Looking for a Cause, Desperately (July 03, 2008)


Looking for an election issue with a sufficiently communal colour, BJP has been happy to strike the pay dirt in Srinagar. However, the able leadership of Governor Vohra may prevent it from having the last laugh, writes Mohammed Ataur Rahman.

Count on BJP to create a contentious, deeply divisive issue out of thin air. People who knew General (retd.) S.K. Sinha's dismal record as governor of Assam were apprehensive when he was appointed governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Sinha, who aggravated the social tensions in Assam with his inopportune public outbursts, should have been the last person to be appointed governor of J & K, a state whose wounds had begun to heal over the last couple of years.

But that was not to be. Sinha, the wound opener of Assam, repeated his performance in J&K. By assiduously communalising the Amarnath Yatra (taken as people's pilgrimage before Sinha's tenure) he has done a great disservice to the state and the country as such.

The Shiva lingam was discovered in Anantnag nearly 150 years ago. Since then the yatra had been going on peacefully, with the unstinted support and full co-operation of local Muslims. This support and co-operation continued even at the height of insurgency.

Time and again local Muslims have come to the rescue of the pilgrims. Even during the present crisis, when four Muslim protestors were killed and several others injured in firing by central and state forces and the yatra was disrupted, local Muslims provided food and shelter to thousands of yatris.

On the contrary, the response of BJP and its affiliates like Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, VHP and other RSS outfits in Jammu and Delhi has been outrageous. The rabble-rouser Praveen Togadia rushed to Jammu and started pouring oil on the raging fire with his familiar incendiary rhetoric.

The above-mentioned BJP affiliates have openly and obliquely threatened to launch a countrywide anti-Muslim stir. In Delhi they staged a somewhat lacklustre demonstration, menacingly brandishing swords in public. That was a message for Indian Muslims. L.K. Advani, whose mere involvement in such matters spells trouble, has announced that he would make it an election issue. Like the proverbial straw to the drawing man the Amarnath yatra has come as a reassurance of electoral survival for BJP.

Ruefully, the role of the Congress Party in Jammu has not been at all different from that of BJP or VHP. That is reprehensible conduct for a party that professes to be a secular anti-dote to BJP's out and out communal politics. However, it is reassuring to note that New Delhi has chosen Sinha's replacement wisely. Within hours of taking charge Governor N.N. Vohra has moved to contain the damage. In his capacity as the chairman of the Amarnath Shrine Board, Governor Vohra has asked the state government to take over the arrangements of the yatra, thus diffusing a looming crisis, at least for the moment.

However, BJP and its allies may not sit idle. After all, they have milked the Ayodhya cow for all it is worth. Their "scientist" who claimed to be working in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as well as being a joint secretary in the PMO turned out to be a fraud and disappeared from public view following his exposure. BJP-VHP had been claiming that this "scientist" of theirs had the "proof" that Ram Sethu (Adam's Bridge) was built by the monkey army of Shri Ramji.

The fraud scientist cited a US National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA) "report" in support of his claim. NASA said it did not have anything to do with the claim; the PMO said this man was not related to them, and ISRO denied any knowledge of the fraud scientist whatsoever. Having bitten dust in its Ram Sethu campaign BJP will not easily let go of the new opportunity. Secular India must never allow it this advantage.


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