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Ethnic or Communal?
|by Ananya S Guha|
“Now tell me” he asked: “Is the trouble in Assam ethnic or communal?”
I squirmed. My friend was once again into his fetish – prolonged discourses on social and political matters. He saw himself as a crusader for rights. I hesitated before replying:
“One has to be careful before using such terms, they impinge upon sensitives” I was certainly approaching the subject cautiously and gingerly “you see” I continued “media reports will have all kinds of interpretation and speculations. So will, politicians”.
“But tell me” he continued with rapid fire: “Is it both”.
“Wait”, I said. “Firstly, the term ‘communal’ has always been mis-represented. It is a misnomer. It comes from the word ‘community’ and is used to denote anything representing it, life styles” etc.
“Foolish” he retorted. “Communal means divide, divide between communities, linguistic, ethnic or religious”. I did not say anything. He continued. “If it is ethnic then it is Bodos versus the rest, if it is communal then it is Hindus and Muslims. But again if it is ethnic then it is Bodos and Bengalis, but if it is communal it is Bodo Hindus pitted against Bengali Muslims”. All this, my friend said in a single breath.
“Look” was my rejoinder. “I don’t think it is either, I think it is basically a divide between people fighting for what they consider to be their economic and social rights.
Land is also a bone of contention: “Don’t be naïve” my friend remarked viciously.
“Unless we know, who is fighting whom and for what reasons, ethnic or communal we will have no solutions to the problem. If it is ethnic then it is them versus us, if it is communal then it is them (religious) between us (religious). If it is separatism, it is not militancy, if it is militancy it is not extremism, if it is extremism it is not terrorism”.
By now he seemed very excited and his face was glowing. “This is how we analyze situations in India, it is they and us, them and us, theirs and ours. It is the trickle down theory”.
“Trickle down?” I asked a little bemused.
“Yes” he claimed. “It is trickling down to the very vitals of the country and is tearing it to shreds”.
“So what do you propose?” I queried.
“I propose we redefine the terms ethnic and communal and if there is any community disturbance then we can simply say that there is a total break down of law and order. Order! Order!”
“But that is what they always say” I pleaded.
“In fact, ‘ethnic’ and ‘communal’ are for analysis. “Law and order” I said “are for politics”.
“Well said my friend. At last we have reached a consensus. I will explain this concept by dashing off a letter to the editor”.
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08/01/2012 03:32 AM
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