Communalism at Large

The BJP's weaknesses as a political party make it doubly dangerous as far as the non-Hindu minorities of India are concerned.

Of the many liturgies of nationalism in India, the one that has risen to political and rhetorical prominence in recent years bears the unmistakable stamp of a municipal parochialism which, in some of its agendas, is not very different from the cosmopolitan provincialism of the post-September 'free world'. Because of the convergence of views on the holy war against 'Islamic terrorism', which has now been made part of the official business of the rest of the world, vide Resolution 1376 of the normally defunct UN General Assembly, executive functionaries in the world's largest democracy, elevated to office for no particular expertise save the incendiary lessons learnt on the parade grounds of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), have felt themselves a lot freer use the administrative machinery they command to renew their attacks on Muslim life, property and freedom.

The continuing violence in Gujarat and the enactment of a new 'anti-terrorism' legislation, which, even before its ratification by parliament, had been invoked with sectarian selectivity against Muslims, do not just coincide with the new global offensive against Islam. They also closely follow on the heels of the second major fiasco that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have encountered in two successive rounds of elections to state legislatures in the country. The global onslaught merely provides the indulgent climate in which exceptional violations of fundamental democratic rights can take place. Domestic electoral compulsions supply the immediate and sufficient impulse for both the riots and the legislation and therefore raises ominous questions about the future trajectory of Indian democracy.

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Himal Southasian