Communal Offensive in Uttarakhand
Is it possible for an MMS to be made into a reason for a Hindu-Muslim riot? Well yes, if the State is ruled by BJP. For an elaborate answer it is necessary to know about the much discussed MMS incident of Srinagar (Garhwal, Uttrakhand).
The educational township of Srinagar , which has witnessed communal harmony even in the face of flare up across the country, be it the post partition riots of 1947 or the post Babri Masjid demolition riots of 1992-93, was communally rocked by an obscene MMS. The question arises what was happening behind the screens that vitiated the social fabric of the township?
The said MMS featured a couple and as the boy happened to be a Muslim and the girl a Hindu, the Hindutva brigade of RSS and Hindu Jagran Manch preyed upon the incident and tried to milk a riot out of the incident. The MMS had passed from the boy to a few people and thereon a video was made of it. A TV report on the video caused outrage in Srinagar and the residents agitated over police inaction against the culprits behind the video racket.
Notably the Muslim youth in the incident was till recently an office bearer of BJP’s Minority cell. Only 4 days before the plans for the riots were manufactured, he had been removed from the post, on grounds of “not cooperating enough during the Assembly elections.” But in his removal note, no mention was made of the MMS even though the MMS had found the light of day by this time. Evidently further plans were brewed over the MMS by the Hindutva brigade and kept alive till BJP assumed office. The administration in the meantime had gone about clearing encroachments, specifically targeting the Muslim community by entering into their homes and breaking their handcarts and abusing them.
Three months after the incident and months of police inaction and after the BJP assumed power, the RSS and its lesser known outfits made an attempt to exploit the obscene CD/ video racket. While people in the town were demanding the arrest of the actual culprits, the RSS on March 11began to target the carts and shops of Muslims and sloganeered abusively besides severely beating up several people. As they were about to set fire to a shop and engineer a riot, several democratic minded people in the township arrived along with CPI-ML activists and prevented them from pursuing their plans. The police however did not take any action against the Hindutva lumpens thus creating fear in the hearts of the Muslim community in the area.
On 12 March, the RSS cadres from Pauri and Kotdwar again reached Srinagar to pursue their plans for building up a communal flare up, which led to a Bandh like situation in the township.
On 13 March, when it appeared the situation was limping back to normalcy, the RSS activists attacked a radio repair shop belonging to a Muslim, after seriously injuring him. They then proceeded to attack a Muslim vegetable fruit seller. The build up over these incidents under state protection led to the township remaining tense even after several days. Till date, the police have only filed an FIR against “unknown persons” for the communal assaults and predictably no arrests have been made.
While the people in the township are agitated over the MMS racket, they are furious with the Hindutva brigade for trying to give it a communal colour. Several people have pointed out how each of the moral police, who arrived on that day to stir up the riot, themselves have worse exploitative deeds to their names. Further enquiries and arrests, under public pressure, has revealed the names of several powerful, holier-than-thou people from the town who took part in giving the incident a communal twist. After having encouraged the attack on Muslim handcart pullers and street vendors, today they are scampering about trying to save themselves and their sons, who have been found involved in the MMS incident and its conversion into widely distributed CDs.
While the whole question of the MMS and its commercial availability is situated around the dignity of women, identity and the increasing crimes against women, these issues and questions were pushed into the background by the RSS brigade. Unquestionably, creating a riot features higher on their priority than dealing with questions on the commodification of women by the forces of the market.
To foil the RSS designs, CPIML, AISA and JSM joined hands with democratic-minded citizens, the Muslim community, intellectuals and traders to maintain communal harmony. A high level judicial enquiry has been demanded to enquire into the role of BJP, RSS and Hindu Jagran Manch, punishment of those who assaulted the Muslim vendors and enquiries into the police negligence. In the ongoing demonstration by Mahila Manch, demanding a CBI enquiry into the incident, AISA, CPIML and JSM have extended active support and participation.
In the last one month, from Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra obscure Hindu fundamentalist groups under the tutelage of RSS have gone about imposing their vicious diktats and have forcibly violated inter-community marriages. In places where BJP is in power, as in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, these groups have used state power to gain protection. And in Maharashtra where the Congress, Shiv Sena and BJP have played variations of Hindu fundamentalist politics while in power, these organisations have gone about casually in their assaults and arson, without fear of serious action. These incidents, while BJP is in power, are more than the mad actions of fringe groups, as it is on the foundations of such incidents that Hindutva is being built. Unleashing the democratic strength of the people against these degenerative forces can be the only answer.
-- Kailash Pandey