Thursday, June 01, 2006

History’s saddest lesson. Will we never learn?

Say what we may, India's record of inter-communal co-existence has been atrocious throughout the last century. On every occasion, the slightest breath of suspicion would fan tension into a major conflagration. In 1926, for instance, Hindu Mahasabha's national conference in Delhi, the ambiguous government policy on allowing music to be played near mosques and the opposition within the Indian National Congress to the Bengal Hindu-Muslim pact - painstakingly steered to fruition by the Deshbandhu (CR Das) - conspired to spark off a nationwide carnage, in Allahabad, Bombay, Calcutta, Dacca, Delhi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Panipat and Rawalpindi. 'Music near mosques' has a familiar ring. It has been the recurring bone of contention, even as late as in Mumbai's post-Ayodhya (1992-93) riots. Is secular tolerance, I often wonder, a sheer sliver of a veneer over the Indian psyche? "The more the two sides try and call attention to their religious differences by slaughtering each other, the less there is to distinguish them from one another. They worship at the same altar. They're both apostles of the same murderous god". That's how Arundhati Roy described the Gujarat episode of this never-ending gory tale. (Democracy. Who is she when she's at home?)

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