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09 October 2013

Interventions to Integrate

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Written by Aniket Dixit

Interventions to Integrate

A sequence of events went wrong in Muzaffarnagar. People have been judgemental about the causes. The incident is now being enquired on legal, social and moral terms. Among various explanations, noted sociologist Prof. Dipankar Gupta (In The Times of India, dated 15th Sept.) tried to reason out the recent violence in Muzaffarnagar. In his analysis, Prof Gupta largely blamed the downfall of agrarian economy and technological penetration for Communal Riots spreading for the first time in Rural India. He may be right in explaining the reasons of rural riots. But this excellent article left one question unanswered. When urbanisation of rural india is an unstoppable trend, how will Authorities who have in past, failed to mitigate urban tensions, reach out to the villages?

The demographic changes in rural societies has significantly damaged the social ties villagers cherished for years. The insertion of urbanities has helped villagers upgrade living standards. Less and Less villagers are writing letters these days. The availability of Cheap mobile phones and even cheaper tariffs changed the way people communicated forever. More and more villages are now connected by pucca roads, electricity, health facilities. The economics is certainly transforming for better.

But as goes the old saying "economics never walks alone". Politics follows economics. In his article Prof Gupta talked about the imminent integration of Bharat with India. (Intellectual use the reference of Bharat vs India to explain characteristics of continuous transformation in Indian Economy and Society post-liberalisation.) The economic changes inside a rural set up has also brought urban politics and sensibilities at their doorsteps. However it may be wrong to believe that rural India was free from biases and prejudices. But the “lifestyle” solutions brought new set of problems which are primarily urban in nature. 

Then, these are things that can’t and should not be undone. For example, the people are complaining about rumour mills which now travels at lightening speeds for recent violence. Internet/Social-Media has been blamed primarily for escalating tension and violence. But banning or censoring Social Media might be a regressive step. Also it is not possible to monitor each and everything. Curfew is the best immediate step. But not an effective answer. Then where does the answer lie?

The answer lies with politics. If the problem is political, the solution has to be political. The political Interventions to Integrate. Rather than Interventions to disintegrate. Tough task as it might be, but I saw this in practice during the weekend when I had the opportunity to visit Riots affected villages of Muzaffarnagar alongside Member of Parliament Jayant Chaudhary.

Starting before dawn, the trip began. By the evening Jayant has visited four villages, interacting with hundreds of people, including the families directly affected during riots. The emotions were running high and it was easy to get carried away. Everyone becomes an automatic partisan in communal riots, willingly or unwillingly. But no one is a professional rioter. Listening to the interactions of Jayant with various groups of people, I sensed these strong emotions, temporary. Nobody see this as a perpetual situation. There is a passage for peace and bhaichaara. The leader in front of me was seeking that very passage in the heart and minds of people. Talking with extreme sensibilities, Jayant has been successfully conveying his appeal for calmness and resettlement. The conviction lies with righteousness. A direct line of communication to convey such message is thousand times more effective than a tweet. And there is no easy way to do it. Jayant faced strong reverts with great composure.

If the villagers were emotionally charged, at the same time, the ‘technological interventions’ have not stopped people from realising what is wrong as wrong. “Sir, Baat toh aap sahi kah rahe hain”, was one anonymous voice. A group of 50-60 people was surrounding Jayant. I was unable to locate the person who said it. No one objected this voice either. Few seconds of silence followed this voice marking the approval. I suddenly felt that this was the collective subconscious voice. This was not the final verdict, I understand. But self-realisation is first step toward reconciliation.

Travelling back to Delhi, it started raining. Weather was becoming pleasant. On the backseat of a very comfortable Toyota Innova, I finally started disagreeing with Prof Gupta. India and Bharat might integrate one day. But spirit of Bharat will never rest in peace. Terming the riots as ethnic clash might be premature. Also, technological progress can’t be blamed for lethargy in Governance. Things will change. Instead of stopping the change. Adapting to change can be more helpful to preempt such unfortunate events. Farmers or non-farmers, rural or urban, no one likes violence. However, if such events occur, the important duty of our Political leaders to intervene with right message and conviction. The tensions are temporary. People want to return to normal day to day life. Farmers want to return to fields, kids want to go back to school. Appropriate motivation and mitigation from political representatives is the solution. Rewinding days events in my mind, I thought I was sitting in an appropriate company.

Aniket Dixit