India has already started witnessing the fallouts of polarisation along religious lines, the barefaced strategy adopted by the preeminent leaders of various political parties. This weekend’s communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar in Western Uttar Pradesh, in which over 26 people have lost their lives, and many more have been critically wounded, is indicative of the clear and present danger that the politics of communalisation is guaranteed to bring on, with parties fanning the religious passions to score empty electoral points, with the aim to electrify the poll booths in the upcoming general elections. The situation in UP is clear evidence of flagrant misuse of religious sentiments by parties such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Samajwadi Party, each of which had been busy brandishing its own set of communal politics, catering to either the majority or the minority communities, with the intention to secure the vote banks. Although the latest clashes in UP have an immediate trigger, that of a meeting being held by Hindu farmers in the village of Kawal to demand justice for last month’s killing of three men who allegedly tried to protect a woman from being harassed, they, however, come in the heels of the VHP’s aborted 84-Kosi parikrama and its attempt to shore up the controversial issue of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya/Faizabad, ostensibly to appeal to Hindu hardliners in the north and west India. While the reasons for the clashes have been put forward as exchange of provocative speeches against the Muslim community, the fact that increasingly even a miniscule spark of communal tension can snowball into an all-consuming fire is being demonstrated by the present riots, which have taken a deathly toll on the already sensitive sociopolitical fabric of Uttar Pradesh. In addition, while the Akhilesh Yadav government had put its foot down and prevented the 84-Kosi yatra, ostensibly sabotaging the VHP efforts to rekindle the ebbing cinders of Hindutva brand of politics, the unpalatable subtext behind the police action had been all about playing to its own gallery and appease the Muslim voters by appearing to care for the increasingly endangered secular politics.
Certainly, the communal hydra is all set to raise its many ugly heads and what is needed at this juncture is a strict clampdown on such deplorable tactics of inciting passions to reap cheap benefits at the ballot box. This utterly misguided notion has been at the heart of the malaise that has been plaguing the Indian politics. Particularly telling is the fact that there’s a concerted attempt to spread the communal fires before the elections, with 2013 already having seen more incidents of communally-motivated clashes than the whole of the last year, a fear expressed by the union Home Ministry in no uncertain terms. While over 800 police personnel have deen stationed by the Akhilesh Yadav government to bring the situation under control, the disease is still being left misdiagnosed and petty politicking over communal sentiments as well as generous doses of hymns to an utterly spurious variety of liberalism are making the rounds, both in the holier-than-thou circuits of television news media and in the top brass of political parties, who are leaving no stone unturned to pull a fast one at the expense of the riots. Clearly, if curfew needs to be imposed, it should be first done on the blatant politics of communalisation, practiced by virtually every political party at present.