AS the assembly elections in Gujarat are due in December, atmosphere of communal tension and Hindu fundamentalism cannot be far away.
The hint of this phenomenon was available last weekend with the death of one person in a communal clash in north Gujarat while the main urban cluster of Ahmedabad hosted a Virat Hindu Sammelan which issued a 12-point charter titled ‘Hindu first’.
Despite claims of apparent tranquility prevailing in Gujarat, a trivial altercation between two students belonging to different communities deteriorated into a communal clash that quickly spread to few adjoining villages too.
The verbal duel took a communal turn when one Standard X student made a derogatory remark about the faith of his classmate belonging to another community. It is irrelevant to know who made the comment against which faith but fact remains that the one who died in the clash was an elderly member of the minority community.
And, those who fled their houses in fear of further violence and took shelter in the premises of a medical college in another village, also belong to the minority community. Even this aspect may not be conclusive proof of who was guilty or who was not, but such incidents definitely indicate that an under-current of communal tension prevails in the state even as everything looks like business as usual.
At least 10 others sustained injuries in the clash during which rampaging mobs also vandalised and set ablaze nearly 50 houses in the vicinity.
The situation could be brought under control only with the deployment of State Reserve Police (SRP) in the affected villages.
But within 24 hours of a minority person dying in a communal clash, the city of Ahmedabad hosted a Virat Hindu Sammelan which launched a 12-point ‘Hindu first’ charter of demands.
The Hindu show of strength was organised jointly by the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini.
In his rabble-rousing speech, VHP’s International working president Dr Pravin Togadia informed the assembled people that Hindus are facing injustice and insecurity despite being the majority in India.
The 12-point ‘Hindu first’ charter said that Hindus have been reduced to ‘secondary’ citizens in their own country.
Citing the government grants to Muslim education institutions and subsidies for Haj trips as appeasements of minorities, Dr Togadia demanded that such sops must stop now.
He released the 12-point ‘Hindu first’ charter which states ‘Buy from Hindu, hire Hindu’ for purposes of business and employment. It is a recycled version of the VHP’s 2002 call for economic boycott of Muslims in trade and job opportunities.
The boycott call had, however, flopped as ‘market forces’ could not find any viable alternative to certain specialised skills offered by Muslim workers at much cheaper rates than their Hindu counterparts.
The ‘Hindu first’ charter also demanded food, security, health and education for every Hindu woman, child and farmer.
The most ironical demand in the 12-point ‘Hindu first’ charter is eradication of untouchability among Hindus, a divisive social system created by the indigenous upper caste.
In a veiled attack against the Muslim family laws, the VHP’s ‘Hindu first’ charter demanded that parliament should pass a law not allowing any citizen to have more than one wife and two children.
Among the other demands in the ‘Hindu first’ charter are deportation of Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus and banning of cow slaughter.
Though none of these demands are new in the right wing political lexicon, the indication is clear that aggressive Hindutva would be one of the agendas in the next assembly elections in Gujarat.