Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
General Secretary, All India Milli Council
The count-down to the general elections - 2019 has begun. Prior to this, polls to several assemblies have become a focal point for the ruling party at the Centre, BJP, and opposition parties. After elections to Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, etc., all eyes are set on the outcome of Karnataka assembly elections. Dates for the polls have been announced and, according to the schedule, vote will be cast on May 12 and the counting will take place on May 15.
BJP has started playing the communal card to win both the elections as a result of which incidents of communal violence have become more frequent in the country. It has been established that the BJP leaders and their functionaries were involved in these incidents of violence. In BJP-ruled states, the riots have been more intense. On March 25, Ram Navmi processions sparked off violence in West Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan and other states in which Muslims were targeted and their women molested.
According to media reports and civil-society led investigations, riots in Aransol, Bhagalpur and Alwar during Ram Navmi processions were well-planned. Weapons were distributed and provocative slogans were raised under a well thought-out strategy. These were aimed at targeting Muslims. This was also corroborated by the local office-bearers of the All India Milli Council. It may be noted that barring West Bengal, other states are ruled by the BJP.
According the statistics of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), more than 2,000 incidents of communal violence took place during the last three years in which 300 people lost their lives and property worth several crore of rupees was damaged. The most striking feature of the NCRB report is that the riots in the past three years have registered a 41 percent increase compared to 2014. Most of the communal riots occurred in states like UP, MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar and Rajasthan, where either the BJP is in power or the state is ruled by a coalition government in which BJP is a partner. UP tops the list of the incidents of communal violence.
A report published in The Times of India says the percentage of riots in UP has gone up since the BJP came to power. That is the reason why compared to 2014, the number of riots in 2015 had dramatically increased. This trend continued in 2016 and 2017. The report for 2018 is yet to be released, but all available indications suggest that the figures will be much higher given the communally surcharged atmosphere.
Besides anti-Muslim violence, police crackdown on Dalits continues unabated. Woes of Dalits have multiplied ever since BJP came to power. Dalits were attacked during the Bharat bandh organised by them on April 2 last. Attempts were also made to physically harm them. Their arrests have become a regular feature and they are targeted whenever they raise voice in support of their demands. They are being victimised to send the message that dalits have no right even to open their mouth. They are told to shun the idea of treating themselves as equals to upper castes. This brings into focus the fact that Dalits could not get the dignity they deserve as human beings in 2018. They are victims of social inequality and like in the past, there is a deep conspiracy to enslave them again.
All these riots are aimed at sentimentally uniting the Hindus and widening the communal divide, spreading hatred and ill-will between Hindus and Muslims in order to grab power by misusing religion. With a view to winning Karnataka, these tactics are being employed in an organised manner. In line with this action plan, several places in Karnataka witnessed communal violence. On the other hand, the media is abdicating its responsibility to be fair and impartial. Instead of presenting facts, it is singing paens to the ruling party. This has confused the people who are unaware of Karnataka being a development model which has made all-round progress. Karnataka ranks number one among the states of India in terms of development. Karnataka can also boast of being home to 17 major companies and has developed into an educational hub. People in the state are happy and prosperous, and the percentage of employment is higher than in other states. Karnataka also had the distinction of standing first in the implementation of the dream project of Narendra Modi, Swachchhta Abhiyan.
This state has secured first position on several indicators, but due to bias in the media, people are deprived of their right to know the truth. On the other hand, communal antics, hate speech, etc. are highlighted by the media. Owing to the misreporting of such news, a wrong impression is being created among the people. This negatively contributes to the development process. People become victims of campaign and their choice of right candidates gets fuzzy. We have no mechanism that could neutralise negative propaganda of the media and ensure legal action against erring media persons. Even if a way out is found, it is too late to do anything meaningful to stem the rat.
Results of the elections to the state assemblies held so far have belied the hopes of the electorate. The success of the winning candidates could be attributed to electronic voting machine (EVMs), instead of popular support. This mode of voting has not found favour with the voters who have lost faith in this tool. Genuineness of electronic voting machines became suspect in several developed nations, with the result that they reverted to the old system of voting by ballot paper. The future of democracy depends on free and fair elections which are possible only through ballot paper. People are desirous of participating in election process that is transparent and leaves no scope for manipulation. The Election Commission of India is obliged to respect the sentiments of the people and hold elections using ballot papers.
Voters of Karnataka are caught up in the dilemma of the current situation in the country, which had been made worse by biased media reporting. Media has launched a disinformation campaign against Siddramaiah government alleging that “it has done nothing for the people”, though the fact is the opposite. Ground reports suggest that Karnataka has secured first position among the states in several sectors.
Karnataka is more prosperous than other state of the Indian Union. Due to these achievements, Karnataka has become a focal point for the entire world. As an education hub and centre of IT industry, Karnataka is known all over the world. People of the state are mature, well-educated and conscious of their duty as responsible voters. The world is watching the mood of the electors in Karnataka with a baited breath. The world is eager to know which party forms the next government.
Speculations are also rife if the educated people will be swayed by the media propaganda and vote accordingly or will cast their vote tactically in accordance with the correct understanding of issues involved. In view of the ground reality in Karnataka, the ulema, imams, pundits, intelligentsia, social activists, religious heads, educationists and those involved in social work owe a responsibility to generate political awakening in people and launch a high-decibel campaign in favour of the parties that have implemented pro-people schemes. They would also do well to create a favourable atmosphere for those whose efforts bore fruit and Karnataka earned a distinct position in development.
This is also the time to favourably pay back to those who left no stone unturned in restoring high principles of democracy and secularism. The Karnataka assembly elections are bound to impact the parliamentary elections in 2019. These elections will also change the mindset of the people. This devolves a great onus on the people of Karnataka to use their right to franchise consciously and defeat the forces that have divided people on communal lines, created an atmosphere of hatred, engineered riots and exploited the poor.