Book Reviewed: Sampradayik Dangon ka Sach
Written and Compiled by L.S. Hardenia, Publisher: Bhartiya Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Delhi, firstname.lastname@example.org, 2012, pages 200, Price Rs 200)
Communal violence has been the bane of South Asian countries in general and India in particular. There are many a scholarly works and analysis of this painful phenomenon. The book under review is a mix of journalistic account of various communal riots by the author, supplemented by essays by him and other authorities on the subject, who help us, understand the nature of this phenomenon. In a way it is a total window to the phenomenon of communal violence and takes in to account the changing profile of communal strife through his own observation and through the analytic essays by people like Asghar Ali Engineer, Vibhuti Narain Rai and Rajendra Sharma amongst others. It is a comprehensive volume giving good insight into this tragic fact of our society.
The author is very perceptive about the changing nature of communal violence. Before independence it was a clash between two religious communities with police as the neutral intervener. Later gradually the riots started being one sided and police started openly siding with Hindus. One can add to this that lately e.g. in Dhule in Maharashtra (2012) it was more an attack of police on the hapless Muslim minority. The author has made the book broad based by incorporating the anti Sikh and anti Christian violence also. He does point out that it is the poor of the community who suffer maximum in the violence, but one can add to this that lately even the middle class and rich have been brought in the ambit of violence with death and destruction of their properties being a prominent observation in the violence since last two decades.
The author very aptly points out that violence is brought about; it gets engineered due to economic and political reasons. This is a matter of big confusion, as many think it is religious reasons, the real fact being that religion is used as an instrument in the whole process. He recalls a very touching incident of Hindu-Muslim unity during the 1857 war of Independence. During this an appeal was issued that during Bakar Id the cows or even buffaloes will not be slaughtered. Later with the Muslim and Hindu communal organizations coming up, British played their cards of ‘divide and rule’ policy and encouraged these communal organizations. Author does well to give a chronological account of the history of communal violence going through the period of freedom movement, era of Nehru, to the present day period and the role which agitations like Ram temple movement initiated by BJP played in the whole tragedy.
The high point of the book is the analysis of the inquiry commission reports, the commissions which were instituted by the Government. What comes out from this is that the recommendations of most of the commission reports were put in the cold storage. Also the role of communal organizations in instigating the violence becomes clear from the analysis of these reports. An interesting observation about Mumbai violence 1992-93 and later Mumbai blast 1993 is that while the guilty of communal violence are still roaming free, those who were part of the blasts have been punished as per the law! The reason is that during violence the state officials and Hindus were involved and in bomb blast Muslims were involved. The analysis of role of police and media is very insightful. Hardenia has been part of many riot investigations, which were done with great amount of meticulousness. One observation from his investigations is that by now the minority community is losing faith in the police machinery.
He also takes pains to analyze two major carnages, the one of Mumbai 1992-93 and the other of Gujarat 2002. Srikrishna report, which has been a sort of landmark in riot investigation, is very well summarized for the readers. One knows that despite these truths available in the public domain many a misconceptions prevail and people are unaware of these facts. The strength of this book is to present these investigations to the society in a simple and lucid style. While describing these events what comes forth is the worsening condition of Muslim minorities in the country. At the same time the weaknesses in law while dealing with the violence are brought forward. This latter point has become very important currently as the present Government has promised a new law for curbing communal violence, but that’s nowhere in sight. The real issue is the lack of accountability and those not performing their duties are getting away without any punishment. What is needed is a law to punish the guilty and those aiding, abetting the crime and not controlling the violence when possible.
The book also includes the classic findings of Dr. V.N. Rai’s research on communal violence. Dr. Rai for his doctoral work points out that there is heavy bias against Muslims amongst the police personnel. The study of Rai though old, is relevant even now, as things have worsened as for as police biases are concerned. There are chapters on communal violence of 2005 and 2006 by Asghar Ali Engineer. Dr. Engineer has been producing the report of communal violence every year. The Author/Compiler would have done better by including two latest articles; the one’s pertaining to the last two years for example.
In addition to this minor aberration, the book also needed and update for the year 2012, and a brief summary of trends on communal violence during last couple of years, which would have enhanced its worth. As such it is a very good compilation to apprise the reader about the nature of violence, the attitude of police, the role of media, the lacunas of law and the need to curb the violence for a better society. Mr. Hardenia needs to be complimented for this contribution. It will surely be an eye opener to many and will act as myth buster about communal violence to most of us.