Muslim Bashing by the BJP Will Not Work in Bihar

A Muslim-owned shop at Patna Junction.

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Knowledgeable people having their fingers on the pulse of Bihar will not dispute that lawlessness in the State took a quantum jump since 1990 when Lalu Yadav became the Chief Minister marking the end of a corrupt Congress party regime under Jagannath Mishra.

There was a brief respite in crime from 2005 when the NDA took over under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. However, since the second term of Nitish Kumar (2010) and more so since 2013 when he bid goodbye to the NDA coalition, the crime graph began to rise again.

Under the dispensation of the Nitish-Lalu Mahagathbandhan government the criminal elements in Bihar got a fresh lease of life.

In the crime-infested state of Bihar, it must be understood that the armies of criminals remain the same; they change their political stripes according to the personalities, political parties or caste/ communal factions in power.

For example, the criminal elements among the Forward Castes like Bhumihar, Rajput or Brahman pursue their criminal activities and receive political patronage from their caste leaders regardless of whether they are in the government or in the opposition.

Likewise, the criminals among the OBC Yadavs stay loyal to their caste leaders like Lalu and others. At the same time, however, they are active in large numbers in the Maoist ranks also. The Maoists have effectively made the government dysfunctional in certain pockets of Bihar.

With the BJP in power at the center and the change over to the NDA government in Bihar now, the same criminals now perpetuate their crime by masquerading themselves as the Gau-Rakshaks (cow-protectors). They are recruited by the criminal-extremist elements who like to give themselves all kinds of ethnic-communal names. They have a vested interest in fomenting animosity and violence between or among the communities.

In the context of the Hindu-Muslim communal conflict in Bihar, there are additional reasons that could contribute to tension or the flaring up of violence.

At the societal level, for instance, there has always been intense competition between the petty businessmen from both the Hindu and the Muslim communities. A Muslim is resented along the communal lines if he becomes rich by engaging in any business fair or foul. Some Muslims in the businesses try to persuade their brethren not to buy goods and services from the Hindus.

In my city of Darbhanga, I have noticed this fault line developing over the years. Exclusive Muslim markets have sprung up along the roads that separate the densely Muslim populated neighborhoods from the rest. By offering better deals these shopping centers suck away the Muslim clients who could have gone to the Hindu Bania shopkeepers or other businesses.

What provokes communal animosities can be illustrated by referring to a couple of cases:

Take one example where a Muslim industrious entrepreneur starts the business of gathering and marketing metal scrape. He becomes rich over a period of time and begins using his clout with the Muslim political candidates regardless of the parties. Very soon he's branded as communal by the Hindus and may end up being the target of attack.

In another instance, a poor Muslim goes around collecting the carcasses of cows or other animals from the Hindus and disposes them for a price. He provides a service that the traditional Hindu Chamaars (the members of the Scheduled Castes) used to offer but they no longer do it for a variety of reasons. Here again, that Muslim -- if he becomes affluent -- is an object of jealousy and bad blood. And if by any chance he throws his weight behind any Muslim politician, he becomes a target of Hindu communalism.

This doesn't mean the Muslims as an organized communal group don't indulge in the underworld unlawful activities. In the pre-prohibition state of Gujarat, the Muslims overwhelmingly cornered licenses in liquor business and engaged in illegal activities. There are a number of underworld crime and smuggling rings in Mumbai that are entirely owned and operated by the Muslims. Muslims in scattered cases in all parts of India, including those in UP and Bihar, also resort to illegal or criminal activities -- just like any Hindu -- to amass wealth faster.

But to single out, demonize and attack the Muslim community as a whole will be entirely immoral, wrong and counterproductive. The political leadership of all parties must be watchful.

In the incident reported on 3 August 2017 from the district of Bhojpur, there might have been a case of illegal beef or buffalo meat transportation intercepted by the police with the help of local informants. But for the crowd to take over the law into its own hands and beating up the three Muslim suspects is quite unacceptable and condemnable. Luckily, the police saved the victims.

The rowdy elements among the people appear to have been instigated by the right-wing fringe of the BJP to teach the Muslims of Rani Sagar (a Muslim majority meat supplying) village a lesson. The BJP candidate Munni Devi who won the Shahpur Vidhan Sabha constituency in 2005 and 2010 lost in 2015 to a Mahagathbandhan (RJD-JDU coalition) candidate. Shahpur is one of the six Vidhan Sabha constituencies of the Bhojpur district and incorporates the Rani Sagar village.

It’s quite possible a section of the BJP will like to play similar nasty games of insinuation, vengeance and violence against the Muslims to promote their political agenda.

The BJP leadership will have to bear in mind that unlike Uttar Pradesh, this path will not lead them to a takeover of Bihar in 2020.

They will have to win the hearts and minds of the Bihari Muslims.

Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.

Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.


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