Speech of Prakash Rao at the Seminar on 4th November, 2012
Comrades and friends!
On this fourth day of November 28 years ago, Delhi was filled with the stench of burnt human bodies. The atmosphere was full of tension, with armed troops on the streets. Tens of thousands of widows and orphans were camping in various Gurudwaras in the city.
Beginning with the evening of October 31, 1984, with voters’ lists in their hands, and the full support of the police, mobs led by Congress Party leaders had gone about setting fire to the homes of people of Sikh faith. They humiliated and burnt alive men and children, raped women and carried out the most bestial crimes. People were pulled out of trains and burnt alive.
Rumours were deliberately spread that “Sikhs had distributed laddus on hearing the news of Indira Gandhi's assassination". Another rumour was that "Sikhs had poisoned the water in the wells". Rumours were spread among Hindus and Muslims that “Sikhs are coming to attack us!”
Similar methods were used in Gujarat in 2002. The most atrocious lies were spread through newspapers and local news channels, inciting massacres of Muslims, by blaming the Muslim community for the Godhra train massacre, and spreading rumours that “Muslims had kidnapped and raped Hindu girls”.
While Rajiv Gandhi justified the 1984 genocide by declaring that the earth will shake when a big tree falls, Narendra Modi justified the Gujarat genocide by referring to Newton’s law about action and reaction.
To justify the unbridled use of state terror, governments at the centre and in the states have repeatedly portrayed those resisting state terror as “terrorists”, “fundamentalists” or “secessionists”. In Punjab, political demands raised by various parties were turned into a law and order problem. The same thing has been done in Kashmir and the Northeast. Those who fight for their rights are portrayed as being threats to the unity and integrity of India.
Those in power keep repeating the mantra that it is better to forgive and forget the crimes of the past. They tell us that it is no use fighting for justice after such a long time. It is to the credit of all of us engaged in this struggle that we have not succumbed to this pressure.
It is because of the persistent struggle of so many progressive organisations and individuals that at least one political leader in the Modi government has at last been punished. It is one step forward, but only a small step compared to what justice demands. Narendra Modi, the principal architect of the genocide, is not only scot free, he is even being promoted, both within the country and internationally, as the ideal candidate for Prime Minister in 2014!
Comrades and friends!
After the communal Partition of the country 65 years ago, the then Prime Minister Nehru promised that it will not happen again. But it has happened again and again.
The solution to any problem has to be based on a sound diagnosis. What is the source of the problem? Why does communal violence take place again and again in our society?
The recurrence of large-scale communal violence shows that there are some vested interests who gain from such acts. Who are these vested interests and what is their motivation?
Who gained from the massacre of Sikhs in 1984? The Congress Party swept the Lok Sabha elections in 1985, advancing the slogan of “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan!” It gained political mileage out of the communal campaign against Sikhs, portraying them as the killers of their slain leader, and as enemies of the nation. BJP gained in electoral terms both from the demolition of the Babri Masjid and from the 2002 Gujarat genocide. This much is obvious to most politically active people.
What is less obvious is that the division of people along communal lines serves the capitalist class in power, headed by the big monopoly houses. It serves to divert the common struggles of the people for their rights. It serves to weaken and divide the resistance to the capitalist reform program being pushed against the interests of the toiling majority of people. It is therefore not an accident that the most diabolical acts of state terror and communal violence have been organised during the past three decades, when the unpopular program of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation has been pushed.
The genocide against Sikhs and state terrorism in Punjab was followed by the modernisation drive of the Rajiv Gandhi government. The first wave of the liberalisation and privatisation program was launched in 1991, and a year later the Babri Masjid was demolished and communal violence and tension was spread all over the country. The second wave of this so-called reform program was launched by the Vajpayee government, soon after which the Gujarat genocide was organised. These are not merely a string of coincidences. They reflect the fact that communalism and communal violence are political weapons that serve the big bourgeoisie to impose its economic agenda.
Today, as the capitalist monopolies are pushing for further economic reforms to intensify the exploitation and oppression of people in pursuance of their imperialist aspirations, the danger of the state organising fresh rounds of communal and sectarian violence is very real. We have seen signs of this in the terrible events in Assam, and in the terror campaign against the peoples of the North East just a few months back.
Comrades and friends!
One important truth that the developments of the past 28 years have revealed is that the vast majority of people are completely powerless in the existing system of democracy. The system enables elected people’s representatives to use state power to organise communal violence, and the people have no means to do anything about it. This recognition has given rise to the movement for people’s empowerment. It has brought forth the need for radical changes in the system of democracy and its political process, so as to empower the people.
One of the biggest roadblocks to the advance of our struggle is the notion that we must not change the basic framework of the 1950 Constitution. The truth is actually the opposite. The struggle to punish the guilty and put an end to communal violence cannot win victory within the confines of the existing Constitution.
The Constitution adopted on January 26, 1950, does not recognise the right to conscience as justiciable; nor does it guarantee the inviolability of other human rights. It does not recognise the nations, nationalities and tribes who together make up the population of India. It was drafted by a Constituent Assembly that was elected on an explicitly communal basis, with separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims, limited to those who were educated and had private property.
The Constitution proclaims India to be a secular and democratic Republic, while it divides people on the basis of religion and caste. It is the secularism of the British colonialists, a tool in their strategy of “divide and rule”. The colonialists concocted the theory that India consisted of warring religious communities, and that the colonial State was the instrument to prevent these warring people from killing each other.
The leaders of our country preach “communal harmony” to hide the fact that the Indian state is communal, and not the people of India. The entire state machinery is organised along communal lines, including the armed forces. The constant spread of hate propaganda against this or that section of our people, the organising of communal massacres by parties in power, are all in accordance with the so called secular constitution.
The democracy of this Indian state is such that people have no control over the decisions that affect their lives. People have no control over the executive, the legislature or the judiciary. They are forced to be silent victims when those in power attack their rights.
It is essential to establish a new State on the basis of a new Constitution, in place of the existing state based on the existing Constitution. The new Constitution must guarantee human, democratic and national rights. There must be enabling laws and an effective mechanism to enforce them. It must ensure that all elected representatives are accountable at all times to the people, organised in non-partisan committees in every constituency. Such a State would be committed to ensure that the economy provides prosperity and protection for all, and not be geared to enrich an exploiting minority.
Comrades and friends!
One question that has come up is whether to use international laws and various global institutions in the struggle for justice. There is no harm in using all possible channels. But we must not harbour any illusion that international bodies will uphold democratic principles impartially. Some of these bodies once played a progressive role, when the socialist Soviet Union was active in defending the rights of nations and peoples. At the present time, such bodies have been overrun by the biggest imperialist powers.
It is often pointed out that the International Criminal Court of Justice has been used to try people like Milosovich. This is nothing but victor’s justice. The ICC was used by the US and its allies to punish their opponents. Why has the ICC not tried and punished George Bush and Tony Blair, who are guilty of the most atrocious war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere?
The most reliable source of strength is the unity of our own people and our common struggle to assert our rights and set the agenda for society.
It is obvious that those who use communal and sectarian violence to advance their agenda are not going to punish themselves. It is the people who must punish the guilty. For this, people need to be organised and empowered.
The Great Ghadar of 1857 showed the capacity of our people to unite, irrespective of religious and national cultural differences, to wage a common struggle against our common enemies. The British colonialists imposed European bourgeois institutions to destroy the fighting unity of our people and negate our progressive traditions. The present state and the constitution it is based on are a continuation of this colonial legacy, as was highlighted by the LRS President in his opening address. The times are now calling for a 21st century Ghadar that will negate this communal State, this colonial legacy, which negates our rights.
The struggle to punish the guilty and for an effective law against communal violence is part and parcel of the struggle for the Navnirman of India. It is a struggle to lay new foundations for a humane political power committed to provide prosperity and protection for all. It is a struggle to fulfil the aspirations of our martyrs.
Thank you very much.