Violence in Lucknow: A Fresh Episode of Indian Secularism
Communal violence in Muzaffarnagar district of the historical city of Lucknow claims around 50 lives, in the freshest instance of communal hatred that leads to the most heinous crimes on the basis of faith and belief, in the World’s largest Democracy. 50 Indian citizens lost their lives, in their own country, which also happens to be a self-proclaimed secular democracy, at the hands of their own brethren, under the nose of their own elected representatives, while their own protectors, the Jawans of their own Army, mutely watched. One would imagine that this picture, coupled with a Curfew, would be the surest protection; but it is not so in India, and none of the pompous, glittery claims of our idealists can render it so.
Mute might have been the three companies of the Rapid Action Force and the 15 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary, deployed in the Old City since the breakout of the clashes, along with the Police; but our elected representatives were certainly not. They were most eloquent – the ruling Samajwadi Party accusing the Opposition of causing the riots in a conspiratory attempt to defame their government, and the Opposition accusing the ruling party of failure and demanding them to step down. The Indian blood continues to spill on the streets, and the politicians continue to weave with it red carpets on which to walk to the Parliament. And the election game goes on, a whole year before the commencement of the actual campaigns for the Lok Sabha elections, and the citizens go on watering their hard-earned secular Democracy, which their ancestors had won for them with their blood, with even more blood, this time around, their own. The only difference is that then, Indian blood was spilled by their tyrant enemies, blinded by their colonialist ambitions, whereas now, it is democratic Indian hands that spill it, with slogans of unity and equality.
The history of communal riots in India is as old as the modern, secular India itself. Communal riots have always walked hand in hand with modern India, and have time and again been used as a tool in the hands of the politicians – a tool that goes a long way in helping them to be democratically elected to rule the people of India. This is a most versatile tool, which can be used on the spur of the moment, as per the demand of the occasion. It can help a party rise in power or defame its opponents, it can raise one’s stakes and shatter the others’, it can show the exit door to those sitting in the Parliament and replace them with fresh faces. And India, being a land of vast diversities and communities, always offers some ready ground for stirring up communal tensions. Unfortunately for the historical city of Lucknow, the choice fell on it this time.
Again, with the great variety of cultures, leading to a vast number of occasions to be celebrated in numerous different ways, it is most easy to find a spark to ignite a fire. A clash between two sects of Muslims during a religious procession, which resulted in injuries among the people, proved to be a fertile ground for igniting the communal fire. With the Lok Sabha elections near enough, some politicians took advantage of the tensions and made use of the social media and WhatsApp to make an old video viral, claiming that it belonged to Muzaffarnagar and showed two Hindus being lynched by Muslims. The spark immediately caught fire, and anti-Muslim riots broke out, thus turning the sectarian clash into a full-fledged communal disaster, claiming at least 50 lives according to official reports. By the time the Police could warn the people that the video was fake, communal tension had already taken a heavy toll and the political game had been played. Bharatiya Janata Party MLA in Meerut, Sangeet Singh Som, shared the video without considering the responsibilities of his political position, and other politicians also joined in the game, and by the time FIRs were registered against four members of the BJP along with an MP from the Congress and arms licenses were cancelled for the weapons used to kickstart the violence, the anti-Muslim emotions had already bathed Muzaffarnagar in blood. The FIRs, however, were not coupled with arrest warrants, and the Police failed to arrest the nominated persons, while communal hatred ripped Muzaffarnagar apart with such an intensity that even in the hospitals, Hindu and Muslim patients were isolated from each other in different rooms.
In addition to the attack on lives, people were evacuated from their houses and the houses torched and religious structures damaged. At least a thousand houses have been found burned so far, with around 50,000 people rendered homeless, taking refuge in local madrasas and makeshift refugee camps, where hardly any aid from the government has reached them so far. This is how communal riots are used a tool to change the demographic face of certain places in democratic India, where people’s lives are spared on the condition that they leave their houses and never return to their village.
This is India, the largest Democracy of the World, founded on August 15th, 1947, the people of which had solemnly resolved on November 26th, 1949, to constitute it into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic, and to secure to all its citizens social, economic and political justice, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship and equality of status and opportunity, while promoting among them fraternity, assuming the dignity of all individuals along with the unity and integrity of the Nation.