Author: Saadut
•9:20 PM

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution "the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India" aims to pursue ‘equality to status and of opportunity’ as the basis of the Constitution. This essentially would aim at ‘equality of treatment under equal circumstances’. While the constitution might preach lofty ideals, the practice on ground is very different in India. Not only do equal rights stand denied to minorities or people in political conflict zones, they stand erased with impunity by the same political powers that are under oath to protect them. (Also read 15.1 The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.)

Whatever be the scale and scope of violence in political conflicts or social unrests, innocent civilians increasingly become targets here. In case of regional conflicts and rebellions they may become soft targets to score a psychological point or be placed in the wrong place at the wrong time and be caught in the ‘collateral’ crossfire. In social unrests and politically engineered violence, minorities have been known to become deliberate targets of a larger political game plan. While in regional conflicts the state in its entirety assumes the role of the ruling oppressor supported by a military machine, in social unrests the politically governing state becomes either the masked perpetrator of crimes or its silent alibi, all for petty votes.

In the recent Muzaffarnagar riots that targeted Muslims, in just a few hours of mayhem over 63 people were killed (some claims put the number at 80), many women were raped while thousands stood displaced (unofficial sources put the number of displaced Muslims at 100,000, while government has acknowledged 50,955 displaced persons in 11 relief camps).  Reports suggest that as many as 27 women were raped by Hindu rioters, most of them gang raped brutally. Not only did these riots against Muslims look like a planned act, most of these riots, rapes and killings happened with the clear support of the village head and complicity of the state police. Days before these riots a local BJP MLA Som Sangeet is known to have uploaded and circulated a fake video to incite communal tensions in Muzaffarnagar. While the BJP MLA claimed Muslims were lynching Hindus here, the video originally from Pakistan  is about a 2010 incident of two brothers in Sialkot lynched by mob who mistook them for dacoits. Circulation of this fake video via CD’s, internet links followed by a ‘Mahapanchayat’ of Hindu Jats further escalated tensions there. The political game plan was already working. 

Victims, who took shelter in the village head’s home, fleeing attacks on their own homes, were killed and raped right in his presence and the local police also chose not to respond to calls by victims for help. According to an eyewitness “They (the local police) arrived (after he had repeatedly called them on his mobile), but only at 12.30 pm, four hours after everything was over. Around 80 people from my village had been killed by then,” Not only was this violence macabre and ghastly, post riots too the victims were torn in a political denial by the ruling, arrogant state. Their plight tossed around like a political football, the ruling Samajvadi party treated them like unwanted baggage. After riots 41 relief camps were set up in Muzaffarnagar and 17 in Shamli district, but pretty soon the state government saw these camps as a political embarrassment and pursued ways to deny them any support or forcibly close them. Over weeks as freezing cold killed more than 40 infants in these camps, UP Principal Secretary (home) Anil Kumar Gupta added his wisdom to these deaths "Nobody can die of cold. If people died of cold nobody would have been alive in Siberia." Clearly this indifference ran up to the top power corridors of UP with Mulayam Singh claiming “There are no riot victims at all in the camps. There is not even one…. These are people who are conspirators…” And soon these camps became a political hop over for all political parties who used these visits are perfect PR exercises. The who-is-who from PM Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi to recently bailed Lalu Prasad visited these camps, but none of these visits could ensure any genuine government help for the victims. On the contrary soon after these visits, most of the riot victims were evicted from these camps by the state government and left to fend for themselves with the riot accused still roaming free and the north Indian winter plummeting further.

The denial of rights to Muslim victims of violence is not new in India. In the aftermath of the Gujarat riots of 2002, where the state government was known to have acted in league with Hindu mobs in massacring Muslims, even in the aftermath of the riots victims were ignore and denied help by the state.  In engineered riots that killed more than 1000 and displaced around 100,000, not only was government aid pathetic, there were deliberate attempts to confine victims to miserable social incarceration. When CM of Gujarat, Modi was asked about the lack of relief to these migrant camps even after considerable time had passed, he is known to have ridiculed “should I run baby producing factories (by continuing these camps)?”  It has been reported that some victims were paid as meager as Rs 500/- for a demolished home or a completely looted shop and those refusing to accept this amount were threatened arrests on fake charges. Post riots discrimination against Muslims was also on the rise; in housing, education, jobs or development opportunities. The disempowerment and discrimination against Muslims ran so deep in the government that post riots "The city government has not built a single functioning school in this Muslim ghetto, despite there being nearly 400,000 people." In later years not only did the state government show very little inclination to probe the riots, in most cases it ensured free passage for the riot accused.

Some other incidents of violence against Muslims, be it the 1983 Nellie massacre is Assam where almost 5000 were reported to have been killed, the 1969 Gujarat riots where almost 630 deaths were reported, the 1989 Bhaghalpur riots where almost a thousand people were killed or the 1992 Bombay riots which were known to have been meticulously planned against Muslims. In none of such acts against Muslims in India did the state offer a helping hand or try to rebuild lives of victims.

Since claim and practice in a ‘secular democratic’ India are different, such help is limited by religious associations of victims here. During the conflict in Kashmir many people migrated out of the valley, overwhelming of them being Kashmiri Pandits. As per the data available with J&K Government Relief Organisation, out of a total of 38,119  migrant families, 34202 are Hindu (Pandits), 2168 Muslim and 1749 are Sikh families. Irrespective of the hypothetical claims of many right winged organizations about migration numbers, out of a total of 142424 migrants from Kashmir included 124381 Pandits, 10930 Muslims and 7113 Sikhs (source Indian government data of migrants). The Indian government migrant data does not include the almost 55000 Kashmiri Muslims who migrated across the LoC facing atrocities by Indian forces in border villages, towns (some reports suggest this number is 35,000). According to government figures ‘a total of 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed during turmoil since 1989’ (the number of killed for the majority community has been put between 47,000 to 70,000), one Pandit lady Sarla Bhat has been reported to be raped, while hundreds of women from the majority community were raped by Indian armed forces (may read HRW report on ‘Rape In Kashmir’). All these crimes are brutal scars of Kashmir conflict, which may never heal for all communities. While there is no doubt that Pandits suffered during the conflict, yet they were not the only victims and not the only who migrated from Kashmir during the peak of conflict here, ironically the sops extended by the government of India to migrants were limited by religious identities only. Part of aid and rehabilitation package offered by the government of India for Pandit migrants include a monthly cash assistance per family (last proposed enhancement from 5,000 to 10,000 per month), creation of Jagti township where around 25000 migrants are living, quota for thousands of seats in professional institutions across India for kids of migrants, reservations in government jobs and financial assistance for rebuilding property. Under the Prime Minister’s rehabilitation program (announced in 2008) 6000 jobs were exclusively offered to Kashmiri migrants, including 3000 state reserved jobs, out of which more than 2000 have already been availed by them. Another incentive proposes increase in return package to 20 lacs from the earlier 7.5 lac for each Pandit migrant family (part of Rs 1618.40 crores package announced in April 2008 by Indian Prime Minister for their return). Strangely none of these sops or incentives is available for migrants of other religious associations, who also migrated under identical conditions. Why this exclusivity then? (May also read ‘A Note On Kashmiri Pandit Migrant Population’ and ‘Why differ between migrants from Jammu & Kashmir’). Contrary to this the compensation joke played with Muzaffarnagar victims by the government has ensured that victims are left to fend for themselves. For the few, a house rebuilding compensation of 5 lacs was offered but on a written undertaking that they give up their right to return to own homes. Sounds like Stalins deportation of Tatars? 

The Indian government not only discriminates between victims of violence based on different religious identities but it seizes every opportunity to use it for political gains. These exclusive sops to Kashmiri Pandit migrants not only come from decades of their privileged closeness to New Delhi but also is aimed to be used by India as a policy tool in demeaning the political struggle in Kashmir as ‘religious extremism’. Remember that in many cases the state government under Governor Jagmohan is known to have ferried Pandits out of Kashmir in SRTC buses in early 90’s, helped by Indian armed forces, on curfewed nights. Now sample the exclusionary cluster housing the government plans for Pandit migrants in Kashmir, luring then back halfheartedly. If the intention was really to bring them back, why create exclusive, divided zones for them, separating them from the majority community here? And if the claims of India about ‘minorities threatened by religious intolerance in Kashmir’ were true, such exclusionary clusters would have been offered to Sikhs also. Sikhs have also been victims of conflict in Kashmir (remember Chattisinghpora?) and this community also had their share in migrant numbers. Why then is Indian government care Pandit exclusive and other communities discriminative? 

Powers within Indian media and political groups who have a stake in continuity of Kashmir conflict use all their means to amplify a distorted narrative of migration. Ironically many of the ‘media darlings’ within the KP community at the forefront of this hype, had migrated from Kashmir much before the insurgency even started there, yet wont shy away from fudging facts and numbers. These ‘crusaders’ from their metro comforts sustain on the very misery of poor KP migrants in camps or small townships, and would lose their ‘crusader privileges’ if these migrants were to return to Kashmir. On its part the government also recycles the misery of these KP migrants for pure display used to further its own claim of ‘religious intolerance in Kashmir behind this conflict’. And even while the number of displaced victims (migrants) in Kashmir, Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar would be close to each other, the number of killed in Gujarat far greater than that of KP migrants, the number of raped far greater in Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar yet tags like ‘ethnic cleansing’ ‘genocide’ ‘holocaust’ are used in India exclusively for KP migration. All of these tragedies are deplorable and all violence horrific; why then is the ‘secular’ Indian narrative and treatment different in these human tragedies? 

Every victim of violence forced to move from his home is an IDP (Internally Displaced Person). Being recognized as an IDP shall not be religion, region, political subscription or ethnicity based. But in India, tragically IDP’s are recognized and extended state help only on the basis of ethnicity, political correctness and religion. Why has the Indian government not once or even meagerly extended the same migrant benefits or care to Muslim victims in India? Just because Muslims are a gullible fraction vote that can be hounded by threats of ‘wolf wolf’ by self proclaimed secular parties, they are treated like cattle. And because Muslims don’t have a strong political lobby in New Delhi, the government will not care for them nor extend any help like it would for other politically correct IDP’s (migrants). Sadly whatever political representation Muslims may have in Indian parties are only too eager to benefit from this helpless ghettoisation. And the voices that Indian media often presents as representatives of Indian Muslims are in reality vultures of opportunity, insulated from the miseries of the community; these elites scavenging for personal opportunities while claiming to be champions of the downtrodden and rights denied. The Indian state in collaboration with political fascists and social tradesmen have since long torn and trampled the ‘secular and democratic’ claims of its constitution. 

India is already being modi’fied into a right winged Bharat.


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On January 14, 2014 at 6:02 PM , nancy john said...

Thanks for sharing information it is very useful for study

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