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Raveen Thukral
State of Affairs

Rise above politics of religion

Unfortunately, religious violence gets politicised rather than being deplored by all in one voice.

enior Congress leader, A.K. Antony, who had sparked off a controversy earlier in June by stating that the Congress had damaged itself by its pro-minority agenda, has now recorded this in black and white.

Antony, who heads the Congress' panel probing the reasons for the party's worst ever debacle, submitted his findings this week and blamed "pro-minority talk" as one of the reasons for the party's defeat. While many in his party will still not agree with him, the truth is that the Congress is responsible to a large extent for making Narendra Modi an icon for the Hindutva brigade.

What happened in Gujarat in 2002 is condemnable but the manner in which the Congress politicised this issue for over a decade for minority votes rather than fighting it as a crime against humanity made Modi what he is today. Despite the fact that its agenda of Modi bashing over the Gujarat riots did not work in three elections in the state, the Congress pursued it even in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Its strategy of winning minority votes by projecting Modi as Hitler, who would persecute the Muslims, while it itself flirted openly with Imams, boomeranged and pushed even the liberal Hindus to the BJP's fold. Unfortunately, the Congress hasn't learnt any lessons and continues to commit the same gaffes.

With Assembly elections due in four states, the Congress has once again raised the bogey of communalism by accusing the BJP government of "inflaming" riots across the country to "divide" the communities. CLP leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, first raised the issue of rise in the number of riots during the Modi regime. He was followed by Rahul Gandhi, who alleged that communal riots in UP were "artificially engineered" and were part of a deliberate strategy to "divide the poor". Congress president Sonia Gandhi too joined the chorus by blaming the BJP government at the Centre for the recent spurt in the incidents of communal cases in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

This, as it appears, has become the "party line" and every Congress leader, across the country, is parroting it, unmindful that this unnecessary Modi-bashing for minority votes may boomerang again.

Law and order is a state subject and the two states that Sonia Gandhi mentioned, UP and Maharashtra, are not ruled by the BJP. While there is Congress in Maharashtra, UP has the Samajwadi Party, which supported the UPA for the last decade in the Lok Sabha. Though one cannot rule out the possibilities of some local BJP leaders trying to foment trouble to polarise communities, it cannot be dubbed as the Centre's agenda, until and unless there is proof of it.

Interestingly, while the Congress has claimed a "sharp increase" in the number of riot cases during Modi's rule, a recent report in the Times of India, citing Home Ministry data, reveals that during May-June 2014 the incidents per month fell to an average of 56.5 as against to 68.6 in 2013. The report also states that the average number of deaths and injured in communal clashes has also come down to 7.5 and 159 respectively during the period of May-June this year as compared to 11 and 189 the preceding year.

Irrespective of the statistics, violence of all sorts is condemnable and has no place in any civilised society. It's unfortunate that such issues are politicised rather than being deplored by all in one voice.

Secularism does not mean minority appeasement. The National Secular Society of UK defines secularism "as a principle that involves two basic propositions: The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law."

Even Mahatma Gandhi said, "If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!"

So the answer to peaceful existence lies in practising true secularism. Narendra Modi has called for a 10-year moratorium on all caste and religious violence, but this can happen only when we all rise above the politics of religion and start believing in humanity at large. If that happens, then this moratorium would be a permanent one.

 
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