Douse the fire, now

By Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam

This has been the most polarising election fought around a controversial figure with a highly divisive track record. To turn two faith communities against each other no stone was left unturned. Uttar Pradesh witnessed the staging of what is called “communal riots”, but are in fact one-sided attacks on Muslims, as many as 130 times during Akhilesh Yadav’s tenure. It included the more devastating Muzaffarnagar riots.

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With poisonous propaganda and a rash of anti-Muslim riots, UP was set on the boil before the polls. Naturally, the BJP is going to reap a rich harvest of MPs. But, at what cost? The election has not vented the anger and animosity it has created. UP is still sitting on a tinderbox, ready to explode any moment. The swiftness with which communal violence erupted in Meerut the other day is an indicator of the lava raging under the surface calm. This area of Meerut had never seen communal violence in the past.

Communal temperatures are running high in eastern UP as well. The contamination has seeped across the border into parts of Bihar, where the BJP campaign was less successful; there were fewer incidents of anti-Muslim violence and BJP is winning fewer seats. Still the contagion has spread deep into Bihar where eruption of a spate of riots is being feared. In certain areas, people were told that if they voted for the BJP, they would drive the Muslims out, capture their properties and distribute them among the rioters. Such tentalising prospects can easily encourage the lumpen elements to participate in organised anti-Muslim violence.

Such fears are not unfounded. This line of action will help the BJP to put pressure on Nitish Kumar and malign his government. It is trying times for Nitish, who should spare no effort to prevent communal violence, which is always sure to help the BJP.

There is already a model in place. This is exactly what happened in Gujarat, Assam and UP (Muzaffarnagar) where the properties of fleeing Muslims were captured by the rioters.

As I said at the outset, the pent-up heat and violent energy created by hate propaganda like Amit Shah’s exhortation before western UP Jats to “take revenge for insults”, or tarring the image of Azamgarh Muslims as supporters of terrorism, can result in a sudden flare-up of communal violence on mass scale even after the polls.

The BJP propagandist Madhu Kishwar has said recently that the Congress Party is going to stage big riots in coming days. This is a classical piece of disinformation: it is not the Congress that is going to organise riots, but the BJP. An earlier example of such dishonest proclamation: On December 6, 1992 when the Hindutva mobs set fire to Muslim homes in Ayodhya and Muslims began to run for their lives, Uma Bharti announced on her microphone: “Muslims are setting fire to their homes before fleeing”.

Hence it is the duty of the people who have injected poison into the society and body politic to quickly start detoxification. This should be their first duty to cool the communal temperatures before even thinking to form government.