By Najeeb Jung
29 August, 2012
DESPITE the trauma of partition, the unimaginable loss of life and property, the hate filled slogans that resounded across our cities, the Constituent Assembly managed to frame a pristine document that till today enshrines the best of human values and remains a shining example of India’s commitment to democracy, secularism and unabashed affirmative action.
The men and women who made this possible were folks with fierce commitment to democratic and secular values and who understood the eternal ethos of mother India. They dreamt of making Indians free of feudalism, free of ancient dogma, to be forward looking, and to be equal.
One of the issues that bothered them was communalism. The years leading up to the partition had been filled with passions that did not make anyone proud. Muslims demanded the division of India on religious lines and succeeded. But a large number of Muslims had stayed back, causing bitterness among sections of Hindus. Left to them, the Hindu right would have liked to force them out or at best grant them second class status. But despite fierce debate and disagreements, the Constitution of India provided for equality of all religions.
Leading this charge was no less than the Prime Minister himself, who despite powerful factions and personalities in his party, and government, fought a fierce battle to retain secularism as belonging to different communities, a procession protesting real or perceived action by the other community or the police causing tension, rioting, formation of peace communities and finally an uneasy calm.
The rules of engagement became far more dangerous with the resurgence of the Ram Janmabhoomi/ Ayodhya movement.
The carrying of ‘ shilas’ to Ayodhya, the rath yatra, the earlier reaction of the Muslims in forcing the government to amend the Constitution in the Shahbano case and the whole year preceding the actual assault on the Babri Masjid mobilised vast sections of Indian society that had earlier never been so engaged.
And since then we have not looked back.
The vast rioting of the early 1990s and the Gujarat riots of 2002 were much bigger in scale. And even though, the last decade has been relatively peaceful in terms of actual communal violence, the oft repeated bomb blasts, the knee jerk reaction to instantly blame Muslim youth, the large number of arrests of Muslim boys ( only to be let off after years in jail which destroyed their lives), and the involvement of jihadi and Hindu groups has created such bitterness and made society so fragile that a series of bulk SMSes put the country to a virtual conflict with itself.
The essential problem is the lack of action by the governments that have been involved. India is threatened from within and we seem unprepared to meet the challenge.
Why are Ministers/ Chief Ministers flaunting their connections with so called maulanas and sundry sadhus and priests? Why must we always look for compromise and polite dialogue and be seemingly reluctant in meting out harsh punishment that is possible under law and the Constitution? Why are Chief Ministers, District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police not held responsible for either having inadequate intelligence or lacking the courage to combat communal passions frontally? Communalism must be fought at all levels, starting with schools. It surprises me when sections of Muslims object to the Gita being taught as part of the curricula, equally as sections of the Hindu right would not appreciate the teaching of the Quran . It is high time we started dialogue across the board among all sections of society, in schools and universities, in think tanks and social forums on the intrinsic beauty of each faith. It is imperative to understand that no faith can possibly be superior or inferior to another and learn of the positive aspects of each faith. Frankly speaking, if blood is the price of freedom then India has overpaid.
We must bay the communal hydra in its very den, defang it and come out trumps. We can do it.
Najeeb Jung is the vice- chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia.
Source: Mail Today