By: Satyakam Bharti
No longer would we Hiamchalis be termed lethargic, living a laid-back life, uncaring for the rat race. Yes, the rat race because one fine morning we decided to burn our own house watching our neighborhood on fire. Perhaps, Himachal would never be the same again after three religious structures belonging to a minority community were set ablaze in retribution to the killing of a bovine. We will have to finally admit that seeds for politics of hate have already been sown in the state, and they are set to sprout every now and then.
Following the manslaughter of Partition, the only shameful incident of communal violence in the state has been the 1984 ‘pogrom’, besides stray instances of localised sectarian turmoil. The Nerwa madness, followed by show-of-strength in Shimla by those in power, and rumours of another religious shrine being torched in Solan, together declare end of the age of innocence, which already was stained by a marked incident of high-profile ‘political kidnapping’ long ago, increasing cases of corruption in greater proportions and, of course, the sleaze games captured in CDs.
There are all the reasons to believe that the incident was aided and abetted by the state, or how else can it be justified that the government failed to act to prevent vandalism despite having ample time, and intervened only when the damage had been done. There are reasons to doubt that such a huge crowd could be mobilized at a small hamlet without any external support. To add to it, top functionaries of the government supported and participated in the Shimla protest, shouting slogans like ‘Gaaye mata ham sharminda hain tere katil zinda hain.’ The state BJP chief went on record to state that their party supported the protest. The Chief Minister made a ‘fervent appeal’ to the people to keep restraint and not allow rise of communal disharmony, but then why was the protest allowed in the first place, after all, the incident of cow slaughter was just an overreaction by a hapless peasant towards frustrations of his daily struggle to earn a living, and the issue could have been sorted out at the local level itself. Even if BJP is given the benefit of doubt as a victim of its own identity, the government should at least have mobilized its machinery to prevent such a blot. The Congress, if it had nothing to do with the happenings, hardly reacted because ‘fighting the communal forces’ is not yet a bankable slogan in the state.
History is witness how a cigarette butt or a cow tail wrecked havoc in the minds of a whole generation in our neighborhood, but luckily Himahcal remained untouched by the communal seductiveness of electoral politics for a long time. Alas, partial industrialisation of the state has opened the floodgates for political and material ambitions and the resultant social churning may bring forth distorted community equations.
The responsibility now lies with the common Himachali to either pretend to be unaffected, (that is hardly an option now) or express their outrage and commitment towards communal harmony in measures equal to the indignation of those who have dared to disturb the tranquility of the hills. And why not start with a peace march, involving for sure a greater mass of humanity, right here in Shimla, this Valentine’s Day. But act we must before it is too late.