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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 14, March 28, 2015

The Litmus Test

Monday 30 March 2015, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

The menace of communalism looms large in this country today perhaps more than at any time before. With all the dire warnings being sounded repeatedly against the danger of destabilisation, the government so far has done very little to halt the advance of vicious communal hatred leading to orgies of violence in different parts of the country. It is amazing that while the Prime Minister concedes that there has been a deterioration in the communal situation—as he did at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Integration Council on June 23—the problem has not yet been taken up with a sense of urgency that it deserves.

While the Rathayatra procession in Gujarat a few days ago passed off without any recrudescence of largescale violence—thanks of the massive arrangements involving even the Army—the situation in Meerut continues to be grave. Despite all the big talks against communa-lism that one hears from Ministers and political party leaders, there is no sign on their part to take up Meerut as a test case to demonstrate, by all of them, their secular bonafides.

In this context, it is astounding that the Home Minister of India should allow himself to be misled by the UP Government into claiming that most of the missing persons from the village of Maliana have now returned to their homes, thereby trying to disprove the charge of independent journalists about cold-blooded killings in that village by the PAC. It is known that the UP Chief Minister in his anxiety to placate the strong Hindu elements in Meerut—many of whom were enraged by the failure of the UP Police to protect their property—gave a free rein to the PAC to commit the ghastly crime against the Muslim minority in the nearby Maliana. And when the Maliana massacre attracted widespread public condemnation, the same Chief Minister has been cooking up reports that most of the missing persons have returned—a patent lie.

When a Chief Minister resorts to such fiendish tactics for furthering his political game, one can imagine how hollow is the government’s assu-rance that the Babri mosque-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute would be seriously taken up soon for settlement.

The guilty PAC has been magnified into a prestige issue: if the government takes action against it, then it would be considered as a ‘surrender’ to Muslim clamour. It is in this context that one has to understand why the Prime Minister is dodging the demand for the overhaul of the force and the representation of the Muslim-minority in its composition.

This brings one to the more serious lapse on the part of the authorities in the matter of enforcement of the existing laws and regulations to combat communalism. The report of the Haksar group of the National Integration Council, which its Standing Committee discussed on June 23, has revealed that all laws in this respect are systematically flouted: it has recommended that “the existing laws, both of Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, soould be impartially and strictly enforced in order to reinforce the faith of every citizen that the State or States of India are actuated not only by law but by a sense of justice”. It has gone further and insisted that even “a token enforcement of one single issue” of communal sensitivity, which the authorities are supposed to enforce, “would bring a sense of credibility to the debates of the National Integration Council”. The obvious conclusion is that such credibility is seriously lacking today.

The litmus test for the Rajiv Government in this matter of grave national concern lies in its handling of the explosive situation in Uttar Pradesh. If the Centre has to get back its credibility on this score, there can be no other option but to overhaul the UP Government, if necessary, to bring it under President’s Rule. The utter failure, if not abetment and complicity, of the State Government in the handling of the mounting communal tension in this far-flung State can hardly be ignored. Unless and until Rajiv Gandhi, both in his capacity as the Prime Minister and as the President of the Congress-I, intervenes in the mess in UP, his and his government’s commitment to secularism would be gravely compromised apart from the fact that such inaction will lead to a dangerous upsurge of communalism which threatens to disintegrate the nation.

(Mainstream, July 4, 1987)