11. The riots
11.1 Reporting vs. comment
“The ‘progressive’ people in this country show a remarkable eagerness to see communalism even in the most harmless observations of [Hindu] religious leaders, while overlooking such outrageously communal and provocative statements as the one made by the former government official Syed Shahabuddin, that contact with the Hindus debased the Muslim, or the one by Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, that the Muslims would resort to a civil war.” This observation by Subhash Chandra Sarkar1 is quite correct, and it explains the peculiar features of press reporting on communal riots. The progressive pressmen attribute every riot to “Hindu communalism raising its ugly head”, while justifying or explaining away the undeniable cases of Muslim communalist violence.
When reading the press reports about communal riots, one should make a distinction between two stages of riot reporting. The day after a riot breaks out, the press will just write what happened, in some detail. The report will be a little bit blurred by the obligatory usage of non-definite terms for the communities involved : “As members of one community passed through an area dominated by another community, stones were thrown at them”, etc. But the experienced reader can mostly understand who is who.
However, the editorials devoted to these instances of communal carnage are not interested in the details of the matter, and in their effort to allot guilt and suggest remedies, they often implicitly start from a riot scenario which is totally unsupported by the factual details that appeared in the first report. The autumn of 1990 has offered some striking examples of this recurring press phenomenon.
For instance, about the Hyderabad violence of December 1990 there could be no doubt whatsoever about who was the aggressor and who the victim. The violence was, according to press reports, started by revenge action of Muslims against the police, for killing an influential Muslim goonda, Mohammed Sardar. This man was a convicted murderer, and while free on parole, he had killed a policeman, and gone underground. When the police caught up with him, he was killed in an exchange of firing.2 This encounter triggered a wave of stabbing by people belonging to the same community as this Mohammed. Not only in Hindu-Muslim terms it is very clear who started, but also in miscreant-police terms: the first victim was not the Muslim goonda, but a policeman. it is not the partisan anti-Hindu police who killed the victims for whose murder Mohammed Sardar was convicted, it was not they who killed the policeman that was killed by him, and it was not they who started the stabbing.
Moreover, while in many riots Muslims take the initiative but then lose it to the more numerous Hindus, here it was the Muslims who were on the attack all through the weeks of violence.3 The Statesman reported : “An unusual feature of the current clashes was the heavy toll inflicted on the majority community, forcing many of them to flee their hearth and homes south of the Musi, which were immediately occupied by members of the minority community.” The inserted comment that heavy suffering on the part of the Hindus is unusual, is of course based on secularist estimates. The report continues: “House-to-house searches in the [predominantly Muslim] old city yielded a rich haul of weapons, imported from the north.”
But in the same issue, the editorial has heard nothing of Muslim attacks, Muslim goondas, Muslim arms caches. Under the caption Spark from Ayodhya, it writes : “If the trouble in Aligarh followed the stabbing of a policeman [by a member of an unnamed you-know-which community], it is not yet clear what caused the eruption in Hyderabad. Nor is it worthwhile any longer to look for specific reasons since a focal point already exists.”4 The focal point is (guess once) the BJP/VHP’s “cynical, vote-catching policies relating to the disputed shrines in Ayodhya”.
If one would believe the columns in the national English-language press, Mr. Advani’s Rathyatra has left a trail of bloodshed. But when one turns to the actual reports of the riots, this very serious allegation turns out to be totally contradicted by the facts.
During the Rathyatra, which was underway for about a month until it was stopped on October 22, there were some riots in Karnataka, and many very serious riots in Uttar Pradesh in the first state, Advani had only tipped the North-East corner on his way from Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh, in the second he had not set foot at all. Now, those who are biased and perforce need to blame Advani, can say that at least he created the atmosphere that led to the riots. But then they should explain how he managed to cause riots five hundred miles distant from his Rathyatra, and none in its vicinity. Where he could personally impress his atmosphere on audiences, there was no violence, but where it was only a distant echo, it would have moved people to utter barbarities like those that took place in Gonda, U.P.: a strange explanation. To my mind, it would seem that such an explanation does not spring from the scientific temper which secularism seeks to inculcate, but rather from a political compulsion to blame the Hindu campaign at any cost and/or to shield the real culprit.
11.2 Inspiring and starting riots
A far more logical explanation for the non-occurrence of riots in or near the Rathyatra, and the large-scale occurrence of serious riots in Uttar Pradesh, is this. For the common Hindu, the passing of the Ram Rath was a joyous religious event, perhaps compounded by a sense of relief or even victory because it announced the symbolical righting of the centuries of persecution inflicted by Muslim rulers upon the Hindus. At any rate, it was a happy affair that sweetened the atmosphere rather than create bitterness and violence. Moreover, mr. Advani in his speeches called on all Indians to celebrate and to cultivate harmony. That his speeches were not inflammatory, I know for certain even though I heard not one of them : mr. Advani has many enemies who watch him for discrediting mistakes, and if he had made any objectionable statement, it would have been splashed across the front pages. It may be true, as some papers have written, that some local BJP leaders did make inflammatory speeches. but at least the starring speaker called for peace and harmony, and the very invoking of Ram created a positive atmosphere good enough to yield the actual result that no riots place.
By contrast, in Uttar Pradesh the ubiquitous public speaker was chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, a man with an impressive crime record (highlighted in Illustrated Weekly after the 1989 elections, but now forgotten thanks to his uncompromising secularism), who gave very inflammatory and confrontationist speeches : “Not even a bird shall be able to enter Ayodhya”, for “We will crush them”. The power of the word was demonstrated once more : while the man who called for self-restraint and harmony had a peaceful Rathyatra, the man who called for confrontation, got confrontation.5 In spite of unprecedented police deployment and curfews in many towns, riots broke out.
A recurring scenario, in conformity with the general pattern of Hindu-Muslim riots in the twentieth century, was that Hindu processions, especially the Ram Jyoti processions, were attacked when passing through Muslim-dominated areas. These attacks were largely a materialization of all the fiery curses that Mulayam in his mass rallies had cast upon the Ram processions. In many cases, the Hindus retaliated by attacking any Muslims they could find, which unfortunately were mostly innocent bystanders. Or villagers who got involved in a riot in town went back to their village and attacked the Muslims they could find there (that was the scenario of the huge Bhagalpur carnage of 1989, this repeated on a smaller scale in Gonda).
However, it seems it was not only by the power of the word that those riots got going. The Gonda riot started when actual bombs were thrown at a Hindu procession. According to press reports as well as the report by a BJP fact-finding team, at least one of them had been thrown from the local Janata Dal office by people working for Munnan Khan, the local MLA. This man is a friend of the chief minister : with the latter’s support, he was elected in 1989 as an independent candidate (though a JD member) against the official candidate of the anti-Congress combine (a BJP man). After people had been killed in this unilateral attack on the procession (officially six ; according to Congress MP Anand Singh, one hundred), mutual fighting broke out. And still later, some Hindu hotheads took out revenge parties to Muslim quarters outside the city.
Many papers have, in their final overview of the riot, consciously blurred the first stage of the Gonda riot, and highlighted the last stage in order to absolve the Muslims and put the blame on he Hindus, i.e. on the Janmabhoomi movement, i.e. on L.K. Advani who was far away.
Consider this report in the Times of India :”The procession numbering about 5000 people was wending its way through the narrow streets of Colonelganj shouting some slogans which could be deemed provocative in an atmosphere of tension, when it was attacked with stones, bombs and other missiles. The attack allegedly began from the roof of the Janata Dal office, according to some shopkeepers whose shops were gutted.”6 This suggests that slogan-shouting on the part of the processionists has caused the violence. But of course, bombs are not picked up and thrown in an emotional reaction to inflammatory slogans, as too many journalists would like us to believe. Bombs are quite certainly purchased or made beforehand, and a bomb-attack is definitely premeditated. In fact, on rooftops not even loose-lying stones are that readily available for impulsive acts of stone-throwing.
It is very clear to an unbiased reader that the Gonda carnage has started with a pre-meditated attack on the procession. Going by the original newspaper reports, some Janata Dal miscreants affiliated with Muslim party leaders were the aggressors, and the processionists were the victims. However, it is in the nature of aggression that the victims get the blame. Thus, a rapist will usually say that the girl had asked for it, that she had provoked him. Here too, it is not stated simply that the processionists were attacked. Rather, it is said in goonda-speak, approvingly broadcast by the secularist press, that the procession has provoked violence and caused riots.
In the same newspaper report, mention is made of an earlier incident: “It all began with a girl being teased by anti-social elements owing allegiance to one Talukdar Khan.” Even for this earlier stage of the communal conflict, the paper does not hide what side started. And then it goes on to say that “the other side was provoked and mobbed his house”, without specifying how exactly they were “provoked” by the Muslims, upon which “he drew up plans with his supporters to attack the procession on September 30”.7
So, at every stage of the escalation, you see Muslims starting, Hindus merely reacting, and Muslims pre-planning large-scale violence. And it is not me who says so, I read this in the reporting of secularist newspapers (though not on their Opinion page). These are indications from unsuspected sources that members of the Muslim community take a disproportionately large part in starting communal violence.
11.3. Received wisdom on riots
As a foreigner, I have no access to certain archives, much less to police records. But going by the riot information generally available, I do find that there is truth in the received wisdom that
- a clear majority of the riots are started by Muslims,
- a clear majority of the victims are Muslims, at least in the final count
- a clear majority of the victims shot by the police (not including the Kar Sevaks) are Muslims; the police in most of these case claims self-defense against attacks by mobs or snipers.
To start with an unsuspected source, Mufti Mohammed Saiyid, Home minister, made a statement on communal riots between January and April 1990. It lists nine riots, with their causes. The monthly Muslim India reproduces the list8, but omits parts of the stated causes of five of the riots, e.g.: “Clash between anti-social elements…on black marketing of cinema tickets”. This leaves the reader guessing what was omitted. The causes of two other riots are stated in the well-known indeterminate terminology: “Alleged misbehavior with a girl of the other community”. but the two remaining riot causes, the only ones clearly saying which community was attacked (and leaving little doubt as to which community attacked), are these : “Stoning of Holi procession passing a place of worship”, and “Alleged murder of the president of VHP, Kheda District, by persons belonging to other community”.
One might of course start blaming any possible (I hasten to prefix alleged) provocative slogans uttered by the processionists and by that local VHP leader; but normally, people who start the violence, like throwing stones or committing murder, are held responsible for these acts, and at least partly responsible for the reactive violence which they may trigger. It is humanly quite feasible to listen to objectionable and insulting slogans without having a knee-jerk reaction of throwing bombs. It is a free human decision to react with violence. At worst, slogans can be a reason for violence ; given human freedom, they can never be the cause.
This take excuse of the provocative slogans leading mechanically to stone-throwing and worse, is used routinely by biased reporters. For another example, on October 30 there was a riot in Bijnor, with officially 14 people killed, others say 55. A procession with about 100 women members of Durga Vahini had gone out to the Ghanta Ghar area. “There they raised communal slogans, resulting in stone-pelting and bomb-throwing.”9 This cheap excuse for a pre-planned bomb attack is even contradicted by other information in the same article. Superintendent of Police Praveen Singh arrested Municipal Chairman Javed Aftab Siddiqui, alleged to have masterminded the riot. District Magistrate Ramesh Yadav confirmed that the violence was instigated by J.A. Siddiqui. This case proves that newspapers keep on blaming the slogan-shouters even when it is crystal-clear from their own information that the violence was premeditated and engineered by the other side.
Let’s hear some examples of newspapers inadvertently reporting that Muslims have started riots, in late 1990. On October 29, “members of two communities indulged in heavy brickbatting, stabbing and exchange of fire. The whole trouble started when Kar Sevaks shouting anti-government slogans burnt the effigy of the chief minister, mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav [so far, no-one hurt], and members of the other community objected to this.”10
In Lucknow, BJP people “marched towards Moulviganj shouting slogans. Seeing the frenzied mob advancing towards them the members of the other community took up positions and pelted stones and missiles, resulting in a violent clash.”11
In Bulandshahr, near Aligarh, a bomb factory was discovered when it exploded, due to uncareful handling of the precious factory output. Since many riots, including the big ones of Bhagalpur and Gonda, have started with bomb attacks on processions, many Hindus believe that Muslims have started to manufacture bombs illegally. That may not be a communalist prejudice, for the owner of the factory, who died in the explosion (with three of his friends wounded) had at least a Muslim name.12 In the same mohalla, “nine countrymade bombs and a huge quantity of explosives were recovered”.13
An article titled Anatomy of Carnage reports: “In Ganj Dundwara in Etah, the spark was provided by a minor injury to a Muslim girl caught in a melee of 100-odd two-wheelers escorting BJP MP Uma Bharati.”14 So, this says that the Muslim girl had not been attacked, not even while Uma Bharati was whipping up communal passions, but then the Muslims retaliated to this non-attack by attacking the Hindu crowd. And in Hyderabad, “the latest about of violence broke out after a leader of the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM) was injured on December 5 following a private land dispute. Within minutes of his admission into hospital - [it] was not serious – MIM supporters killed a Hindu traveling in an autorickshaw.” So, the dispute was neither communal nor serious, and then Muslims made it communal and serious by attacking and killing a non-involved Hindu.
While this article lists a number of riots that had a precise local cause, the whole wave of violence is attributed in one sweep to, of course, Ayodhya : “There is no denying that the flames of communal hatred which scorched the towns of Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad were the consequence of state impotence in responding to the message of revenge and hatred that echoed with every frenzied call for a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.”
BJP leader V.K. Malhotra has aptly ridiculed this facile allegation in a speech in the Lok Sabha :“The country has witnessed 2500 riots between 1950 and 1990. Godhra city had communal riots in 1947, 52, 59, 61, 65, 67, 72, 74, 80, 83, 89 and 90. Were all of these caused by the Rathyatra ?” He pointed out that those who were painting a grim picture of the minorities being massacred, were doing a great disservice to the country and giving it a bad name. The fact was that 90% of the people killed in Hyderabad were Hindus. The riots in Delhi (Sadar Bazaar, on November 14) had been engineered by Muslims, as even the Shahi Imam had admitted (even while the report by the Leftist IPF had sophisticatedly blamed economical rivalries and the Congress-I).15 In Sambhal (Moradabad, U.P.) all those killed were Hindus, and yet the BJP was being blamed.
Mr. Malhotra also reminded his colleagues that the ex-chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chenna Reddy, and Andhra opposition leader N.T. Rama Rao had said that the BJP had had no role in the Hyderabad riots. That M.J. Akbar, spokesman of the Congress fact-finding team (some called it a fault-finding team), kept on blaming the BJP, only added to the widespread suspicion that a Congress faction had fomented the riots in order to make Chenna Reddy step down and make room for a Chief Minister more agreeable to the party leadership. The same explanation has also been given for the October riots in Karnataka, which had equally forced a Congress Chief Minister to step down.
On the U.P. riots, Mr. Malhotra said that they had been caused by the inflammatory speeches delivered by the Chief Minister:“It was he who had asked Muslims all over the state to were these irresponsible utterances that caused the trouble in that state.”16
We may conclude that the whole business of blaming Hindu organizations and political parties has little to do with the actual responsibility. While this dirty and futile game may be forgiven to politicians, it is unacceptable from newsman and independent intellectuals. But it is not only the automatical blaming of the Hindutva organization that has lost its credibility. The blaming of politicians in general only touches the surface of the problem. It is quite possible that the Congress has used communal riots in order to get its own Andhra and Karnatka chief ministers replaced; and if is not true, at least some other party-political ploys are surely behind some of the riots. But then, that is only possible because a riotproneness already characterizes the communal co-existence in India. The unscrupled and cynical use of communal friction by politicians is bad enough, but this problem is just a parasite on the more fundamental problem: the communalism inherent in India’s Hindu-Muslim relation.
11.4 Muslims and the police
The mutual enmity between the Muslim community and the police is a well-known feature of India’s communal friction. Both parties say the other one always starts. This is what newspaper reports say: “A head constable was killed in an assault in Mirzapur area [of Ahmedabad] while a brother of a constable was stabbed to death in Gomitpur area. Another person was also killed in stabbing… The head constable was stoned to death by a group of rioting mob…”17 Whatever the name of you-known-which community that stabs and stones policemen and their family members: at any rate, the police clearly have a point when they claim they are often put in a situation of pure self-defense.
In the Hyderabad violence,“police were finding it difficult to enforce curfew in the lanes and by-lanes of the [predominantly Muslim] Old City. People on the roof-tops were pelting stones on the police. On Friday morning, about 200 people gathered… at around 11a.m. and began pelting stones at the houses of members belonging to one [i.e.Hindu] community, besides indulging in stabbing, looting and torching houses and shop. to quell this mob,police opened fire…resulting in the death of one person and injuries to three others. In view of the seriousness of the situation, police clamped curfew at around 12.30 p.m… By this time, nearly 15 persons had been stabbed.”18
In Aligarh, “miscreants spread the rumour that two constables had been stabbed by AMU student”. These terrible rumour-mongers fortunately had it all wrong: “Senior officials, however, said that the two constable were only beaten up with hockey sticks”. Ah, so the aversion of Muslim students for policemen is not that bad after all. Even more reassuring is the explanation given by the AMU vice-chancellor, prof.M.N.Farooqi: “The students have formed vigilance groups. One such group stopped two or three constables when they were entering the university in plain clothes. And a fight ensued.”19 After stating that the AMU vigilance groups routinely beat up people dressed in plain clothes, he doesn’t add what would have been the procedure if they had been in uniform. Stabbing instead of hockey sticks?
In fairness, Hindu students of BHU have also taken on the police, albeit only with some stone-throwing, and only after being provoked by a ban on the demonstration they wanted to take out against the Aligarh killings. A lathicharge was enough to control the situation, and on one got killed.
In Aligarh however, the situation must have been very grim for the policemen, for they went to the unusual length of not resuming duty on October 13, after their two colleagues had been attacked. These attacks had by far not been the only ones, and now the policemen were not even allowed to defend themselves anymore. That at least is pro-Muslim. “So he has ordered us not fire on them even as we are being attacked by them every day. We can’t even fire in self-defense.” The policemen even quoted him as saying: Go die, but don’t kill.20
A BJP spokesman said that the violence in Aligarh had started when a Friday mob [i.e. coming from the mosque] assaulted a policeman and snatched his rifle. “The violence spread to other areas of town including AMU, which has always been a hotbed of communalism.” The BJP spokesman, J.P.Mathur, also alleged that in Badaun two boys were caught throwing a bomb at a mosque and turned out to be Muslims: a genuine case of provocation. He also reported that a murderous assault had been made on BJP MP Uma Bharati, known for her fiery Ayodhya speeches.21
Another version of the Aligarh eruption says that on December 7, “some youths came out of a mosque after the Friday prayers and confronted a PAC picket in the Kotwali area. From all accounts the PAC overreacted, and thus began an orgy of violence…” Thus ? We have not been told anything precise about how it began. What does confronted mean ? Further on in the article, about the same incident we read that ” when the PAC men were confronted by the Muslim youths, they first fired plastic bullets but resorted to firing when three of their men, including the senior superintendent of police, were injured.”22 This makes sufficiently clear that the PAC had a point when they invoked self-defense as a legitimate ground for firing.
Nevertheless Muslim leaders and secularists go on blaming the police Local Congress leader Haji Nooruddin said :“Had the police shown a little more restraint, the slogan-shouting youths would have dispersed without any major damage.” From the reports, it is clear that the Muslims youths attacked the police. But even if Haji Nooruddin is right in equating this attack with mere, we may remind him that according to Muslim and secularist commentators, slogan-shouting mechanically and irremediably (and therefore, excusably) provokes bomb-throwing or other lethal reactions. So these Muslim youths who confronted the police, even if it had been with mere slogans, should not complain ; just like the Hindu processionists who get killed by Muslim bombs without any secularist editorial to weep for them.
Janata Dal leader Ajit Singh reportedly charged the PAC with collusion [with the Hindus] and has questioned its presence “in a cent per minority locality in Aligarh”. And he attributed the violence to Uma Bharati’s speeches and L.K. Advani’s Rathyatra. With that “he indirectly admits that the minority community was provoked to attack first”, comments reader Sahil Brelvi. [^171] And he adds a report of another riot : “I was in Bareilly on December 7 and the facts ascertained from authentic sources and reported widely in the local newspapers point to a pre-planned mischief by the minority community, in collusion with the Janata Dal and the Left parties to teach a lesson to the VHP. The trouble started immediately after Friday prayers when the mob fanned out on a killing spree in all directions shouting jihad. One crusader snatched the rifle of a policeman on duty signaling the trouble and punitive action by the police.” If Muslim bomb-throwing has to be glossed over on the ground that it was provoked by slogans, then why all this uproar about police action which, after all, has merely been provoked by jihad ?
So, rather than blaming the police, mr. Ajit Singh and many other secularists should answer mr. Brelvi’s questions : “Why the communal trouble starts on Fridays after jama prayers, as in Aligarh, Hyderabad and elsewhere ? How can the police succeed in flushing out the illegal arms and check the attackers without being posted on the troubled spot ? Why is it that illegal arms are mostly recovered from minority areas ?” M. Brelvi also makes short work of the reports blaming the PAC :“Not long ago in Meerut, the earlier reports of PAC ‘excesses’ in Maliana on the minority community were found baseless, when handgrenades and bullets with Pakistan Ordnance Factory markings were recovered by the same PAC.”
And this is what happened in Kanpur on December 12 :“In a major flare-up on Wednesday, armed mobs came on the roads in curfew-bound areas on Chamanganj and Beconganj following provocative speeches on loudspeakers mounted atop some religious places, and mounted an attack on a police picket at the Phoolmati trisection and surrounded the Heerman ka Purwa police outpost. According to [director-general of police] dr. R.P. Mathur, the police personnel facing the threat of being lynched or murdered, opened fire resulting in the death of four rioters and dispersal of others.”23 So it is true that the police has killed Muslims. The statistics will correctly say that more Muslims than Hindus got killed : four to zero (though elsewhere in town some Hindus got stabbed to death). Yet, they have no one to blame but themselves.
So, there is no truth in the picture given by secularist commentators, that the PAC decided one day to start a genocide against the poor and defenseless Muslim community. That is not to say that police crimes and atrocities have never occurred.24 But they cannot completely explain the systematic attack on the PAC by Muslim goondas on the streets and by secularists in the press.
A better explanation can be found in the statement by a Muslim leader to Tavleen Singh : “Once Muslim feel that the state is not going to protect them and they are on their own, it is only a question of time before they start doing what the Sikhs are doing in Punjab. As it is, when we visit a town after a communal riot, people say : if the police wasn’t there, we could take the Hindus on.”25 The militant Muslim want the PAC out of the way, to have their hands free.
And this is what Imam Bukhari has said : “We will look after ourselves. Let there be a direct confrontation between communal forces. The world will witness the battle, but let the police forces keep out.”26 A section of the Students Islamic Movement (SIM) threatened direct action if a fresh attempt was made to touch the Babri Masjid.27 Syed Shahabuddin declared that he could understand the young Muslim who had told him : “Let us blow up this bridge, let us do something. If the state can kill us, we have the right to rebel against it.”28
On December 18, 1990, prominent members of the Indian Union Muslim League submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, demanding, among many other things, the disbanding of the PAC and the constitution of a special anti-riot force with 30% Muslims. This more-than-proportional grip on the police is really the punch line. The demand to just get the police out of the way (voiced by Imam Bukhari and by Tavleen Singh’s spokespersons) will not be readily conceded, so the next best thing is to get a friendly police. Of course, Muslim demands for a more-than-proportional reservation in a number of sectors of society were a central feature of pre-independence Muslim League politics, and we know to what it has led.29
N.S. Saxena has devoted a two-part article to Riots in U.P. the questions.30 He attacks the cheap explanations and cheap solution proposals that are being repeated again and again in the press as well as on the Lok Sabha floor. Thus, no matter how crude and inflammatory the rhetoric of Mulayam may have been, it has not pushed the number of riots and riot victims spectacularly higher than in other years. Under Mulayam’s predecessors, U.P. was about equally riot-prone. Similarly, Advani’s rathyatra, if at all a factor, has also not managed to make much of a difference. After all, U.P. was already riot-prone under the totally different administration in unpartitioned British India.
If we look for other factors that are now falsely mentioned as decisive, but that have not made a difference in the past, we see that in the ten years preceding independence, the percentage of Muslims in the U.P. police was 30 to 35%, and yet there were hundreds of riots every year. The insecurity among Muslims was so big that they opted for the creation of Pakistan. In the communal-riot-free year 1970, Muslims formed only 2% in the PAC.
SO, the solution for communal violence lies not in a communalist recruitment policy (reservations for Muslims in the police). The most immediate need is that all people guilty of communal violence in any of its stages be brought to book without exception. If riot-mongers do land in jail, they may not start again, and it may deter their colleagues. Also, riot investigation reports should be taken serious, instead of ending in a drawer. On the basis of real impartisan investigation (instead of these partisan fact-finding missions with their all too convenient conclusions) and court proceedings, fingers must also be pointed at the culprits behind the scene. The cloud around the communal identity of both killers and victims should go. Now, everyone thinks his community has suffered worst. There are even Muslims who believe that riots are mostly started by Hindus, and Muslim communalists actually stage dharnas to protest the communal violence which they themselves have fomented, without feeling ridiculous. At any rate, the truth must be told, the causes of the riots diagnosed without secretiveness, and the culprits should bear the consequences through judicial prosecution.
11.5. Who starts ?
One phase of the 1990 Aligarh violence was the attack on a train on December 8. “Four passengers were killed when a 600-strong mob stopped the Gomti Express at Daud Khan near Aligarh, stoned the train and set on fire the Second Class bogey in which the passengers were traveling. Five passengers were also injured.”31 The unofficial death toll was eleven. I have it from one of the passengers in that ill-fated train, that the attackers were a Muslim mob. Papers reported tellingly that an earlier attack on a train had been attempted “close to a Muslim locality”.32
The violence on November 7 had started, according to a Frontline report, with “an attack on a group of people bound for Etah from the house of Manawwar Hussain, ex-chairman of the Nagar Palika, and from a nearby Masjid. A similar incident was reported on November 16”.33 The police has lodged a criminal case against mr. Hussain.
We may as well continue to read this report :“On December 4, the motorcade of the BJP MP, Uma Bharati, who was supposed to address a public meeting, was reportedly attacked from the house of Manawwar Hussein… Trouble started again on December 7 when some PAC men were attacked by a group of people belonging to the minority community while returning from a masjid in the Upper Court area. One of them snatched the rifle of a PAC jawan and stabbed him. The jawan’s colleague who tried to save him, was also attacked. Bombs were reportedly thrown on the PAC men who retaliated by opening fire killing some of the assailants. The news spread like fire and clashes between the two communities began.”
The same report quotes the vice-chancellor of AMU, Mohammed Nasim Farooqi, who traces the violence to the Ram Janmabhoomi issue :“It is wrong to say that the minority community had a hand in the violence. Why should they be insecure when they are in the mainstream of public life ?” He mistakenly links riot starting with the secularist concept of “insecurity among the minorities”, as the standard explanation if not justification for all kinds of anti-social behaviour.34 Instead of denying the proven facts of the Muslim initiative in every single round of the Aligarh violence, he should question his own dogma (now contradicted by the facts) that the secure Aligarh Muslims are incapable of starting riots ; this at least is what a man of scientific temper would do.
This report I have been quoting, was published in a secularist paper, and the reporter is in sympathy with the anti-PAC elements, as will be clear from the italicized words: “The people’s hatred for the PAC knows no bounds. They have been demanding for a long time that the PAC be removed”. But PAC men aver that once they go out the town would go up in flames. “The PAC’s presence is as good as its absence’, said one of the saner elements in the town.” Our reporter, K. Kannan, thinks that the aversion against the communalized PAC has somehow remained uncommunalized, and that it is the people who want them to go. In fact, it is just the Muslims and the secularists who want to expel or disband the PAC.
So, here we have one more case of a press report giving facts that just don’t allow any other explanation than that Muslims started the violence, and yet it ends with supporting the Muslim demands and blaming the police. While such a single case does not give a conclusive picture of who is most riot-prone, it does prove the tendency in the press to gloss over Muslim violence and to blame those who get blamed by the Muslims be they the police or L.K. Advani.
Let us formulate a working hypothesis for further research. Not using any esoteric information, just carefully reading the newspaper reports, I think there are strong indications that riots are in a majority of cases started by Muslims, often after Friday prayers ; that Hindus commit large-scale reactive violence, mostly against weaker and less organized Muslim communities; and that the high incidence of confrontations between police and Muslims is also often started by Muslims, so that the police perceives its own action as self-defense.
These provisional conclusions are based on a limited number of cases. So they can be amended once positive proof for alternative generalizations is offered (but not earlier). However, these few riot reports and comments have furnished some striking cases of blatant distortion sneaking in on the way from news to views. When the report left no ambiguity about Muslims having started a riot, still the editorial (or even the peculiar terminology in the riot report) would blame the Hindus or the police.
If taken seriously, the systematic blaming of the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign for all the riots should make us very happy. Because, if all the riots are caused by this one factor, then that means that there are no longer any riots being caused by all the other factors that used to cause riots in the past. So, most riot factors have been eliminated : remove this one Ram factor, and there will be communal harmony. Unfortunately, the secularist blame Ram explanation has little to do with the real forces behind the continuing communal violence in India.
11.6. Riot strategy
As for the latter-stage attacks by Hindu goondas on innocent Muslim villagers, which took place in the huge riots of Bhagalpur 1989 and Gonda 1990, both in reaction to the initial attack by Muslims on a Hindu procession, these are equally hideous crimes as the original attack on the procession. But the responsibility for this stage of violence is shared with those who created the entire riot in the first place. For, there is a system in the seeming madness of Muslims starting a riot in which they know Muslims will be killed.
Syed Shahabuddin has once rhetorically asked how people could believe that riots are most often started by Muslims, when in fact substantially more Muslims get killed in riots than Hindus. Indeed, such suicidal behaviour needs a good explanation. The paradox only exists when we accept Syed Shahabuddin’s communalist assumption that it is the Muslims who get killed in riots. In reality, there are two very distinct groups of people involved: those who start riots, and those who bear the consequences.
Goondas have of course their own imponderable reasons for creating trouble. But the assumption we must make in order to make sense of crimes such as the communal riots, is that those who commit them expect some real benefit from them. Now the benefit that communalist politicians may expect from a riot in which people of their own community get killed, is quite substantial. It makes the ordinary people, who have no specific animosity against people of the other community, perceive the latter as the enemy. You thereby strengthen their feeling of being a community, in which the members have to depend on each other against a hostile environment. This can go as far as a physical migration from mixed neighbourhoods to pure ones. Moreover, you make them feel they need a strong protector: in politics the communalist MP or MLA, on the ground his goonda gang.
This scenario is not a hypothetical construction. It has been staged on a very large scale in 1946, when the Muslim League felt that it was not yet sufficiently supported by the common Muslims, and that the Hindus had not yet unambiguously conceded Pakistan. To convince the former that only the Muslim League and Pakistan could protect them, and to terrorize the latter into the big concession, the Muslim League government in Bengal organized a mass killing of Hindus (the Direct Action Day). They knew fully well that the Hindus would end up retaliating by killing innocent Muslims. Upon which more Muslims would kill Hindus, etc. The important effect was that Muslims suffered at the hands of the Hindus , lost all faith in co-existence with them, and joined hands with the communalist leaders. The pogroms against the Hindus caused a lot of deaths among the Muslim population, but for the Muslim League this brought resounding success.35
This scenario is being repeated on a small scale in many of the communal riots in independent India. When in these riots Muslims get killed, it is at least partly owing to a design by another class of Muslims.
What makes creating riots even more attractive, is the sympathy you get for them from secularist politicians and intellectuals. When the Muslim League killed thousands of Hindus in Calcutta, Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru looked the other way. But when Hindu workers staying in Calcutta fled to their villages in Bihar and started killing Muslims there, the same Nehru proposed to bomb those villages from the air. When Hindus got killed, he didn’t move a finger, but the killing of Muslims was enough to blow off his Gandhian facade and make him demand indiscriminate killing. When mass killing accompanied the Partition, mass killings which both sides equally committed, and for which the ultimate responsibility lay with those who had wanted Partition in the first place, communist writer Bhishma Sahni wrote the novel Tamas, in which the Hindus are painted as the villains.
When today Muslim goondas create a riot in Bhagalpur or in Gonda, the secularist press will obscure this beginning (in both cases bombs thrown from Muslim establishments at Hindu processions) and highlight the ensuing Hindu part of the violence. Some M.J. Akbar will poignantly describe the suffering of some Muslim villagers, and then blame the atmosphere created by the Rathyatra in some distant town, without even mentioning that the riot started with a pre-planned armed attack on a Hindu procession. That is how the secularists assure communal riot-mongers double fun : first the proper aim of the riot is achieved, and then on top of that, your very enemies are covered with abuse for provoking the riot.
Not only do you gain on the propaganda front, the press may even come out in support of your demands. For some time, Muslim communalists have demanded a ban on processions. More than 95% of religious processions are Hindu processions anyway, for processions are a thoroughly Pagan practice which in Islam can only be a heterodox oddity. Now, on 14 November 1990, Muslim communal groups together with Sikh communal groups took out a demonstration through Delhi’s Sadar Bazaar, and went violent, killing several people. Oddly, the next day several editorials opined that this spate of violence proved the need for a ban on processions. The violent demonstration was a sadbhavana yatra, a goodwill march. It was of course no procession, in fact it had nothing to do with religion (it was neither a Sikh nor a Muslim festival, and they don’t have common festivals anyway). And yet, the secularists have made it an occasion for support to the Muslim communalists’ long-standing demand for a ban on Hindu processions.
With its distorted representations of communal riots, with its guarantee to Muslim communalists that they will never get the full load of exposing and condemnation which they deserve, the secularist press, for all its bla-bla about communal harmony, is effectively giving a measure of encouragement to riot-fomenters.
11.7. A case study in riot comment
For one more example of secularist analysis of the riot problem, let us take a look at the article Making a Lebanon of India? by Prem Shankar Jha.36 The article’s object is to show that the more compromising position of the new Chandra Shakhar government towards the Ram Janmabhoomi campaigners, has been the cause of more communal riots than V.P. Singh’s and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s confrontationist policy had been (P.S. Jha had been V.P. Singh’s spokesman). It advocates a hard stand against the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and all that goes with it.
“For four years, the VHP has sown the wind of communal hatred. We are now reaping the whirlwind. In a sustained blast of propaganda, each and every real or fancied grievance of the Hindus has been pulled out of the closet and aired till it has begun to look respectable.” For almost a century, Muslim communal groups have been articulating their demands mostly in terms of grievances. If four years can make us reap a whirlwind, what about forty years, or ninety ? For more than a thousand years, every Muslim has been drilled in the belief that all non-Muslims are his enemies, that he should fight them, because Allah has said so dozens of times in the Quran and the Prophet has set this example. If four years of propaganda can make us reap a whirlwind, what about a thousand years ?
Here come the real or fancied Hindu grievances. Referring to an article by mr. K.R. Malkani, member of the BJP national executive, mr. Jha sums up : “India was partitioned on Muslim insistence. India is having to spend thousands of crores of rupees every year on defending itself against ‘Islamic’ Pakistan. Every census shows a Muslim population growth well above the national average. They would not agree to a uniform civil law, commended by the Constitution. The Muslim would not agree to the relocating of a mosque or grave – to widen a road or right an old wrong – something common in Muslim countries. And on top of all this, they are complaining all the time.” This propaganda it is, that has been causing communal riots, according to mr. Jha.
Actually, each of the contentions made by mr. Malkani, are pure fact. Of course India was partitioned on Muslim insistence, no amount of history-rewriting can change that. Of course this partition and the immediate invasion by Pakistan in Kashmir, has forced India to spend a lot on defense. It is a fact verifiable from the census figures that the percentage of Muslims has been constantly rising since 1881, in British India, in Pakistan, in India, and in Bangla Desh, in each of these states and in each decade without exception.37 It is a fact that the leaders of the Muslim community, supported by many secularists, have defended the Shariat as the sole Muslim personal law, and go on refusing the implementation of the constitutional recommendation of a common civil code. It is a fact that in at least one case, the Muslims have been refusing the relocation of a mosque structure. And it is a fact that they are complaining all the time, witness the papers of each of the Muslims parties big and small.
In this complaining, they are supported by secularists like mr. Jha. Further down he writes : “Muslims too have their grievances against the majority community, several of which have far more substance than those articulated by mr. Malkani.” Personally, I think that mr. Malkani has not even mentioned the most serious grievances of the Hindus. Anyway, let’s hear those of the Muslims.
Muslims are poor, under-represented in the bureaucracy, the armed forces and the private corporate sector, over-represented in unemployment, and very vulnerable to the effects of riots when self-employed as craftsmen or shopkeepers.
These are grievances, but are they “grievances against the majority community” ? Where Muslims live together with other communities, they are often the poorer community, even if they are in power and declare an Islamic republic. In Malaysia, the non-Muslim Chinese are far better off than the Muslim Malays. In Egypt, the Copts are a prosperous business community, though they often live in fear of the poorer Muslim majority. Muslim poverty in India is largely due to factors unrelated to the Hindus, such as large families, little education (these two are related), and the fact that many rich Muslims in 1947 chose Pakistan. It is a socialist mistake that economic inequality is the “fault” of the government (here assumed to be a largely Hindu government).
The educational backwardness of the Muslims is again not the fault of the Indian Constitution and laws, which give all due safeguards and even privileges, it is not the fault of other communities. But the educational backwardness itself is the single largest factor in the Muslims’ underrepresentation in the bureaucracy and the corporate private sector, and their high unemployment rate. That it is not the Hindus who keep the minority underrepresented in any sphere, can be proven from the situation of the other minorities : Sikhs are quite over-represented in government and army posts, Christians in education, Parsis and Jains in business.
That Muslim shopkeepers are very vulnerable during riots, is a fact. It also counts for Hindu shopkeepers. But I agree with mr. Jha that Muslim craftsmen and traders have been singled out for attacks and destruction of their trade equipment in many communal riots, the motive being more economical than communal.
Now the riots themselves. Mr. Jha says that Rajasthan hardly knew any riots until October 1989. The blame is of course on the VHP. They came in with their propaganda “in preparation of the centenary year of dr. Hedgewar, founder of the RSS”, so before 1989. They were followed by Muslim activists who “began to sensitize the Muslim masses of the threat that the Ram Janmabhoomi posed to their religion”. Can you believe it ? This secularist is repeating, without any distancing or questioning, the BMAC claim that Islam is in danger due to the Ram Janmabhoomi ; a danger to which the Muslim masses have to be sensitized. Anyway, these Muslim activists began arriving as late as 1988. And by the time they were all there, in 1989, the communal riots started.
Then mr. Jha sets out to disprove the Hindu assumption that nine out of ten riots are started by Muslims.38 He gives the list of communal clashes between 1 p.m. of 29 October, and 6 p.m. of 30 October, a time-span of 29 hours. No doubt he carefully selected a time favourable to his case. He could have chosen any of the days of the Hyderabad carnage, or any Friday, to disprove his own suggestion that Hindus are more riot-prone. But no, mr. Jha wants to pull our attention away from those more representative occasions, and towards this one day when he counted more Hindu than Muslim violence.
In different places in Karnataka, four Muslims were attacked, one of whom died, some Muslim property was set on fire, an attempt to damage a mosque was stopped by the police, and an Idgah was damaged. A one-sided struggle, indeed, but no proof that Hindus are just as good at starting trouble : communal violence had been going on in the state, not too intense but rather widespread, for most of October. Mr. Jha has merely selected a time when it was the Hindus’ turn.
In Andhra, a person was assaulted, and a workshop belonging to a Muslim was burnt. Since Muslims are named as such, can we make an inference about the religion of the person ? Further, a Muslim was killed and an Idgah and a Dargah attacked. Then follow a number of explosions and acts of arson not specified as to community, which experienced readers tend to see as a strong pointer in a certain direction.
In Jaipur, a Hindu succumbed to his injuries, stones were thrown at a mosque, a Muslim was assaulted, a Muslim’s shop set on fire. Alleged BJP/VHP workers set four (empty) State buses on fire. A Muslim was stabbed and two Dargahs desecrated.
In Ahmedabad, police had to open fire, killing a Hindu. A mosque was damaged, two Muslims set on fire, of whom one died. In Baroda, two bodies of Hindus were recovered. “Two Muslims were Killed and four injured in police firing”, an event bracketed with an anonymous “spate of stabbing, mercifully not fatal” (the toning-down and the anonymity are unmistakable pointers). Elsewhere, “the police had to open fire on another mob, and one Hindu was killed”. When Hindus get killed, it is because the police had no choice but to fire on the mob. But when a Muslim gets killed, it is a different story : “No one needs to be reminded of the outrage committed on Muslims by the PAC in Meerut, Bhagalpur, or now in Aligarh”. About Aligarh, I have fairly complete information, and it is quite clear that the PAC was the target of unsolicited attack by Muslim mobs on several occasions.
I cannot check the correctness and especially the completeness of this overview of a day of riots. Though following the national press closely, including the paper in which mr. Jha’s article appeared, I have not heard of a number of these incidents. But I have heard of ten or so more people killed (and an unknown number injured) in communal violence during the 29 hours under consideration, in a very well-known incident : the shooting of unarmed Kar Sevaks in Ayodhya by the infantry of the ruling secularist sect, around noon on 30 October. In spite of mr. Jha’s attempt to conceal it, most victims on his chosen day were Hindus, not Muslims. Apart from that, one cannot fail to notice that mr. Jha’s interpretation of what happened and the terminology he uses, are far from neutral.
“Throughout the weeks that preceded the Kar Seva, the pattern had remained unvarying from day to day. While miscreants of both communities were active, the majority of the attacks took place on Muslims. There was a pattern to the sustained provocation: mosque were attacked, Idgahs and Dargahs desecrated, provocative and insulting slogans shouted, until mayhem broke loose.” Like so many times before, a secularist builds up this pre-riot crescendo, all the way up to the provocative slogans stage, and then disappoints the reader by hiding in a cloud of impersonal vagueness :Mayhem broke loose. What does he have to hide ? If the slogans were provocative, does it mean that they effectively provoked violence ? In that case, the implication would be that the violence came from the other side. And that is precisely what so many riot reports suggest : when Hindus appear in public and do something that some Muslim care to consider provocative, they get a violent welcome.
And in fact, mr. Jha almost concedes as much. If not in October, then certainly in December. He says that the Muslim youth “have slipped the leash of their elders, and decided, as they see it, to defend themselves. The lumpen and the criminals belonging to the Muslims have therefore come into their own. That is why the death toll is so high now. For unlike October, both sides are now [mid-December] indulging in retributory murder.”
According to mr. Jha, the reason for the increasing resort to armed struggle among the Muslim youth, is that the unflinching defense of the Babri Masjid by V.P. and Mulayam, had been replaced with a policy of “compromise with Hindu communalism”. Chandra Shekhar was in effect pressuring the Muslims into giving up the Babri Masjid, or so it seem to these Muslim youngsters.
And now that he was working out a compromise, rather than taking a 100% pro-Muslim and 100% anti-Hindu stand, the country will have to face the consequences :“Worse, far worse, is yet to come. Hot-heads among the Muslim youth are already saying that the only way to deal with the PAC is with AK-47s. They are talking of dying with honour rather than waiting to be extinguished. The search for Ak-47s may well have begun, and the first signs of a link-up with Sikh extremists have already appeared.”
So, the Janmabhoomi campaign is not taking India towards Ram Rajya, but towards “another Lebanon, Cyprus or Ethiopia, a country torn apart by unending civil war”. Incidentally, the comparisons are telling. In Lebanon, the civil war started as an attempt by the Christians to stop the progressive take-over of their country by the Palestinians (who had tried this before in Jordan, but had been driven out). In Cyprus, it started with a Muslim demand for a partition and a larger-than-proportionate piece of the territory, which they got, by force. Ethiopia is more complex, involving Communist as well as Muslim separatism in Eritrea and a decade of Communist misrule and oppression.
But let us mention the more straightforward case of Sudan, which mr. Jha somehow overlooked even though it is as much tormented by communal violence as Lebanon is. In Sudan, a Muslim majority in the North has imposed the Shariat on the non-Muslim South. Faced with this Islamic oppression, the non-Muslim Dinkas and other peoples in the South want a separate secular state. With Lybian aid, the Muslim North fights an all-out war to keep the South down. When Muslims are in a minority, they want partition; but when it is a non-Muslim minority that wants a separate state, the Muslim rulers don’t let their booty escape.
What is the practical conclusion of this article ? Does it condemn the people who take up arms because they don’t like a political compromise on Ayodhya worked out by a democratic government ? No, it wants the Hindus to make the concessions demanded by those who threaten with Ak- 47s. Mr. Jha writes in his conclusion that “the only way to tackle communalism is to tackle it head on, never, never compromise with it… Compromising with the aggressor gives him legitimacy… Thus, paradoxically, compromise hardens positions, increases self-righteousness, and raises the level of violence in society.” I agree with him, but for me that implies the opposite of what it implies for him. He thinks it means no compromise with a basically non-violent mass-movement for the symbolic redress of an old crime, systematically inflicted on Hindu society by invaders who came with the medieval equivalents of AK-47s. For him, it also means a pre-emptive compromise with those who may take to the AK- 47 in the near future, in order to deal with the police force and the majority community.
In my opinion, an essential part of any successful anti-riot policy is that no compromise whatsoever is made with those who start or threaten riots. If they find they can extract concessions by starting or threatening riots, they are encouraged to continue and perfect this strategy. It must be made clear to riot-mongers that their strategy will not yield them anything. The Shah Bano decision, the ban on The Satanic Verses and other books, the non-recognition of the Hindu rights over Ram Janmabhoomi, have all been obtained by Muslim extremists by means of actual or threatened agitation. All these concessions to extremist threats have encouraged the same extremists to continue stoking violence for new demands.
In autumn 1990, they knew perfectly well that riots would be used by the secularist press to blacken the BJP/VHP and to intensify its opposition against the Ram Mandir. When we see who gets systematically blamed by the press and the politicians for any and every riot, then we know who has no objective interest in fomenting riots. And when we see who gets all the sympathy, and the support for their demands, whenever riots occur, we know who has an objective interest in continuing the riots.
A very good illustration is the next and very important demand of the Muslim communalists : a larger than proportionate reservation for Muslims in the army and the police. With every clash between Muslims and the PAC, we see secularists plead for the disbanding of the PAC, and the granting of reservations of the Muslims (the minorities, as they say), either in the existing forces or in a new anti-riot force, amounting to some 25% or even 30%. In other words, we see those who started the carnage in Bhagalpur ‘89, in Gonda ‘90, in Aligarh ‘90, in Hyderabad ‘90, being rewarded with secularist support for their demands, and more support with every riot.
11.8. Hindu riots
For good measure, I must not let the Hindu riot-mongers go scot-free either. In the typical riot cases where Hindus merely react to attacks by some Muslims, it is certainly possible to keep the quantity of violent revenge at a lower level than is now the case. If the Hindu organizations, when a communal crisis breaks out, immediately apply themselves to limiting the damage, immediately move in to calm people down and to effectively prevent the anti-social elements in their own ranks from attacking Muslims, then the death toll could be far lower. I have so far never heard from a Hindu activist being thrown out of these Hindu organizations for irresponsible and violent behaviour. Yet, such miscreants certainly exist, and if the RSS etc. fail to stop them or to formally punish them, these organizations are co-responsible.
A plea which these Hindu organizations often make, is that goondas with no affiliation to the VHP, RSS or BJP, merely use the riot, after others have started it, to get their share of looting and raping. I cannot judge in what percentage of the cases that this was what happened39, but suppose that it really goes like that. Even then a determined move to restore order and discipline within all sections of the local Hindu community would make a substantial difference. That this is not being done on anything like a sufficient scale, is clear to me from the fact that the apologetic literature40 of the RSS, while making a rather strong case for this organization’s non-riot-prone character, does hardly say anything about the constructive role they have or have not played in the process of stopping the violence once it has started, or in the healing process afterwards.41
In my opinion, the virginity which the RSS spokesmen claim concerning the start of riots, and their unimpressive record (relative to their numbers and level of discipline and organization) in actively intervening to stop violence against Muslims42, are the result of one and the same fact concerning the RSS: it is not a militant organization of vanguard troopers (as they are portrayed by some secularists who like to clamour about Hindu fascism), but an organization of quite ordinary people, shopkeepers and schoolboys, who have no inclination to start real fights or to enter the battlefield once the fight has started, even as peace-makers.
While RSS workers are killed by the dozens by the Khalistani terrorists (and/or by Pakistani provocateurs dressed as Sikhs), we never hear of any violent retaliation. This lack of retaliation is not just because of a policy of not aggravating tension between Sikh Hindus and other Hindus, but simply because the RSS doesn’t have the capability to strike. Incidentally, this frustrates the Khalistani and Pakistani calculations : believing the secularist propaganda about the RSS as a fascist militia ready to terrorize the minorities, they had hoped to get another Direct Action Day going, with mutual killing of common Hindus and Sikhs.
Apart from reactive violence against Muslim attacks, the Hindu groups cannot disown some cases of unprovoked aggression on their own part. While the Rathyatra had been peaceful, mr. Advani’s arrest was the occasion for a more grim and militant line of action on the part of BJP workers. In Jaipur, the Bharat bandh on October 24 generated a series of riots.
As any communist or trade-unionist can tell you, a strike is seldom a collectively voluntary action. Most often, a motivated minority forces the strike on the majority. In the Bharat bandh also, the BJP workers went around the city to check that all the shopkeepers downed their shutters. According to their own explanation, a shopkeeper refused to comply with their demand that he close his shop, took out a gun and shot at them. And that was the beginning of a week of communal violence. If one analyzes the responsibility, one might say that the demand to close shop was an encroachment on the shopkeeper’s constitutional rights : already more of a provocation than the legitimate though insensitive use of free speech to utter provocative slogans. That doesn’t justify the use of firearms yet.
The readiness to retaliate against the most defenseless classes among the Muslims, in reaction to well-planned Muslim goonda violence, betrays that trait stereotypically attributed by Muslims to Hindus : cowardice (not that the Islamic behaviour of throwing bombs at processions is all that courageous). But it also betrays two things about which the Hindu organizations can readily do something : despair, and a lack of education. It is out of despair that people attack just whoever they can get, feeling that they can not leave the Muslim attacks without a fitting reply.
This irrational tendency to take revenge on just anyone belonging to the Muslim community, can only be cleared away through education. The short-term necessity in solving the riot problem is a more effective police force and most of all an effective judicial prosecution of the culprits (which implies breaking through the nexus of politicians and criminals). But the long-term necessity for reducing the communal violence is education.
I don’t mean education with moralistic campaigns to tell them not to do such ugly things, sadbhavana yatras and human chains for communal amity : those things only convince the already-convinced, and they have no impact once a crisis breaks out. What Hindu leaders should teach their followers (and first of all imprint on their own minds), is that the Muslims are not to blame for communal violence. Even when it is established that a far more than proportionate amount of the communal violence emanates from Muslim quarters, it should still be upheld as dogma that he Muslim people are not to blame.
“The Muslims” are just people like the rest of us, but they happen to be open to the influence of the Quranic ideology propagated by Islamic religious personnel. In fact, the common Muslim is hardly aware of Islamic theology. For him, being a Muslim means being what he himself is. And for his, the Muslim are not so much the followers of Mohammed, but simply the community to which he belongs. And he will intensify his bond with his community whenever it is in confrontation, offensively or defensively, with another community. Not because of a theology of Momins vs. Kafirs, but out of a natural tribal instinct. Unfortunately, there are leaders who take these common people with them, in actions inspired by this theology of which the common people know so little.
The common Hindu has so often heard of or been confronted with Muslim violence, that he has come to associate Muslims with violence. On the other hand, he is taught by his leaders to only see the face value of this violence, not the ideology behind it. An RSS man told me that one day Guru Golwalkar gave a speech, saying that Mohammed was a great prophet, and that Islam is a great religion, but that, inconsequentially, the Muslims are big fools. What nonsense : the one thing that defines Muslims as a group, is their adherence to Islam and the Prophet. How can you make a collective allegation against the Muslims if you first praise that which makes them into one collectivity ?
One should look for the reason for the apparently typical Muslim proneness to riots, in that which defines the Muslim collective identity, the Islamic ideology. It would have been more fair, and historically more accurate, to explain Muslim violence by saying that the Muslims are our brethren, but they or their leaders are mentally in the fangs of “Islam, that religion of jihad” created by “Mohammed, that prophet of icon-breaking”. That way, you distinguish between the human and the ideological level, and then you can educate the people and make them see the key formula that will take the sting out of Hindu vengefulness against their Muslim countrymen : the problem is not the Muslims, the problem is Islam.
Of course, once a procession is being attacked, it is too late to say to the crowd :“Hey, don’t attack the Muslims, attack Islamic ideology”. At that time, they are confronted with a physical enemy, and they will react physically. However, in the longer run, some education in comparative religion is the solution, or at least a central part of the solution.
Today, Hindus have to swallow all kinds of negative image-building concerning Hinduism. Islam, by contrast, is depicted as a liberator from inequality, a religion of peace and brotherhood, and more such fictional terms of praise. But then, after being fed all these nice things about Islam, they find that their procession is being attacked by Muslims. This anomaly they cannot understand. So they are left to the immediacy of the situation, and even afterwards they cannot comprehend what happened, as long as they are not informed about Islamic doctrine.
Well, some secularist Swami may tell them that all prophets are great, that it is only their followers who err. In fact, this sweet little lie is the worst contributor to the communal violence on the Hindu side : it is not true that the Muslims err and “mis-apply the teachings of that great prophet Mohammed”. Most of them just follow the lead given by fanatical Imams, and these fanatical Imams can at worst only be blamed for not erring and fully applying the doctrine of the Prophet. So, Hindus should know that these Muslims are only sincerely applying the teachings of the real culprit of most of the communal violence in India : Mohammed.
There is every reason to tell them the truth about Islam. Hinduism should not be painted in rosy colours, but evaluated in a fair and truthful way. The treatment Islam receives, should be the same. Now, a fair and truthful presentation of Islam will include : the absolute inequality of believer and unbeliever, the boundless self-righteousness of the Prophet and the believers who imitate him, the crudely physical nature of the Islamic precepts (the complete lack of a consciousness dimension), the strongly political and anti-secularist objectives of Islam, and the logical absurdity of the very idea of prophethood.
Once this distinction between Muslim human beings and anti-human Islamic doctrine is clear in people’s minds, you can demand from them a Gandhian self-restraint in the face of terrible provocation. When your procession gets attacked, you will still not set the Muslims’ shops on fire. This distinction between the ideas working through some people, who in turn can set entire crowds and gangs in motion, and on the other hand the people themselves, will make a crucial difference.
Secondarily, the curbing of Hindu retaliation will also have its effect on the propagandistic and political front. At present every riot, regardless what the facts and who the victims, is held up as a proof of the rabid and fascist character of the Hindu communal forces who are stirring the communal cauldron. The secularist agitprops should be starved of every semblance of evidence. In this respect, it is better to get killed than to kill.
Or at least, anything is better than to kill innocents. Against terrorists, using force is the most effective way to stop them, because it is the language they understand. But that job should be left to the legitimate security forces.
This work at the level of thought should also deal with the communal attitudes that have crept into Hinduism during its confrontation with the Muslim onslaught. Islamic thought has deeply influenced the Indian intelligentsia, including champions of Hindutva. Thus, Dayananda Saraswati espoused monotheism, denounced idol-worship, and treated the Veda like a revealed, complete and final Scripture. V.D. Savarkar thought that Hindus have to borrow forms of organization and lifestyle from the Muslims in order to overcome them. He has been accused by the secularists (and with him, the entire Hindutva movement) of reducing Hindu identity to an us vs. them pattern of enmity against the Muslims. The secularists correctly denounce such an attitude, while glossing over the fact that this enmity is intrinsic to Islamic doctrine, and has only, crept into Hinduism reactively, during the long self-defense of Hindu society against Islam. Anyway, they do have a point when they perceive this enmity as a strong factor in the current activist Hindu identity.
So, Hindus should weed out these Islamic attitudes of us against them from their thought. Their Hindu identity should not be centered around their attitude towards another doctrine, but on Hinduism’s own genius and effectiveness as a cultural framework for social integration and individual happiness.43 And they should not define people in terms of their communal identity, which is but the Islamic game of judging people on their being Momins or Kafirs, rather than on their merits. Unlike Islam, they should dis-identify and distinguish human being from the religion they profess ; so that, if ever the need arises, they can attack and expose Islamic doctrine without any mental or physical hostilities with the Muslim people.
To sum up, the communal problem in India is largely the Muslim problem, or rather, the Islam problem. Islam is communal through and through, preaching a total abyss between its own community members and the rest of humanity. So, very generally, the cause of communal riots is Islam. The cure is Sanatana Dharma. It teaches that everything is generated by thought. While seemingly a difficult notion, in this context it is very easy to understand : the physical problem of communal riots is but the materialization of communal thinking. This communal thinking should be identified : its most potent and consistent form is the Islamic doctrine of the struggle between Momin and Kafir. Other communalisms like Sikh separatism and the anti-Muslim animus among some Hindu people, are but the indirect effects of this Islamic doctrine. Then, this communal thinking should be removed through dialogue and education. No matter what law and order measures will further be needed before the age of communal riots is over, at any rate it is this work at the level of thought which will ultimately solve the problem.
11.9. Riots in Muslim countries
In order to keep an assessment of riot patterns in perspective, we should compare with the situation in Pakistan and Bangla Desh. The general pattern there is :
- Roughly 100% of Hindu-Muslim riots are started by Muslims.
- Roughly 100% of the victims in the actual communal confrontation are Hindus.
- Those few times the police intervenes, it does have the decency to stop the attackers rather than their fleeing victims, so the vast majority of those killed in police firing on the e occasion of riots, are Muslims. But like in India, the police often fails to intervene, which may get interpreted as a form of passive connivance with the majority community.
The secularist theory that there is no ideological (as opposed to socio-economical) explanation for the different degree of riot-proneness between the different religions, and their denial of this very difference, both fall apart when called on to explain the riot pattern in the Islamic republics that used to be parts of India. If Muslims are not more riot-prone than Hindus, then why do you never ever hear of a Hindu attack on mosques in Bangla Desh, but a lot of the reverse ? Or, for that matter, why not Christian attacks on mosques, even while Christians do get their share of attacks and harassments from the Muslims? In these Muslim-majority countries, communal violence is a completely one-directional affair. Even when Muslims destroyed hundreds of Hindu temples on the pretext of protest against the Shilanyas in Ayodhya, there has not been any report of similar retaliation by the Hindus.
We may safely say that in Bangla Desh, the Muslim participation in the starting of riots, is more than their percentage of the population : about 100% as against some 87%. In Pakistan also, even though Muslims form about 97% (including Ahmadiyas) of the population, they still manage to have an even larger share in the starting of riots.
The secularist theory that whatever slight Muslim over-representation in riot-starting they are willing to concede, is attributable to the insecurity to which Muslims are subjected, can also not hold. Firstly, in India there are minorities who simply don’t start riots (Jains, Parsis), or only few (Christians), and yet they are fewer in number than the Muslims and consequently more insecure. Secondly, in Pakistan, Bangla Desh and Malaysia they have Islamic republics, and still that doesn’t stop them from maltreating the non-Muslims and attacking their places of worship on the slightest pretext. Moreover, within Pakistan there are also a lot of attacks by the majority Sunnis on minority Shias and Ahmadiyas, and that again cannot be attributed to insecurity.
As a general rule, in communal conflicts the world over, you will find majorities attacking minorities, seldom the reverse. Have you ever heard of pre-1940 Jews attacking the German or Polish majorities in Central Europe ? Have you ever heard of the Coptic minority in Egypt attacking the Muslim majority ? They form about 6% of the population, but furnish 0% of the riots and other forms of harassment. And have you ever heard of the Hindu minorities in South Africa, the UK, Singapore, the US, starting riots ?
But in India, you do see one of the minorities on the offensive even where it is clearly outnumbered. Even if their percentage of starting riots was only proportional to their percentage of the population, i.e. about 12% (and no secularist so far has been dishonest enough to suggest this), then that would still be more than what minorities elsewhere, and especially in Islamic countries, would dare to do. It becomes hard to evade the conclusion that there is something in Islamic doctrine that incites people to non-integration and even violent struggle with their neighbours.
The Independent, 7/11/1990. ↩
The Hindu, 8/12/1990. ↩
That it was very certainly Muslims who started the Hyderabad violence can indirectly be derived from the fact that even M.J. Akbar blames “minority extremists” along with the “majority extremists” including the BJP. Both as an investigative journalist and as a Congress spokesman M.J. Akbar has always seen the BJP/RSS-hand behind practically every riot (see his Riot after Riot, Penguin 1988). That standard allegation means nothing. But when even he cannot avoid mentioning minority extremists, you can be sure they were there. ↩
The Statesman, 11/12/1990. Emphasis added. ↩
A Muslim lawyer declared :“Actually the educated Muslims have not been too happy about the tenor of Mulayam Singh’ speeches at his anti-communalism rallies. Such intemperate language can only annoy the Hindus and deepen the Hindu-Muslim divide. We also realize that he is after the Muslim vote. his motives are very suspect.” (cited in The Week, 28/10/1990. ↩
Times of India, 7/10/1990. Emphasis added by Muslim India, which reproduces the article in its 12/1990 issue. ↩
Times of India, 7/10/1990, included in the 12/1990 issue of Muslim India. ↩
Muslim India, 12/1990, p.555. ↩
Samachar Post 3/11/1990. Remark the belief in mantra magic: a slogan is uttered, and hocus pocus, a bomb explodes. ↩
Indian Express, 30/10/1990. Emphasis added. ↩
Indian Express, 30/10/1990. ↩
The name is mentioned in the Patriot, 12/12/1990. ↩
On 11/12/1990, the Censor Board banned the inclusion of a news story on the illegal arms manufacturing in U.P., in the Observer News Channel video magazine. The same day, a team of another video news company, Kalachakra was barred from entering riot-hit Aligarh. ↩
India Today, 15/1/1990. ↩
Reported in Times of India,17/12/1990. ↩
Organiser,6/1/1990.It is unclear whether these are literal quotes. ↩
Times of India, 12/12/1990. ↩
The Hindu,9/12/1990. ↩
Times of India, 14/12/1990. ↩
Policemen also complain that families of riot victims get Rs. one lakh compensation (at least those of autumn 1990 in U.P.), while their own families would get only Rs 20,000. ↩
Reported in Times of India, 12/12/1990. ↩
Times of India, 16/12/1990. ↩
Indian Express, 13/12/1990. ↩
According to Frontline, 22/12/1990, the Hyderabad violence of 1978 was triggered by the rape of a Muslim woman and the killing of her husband in a police station. That may of course not be the entire story, but I am willing to believe that those things which in history have been done on a massive scale by self-righteous conquerors, and that are being done frequently by policemen and soldiers in Pakistan and Bangladesh (like extortion, rape and murder of members of a minority community), sometimes even happen in India. ↩
Indian Express, 9/12/1990. ↩
During Friday noon prayers on 14/12/1990 in the Delhi Jama Masjid. Reported in Times of India, 15/12/1990. ↩
Times of India, 23/12/1990. ↩
Sunday Observer, 23/12/1990. ↩
In a rabidly communalist article in the secularist paper Mainstream (5/1/1991), N.A. Ansari demands :“The Muslims must be provided at least 30% jobs in government, semi-government sectors including the military, the police, the administration and the judiciary.” ↩
Indian Express, 2-3/1/1991. ↩
The Hindu, 9/12/1990. ↩
Times of India, 23/12/1990. ↩
Frontline, 22/12/1990. ↩
As Frontline puts it in its 27/10/1990 editorial :“The minorities feel threatened and insecure, as is evident from the reaction of Muslims to the rath yatra and the Ram jyoti processions.” This reaction was absent in the case of the rathyatra, perhaps due to large safety measures and the intimidatingly vast numbers of Hindus assembled. But what Frontline so prudishly calls the reaction of Muslims to the Ram jyoti processions, was in many cases bomb attacks. ↩
This scenario is confirmed by M.J. Akbar in The Hitler Nerve, in Illustrated Weekly of India, 22/12/1990. He tries to portray it as the model for the 1990 BJP behaviour ; but drawing a parallel with the Khalistani tactics and with riot-fomenting by Muslim extremists fits the facts better. ↩
The Hindu, 19/12/1990. ↩
There is an exception : in Pakistan, the census figures register an unexplained decline of 0.09% between 1971 and 1981. But anyway, in East Pakistan/Bangla Desh, the Muslim population has risen 10% from 1951 to 1981, at a constant tempo. In the Subcontinent, there has been an increase of about 1.5% per 10 years, with the rate of increase itself gradually increasing. Between 1971 and 1981, the Muslim community was the only one to gain in percentage, at the expense of all others, mostly of the Hindus. ↩
In his article “Why the riots always start with attack on Hindus” (Organiser, 13/1/1991), P.S. Yog builds a strong case for the assumption made in the title. He also quotes F.K. Khan Durrani (Meaning of Pakistan) saying : “The creation of Pakistan was necessary as a base for conquering the rest of India”, and Jayaprakash Narayan remarking that the aim of communal riots seemed to be to secure a second partition of the country. ↩
Riot reporting is unreliable because it is largely monopolized by investigative journalists who know before they leave for the riot-hit area, systematically and often unjustly blamed, it is because Hindu society somehow does not breed any capable journalists and fact-finders who combine a basic commitment to Hindu culture with a disciplined professionalism and objectivity. ↩
See their pamphlet on the Jamshedpur riots report, or their list of favourable Court verdicts, What High Courts Say on RSS. ↩
K.R. Malkani gives, in his The RSS Story, p.144, in a long list of good deeds or cases of non-involvement in evil deeds, just two examples of the RSS doing everything in its power to control riots and restore order, and in one of the two they had been dragged in by members of the Shia community asking for help. This leaves one case of active intervention. ↩
Taking Khushwant Singh’s lead, I will grant that the RSS and BJP workers have played a decisive role in limiting the damage and saving many lives in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, allegedly started by the Congress youth organization out to revenge Indira’s murder. ↩
Hinduism should stop seeing itself through the eyes of other religions. Thus, in a Hindu catechism book Daddy, am I a Hindu ? (by V. Edakkandiyal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 1988) there is constant reference to Christianity. Many a great man of Hindu history is described as a Christ-like figure. It is not other religions that measure the value of Hinduism, but its use for human happiness. The current hostile fixation on Islam is but a negative of this alienated self-image. The self-rediscovery of Hindu society will push this hostile preoccupation with Islam, like the servile preoccupation with Christ, to the background. ↩