In the worst ever communal flare up Gujarat has lost over 2000 of its citizens, over 3000 crores worth of social wealth, most of it belonging to Muslims, and has witnessed the decimation of religious places, Dargahs and Masjids. It is not nor for the first time that we have not seen state playing partisan role before but here the matters are qualitatively different. The demand that state administration should be transparent has been fulfilled in the wrong direction, the participation, compliance and encouragement of state personnel in supporting the rioters was transparent and no alibis were used in breaking the laws, in twisting the meanings of the clauses as the state apparatus was a mighty tool in the hands of the pogrom conductors coming from the stable of Sangh Parivar.
To begin with one of the civil servants, Harsh Mander was so aghast with the role of his peers and colleagues from the administrative services that he could not overcome his disgust and resigned from the administrative servive. Then Super Cop Julio Reibero was equally shamed by his colleagues in the Khakis who were supposed to be manning the riot control but in fact it was difficult to distinguish the rioters from the ones who are supposed to control the riots. One also recalls many a ministers operating from the police control rooms and directing the anti-minority operations. Most of the human rights reports like Human Rights watch, stated that State officials of Gujarat, were directly involved in the killings of hundreds of Muslims since February 27 and are now engineering a massive cover-up of the state's role in the violence. One of the researchers from South Asia watch pointed out that what happened in Gujarat was not a spontaneous uprising, it was a carefully orchestrated attack against Muslims. And that the attacks were planned in advance and organized with extensive participation of the police and state government officials.
The 75-page report from the Human Rights watch documents some of the attacks against the Muslims and concludes that the police were directly implicated in nearly all the attacks against Muslims. The standard response was 'We have no orders to save you': While in some cases they were passive observers in other instances the police officials led the charge of murderous mobs, aiming and firing at Muslims who got in the way. At times under the pretext of offering assistance, some police officers led the victims directly into the hands of their killers. And the phone calls made to the police and other support agencies failed to get the necessary assistance.
The acme of the degeneration of the duties of the state has been reached. When Hitler was on rampage against the Jews, other weaker sections of society, and against those who were opposed to his policies it was state, which implemented the programme of annihilation of the Jews and other. Probably the hairs breadth difference still lies between what we witnessed in Gujarat and what happened in Hitlers Germany. Here though the Sangh Parivar is controlling the state apparatus it itself is not the state apparatus. The trajectory of communal violence has come a long way since they first began in the last decade of 19th Century. These riots provoked by the communal politics (Muslim and Hindu both), came up in response to the rise of Secular Indian National Congress (INC). British had a two-pronged strategy as far as the communal politics was concerned. At the political level they did promote the communal outfits of Muslims and Hindus both, to pursue their policy of Divide and Rule. At the level of communal violence they were fairly neutral. After independence before seeing the role of state in Communal violence as such we must remember that due to the Partition tragedy most of the Muslim communal elements had left for Pakistan and Muslim Leagues impact became very weak. Right since the beginning the Hindu Communalists, in addition to having their own outfits (Hindu Mahasabha and RSS) had also infiltrated in the INC. Also the trained swayamsevaks of RSS started entering all the wings of state machinery right from the beginning. It is not only that Ayodhya district magistrate Nayyar was alone in helping RSS in making a dispute of Babri Mosque. such characters were in all the walks of administrative machinery, media and the armed forces.
In most of the riots, which have pained us since the first Jabalpur riot of 1962, one sees a common pattern. While the bureaucracy soft peddles the offence of wings of RSS police plays the partisan role. While the administrative machine is sympathetic, to the Hindu sentiments (read Hindu Communal politics), the communalization of police has been blatant. There are instances (Meerut-Malyan, 1987) where the Provincial Armed Constabulary lined up around 300 Muslims besides the canal and shot them so that the bodies gets disposed off in the canal. There are instances (Bhagalpur 1989) where the police along with the rioters killed 180 Muslims, buried them in a paddy field on which cauliflower was grown. Most of the inquiry commission reports have shown the partisan role of police in the riots. The Shrikrishna Commission also indicted the police especially its Addl. Commission R.D. Tyagi for his shooting of the innocents in the Suleman Bakery.
One also recalls the communal virus seeping in the various state sponsored institutions, right under the nose of the Government which is supposed to be protector of Secular values as per the constitution. After the demolition of Babri Mosque, students of Lal bahadur Shastri Academy, the future administrators etc. celebrated the event with unusual gusto.
So the rot is set all around. And its qualitative transformation in the Gujarat is a dangerous portent for the values, which emerged from the Indian Freedom struggle and got enshrined in the India Constitution. Where did the things go wrong? Why the infiltration of RSS swayamsevaks in state machinery could not be checked? Why did the Nation adopt a complacent attitude towards the proliferation of communal virus in the police stations and other offices? Did most of us think this outdated ideology will die its natural death and does not deserve to be fought in a proactive way? We need to answer all these if we want to restore the democratic ethos and secular values in our political and social life.
Communalization of state apparatus has taken place due to multiple factors. The silent infiltration of the swayamsevaks has been intensified whenever the RSS progeny BJP comes to power. And in Gujarat the uninterrupted rule of BJP has totally communalized all the state institutions and even the civil society. The BJP-Bajarang Dal volunteers have a thick as thiefs liaison with police. This is supplanted by the role of media, which has been doing this persistently, and in this language medias role is very dangerous. During Mumbai riots one could see that for most of the police constables and other police officials the Saamana, a Shiv Sena newspaper is the gospel truth, it is the one, which shapes their opinion. And surely different versions of this communal rag must be circulating in all the parts of the country putting the fuel to the communal fire. We need to take stock of all this if we are serious in combating these lethal bacteria, which has entered our body politic.
What needs to be done to stem the rot, the polity is seriously ill. A serious effort and careful nurturing of values is more than called for to promote the plural democracy which celebrates differences as what matters at political level is not ones religion but ones citizenship, which is supreme and non-negotiable.
(*)(The writer works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai)