A Surya Prakash
It’s obvious to anyone, who has seen the videos and read the first-hand accounts of residents in the troubled north-east area of Delhi, that what happened there was a bloody Hindu-Muslim communal riot. Tensions were building up ever since some citizens launched a nationwide protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which often turned violent and disrupted normal life in many Indian cities for over two months. Videos shot in the affected areas of Delhi show huge pile of petrol bombs, acid, bricks and stones on the terraces of Muslim residents, including that of a Delhi legislator, burqa-clad women thrashing hapless policemen and joining the lynch mob. Such was the ferocity of the attacks that several senior officers suffered grievous injuries and a Hindu Intelligence Bureau (IB) official was hacked to death by his Muslim neighbours. He is said to have been stabbed several hundred times. One had heard of such barbarity during the Moplah uprising in 1921 and the Kolkata riots after MA Jinnah’s call for “direct action” on August 16, 1946, to secure an Islamic nation. It was a blood bath.
This is not to say that the Hindus in north-east Delhi were silent and innocent spectators. They were not and as much guilty. Seeing the build-up in the Muslim mohallas, they stocked up, too and, therefore, when the riots broke out, the streets resembled a battle field. One had not seen such hatred and violence between the two communities in a long time. So, what triggered this time around?
One, having got used to a standard diet of appeasement for seven decades, the Muslims find the “no-appeasement” policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi unacceptable and, therefore, there has been simmering discontent in the community, which only needed a trigger to explode. Some leaders of the community added fuel to the fire by citing the abrogation of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir last August and the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case as developments that hurt the Muslims. The community was, therefore, looking for a cause and the CAA came along. Then, the riots happened and it found a chance to play the victim card again.
It must also be said that this time around, there is gross miscalculation among the Muslims about the response of Hindus to their assertiveness and violence. Having watched the sociological transformation of the Hindus over many decades, it must be said that the Hindu of the 1950s or 1960s, who would stoically bear with the demands of this aggressive minority in the hope that eventually things would settle down, no longer exists. The attitude of the Western media and its Indian cohorts, who are busy spreading Hindu phobia, has proved to be highly provocative. They are actually promoting hatred and violence among these communities. The role of social media and the videos in circulation is the new-age fuel for communal conflagration. Both communities have to factor in the new attitudes that govern them. The Muslims have to realise this and arrive at a new equation for peaceful co-existence. The Hindus have to understand the anxieties plaguing this religious minority and find ways to restore harmony. Both communities must now accept that the old equation has collapsed.
Following Partition, the Muslims of India on this side of the border had the option to either cross over and become part of an Islamic State or stay put and become citizens of a secular, democratic India. Around 35 million of them chose to stay back and live in a democratic nation. They constituted about 10 per cent of the 350 million people in India after Partition. Latest estimates indicate that the Muslim population has swelled to 175 million over the last seven decades and this community is well spread out across the length and breadth of this country.
The integration of the Muslims into a secular, democratic nation that emerged in 1947 would have been easy if only the then Government, headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had given them the option of either living in an India with a common civil code that would be uniformly applicable to all citizens across communities or to cross the border and live in an Islamic State. Nehru’s Muslim appeasement policy encouraged the hotheads among the Muslims to such an extent that even after Partition and the creation of Pakistan, some Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly demanded separate electorate for the Muslims in democratic India. Sardar Patel and other leaders felt that this demand was preposterous.
The concession Nehru made to the Muslim clergy after independence is indeed the time bomb that is ticking away and threatens to destroy India’s unity and integrity. After Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi, in order to muster the Muslim vote after she split the Congress in 1969, continued to molly-coddle the Ulemas. The Congress got the best opportunity to wash away its sins vis-à-vis Muslim appeasement when the Supreme Court delivered the historic judgment in the Shah Bano case and declared that divorced Muslim women were entitled to maintenance like other divorcees, as provided for in Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The court took the opportunity to draw the country’s attention to Article 44 of the Constitution, which committed the State to bring in a Uniform Civil Code. It said such a code would help the cause of national integration.
While this judgment was hailed across the country, the Muslim clergy was up in arms against the apex court’s decision. Even though Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had won the biggest mandate ever in the country’s parliamentary elections — over 410 seats — he was unable or unwilling to stand up to the mullahs and brought in a law to undo the top court’s verdict. This law, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, declared that Muslim men had no obligation to pay maintenance to their divorced wives like other men.
Given this history, the vicious propaganda unleashed by Muslim communalists in the international media against India is bunkum. India was and is the world’s biggest secular, democratic nation and its Hindu majority is very proud of it. The Muslims must acknowledge this and be wary of the false narrative being spread my mischief-makers. For once, the Union Government has begun to assert itself to correct the follies of Nehru and his progeny. This is the only way by which we can preserve the core values of our Constitution and protect India’s unity and integrity. The majority cannot allow some malcontents among a minority to wreck this.
(The writer is an author specialising in democracy studies. Views expressed are personal.)