Ram Puniyani


The defeat of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  in the recent elections (May 2009) is a matter of great relief and hope for India. Why?


The defeat of divisive forces in the recent elections (May 2009) is a matter of great relief. The rule of BJP led NDA (1999-2004) had created a situation whereby the norms of Constitution were given a go by and two set of norms, one for majority community and other for minorities started becoming visible. The worst of this is seen today in Gujarat where the minorities have been reduced to the status of second class citizens, bereft of the citizen’s rights which are their due. During the same regime the communalization of text books and infiltration of practitioners of religion based nationalism in different walks of life took place in a big way. The result has been the plethora of organizations which are part of RSS, called Sangh Parivar became very assertive and aggressive.


The manifestations of this are visible not only in the justice deliverance system but also in the sporadic attacks on minorities scattered here and there. The manifestation of their rising assertion becomes painfully obvious in the attacks on Women (Mangalore), Minorities (Kandhamal) and total insensitivity to the victims of Gujarat violence. The base of many of this negative phenomenon in society does lie in the social common sense which has been propagated against the minorities and weaker sections of society, in a consistent and dangerous manner.


It is in this background that the Indian electorate rose up to give a mandate for positive goal for an inclusive nation. This verdict also shows that communal politics may succeed once a while, but in a plural country like ours, inclusive agenda based on the values of freedom movement should hold on for long time. It is heartening to note that the National vote share of BJP has declined by around 2%, and even in Gujarat, where the leaders of carnage of 2002 are ruling; their vote share has gone down. Again in the background of 2004 verdict there is overwhelming verdict for a coalition which should stand for democratic-secular values. One hopes this mandate will give them an encouragement to uphold these values in a more sincere and honest way.


The problems of people prevail in all arena of life; farmer’s suicides suggest agricultural situation needs more than just the farmer’s loan waivers. The levels of poverty and unemployment do tell us that time has come to take the next logical step of employment guarantee scheme to look at the pattern of growth and development where we can do away with the rampant poverty and illiteracy at a deeper level. A lot needs to be done to ensure the upholding of human rights of weaker sections of society, against atrocities against dalits and women.


The state of health of a democracy has to be judged by the equity and security of minorities. What is the condition of minorities today? It is facing the problems of equity and security, the problems of identity are becoming more dominant in such situations. One compliments the UPA Govt for instituting Sachar Committee. The point is that now it requires topmost priority in its implementation. It be the education amongst poor, poor Muslims, we need to go miles to ensure that education and employment of minorities is looked from the angle of affirmative action, the pseudo criticism of appeasement notwithstanding. The question of security is deeply related to the question of justice. The recent shoe throwing episode demonstrated that the scars of injustice remain; they don’t heal unless justice is done. So many state Governments have failed in their duty as far as punishing the guilty of violence is concerned. In Mumbai, Shrikrishna Commission report has remained on the shelf despite the repeated promise to implement it. In Gujarat one hopes the work of Special Investigation Teams (SIT) brings out the truth and the Central Government musters all the courage at its command, to punish the guilty of the Gujarat carnage, whatever be their threatening and aggressive postures.


In Kandhmal also the guilty are roaming with bloated chests while the victims have been feeling scared to return to their villages. An immediate effort to rehabilitate them, by bringing in the rule of law is of paramount importance. In Gujarat also the Modi Government has not bothered to distribute the relief to the riot victims. These riots victims are living painful life bereft of facilities and are ignored by state administration. The central govt has to remind the state government of its constitutional obligations failing which strict action must be taken. Overall a lot needs to be done to ensure that SIT (Special Investigation Team) work goes on smoothly and unlike in previous cases where BJP workers got Zahira Sheikhs testimony changed by giving her money, the witnesses should be given total protection and concrete assurance that Modi Government will not be able to harm them in any way.


One also recalls that during the previous UPA rule the National Integration Council met just couple of times. This body needs to be activated as the regular watch dog on the state of affairs related to the National Integration. The nation is looking forward with hope and anticipation that dark period of communal ascendance, the temple mosque issues are put in the pages of history, the place where they belong and as Nehru put it, new temples of learning and job creation are brought to the forefront.


The popular perceptions are the base of sectarian violence, which are the base of divisive forces. Lot of misconceptions about minorities, terrorism, conversions has had a field day. The RSS shakhas have been spreading it, their schools are adding on to the problem, and rumor mills are adding to the problem. It is time that a multilayered approach is undertaken to promote the values of amity and harmony which were the core of Indian society as seen in medieval times-Bhakti Sufi traditions- and as seen during the freedom movement when all the communities rubbed shoulders to get freedom from British rule. The new Government has to evolve this basic program to sow the seeds of long term harmony in the society.    

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