Opinion | The impact of hate politics on India’s economic growth
Post-Babri riots of 1992 and 1993 nearly derailed process of economic liberalization
It’s Babri season every year as 6 December approaches, but it’s always not an election season. This year, the two coalesced, with elections set to run through the summer of 2019. The result is a chilling return to form of the principle that progress can be predicated on hate. The situation hasn’t been this roiled in years.
With his demand for building a temple to Ram at or near the site, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has raised the stakes in a worrisome replay of his father, Balasaheb’s, game in 1992, when he urged the mosque’s demolition. Balasaheb was determined to be at the forefront of a radical pro-Hindutva people’s army, which was unabashedly a joint venture with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its constituents of the Sangh Parivar.
Indeed, the senior Thackeray boasted that Shiv sainiks were among the first to plant triumphant flags after the demolition. During a television show in 1993, after a way of life in India—and Mumbai—ended with engineered religiosity and rioting, he told the show’s host, Rajat Sharma: “Gaurav toh hai, bilkul. Isme koi sharm ki baat nahi hai (Certainly there is pride. There is no shame in it)”. And, the audience applauded.
Uddhav was in Ayodhya on 25 November to ratchet up the already incendiary rhetoric by a Sangh Parivar, which has jettisoned economic and social progress as poll planks in the face of accusations of corruption and deliberate economic missteps by the central government.
Uddhav wanted the BJP, which is at the helm in the centre and in Uttar Pradesh, to begin building the promised Ram temple. A day earlier, Sena member of Parliament Sanjay Raut had taunted the BJP saying that devotees of Ram had taken just “seventeen minutes” to demolish the Babri mosque. How long would it take for the government to issue an ordinance to bypass any judicial shackles and announce a date to begin building the temple?
Earlier this week, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, a Sangh constituent and major mover in 1992, held a conclave of senior priests at the site. Senior BJP members, including Union minister for drinking water and sanitation Uma Bharti supported Uddhav’s visit. (“It is the most blissful day of my entire life,” the lady had exulted on 6 December 1992, as Dilip Awasthi of India Today reported at the time.)
In April 2017, T. Raja Singh, a BJP member of legislative assembly (MLA) in Hyderabad, had announced that he would “behead” anyone objecting to the temple.
In this atmosphere of engineered inevitability, it’s necessary to recall that the post-Babri riots of 1992 and early 1993 nearly derailed the process of economic liberalization—the very foundation of economic growth for which all subsequent governments have taken credit. In the Economic Survey for 1992-93, staid economists were driven to announce: “The riots in December 1992 and January 1993 disrupted transport, slowed the growth of exports and industrial production, and reduced revenue.” If not for the riots, India would have seen “faster recovery” in both output and employment.
A post-Babri and post-riot consequence, bomb blasts that shattered Mumbai was the first major coordinated incident of jihadist intent in India, outside Jammu and Kashmir. Here, radical Muslim anger was leveraged by grateful demagogues and spymasters in Pakistan. It hasn’t stopped since. The root cause remains the madness of “Babri”.
After the Gujarat riots of 2002, Narendra Modi scrambled to turn around his reputation riding on sops to businesses to procure endorsements from major Indian and global businesses and their CEOs. That took immense effort by the state’s chief minister at the time. Today, few care to remember that, along with cost of human lives, those days in Gujarat also saw attacks on industrial complexes. Mobs even burnt several trucks carrying over 60 Opel cars manufactured at General Motors’ Halol plant.
As the Babri mosque collapsed, the first Muslim houses in the area were being torched. That imprint has remained India’s aftermath all these years, as politics generated hatred and, in turn, hatred generated politics. It will carry India, belligerently, through 2019. But progress cannot be predicated on hate.
This column focuses on conflict situations and the convergence of businesses and human rights and runs on Thursdays.
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