RNP Singh’s had his tongue in his cheek when he aptly sub-titled this book Riots & Wrongs. Singh incidentally is just not another armchair analyst; he speaks with authority because he is a much decorated ex-officer of the Intelligence Bureau.
This is perhaps the first book of its kind; the chapter on the chronology of communal riots in India is a shocking eye opener of sorts. The case studies of Islamic religious riots in India are comprehensive and detailed. The book is conveniently divided into four parts, spanning the modern to the early. The contemporary issues of Islamic conflicts worldwide are dealt with in short in the first part. The author has given a trans-continental survey of the hotspots of Islamic fundamentalism. The spread of global terrorism, radical elements, and the conflict with other religions are discussed threadbare. The internecine wars between the different Islamic sects, which have resulted in ethnic conflagrations in many Muslim countries proves the violence that exists in Islam’s ideology. The concept of Jehad that has imploded in the Islamic world has had its repercussions worldwide.
The second part probes and delves into the historical aspects of the anathema of the great Hindu-Muslim divide. The author has rightly rubbished the conventional wisdom that attributes this malaise to the British strategy of ‘divide and rule’ implemented in the wake of first struggle for freedom in 1857. The British did attempt to separate Hindus and Muslims to keep both under subjugation but there have been riots in India even before British consolidation. Communal violence in the post-Independence era has been showing a declining trend. None can however, deny that India’s minorities have lived in comparative safety vis-à-vis the so-called Islamic republics.
The birth of India, in the midst of a bloody orgy of communal violence and the psyche of an entire generation is scarred by menaces of past slaughters and atrocities. Despite the lip service paid to the concept of ‘secularism’, opportunistic exploitation of the communal platform has been a characteristic of politics for parties virtually across the ideological spectrum, leading to polarisation and ghettoism of communities in large areas of the country, particularly among the illiterate and poor. The post- Independence riots were “perhaps due to the Hindus heightened distrust towards Muslims and vice versa” and that “typical Muslims’ outlook towards nationality, nationalism and a soft corner for the partitioned part that is Pakistan, further fuelled it. The Muslims who stayed back in India were perhaps hopeful of further partition of India if the situation so demanded”.
In the third part, the author has dealt with issues of communalism and communal riots and what the author calls ‘single dimensional approach to riots’. The primary reason behind communal problems in India is the dilemma posed before the major section of Muslims and that is to choose between the secular democratic way and the hard-line tenets of Islam, which declare that Allah is the only God, Mohammed is the only leader, Quran is the only constitution and jehad is the only path. The Hindus, despite extending their hands to the Muslims, have not received a friendly gesture, rather they have got mistrust and distrust.
The book presents a chronological overview of all communal riots in India for over two centuries beginning at a time when there was no BJP, no VHP, no RSS and no Narendra Modi. It is interesting to learn that the “first communal riot” in India took place in Ahmedabad in 1713.
The author is of the view that the Muslims, whether in minority or majority, remain in conflict with others on one cause or another. “They never remain agreeable to join the national mainstream and with the non-Muslim majority and continue demanding separate laws, separate institutions, separate lands and separate identity…their usual behaviour is to launch jehad against non-believers.” A must read, especially for the modern-day secularists both the pure and the psuedo.
By Anil Dhir