— by Seema Mustafa
India always manages to prove her resilience, her extreme tolerance, and her essential belief in her own future in times of deep crisis. The street response is always so very honest and heart warming, with the people pitching in regardless of caste and religion, to pull the country out of the dark and place it firmly back on the track that will take it straight through the tunnel to the bright lights.
It is the politicians and the journalists who usually mess matters up, the first with an eye on their vote banks, and the second, looking for sensationalism to sell their business, as journalism has become these days. So, while columnists more comfortable with Page 3 issues such as “the menu to seduce the seductress with” churn out columns on what went wrong in Varanasi and what the Muslims should do, and the Hindus should not do, the people of the holy town joined hands and forces to pick up the pieces after the deadly serial blasts.
There was no Hindu, no Muslim in Varanasi (read the reports filed by those who can still claim to be recognised as journalists in the real sense of the word, like Amita Verma) there were just Indians who rushed out to help in any which way they could. There was no time for them to stand and condemn the act of terror, as some of our Page 3 writer celebrities have demanded, for their condemnation rested in the manner in which they sought to defeat the intentions of those who had planted the bomb in the temple and other parts of Varanasi.
The intention was to divide the people of India, to pit the Hindu against the Muslim, to ensure that the attack on Varanasi was followed by a communal carnage. This did not happen, and for this one cannot thank the politicians, for each one of them did their little bit to make matters worse. This did not happen because the people of India, the ones who have still not benefited from globalisation and are struggling with poor education and non-existent health facilities, decided that they would not let it happen. They realised the need to remain united, and instead of allowing terrorism to deal them a blow, ensure that terrorism was dealt a severe blow. They succeeded.
The intention of the terrorist was not to kill just a few persons on the ground. The intention was to spark off large scale violence. This did not happen as the people refused to take revenge for the dastardly act by killing each other. The politicians then stepped in to do their little bit. Heading the brigade was the BJP and its rath-rider L.K. Advani, a rudderless party with a desperate, lonely leader seeking to make a comeback. Not on the basis of alternative programmes and policies, but on the basis of the old, sick, “hit the minorities” ideology seeking to divide the people of India and cripple India.
A bandh call in Varanasi and Lucknow was defied by the people, the response was so partial that the reporters had to really look for the shops with their shutters down. The call to rally behind the BJP has not been heard, as the streets of Varanasi have come out with a near unanimous response, “keep the politicians out, allow us to manage our own crisis.” The terror blasts are an occasion for the BJP to celebrate. Under the copious tears there is a sense of glee that perhaps, just perhaps, it might have been given the sorely needed card to play its dirty politics with.
The five years that it spent in government doing precisely that, before the electorate threw it out, has not taught this party and its mentor, the RSS, a lesson. The violence, the tears, the blood, the suffering are all the ingredients that the BJP needs for its cauldron of communalism that its leader Advani wants to stir with his sinister rath. He will roll out, aided and abetted by some BJP leaders, speaking against the minorities of India, insisting that they are one with the terrorists, drawing the usual links between the Muslim, the Terrorist, Pakistan, hoping against hope that the bile and the vile will merge to wash off the Jinnah stains from his clothes and divide the poor and the oppressed of India along religious lines.
It is important for the Indian state to be vigilant. The administrative machinery can, at best, predict violence and take some measures to prevent it or, conversely, deal with it as effectively as possible. But there is need now to ensure that the communal forces — Hindu or Muslim — are not able to take advantage of the situation through rumours that always form the base of large scale communal confrontations. Judging from the past, there is every possibility that the aftermath of the violence will be used by the communalists to spread rumours, foster anger and hate, and use the resulting climate to spark off violence that the newspapers will then describe as “Hindu versus Muslim” and the politicians will try and use to consolidate their respective constituencies. The people, in their first reaction, have stood up for secularism.
The danger now lies in the manipulation of grief and sorrow that the communalists are so very good at. Ironically, the governments at the Centre and in the state both profess to be secular. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insists his government is secular as does the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Mulayam Singh Yadav. Of course, the two governments are bitterly opposed to each other, with the Congress Party leadership led by the Family, and Mulayam Singh led by Amar Singh more vicious in their criticism of the other, than either is against the BJP.
Ugly Indian Narendra Modi’s antics in Gujarat and the highly communal and provocative speeches against the Christians recently do not upset Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, as much as a few asides from Mulayam and Amar Singh, and vice versa. The danger is that Advani and his men will get away with their politics of hate, while the Congress and the Samajwadi cadres are directed by their respective leaders to catch each other by the throat and hang on till the bitter finish.
A word of advice for whatever it is worth: it might be useful for Mulayam Singh to remember the days when he was recognised as a powerful leader of UP because of the direct support of the people, and not because of a cartel of corrupt and self serving persons who are dragging him down with themselves. Communalism had not ended just because the Congress Party has got itself a government. Or the BJP is not appearing to be as strong as it was under the weight of its own divisions.
Advani is still there to stoke the fires, Modi is around to create the fires, the mullahs are there to light the fires, and the politicians exist to play with the fires so that they can get the votes. The Congress Party is happy that the violence has “exposed” the Samajwadi Party, the Prime Minister’s Office is happy that the violence has “exposed” the nexus between the Left parties and the Muslims that it had been pointing towards ever since the anti-Bush demonstrations hit the streets, the Samajwadi Party is not very happy as it is cornered, but is looking for a little fire it can light for an escape route, the BJP of course is jumping with joy as after a long wait it thinks it has found a big fire to light and stoke.
In the meanwhile, several people have died and their families are trying to come to terms with the loss; many more are lying injured in the hospitals trying to cope with the pain and the trauma; the people of Varanasi have decided to hold hands, and share the sorrow, each one of them, Hindu, Muslim, Brahmin, Dalit. The danger is that the politicians will arrive, and arrive not to dry their tears but to mix these in arsenic for a deadly brew. May the gods who the dastardly terrorists attacked now help India!