In Ballot States, BJP Deploys Winning Strategy – Communal Riots

New Delhi: If anyone had any doubts about whether communal violence can be the most potent tool to secure an electoral majority, the clashes between Hindus and Muslims in contending states over the past two months may have it. to be determined.

Over the past two decades, extremist saffron groups have used low-level communal riots to polarize large swathes of Hindus against minorities to secure electoral victories in various parts of India. Compared to what was seen in the aftermath of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, or even the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots which left scores dead and families ruined, the initial noise around these low intensity riots often fades. The media and civil society tend to weigh communal clashes in terms of the number of deaths and serious injuries.

What is often buried as a result of these low-intensity communal clashes are crucial aspects of displacing minority communities in an environment laden with majority aggression. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots in western Uttar Pradesh, which immediately bolstered the electoral prospects of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the region, led to the displacement of at least 60,000 Muslims in western the PU. Their uprooting was such that the riots practically caused a demographic transformation in the region. Muslims were forced to ghettoize – further – into already enclosed dwellings while large numbers of Hindus, regardless of caste group, claimed village lands that were not theirs at the time. origin.

File photo of police officers in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar in 2013. Photo: PTI/File

These riots mostly become the first seeds sown by majority forces who want to harvest hatred between communities.

Even as some political sections of the minority community defend their rights in the face of such aggression, Hindutva organizations in most of the riot-affected towns and even in neighboring areas are waging a concerted campaign to further alienate Muslims. of the mainstream.

Over the past decade, these fringe Hindutva organizations have received support from elected MPs, MPs and other BJP leaders. Some BJP leaders were seen stoking communal passions in the aftermath of the riots instead of creating situations to control rage. A malleable media, meanwhile, supported the campaign only to undermine what is known as “secular common sense”.

Most would agree that such impunity is driven by BJP leaders and other Hindutva activists directly to the highest levels of the saffron party. After all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah – who have both run the BJP’s affairs in recent years – have not been shy about showing their dislike of Muslims in the countryside. elections and political initiatives.

Such an aggressive campaign only helps the BJP leaders protect the main provocateurs from the riots – in most cases they are militants of extremist groups like Bajrang Dal, Sri Ram Sene and others. A concerted Hindutva campaign is clearly aimed at achieving consensus among Hindus, who in different circumstances may not have bothered to think on communal grounds.

The process of consolidating Hindus through low-level communal riots and an ensuing hate campaign appears to be the only usable tool for the Modi-led BJP – which also promises development for all – to secure electoral victories at present.

A clear model

A look at the communal riots over the past two months clearly indicates a trend.

First, in all these riots, Hindutva agents were the primary provocateurs.

The incitement could have been anything – aggressive rallies in front of mosques, a sectarian meme, a social media post or a skirmish between individuals who were given a common color, making almost all riots appear as one. organized attempt to sow hatred among the communities.

Secondly, all the riots took place during festivities which attracted maximum attention from Hindus. Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti, Eid – all these festivals became a rallying point for Hindutva aggressors to unleash minor or major attacks on Muslims.

Third, most of the states that have witnessed these low-level riots are those where legislative elections are scheduled for later this year or next year. Gujarat, linked to the polls, saw communal riots in three cities. The Jahangirpuri riots happened ahead of Delhi’s municipal elections this year. Following a particularly intensive communal campaign by the BJP, northeast Delhi saw its worst communal riots immediately after the Aam Aadmi party won an overall majority in the last assembly elections.

Congress-led Rajasthan, which has been rocked by riots in Alwar and Karauli, and more recently Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s own constituency of Jodhpur, will also head to the polls in 2023.

Karnataka’s Hubballi, who is heading to the polls in 2023, witnessed communal riots last month during a Hindtuva WhatsApp chat.

Similarly, Madhya Pradesh, which will have assembly elections next year, has seen multiple communal clashes at Hindutva rallies.

UP Chief Minister Adityanath, meanwhile, appeared to be making decisive decisions. His tweets (here here and here) indicated a zero tolerance policy for all forms of rioting. UP had seen a number of low-level riots in the run-up to Assembly elections earlier this year, but Adityanath’s message after his second victory appears to be directed at those who bought his “law and order” – seen by opposition parties as a whistle to brand other parties as supporting disbelievers among Muslims.

Fourth, the riots occurred in places where opposition forces have significant electoral strength. Take for example Himmatnagar, Anand and Khambat in Gujarat, where Hindu-Muslim clashes occurred. All of these constituencies are constituencies where the Congress lost the last Assembly elections to the BJP with marginal votes.

Similarly, most of the riots in Madhya Pradesh took place in the Nimaad region, where the Congress performed surprisingly well in the last parliamentary elections. The Khargone riots became the tipping point for the start of a larger Hindutva campaign in the state.

The questionable idea, as the diagram shows, is to boil the common pot in our minds until the election.

A political strategy

The BJP’s selective outrage at the Ashok Gehlot government also shows a carefully planned political strategy. Most BJP leaders blamed the Gehlot government for failing to contain the communal clashes and accused it of having “appeased” the Muslims at the expense of the security of the Hindus. In fact, they aggressively pushed that line on TV talk shows and elsewhere.

It resembles the days when the BJP blamed the government of Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh during the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, despite ample evidence that Hindutva forces had carefully engineered the anti-Muslim violence. The saffron party used the riots to mount a broader campaign against the Samajwadi party’s alleged ‘pro-Muslim’ policies and failure on the law and order front – a campaign the BJP has strongly backed. supported even in the recently concluded assembly elections in 2022.

In BJP-ruled states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, Saffron party leaders have refused to utter a single word against top ministers while unilaterally blaming Muslims for inciting the riots.

Most BJP leaders in Gujarat have maintained the argument that the state has never seen a single communal riot since 2002 and that only the BJP could guarantee such a peaceful state. That such a peace was achieved at the cost of total silence of Muslims in the state was not an important issue for them – in fact, some of them are proud of the fact that Muslims have effectively “shown their place in Gujarat.

Riots in Ahmedabad, March 1, 2002. Credit: Reuters/Arko Datta/Files

Riots in Ahmedabad, March 1, 2002. Photo: Reuters/Arko Datta/Files

However, it seems that after narrowly escaping defeat in the last parliamentary election, the BJP has once again adopted its tried and true political formula of riding a “wave of hate” to secure an election victory. One only wonders how those BJP leaders and saffron party supporters who boasted of being part of a riot-free state would justify three successive riots over the past month.

Many expected the prime minister to break his silence on successive incidents of communal violence over the past month. However, to harbor such an expectation would be to negate the community ecosystem he helped create and now protects in a deeply organized way.

Recently, the Union Home Ministry informed parliament that there were 3,399 cases of communal or religious riots in the country between 2016 and 2020. Overall, there were more than 2.76 lakh cases of riots during this period – an alarming number. All were what we now call low-level violence.

Like the “smart” governance advocated by Modi, it seems the BJP he leads has also adopted a smarter way of riding communal horses to secure election victories.

About Kristopher Harris

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