The attacks on Christian prayer halls in Karnataka, following close on the heels of attacks on churches and Christian institutions in Orissa, reveal the hand of organised groups operating with a sinister political agenda. While the violent incidents in Orissa were triggered by the murder of an anti-conversion Hindu activist, Swami Lakshmanananda, and in at least some cases passed off as spontaneous, the attacks in Karnataka have all the markings of a systematic, planned as sault on the minority community. The coordinated violence, spread across several districts, could not have been the handiwork of stray elements working in isolation. Even in Orissa, organised Hindutva groups were quick to hijack the agitation protesting the killing of the swami; for days together, they terrorised the minority community in the communally sensitive district of Kandhamal. The circumstances of the swami’s killing, as also the identity and motives of the killers, are far from clear even now: indeed preliminary investigations point to the hand of a Maoist fringe group, calling itself the People’s Liberation Revolutionary Group. However, for the Hindutva elements in Orissa or in Karnataka, a little-known, mostly invisible fringe group is a worthless target. In keeping with their own communal politics, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, which have a history of confrontation with Christian missionary groups in Orissa, have sought to blame Christian community leaders for the killing, and held up the subsequent violence as retribution.
Why Karnataka should feel the heat of a communal flare-up now is not difficult to fathom. With a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party assuming office in May, communal politics acquired a new dimension in the South. Even in the absence of provocation, communal outfits need to create objects of hate and spew venom merely to survive. After riding to power on the back of the failings of successive governments, the BJP appears to be looking for communal polarisation of vote banks to consolidate its electoral hold. Building up support among the people on the basis of good governance is a far more arduous task than carving out electoral bases on the basis of divisive politics. With the Lok Sabha general election just months away, the BJP might be tempted to take recourse to the politics of hate in order to make short-term electoral gains in Karnataka. In the long-term, however, such politics offer limited purchase. Thuggish behaviour by the extremist fringe of the saffron brigade undermines national unity and constitutes a grave affront to the values of India’s historical civilisation.
7 months ago