If anything should remind us that ‘communalism’ has not increased since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister it is the Hashimpura judgment. For me it brought back horrible memories of ‘secular’ times when almost every year there were massacres of helpless minority groups, often with the shameful complicity of the State. Hashimpura was especially horrific because the 42 Muslim men whose bullet-ridden bodies were flung into the Ganga canal on the night of May 22, 1987, were in the custody of the Uttar Pradesh paramilitary force Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). The story would perhaps never have been told if a handful of those arrested in Hashimpura that night had not survived by pretending to be dead. I went to Hashimpura soon after the massacre and they told me how the PAC men had opened fire on them while they were still in the truck. The youngest of those who died was 13 years old.
At the time, UP had a Congress chief minister and the prime minister was Rajiv Gandhi. But they cannot alone be blamed for the killers never having been punished. In the past 27 years, there have been many ‘secular’ governments in Delhi and Lucknow who have gone out of their way to obstruct justice. This is why the trial has taken so long, and now there is every chance that the killers will go free for want of evidence.
Keep Hashimpura in mind and remember all those other massacres under ‘secular’ leaders, and the 10-month record of the ‘merchant of death’ from Gujarat may seem like a time of great communal harmony. There have been no massacres of Christians, Muslims, Sikhs or Dalits since Narendra Modi took office. The only serious ethnic violence has occurred in Congress-ruled Assam, but you would not know this if you paid attention to the talking heads on prime time television or the plaintive editorials in our newspapers. You would instead believe that India is on the verge of being torn asunder by armies of Hindu fanatics.
It is true that there is no shortage of fanatics. It is true also that two or three of the worst kind have found their way into the Cabinet of Narendra Modi and have disgraced his government by making the sort of statements only fanatics can make. But does this justify the hysteria that we see today in the Christian community? Does it justify those endless street protests, those priests coming on national television nightly to warn of apocalypse or the alarming statement by Julio Ribeiro that he saw India going the way of Pakistan?
It is true that more is expected of India than of, for example, Kenya, where 150 Christian students were massacred last week by Islamist fanatics. But can we get some perspective here please? On the day of this terrible incident, most Indian newspapers had on their front pages the story of Giriraj Singh saying that Sonia Gandhi would not have been accepted by the Congress as its leader if she had been Nigerian. Having said something similar myself, may I be really politically incorrect and say this is sadly true.
To get back though to the prophecies of doom and gloom that have filled the media since Modi became Prime Minister, can we remember that the worst communal violence in India occurred under the ‘secular’ rule of the Gandhi dynasty? Modi has been rightly criticised for not controlling the violence in 2002, but even in Gujarat there is a long history of many worse riots under ‘secular’ Congress governments.
Yet not even when the streets of Delhi were littered with the bodies of Sikhs in 1984 were there the sort of hysterical predictions about the end of tolerance that we have heard in the past 10 months. So it is time for a little rationality. Time to admit that no amount of ‘ghar wapsi’ merits the alarmism of secular hacks and activists. And not a single attack on a church merits the protests from candle-bearing Christians we now see almost daily in the streets of our cities. The exception is the one in West Bengal in which a nun was raped, but can we remember that the chief minister of this state wears her secular credentials woven into the folds of her sari?
At the risk of sounding alarmist myself, may I say that there are signs that the hysteria that is being whipped up over communal tensions is deliberate? It is beginning to seem more and more like a very clever plot to make sure that the Prime Minister’s agenda of ‘vikas’ and ‘parivartan’ fails. The Congress’s hysterics over changes in the land acquisition Bill are part of this plot because if there is one thing that will end the Dynasty’s endless rule, it is the possibility of Modi bringing real change.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh
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