The increasing incidents of communal violence in the country in the last few months are a matter of serious concern.
Electoral politics usually fuels communal fires and even after the general election, the prospects of by-elections in some communally sensitive areas have triggered trouble and violence. According to the data given out by the government in parliament, there were 308 communal incidents this year and there was an increase in the number in May and June. Unofficial figures are higher. UP, Maharashtra and Karnataka account for most of them, with UP claiming the highest number. The Congress has claimed that the Modi government is responsible and answerable for the spurt in the number after it came to power.
Society has communal fault lines but politics deepens them and exploits them for its own narrow ends. UP has seen riots and violence more than any other state and parties have blatantly catered to and provoked communal trouble and hostilities there. The conduct of parties, especially the Samajwadi Party and the BJP before and after the Muzaffarnagar riots of last year, were revealing of their investment in communal sentiment.
One riot-accused is now a minister in the Modi government, and the Samajwadi Party, which rules the state, has openly supported a particular community and refused to take action against them even when they were found guilty. After Muzaffarnagar, there has been trouble in Saharanpur, Moradabad, Meerut and other places over issues like the use of loudspeakers, the boundary wall of a shrine or attack on a woman. There are elections in two of these places and a communal polarisation will make things easy for parties.
The BJP gained from such polarisation in the Lok Sabha polls and it will only suit the party if the recurring troubles continue or worsen. Its hardcore supporters may even be feeling more emboldened after the victory. The Samajwadi Party, being ruling party of the state, has a greater responsibility to keep the law and order situation under control but it seems to be more interested in stoking fears and consolidating its position among a certain community to retrieve its lost political ground.
The Congress politics is not very different though it is not in a position to practise it as effectively as the Samajwadi Party. Parties conduct themselves much the same in other states too though there may be changes in methods and emphasis according to local conditions. Communal violence will not stop as long as parties practise communal politics.