ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bhagalpur Redux

I was moved reading Warisha Farasat’s article on Bhagalpur riots (“The Forgotten Carnage of Bhagalpur”, EPW, 19 January 2013), particularly as I belong to Bhagalpur. I recall how during my early school days there (mid-1950s) Bengalis and Muslims had joined hands to protest against the abolition of Bengali and Urdu as mediums of instruction at the secondary school level. As a result the Bihar government withdrew its order. But those were better days, even though the Partition memory was still fresh in people’s minds. What obviously mattered was how the central leadership tried to create an atmosphere of inter-communal harmony against all odds.

Conversely, the fashion now is to see massive riots take place at routine intervals (1983 Nellie massacre of Muslims with 3,000 deaths, 1984 anti-Sikh riots of Delhi with 2,000 deaths, 1989 anti-Muslim Bhagalpur riots with 1,000-2,000 deaths, and the 2002 anti-Muslim riots of Gujarat with 2,000 deaths). This is followed by the institution of enquiry commissions which are so long-drawn that they suffer from, what we call in legal language, the “law of limitation”.

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