Is it a new chapter?

Between the lines

This was like searching for a needle in the haystack. I was looking for a word of remorse or regret in the reams of statements by the BJP on the Liberhan Commission’s report on demolition of the Babri masjid and on the stepping down of L K Advani from the office of opposition leader in the Lok Sabha. But I was disappointed.

Not that I was expecting a change of heart in the party. Yet I imagined that some leaders, at least from among the young who are supposed to have taken over the reins of the party, would feel sorry for the masjid’s destruction and the killing of hundreds in the wake. It would have sent a message that the BJP was trying to shake off its past and paving a new path of conciliation and consensus.
Instead, there was defiance and justification of demolition in the observations that the BJP leaders made. Remorse was needed, not to humiliate the BJP but to let it realise that a society, founded on the spirit of accommodation, expected the wrong-doers to make amends.

Advani has gone to the extent of saying that the high mark in his political career was the ‘rath yatra’ from the Somnath temple to Ayodhya where the Babri masjid stood till Dec 6, 1992. Still the din raised by the BJP and other leaders of the Sangh Parivar cannot drown the charge that they are responsible for the destruction and the death right up to Mumbai where scores were killed in early 1993.

The Liberhan Commission has named Advani as one of the 64 accomplices in the destruction of the masjid. There is nothing to ensure that action will be taken against any one of them. What should the nation infer if they get away with all that they did?
Sushma Swaraj has replaced Advani as leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha. The change of personalities does not usher a new chapter, the change of policies does. The BJP has given no evidence to suggest that it has jettisoned its communal agenda or that it has distanced from the fanatic RSS which has imposed its trusted man, Nitin Gadkari, as the party’s head in place of Rajnath Singh. It is the same old wine of the RSS prowess in a new bottle.

In the face of the Congress party’s arrogance, the BJP can attract support provided it does not follow the Hindutva line. At present, the BJP is part of the mob which is out to destroy the country’s ethos of pluralism. It has no faith even in India’s constitution, which consecrates secularism in the preamble itself.
No punitive action

The Manmohan Singh government  has placed before parliament the Action Taken Report (ART) on the Liberhan Commission’s findings. But, shockingly, the government does not contemplate any punitive action against those who planned and pulled down the masjid.
True, Justice Liberhan did something unpardonable when he took 17 years to submit the report which also has some howlers. The BJP only concentrated on those to defend itself. But the verbal mistakes do not falsify the fact of demolition.

No doubt, the Muslim community would feel betrayed if the 64 people named by the commission go scot-free after what they have done. But the nation on the whole would equally be horrified if the guilty are not punished. The majesty of law would come down tumbling. And communalists would have a shot in their arm.

It is already a bad scenario which the country faces. The killing of 3,000 Sikhs at Delhi in 1984, nearly 100 Christians in Orissa two years ago and some 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 has disfigured Indians image as a pluralistic society. In fact, the message going around is that the minorities are not safe. On top of it, if there is no action on the Liberhan Commission’s recommendations, India may damage its secular credentials beyond repair.

That the BJP is a rightist party is understandable. The Congress is more or less the same. What is not acceptable is the BJP’s communal approach because it poses a threat to the very idea of India, the concept of unity and secularism. The RSS, the BJP’s mentor, should learn a lesson from the neighbouring country. Religion does not unify the country, pluralism does.

The pull of religion could not check the Bangladeshis separating from Pakistan because the Urdu speaking west Pakistanis did not accommodate the language, Bengali. The LTTE was a product of the Sinhalese inability to cope with the Tamil identity in Sri Lanka than that of the Tigers assertion. When the BJP ruled the country for six years, it kept aside its agenda of mandir.

The party can begin a new chapter only if it stops using religion for achieving its political ends. When the BJP stands in the way of punishment to the culprits in Gujarat or those who demolished the Babri masjid, the party only proves that it prefers wallowing in the waters of bigotry and communalism to seeking the secure shores of secularism. The day the people see that the BJP has stopped mixing religion with politics, they will consider that the party has begun a new chapter.

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