There was a clash between groups of Hindus and Muslims near a mosque in Jahangirpuri, northwest Delhi, on the evening of Sunday April 17, as a Hanuman Jayanti procession called Shobha Yatra passed by in front of the mosque. There were stones thrown. Some people were injured. Police used tear gas, arrests were made and a first information report was filed. Police say permission was not given for the third procession of the day because the letter requesting permission for the procession arrived late. Details are blurry, as always. Nobody knows how the clash happened after the heated arguments. One FIR that was recorded was recorded by a police officer who was injured. People have been arrested.
On Wednesday, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation sent its anti-encroachment team with the bulldozers to the area of the mosque where the clash took place on Sunday, and a kiosk selling soft drinks was demolished and a spare parts store in nearby was razed. An additional force of 1,250 jawans from the Central Reserve Police Force was deployed to the area ahead of the demolition work. Senior Supreme Court lawyers like Dushyant Dave, Prashant Bhushan and Kapil Sibal brought the case to the attention of the bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana. The court ordered that the demolition work be stopped and the status quo be maintained. But the demolition continued as city officials said they had not received court orders. Mr Dave had to go to the Chief Justice’s court again and tell him that the demolition was still going on. Then the CJI ordered the clerk of the court to insistently communicate the orders to the officials concerned.
One of the incidental aspects of the situation is that the demolition team is bringing down structures belonging to Muslims. The April 17 riot occurred near a mosque. A determined BJP government at the Center – municipalities come under the purview of the Union Home Ministry in the bizarre administrative structure of the National Capital Territory of Delhi – is shouting from the rooftops, via TV news channels of the pro-Narendra Modi government, that the law is respected and no one should oppose the demolition of the encroachments. And as soon as someone utters the word “Muslim”, the representatives of the BJP start shouting loud and clear that it is about appeasement of minorities and “pseudo-secularism”.
This is not an unusual situation. It would be foolish to be shocked that there was a clash between groups of Hindus and Muslims near a mosque as a Hindu religious procession passed, and the reasons for the clash are not not far to seek. The clash itself cannot be kicked out of the thinly concealed anti-Muslim bias of the BJP and its other ideological affiliates. Communal clashes from the 1920s have been a regular feature of modern Indian political life. BJP spokespeople are loudly protesting that their party does not discriminate against Muslims and that all it wants to do is preserve law and order, and that it is not the BJP’s fault that the law is violated by Muslims, and it doesn’t matter that they are poor Muslims, who are punished by law. Of course, the tyranny and illegalities that can be committed under cover of law are all too well known to Indians.
The BJP is neither afraid nor ashamed of targeting Muslims under the guise of law because it will seek the party’s rich electoral dividends. It would be stupid to talk about morality in politics. The BJP and its cronies are only too eager to counter any criticism by saying Congress has pampered Muslims, and now is the time for revenge. What the Supreme Court does or does not do, what lawyers want to defend the weak and the poor – and of course if the weak and the poor happen to be Muslims, then they are committing a serious political sin and they deserve to be labeled and shamed. There is then a low-intensity, undeclared communal war that the BJP is waging wherever it is in power, and it cannot be criticized or punished for exercising the political freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Political parties and civil society groups fighting against BJP communal politics bear a huge burden of acts of omission and commission, and the BJP uses this ammunition sparingly.
Whether the Hindu-Muslim animosity that the BJP wants to keep simmering is good for the country seems irrelevant as the electoral support the BJP enjoys in the Hindi-speaking states of northern India reveals that there is an undeniable undercurrent of Hindu hostility towards Muslims. . The BJP is tapping into this, and it cannot be blamed for taking advantage of communal fault lines. Muslims will survive the constitutional onslaught because no people can be trampled on and their self-respect shaved. So there will still be outbreaks of communal violence.
India, socially, is divided by caste and religion, and there will be caste and communal violence. It is not enough to lament that the BJP has destroyed secular India. There was never really a secular India on the ground.
Dr. BR Ambedkar rightly observed in his closing remarks to the Constituent Assembly that creating a system of political equality will not suffice if there are deep-rooted social and economic inequalities. And we must add that even if inequality is removed in every way, caste and community prejudices will continue to simmer and periodically erupt in violent outbursts. This violence must be contained as far as possible and if the BJP governments want to live on communal violence, there is no remedy.
In Europe, the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries ended in the 18th century because the people were simply tired of sectarian violence. A majority of Hindus and the Muslim minority must realize the futility of hatred before communal violence can end. It may well take a long time, or they may continue to indulge in hatred. Of course, many will argue that Hindus and Muslims should not be equated with their hate quotient. Hindu communalists believe Muslims are the culprits of communal violence, and Muslim communalists believe it is Hindus. The clear political beneficiary of communal animosities is the Hindu-oriented BJP.