There was a disturbing report recently about communal incidents in the country showing an upward trend. According to the report released by the Union Home Ministry, there were 287 communal incidents in different parts of the country this year till the end of May as compared to 232 over the same period in 2014. In other words, such incidents showed an increase of 24 per cent. What is particularly worrying is that the deaths in these incidents show a quantum jump of 65 per cent. The number of injured also went up from 701 in 2014 to 961 in 2015.
The states where maximum number of incidents were reported include Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
The sixth report of the National Police Commission (NPC) released in 1981 has a very useful chapter on communal riots. It is a tribute to the brilliance of NPC members that what they said more than three decades ago is generally true even today. The report, while summing up its recommendations, concludes that “only a strong political will, determined official commitment to duty, and impartial administration of the laws of the land, and a widespread popular condemnation of all those who incite communal passions and instigate communal riots, can in the long run contribute to the solution of the problem”.
Is there a strong political will to ensure that there are no communal riots? Are the officials committed and do they have a sense of determination to combat the threat of communal riots? Do we have impartial administration? Unfortunately, it is difficult to give an affirmative answer to any of the above questions. We have today a political class, which thrives on creating differences, polarising communities and garnering votes. There is a lunatic fringe, which is allowed to go berserk and no action is taken against them either by the party leaders or by the police. We have a Member of Parliament, who is always advising his adversaries to go to Pakistan. There is another rabid member from the south who appears to be a reincarnation of Jinnah. It is disappointing that they have not been booked for exacerbating communal passions.
The officialdom shows both commitment and determination—but in a very perverse way. They support the political agenda of the party in power, irrespective of its consequences on law and order. In Muzaffarnagar, which witnessed a horrendous riot, things went out of control essentially because one community felt that they would not get justice from the administration that was being wire-pulled from Lucknow. Impartiality in the enforcement of laws is a far cry. The administration invariably shows the political bias of the party in power. In one of the biggest states of north India, members of a particular caste and a particular community consider themselves to be above the law of the land. It is also tragic that the communal snakes of different communities are today eulogised rather than condemned. The media also gives them publicity; TRP is more important for it than communal harmony. No wonder, the communal situation is gradually deteriorating and could explode if the present trends are not reversed or at least arrested.
The British pursued a policy of Divide and Rule. They were an imperial power and, so, their motivation was understandable. They played one community against the other because they thought—with some degree of justification—that it would enable them to stay in power. But what justification can there be for our political parties to be playing this nefarious game? One party has been consciously instilling a sense of fear among the minorities and projecting itself as their benefactor. This has caused incalculable harm to their psyche.
It is high time that the law enforcement agencies are insulated from extraneous influences so that they are able to uphold the rule of law and do not become pliable instruments in the hands of politicians in power. The NPC report significantly said that “the problem of communal riots cannot be isolated from the general law enforcement in a state”.
It is also necessary that we consider ourselves as Indians first and Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs later. Unless this idea is firmly embedded in the minds of people, compartmentalised thinking would fragment our politics further, jeopardising political stability and fracturing social cohesion.