No Surprise in Theatrical Delhi

It’s the theatre of the absurd, rather the third theatre. Instead of openly and honestly declaring that they have no popular issues to agitate for, registered ‘secularists’ give all manner of hypocritical excuses to maintain equidistance from two contenders in the upcoming electoral race—Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while reiterating the oft-repeated theme song that all their actions are done in the best interests of the minority community people. In truth ‘secular’ opportunists as they are, in principle and practice, are now trying to attract extra attention by once again floating, somewhat vaguely though, the notion of third front. It’s an exercise to make their importance felt in the emerging bi-polar parliamentary culture of India. While the saffron club sees in it a ploy to help Congress win elections, the Congress party itself dismisses this third opera music as something not for serious gambling.

The low-key national convention against communalism in Delhi on October 31 was organised, mainly at the initiative of the Left, Samajwadi Party and Janata Del (U), hopefully to send message to the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA that they were ready to offer support to the best bidders if their services were required in the post-poll scenario. As poll surveys indicate there will in all probability a hung parliament the Yadavs and Kumars are calculating their stocks well in advance.

The 14-party secular circus in Delhi was all about ‘secularism’ and democracy but they didn’t utter a word or two about anti-people policies of the centre. The massive unemployment coupled with steady fall in real income of all categories of wage earners was not on their agenda. Even the left danced to the tune set by the redoubtable Mulayam Singh Yadav and Nitish Kumar of UP and Bihar where obnoxious caste prejudices decide the outcome of every poll. Mr Kumar, however, said something about fascism without locating it in any specific political party, thereby keeping his options open beyond the so-called third front.

This secular business is a funny thing. They talk of it in such a fashion that communalism flourishes in vacuum, as if it has no economic base. The saffron party, originally a traders’ party in north India, now represents big business as well. Despite their continual attack on communalism, the society by and large remains sensitive to it. Religious fanaticism has still bigger appeal than secularism to both communities. And it is not without reason. They never explain why masses, even the educated can be polarised on this issue with minimum efforts, though the bitter history of partition is now 66 years old.

The communist left in particular, simply downplays the deep-rooted cause of communal disharmony and religious intolerance and their idea of organising class struggle to defeat the dangers of caste and religious communalism, has just been an idea for long, not to get into practice. They cut a sorry figure during communal turmoil as they did during partition days. They thought caste would vanish automatically with the development of productive forces. It didn’t. And their passive attitude towards religious communalism while grilling only the saffron brigade for its sustenance and growth is at worst self-defeating.

The so-called secular identity has been elusive for all these years and it will remain so for years to come. Why a genuine secular front has not been materialised despite so much propaganda against communalism remains unanswered. Secular outfits come and go like fair weather birds. But the society remains charged with communal passions, sometimes hidden, sometimes open.

For small and regional parties, secularism is being continually defined and re-defined in terms of power-calculus. The Delhi convention against communalism stressed the need to face the communal threat ‘together’. This is sheer hypocrisy. They fall apart even for a single seat because to enjoy parliamentary privileges number matters, not secularism. They cannot fight elections against their common enemy together because disagreement over seat adjustment, not ideology, may turn secular allies into communal foes. And yet they think they could sell the utopia of a third front.

Surprisingly, the Jr Jadav, the present satrap of UP while highlighting his stance for third option raised the issue of development, not communalism as such. He said ‘development’ was a ‘lost cause’ for both the ruling Congress and the main opposition BJP necessitating  the look-out for the third front. The much touted amalgam of non-Congress and non-BJP forces was in reality a motley crowd moving in a blind alley without offering any real alternative to the people.

Communal riot is somewhat endemic in Indian society. It doesn’t matter who is in power. The riots occurred under the Samajwadi Party dispensation. The SP government of UP was blamed, and rightly so, for its omissions in the recent Muzzafarnagar communal riots. They could not defuse communal flare-ups on time while pretending in the media as if they were the sole protectors of minority community people.

The hard fact is that the minority community in India, unlike the minority community in the erstwhile East Pakistan, or for that matter Pakistan, has been resisting communal onslaught against them without waiting for state intervention since 1947. It has never been a one-way traffic despite indirect help provided to the majoritarian forces by the administration in some cases. They defended themselves in the yester years when the Yadavs and Kumars were not there. And they won’t take it lying down even if Modi succeeds in creating another ‘2002’.

Vol. 46, No. 19, Nov 17 - 23, 2013

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