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Communal ammunition

The bomb blasts in Varanasi, coming a little over four months after a similar attack in Delhi, are yet another attempt to incite communal violence in the country.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 03:26 IST

The bomb blasts in Varanasi, coming a little over four months after a similar attack in Delhi, are yet another attempt to incite communal violence in the country. But, in Uttar Pradesh, they could well have the effect of throwing a lit match on petrol vapour. In the past year or so, while the rest of the country has benefited from the calm that has come with the secularist UPA government, the state of UP has gone the other way. Communal violence in Mau last year, sporadic communal incidents across the state, and the mob violence in Lucknow following the mobilisation of the Muslim community over the cartoon affair have been proof of this.

Noted historian Paul Brass has shown how periods of intense political mobilisation of the Muslims have been followed by communal violence in which Muslims invariably end up the biggest sufferers. Sadly, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who boasts of his secularist credentials, and the Left, which is dreaming of creating a Third Front with his help, do not quite understand this. Though those who are throwing that lit match — call them Lashkar-e-Tayyeba or Jaish-e-Mohammed — do so. In great measure what has been happening in UP is identity politics — where the BJP seeks to consolidate the ‘Hindu’ vote, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati are trying to do the same with that of the OBCs and Dalits. Muslim leaders have now begun to ape them with the belief that they will advance their interests. Though our federal Constitution, with its rights and duties, accepts the idea of the multi-layered identity, electoral mobilisation based on caste, religion and ethnicity has become the norm. As Amartya Sen has pointed out, “Violence is fomented by the imposition of singular and belligerent identities on gullible people, championed by proficient artisans of terror.”

The Congress has historically championed the umbrella approach which, though reinforcing overlapping and multiple identities, encourages the politics of restraint and tolerance. In UP, the party is now a pale shadow of its former self. But such incidents threaten to tear the social fabric of the state. This menace should energise the party to fulfil its responsibility of restating its commitment to the country’s creed of political liberalism as defined by the Constitution.