Lack of sincerity
Prime minister Manmohan Singh expressed the right sentiments over the recurring incidents of communal violence in the country at the National Integration Council meeting in Delhi on Monday.
Other participants, including chief ministers and political leaders also, expressed concern over the damaging impact communal riots have on national unity and the lives of people. The meeting was held in the backdrop of the communal flare-up in Muzaffarnagar in UP in which scores of people were killed. Even according to home ministry estimates, which are bound to be conservative, thousands of people have lost their lives in communal conflagrations, big and small, in the last few years. It is easy to pontificate and prescribe remedial measures from the confines of meetings but when it comes to dealing with communal situations and finding solutions all political parties are at fault. In fact the NIC meeting was itself used by many participants for blaming others and finger-pointing.
A number of commissions which were set up to enquire into communal riots have made various recommendations to prevent and curb them. Some of them have stated that that a communal incident can be stopped from spreading if the right actions are taken within 24 hours. A working group under the late Asghar Ali Engineer set up by the NIC to study these recommendations have also made many proposals which are forgotten. A bill to deal with communal violence, which itself is considered to be flawed, is still pending. Communal politics, which seeks to take advantage of a manufactured divisiveness, hatred and losses of lives of people, and thrives on separateness and suspicions, is at the root of all riots and disturbances. Even when the immediate cause is not political, parties and leaders take advantage of it to promote their political, electoral and personal interests. Muzaffarnagar riots are the latest example.
Incitement of trouble and spreading of communal passions have become easier with the availability of modern communication tools. This casts an additional responsibility on law enforcement agencies. But politicisation of this machinery is itself a problem. Though states are mainly responsible for law and order situations, which cover communal situations too, the Centre’s responsibility is no less. The civil society and its organs also have an important responsibility. Communal riots often go beyond the ordinary law and order matrix because of their nature and the role of players involved in them. There is the need for heightened vigil now, when important elections are in sight.