and RJD is about a year away from facing general elections. In its final year the Central Government is experiencing various pulls and pressures from tough allies. The largest party in UPA-II – Congress is negotiating space for pushing economic reforms desperately needed by the elite class and the corporate sector to increase their surplus rapidly which is euphemistically called growth by economists and development by political class.
The regional satraps are demanding their pound of flesh for keeping UPA afloat and elections at bay. Mr. Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM succeeded in getting the Centre to re-look at the criteria for defining backward state so that Bihar could be included and given special package for addressing its backwardness. Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of SP, too sulked to negotiate central grants for his state.
UPA – II was formed on the basis to fight communal forces as its main plank of mobilization. UPA – II aggressively tried to push for more liberalization and opening of Indian markets for foreign investments. Corporatization and liberalization of Indian markets provided opportunities for the corporate sector in crisis ridden countries to invest and exploit Indian labour and benefit from Indian markets. The Alliance however, also pushed through some legislation to make the Government more accountable, though on second thought it started diluting the Right to Information Act. The other welfare legislations were food security, however limited and defective its implementation might be. However, various scams and allegations of corruption seriously damaged the image of UPA.
Though UPA was formed on the plank to fight communal forces, it really did nothing to fight communalism in the country. Targeting Muslims in encounters continued. Arresting Muslim youth indiscriminately following bomb blasts was another feature that continued unabated in even in Congress ruled states. Even before investigations could conclude, or even begin, Muslims continued to be blamed for every blast. Afzal Guru was hanged secretively in order to deny him opportunity to appeal for remission on the grounds of delay in execution of his sentence and thus denied due process of law. Executing Afzal Guru expeditiously was demand of communal forces. During riots in Dhule, police continued to target innocent members of minorities. In Assam more than 70 people were killed in riots and more than 4 lakh people were displaced. The Muslims are insecure even today in Bodoland region.
Even during UPA rein, Muslims and Christians continued to live as second class citizens and discriminated. Sachar Committee Report recommendations were ignored and some small funds under PM’s 15 point programme were made to largely impoverished and discriminated sections within minorities. Development of Minority Concentrated Districts ignored the development of minorities even while making some funds available for development of the district largely due to policy gaps and proper targeting. Minorities, particularly Muslims continue to be educationally backward due to lack of adequate educational institutions in the Muslim neighbourhoods as also due to poverty. The UPA, in spite of its election promise, and in spite of a draft from NAC, failed to bring in a legislation to prevent and control communal and targeted violence and provide for justice and reparations to victims of communal violence.
The Congress has also been accused of slowly encroaching into the powers of the States under the Constitution and diluting the federal structure of our polity. NIA and NCTC were some institutions towards that, as was the FDI legislation. Some UPA allies accused the Congress of ignoring its interests.
Both the political alignments – the UPA-II and the NDA are undergoing trying situations and realignments. The biggest loser of course is the UPA. Smaller parties in the alliance want the moon to assuage the expectations of their constituencies. The biggest party – Congress has to balance the competing demands of smaller parties and often it is difficult to satisfy all sections. However, even when NDA was in power, from a robust 23 party alliance, the final humble count of about 6 parties after National Democratic Alliance demitted office.
TRS Withdrew as it felt the Congress was not doing enough for Telangana State. MDMK and withdrew before TN elections as it felt DMK did not accommodate it. PDP left as Congress allied with NC in J&K. Muslim Ittehadul Muslimeen withdrew support accusing Congress of turning communal. PMK left in 2009 due to its differences with DMK and aligning with AIDMK in TN. TMC and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha left on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail and hike in fossil fuel prices. And finally DMK left the UPA over resolution in UN regarding the war crimes committed by Sri Lankan Govt. in its battle against LTTE.
The NDA has been relentlessly targeting the UPA for corruption, appeasement of minorities, compromising on the security of nation and non-governances. It is pushing for aggressive nationalism informed by the interests of the economic and social elite, viz. North Indian upper caste male and promotes its hegemony over the educationally, socially and economically marginalized sections, including the dalits, women, adivasis, workers and minorities. Media expose of Nitin Gadkari, Yeddyurappa has slightly punctured the campaign of the BJP on corruption. Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has also started figuring now in its meetings as the elections are nearing. VHP organized a meeting in Ahmedabad and once again remembered the issue of Ram Mandir.
Though the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate is not yet declared, BJP, being the largest party in the NDA, would claim the right to unilaterally elect leader of its choice as PM candidate. The BJP is inching towards declaring Narendra Modi as its PM candidate but whether it finally happens or not remains to be seen, though it is a tough call to be taken and many obstacles – both within the BJP and within the NDA – to be overcome. Mr. Narendra Modi promises even more aggressive privatization-liberalization to benefit the corporate interests and markets under the name of development.
Is there no differences between the BJP and the Congress?
There are similarities between the Congress and the BJP and about that there can be no doubt. But there are significant differences as well. Both are for liberalization, though Congress doctrine has been, “liberalization with human face” which includes legislations like RTI Act, Food Security Act, MGNREGA, and other welfare schemes for dalits and adivasis. The Congress policy is to include and co-opt a section of dalit and adivasi leadership in the “national mainstream” through these schemes, albeit promoting very slow economic inclusion and promoting Sanskritization. Though BJP has abandoned the slogan of “Shining India”, its approach remains to be same – showcasing some pockets of developments benefiting corporate interests and promoting even more aggressive Sankritization and homogenization along the Savarkarite prescription – “Hinduize India and militarize Hindudom”.
Both implement communal agendas. Both promote sense of communal nationalism informed by the interests of the majority community, with some differences in degrees. The difference being that BJP has not given up the concept of expansionist nationalism -“Akhand Bharat”, whose boundaries coincide with the entire region of South Asia and beyond, while Congress’ expansionist national agenda would at the most include the POK within Indian boundaries.
Marginalization of minorities is bi-product of subtle promotion of homogenized nationalism by Congress with the slogan of “mainstreaming minorities” which means discouraging diversities and encouraging minorities to emulate the majority. Centralizing of the polity and curbing federal tendencies goes hand in hand with homogenization whereas diversity by definition needs federal and plural polity.
However, for the BJP targeting “separatist minorities” or “anti-national minorities” and forcefully curbing diversity is a tool to achieve centralization-homogenization and militarization of Hindudom. Therefore minorities are continuously stigmatized as terrorists, polygamists, uncultured, and anti-nationals and their existence itself is inimical to the interest of others. Minorities are stigmatized as those who tried to destroy Hindu culture while they were ruling and there has been incessant war between the Hindus and the minorities in which only one community will survive. Minorities are further stigmatized to be deploying the tool of conversion in this incessant war between the two communities.
During both regimes, there is prevalence of communal riots, and there is reluctance in taking action against perpetrators of communal riots. Hate speeches are severely penalize if the propagandist is from minority community but at best tolerant and at worst support if the propagandist is from majority community. Even the Congress leadership has not categorically rejected the definition of Hindu-Indian to be one having his pitrubhumi-punyabhumi within the sacred land from River Indus to Indian Ocean.
The BJP would go a step further and see minority religions as alien religion and from across the borders and therefore hostile to the “national” interests. Therefore BJP and Hindutva’s programme towards minority would be to see their existence as inimical to national interest. The most charitable pronouncement of BJP towards minorities is the call to “Indianize” the Church and the religious establishments of the Muslim community, forcing through various legislations to impose certain upper caste dietary preferences, promote particular religious practices in educational institutions and compel all students, including those from minority to follow under the pretext that they are cultural and universal rather than religious practices. MP Govt. introduced compulsory teaching of Gita in schools on the ground that Gita was not religious text.
Ideologically and programmatically, Hindutva, under which the BJP swears, is not favorably disposed to democracy, diversity, multiculturalism and pluralism which is our Constitutional scheme. Faith for BJP is above rule of law. Faith in fact should be the law if Hindutva had its way and BJP demanded that Indian Parliament should pass a law declaring the faith of Hindus to be that Lord Ram was born on the spot where Babri Masjid stood and therefore the site should be handed over to them for construction of Ram Mandir.
For democracy to stay afloat in India, communal and fundamentalist forces of all hues and colours will have defeated. Only after the forces of communalism and fundamentalism are defeated we can dream of opportunity to deepen democracy and build structures for better accountability to people, to defend diversity and pluralism.