Communal riots, an endless disease

For all its aspiration to be counted as one of the world’s top powers, the ground reality of communal violence in India all but makes it look like a pipe dream.

Trilokpuri, the site of the latest communal conflagration, is not a tiny village in the back of beyond, away from the gaze of administrators, but a vibrant working class locality in east Delhi, a 30-minute drive from the seat of the federal government. All it took for Hindus and Muslims to attack each other was an altercation between two gangs over the use of a public space. In a matter of minutes, what was reportedly a fight over a non-religious issue took a communal turn. The victims, a couple of Hindu youngsters, claimed that some among the attackers had rushed to a nearby mosque and started pelting stones from there. Within minutes, as in many other communal riots, Hindu and Muslim mobs were at each others’ throats. 

The violence happened Thursday last, the day of Deepavali and for the next couple of days all hell broke loose. The Muslims, a minority in Trilokpuri, had to bear the brunt of attacks from Hindu mobs. Some of them accused the police of siding with the Hindus. Many among the Muslims fled the locality. It took at least five days for a semblance of normalcy to return to the area.

The point here is, despite the presence of the Central government apparatus round the corner, a well-equipped police force and paramilitary troops stationed in the capital, violence was not controlled until the mobs had their fill and the rioting ebbed with little help from the state. If this is the quality of administration in India’s jugular, one can understand why a communal riot in a neglected hinterland like Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh completely goes out of control and makes virtual mincemeat of innocent people, as we saw in September 2013.  

The bigger picture is scarier as the country is dotted almost entirely by villages, towns and cities where Hindus and Muslims live alongside, with prejudices and mutual suspicions lurking just below the surface. If all it takes is a teeny-weeny misunderstanding to ignite violence between two communities aided by a lethargic administration, irrespective of which party is in power, what good is talk of development, progress, prosperity and the vision of providing equal opportunities for all?

 Since independence, if there is one disease that continues to hamper genuine modernisation, it is the mutual mistrust and bias between Hindus and Muslims who are often mere pawns in the hands of the powerful.  

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