Communal violence is the real threat

With South Asian governments becoming increasingly weak, violence is growing as it remains unchecked.

Seema Mustafa September 20, 2013
The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes for several newspapers in India

Violence is now a characteristic of South Asia. Our people do not hesitate to kill and plunder and terrorise the minute they are confronted with views they do not agree with, resistance that they want to subdue, as increasingly weak governments fail to meet the growing challenges of the times.

The perpetrators of violence are a mixed bunch. There are the extremists insisting that only their way is the right way as they kill and attack to promote their limited ideologies. They kill women for seeking education, they attack the minorities for being ‘different’, they preach sectarian and communal violence as they insist that the only salvation lies in a theocratic state ruled by ‘them’, the hate mongers who do not hesitate to rape and kill and maim human beings. And what is worse, they generate violence through lies and distortions and propaganda that pitch communities against each other as in Muzaffarnagar in India recently. On the other side they resort to terrorism and attack peaceful crowds with guns and bombs, shooting to kill. And spread this terrorism to other countries as well.

There are the politicians who are really no different from the extremists, in that they invoke hatred and divisiveness to garner votes. They make common cause with the extremists and fanatics, giving them a boost instead of arresting and putting them in jail for inciting violence and resorting to hate speech. They provide the platforms for the fanatics to spew their venom, be it against the other sect, the other community, and of course, against women at large.

There are the feudal overlords who hold meetings with the sole purpose of legalising murder. They attack and kill their women brutally, for exercising their own freedom in marriage and love. They hold large panchayats where they give the call, and as all go indoors, the ‘offended’ family kills their daughter in what governments bow to as ‘honour killings’. Action is rarely taken against these killers with India and Pakistan being the worst offenders. Just recently a young girl who had eloped with a boy from the same village in India was lured back by her devious parents with the promise of marriage. The girl was brutally killed, while the boy was tortured and beheaded. And this by supposedly respected members of the village fraternity! Some arrests have been made, and it now remains to be seen whether these hold and the killers, who include the girl’s parents, get a life sentence or are freed to live comfortably after the gruesome crime.

With South Asian governments becoming increasingly weak, violence is growing as it remains unchecked. Of the hundreds of incidents in Pakistan where thousands have been killed, the arrests have been minimal if at all. The killers of important leaders like Benazir Bhutto remain untraced. Young girls like Malala are targeted for doing little more than seeking an education. People are scared of speaking out lest they be hit. Young men are missing, such as Salmaan Taseer’s son, but his family has been forced into silence lest others meet with the same treatment. There is complete lawlessness and no checks, just rhetoric.

In India, communal violence is growing, more so as elections are around the corner and the political parties are looking at consolidating votes to win. Large scale violence is thus being planned by the communal organisations and political parties, with the minorities facing the brunt of the attack. In Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, over 50,000 Muslims have been displaced in the violence that went into the countryside within hours. The poor villagers who had lived in harmony since Independence, were twisted and manoeuvred with deliberate rumours and lies, until they did not know the difference between the lie and the truth, and emerged as attackers even while they believed they were defending themselves from the ‘other’.

It is a bleak situation and hence imperative now for South Asian countries to understand the larger threat the region is facing, and work together to promote liberal thought and strategy. There is no point in denouncing terrorism or communal violence publicly and then working from the back to ensure that the industry of violence thrives either through direct state support or state inaction. Both are crippling and dangerous, and the people of the region must understand the need to vote in and support those committed to weeding out these violent forces from their polity through concerted political effort. The last requires prevention and control whereby the progressive forces that are present, fortunately still in large numbers in the region, are strengthened and not weakened by the states.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2013.

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G. Din | 8 years ago | Reply

@Rakib: " I was not sure whether ancient Hindu laws provided for killing a proselytiser." There is no connection between "ancient Hindu laws" and "proselytiser". If a missionary was murdered, it was not because he was proselytizing but whom and how he was proselytizing. Indian Constitution is not against proselytization as such but severely punishes those who try to convert people not on the basis of conviction but inducements. Notice all those missionaries, after they land in India, seek the furthest, secluded communities out in the boonies where populations are isolated, economically and educationally backward and therefore highly vulnerable. They cannot debate convictions but are quite amenable to a bowl of rice. This suits the missionaries fine because they are paid per head by their sponsors, highly religious people. Such conversions are not only dishonest and immoral but also pose a threat to the State. Since, due to our misfortune, our politics are mostly vote-bank politics, the State has no interest in preventing such breach of the spirit of the Constitution and so, it is those who are cheated by such politics that must pick up the cudgels and deal with the problem. The only way they can do that is by murder. It is not a nice way to handle it but quite effective, considering.

Rakib | 8 years ago | Reply

ET: Despite earlier rejections do please let this comment to those that addressed me go thru. It is relevant to the Subject. This will be my last post on this thread. Thanks.

@Naveen, @Np: Thanks for dispelling my gross ignorance about countries to the West of India & their religion. Scales have fallen from my eyes. I did mention though that much worse happens in the world for much less. Well, depends on whose standards you have set to judge your own by & from whence is drawn your inspiration.. It's interesting that elite of Indian Society now justify murder of a Missionary, like encounter killings of Muslims. Implicitly, may be even explicitly.. I was not sure whether ancient Hindu laws provided for killing a proselytiser (it was an opportunity to claim the contrary) & I am being guided to West Asia or Apostasy laws or history of 1921 instead of a straightforward condemnation of murder which goes against Law. I have noted the collective sagacity that guides me to look without for justification of sins within. That line of thinking would logically mean that just as it is happening to others the Final Victim of Hindutva would be the Hindu.

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