Dangerous politics

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The continuing violence in Gujarat against migrant labourers after the rape of a minor girl allegedly by a labourer from Bihar shows once again the ugly manner in which sexual assault cases will be used not to seek justice but to hone up communal, casteist, ethnic and xenophobic prejudices and deeply polarise society for petty political interests. The whipping of communal frenzy was recently seen in Kathua where the body of an eight year old was turned into a site of sharpening communal cleavages in a bid to save the accused perpetrators. Now, the body of a fourteen-month-old girl has become a tool in the hands of parochial mindsets to hound out the entire mass of migrant labourers because the accused perpetrator in this case happens to be an outsider. Violence against migrants in Gujarat has triggered a process of massive displacements, forcing many north Indian workers to flee, leaving behind their jobs and homes in sheer panic. While numbers of panic-stricken migrant workers fleeing Gujarat vary, different media reports suggest a flight of 20,000-60,000 numbers. This is a huge number enough to be worrying. It raises anxieties about the racism that it has unleashed, the number of people it has left unemployed and the devastation it has caused to the economy of Gujarat, which has a robust commercial and industrial activity that is extremely dependent on migrant labour force. The impact of such unchecked violence with bold xenophobic streaks will have repercussion on the social fabric elsewhere in the country where divisive forces, politics and ideologies are already playing havoc with secular ideology and peaceful co-existence practiced for centuries. That the Gujarat government has treated the violence unleashed against migrant labourers with kids gloves is pretty much clear from its inability to both restore law and order and enthuse confidence amongst migrant labourers. It has miserably failed in its responsibility. At the heart of the violence lies the xenophobic politics of the Gujarati politicians across the board. Reports have pointed out to the leader of a caste based organization affiliated to the Congress being one of the many leaders patronizing the goons and making an open call for ousting the migrants by invoking theories of victimhood of the Gujaratis and their unemployment. The fire brand voices of the ruling BJP members and other right-wing groups also cannot be missed in all this melee. They have been upping the ante for promoting the politics of Gujarati interests with obvious patronage of the government which has virtually collapsed. Such racist and divisively dangerous politics is not unknown in other states of the country. It is pursued by many political groups and individuals with great pride. Migrants workers are the usual casualty as happened in Maharashtra earlier. Both the prime minister of the country and the head of the ruling BJP are of Gujarati origin and have made no secrets of their ‘Gujarati first’ politics. This encourages the perpetuation of such politics at the grassroots and also paves way for political formations of all kind to be drawn into parochial paradigms of political discourse. The Centre has so far maintained silence over the Gujarat violence and the prime minister has not said a peep, though a leading Indian daily, quoting some unknown sources maintained that he had reprimanded the Gujarat chief minister for his failure, perhaps the words were whispered, if at all, in the latter’s ears. Such brand of politics need to be opposed at all levels but the work must begin with due diligence, sincerity and seriousness right at the top echelons of power, not patronized by its silence.