Every political party and the representatives of all religions were united in their condemnation of the attack on the Swaminarayan temple in Gandhinagar in late September, just as they had been after the Godhra carnage that occurred earlier this year. However, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party chose to believe that there had not been enough condemnation of the latter incident from the “secular” parties. They could thus make use of the Godhra incident to stoke communal hatred. Their attitude was however very different after the attack on Akshardham.
Godhra was a godsend for the saffron brigade. While that incident could well have been a spontaneous, though inexcusable, response from local Muslims, the backlash that followed seemed thoroughly well-planned.
That pogrom probably provoked feelings of revenge among Muslims at the humiliation they had suffered at the hands of Narendra Modi’s goons. One theory on the reasons for the Akshardham attack has it that Pakistan-sponsored terrorists engineered it in a bid to take advantage of this local resentment. It has already been established that the trained assassins who carried out the attack received local assistance. It is thus fortunate that the attack on Akshardham did not result in a communal backlash.
Some of the more rabid elements of the Hindutva brigade believe that Muslims in India have been taught a lesson for the Godhra incident. But the belief that the Muslims’ natural bellicosity was what led to the February 27 incident is anything but true.
It is a testimony to the secular orientation of most religions that there was no communal violence in the country after the attack on the Swaminarayan temple. Communalism certainly exists among some religious groups, but in the sense of an almost exclusive sense of community — it does not entail hatred of other faiths, at least for the majority of that community. But at times, when the rabid minority chooses to attack another community, the pacific majority chooses to remain silent. But make no mistake, that pacific majority exists, and may be mobilized to resist the rabid minority.
This is what is happening in Gujarat now. A movement of resistance to the communal elements among Hindus is sweeping the state, largely born out of revulsion to Narendra Modi’s outrageous comments against the Muslims. Instead of polarizing the Hindus and Muslims, it has led to a polarization among the Hindus.
Most people fail to realize that it is the majority community which suffers the most from communal riots. This is also true of Gujarat. The Hindus of the state have had to deal with the consequences of a ruptured social life, economic losses and most important, severe internal opprobrium.
Enter, the Congress
The secular forces in the state, led by the Congress, should take note of this and act on it. The state Congress chief, Sankarsinh Vaghela, has been instrumental in reviving the party in the run-up to the next assembly elections. Having emphasized that “secularism” for the Congress means working not just for the minorities, but for the welfare of all communities, the Congress should now focus on economic development and the damage done to the state by Modi’s anti-Muslim stance. Even sections of the BJP are beginning to realize that Modi’s hate propaganda against the Muslims is proving counter-productive.
As it is, the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre is having a tough time on a number of fronts. Things will only get worse if communal riots break out again in Gujarat or in other parts of the country. It would be wrong to let the NDA off the hook, saying that there is no alternative or that the country cannot afford mid-term elections. Instead of disrupting Parliament and harming the country even further, the other secular parties must force the NDA to engage in debates on important issues at the national level and accept responsibility for its actions in Gujarat.