While some have quite correctly surmised the widening ambit of hate as a symptom of political exceptionalism, the sheer regularity with which the communal virus is spreading throws up another issue of great concern. As sociologist Dipankar Gupta asserted in the wake of the Muzaffarnagar carnage two years ago, age-old rural ties based on a shared economy are being disrupted very fast, and what is happening in the economy is happening in society as well. The addition of Atali, a tiny dot on the Haryana landscape, to the simmering cauldron adds grist to the assertion.
Post Muzaffarnagar 2013, a series of instances of manufactured hate has become endemic. The ‘old’ village society was exploitative, but the identity and communal wars that have broken out now were not so palpably evident even a couple of years back. The village as a rule was caste-addled but still retained a degree of cohesion. That is now changing rather fast. If Shahabpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh drew international attention to the spreading rot in the countryside five years ago, what is happening now has thrown up a gamut of issues which can be ignored only by somnolent rulers.
From a fact-finding report by an independent group and other sources, what one gathers is how panchayats are increasingly becoming a law unto themselves and the battle to wrest control over them often takes diabolical forms. Their tight-fisted control of the rural economy has now increasingly become a rigid instrument to ‘control’ social ties and inter-communal relations as well. The baloney of ‘love jihad’ that was injected into the social fabric by the zealots of Hindutva has obviously travelled deep down.
The likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Giriraj Singh and their fellow rabble-rousers are proliferating even when the political leadership may be somewhat embarrassed by their utterances. However, there is a need to enter a caveat here: the mainstream Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership post Muzaffarnagar openly lionised the guilty of Muzaffarnagar and with a view to polarise the electorate on communal lines openly gave tickets to some suspect elements. The irresponsibility of that approach is now becoming increasingly manifest in a number of cases. As a seminal study by academics Elizabeth Basile and Ishita Mukhopadhyay on the changing face of rural India avers:
◆ The failure of the State to assure substantive democracy and equitable development of significant sections of civil society is also manifesting itself in rural India
◆ ‘Communitarian affiliations’ have become accentuated and as the weak basis of the secularist project has come to the fore, Hindutva has sought to provide a ‘communal answer’ to ‘community problems’