Carving communal constituencies: Countdown to 2014


While we have been tenderly performing the final rites in Mumbai of our full blown fascist and riveted on the blood sport of putting to sleep a 26 year old terrorist from Pakistan, I have, by way of a diversion, looking at the deteriorating communal situation nearer home, in UP. Let me begin with Faizabad, the precursor of Lucknow’s great culture.

Shahjehan Bibi, about 50, a yellow dupatta covers her shoulders in such a way as not to expose the grimy, torn kurta. Her face is expressionless with fatigue. Her piercing eyes, set in dark circles, are two continuous streams. Her tears do not stop. How does one break this forbidding silence? Who knows she may give out a primal wail like Om Puri in Aakrosh.

The torn sleeve in her right hand is held like a handkerchief to wipe her tears. She whispers, with gentle deliberation the names of her three daughters – very floral names they are: Gulshan Bano, 26, Gulistan Bano, 24 and Gulfishan Bano, 22. They are hiding in a distant village. “I was beginning to collect jewellery for their marriage”, she hiccups. What kind of jewellery? “Three silver earings.” She lifts her finger upwards where a thatched roof once was and which protected the family, winter, summer and monsoons.

The picture gets even more grim in countless villages around Faizabad, once the epitome of Awadh’s composite culture. There are about a dozen houses of Shahjehan Bibi’s neighbours gutted likewise by mobs.

Phoolpur Takia is a colony of Muslims called Faqirs living in rows of thatched huts, whose primary occupation is making small tazias for the Moharram observance.

To burn their huts on the eve of Moharram is to destroy them financially. But there is always that indestructible will to survive. I was quite amazed seeing some of them on their haunches making bamboo frames for tazias in their roofless homes.

In a sense, the tensions of Faizabad are a continuation of a dozen or so incidents of communal violence across the state that began soon after Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav ascended the Chief Minister’s gaddi in Lucknow in March. One is not suggesting that the Chief Minister or his party is responsible for the violence. But there is incontrovertible proof that his grip on the administration is pathetic because violence has never been stopped. Above all the Chief Minister has never considered it worth his while to visit the places where these incidents have taken place. Did someone say: Muslims vote SP?

What has happened, follows a pattern: series of hamlets or villages around Bhadrasa town, within a stone’s throw from Faizabad, have been surrounded by arsonists and all the huts, without exception, belonging to Muslims have been gutted. Diligent care has been taken to ensure that the fire does not spread to a Hindu hut.

Ask Nazreen, or anyone else in Phoolpur Takia. They will have the same narrative.

The arsonists, brandishing trishuls and lathies chanted “Jai Sriram”. They ran from the predominately Hindu village of Phoolwaria, across the pond, towards Phoolpur Takia. Petrified women heaved a sigh of relief when three police vehicles drove towards Phulwaria. But after a conversation with the torch carrying mob, the police vehicles backed up and drove away. The mob descended on Phoolpur Takia and burnt everything – even the bamboo skeletons for the tazias. What was that conversation between the police and arsonists about?

Tension in Faizabad was palpable when idols of Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati at the famous Dev Kali temple nearby were found missing from their pedestals on September 22.

Yogi Adityanand and his cohorts turned up, flaring at the nostrils, spewing brimstone and fire, threatening to shake heaven and earth if the idols were not recovered. Supposing the culprits were Muslims. Trust the police therefore to have searched for the idols in Muslim enclaves of Azamgarh. Mercifully, they were recovered from the possession of four Hindus (each from a distinct caste) from Kanpur.

With Dussehra and Eid due on October 24 and 27, the communal gameplan now needed another booster. Immediately stories were floated of a Muslim boy having teased or molested (take your pick) a Hindu girl. The stories dominated the front pages of Hindi newspapers published on Dussehra Day. That day, being a holiday, there would be no publication the next day. So rumour would have more time to spread – right into Eid.

Loot, arson anti Muslim violence gripped Faizabad on October 24 when a large procession, carrying Durga idols, passed the main market past the historic 18the century mosque which is considered a model of communal harmony. Hindu women in hundreds climb the mosque for a darshan of the Durga procession. The mosque arranges for the flowers which can be showered on the idols. This year the organizers of the Procession asked the women to stay home. Could there have been a more tell-tale proof of planning for violence? And yet, the police did nothing. Atleast fifty shops were looted, item by item and then burnt.

Only the next day were the arsonists in the rural areas mobilized, the ones who reached Shahjehan Bibi’s village.

Mitr Sain Yadav, SP MLA, says “Hindus and Muslims had both voted for the SP in recent elections. The effort now is to separate them.” Who gains from this separation? Gainers from the mischief, across UP, will be sorted out later. The effort now is to rattle Akhilesh Yadav.

Also, there is careful social engineering involved in the pattern of conflict. It is no longer Hindu vs Muslim. This time Pasis, Lohars, Mallahs and a series of sub castes from among the Dalits are being individually pitted against the Muslims – a consolidation of Dalit sub-castes with Muslim as foil.

But much the most ominous slogan in Faizabad gives a clue to minds of people like Yogi Adityanand.

UP ab Gujarat banega
Faizabad shurruaat karega

(UP will follow the Gujarat model. Faizabad is the start)

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Comments are closed.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑