BJP govt failed in Dhar

SC
When a minister is made to wear a green gamcha to symbolise that he had betrayed the saffron (right-wing) cause, followed by his admission that he anticipated such humiliation, it reflects more on the government than an individual.

The clashes on February 15 between right-wing organisations and the police at Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Masjid and the subsequent developments have proved that communal politics sooner or later acquires a life of its own.

In 2003, the disputed shrine in Dhar town had helped the BJP whip up communal passions to its advantage when the Congress was ruling the state. Now, 10 years later, it's feeling the heat. The ASI arrangement allows Hindus and Muslims to pray on separate days at the shrine. But when Basant Panchmi falls on a Friday, Muslims can offer namaz between 1 pm and 3 pm and the Hindus before and after that.

Hindu organisations, however, said this time they would have none of the ASI arrangement and rejected every suggestion to make concession for the minority community and openly warned of consequences if they were not allowed to pray the whole day.

What happened on February 15 left both the communities unhappy, the Hindus more so because activists were caned and beaten. Hindu organisations were left with deflated egos, and warned that they would make the BJP pay.

Unlike 2006, when Basant Panchmi had similarly fallen on Friday, the government left everything to the local administration this time, despite knowing well that no appeals would work because tension had been building up on the ground. Saints attending the Maha Kumbh at Allahabad added fuel to fire.

If the government had been serious about implementing the ASI order, strict orders would have gone out for Hindus not to be allowed to gather in such large numbers at the shrine, at the time they were not supposed to. Once they had let that happen, there was little the administration could do to retrieve the situation.

Now, given the intra-party tussle between the BJP with senior minister Kailash Vijayvargiya on one side and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on the other it is the administration that is being made a convenient scapegoat, with chorus growing for action against officials.

Milind is a senior assistant editor, based in Bhopal

milind.ghatwai@expressindia.com

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