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Introspecting 70 years of Indian Independence
Tuesday August 16, 2016 8:37 AM, Syed Ali Mujtaba,

Red Fort

In the 70th year of India’s independence, while the celebration of the country’s development is being lauded and rightly so, as we have achieved many milestones, but we still need to ponder over, as to where we are heading to with regard to the communal situation in the country.

Given the development graph as our yardstick, we could have healed the wounds of partition of India in the 70 years time period that has elapsed so far but if we look at the social scene, we see there is widespread dissatisfaction among the Hindus and Muslims against each other and this symptom seems far from receding.

It looks we have united India on the developmental plank but divided India on the societal level. The old camaraderie among Hindus and Muslims that was based on shared language and culture and centuries cohabitation looks bruised battered and both the communities are still not comfortable with each other.

The communal riots, the terrorist attacks and discrimination on the base of religion show no signs of receding even at the 70th year of Independence. This undercurrent of social divide is thoughtfully nourished and nurtured by the vested interest who have every to gain by divide and rule.

While partition of India was a result of power struggle between Hindus and Muslims and now a distant history but its legacies continue to haunt the country.

The human agony is deliberately built among both the communities and nurtured building false sense of insecurity and then taking mileage from this fears syndrome. This is the running theme since last 70 years.

Muslims in India, according to various commissions and committees report are at the bottom of economic development, socially are marginalized, electorally are innocuous , yet instead of seeing them with sympathy are demonized as competitors to gain power in India.

These make believe hype against Muslim community that has no rationality is consciously built by certain section of the political elite of the country and it is drummed by the like minded media outlets that control the channels of mass communication.

If one has to narrate the history of the development communal situation in the country, there are many events that have been recorded as a cause to the Partition of the country. Impartial historians are of the view that it is not only the Muslims who were responsible for the partition of India, but the blame squarely rest on the Hindu community, who thoughtfully built the insecurity among the Muslims that forced them the Partition demand.

Well that’s history and it’s futile to fight for something that is behind us. However, instead of stitching the wounds of Partition, even 70 years of independence we continue to nurse them very painstakingly.

To understand this, we just have to scratch our memory and trace the rise of the BJP that openly aspires to change the Nehruvian model of secularism based on equality of religion and impose its ideas of Hindu supremacy in the country.

In 1984 the BJP could win only 2 seats in the Indian Parliament but in 2014 the same party got an absolute majority winning 282 seats. How was it possible?

The answer is simple and that is growing sense of insecurity among Hindu community due to the unchecked growth of minority communalism that led to erosion of secular value among them and consolidation of Hindu votes.

To understand this pathetic phenomenon we can begin from 1986, when the Rajiv Gandhi government passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act. This Act was passed to undermine the secular ruling of the Supreme Court on the controversial Sha Bano case.

Some Muslim communal elements saw Supreme Court ruling as an attack on the Muslim Personal Law and prevailed over the government of the day that had absolute majority in Parliament to pass an Act that undermined the secular character of the country.

Two years later, the same government banned the book “The Satanic Verses” of Salman Rushdie to appease the same Muslim elements.

Although these two powerful events were Muslim specific and had no bearing on the Hindu community, but it triggered a opposite reaction among the Hindu community and that led to the growth of majority communalism and was manifested in the Ayodhya movement.

The opening of the gates of the Babari masjid was an act of appeasement to the growing majority communalism but this act actually undermined the nehruvian secularism that had bottled up the growth of Hindu communalism.

The well-planned demolition of the 500 year old Babri masjid on December 6, 1992 and the communal riots that followed really shattered the secular edifice of the country. It actually laid the edifice of majority communalism that was tooth and nail opposed by Gandhi and Nehru through their words and deeds.

Later the post Godhra riots in 2002 that saw the brutality against the Muslims made a mockery of the secular democracy vales in India. With it the slogan of peaceful coexistence and unity in diversity that was painstakingly built over the years came under attack.

At the moment what we see is the secular democratic forces being a dumb witness to the majority communalism that is running amok, reminding us of the gory days of Partition of India.

If we have to save the secular Indian democracy, we have to fight both minority and majority communalism alike. The lesson learnt so far, is if a secular democratic state subscribes to a policy of appeasing the minority fundamentalism, it can’t control the majority communalism. This is a brute reality and that has translated into votes in the 2014 elections.

At the 70th year of independence, if we still continue to criticize one another and keep mum over the communal developments, we can neither be truly secular nor truly Indian.

Lets on 70th independence resolve to cherish the values of secular, democratic India and banish communal ism from the face of our motherland.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at]

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