November  2001 
Cover Story

‘We are living through a testing and a very difficult phase’

After September 11, the divide is near total


A very senior police official from the state intelligence in Rajasthan spoke to Teesta Setalvad in an exclusive interview, on condition of anonymity. Due to the sensitivity of his position we are acceding to his request. Excerpts:

Recently, the state government banned a BD-VHP pamphlet. Why?

Yes, we recommend the ban to the government in late September. Our intelligence found it being distributed in thousands. We found the material provocative and offensive. We registered a case under 153a and then moved the government for its seizure under section 95 of the criminal procedure code. The BD and VHP have jointly published it. It contains their own interpretation of history — about atrocities on Hindus by Muslims.

What about the trishul distribution programme currently under way in Rajasthan and other places?

We have taken a very serious view of them since what is being distributed can actually kill. All over Rajasthan these distribution programmes have been held as well as the jalabhishek by the VHP.

What is the motive behind these campaigns?

A slow and gradual build-up of tensions like we witnessed in the late 80s and early 90s. In Rajasthan, during 1988–89, the RSS/VHP/BJP held first the Hegdewar Jayanti; then there was shilanyas poojan and finally came the Rath Yatra. Similarly, the Jalabhisheks are also a gradual build–up to their declared programme to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya on March 12 next year. And, of course, there are the UP elections.

They are slowly building up the tempo. They have declared that they will visit every Hindu house, solicit a one rupee contribution; a symbolic thing simply meant to enlist support. We have learned that they will conduct 10,000 such yatras and the conclusion will be in January. But already many jalabhisheks have deteriorated into processions and led to attacks.

Is the government equipped to deal with another fallout like Ayodhya?

The government is trying to do it’s best. A decision has been taken to post policemen and district collectors in the farthest corners of the state.

How would you assess the communal situation in Rajasthan?

It is grim. I personally do not see a silver lining for the next 20–25 years. Hindu fundamentalist organisations like the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and their Muslim counterparts like the Milli Council and SIMI, have been fanning communal passions.

The worrisome thing is that though there are not many riots, religious issues are being constantly exploited. Soon after the regrettable incident of the burning of the Quran by BD activists in Delhi, Acharya Giriraj Kishore was busy exploiting the situation. In Rajasthan, at least, even the Musharraf visit heightened tensions. And after September 11 and the war in Afghanistan, I believe the communal divide is near total.

What about the recent RSS shibir in Jaipur?

The administration is doing it’s best. But it is not only our actions that can make the difference. There was perceptible tension in mid–October when the RSS mobilised nearly 50,000 volunteers in Jaipur. Soon after that a special namaaz was organised in an Idgah by Muslims in connection with the attack on Afghanistan. That also contributed to further polarisation.

There are complaints of communal bias operating among the administration and police in Rajasthan. Comments?

I will not deny that some communal bias is there and it should not be there. But in Rajasthan the administration is more responsive than in other states where sectarian considerations are more dominant. But do remember that communal forces are leaving no stone unturned to create trouble and we are doing our best to cope. We are living through a testing and very difficult phase. Hence the pressure on senior officials is intense.

Have you been working with civil society groups?

Yes, we have urged even the CM to be open to them. Individuals and groups like yours and many others in Rajasthan should help equip the administration to deal with such sensitive situations in a more effective manner.

But I would suggest that human rights organisations be judicious. Under our peculiar circumstances, it is important that they consistently decry the misconduct of fanatics from both communities: All of you should come forward to decry not just Hindu fundamentalists but intolerant, conservative sections among Muslims, too. There is a feeling in the administration that NGOs are sometimes one–sided.

Though it is true that in our society, the Hindu fundamentalist has the upper hand, please remember that the other side is not innocent.


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