With the Books






Communal Riots in India*


B.B. Kumar*



Riots and Wrongs by R.N.P. Singh is an important addition on the study of Islam and the communal violence in India. The book starts with a short foreword from K.P.S. Gill, former D.G.P., Punjab and an introduction. It is divided in four parts and has three appendices.     Gill, in his foreword, reminds about the constitutional promise of ‘equality and justice to all its citizens, irrespective of caste, creed and race’ and the fact that the ‘Indian minorities have lived in comparative safety and honour, and have extraordinary achievements to their credit, particularly when their accomplishments are compared with the quality of life and security of minorities in other countries in the region. Despite the constitutional mandate, animus between the communities persists and transformation is resisted; the ‘communal riots continue to recur with unacceptable frequency’ and in some parts of the country, it has taken the form of terrorism. In the background of the periodic communal strife, according to some analysts, lies the bloody orgy of communal violence of the partition days affecting the psyche of an entire generation. But the problem lies with the political parties virtually across the ideological spectrum, including those ones claiming ‘secularism’ as their primary platform, opportunistically exploiting the communal platform. This creates, as Gill writes, ‘a tendency towards polarization and ghettoisation in large areas of the country.’                                                           K.P.S. Gill rightly observes that ‘an exclusive focus on the history of communal violence in post-independence India cannot produce an adequate or satisfactory explanation of such violence. The roots of our predicament lie deep in history, and in the attitudes and ideologies that provoke and legitimize fanaticism and violence within and between the communities. Much of the ‘secular’ discourse in India has been based on a ‘politically correct’ refusal to confront the nature of religious communities and institutions, and their past and present activities; and on the fiction that ‘all religions are equal’ and that their inherent message is the same. While such a perspective may be useful in dousing transient fires between communities, it can not even begin to address the sources of such historical conflagrations.’ For the realistic solution to the issues of communal polarization and violence, there is need for the communities to acknowledge reality and recognize the transgressions of their own history within a constructive context.

     The first chapter, Riots and Islam analyses the common pattern of the Muslim behaviour and shows that Islam is conflict prone. It details about the conflict zones in the world with Muslims as one of the parties, ideology of the radical Islam. It informs about the jehadi outfits spread over globally, their hidden agenda, individual and communal duties of the Muslims and the drift of the conflict towards terrorism.

       25 ayats listed in the Appendix A of the book clearly preach hatred and violence against the non-believers. The basis of the division of the humanity between the believers and non-believers, the countries and regions between Dar-ul-Islam (abode of Islam) and Dar-ul-Harb (abode of war), Muslim brotherhood (Ummah) and non-Muslims (kafir) is Islam. The dominant driving force among the Islamist terrorists is to establish Hukumat-e-Ilahi (rule of Allah) and Nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamic Khaliphate) through Jehad. For Islamist militants, Jehad is jehad-bi-al-saif (holy war by means of sword) and not jehad-al-nafs (struggle of one’s soul against one’s base instinct). In this context, it may be mentioned that wherever there is sizeable presence of the Muslims today, Islam is involved in one conflict or the other. At present, Islam is involved in 16 armed conflicts worldwide out of the 20. Similarly, nine United Nations Peace Missions concern Muslim countries or interests out of 13 today.

      Ayats 109.6 (To you your religion, to me my religion) is often quoted to show the pacifist nature of Islam. In reality, “it affirms the futility of all compromise with paganism of all composite culture.” The author by massive documentation has shown that peaceful co-existence is an anathema to Islam. He has quoted many prominent Muslims expressing the opinion that democracy and secularism do not fit in Islamic ideological frame-work (part II, ch.1).

      Clearly the source/inspiration/motivation is Islamic ideology based on Quran. Simi declared: “Allah is our God, the Prophet is our leader, Quran is our constitution, jehad is our path, and martyrdom is our dream.”

       Al-Daawa Diary – 2000 pledges for jehad in the name of Allah at all costs, in all theatres, and in all seasons against Israel, India, UK, USA, Russia and Serbia despite adversity. Al-Daawa Diary 2001 says: “Yesterday we saw Russia dismembered, tomorrow we will see India disintegrating and the USA and Israel burning in the flames of jehad.” Fazlur Rahman Khalil, General Secretary, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen in the Urdu daily, Ausaf  (September 4, 2000) writes: “We are not fighting only for Kashmir, but to hoist our flag on New Delhi. Our war will continue until the restoration of Muslim rule in India.” Hafiz Mohd. Saeed, Amir of Markaz-al-dawa-wal-Irsahd, parent body of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba declared: “Democracy is menace we inherited. These are useless practices and part of the system against which we are fighting.”

     SIMI declares: “The new ideologies of democracy, secularism and nationalism have replaced the object of worship of the past…it is our duty to demolish these ideologies, formulate a composite plan of action and establish the Caliphate, as enjoined upon us by Allah.”

     The second chapter of the book details pan-Islamic connection of the communal riots, strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism by the institution building –establishment of Dar-ul-Uloom, Nadwat-ul-Ulema, Tabliqi Jama’at, Jama’at-e-Islami –and revivalism in Islam. Islamic Madrasa at Deoband, which developed into Dar-ul-Uloom, the ideological fountainhead of Taliban, was established within a decade of the 1857 freedom struggle by some followers of Waliullah.

    The two chapters of the second part of the book (Peaceful Co-existence, an Anathema to Islam and Why the Hindu-Muslim Synthesis Failed) details Quran’s role in shaping of the Muslim mind, roots of religious intolerance with adequate scriptural input, development of Islam in historical perspective and cultural and attitudinal differences between Hindus and the Muslims. The three chapters of the part three of the book analyse various aspects of communalism and communal riots in India. The last part provides detailed chronological overview of the riots –mostly Hindu-Muslim in India – starting from 1713 Ahmedabad Hindu-Muslim riots to the riots in Kerala, Bareilli, Godhra and Vadodara in 2003.

Singh has quoted Rahmat Ali, who for the first time coined the word Pakistan. It clearly shows his attitude towards Hindus and Sikhs. Pakistan has done exactly the same to its minorities as Ali suggested.  Rahmat Ali wrote in his book, The Millat and its Mission, to the Muslims of Pakistan “…to be careful of minorityism. This meant we should not leave Muslims as minorities in Hindu majority areas in spite of British Government’s assurances of all the Muslims who are a separate nationality. The constitutional provision is the birthright of the Muslims. Moreover, Hindus or Sikhs should not be allowed to stay in Muslim areas even though they like to stay with or without constitutional provisions. They can not become ours. During peace period, they (Hindu and Sikh) would prove to be a hurdle and during war period their treachery would cause our destruction. co-existence, an Anathema to Islam.

    The chapter on Communalism and Communal Riots defines and explains the terms communalism, communal, community, riot and communal riots and informs in brief about pre- and post-independence communal riots in India. The paper cites the view of one Qamruddin Khan, spokesperson of Aligarh Muslim University, appearing in the Light of Lahore just after partition of India, which advised the Indian Muslims to lie low for some time due to tactical reasons and then “soon they should stand up for a similar cause, that is, to demand partition of Muslim majority areas of India”. It read:

      “The five crore Muslims who were compelled to stay back in India would have to fight for another freedom struggle. The fight would be mainly fought on the Eastern end, and the Western areas bordering Pakistan. This did not mean that the Indian Muslims would invite Pakistan for help. However, it was certain that Pakistan’s presence in the neighbourhood would embolden the Muslims. Pakistan would shortly become a member of the UNO and in case Indian Muslims faced any problem, Pakistan would rake up the issue in the world’s court. The Indian Muslims have won half the battle and for total victory; they will have to scheme out another plan. At the moment, the Muslims should refrain from politically confronting the Hindus, even if they are treated badly. They should bear with it for the time being so that Hindu’s anger calms down and their extremism gets controlled. After a while Indian Muslims should try to develop concentrated pockets. For example, the Muslims of UP should concentrate in Western UP and Muslims of North Bihar in Purnea division so that if the situation demanded they can attach themselves with East Pakistan. The Indian Muslims should maintain close relations with Pakistan; and for running organizations, they should take help from them”.

     RNP Singh has shown that above mentioned suggestion of Khan seemed to have worked well. After laying low for sometime after partition, the Muslim League became active in Kerala; by 1960 several Muslim organizations were established in the country; a three-dimensional claims were voiced, viz., “Muslims in India are a minority, the Urdu was the language of the Muslims, and their Islamic culture should get all protection either directly or indirectly. The Indian Muslims, rather than raising the development issues, the issues like poverty and illiteracy, always raise the communal issues. Thus, there has been not much change in Hindu and Muslim mindsets and thereby communal conflicts have not been lessened; rather there have been increased communal disturbances in the post-independence period.

      The communal riots in India between 1947 to the end of 1970s had the usual pattern; the causes, as usual were “the routes of religious processions, disputes over religious places, use of loudspeakers, social and economic causes, business and political rivalries, etc. The scenario changed after 1980, after the Pakistan and ISI inspired infiltration of Pak-trained jehadis with the sole aim of launching destructive activities, recruitment of Muslim youth on payroll for subversive activities, use of religious places to harden fundamentalism and engineering riots with the aim of sharpening Hindu-Muslim divide. Post- 1980 riots have been comparatively more massive than the previous ones, except for the riots during partition days. President Zia of Pakistan took unusual interest in riots. Indira Gandhi, for the first time expressed concern in August 1980 about the involvement of foreign hand in inciting communal riots in India and a protest note was handed over to the ambassador of Pakistan.

     In the chapter captioned Single Dimensional Approach to Riots, the author points out the view of a section of the scholars that weak law and order marred by political interference in the tense communal scenario as a part of an all enveloping lawlessness is responsible for the riots. Another set of scholars finds partisan attitude of the police responsible for the same, which allows minor skirmishes to develop into major riots. The latter view is mostly held by the Muslims and the scholars of left orientation. The Communists also explain communal riots in class struggle model, and communalism as one of the byproducts of colonial underdevelopment. The author has also discussed the riots in the lights of political factors, economic factors, as the means to assert communal identity, the British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ and the ‘Partition of Bengal and Swadeshi movement”.     

RNP Singh in the chapter on A Realistic Perspective of Communal Riots analyses and expresses the view that the “chronological study of the communal riots in India since 18th century clearly indicates that whatever might have been the reason behind the curtain, on almost all the occasions, the triggering force to the violence was undoubtedly, religion. Every time it was mainly opposition from the Muslim side, to pressurize the Hindus to follow their (Muslims’) dictates in the observance of Hindus’ traditional and religious practices. The author has listed 22 reasons inciting Hindu-Muslim riots in India. The large-scale illegal infiltration, mainly from Bangladesh, proselytisation activists, flow of foreign fund from Islamic countries targeting conversion of the Harijans to Islam and other fundamentalist purposes are discussed in detail. It details how leftist scholarship exonerates the Muslims and blames the Hindu organizations for the riots. The paper sums up Home Ministry’s findings and the Inquiry Commissions’ reports also. RNP Singh, having a distinguished career in Intelligence Services, and deep understanding of the problem, as KPS Gill rightly observes, has, through this valuable book, offered a clear perspective on the history and dynamics of communal antagonism and carnage in Indian sub-continent.