How radicalising the society works
Oct 27 2013
Post the Babri Masjid demolition riots, when Bombay burnt in two phases, radicalisation happened on both sides. As a result, compassion got subverted. Although Mumbai experienced only two phases of rioting, compassion died out rapidly as the normal docile middle class fuelled the savagery with their apathy. When casualty figures were referred to, people asked heedlessly, ‘How many of us and how many of them?’, as if inquiring about a cricket score.
As expected, Rahul Gandhi’s comment has provided ammunition to Narendra Modi allowing him to take pot shots. But Modi is a past master of the art of radicalisation. Remember how in the aftermath of the Sabarmati Express burning he made a spectacle of the last rites of the victims? Not only because he was grieved by the tragedy, but he was manipulating the sentiments of an already polarised populace. The Sangh Parivar is also a past master at such tactics. Gujarat, which was their prayogshala, was a classical example of how communal riots radicalise people and make it easy for lunatic elements to exploit the situation to their advantage.
Since the late 60s till the 70s and 80s, Gujarat saw many savage Hindu-Muslim riots. The power struggle within the Congress party ensured that such riots were instigated to discredit political rivals in power and to unseat them. This, in turn, divided the society on communal lines. It also dehumanised a large portion of the public and inured them towards the brutality of communal violence. What was most tragic was that it created a band of extremists on both sides, who progressively lost all compassion and became brutes. Every subsequent riot became more bestial and people weren’t bothered. The Sangh Parivar found this to be an ideal situation and exploited it to their benefit. The culmination was the brutal post Babri demolition riots and finally the post Godhra incident riots, that crossed all limits of cruelty.
The result of the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai and the way the Shiv Sena used them to polarise the society in the then sufficiently secular and cosmopolitan metro, led to the first serial bombing inMumbai. Muslims in the city felt threatened first by the demolition of the Babri Masjid and then by the manner in which the community was targeted during the two phases of the riots. A large bunch of Muslims were radicalised and this made it easy for Pakistan’s ISI, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon to find recruits for their outrageous scheme of savaging the city. It was easy for them to find young men ready to become their pawns. While not many of these youths were hardened criminals, some were petty criminals engaged in smuggling; but none of them was a terrorist. However, factors such as their recent trauma, sense of betrayal, insecurity and the need for revenge were exploited and Mumbai became their victim.
On the other side, the polarisation of the society, first due to the riots and then by the serial blasts, created a vote bank, which ensured that for the first time, a coalition government of Shiv Sena-BJP wrested power in the state. One set of exploiters turned a bunch of ordinary human beings into terrorists and another group expertly fragmented the society, and then cleverly manipulated its sentiment and fear to get power.
If one is to ignore what Rahul Gandhi ended up saying and understand what he meant to say, it will be very difficult for any rational person to disagree with him. Of course, because of the unfortunate use of words, it will provide bullets to tacticians like Modi to criticise him.
At the time of Independence, the savagery of partition riots had radicalised the population. Then too, there was a deep divide between Hindus and Muslims, but then Bapu was amidst us and he had the ability to control the masses. So in the aftermath of the riots, resulting from the direct action day and then due to the transfer of population, he, to a large extent, soothed emotions and was able to douse the inferno. His murder by fanatic organisations shocked India and broke the chain of violence. Now fanatics have a field day, both feeding on each other, helping each other to become stronger and exploiting the situation to radicalise and recruit. And unfortunately, we don’t have Bapu to save us.
(The writer is founder president, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation)