By Vishal Arora
Statistics say that Hindus account for more than half the number of sufferers of communal strife. This means their "victimisation" is a reality. But the question is, who victimises them? Religious minorities? Hindutva groups?
According to a statement by the home ministry tabled in parliament, at least 255 communal incidents were recorded in the country between Jan 1 and April 30 this year. These left 31 people dead – of which 18 were Hindu and 13 Muslim. Besides, of the 666 injured, 370 were Hindu (55.5 percent), 245 Muslim (36.7 percent), 36 Christians (5.4 percent) and 15 were from other religions.
Similarly, during the corresponding period of 2006, 56.2 percent of those injured in the 256 incidents were Hindu, 36.9 percent Muslim and 6.4 Christian. This was no different from the yearly statistics of 2006, according to which 53.7 percent of those injured were Hindu, 41.1 percent Muslim and 2.5 percent were Christian.
These statistics prove that, in terms of numbers, communalism hits the Hindu community the hardest – though proportionately Muslims face more attacks than any other community, given that they are a minority community.
The large number of communal incidents does not reflect animosity between the people of the majority and minority communities, who have been coexisting peacefully for centuries. On the contrary, it exposes the guilt of the proponents of Hindutva, who claim to be "protectors" of the majority community, but in practice play politics by inciting communal passions at the cost of the lives of not only Hindus but the people of all communities.
It is common knowledge that communal incidents are rarely spontaneous. They are almost always incited and organised, and take place in the backdrop of hatred and suspicion spread against religious minorities, mainly Muslims and Christians, by Hindutva groups.
Paul R. Brass, a political scientist from the University of Washington whose research in India spans more than 45 years, says religion-related violence in the country is produced in three phases: "preparation or rehearsal", "activation or enactment" and "explanation or interpretation".
In places where rioting is endemic, "producers of violence" continuously work to create an atmosphere of religious animosity as part of their preparation and rehearsal process, he says in an essay that forms part of his book, "Forms of Collective Violence: Riots, Pogroms, and Genocide in Modern India" (2006).
For instance, the Election Commission recently took cognisance of the controversial CD distributed by the Bharatiya Janata Party to demonise Muslims before the Uttar Pradesh assembly election. Similarly, the Supreme Court April 5 admitted a petition seeking action against the circulation, distribution and sale of certain CDs in Gujarat, Maharashtra and northeastern states. These CDs suggested that Christians are enemies of Hinduism and Hindus and should be beheaded.
The second phase of communal violence or activation or enactment of a large-scale riot takes place, adds Brass, "under particular circumstances, often in a context of intense political mobilisation or electoral competition in which riots are precipitated as a device to consolidate the support of ethnic, religious, or other culturally marked groups, by emphasising the need for solidarity in face of the rival communal group". Criminals and the poorest elements in society are recruited and rewarded for enacting the violence.
In the third phase, of explanation and interpretation that follow the violence, all blame is shifted to spontaneous reaction of the people of the communities involved.
The post-Godhra "riots" in Gujarat in 2002 serves as one of the best examples of an organised "riot".
In her book, "The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future", Martha C. Nussbaum, professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, counters Samuel Huntington's theory of 'Clash of Civilizations', saying: "There is copious evidence that the violent retaliation (post-Godhra) was planned before the precipitating event by Hindu extremist organisations that had been waiting for an occasion… Most alarming was the total breakdown in the rule of law – not only at the local level but also at that of the state and national governments."
It is clear that in the name of protection, communal forces destroy the lives of Hindus and tarnish the image of their great religion, which teaches tolerance and not hate. Truly, no other community in India is a bigger victim of communalism than Hindus.
(The author is a writer on religious affairs. He can be reached on [email protected])