Rise to the Power


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Anatomy of BJP's Rise to Power: Social, Regional and Political Expansion in 1990's 

 Oliver Heath (From Economic and Political Weekly, August 21-28, 1999 via South Asia Citizens Web)

The spectacular rise of the BJP is one of the major political stories of the 1990s. During the last decade the party has undergone a rapid geographical and political expansion, the like of which has never been seen before. From its lowly position in 1989, when the BJP was a small localised party with a political presence restricted to just a few states in the Hindi heartland, the acquisition of new territory and new allies has transformed it into being the main political force in India with a mass national following. The aim of this paper is to explore the effect that these expansions have had on the social base of the BJP. Has its appeal widened to attract voters from different social backgrounds?
Or has it merely strengthened its hold on its traditional support base? Do the allies give the party an entrance in to new states and new sections of society? These are the questions which need to be answered.

National aggregations provide a useful starting point from which to carry out our investigation. By looking at the overall picture we can gain a sense of what, if anything, has changed. However, the BJP's rise in popularity has not been evenly spread across the country. The regional expansion of the party can be seen to have taken shape in three distinct waves. The first wave took place in the 1950s and early 1960s when the BJP's historical predecessor, the Jan Sangh, first became a significant political force at state level. These 'primary' states are the states where the Jan Sangh emerged as a viable opposition party in the 1950s and 1960s. The second wave includes the 'secondary' states, where the Jan Sangh, and then after 1980 the BJP, were present before the 1989 boom, but were only minor opposition, winning just a few seats in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The third wave is marked by the 1989 election, when the BJP emerged as a force in many of the 'tertiary' states. By looking at the social expansion with reference these different levels of regional expansion, we can attempt to identify the forces that lie behind the party's emergence as a national party.

I Social Base
It is well known that support for the BJP has tended to be more concentrated among the upper castes and the wealthy, and it's weakest among the Muslims and the underprivileged. But how do these different sources of support compare? Is caste a more significant factor than class? How much of a role do age and gender play? It is important to answer these questions so that we have reference point to relate social expansion to. Bivariate analyses may to some considerable extent duplicate the significance of factors. For example, educational level is closely related to social class, therefore, education and class tables may simply be redescribing the same phenomena rather than telling us anything new. What is interesting is to examine the impact of one variable on the vote for BJP and it's allies (BJP+), controlling for the other variables. In other words, among people of the same community or class, does education still make a difference to the way people vote?

To explore this question we carry out a multivariate logistic regression in which we simultaneously include community, class, education and so on rather than looking at them separately. We use logistic regression, which is the appropriate technique when we have a binary dependent variable.

We include in our model community, class, education, age, gender and locality. These variables are all treated in exactly the same way as in cross-tabulations, but all are included simultaneously. Table 1 shows the parameter estimates. These estimates can be interpreted as fitted log odds ratios. If we exponentiate them, we obtain the usual odds ratios which are more easily interpreted. These are the ones shown in the second of the split columns. These odds ratios show the fitted odds of supporting the BJP and its allies in the particular group in question relative to the overall odds. These are what is known as 'deviation contrasts'. If the fitted odds ratio is greater than 1, this indicates that the group in question is relatively likely to support BJP+, while if the odds ratio is less than one, it indicates that that group is relatively unlikely to support BJP+.1

The magnitude of the parameters tell us by how much the particular groups differ from the overall electorate (controlling for the other variables in the model). Thus if the fitted odds ratios are close to 1, either just above or just below, then we can say that the groups in question are relatively similar in their support for BJP+. The further apart they are, the more different the group's voting patterns are. Table 1 shows the parameter estimates for each of the variables. To some extent the support base of the BJP resembles, if not the elite, then definitely the middle and upper classes. That is to say, that although the most advantaged members of society may not always be the most likely to vote BJP, the most disadvantaged are at any rate the least likely. Although it may be tempting to say that the BJP is therefore a party that represents social and economic privileges, none of the evidence is really strong enough to support this. On the whole the degrees of polarisation within the variables are relatively weak, that is with the noticeable and distinct exception of community.

Controlling for all the variables, it is the upper castes that are by far the most likely to vote BJP. This means that although graduates are more likely than illiterates, and men more likely than women, and so on, caste over-rides their influence.

Table 2 gives a summary of how significant each of the variables are in effecting the vote for BJP+. Chi square is a measure for the difference between the expected and the observed results. The expected results assume a null association. That is, one would expect all groups within the variable to give the same degree of support to the BJP+. The greater the difference between the relative levels of support, the greater the Chi square. Community and class, and to a lesser extent sex, age and locality, all play a part, although community is by far and away the most significant. Therefore, if the social base of the BJP has expanded, the key variable that we need to measure it with reference to is community.

II Social Expansion
By looking at the internal composition, or column percentages, of the BJP+ we can analyse the distribution of the different community's within the party. This tells us what percentage of BJP voters are upper caste, OBC and SC, etc. Secondly, we can look at the degree of support that each community gives to the BJP. Although all the communities may vote BJP to some extent, the row percentages and odds ratios tell us which  community offers the greatest and least support. However, the row percentages only show absolute increases, and not relative increases. To see whether the communities exhibit any change in their voting patterns, or are just being swept along with the tide, we need to look at the odds ratios. It is important to look at the picture from both sides. Inflow tables tend to highlight the cross-cutting of cleavages, whereas the row percentages show to what degree people vote along caste lines. Although similar information, in terms of change, can be gained from both approaches; the distinction remains important. Thirdly, we can look at the overall effect of community on voting. Phi and Chi square both measure its aggregate significance by quantifying the level of polarisation along community lines in one election.

As the multivariate analysis led us to suspect, it is the upper castes that form the most dominant section of BJP+ support. This was still the case in 1998 as it was in 1991, so in that respect it would seem that little has changed. However, the degree to which they predominate has undergone major changes. Table 3 shows that there has been a real and significant shift in the social composition of the BJP+. The proportion of BJP+ voters who are upper caste has fallen by 10 per cent since 1991. This shift away from the heavy reliance of upper castes has been matched by gradual growth in representation from all of the other communities. The growth that has been most pronounced is amongst the OBCs, whose presence has increased by 4 per cent, although there has also been an
increase in the other social groupings of SC (3 per cent), ST (2 per cent) and Muslim (1 per cent). However, these counter-growths have been relatively small, and could just be the result of standard sampling error. We should not therefore read too much into them at this stage.

The row percentages in Table 4 show the degree of support that each community gave to the Jan Sangh in 1967 and to the BJP+ in 1991, 1996 and 1998. The 1967 data need to be treated with some caution. Not only is the overall sample size quite small and restricted to only male respondents, but also the Jan Sangh share of the vote is small. Therefore, the sample may not have accurately picked up the Jan Sangh voters. However, broadly speaking we can say that the upper castes gave far more support to the Jan Sangh than the other community groups did, which is also true for the BJP 30 years later. In this sense then, there has been a strong degree of continuity between the respective social profiles of the two parties.

However, in terms of finer analysis, we are unable to draw any other robust links between the two parties. Instead, what we can do is to see what has happened to the BJP since 1991. The row percentages show that during the 1990s there has been absolute growth in support for the BJP+ across all the communities. However, to see whether this rise in popularity has been evenly dispersed across the board we need to look at how the odds ratios have changed.

In the hierarchy of support by community little has changed since 1991. Relative to the overall electorate, the upper castes still give the greatest support to the BJP, followed by the OBCs, the scheduled tribes, the scheduled castes and the Muslims, respectively. However, the odds ratios show that there has been a relative decrease in the support from the upper castes. Even though more upper castes voted BJP+ in 1998 than in 1991, their overall dominance has been reduced by the greater propensity of the other community's to vote BJP+.

The odds ratios for the upper castes were their highest in 1996. However, they significantly fell in 1998. Even though the odds ratios for the upper castes voting BJP+ were higher in 1991 than in 1998, the overall effect of community was lower. This indicates that the social cleavages were not as pronounced as they later became. The Chi square for community was at its highest in 1996, and then dropped a little in 1998. However, the disadvantage with using Chi square as a comparative measure between samples, rather than a comparative measure of variables within the same sample as was used in Table 2, is that it is sensitive to the size of the sample. Thus bigger values are expected when big samples are used. To some degree then the rise in Chi square might merely reflect the over
all rise in popularity for the BJP and not indicate a strengthening of social cleavages as might first be assumed. To verify this we use Phi.The Phi results support what Chi square told us.

Therefore social profile needs to be explored from two angles. Firstly, what is the relationship between the move away from upper castes, and the rise in the other communities? And secondly, what is the overall effect of community? Having examined how the overall shape of the BJP and its allies has changed, we next need to examine how these profiles compare to those in the three waves of BJP expansion. 

III Regional Expansion
Does the social profile of the BJP remain constant from the time of its establishment? Does the social profile take the same shape in each wave? How do the different social profiles change over the course of time?

To answer these questions we will test the validity of three hypotheses. Firstly, that expansion takes the form of a top-down conversion. That is, it enters through the upper castes, who have traditionally been the most likely to vote BJP and would therefore be the most receptive to its  arrival, and then draws in support from the other community groups afterwards. The second hypothesis is that the social profile on entry reflects the BJP+'s profile at that time. In this respect we would expect to see similar profiles in each of the regions. Thirdly, in each phase, or penetration, the party redefines itself and explicitly tries to appeal to new voters. In this instance there would be markedly different profiles in each of the regions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the states where the BJP has had the longest political presence are the states where the BJP is still most popular. The secondary states are also the second most popular. In 1996 the BJP+ vote share increased noticeably, and the party is now only marginally less successful than it is in the primary states. In the tertiary states the BJP had an almost non-existent presence before 1989. However, it is in these states that its growth has been most dramatic, rising from 10.2 per cent in 1991 to 35.4 per cent in 1998.

Table 6 shows the inflow of where the BJP+'s support comes from. Whereas Table 5 showed the percentage of people in each region who voted BJP+, this table shows each region as a percentage of the total number of people who voted BJP+. That is, in 1998 31.4 per cent of the people who
voted BJP+ came from the primary states. The table illustrates how the BJP's reliance on the primary states has dwindled over the years. Although the BJP is most successful in the primary states, in 1998 the largest number of its votes came from the tertiary states. This makes the party's expansion into this area all the more significant. 

Table 7 shows the column percentages for BJP+ support in each of the regional groupings. At first glance the table seems to paint a rather confusing picture. However, by focusing on the changes that have taken place in each region, we can gain some indication of what each ones enduring characteristics are, and thus begin to test our hypotheses.

The proportion of upper castes within the BJP fold in the primary states has not changed significantly over the three elections, with a slight fall between 1991 and 1998 the values have merely oscillated 1percentage point either side of the average, and 1996 value, of 41 per cent. Similarly its proportion within the tertiary states has not altered much either. That leaves us with the secondary states. It is
within this region that the big changes have occurred. The proportion of upper castes in 1991 was 54 per cent, marking it as the most upper caste reliant region of all. However, in 1996 its share fell by 12 percentage points, which was further consolidated by an additional fall of 2 percentage points between 1996 and 1998. In terms of a move away from the upper castes it is therefore in the secondary states that the major changes have taken place.

How do these changes compare with what has been happening with the other castes? The OBC share has been slightly erratic in the primary states. A slight rise in its share between 1991 and 1996 was followed by a slightly bigger drop. The overall impression though is of relative continuity, in at least in so far as all the changes have basically cancelled each other out. In the tertiary states there has been a noticeable fall in its share. However, in the secondary states its share has consistently gone up, rising from 34 per cent to 37 per cent to 40 per cent. The scheduled castes and Muslims have remained fairly stable  in the primary states, and made some gains in the secondary and tertiary states. The scheduled tribes have increased their share in the primary states, and remained fairly stable in the secondary and tertiary states, although their share did drop a fraction in 1998. However, for the small
groups, such as the scheduled tribes and Muslims, even small changes in their proportion within BJP can be the result of significant changes in their voting behaviour. Therefore, it is a good idea to see how their odds ratios have changed.

The row percentages offer an interesting insight into the voting behaviour of the Muslims. In 1991 a negligible number of Muslims voted BJP in the secondary and tertiary states. They are the last group to join the BJP bandwagon. However, as the BJP established itself in these states they voted for it in greater numbers. The voting seems to go in waves. In 1991 they only voted BJP in the primary states, where the party was already firmly entrenched. In 1996 they voted in all regions, in greater numbers in the primary states and less so in the tertiary states. In 1998 they again voted in all regions, but this time just as much in the tertiary states.

This pattern leads to two possible conclusions. Firstly, that as the last to enter, they are led by the other communities, thus following a top-down conversion process. But the fact that their growth was most evident in the tertiary states indicates that the BJP+ appeals to them (or vice versa) when it sets itself up anew. 

The odds ratios provide us with the firmest basis from which to examine our hypotheses of social expansion. In order for the top-down process to give an accurate representation of what has happened, we would expect to see the highest odds ratios for the upper castes, and the lowest odds
ratios for the Muslims and scheduled castes, in the tertiary states. This is clearly not the case as both Muslim and scheduled caste support is weakest in the primary states and strongest in the tertiary states. And the upper castes odds ratios in the primary states are substantially higher than their odds ratios in the tertiary states. Thus, due to the lack of corroborating evidence we must refute the top-down hypothesis.

The second hypothesis, that the party carries its present profile into the states that it penetrates, is slightly more problematic. It is somewhat difficult to ascertain whether the BJP takes its profile with
it when it enters new regions for two reasons. Firstly, we do not have adequate data for the emergence of the party in the secondary states, and given what we have, we cannot assume that the profile at entry follows the same course in each of the regions. That is, hypothetically, even if the early profile of the secondary states reflected the profile of the primary states of that time, they may both have evolved in different ways over the course of time. Therefore, even though the profile of the secondary states does not closely resemble the profile of the primary states now, or even since 1991, we cannot rule out the possibility that it once did. However, our data series does manage to
capture the initial expansion into the tertiary states, and its gradual consolidation, so this gives us a more robust footing from which to speculate. Given this, a further question arises. That is, which profile would carry through to the tertiary states, that of the primary states, or that of the secondary states? The question becomes redundant on analysis. The profile in the tertiary states bears little resemblance to either primary or secondary in 1991, 1996 or 1998, so we must refute the theory. This leaves us with third and most likely alternative. That is, the party redefines itself and tries to appeal to different sections of society each time it establishes itself on new territory.

In 1991 and 1996 the tribal vote becomes relatively stronger the further the region is away from the core. However, this pattern is clearly upset by the 1998 results, where it is strongest in the primary states and weakest in the secondary states. The major growth has obviously taken place in the primary states, but why is this? Perhaps this tells us something about the power of mobilisation. The tribals' natural impulse to vote for the BJP more is when the party is an outsider. However, as a group to be mobilised, the tribals are relatively untouched. Thus the BJP is able to appeal to them in a way that it could not do to the OBCs, SCs and Muslims while still maintaining the support of the diehard upper
caste faithful. In this way it follows the classic upper caste --scheduled caste mobilisation strategies that were employed by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. Thus, in light of the changes in the composition of the BJP+ in the different regions that we noted from Table 7, we must accept that the party shows a preference to mobilising different communities in different regions. In this sense then it does redefine itself.

In terms of the overall effect of community we can see that the Chi square and Phi values decrease as the region moves further away from the primary states. This indicates that caste is less significant in the states the BJP has most recently infiltrated, and is still most significant in the old guard states where the BJP first emerged. What does this tell us? Firstly, that the cleavages that were set up when the Jan Sangh emerged have by and large remained in tact. Although the party has grown in these states, it has never managed to rid itself of its initial cleavages, but then, neither has had to. The tertiary states are still less caste-based than other states, but whereas the primary states have only increased marginally since 1991, and the secondary states have even decreased, there has been a somewhat alarming rise of community polarisation in the tertiary states.

IV Political Expansion
Allies are an operational indicator of expansion and political credibility. The biggest electoral gains that the BJP combine made were in the regions where it had allies. How does the profile change with
this inclusion? Do the allies give the party an entrance in to other social groups? Or do they appeal to traditional BJP voters? Do they play a pivotal role in the party's reinvention? Do the allies offer a
significant account for the widening social base of the BJP in the secondary and tertiary states? In the same state how does support for the BJP and its allies compare? To examine how respective sources of support for the BJP and its allies differ we disaggregate the state groupings in which the BJP has fought alongside allies. In 1991 and 1996 this was only in the secondary states, and in 1998 it was the secondary and tertiary states.

In the secondary states in 1991 all the communities gave greater support to the BJP than to its allies. However, in 1996 the balance of power swung, with the allies claiming roughly equal, and marginally greater support amongst the OBCs and upper castes, respectively. The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes still gave greater support to the BJP than to the allies, and the Muslim vote was divided evenly between the two. In 1998 however, the allies increased their support relative to the BJP amongst the scheduled castes as well, leaving only the scheduled tribes, and the Muslims to a small extent, preferring to vote for the BJP than its allies.

Table 11 shows the complete picture of support region for the BJP and its' allies. The social base of the allies needs to be analysed both internally, comparing the differences between regions and over time, and externally, comparing it to the profile of the BJP.

The allies have two types of social base. The first wave of allies, those in the secondary states, has much more support amongst the upper castes and OBCs than they do amongst the other communities. Compared to the tertiary allies, the odds ratios for the SC, ST and Muslims are very
low in the secondary states. However, the profile is somewhat different in the tertiary states. Although the odds ratios are still highest, by quite a margin, for the upper castes, there are a number of communities with odds ratios around, or just below one. The scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Muslims, all have odds ratios that, relative to their other odds ratios in other regions and years, are high. Although the odds ratios for these communities do not set individual precedents, they do mark a significant collective increase. This is reflected by the very low values of Phi and Chi square, of which the Phi value is the lowest ever, second only to the value for the tertiary states in 1991.

By comparing the social profile of the BJP with that of its allies in the tertiary states in 1998 we can see how the inclusion of allies effects the social base of the BJP. In the tertiary states the upper castes, SC, ST and Muslims, all offer relatively greater support to the allies than to the BJP. This leaves the BJP somewhat OBC dominant, and weaker among the other castes. This suggests two things. Firstly, in the tertiary states the upper castes do not have the same affinity with the BJP as they do in the primary states, which may be partly due to the fact that in the tertiary states the BJP is not the preserve of the upper castes. Thus, the upper castes, the SC, ST and the Muslims all prefer the allies to the BJP, although probably each for somewhat different reasons.

To what extent has the BJP gained from its acquisition of allies? The social base of the BJP cannot be isolated purely by looking at who votes for the BJP. Depending upon seat sharing arrangements, voters who are committed BJP supporters may be forced into voting for one of their allies. Therefore, an interesting exercise is to see which party respondents would have voted for if there had been no alliances, in 1998. Table 12 shows the parties that respondents said they would have voted for if there had been no alliances. In the secondary states the BJP not only retains more of its own vote, but also claims more of the allies vote compared to the tertiary states. This indicates that the leaning of those who voted for the allies is much stronger towards the BJP in the secondary states. Due to the reduced sample size that table produces, there are not enough cases to say anything meaningful about the STs and Muslims. Therefore they have been discounted. However, what is clear is that a significantly higher percentage of upper castes would have voted BJP in the secondary states than in the tertiary states. This gives greater support to the view that the allies in the tertiary states appeal to the less traditional BJP voter, thus giving the BJP an entry into social groups that would not normally vote for them. 

So how has the BJP expanded? What effect has its regional and political expansion had on its social base? The regional expansion of the BJP has been inter-twined with a distinct three tiered growth in its social appeal. To a large extent the presence of its political allies have aided this process, and allowed the party to gain a foothold in new territory. The relationship between the three forms of expansion is undoubtedly connected. However, as far as causal relationships go the direction is unclear. One can safely assume though that the BJP has been an active participant in determining which course its social expansion takes. And as for those who say that the BJP has little in common with most of its allies, it would seem that the selection criterion relies more on the allies social appeal than on their ideological stance. In this respect the mobilisation strategies that the BJP have employed have been very carefully orchestrated.

In each successive step that the BJP makes away from its homeland of the primary states, the groups that have expanded the most also move a step down the ladder of the party's traditional support base. Thus in the primary states, which represent the core of the party's stronghold, its core source of social support, that of the upper castes, has remained in tact. The only other community that has been significantly mobilised in this region is the scheduled tribes.

Moving one step away, into the secondary states, it is the OBCs, who overall are the second most likely group to vote BJP, who have made the most significant increases in their propensity to vote for the party. The states in this region have a profile more similar to the primary states than the tertiary states do. This is illustrated by the social base of the allies, which is relatively strong amongst the upper castes and OBCs and relatively weak amongst the other communities. It thus reinforces the overall mobility drive, with both BJP and allies working in tandem to appeal to similar sorts of people.

The third tier of scheduled castes and Muslims have emerged most strongly in the tertiary states. In these states the BJP's reliance on its allies, both as a vote winner and as an entry point into other social groupings, is at its strongest. Whereas in the secondary states the partnerships mainly took the form of BJP led alliances, in the tertiary states the alliances are generally regionally led, with the BJP
supporting from the outside. Party's such as the AIADMK, TDP and Trinamool Congress, and to a lesser extent the BJD, carry more weight locally than the BJP. Thus the BJP prospers by association, and without them would most probably become marginalised.

It is in the tertiary states that the less traditional BJP voters have become more enfranchised, similarly it is the presence of the allies that brings most support from these social groups. With the BJP on its own gaining little favour with anyone other than the upper castes and the OBCs, its political future lies in the hands of its' allies. The biggest gains that the BJP made have been in these states, which now also constitute its largest source of support. So, as the BJP pushes to establish itself at the centre once again, the role of the allies in the these states will become more important than ever.

In a sense then, there are three parties. Admittedly they are not completely independent ones, but nontheless - they are each distinctive in their own way. Each one has played a significant role in helping the BJP become the national party that it is today. It has only been by delicately redefining itself and its social base that the party has been able to spread its wings and leave its nesting place of north India. Although much of the momentum for this change has come from within the party, the transition has only been finally possible because of the help it has received from parties outside. This help though, seems to be somewhat illusory. The allies, especially in the tertiary states, have not provided a push for the BJP to reach a firm hand-hold, but have provided the hand-hold itself. If the allies were to let go then in all likelihood the BJP would have a long way to fall.

[Many thanks are due to Yogendra Yadav and Anthony Heath, who were both great sources of help in preparing the outline for this paper, and to the CSDS Data Unit in general, and Himanshu Bhattacharya in particular, for assistance with the aggregate data.]

1 The SPSS syntax used to run this logistic regression is: Logistic regression BJP /Method = enter comm occup educ age sex locality | /Contrast (Comm) = Deviation /Contrast (Educ) = Deviation/Contrast (Age) = Deviation /Contrast (Sex) = Deviation /Contrast (Locality) = Deviation /Criteria pin (.05) Pout (.10) iterate (20). Note that as Sex is a binary variable we do not need to write a Contrast statement for it. 

2 For a detailed description of how the community variable was constructed, see appendix XX of Congress paper by Anthony Heath and Yogendra Yadav. 

3 Similarly, for explanation of the Class variable see appendix XX.

4 Similarly, for a methodological note on the National Election Surveys see appendix XX.


The roots of violence by Eqbal Ahmad. Excerpts from this opening chapter by him in Making Enemies, Creating Conflict: Pakistan's Crises of State and Society edited by Zia Mian and Iftikhar Ahmad, 1998. Eqbal Ahmad, one of Pakistan's most notable progressive thinker died a few months. He will be sorely missed by all those interested in the development of secularism in South Asia. 

....The violence of Islamism has emerged as a subject of anxious concern throughout the world,  especially the Muslim world. Countries, such as Algeria and Egypt, are virtually in a state of civil war between Islamists of differing hues and secular, regrettably authoritarian, governments. Among these countries, Pakistan is distinguished in several ways: 

 1) It is the original staging ground of Jihad as an international movement.
  2) Unlike Algeria and Egypt it has had a parliamentary system of government with four elections since 1988 in which the Islamic parties' share of the vote has been declining.
  3)Unlike Algeria and Egypt where Sunni majorities predominate, Pakistan is a multi-denominational country where the non-Sunni constitute an estimated quarter of the population. Furthermore, even the Sunni are divided by theological disputes, the one between the Barelvis and Deobandis is the primary example, which have tended to turn violent. Hence, there is a proliferation here of violence.  So far we have witnessed the mutual terror of Sunni and Shia, of Sunni groups against Christians and Ahmedis, and killings across the Barelvi-Deobandi divide. 
  4) Pakistan remains Islamism's 'front-line state', so to speak. The war in Afghanistan continues and, in multiple ways impacts on the internal developments in this country. 
  5) Pakistan's is an ideologically ambiguous polity; here, political paeans to Islam have served as the compensatory mechanism for the ruling elite's corruption, consumerism and kow-towing to the west. As a consequence, the ideologically fervent Islamist minority keeps an ideological grip on the morally  insecure and ill-formed power elite. It is this phenomenon that explains the continued political clout of the extremist religious minority even as it has been all but repudiated by the electorate. 

From the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad to the recent massacre on Macleod Road, this country is strewn with innocent victims of Islamist extremism. Yet, these tragedies have barely caused any reflection in this country, and others whose policies sowed the seeds of the so-called 'Islamic terror'. The truth is that as a world-wide movement, Jihad International Inc., is a recent phenomenon, a modern, multi-national conglomerate whose founders include the governments of USA, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. It was the American sponsored anti-communist crusade in Afghanistan that revitalised, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the notion of Jihad as the armed struggle of believers. Israel's invasions and occupation of Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan continue to invest it with moral meaning and give it added impetus.

... Never before in this century had Jihad as violence assumed so pronounced an 'Islamic' and  international character. The twentieth was a century of secular Muslim struggles (in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon)... The Turks attained their liberation under the banner of intemperate secularism. Iranian nationalists fought and forged a Belgium-like constitution at the start of this century. In India, Muslim nationalism, opposed by an overwhelming majority of  Indian Ulema, defined the demand and achievement of Pakistan. All these movements had some resonance among other Muslim peoples who were similarly engaged in anticolonial  struggles but none had an explicit pan-Islamic context. 

Jihad, noun, to struggle, from the Arabic root verb J.D., to strive, was nevertheless a favoured word among Muslims in their struggle of liberation from colonial rule...Without a significant exception, Jihad was used during the twentieth century in a national, secular, and political context until, that is, the advent of the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan.

For the first time in this century the standard bearers of a Muslim peoples struggle for liberation were Islamic parties opposed to "godless communism", committed to its violent overthrow, and dedicated to the establishment of an "Islamic state" in Afghanistan. Theirs was a Jihad in the classical, strictly theological sense of the word. Ironically, they had the support of western powers as no liberation movement ever did. The United States and its allies supplied to the Mujahideen an estimated ten billion dollars worth of arms and aid.They also invested in this Jihad the legitimacy of their enormous power, and the lustre of their media made glory...As the western media carries great importance and authority in the third world, its Afghanistan war coverage made an enormous impact especially on Muslim youth. Within a year of the Soviet intervention, Afghanistan's was on its way to becoming a pan-Islamic Jihad. Hundreds, eventually thousands, of young Muslims from places as far apart as Algeria and the Philippines, Sudan and Sinkiang travelled to Peshawar and Torkham, received training in the use of arms, and under the strict guidance of various Islamic parties became ideologically ripe and tasted more or less of the Jihad-in-the-path-of-God....with the Afghanistan war pan-Islamism grew on a significant scale as a financial, cultural, political and military phenomenon with a world wide network of exchange and collaboration. Myriads of institutions, madaris, Islamic universities, training camps and conference centres, came into being in Pakistan and other places. Sensing its enormous opportunity, traders in guns and drugs became linked to the phenomenon creating an informal but extraordinary cartel of vested interests in gun, gold and god.

Transnational involvement in the Jihad not only reinforced links among Islamic groupings, it also militarised the conventional religious parties. Pakistan's Jamaat-i-Islami is an example. Until their involvement in Afghanistan it was a conventional party, cadre- based, intellectually oriented, and prone to debate and agitation rather than armed militancy. Today it commands, outside Pakistan's army and rangers, perhaps the largest number of battle hardened and armed veterans. In 1948-49, its chief ideologue, Maulana Abul Ala Maududi had rejected, on theological grounds, the notion of Jihad in Kashmir. Today, his party openly boasts of its militant involvement there. In effect, while the U.S. government and media blamed Iran as the source of organised Muslim rage, armed Islamic radicalism was actually nurtured in Ziaul Haq's Pakistan with American funding and the CIA's help.

In recent years, other conventional Islamic parties, the Jamiat-e-Ulama-i-Islam and Jamiat-e- Ulama-i-Pakistan. have also been militarising, thanks to their linkages with the Taliban, thanks also to their involvement in Kashmir. In addition, other armed sectarian groupings, the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Harakatul Ansar, Sipah-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayba, Anjuman-e-Sarfaroshan -e-Islam, have emerged to menace society no less than the state. They are all sectarian formations, apparently a far cry from Islamism as expounded by the older religious parties such as the Jamaat-i- Islami and JUI. Yet the fact  remains that their antecedents lie with these parties, and they draw sustenance from the neighbouring wars which are cast in Islamic terms. 

The Battle for the Muslim Soul

The birth of Jihad International coincided with another development which has had a particularly unwholesome effect on Pakistan. Following the prolonged hostage crisis during which Iranian radicals held American diplomats captive in Teheran, a contest began between two versions of political Islam, one conservative and the other radical. One was sponsored by Saudi Arabia and, until 1988, Iraq; the other was supported by Iran...With the start of the Iraq-Iraq war in 1981, Saddam Hussein's secular government joined in the theocratically cast campaign against Iran. Islamic organisations all over the Muslim world became beholden to one or the other side of this divide. 

In countries with mixed Sunni-Shia population such as Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan, this development had the greatest impact as sectarian groups and individuals found new incentive to arouse old hatreds. Neither the Americans, nor Saudis and Iraqis may have intended to arouse anti-Shia feelings. They were merely interested in promoting their brand of conservative Islam to counter Iran's growing appeal. But in local terms anti-Iran was easily  translated into anti-Shia.  The Sipah-e-Sahaba is one such product of this process in Pakistan. It was first funded by Saudis; later Iraq stepped in. The terror and counter-terror which followed have involved murders of Iranian diplomats and trainees, American technicians, and ordinary folks in mosques, imambarahs and, most recently a cemetery. Battles for soul often degenerate into a hankering after body counts. 

Stranded Between Past and Future

Without doubt, the Islamist and sectarian formations owe much of their contemporary elan,  proliferation and armed militancy to the internationalised and "victorious" Jihad in Afghanistan, and to the covert warfare between Iran and its detractors. It should be noted, however, that these international factors would not have yielded such lush growth nationally had they not found fertile soil in Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, or Palestine. 

(In case of Paksitan)General Mohammed Ziaul Haq had inaugurated the process of "islamisation" which had aroused anxieties among minorities including the Shia minority of Pakistan. One response from it was the formation of the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-e-Fiqah-e-Ja'fariyya (TNFJ) which demanded that Shia be subject to their own Fiqh, a comprehensible demand which nevertheless served to arouse the Sunni die-hard. The Sipah-e-Sahaba followed on the heels of TNFJ. 

In Pakistan's multi-denominational environment the proposal to construct the state, its laws, and institutions according to religious injunction was necessarily viewed as a differentiating,  discriminatory agenda. Zia's Islamisation, like Z.A. Bhutto's consignment of Ahmedis to minority status, served as a framework for dividing this country and pitting its diverse people against each other. This had to be so particularly in a Muslim society. For our history is seeped in centuries of theological, often violent disputes, a point that is lost even on the current crop of politicians who have been witnesses to the pointless killing and dying of the last decade and a half. 

Religious sectarian was an inevitable outcome of "Islamisation". There is first of all the simple  insight that appears to have escaped several generations of politicians and soldiers of Pakistan: When a state claims a theocratic mission, it is bound to provoke conflicts over whose model shall prevail. Secondly, when religion is pushed explicitly into politics it becomes a currency of power. Any one who can uses religion to garner support and undercut  actual or potential rivals. To verify this, one may need count only the number of religion  wielding newcomers in national and local politics since Zia's Islamisation began. The most virulent hate-mongers of today also belong to his era. 

Once religion becomes a hard political currency it has to be deployed in the political arena by  means fair and foul. Those aspirants in politics who lack other political capital, large land holdings, modern education, industry, family connection, are likely then to use religion the more, and most virulently. It is not surprising then that the Sipah-i-Sahaba and its off shoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were born in Jhang. There, Shia landowners have traditionally held power. Economic changes in the last four decades have, nevertheless, produced a new middle class which is compelled to compete with the traditional power holders. The SS's new middle class leaders were keen to dislodge the old. The ideological environment of 1980s compelled them  to deploy anti-Shia Islam in their battle. The logic of escalation is integral to ideology of hate; the results are before us. 

There are other less obvious factors at work. The most important of these may be the highly skewed relationship that exist in contemporary Muslim societies between the past and the future. Throughout history, there has existed an ironic connection between them: Those who glorify the past and seek to recreate it almost invariably fail while those who view it comprehensively and critically are able to draw on the past in meaningful and lasting ways. People who have confidence in their future approach the past with seriousness and critical reverence. They study it, try to comprehend the values, aesthetics, and styles which invested an earlier civilisation its greatness, or conversely, caused it to decline. They preserve its remains, enshrine relevant values, and draw enrichment from the images and events of the past both collectively and individually. 

By contrast, peoples and governments with an uncertain sense of the future have distorted engagements with their past. They eschew lived history, shut out its lessons, shun critical  inquiry into the past, neglect its remains but, at the same time, invent an imagined past, shining and glorious, upon which are super-imposed the prejudices and hatreds of our own time. The religious-political movements of South Asia and the Muslim world bear witness to this truth. 

In this region, both Hindus and Muslims of right wing persuasion view history in ways that arouse sectarian hatred. Thus for decades many Muslims viewed the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb as symbolising the strengths and virtues of Muslim rule in India. On their part, Hindu nationalists presented the Maratha chief Sivaji as an embodiment of Hindu resistance to Muslim rule. In reality, both were tragic figures out of synch with their own history, signalling the decline of Indian statehood, and the rise of a European empire in India. In this instance, as most recently in the Babri mosque affair, history became a casualty of communal myth making. 

In the summer of 1990, I visited Ayodhya and Mathura while researching the campaign which  militant Hindu movements, BJP, VHP, RSS, and Bajrang Dal, had launched to demolish the Babri Mosque and build a temple on the site which they claimed was the real birth place of Lord Rama two thousand years ago. I was amazed at two features of this campaign. The Hindu revivalists had put out an enormous body of publications and 'educational material' on the alleged excesses of Muslim rule in India, and Hindu resistance to it. Apart from books, colourful posters illustrated in graphic detail the presumed atrocities and heroism of the Hindu-Muslim encounter in India. Narratives in prose and songs were also available by the dozens on audio cassettes. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of invented, poisonous, history. To their lasting credit, the most eminent among India's historians have consistently debunked the revivalists' version of history. When I mentioned this to him, M.R. Malkani, a BJP ideologue, was unsparing in his judgement of these historians: "Inn historians kay liye Hindustan men koi asthan naheen hai."

The same attitude towards a critical history has been prevalent in Pakistan since the 1970s, when Pakistan Studies was introduced as a compulsory subject in schools and colleges. Through this, a distorted and sectarian version of history is fed to the overwhelming majority of children and youth who are not privileged to travel the O and A level road. During the decade of Mohammed Ziaul Haq's rule the trend toward sectarianising the educational system advanced to the point that Sunni and Shia were assigned separate Islamiyat syllabus, a practice which continues today. While they issue daily denunciations of sectarian politics, our government officials have retained the sectarian, hate-mongering syllabus in schools and colleges.

The differences between Pakistan and India are, nevertheless, worth noting. One is that during  crucial periods of our history, governments have favoured sectarian elements, and actively discouraged historical research, instruction, and inquiry. The other significant difference is that because our institutions of higher learning sharply deteriorated and our insecure rulers, Mohammed Ziaul Haq occupies the highest place in this pantheon, needed the crutch of invented history, in Pakistan historians did not thrive. History and culture, including Islamic culture and history, ceased as a subject of serious study.  In fact, few subjects have suffered greater distortion in Pakistan than Islam and Muslim history. Here, Islam and its history have been invoked for more than four decades. Yet,  throughout these years neither religion nor history have been accorded serious attention by the state or society. I know of not a single noteworthy work on these subjects to have been published in Pakistan. The curriculum of Islamiyat, a compulsory subject in our schools and colleges, is almost entirely devoid of a sense of piety (taqwa), spiritualism (roohaniyat), or  mysticism (tassawuf). At best it is cast in terms of ritualistic formalism. At worst, it reduces  Islam to a penal code, and its history to a series of violent episodes. 

...In Pakistan, the last two have been decades of dramatic expansion of the madaris which continue to receive generous government subsidies and undetermined amounts of funding from abroad. According to the Ministry of Education, in 1995 there were 3706 such  madaris in Pakistan with an enrolment of 540048. The figure of enrolment in the higher levels of study, 80051 male, 4738 female, is notable for its social and political implications. After 12-18 years of study, these young people are unprepared for any profession except to serve as imams in mosques or yearn for an Islamic state in which they shall presumably constitute the governing elite.

Commentators in the press often characterise these as 'medieval institutions' which is an outright insult to the medieval Muslim civilisation. Spot checks at several such institutions reveal that their curricula and instruction bear little resemblance to such medieval centres of learning as al-Azhar in the 12th, Zaituna in the 13th, or the Qarawiyyin in the 14th centuries.  None of the subjects that were part of the core program of studies in the Islamic centres of learning, e.g. mathematics, chemistry, botany, astronomy, and philosophy, are taught in the contemporary madrassah. They have not and are not likely to produce the al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Sheikh Saadi or Amir Khusro of the contemporary Muslim world. Their curriculum reduces Islam to a penal code, a ritual of ablutions and prayers, and a litany of sins crimes and their here and now punishments. Thousands of energetic and motivated youth who graduate from these institutions are men abandoned in the middle of the ford, cut off from their real past, totally unprepared to meet the challenges of the future, and fevered by the dreams of a religious polity. 

They too can produce a history of sorts, of sectarian gangs setting out to purify the country, and create the Islamic order which they imagine they are equipped to run. The Taliban, graduates themselves of Pakistani madaris, have emerged as the role model of most students  and alumni of our religious and secular schools and colleges. More ominously estimates of  Pakistanis who have fought with the Taliban vary from 10,000 to 15,000. Overall, the number of armed Islamist militants in Pakistan is estimated at 40,000-50,000, many of them veterans of wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir. ...

An Umbrella over South Asia's Savage Exchange

Pakistani and Indian officials routinely blame RAW and ISI respectively whenever a particularly heinous terrorist attack or atrocity occurs in either country. A decade ago these  accusations did not fly with such frequency. That they do, reflects a certain reality which is that the pace of proxy warfare between India and Pakistan has increased. At various times, Pakistan has suspected India of aiding Afghan sabotage attacks of the 1980s, the ethnic strife in Karachi, and the religious sectarian violence across Pakistan. India has accused Pakistan of aiding Sikh militancy in the Punjab, Muslim militancy in Kashmir, and terrorist bombings in Bombay and Delhi. Independent observers believe that there is a significant measure of truth in these allegations. 

The fact that both India and Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons capability may have much to do with their increased engagement in proxy warfare. We know this phenomenon  from the cold war years. The United States and the Soviet Union used the condition of nuclear deterrence to wage wars of intervention and undermine each other by aiding and abetting dissidents, rebels, and revolutionaries in each other's spheres of power. In Iran, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and Middle East produced confrontations between the two giants; the threat of nuclear war defused them, confirming the premises of nuclear deterrence. India and Pakistan appear to have fallen for this logic of deterrence. 

 As countries in transition, subject to the instabilities and tensions of rapid social change, without the benefit of vast geographical separation, and lacking the elaborate system of command and control which was necessary to insure a relatively safe interplay of a mutual deterrence, they are dangerously exposed to miscalculation and misadventure. Yet, so far neither country's ruling elite seem to recognise the risks to which they are exposing themselves.

In conclusion, I should reiterate that violence in our society, as in most environments of  accentuated violence, has multiple roots. These include (a) a culture of violence which persists while the traditional values and social processes which had limited its uses in an earlier time have been eroded by rapid and uneven social and economic changes; (b) injections of religion in politics and the theocratic promises which have had the effect of  provoking sectarian divisions and demands; (c) U.S. sponsorship of an internationalised Jihad which provided the framework for proliferation of arms and sanctification of organised violence on religious grounds; (d) international and regional interests which have encouraged violent groupings to engage in proxy warfare; (e) an educational policy which breeds frustrated and  ignorant armies of youth bred on literature of hate and violence; (f) a nuclear stalemate which has encouraged India and Pakistan to assume that they can support armed dissidents in each others country without incurring the risk of a wider war; (g) decline in the will and capacity of state institutions to investigate crime and enforce laws rationally and vigorously. The challenge, in other words, is too large and complex to be met by limited and half-hearted measures of crisis management.

*Communalism and its impact on India by KN Panikkar (An unauthorized and unofficial summary of an invited lecture by this renowned historian at South Asia Research and Resource Center - CERAS - at Montreal, Canada, in 1997)

I thank CERAS and thank you for providing me this opportunity to be with you this evening to raise certain issues which I suppose are of common interest and concern. The sub-continent is in the process of celebrating 50 years of independence. These celebrations have diverse and different responses from different groups and agencies in different regions in the sub-continent. It is obviously not only a time for celebration for the people of India and Pakistan, but also a time for self-questioning, introspection and also critically looking at what happened during the last 50 years. I would say that such a process is taking place really intensively in India, symbolized by people in Parliament of India deciding to have a special session of 4 days to discuss about what happened in India during the last 50 years and the ways in which India will progress in the future. 

One very forceful problem, very important one for Indians, for people of the sub-continent, to talk about and think about when looking to the future, is the problem of communalism, which is a common concern in the sub-continent as a whole. 

But before I get into a discussion of that, let me recall what happened about a month back in the sub-continent. Many of you I am sure would have heard about a very outstanding singer of the  sub-continent, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He passed away. When he passed away, the response in India, the reaction in India, was extremely touching. Perhaps it was equally if not more than the response in Pakistan, not only because he was responsible for giving music concerts and did music for several Indian films, but he was seen by the Indians as a cultural representative, cultural symbol of the sub-continent as a whole and he shared the perception of people in the sub-continent as a whole. 

Why I say this is because there is a common share of culture, identity for people all over. You can go to Pakistan, or India, or in Bangladesh and you can see how this cultural identity is shared by people despite political differences, despite even wars, despite even recent incidents of fighting on the borders. This to my mind is a significant message. Why I say this is to contrast this with the fact that there is another phenomenon, which is also commonly shared by South Asians as a whole, particularly of the sub-continent; and that is communalism. Communalism is a common phenomenon, common danger, and all of the sub-continent suffers from it. It is also mutually inflicted. Something which happens in India immediately influences the situation in Pakistan, and what happens in Pakistan also influences India or Bangladesh. So there is a mutuality as far as communalism is concerned in the sub-continent as a whole. 

Now this mutuality, if you look at most proactive experiences that India had during the post-‘47 period, the destruction of Babri Masjid on 6th of December 1992, led to communal riots in India, communal riots in Pakistan and communal riots in Bangladesh. In all the three countries it led to communal riots primarily because communalism is irrational. Not only communalism and the communal phenomenon are coercive in their character, but they are also irrational. It is that irrationality that you find in the expression and articulation in December 1992 and January 1993 throughout the entire sub-continent. But regardless of that, the Hindu communalists today hold Muslims of today responsible for what their co-religionists supposedly did five centuries ago. Similarly in Pakistan, when the 6th of December incident took place, the Muslims held the Hindus in Pakistan responsible for that Hindus in India did. In Bangladesh most of the Hindus were made
responsible, though many of those Hindus, either in Pakistan or in Bangladesh, were opposed to Hindu communalism. But they were made responsible just as the Muslims were made responsible in India. So there is this irrationality, there is this illogical way of looking at the identity and responsibility of people. 

Why I am saying this is because, such community affinity is central to communalism today in South-Asia. Such an affinity is attributed to members of communities regardless of where they are, regardless of the time sequence. And that is in fact central to the way communalism is functioning in India today. The question that I want to ask you and the reason for me spending some time with you is to examine how did such a consciousness emerge among communities in India, in the sub-continent as whole. What is the process? What is the historical process responsible for generating such a consciousness? 

I say that such a consciousness evolved during the colonial period. When I say this I would like to make the statement that communalism is a modern phenomenon. Communalism is something, which emerged during the 19th century and then intensified during the 20th century. But when I say that it is a modern phenomenon I do not mean to say, as many scholars say today, that it is a creation of modernity, that it is a part of modernity. It is a very fashionable argument these days in certain circles of social scientists and historians. When I say it is a modern phenomenon I do not mean to say that the communities, Hindus and Muslims, communities that I am using for the sake of convenience, did not have differences of opinion in the past. I also do not mean to say that there were no conflicts between Hindus or Muslims or other communities before the second half of the 19th century. 

Firstly, these tensions or communal conflicts were not limited to Hindus and Muslims. There has been tension, conflict before, between different communities. It did exist. It did exist did not mean that communalism as it happened during the late 19th and 20th century was a phenomenon which is inherited from history. Secondly, once you also understand the fact that communal riots, as many historians and scholars have argued, are not necessarily an outcome, a consequence of communal politics. It is generally said and it is one of the strongest opinions of the early scholars on communalism that communal riots are episodic. They are episodic as a result of, as a consequence of, the communal politics. In fact today or during the last 25-30-40 years, communal riots have been the beginning of communalisation. One can find so many examples where there was a new communal feeling, communal riots start off as a process of communal consolidation and the communalisation takes place. In many cases this process is externally induced. This is a very important dimension of the current communalism. 

Let me return to what I was trying to say about the primary development of communalism during the colonial period. I am not going to the origins of it but I would say that during the course of the 19th century a process of communalisation of society took place. This has something to do with the social and cultural regeneration and the development of social and cultural consciousness in colonial India. If you look at the cultural regeneration in India during the colonial period, it was community based and it was within the parameters of religion. So the religious "communitarian" boundaries within which the social and cultural regeneration took place. This was an important factor in the process of communalisation. This consciousness was "communitarian". It was not communal because " communitarian " consciousness transformed itself into communal consciousness. Such transformation took place during the last quarter of the 19th century. 

I can give you several examples. If you look at what happened in Punjab or if you look at Uttar Pradesh where a social religious reform movements became communal oriented movements in the 1880's and 1890's. There are several other factors which were responsible for this communalisation. Let me isolate two and draw your attention to the importance of this. 

One is in relation to the language. Many of you actually know that in North India, in Punjab, in Uttar Pradesh, in  parts of Bihar and in Delhi, Urdu was the major language. Urdu was used both by Hindu and Muslims and there was no distinction. Even in the 1940s and 1950s, people would not know any other language; that is Hindus would not know any other language than Urdu. So what was the common language? By the last quarter of the 19th century there was a demand that officially Hindi should be the language and there was a demand which emerged among the Hindus. Slowly and slowly a division took place on the basis of Hindi and Urdu. Hindi was seen as now the language of the Hindus and Urdu was seen as the language of the Muslims. It was an extremely important development. Now this transformation, which started from the basis of language, led to what later became a so-called nationalist slogan, that is, Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan. You know this equation between India and Hindi and Hindustan devastating consequences, and Urdu then became the language of the Muslims. 

Let me take a second example, which was another factor in the communalisation of Indian society. That is the cow protection movement, Goraksha andolan. In 1880s and 1890s, there is a very strong movement all over India for the protection of cows; which is a legitimate one because corruption came up sometimes in cow protection societies and of course the argument about the protection of cows was a given. But when this movement came up, the movement was really not for pure protection of cows but those who are protecting the cows, demanding the protection of cows were identified as Hindus and rightly or wrongly, and more wrongly than rightly, it was believed that the Muslims opposed the protection of cows. So this protection movement became once again an issue between the Hindus and Muslims which led to the largest number of communal riots in India. Beginning from Uttar Pradesh, down to Gujarat and Maharashtra, the series of these communal  riots between Hindus and Muslims on the pretext that it is the Hindus that want to protect the cows and the Muslims don't want to. And this was a very major issue in the communalisation of society. 

The point that I am really trying to make is that there is a process of communalisation taking place Let me also  say that the national movement, the anti-colonial movement in India, which as you know was one of the strongest popular movements anywhere in any colonial country, had a very great importance as far as Indian society is concerned. It had a lot of positive aspects. I am saying this because the Hindu fundamentalists, Hindu communalists in India say that the anti-colonial movement, anti-colonial national movement was a negative movement. It wasn't. Since I am not going to talk about nationalism I will not go into it but I just want to show that it was said. It had very, very positive aspects. But at the same time the period of anti-colonial movement is also the period of communalisation of Indian society. It is a paradox in many ways but that is very true. 

I am tracing it in order to suggest that the emergence of communal politics in India is a consequence of this communalisation. It is an important thing to underline this because communalism is not a result of communal politics. I am really suggesting that there is too much emphasis given by scholars on the role of the colonial state, the role of the 'Divide and Rule' policy. Not that they did not try it, but there is something more than the divide and rule policy. Now when I say this I put it in a fashion that this is an argument, scholarly in the sense that there is a group of scholars in India who always counterpose one form of communalism to the other form of communalism. That is, you have both minority communalism in India and majority communalism in India. This way of looking is very dangerous. In fact, the majority communalism is a much more dangerous than the minority communalism. What these scholars do when they counterpose this is suggest that Hindu communalism is a result of Muslim communalism. The 1920s in India is the period in which Hindu communal assertion became formidable. The ideological elaboration of Hindu communalism was very, very strongly attempted during this time. Then the scholars asked this question: why did this happen? According to them this happened because the Muslims became very aggressive during this time. The Khilafat movement of 1919-1920 and in some of the fights, which took place during this period and subsequently, were responsible for Hindu communalism. I want to say that this is an absolutely wrong interpretation of communalism. Because what  happened in the 1920s and in 1905-06, etc., is, as I said earlier, a result of the communalisation process, equally the Partition of India in 1947. Without going into the politics of that, I could say it was the final expression, articulation of this communalisation process. It is not because of the result of the failing of a political leader or the insistence of another political leader that Partition in 1947 took place. There is a historical process in Indian society, which became very intense during the 20th century, which led to the Partition of India in 1947. 

To my mind it is quite unfortunate that it is a part of the discourse on 50 years of independence. The entire media was obsessed with the question of Partition. If you look at media then you will find the whole focus was on Partition and not on the historical process that led to the Partition. Anyway Partition is very significant. Significant in many ways, not because it is one of the greatest tragedies that Indian society had experienced—the sufferings that are entailed, and the whole trauma that it created in 1946-1947 and 1948, but to me it is a political marker in the history of India. In the evolution of India, and all the countries in the sub-continent is a very major political marker and more importantly today it is a symbol for further communalisation. 

One believed for a very long time that Partition would end communalism in India, particularly because the way in which the constituted assembly of India between 1948 and 1950 faced the question of Indian nationhood. But unfortunately today it has become a major symbol of communalisation of Indian society. The majority communalism uses it as a rationale and justification. This, using it as a rationale and justification, is done in many ways. For instance, what is being argued today by majority communalism in India is that Partition is the handiwork of Muslims. Who is responsible? The question of Hindu communal forces in this is often overlooked. That is why I said this media attention of Partition unfortunate because in all of these pieces of writing that  appear in media today the question that is ultimately asked is: "who was responsible for it?" And the answer that many come up with: "Yes, the Muslims are responsible for it." The entire leading up to this disaster is glossed over. The second and more dangerous preposition is if the Muslims have done it once, that they will do  it again. India will be further partitioned, particularly because, as the Hindu communal argument goes, Muslims are still there in large number and their population is 'growing faster'. 

One of the most popular argument is the argument for akhand Bharat, a unified India. The reality in the sub-continent is that politically there are three sovereign independent States and this cannot be ignored at all. You do not really undo it. But what the Hindu fundamentalists want, based on the Partition lesson, is to undo this and establish what we call akhand Bharat. 

If you look closely at what happened in the sub-continent during the last 50 years, the ruling classes of all three countries use communalism as an ideology of their politics. In many cases and many times the most important ideology of the ruling class politics has been communalism, both within the countries as well as without, that is the relations between different countries. This is a very important point because it was operative not only  internally but in relation between different States. Internally let us look at this. I will just take the example of India. In India, if you will take the recent example of the demolition of Babri Masjid. the Masjid was demolished by a group of Hindu fundamentalists, Hindu communalists, but the Indian State is equally responsible for it. Indirectly though, the Indian State was responsible because their policy towards that was one of isolation, indifference and to some extent of corruption. Right from the time when it really occurred, the State in many ways was isolated and corrupted. As early as 1947, from the first time when an idol of Rama was put inside the  mosque. I went through the correspondents of Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister, with Govind Ballabh Pant who was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Nehru was enraged, as anything should happen. He said that it should be removed immediately. But the government did not move anything. It is exactly a repetition of that which happened in 1989 and 1991-1992. So internally they are using communalism as an ideology of their politics. 

So the State is using communalism, and as a result of that India or Pakistan or Bangladesh also come into this in their mutual politics. You have seen whenever this is an internal crisis in any of these countries, there is always speculation in the media about possible war between India and Pakistan. Many politicians who really do not have support base will use this bogey of the communal State (India being seen as a Hindu State, Pakistan is a Muslim State) in order to re-enforce their power. So the sub-continent, the relationship as a result of that is based on such media perception and protection. Given that, the last ten years have been a period of intensification of communalism, particularly in India. Communal politics, the politics of the majority communalism gain strength. 

I am saying this in regards to intensification of communal politics in India to suggest to you the way in which  this intensification has taken place, to suggest the manner in which communalism, particularly the majority communalism has succeeded in advancing further. It is not through the ordinary ways of electoral politics. A way that they have tried to advance in Indian politics is not through the normal manner of campaigning politically during the election itself. The attempt on the part of the communal parties has been to establish power, social power, at different levels of society by working through local organizations, working through local, cultural and social organizations. Starting from education to any area like environment, women, local history societies and so on and so forth. It is true that in various levels of society they have tried to establish their power. 

Let me give you two examples. Some 20 years before they decided to write the history of India. What  they were doing is creating new history. Some years ago they decided to write a history of each district of India. They appointed three member teams for each district. Nobody knew about it. I at that time didn't know about it. Today, of course, last year they had their national convention. So you imagine when history for each district being written, that is a history which will be available to everybody. You can imagine the havoc that this kind of fake history will play in coming years. The second very important area for them is education. Today they run 15,000 schools in India, and for different age groups. You can imagine if in each year, from these 15,000 thousand schools, a hundred students come out and out of these hundred 50% are ideologically brainwashed.This is what is happening in Hindu society every year. 

These were only two examples. There are several other. Basically their project is establishing what they call as cultural nationalism in India. That is really a re-interpretation of Indian Nation, an Indian Nation which is based on culture, which is Hindu culture, and in which others have no place now. So the territorial notion of culture, the question of democracy and secularism which India inherited in the cultural movement, are only the legacies of  the national movement. They want to remove all the legacies of the anti-colonial struggle; in that way the idea of  a cultural nationalism based on religion, based on Hindu religion is being attempted. 

Now, to my mind, this has very major implications for the sub-continent as a whole because this will undeniably lead to continuous tension. Communal States which will come into effect as a result of such an effort will only foster major antagonisms. So the possibility of or the implication of a communalism for the sub-continent is disastrous from the point of view of development, disastrous from the point of view of peace, disastrous from the point of view of prosperity, because the attention of the State, of this communal State, will obviously be based on much more antagonism than it is otherwise. 

Let me, before I end, ask this question: "If this is what communalism is attempting to do in the sub-continent, what are the prospects?" One possible answer to that is the creation of secular action in the sub-continent, and the creation of secular action not in the manner in which it has taken place in the past, but in a new way. Anti-communal secular activity in India is as old as communalism itself. What was always attempted was reactive action, demonstrative action. The agenda was set by communal forces and the secular activists had been marching for peace and signing statements and so on and so forth. But nothing has happened. Communalism is not dead and they have used different ways of advancing in further. This actually means that new ways will have to be thought of for similar action and participation. 

There are two ways in which one has to think about what could be done or what is necessary to be done in each State and the other in term of the relationship. Let me briefly say what many people in India are trying to do and thinking about, that is to create a secular movement which addresses itself to grassroots level problems  and create what is known as, what is called, secular communities at local levels. These secular communities will not necessarily be involved in anti-communal activities but creating secular consciousness by taking up problems which are closer to the every day life of people, whether it is sanitation or the cleanliness or water or environment, for whatever they are. It is only through those secular communities a secular consciousness can be created. Understanding of this is that communalism is going to be a long term problem. Fire fighting is not sufficient or it will not be very effective. O ne has to think about actions which are with a long term perspective and long term strategies. In India, there are several groups which are involved in such activities. I will say that  during the last ten years, as I said, communalism intensified itself, but it is also a time when there is a re-assertion of secularism in India. I don't know if any of you have asked this question as to why in 1996 BJP could not remain in power despite forming the government. No party was orepared to support. It was not because these parties were great secularists. Many of them are not, many of them wont even like to be clearly identified as secular, but what these parties did in 1996 is the reflection of the assertion of secularism in Indian society. It is a very clear reflection of that. So certain processes have taken place and it is necessary really to build upon this, and that is the area which is open. 

Secondly, we have what is known as the "people to people contact". One way in which it could be widened is to establish contact and collaboration between different groups. In all the three countries, that is, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, there are groups working like that, professional groups, voluntary groups, etc. For instance, there could be collaboration or some sort of coming together of the teachers, the lawyers, the doctors, peasants, workers and so on and so forth. I recall about 14 years back I met some Bangladesh scholars. We discussed the possibility of a social science forum for social scientists of all the three countries. At that time I happened to be the dean of the school of social sciences at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and so they asked me to take the initiative and send faxes to social scientists in all the three countries. Their response was everybody wanted such a forum so that the issues could be discussed frankly and in depth. 

I think such moves are necessary to widen the scope so that at some time, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not  after five years, but maybe after 25 years or 30 years, the people would say that this is not acceptable to us because we understand what are the basic issues in the sub-continent. 

I would end by making two points. One is that the peace and prosperity of the sub-continent depends upon the elimination of communalism..Secondly, and more importantly to my mind, communalism is anti-democratic. It is unimaginable that there can be a democracy in a communal State. So it is not just religious communalism; and demand for secularism is not only a demand for the unity or harmony among Hindus and Muslims. It is a  much greater problem in the sub-continent, it is much more wider as far as the the growth of democratic culture is concerned. 


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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .