Anil Dharker, Sunday, March 19, 2006  22:50 IST

April 6 is going to be a sad but significant day. On that day, two politicians will embark on special journeys: LK Advani will mount his motorised chariot at Rajkot while Rajnath Singh will do so from Puri. Before the BJP’s shining lights reach Delhi on May 9 (chariots, even if powered by diesel horses, take their time), they will have spread their special brand of good cheer in Gujarat, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

We know what happened the last time LK Advani got up on his high horse. He travelled to Ayodhya, leaving behind a trail of communal violence. Many of these areas had been free of sectarian tensions until Advani came calling and raised his banner of Hindutva and his bogey of “Minority Appeasement”. To these two deadly weapons of divisiveness, he has added a third, “The Spectre of Terrorism” to create a ‘trishul’ of death.

What makes Advani take to the road again? To start with, he wants to re-establish his hardline credentials, which went ‘soft’ after his Jinnah speech in Pakistan. He must also hope that this rath yatra will have the same success as his first, which culminated in the destruction of Babri Masjid, which polarised the electorate, which brought the BJP to power…. And this time, with Atal Behari Vajpayee out of the way, Advani hopes that at last he will become the prime minister.

We know from history, both past and present, how often the tragedies of nations spring from the personal ambitions of political figures. Slobodon Milosevic, who died an undeservedly peaceful death recently, is a prime example of how thousands of ordinary people died to fulfill his Grand Vision.  That, of course, is the speciality of leaders like Milosevic and Advani: no sacrifice is too great to achieve their objectives. That the sacrifices are always made by other people is another matter.

Officially, of course, LK Advani’s stated objectives are different: his aim, he says, is to protest against the terrorist carnage at Varanasi, an aim all of us will endorse. But, he says, the terrorists have struck now because of the government’s policy of ‘minoritism”. Let’s accept that for a moment. And then remind Advani of his days in the government as deputy prime minister and home minister, (so directly in charge of law and order, which included combating terrorism). Yet, during his reign, terrorists carried out their most brazen and callous attacks: on Parliament House, at the Akshardhan Temple and twice at the Raghunath temple. He couldn’t accuse his own government of ‘minority appeasement’ then, could he?

These truths are so self-evident that they couldn’t have escaped Advani’s attention, who in spite of his rantings, isn’t an unintelligent man. That he chooses to ignore them, just proves what I said earlier, that his objectives are purely (or more appropriately, impurely) political and personal.

Terrorism in our country is not home-grown but imported. That’s because, in spite of their large numbers, Muslims are in a small minority, so they realise that it would be suicidal to take on the majority. But more important, because historically, they come from the same culture and even the same religion, (most of them being converts), what Muslims have in common with the Hindu majority is far greater than their differences. Lastly, our unbridled democracy gives everyone a chance for self-expression.

Yet even moderate, mainstream Muslims will be offended at the Advanis of the world constantly going on about minoritism, when they contrast the rhetoric with the reality of discrimination at the workplace and in vital areas like housing. Most offensive of all, is the irony of Advani, the abettor of the Narendra Modi-led pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat, talking of minority appeasement. If at all jehadis are born in this country, it’s because of people like Advani and Modi.

Instead of mounting his rath in April, Advani should go to Varanasi now. He should sit humbly at the feet of the Mahant of Sankat Mochan Mandir. In the aftermath of the carnage, the Mahant appealed for peace, commenced pujas and told trouble-makers like the VHP’s Vinay Katiyar that the temple was off limits to them. While Advani is on his learning mission, he should also visit the Imam of Shahi Masjid of Varanasi, who issued a fatwa against terrorism.

The Mahant and the Imam acknowledged what LK Advani doesn’t: that terrorism is an attack against India, not a part of it or a community in it. It has to be opposed and fought against together. Not by dividing the nation. And certainly not by scavenging for the spoils.