Vivian Fernandes is a senior journalist with nearly 30 years of practice, 19 of them in television, all of which he spent at TV18. Vivian’s last assignment was as executive editor of a book on India and China written by the founder of the Network 18 group, Mr Raghav Bahl. He has been an observer of Indian business and politics, and had reported on economic policy making as reporter, chief of Delhi bureau of correspondents and economic policy editor. Vivian has traveled abroad with Prime Ministers Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. He was also reported on the World Trade Organization’s trade talks from Cancun, Hong Kong and Geneva. He continues his association with the Network18 group, but not as an employee.
A sinister wind of communal violence is blowing across the country. A senior editorial colleague tells me that it is being fanned by fanatic saffron groups whose intention is to bring Gujarat's Hindu Hriday Samrat and the disarrayed Bharatiya Janata Party to power on a wave of communal fervour by creating an acute divide between the two principal communities. The signs are ominous.
There have been five communal riots in Uttar Pradesh in 70 days. Bareilly has been under curfew for over a month. The storm troopers of the Bajrang Dal are ever ready to stir up trouble there. The Muslims who voted the ruling party to power have suffered the most. They are disillusioned. For them, UP's young chief minister has been a big disappointment, says CNN-IBN correspondent Shreya Dhoundiyal.
The Muslims who rioted in Mumbai were incited not just by jihadis from across the border with inflammatory text messages and gory pictures of violence against co-religionists in Assam and Burma. Fanatic Hindu groups based in Karnataka and Kerala are said be active. Their intention is to instigate the Muslims and then provoke a backlash. The recent Pune blasts, which thankfully did little damage, are suspected to be their handiwork.
By reacting predictably and reflexively, Muslims are playing into the hands of those who care little for their lives. The leaders who organised the Mumbai rally underestimated the size of the crowd that would gather and its murderous intent. What have they achieved? A sympathetic police commissioner has been transferred out. Arup Patnaik acted with restraint fearing that an order to fire on those attacking the police would have resulted in many deaths. But what was the need for Teesta Setalavad, who has heroically fought to bring the post-Godhra rioters to justice, to commend Patnaik? Would she have praised Patnaik if he had indulged rampaging Shiv Sainik goons? When secularists see gradations of acceptability in communalism, they are damaging their own cause.
It does not help when Muslims undermine the law, which is the best guarantor of their security, and the state looks the other way. Delhi MLA Shoiab Iqbal got a rabble to build a 'mosque' over the ruins of the purported Mughal-era Akbarbadi masjid near Jama Masjid, discovered during excavations for the Delhi Metro. The Archaeological Society of India is hesitating to demolish the illegal structure despite an order of the Delhi High Court, which has vowed to uphold the law 'even if heaven falls.' In January last year, many policemen were hurt when Delhi's development agency pulled down a mosque that had been illegally built on public property in a residential colony, after the Delhi High Court threatened it with contempt action. (Of course there are any number of temples on public land, and I have not come across any instance of Muslims getting offended by them).
And Communists, both of the observant and crypto varieties, do not emerge as champions of secularism, when they cosy up to the mullahs, to prevent the government from warming up to America, the object of their common hate (for different reasons).
The Marxists painted Manmohan Singh government vote against Iran in the United Nations to win US Congressional support for the nuclear deal as an act that would displease Indian Muslims (indirectly confirming the Hindu fundamentalist rant that they have loyalties beyond the nation). And he pinkos so hate the 'neo-liberal' economic policies that they constantly carp about the very government whose singular achievement has been the maintenance of communal peace over the past eight years. They are falling in the same trap as the secular and socialist George Fernandes, whose anti-Congressism led him to become the BJP's staunchest ally.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done much damage by undermining the credibility of his own government. He has been so cringingly wimpish, so indulgent of corruption, and such a weak economic manager, can we blame people if they see Narendra Modi as a desirable opposite?
While explaining Gandhi's message (of the superiority of soul-force) to a European audience in 1924, the French philosopher Romain Rolland said: 'The way to peace is not through weakness... Nothing is worthwhile unless it is strong, neither good nor evil. Absolute evil is better than emasculated goodness. Moaning pacifism is the death knell of peace; it is cowardice..."
I am not sure than anything can be better than absolute evil, but absolute evil will likely thrive on Manmohan Singh's emasculated goodness.