Divided We Stand

It is amazing how distances are no longer a hindrance now. Just look at the case of the revocation of the land allotment by the state government to the Amarnath Shrine’s board. Somewhere in the northern fringes of this nation, we have a political outfit (People’s Democratic Party) withdrawing support from the coalition Government because of a particular plot of land being handed over to a Hindu shrine board for the construction of a rest house for the people undertaking the Amarnath Yatra.

Ultimately, the land allotment was canceled and as a consequence we have massive demonstrations all across the country. We have people protesting against curfews, we have political thugs attacking people for not accepting the bandhs that were called for and we have had public and police showdowns.

And the most stunning part was that not only Kashmir, but the whole of this country burned alongside!

Here I am in Guwahati enjoying my vacations when I suddenly hear that all is not well outside the four walls of my home. There have been incidents of members of the VHP (Bajrang Dal) having come and thrown stones in some areas because people had not accepted the bandh. And immediately my city went quiet.

The fire from the north had spread to the north east. That is when I stood up and wondered. Our world really had become small!

Now let me not dwell only on the bandh in my city but go beyond the north east and tell you about an incident in Bhopal where a person named Heeralal Soni and his entire family (yes, women included) were beaten up by Bajrang Dal activists and local policemen because the shutters of his shop were only half down. Ironically, this man was a supporter of the bandh and the only reason for the half open shutters was that the entrance to his home was through his shop. But the story does not end there. This man, obviously humiliated and fearing for his life, did the unthinkable. He set himself on fire. Now he is in the hospital fighting for his life with 85 per cent burns and with a very slim chance of survival.

Actually, there have been quite a few other incidents all over the country.
Normal life was hit in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) as saffron activists stopped trains, blocked roads and forced shops to close. In Noida too, roads were blocked and traffic remained disrupted for almost three hours. The protesters also forced shops in various markets to down their shutters. Minor clashes with vendors were also reported. Minor traffic jams were reported on Noida-Greater Noida Expressway and other exit points of the city as well.

Four persons were killed and over two dozen including a policeman were injured in Indore as saffron activists unleashed a reign of terror across the BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh. Tension prevailed in several communally sensitive areas of Bhopal too as Bajrang Dal men forced closure of shops, damaged vehicles and beat up commuters.

Surprisingly, and thankfully, in Gujarat normal life was almost uninterrupted as the ruling BJP had dissociated itself from the VHP sponsored protest action. This was done to prevent communal tension from arising on the eve of the Rath Yatra beginning on Friday. But political observers saw it as Narendra Modi’s subtle message to the VHP — on how limited its influence is without the BJP’s backing.

In Jammu alone, over 60 people have been injured so far.

So I guess you have an idea of what exactly has been happening. What kind of a message are we sending across? There have been quite a few incidents in India recently which prove that our thin thread of ‘unity in diversity’ is seriously threatened.

In Assam, there was this incident where people were trying to chase away the Biharis and then the next moment the Biharis retaliated. There was the whole issue of north Indians being beaten up in Maharashtra recently. We all know how disputes on communal lines can easily blow up to become full fledged riots. We have seen them do just that! But we still don’t learn from our mistakes of the past!

We still continue with our appeasement policies, politicizing religion, and dividing people in the name of religion, caste and region.
Therefore the question is, are we so divided in terms of our diversity that our fall will be united as a society, as a country and as a civilization? I hope not!

Purav Goswami

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