Since 2014, the lynching of Muslims and Dalits has been a recurrent feature. While the silence on part of the government seems to empower the ‘gau-rakshaks’, (Mohsin Shaikh’s murder being the latest to the list in this regard), it also strengthens the belief that ‘Muslims in India are having the worst of their time since independence’ where they have been reduced to the second grade citizens. Yet putting the blame entirely on BJP is half the truth as Muslims in India have suffered equally if not more during the Emergency period and the Ayodhya dispute to say the least. The difference lies only in the form. The Opposition’s inability to question this culture (the ‘mob-culture’), probably fearing that it may hurt the sentiments of the majoritarian community, and thereby its vote-bank, further gives proof to this conviction that Muslims in India have not suffered less under the so called ‘Muslim friendly regimes’ who are in opposition today. However what is more worrying is that while the media (except a few T.V channels and Newspapers) barely gives coverage to this spate of cold-blooded murders, the civil societies have equally failed to condemn the ‘mob lynching’, except a few short-lived campaigns such as ‘Not in my name’.
The Muslims in India are generally yet quite wrongly believed to be ‘appeased’ by the Congress and the other ‘Secular Regimes’. This in turn has hurt them more than anything else; as it has given the Rightist forces a chance to bash the minority community (read Muslims). Sachar Committee Report in this direction is the newest yet finest example. The Report which otherwise should have been an eye opener was instead projected by the BJP as a sort of ‘appeasement’ from Congress and SP. However, if we bother ourselves a bit and come out of our comfort zones and closely look into the history of this “appeasement” we will find that this “appeasement” is nothing but a myth. In fact Muslims in India have suffered equally if not more under the so called ‘Secular Regimes’.
Nehruvian era was arguably a period of relative peace and communal harmony. This may be because of two reasons:
a) Legacy of national movement and the tall leadership of Nehru
b) Or the electoral behavior during this period of time was more largely guided by the issues of security and physical protection after the trauma of partition. (Sudha Pai and Sajjan Kumar, 2018)
Yet it would be wrong to say that Nehru was successful in his action against communalism. Mushirul Hasan (1988) in this direction has rightly observed that Nehru did not ban communal parties and allowed the banning of cow slaughter in UP, Bihar, MP, and Rajasthan. All these states at that time were ruled by Congress party. One also fails to understand the logic behind the imposition of ban on RSS and then lifting it just a year and half later.
Post Nehruvian period witnessed the alleged excesses of all sorts on Muslims (Sudha Pai and Sajjan Kumar, 2018). These state excesses also coincided with the growing political and economic aspirations of the Muslims whose concerns were from here on not only connected to the issues of security and protection. Congress, more particularly under Mrs. Indira Gandhi, during the 1980s made a conscious decision to shift to the right. Having lost the support of Muslims and Dalits during the emergency, she turned to the Hindus for support against the Muslims. Shahabuddin (1986) aptly sums up this oscillating behavior of Indira Gandhi “Mrs. Gandhi was ‘strategically secular’ and could be ‘tactically communal when the occasion so demanded’”. Her decision to build a Bharat Mata Temple was a well-calculated political move to create a Hindu vote bank.
As if all this was not enough, Rajiv Gandhi deliberately embarked upon a policy of ‘soft Hindutva’. His constant reference to the Anandpur Sahib Resolution as a threat to the unity and integrity of the country appealed to the Hindus in north India which yielded rich dividends while the Muslims felt neglected (Sudha Pai and Sajjan Kumar 2018). Moreover the three controversies with communal overtones that happened during his tenure marked the retreat from secular politics.
a) Shah Bano Incident and Congress support to the conservative element.
b) Banning of “Satanic Verses” and the resultant riots in UP.
c) Finally the RJBBM dispute in which the Congress government acted as a mere spectator.
Given this background blaming BJP for the communal disturbances and the woeful conditions of Muslims is just another way of exonerating the so called ‘Secular Regimes’ and Civil Societies. In fact SP has been involved in all the major riots of UP during the 2000s, and indulged in the competitive communalism(s) for narrow political gains (Sudha Pai and Sajjan Kumar, 2018). The SP government deliberately chose to turn a blind eye to the rising communal tension in a hope to win over Muslim support in 2014 National elections. It did not prevent either the Muzaffar Nagar riots nor were the effected provided with the adequate shelter. The state practically did nothing to punish the culprits who are rather roaming scot free. BSP is the only party under whose regime there have been no communal riots. However that too has been out of power since 2012, losing some of its support base to the BJP due to the Sub-alternization of Hindutva politics on part of Yogi and his HYV organistaion.
Sajad Ahmad Dar is pursuing doctorate from Centre of Advanced Study, Department of History, AMU, Aligarh.