By Ambrose Pinto SJ
February 03: During the early days, when India was struggling to find its moorings, Donald Smith, a sympathetic American political analyst, had observed: ’’It is far too early to dismiss the possibility of a future Hindu state in India. However, the possibility does not appear a strong one. The secular state has far more than an even chance of survival in India.’’
With the Justice Somasekara Commission report out, many may not share that optimism. In the last two years of the BJP rule in the state, communalism has transformed itself from a marginal force to the centre stage of state politics. Such a transformation of course is not purely the result of its organisational success and emotional appeal, but more due to the weakness of secular forces.
The findings of the report are unlikely to surprise the concerned citizens since the commission to probe the attacks was appointed to legitimise communalism. Not many people had faith in the commission right at the time of its establishment. There were reasons for the lack of faith.
If the government was serious to address the grievances of the Christians, the chief minister should have at least consulted the community leaders on who should be in the commission and who should not be. Without any reference to the community, the commission was appointed.
Not many members of the community other than the Church establishment were enthused about the commission. Given the fact, it was a government’s commission, the report is no surprise. It has done the biddings of its masters by wasting the resources of the state.
Prior to the BJP assuming power there were no organised attacks on the community. The anti-Christian violence rose since the present government assumed power. How do these attacks then take place without a deliberate plan? The victims know well who the perpetrators of the violence are.
For the commission to state that there is no basis to the apprehensions of the petitioners that the politicians, BJP, sangh parivar and also the state government are directly or indirectly involved in the attacks is ridiculous. The commission further goes on to state that there was an allegation as well as an impression created that top police and district administration officials had colluded with the attackers who desecrated the churches and there is no truth in it.
As desired by those who appointed them, the commission has absolved the state, all its officials and the sangh parivar for their misdeeds. Other than this report, all the other reports have clearly established the nexus of the state with the sangh parivar in those attacks.
There is no doubt that the report of the commission is aimed at protecting the affiliates of the sangh parivar and a part of the communal police bureaucracy. Certain manufactured claims that are often repeated against the Christians are legitimised in the report.
One of them is the raising fears that Hindutva is under grave threat from Christians, who it claims are carrying out forced mass conversions. Hate literature has been churned out to attack Hindu gods and goddesses to convert gullible Hindus though the Christians may just be 2.1 per cent of the population of the state. That the task of the Christians is to convert finds a place in the report and one of the causes for attack is attributed to it.
The report needs to be simply rejected due to the fact that the incidence of violence has been highest ever since BJP took over power. This cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence. Rather it clearly implicates the state as giving its indirect tacit support.
Anti-Christian violence is an officially accepted ideology of the BJP. Why hide the fact by recourse to a report? Its politics are driven by the principle of ‘majority is authority and power.’ Power is to be derived through majority and can be used to redefine and legitimise anything and everything. The report is another attempt in the direction.
Wherever the BJP has been in power, it has been able to successfully capitalise on the communal card. The report would be debated for the next few months and this debate would conveniently help the party in power to create a new consciousness. At stake then are the question of pluralism and the very notion of a composite and multi-layered identity of the people of the state.
During the early days of the Republic, the BJP’s ideology was understood as anti-humanist, obscurantist and violent. They were outside the mainstream and were not looked upon by people as an acceptable political alternative. Much of their advance is made possible in the state because of their attacks on the minorities on the one side and their intervention in the religious life of people through the activities of innumerable organisations.
The cultural consciousness of people is transformed from the secular to the religious. This is qualitatively a different effort from that of the secular forces and is likely to pose a threat to the secular polity.
(The writer is the principal of St Joseph’s College, Bangalore)