Where did all this
term ‘Sangh Parivar’ refers to the family of political parties and
organizations espousing an agenda of making India a ‘Hindu-ized’
polity, where non-Hindus would declare their primary allegiance
to such a state and accept their place as members of minority groups.
These include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which heads the
ruling coalition at the center in India.
longstanding political and religious objective of the Sangh Parivar
has been to redress perceived ‘wrongs’ to Hinduism done by invading
Muslim conquerors in the past. The construction of a temple dedicated
to Ram at his purported birth-site is the first in this list. It
involved years of campaigning in the courts and on the streets,
culminating in the destruction of the Babri Masjid
in December 1992. This event was followed by communal riots all
over India. Later investigations revealed, as usual, that very early
into the game, local politicians, business interests and organized
crime had taken the opportunity to further other agendas.
almost ten years after the destruction of the mosque, activists
have been waiting for the construction of the temple to begin. The
VHP is planning to start this process on the 15th of
March, for which activists have begun to gather in Ayodhya.
is ruled by a BJP government, and India’s Home Minister (the person
responsible for issues of law and order within the state) was elected
to Parliament from Gujarat. The apathy of the government in responding
to what would clearly be a critical situation after the Feb 27th
massacre fills one with dismay and even despair.
Shekar Gupta, Backfire’s
Burning Question, Indian Express, March 2, 2002.
Muzamil Jaleel, Gujarat
burns, but Kashmir's cool, March 5, 2002.
communal riots chronic and inevitable in India? No.
saying either, ‘Hindus and Muslims live everywhere in perfect harmony
always,’ or ‘Hindus and Muslims cannot live together because of
the past subjection by Muslims of Hindus’, we can understand communal
relations in India as reflecting other changes and transformations
in India’s economy and polity. In some places they are far tenser
than others, reflecting demographics, pressure on land and other
economic opportunities, and willingness on the part both of politicians
and the voting public to exploit and permit the exploitation of
India's Past Becomes a Weapon, New
March 6, 2002.
Seminar #484 December 1999: MULTICULTURALISM a symposium on democracy in culturally diverse
Ali Engineer, Resolving
Hindu-Muslim Problem: An Approach, Economic and Political Weekly,
February 13, 1999. (free registration and login required.)
The Ubiquitous Enemy, Economic and Political Weekly, December
18, 1999. (free registration and login required.)
Thapar, Communalism and History.
Panikkar, Communalism: A General Perspective.
Defence of Democracy, Secularism and Civil Society, links to
Also, for a survey
of the debate on secularism in India: Swarna Rajagopalan, “Secularism
in India,” in William Safran, ed., The Democratic Republic
and the Problem of Religion, Frank Cass, London (forthcoming).
(PDF, Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
Mushirul Hasan, Restore
India's Dignity, Indian Express, March 6, 2002.
consequence of repeated communal or caste violence in an area is
that the police force, which is drawn from the local community and
which is directed by local authorities, slowly loses its ability
to enforce law from outside the conflict. After all, it is facing
neighbors, uncles, sisters, nephews and friends in the melee. How
long can police constables remain unaffected and outside the fray?
The communalization of the police begins with them turning a blind
eye selectively and then actively assisting in the violence. So,
the army, which is still politically neutral and a familiar and
experienced sight in disaster relief, is called out. The danger
is two-fold, as other cases in India illustrate: one, trained to
deal with a hostile enemy, will end up treating the people it encounters
on the streets as such, and two, that it will also succumb to the
same process of communalization over time.
can we do?
situations like this develop, we all bear some culpability for them,
no matter where we sit. Our culpability lies in the organizations
we support, the petitions we unthinkingly sign, in the narratives
and interpretations of history we accept blindly, the politics we
uncritically endorse and the money we spend without asking for accountability.
us accept responsibility for our own little patches of the universe.
When there is a move to start a new group on campus,
before we sign forms and petitions, agree to advise, we should ask
what its affiliations are and what objectives they espouse.
When in our communities, new organizations emerge
with social or religious objectives, we should be alert to the political
objectives they bring as part of the package.
We should be alert when we donate money to an organization
that claims to work for social and political upliftment elsewhere.
Investigate the organization and then, make an informed and generous
donation. Too much money finds its way to destructive and divisive
Also, sometimes we throw money at problems that need
other solutions. We should consider the situation more carefully.
We should accept the limitations of our own passions—
the foreign hand is only effective when a native heart is willing.
How easily do we assign blame? How quickly do we accept explanations
given to us?
Where do our analyses begin? In ‘who did what to
whom’ or in ‘how have we remedied such situations in the past’?
Nagar: An Oasis of Peace, by Sanjay Pandey, Times of India,
March 3, 2002]
Is our own house, residence hall, organization, community,
place of worship or political organization free of the prejudices
and hostilities that are causing the carnage in Gujarat? Let us
set our own house in order before we rush in with remedies and recommendations
is happening is just terrible. Let us not compound it with our own
inflamed passions and haste.
This week, let us practice
restraint in our responses to events in Gujarat. Let us abjure quick
assessments and judgments. Let us seek information and understanding
rather than instant analysis. Let us seek voices as close to the
ground in this effort as possible. Let us determine what is needed,
before we rush into action. As students and teachers, let us use
this moment to learn and reflect.
March 3, 2002