Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to bring home the ‘difference’ between the role of the governments of the day during the 1984 riots and the 2002 riots has, quite predictably, backfired.
During the parliamentary debate over the Nanavati Commission’s report in August 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had apologised to the nation and stated: "What took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood and what is enshrined in our Constitution." The report contained accusations made by several witnesses against Congress MPs Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and others. Even after 30 years, these leaders are yet to be prosecuted.
What had differentiated the Congress from the BJP, however, was the apology offered by Singh for the anti-Sikh riots in Parliament. Gandhi has peeled off even that tiny patch applied by Singh, exposing the Congress’ shady commitment to justice and communal harmony.
The BJP’s complaints on this count, however, ring very hollow.
Its role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 alongside the RSS and its affiliates was brought out by the Liberhan Commission, indicting its topmost leaders. The Gujarat violence of 2002 occurred when the BJP was in power both in the state and at the Centre. The BJP’s involvement in the riots cannot be disputed after the conviction of its MLA Maya Kodnani in the Naroda Patiya massacre in August 2012.
Kodnani, who was made a minister in the Modi Cabinet in 2007, is now serving a 28-year jail term. Yet, the BJP continues with its sickening hauteur vis-à-vis the Gujarat pogroms.
The BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi’s criminal culpability in the Gujarat riot cases is yet to be established in the courts. But as the chief minister, how can he escape political and moral responsibility for the same? Even PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to twice remind him of following ‘rajdharma’ in the aftermath of the riots in 2002 and rule without differentiating between citizens on the basis of caste, creed and religion.
Large scale communal violence, which spans for days and results in mass murders, is inconceivable without organised communal mobilisation as well as the complicity of the state apparatus. This has been the case in 1984, in 1992 and in 2002. The Congress is culpable for the crimes of 1984 and the BJP is guilty of the crimes of 1992 and 2002. Even as the pots call the kettles black, justice has eluded the victims till date.
The hypocritical blame game between the two national parties on 1984 and 2002 ends up justifying and legitimising communal violence. It is this legitimisation that causes its recurrence, as was witnessed in Muzaffarnagar in August-September 2013.
The protagonists of the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar were the RSS-BJP on the one hand and the Samajwadi Party government on the other.
The VHP’s Ayodhya yatra in August 2013, following the lead of Amit Shah who raked up the Ram mandir issue, provided a perfect setting for communal polarisation. Innocent people were killed and raped at will and over 50,000 rendered homeless. The devious handling of the violence and its aftermath by the SP government has further widened communal faultlines.
Ending this vicious cycle of communal violence is neither possible through cynical blame games nor through opportunistic choices of the ‘lesser evil’. It will need a decisive rejection of all those political forces which have resorted to or abetted such violence, not only the BJP but also the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.
Prasenjit Bose is a leftwing economist and activist
The views expressed by the author are personal