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TURNING BACK

Some issues cannot be put off any longer; they should be tackled head-on — now. The violent conflict between religious communities is one of them. There is a lot of rhetoric about taking India forward towards its much-touted destiny of a superpower; the recent change in government at the Centre was achieved, partly at least, with the dream of an industrially prosperous, technologically advanced, trade-savvy India in mind. Differences — of caste, community, language, region — would vanish in spreading prosperity and growing opportunities, or so went the dream. Where do communal conflicts figure in this image of a progressive India? If India’s leaders are jumping on to their hot seats with the mantra of progress on their lips, they need to see that conflicts such as the one now taking place in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, become history. Violence between two religious communities is not only hatred-inducing, destructive and meaninglessly tragic for many, but it also arouses sensibilities and habits that pull Indians back into less secure times and makes nonsense of the pluralism that India has officially aspired to ever since Independence.

It is pointless to blame the public for such conflicts; it is the first duty of all politicians to ensure they do not happen. This cannot be achieved in a day. There is, first, the matter of training the police regarding their treatment of a potentially sectarian conflict. And there is the general issue of education. Politicians have to agree to implement policies that will help teach all children to be responsible citizens of a pluralistic country. The Saharanpur incident, taking place next to the simmering communal tension in Moradabad, shows the same features that have been displayed by the numerous incidents of sectarian conflict in Akhilesh Yadav-ruled UP. The terrible violence of Muzaffarnagar in 2013 had been preceded, according to the admission of the state government itself, by 27 similar incidents, although not of that scale. A small local affair is suddenly going out of hand, in a way that suggests quiet preliminary preparations. So there is covert political planning behind each incident. Hence, it is not enough to say that the Samajwadi Party is making a mess of governance. Mr Yadav and his administration are either neglecting their very obvious duty or are frightened of tackling it. Does the SP want to help sectarian forces take over?