«ESTHER WAPSTRA Thesis submitted for MA degree Supervisors: Dr. Laurens G. H. Bakker Prof. Paul J. C. L. van der Velde 30 August 2013 COMMUNAL HARMONY ...»
According to him, most riots are usually preceded by a period of tension, although tension does not always lead to riots. It is also created to keep all the actors in a constant state of readiness. A way to create communal tension is by events such as Ram Lila processions or the “funerary processions in which the dead body of a member of one community allegedly killed by a person from the other community is carried through localities containing large concentrations from the other.” (Brass, 2003, p. 365). Another way to create tension is by provoking incidents. Any trivial event could be used as an incident, for example the making of a film about the status of widows in India (Casolari, 2002) or the stabbing of people from the Hindu community (Brass, 2003, p. 360). These incidents create chaos and anxiety about Interviews with Mr. Ravindra Kumar, BHU, 1 February 2012 and Ms. Madhuri Banerjee, Dashashvamedh, 10 December 2011 who did what. They are often followed by rumours, which have “a function of arousal” (Brass, 2003, p. 363).
Although Mr. Ravindra Kumar, BHU professor, and chāī walā Mr. Kamal Rao hold that “the simmering is always there” and “any time a fighting can take place”, most interviewees opine that tension “would wear off with time.”.242 They argue that the situation is tense only shorty and after it declines people continue their friendly religious co-existence and “soon everything becomes normal”.243 However, as Brass mentions, although sometimes the tension wears off after a while, sometimes it does turn into riotous violence. As we saw earlier, according to the businessman in sārīs, Mr. Abishek Dutta, “There have been more than 50 riots in the city after Kabir [a Muslim poet-saint who preached Hindu-Muslim brotherhood by the end of the fifteenth century].”.244 Later in the interview he even talks about “50-60 riots”, although he mitigates, “If we leave old incidents then even there have been the most inhuman riots in Varanasi for 7 or 8 times.”. Engineer mentions there have been only “about 12 communal riots” from 1966 to 1991 (Engineer, 1992, p. 510), with no riots worth mentioning between from Independence in 1947 to 1966 and one major riot before partition in 1809 (see section 3.3.1). Mr. Rafi Anzaari, the manager of an Islamic school, and journalist Mr. Hashim Anzaari mention the riots of 1972, 1977, and 1991; indeed, Khan (1991) indicates the riots of 1972 and 1977 as major riots and Engineer classifies the 1977 riot as “very serious communal trouble” (Engineer, 1992, p. 510). Homeopathic doctor Ms. Madhuri Banerjee specifically remembers the riot in which “our Durga-idol was broken during Durga-Pūjā”, which may have been in 1977 or 1985 according to Engineer.245 We have already reviewed that some people keep denying there have ever been any tension and riots, or specifically tension and riots with regard to the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque (see section 6.1.1). For example Mr.
Shekhar Mallah, who maintains that there “has not been any conflict or riot between Hindus and Muslims.”, nor has there “been such tension between both the communities.”.246 The advocate, Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, elucidates that some communal tensions might have occurred, but instead of explaining this in terms of religious violence, he mentions business rivalry and political motives as main reasons.
Mr. Hashim Anzaari and Mr. Yoginder Anzaari take it a step further. The former Interviews with Mr. Ravindra Kumar, BHU, 1 February 2012; Mr. Kamal Rao, Khalispura, 14 January 2012; and Ms. Harshita Agrawal, BHU, 6 February 2012 Interview with Mrs. Geeta Belwar, Luxa, 3 February 2012 Interview with Mr. Abishek Dutta, Dashashvamedh, 13 January 2012 Interview with Ms. Madhuri Banerjee, Dashashvamedh, 10 December 2011 Interview with Mr. Shekhar Mallah, Khalispura, 16 January 2012 indicates how neither during his lifetime nor during his fathers’ lifetime “even a… very small type of communal incident has a place [in the name of religion].” and the latter even holds that riots between Hindus and Muslims “had been here in the past, as a creation of the political leaders... [but] it is not here now days!”.247 In short, there have been about a dozen communal riots in Varanasi since Independence. They have had a huge impact on city life, but according to most interviewees the tension that accompanies these riots wears off with time. Some hold that there is always a degree of tension. One interviewee maintains that the tension and riots have nothing to do with the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque and another squarely denies there have been tension and riots between Hindus and Muslims.
7.2 Power play: the role of politics, police, media, and government
Just like Mr. Hashim Anzaari and Mr. Yoginder Anzaari, the advocate strongly emphasizes that it is not religion that causes violence, but politics. Many interviewees firmly believe that politicians made the Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque dispute an issue, stating that “Everything is being created by the political leaders only!” and “They have made it an issue for politics.”.248 After raising the issue, Mrs. Shabnam Jha and Mr. Yoginder Anzaari contend, political actors used propaganda to promote the issue. Mrs. Shabnam Jha adds: “Otherwise nobody had any knowledge about the Babri mosque-Ramjanmabhoomi before the Babri mosque was demolished!”.249 Indeed, it seems true that the Ramjanmabhoomi liberation movement transformed “a long dormant local dispute” (Brass, 2003, p. 241) that “had aroused little interest in the rest of the country” (Raychaudhuri, 2000, p. 261) into an issue of national importance. The findings of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission, the report that reviews the Ayodhya affair and the people responsible for it, support this view (2009a, p. 61).
According to the madrasa teacher, by raising the issue of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque politicians have bitterly divided people. This is in line with the observations of the journalist, who remarks that “They [politicians] have been catalysing communities to fight with each other in all the possible ways.”.250 Many Interviews with Mr. Hashim Anzaari, Bhelupura, 26 January 2012 and Mr. Yoginder Anzaari & Mrs.
Noura Anzaari, Khalispura, 1 February 2012 Interviews with Mr. Yoginder Anzaari & Mrs. Noura Anzaari, Khalispura, 1 February 2012 and Mr.
Parvesh Chaturvedi, Dashashvamedh, 12 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Abdullah Jha & Mrs. Shabnam Jha, Kachahari, 22 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Hashim Anzaari, Bhelupura, 26 January 2012 people hold that dividing of people was a deliberate move to their advantage.
Madrasa teacher Mr. Faisal Banarasi explains: “They want to win elections by converting it as a political movement!... then we [they] will get maximum votes.”.251 The pandit acknowledges: “They want to gain power through this issue only.”.252 The Liberhan Ayodhya Commission agrees that the Ayodhya issue, was also played out because it was “electorally convenient” (2009b, p. 748). Whether a deliberate move to divide people or not, the BJP gained incredibly in the years following the Ramjanmabhūmi liberation movement: from merely 2 seats during the Lok Sabhā (House of the People or lower house) elections of 1984 they went to 85 seats in the the Lok Sabhā elections of 1989 and even 119 seats in 1991 (Brass, 2003, Table 3.2, p. 77).
Interviewees blame politicians not only for raising the issue, but also for the accompanied violence; not only for instigating others, but also for participating actively. The insurance agent asserts that politicians are amongst those “whose aim is to create a havoc”, whereas Mrs. Shabnam Jha holds that “Riots are catalysed mostly by the politicians!”.253 The journalist also holds politicians responsible for riots and violence. This is corroborated by Brass findings. His informants report similar ideas. One informant stated that it is politicians who decide whether a riot is needed for electoral success, he explained: “but if they [politicians] think that there is no necessity for [a] riot, then there will be no riot.” (Brass, 2003, p. 133). Brass continues that according to his informant “gūndas [criminals, thugs] could not ‘make’ a riot” if politicians do not back up riots (Brass, 2003, p. 134).
Many scholars have also pointed to the connection between politicians and violence.
As discussed in section 1.1, in many places of North India riots broke out during and after the mass mobilizing campaigns such as the Ekātmatā Yātrā and Rath Yātrā processions (see for example Brass, 2003, p. 26; Engineer, 1992, p. 509; Jaffrelot, 1996, p. 419; Veer, 1996, p. 169). Moreover, in his research Brass found a strong relation between such mass mobilizing political campaigns and electoral competition (Brass, 2003, p. 33). Brass notices that Engineer, who has written an impressive collection of articles and books on communal violence in India, is consistent in his allegation that communal violence can be traced to either economic competition between Hindus and Muslims (see section 6.4.3) or to political factors. Reviewing Asghar Ali Engineer’s literature, Brass concludes that “Minor disputes are exploited by Interview with Mr. Faisal Banarasi, Peelee Kothee, 19 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Parvesh Chaturvedi, Dashashvamedh, 12 January 2012 Interviews with Mr. Mukesh Gupta, Vishwanath gali, 23 January 2012 and Mr. Abdullah Jha & Mrs.
Shabnam Jha, Kachahari, 22 January 2012 ‘petty-minded politicians’ who do not shrink from the sacrifices in human lives that follow upon their exploitation of such disputes for their political advantage.” (Brass, 2003, p. 26). Indeed, scholars have called attention to the fact that communal violence is such a relatively easy way to strengthen the position of politicians that it has become a standard tactic in their repertoire (Brass, 2003, p. 317; Khan, 1991, p.
10). In Brass’ opinion, this is exactly why communal violence persists in North India:
for different players it has so many benefits, amongst which politicians, that they are not inclined to take measures against them (Brass, 2003, p. 34).
Their reputation as the ones who made the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque an issue and the ones who instigate violence in riots, Interviewees are very sceptical of politicians. Mr. Narendra Iyengar blames politicians
for being hypocrites:
Their thoughts are very bad and critical. They are not critical. Their thoughts are critical. Their thoughts are bad. They have no morale. They have no gut see. To say, otherwise they will not get the twenty per cent Muslim votes....
[So] politicians have to take decisions. And to involve themselves to solve this problems.... [They have to] take one step forward and to say to the Indian people, to the Indian government: make a solutions, come, take a step in that.254 He then continues a somewhat confusing story about how politicians pretend to be secular, while visiting the temple but not the mosque en telling their families to pray to Hindu gods, but not to do namāz. He wonders: “Why this do and thought? Why this dual policy?”. He asserts that in fact these politicians are not secular because they visit temples but no mosques. Therefore, he argues that politicians are hypocritical when they conceal their Hindu background and mind-set in order to get votes from Muslims. The astrologer seems to suggest that instead they should be courageous and take honest decisions as Hindus. It is interesting to note that when the BJP started to open up for Muslims in the early 1980s, some Hindu politicians were criticized by the RSS when offering Id prayers and namāz (Jaffrelot, 1996, p.
Interview with Mr. Narendra Iyengar, Dashashvamedh, 11 January 2012
Mr. Hashim Anzaari gives another example of the hypocrisy of politicians:
There was a very small type of incident. Two notorious types of elements collapsed together around Gyanvapi area. And one bomb explosion was taken place. It was not concerned with mosque, or temple. It was a neutral confrontation of two notorious elements of the local area. [The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh] was sent here. He came to the Gyanvapi mosque. To enquire, to enquiry what had taken place here. All the worshippers, namāzī, and the masjid management committee were here. [He] wanted to listen that it was a communal incident and masjid mosque was unsafe. But unfortunately the Muslims who were concerned with mosque told it was not any type of communal incident. Masjid has no concerns with this problem. It is an incident of mutual confrontation of two notorious elements. [He] unfortunately got very much disappointed. And he disagreed with those people and he tried to insert [persuade] those people that now you have made your place, a good place in the eyes of the police officers, and now pure business will be going on very smoothly and eh… sorry I don’t agree with this. He wanted to listen that it was a communal incident.255 This example shows how people and situations are manipulated to the whims of politicians. However, it is important to remark that politics is not the only official body that is responsible for (the escalation of) communal violence. Literature shows that the police play a big role, as well as media and the national and state governments.
The police are often condemned for partisan behaviour during communal violence;
by far the most people shot by the police during riots are Muslims. Sarkar mentions an incident in which a student with the name Ram who is a member of an anticommunal group is arrested and beaten up by a policeman because “a man with such a name, he was told, should not be doing such things.” (S. Sarkar, 1993, p.
163). The police are often blamed for not responding adequately and timely, for example during the 1991 riots in Varanasi (Engineer, 1994, p. 836; Raman, 2010, p.
146). Even if they do show up they might make things worse by still not taking measures against the violence, for example when in the 1991 Varanasi riots two Muslims were burnt alive in the presence of policemen, by failing to repress the violence, or by using excessive violence with arrested people, as in the case of Dr.
Anees, a well-known promoter of communal peace with friendly relations with the Interview with Mr. Hashim Anzaari, Bhelupura, 26 January 2012 police who nonetheless died in arrest due to brain haemorrhage because of heavy blows (Engineer, 1992, pp. 510-511; 1994, p. 837; Raman, 2010, pp. 145-148).