Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who's a lesser devil among BJP & Congress?

Let me first tackle the communal vs. secular angle. Congress is perceived (and that’s what everyone in Congress claims) as a secular party whereas BJP a communal party. So let’s get some basic facts. As per dictionary I don’t think communal (which means pertaining to any particular commune or community) is the right antonym for secular (which means not pertaining to any religion). I’d rather prefer to use the word non-communal in place of secular, because that’s what it means in the context of BJP and Congress. Even though everyone in Congress claims to be a non communal party, long back Md. Ali Jinnah and so many other people associated with Muslim League never accepted that. The very fact that Jinnah and Muslim League supporters didn’t get enough space within Congress, finally created Pakistan. That’s a blatant fact that nobody can deny. All those people, who didn’t get space in Congress, did think that Congress was a communal party. I strongly believe the last non communal personality in India was Mahatma Gandhi and every other politician fitted into the communal or non communal bill as per the prospect and space he/she got in any party. Had Jinnah got the space within Congress, that Nehru got, there won’t have been a Pakistan. Let’s fast forward to post independence scenario. The Jan Singh leaders (Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Jayaprakash Narayan etc) didn’t get space within Congress, the same way as Annadurai, MGR, NTR, et al, didn’t get space and floated separate parties specifically for Dravidian and Telegu communities. At present there are so many regional or community based parties in India. So it’s a fact that Congress didn’t have space to accommodate the aspirations of the leaders of these communities. So I don’t think Congress can take the credit of being a non-communal party. I believe by ‘communal’ and ‘non-communal’ (or secular and non-secular) people generally perceive the idea of how much hostile or friendly a party is towards any religious minority community. So let’s now turn to some statistics with regards to the hostilities of BJP and Congress against minority communities.

In the 1984 anti Sikh riots, after the murder of Indira Gandhi, 2,733 people were killed only in Delhi. It’s wide known that the riots had implicit support of many Congress leaders and the police force didn’t come to the rescue to the Sikh victims. Congress leaders like Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, convicted of mob instigation during those riots were in power for quite some time after the riots. Tytler was even given a birth in the UPA government. A very similar thing repeated in Gujrat in 2002 where 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed in Hindu-Muslim clashes in retaliation to at least 15, out of 59 karsevaks, being charred to death when a coach of the Sabarmati Express was set ablaze near Godhra railway station on February 27 by Muslim fanatics. The state apathy and police inaction, that resulted in the carnage was exactly same as what had happened in Delhi in 1984. Both the 1984 anti Sikh riots and 2002 post Godhra riots are equally ghastly episodes and both Congress and BJP governments are responsible for the carnage. But still number of Sikhs killed in 1984 in Delhi alone is more than three times the number of Muslims killed in 2002 in Gujrat. So at least in this case, statistically I see BJP as a lesser devil.

During the 21 months of the Emergency period, between June 25, 1975 and March 21, 1977, more than 100,000 persons were jailed without trial. This was in fact twice the number of arrests made during the 1942 Quit India movement throughout the Sub-continent. During this time twenty custodial deaths were reported. This was again the handwork of the mother of Indian National Congress, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. This is a sort of atrocity towards the minority community, who belonged not to a different religion, but to a different ideology.

Next, let’s discuss the Babri Masjid Demolition issue. Over one thousand people were killed in incidents of violence throughout India after Babri Masjid was demolished in 6th December, 1992. There has been a tendency to label these incidents as "Hindu-Muslim riots," but as is typical in most instances of communal violence, there is mounting evidence that many people killed have actually been the victims of police gunfire. Why has such violence been used against innocent people? One wonders what stopped the government and the security forces from maintaining the peace and preventing the demolition of the mosque as the terrible events of 6th December, 1992, were unfolding. Why has such tolerance been shown toward the attackers in Ayodhya, who were permitted, for over a day and a half, to demolish the mosque, build the "temple foundation," and leave the city in special buses and trains without being appre­hended, even after the state had been under direct president's rule for more than twenty-four hours? The Babri Masjid demolition was the culmination of Mr L K Ldvani’s Rath Yatra (procession) in 1990, which was directly linked to the communal car­nage that took place at various cities along his route. If the Congress government has today chosen to charge Advani (and others involved in the Rath Yatra) with crimes of instigating mobs, then why was he not arrested during the course of 2 years, especially since Advani and his supporters had long advertised their intention of tearing down the mosque? If Advani is responsible for the communal violence the Congress run government at the centre, lead by Mr. P V Narasimha Rao, can’t also be relieved of the charges of inaction. Advani’s Rath Yatra and Babri Masjid demolition were just very intelligently conceived devices that helped BJP to come to power very soon, the same way Congress came to power after the 1984 riots (and also BJP came to power after the post Godhra riots). Somehow it’s a very disturbing trend that people of India bring to power the very party that had indulged in some sort of ghastly carnage and communal violence immediately after the violence and I see both Congress and BJP exploiting this to their benefit. So here also I don’t see any reason why I should brand BJP as more communal than Congress. Recently the Congress’ apathy to condemn the Left Front government in West Bengal, which is also a partner in UPA, for their state sponsored terrorism and extreme human rights violations at Singur & Nandigram, for which the sitting Left Front has lost miserably in the recent Panchayat Polls, has also shown that Congress doesn’t care to take up minority causes unless it helps them electorally, something what can be said for BJP also.

Now let’s turn towards economy and growth. Based on the findings of this paper, between 1987 and 1999 earnings differences between Muslims and non-Muslims have increased, to the detriment of the former. During the entire period Congress was in power and had they really been keen on improving the conditions of Muslims then they would have done something about it. But the fact remains that Congress has been just using the Muslim-factor to their benefit for electoral success. The conditions of Muslims didn’t change significantly during BJP tenure also but then neither did it change during Congress regime.

Lot has been told about Gujrat and Narendra Modi’s atrocities towards Muslims. But the basic fact is that, despite all the riots, Gujrat is still one of the most prosperous states in India. It’s GDP is $54billion (5% of India’s GDP), growing at the rate of 12.17% (against India’s 9.4% during 2005-06), with per capita GDP of $1068 (against $790 for 2006-2007), which is 6th highest among all states. A more striking fact (more details) is that Gujrat’s 9% Muslim population has a literacy rate of 73%, higher by 5% than that of Hindus (against India’s literacy rate 65% among Hindus and 59% among Mulsims).

The BJP lead NDA regime had its share of goodies and baddies, very much same as the present UPA regime. I don’t want to blame UPA for the recent rise in inflation or terrorism. I do accept that they are just helpless and NDA would have been also in similar position now. What frustrates me is the way Congress gives in to its allies. They removed the competent Dayanidhi Maran from Telecom ministry just to please Karunanidhi. Their budging before the Left for the Nuclear Deal is ridiculous. The waiver of farm loans is just a populist measure without actually solving the ailment of the farmers. With economic stalwarts like Montek Singh & Manmohan Singh & a fairly decent Chidambaram the potential of Congress to really elevate India’s economic condition is enormous. But they don’t have the guts to take bold steps and rise above electoral outcome. BJP would have also cared more for the electoral outcome, but then I feel they have more guts to do things. Also they are less hypocrites. If Congress claim that they are pro-Muslim I don’t see any statistics showing their contribution to improve conditions of Muslims or for that matter any minority community. Also I don’t see anything that says that BJP has hindered the growth of Muslims. So I conclude that BJP is a lesser devil than Congress!!

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