Fanning the flames

Historically, mob violence has resulted in political gains for some

Scapegoating is a well-worn political technique to divert attention from governance failures. For instance, in 1905, the Tsarist government in Russia organised a pogrom of Jews to divert attention from its military failures. Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s economic woes, and that helped him win the 1933 elections to the Reichstag. The same technique seems to have been adopted by Indian politicians. In November 1984, following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, thousands of Sikhs were killed. After this, the Congress won the Lok Sabha elections. In 2002, Muslims were killed in Gujarat, after which the Bharatiya Janata Party not only multiple Assembly elections but also the Lok Sabha election in 2014. Thus, the massacre of minorities would appear to be a recipe for winning elections. In his recent book, The Sarkari Musalman , retired Lieutenant general Zameeruddin Shah mentions that he was commanding the Army troops sent to Gujarat to quell the “riots” in the State. For one whole day, the troops were kept waiting for transport at Ahmedabad airport, during which time the killings took place. Since General Shah had requested then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for transport and had informed the Army Chief, General Sundararajan Padmanabhan, why was it not provided? The Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the incidents in Gujarat was headed by retired CBI Director R.K. Raghavan who was called an “absentee investigator” as he spent only a few days a month in Gujarat during the probe and as half his team consisted of Gujarat police officers. General Shah was not invited to depose before it, and he has castigated the report exonerating the Gujarat government as untruthful. Similarly, after Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984, the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other places started, but the Army was not called to quell them until the night of November 3. Meanwhile, Sikhs were being killed with impunity in Delhi and elsewhere. Crowds of vigilantes went around shouting “ Khoon ka badla khoon (blood for blood)”. In fact, Rajiv Gandhi infamously said, “When a big tree falls the earth shakes.” Now, with the coming Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram, are we again going to witness communal horrors such as those of Muzaffarnagar, as well as lynchings? Time alone will tell, but one thing is certain: If the BJP fares badly in these elections it will adversely affect its electoral chances in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

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