Genesis of communal violence in India

It has been officially reported that hundreds of people have perished in the communal violence in Gujarat. Unofficial sources point out that 4-5 thousand people may have been massacred. This massacres were organised and not spontaneous. Following news reports describe these events:

"Driven by mortal fear, most Muslims in Ahmedabad moved into ghettos or relief camps last week. After three days of anarchy and bloodletting, the community had lost all faith in the government and the police. It is now clear that February 28 could not have happened without the connivance-if not the active participation-of the state machinery and the ruling party, the BJP. As mobs led by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists ravaged Muslim homes, shops and establishments in the worst riots that Gujarat has seen, all independent accounts indicated that a well-planned pogrom designed to teach the minority community a lesson had been executed. Eyewitnesses told this reporter that policemen were openly pointing to minority homes and shops for the mobs to close in and 'complete the work'."

" there was a distinct pattern of "communal cleansing" in the recent riots in Gujarat. The manner in which the people of minority community, irrespective of their economic status, were attacked first raised suspicions about systematic misuse of voters list to identify and target them."

The following events reported in the press also point out the same:

By afternoon, Ahmedabad Mayor Himmatsinh Patel admitted the day belonged to the mob. He confirmed that 15 people had died in Ahmedabad itself. But Police Commissioner P C Pande said he knew of only six deaths.

Until about 2 pm, there was no action from the police force. It was only after Pande's office was targeted by a mob with stones did the police wake up. This, despite the fact that at 1 pm, the Bhagwati building, just across the Commissionerate (the Police Commissioner's office), was set ablaze and an adjoining place of worship had been ransacked.

When asked about his staff's inaction, Pande declined to comment. He also refused to admit that he knew about Jafri's killing, much after it had taken place.

Several police officers told The Indian Express that they had been told ''not to be firm'' with the rioters. ''No one in the Government had drawn the line so it kept getting blurred,'' said one.

The most shocking case was evident at Hatkeshwar Circle. Three houses in a row were in flames and 100 feet away, policemen, including an ACP rank officer, sat in chairs taken out from a nearby shop. When asked, one of them said: ''Let them do something also.

Seeta Ishwar, a mother of four said: "Our men called up police many times but no one came to help us."

"The policeman who was manning the point was openly helping the crowd," Jagdish Parmar, another victim, told"

" In a sense, the mob that attacked our car in Gandhinagar wasn't some anonymous, enraged group that had gone out of control. They were law-breakers who knew they could get away with their actions because the law-makers would protect them. In Gujarat, sadly, the line between the mob and the government has become a very thin one."

"Driven by mortal fear, most Muslims in Ahmedabad moved into ghettos or relief camps last week. After three days of anarchy and bloodletting, the community had lost all faith in the government and the police. It is now clear that February 28 could not have happened without the connivance-if not the active participation-of the state machinery and the ruling party, the BJP. As mobs led by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists ravaged Muslim homes, shops and establishments in the worst riots that Gujarat has seen, all independent accounts indicated that a well-planned pogrom designed to teach the minority community a lesson had been executed. Eyewitnesses told this reporter that policemen were openly pointing to minority homes and shops for the mobs to close in and 'complete the work'. "

"In Ahmedabad, for instance, one official recalled how for the last few months, there had been concerted attempts to get lists of Muslim business establishments from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation. The official says he didn't then realise why these queries were being made. He knows now."

"VHP volunteers have also been making the rounds of professional institutions and universities, seeking the names and addresses of Muslim students. Some government sources say VHP members have drawn up lists of government departments (for example, the Food Corporation of India) and their allied agencies, and identified 'undesirables' and their addresses. How many of these lists came in handy on February 27 and 28 and even later is a matter of conjecture but observers say it's difficult to explain how in clusters of 50 to 100 shops, only those of the minority community were targeted."

"The involvement of the state police in riots is not new, not just in Gujarat but elsewhere in the country too, raising key questions about police recruitment and training. But as a policeman said, in the Indian system where orders from above are the keystone around which the structure revolves, for a full two days there were no clear instructions on what to do next. Which is not difficult to explain. The situation was aggravated when the state BJP declared its support for the VHP-sponsored bandh on February 28. Most accounts agree that violence really escalated after this resolution and from then on it was a signal for state agencies to take it easy or even look the other way, which is the way things ultimately played out. "


"From 8th January 1993, at least, there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and the Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the Shiv Sena from the level of Shakha Pramukh to the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran general, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims....
...large scale rioting and violence was...brought to fever pitch by Hindu communal organisations and writings in newspapers like Saamna and Navakal. It was taken over by Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray. The attitude of Shiv Sena as reflected in the Time interview given by Bal Thackeray and its doctrine of retaliation as expounded by Shri Sarpotdar and Shri Manohar Joshi, together with the thinking of the Shiv Sainiks that "Shiv Sena's terror was the true guarantee of the safety of citizens", were responsible for the vigilantism of Shiv Sainiks...."

"The Shiv Sainiks mobilised themselves for retaliating against the Muslims. The shakhas in different jurisdictional areas turned into centres of local commands. The attacks on Muslims by the Shiv Sainiks were mounted with military precision, with a list of establishments and voters' list in hand."

"The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and entirely indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post; on others the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim less..."

"Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an inbuilt bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots. The treatment given was harsh and brutal and, on occasions, bordering on inhuman, hardly doing credit to the police. The bias of policemen was seen in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive onlookers..."

"Even the registered riot-related offences were most unsatisfactorily investigated. The investigations showed a lack of enthusiasm, lackadaisical approach and utter cynicism. Despite clear clues, the miscreants were not pursued, arrested and interrogated, particularly when the suspected accused happened to be Hindus with connections to Shiv Sena or were Shiv Sainiks."

1984 Massacre of Sikhs:

STARTLING evidence of the complicity of the police in the1984 riots in Delhi has been brought to light by the G.T. Nanavati Commission of Inquiry, which is now halfway through its investigation. The Commission, which has covered the three police districts of Delhi - New Delhi and Central and East Delhi - was appointed by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on May 10, 2000, to look into the causes of the violence and the manner in which it occurred. Its terms of reference include fixing of responsibility for the dereliction of duty by the state authorities. The depositions made before the Commission reveal that while the majority of the police personnel tacitly supported the rioters, a section of them actively participated in the rioting."

" The police have been accused by the then general secretary of the Akali Dal's youth wing, Kuldip Singh Bhogal, of participation in the riots. In testimony before the Commission, Bhogal said that policemen from the Madhuban Training Centre near Karnal in Haryana were sent to Delhi to create chaos. He said that on November 2, 1984, a mob armed with lathis and iron rods ran riot in the Ashram area of Delhi. He along with some other Sikhs caught one of rioters, who was later identified as a policeman. Bhogal said: "A Haryana police identity card was recovered from him, which was a clear indication and evidence that the mob to which he belonged consisted of members of (the) Madhuban Training Centre near Karnal and (that) they were sent to Delhi to create chaos, lawlessness and destruction."

"Other witnesses said the police not only did not make any effort to control the mobs but actively instigated them to loot property, all the while not allowing Sikhs to come out of their houses to protect themselves. Ishar Kaur, a witness, said that the police did not allow her family to take their truck to the gurdwara while mobs were targeting the property of Sikhs. She said: "When we were bringing the truck to the gurdwara, the police stopped us by bringing their jeep in front of us and asked us to take the vehicle back."

Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer wrote
- "When the history of Human Rights in India of our half-century comes to be written the most blood-stained pages will be reserved for the three deadly November days in the life of the nation….Where is law? Where is justice? What is the truth? Lying dead in the streets of Delhi's democracy?
Where are the guilty? Untouchable and unapproachable in high offices? How can the highest in the executive and members of the Summit Court ever command, when mass casualty of human lives and rights remain a poignant interrogation?"

The Delhi based human rights organizations, People's Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) headed by Rajni Kothari, an internationally known political scientist and People's Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR) headed by Gobinda Mukhoty, a leading human rights activist, took the lead in investigating the massacres in Delhi and brought out an investigative report entitled "Who Are The Guilty?"
The report held the important ruling party men responsible for the anti-Sikh violence. It was revealed that whereas violence broke out only in those areas which were under the Congress administration, the non-Congress areas remained comparatively undisturbed. The Report of the PUCL pointed out that "the attacks on the members of the Sikh community in Delhi... far from being spontaneous expressions of "madness" and of popular "grief and anger" at Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, as made out by the authorities, were the outcome of a well organized plan marked by acts of both deliberate commission and omission by important politicians of the Congress and by authorities in the administration. The Report further claimed that 'the police all over the city uniformly betrayed a common behavioral pattern marked by (i) a total absence from the scene, or (ii) a role of passive spectators, or (iii) direct participation or abatement in the orgy of violence against the Sikhs."

Report of Commission of Inquiry into Kanpur riots (1932)

" There is a general feeling that the local authorities did not choose to take immediate and stringent measures because they were displeased with the business men for helping the congress activities, and they wanted to show that without the help of the authorities they can not protect their lives and properties…..every class of witness-agreed in this one respect that the police showed indifference and inactivity in dealing with the various incidents in the riot. These witnesses include European businessmen, Moslems and Hindus of all shades of opinion, military officers, the secretary of upper India chamber of commerce, representatives of the Indian christian community and even Indian officials. It is impossible to ignore such unanimity of evidence. There is no doubt in our mind that during the first three days of the riot police did not show that activity in the discharge of their duties which was expected of them……A number of witnesses have cited instances of serious crimes being committee within view of police without their active interests being aroused…we are told by a numbers witnesses and the District Magistrate also has said so in his evidence, that complaints about the indifference and inactivity of the police were made at the time. It is to be regretted that no serious notice was taken of these complaints."-----

These reports point out that communal violence has always been organised with full approval of the agencies of state, the political parties of the rulings circles before the partition as well as after the partition of India. As news reports pointed out:

"On 21/1/2002 in Kerala, The State Chief Minister A K Antony, in a startling disclosure, said that those accused and charged with acts of sedition during the recent communal violence in Kerala include workers of mainstream political parties in the State, including the Congress and the CPI (M)."

"In a significant move, the Naroda police station on Sunday filed a complaint against Naroda BJP legislator Maya Kodnani, VHP joint general secretary Jaideep Patel, police inspector K.K. Maisurwala of the Naroda police station and others for rioting, dacoity and arson in a complaint filed in connection with the gruesome Naroda-Patia case of February 28."

The Question is Why was communal violence needed by the state before partition and after partition? The British officials clearly state the reason why they needed it:

Divide and Rule:

Lt. col. Coke, Commandent of Moradabad wrote in 1822:
" Our endeavour should be to uphold in full force the (for us fortunate) separation which exists between the different religions and races, not to endeavor to amalgamate them. Divide et Impera should be the principle of Indian government."

He further said, " I can not close my eyes to the belief that this race (Mussalmans) is fundamentally hostile to us and therefore our true policy is to conciliate the Hindus."

Lord Canning expressed the same view:

"…As we must rule 150 million of people by a handful (more or less small) of Englishmen, let us do it in the manner best calculated to leave them divided( as in religion and national feeling they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power and with the least possible suspicion of our motives."

Sir Henry Cotton wrote referring to the Partition of Bengal in 1905:

" For the first time in history, religious feud was established between them (Hindus and Muslims) by the partition of province. For the first time, the principle was enunciated in official circles: Divide and rule. The Mohammedans were officially favoured in every possible way."

Lord Minto wrote to Morley:

" I think that caste and religious differences, certainly in respect to the two great groups of Mohammedans and Hindus, are showing signs of weakening, and that in the next generation there is a great prospect of the disappearance of the separation of castes and religions in deference to the calls of political aims."

In 1857 Bahadur Shah Zafar had warned the Indian people against this policy of the British. The Shahi Firman issued on May 12,1857 declared," To all the Hindus and Mussalmans of India-

"Taking my duty by the people into consideration at this hour, I have decided to stand by my people. Whoever shows cowardice at this delicate hour, or whoever in innocence will help the cunning English, believing in their promises, he would stand disillusioned very soon. He should remember that the English will pay him for his faithfulness to them in the same manner as they have paid the rulers of Oudh. It is the imperative duty of Hindus and Mussalmans to join the revolt against the English. They should work and be guided by their leaders in their towns and should take steps to restore order in the country. It is the bounden duty of all people that they should, as far as possible, copy out this Firman and display it at all important places in the towns. But before doing so, they should get themselves armed and declare war on the English".

In another Firman he warned the people of divisive schemes of the English, "..The English will try to raise the Hindus against Mussalmans and vice versa. Do not give heed to what they say, drive them out of the country."

The present Indian State was established in 1858 and communal violence was an integral component of it. Following this policy the British institutionalized communal violence in a systematic and methodic manner by communal representations in institutions, education, 1909 Minto Morley Reform, Communal Suffrage and Communal representation in all organs of the state and administration to incite bestial hatred based on religion. They laid the foundation of communal and caste vote banks. Government of India act of 1935 and Partition were to further incite communal violence.

This divide and rule policy of the colonialists besides weakening the unity of anti colonial forces, also had another aim, that was diversion. While division of the people weakened their unity and movement against the British, Diversion from their struggles to something else by communal violence was also an integral part of this policy.

Communal violence was organised by the British because it provided them a pretext to further suppress the people and declare that it was not the colonial rule that was the cause of the problems of the Indian people, but that religion was the problem, and blamed the victims and their religions for the situation created by the colonial rule, and said that it is the policy of the British to be fair and pursue a Secular policy to " do justice to all religious communities."

Thus communal violence was institutionalized in the state structures, used to weaken the unity and resistance of the people and used as a pretext to further attack them and cause diversions. The British colonialists had already perfected this in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They had used religion as an instrument to divide the people there and establish their domination.

This communal nature of the institutions and state structure did not change with the transfer of power in 1947 and this transfer of power itself was done in the midst of a communal carnage. The ruling circles continued the same state and same policy, as it also suited them on both sides of the border. The Indian state as well as the Pakistani state continued the same institutions and policies, causing more divisions and violence amongst people on the basis of religion, language, caste, national background etc. . In "Secular and Socialist India" between 1961-1970 there were 7964 incidents of communal violence, killing thousands of people. In the last three decades this number has skyrocketed. In the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" thousands of Bengalis, Sindhis, Balochis, Ahmadiyas, Shias and others have been slaughtered.

Why is communal violence being organized today by the ruling circles and their state?
Whose interest does Divide and Rule policy serve today? Who are they trying to divide and what for? What is this diversion today for? These are some of the questions that need to be answered. Communal violence today is being organised for the following reasons:

1:To weaken the resistance of the Indian people against neo-liberal globalisation , privatisation and handing over of public resources to financial oligarchies and monopolies and domination of India by imperialism.

With the end of the welfare state and a turning point in Indian history in the middle of 80s, no force could act in the old ways. The ruling classes no longer could keep a "Secular and Socialist" façade. The period of welfare state had finished. These arrangements had outlived their usefulness to the ruling circles. New arrangements and new methods were needed by the ruling elite. This period was marked with the attack on the Golden Temple on June 6,1984 by the Indian army of Indira Gandhi government. In November 1984, thousands of Sikhs were massacred under the watchful eyes of the Rajiv Gandhi government, and thousands of youth were massacred in Punjab. In 1986 it was the Rajiv Gandhi government who opened the locks at Ayodhya in the hope of consolidating its vote bank amongst "Hindus". In 1989, it was Rajiv Gandhi again who started his election campaign from Ayodhya under the slogan of Ram Raj. It is only after this stage had been set and VPSingh government had come into being that BJP and its Parivar took the initiative with Advani's Rath Yatra which further communalized political life. Destruction of Babri Masjid and communal massacres, was a logical development of this need of the ruling circles. Those forces that finance Congress ,BJP and other political parties, and whose interests these political parties serve found it useful to go on this path detrimental to the interests of the people. It is not possible that some individuals on this or that party, Congress or BJP launched on this path without the full consent of the ruling circles. It is noteworthy that the programme of anti social offensive is going on full steam in spite of anarchy and violence unleashed on the people by the ruling circles and their state.

Old arrangements that were made in 1947 were no longer working. Ruling circles needed to make new arrangements. They are making new arrangements in economy as well as in politics. After the end of the bipolar division of the world Globalization and Privatization has become the Mantra of the ruling circles and their foreign mentors . At the same time their whole system economic and political, is in disrepute, and is in deep crisis of legitimacy and credibility. More and more they have to resort to anarchy, violence, politics of assassination and communal violence. Their new Mantra of Globalization and Privatization, Development and Devolution, just like the old Mantras of Socialist Pattern of Society and Secularism, promised to deliver, prosperity and development. But it has not delivered any of those, it has only used the state to pay the rich by reducing expenditure on social programs such as food, health, education welfare and other services. A great deal of resistance has been building in India. Last year the president of India, speaking on the occasion of the Republic Day of India had brought home these stark realities. He said that this Mantra of globalization and privatization had only enriched the rich and that a revolt is seething in the hearts of vast majority of the people of India. As a result of all these developments, the ruling circles are using religion and ideology more and more to divide and attack the people. For example beside dividing people on the basis of religion, caste, language and region more divisions are also being created amongst the people on the basis of Secular versus Religious or Moderates versus Fundamentalists. All these divisions weaken the unity of the people and their struggle for a life of dignity and serve the interest of the ruling circles.

At this point one may ask that why is it that the ruling circles cannot rule without these divisions? One of the reasons for this is that that their economic system is based on competition amongst themselves as well as others. This competition is absolute and collusion and collaboration is relative. They collude to compete. In this competition amongst themselves, for control of state, they also use any means including religion, language, region, caste etc. Communal violence is their tested weapon. It is their necessity. They can not rule any other way in the present circumstances. The unity of the people whether in the cities or countryside is a danger to their rule. Therefore they also follow the motto of their earlier masters Divide and Rule.

2: To weaken the movement against POTO.

There has been a widespread outcry against POTO, and state terrorism. Communal violence will divert attention from this struggle and it is being used to turn political and economic problems into law and order problems. In early years for instance TADA was used in Gujarat to arrest thousands of people and due to resistance of the people it was not renewed. Now it has been brought in a new incarnation. While Gujarat was reeling under massacres and a charged atmosphere was created due to Ayodhya, POTO was passed in Lok Sabha.

3:Use it as a diversion from basic problems facing the people.

As one worker in Ayodhya said," Mahengai Dekhen ki Mandir Dekhen?"( Shall we worry about increasing prices or temple?) Division only works if it is able to divert. Politics of assassination, communal violence, anarchy and criminalisation helps the ruling circles to create an atmosphere of anxiety, tension and diversion. It creates fear and cynicism and depoliticises people. One of the ways of depoliticising people under such conditions is to create illusions about various institutions of the state as if some are good and others are bad, or that this political party or that party of the ruling circles favours the people. For example the Vajpayee government was able to wash its hands of all responsibility by referring to the Supreme Court. Then there are those who are praising the Supreme Court, an integral part of the Indian state, what a good stand it took and how good this judgement of March 15 has been and that people can look towards some institution of the Indian state to watch out their interest rather than calling upon people to engage themselves and take matters in their own hands. This also depoliticises people. Once people are depoliticised, the ruling circles can do whatever they wish. This charged atmosphere then is used to instigate attacks and unleash terror by the henchmen of the Indian state in and out of the uniform.

4:To sort out conflicts amongst various sections of the ruling elite themselves for the control of the state machinery and resources.

Various sections of ruling circles and their allies in the middle strata use religion, caste, language and region as their vote bank and power base and incite hatred amongst the people based on these differences to consolidate their positions. For instance in Bihar and UP various parties are using caste to develop and consolidate their vote bank to get hold of the state. Various parties who claim to be the parties of the backward castes are using the same procedure and game plan of playing the communal card. In the same way regional parties are using the same antics to get control of the state machinery at various levels.

5:With the US imposing its dictate for a unipolar world and its ambition to dominate Asia, this anarchy and violence also suits US.

They also use these differences to strengthen their positions by supporting the communal violence of the Indian state and also use it to get more concessions from the Indian state as they did in the past. It suits imperialism to play the communal card. In their geopolitics they also want to use Hindu India against China and Pakistan as well as other Islamic countries. Communal politics also suits their interest in many ways.

What is the Way Out?

Democratic renewal of Indian society and empowerment of the people is the way forward. It is quite clear that the Indian state is incapable of defending the people and their interests, so people must take these matters in their own hands. Thirty years of experience of people of Ram-Rahim Nagar in Ahmedabad clearly shows that when people take these matters in their own hands they can stop communal violence. In Ram Rahim Nagar a neighbourhood of 20,000 people has organized itself depending on their own forces and has not let any incident of communal violence in their area for last thirty years. This is the way forward for the people of rest of India.

The present Indian state, the political process and all the institutions need to be renewed and renovated by people themselves and only then they can resolve this crisis in their favour. In absence of such renewal Indian society will go on from crisis to crisis spilling the blood of people in the streets as has been happening since the partition.

This crisis also shows that the European representative democracy imposed on India by the British and their collaborators is a tool for disenfranchisement, criminalisation and marginalisation of polity. People must get together and give rise to their own system and theory of governance. The age-old wisdom of Indian people Sarve Janah Sukhinam Bahvantu-wellbeing of all has to be the basis of this system of governance, ensuring Sukh and Raksha of all. Anything less than that will not suffice.

There is a wishful thinking and feeling of nostalgia amongst some circles that somehow if the ruling circles could bring back their "secular and socialist" façade things will get better. All the developments show that the changes that have taken place are irreversible. No hankering for such past is going to help us tackle these problems.
We must build unity in action of all those forces for democratic renewal and unite all those who are fighting against communal violence of the Indian state irrespective of their religious and political views or affiliation. People must not be divided on the basis of this or that "ism."

Communalism, violence and terror and the obstinate refusal to find political solutions are conscious plans towards an aim: the continued use of the Indian state against all the peoples in order to maximize profits and preserve power, and at the same time, to emerge as a big power in close cooperation with the "West". This not only creates dangers for the people of India but to all the neighbouring countries as well. It is thus an opportune time to build the unity of all those who are raising their voices against the communalism and terrorism of the Indian state.


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