Friday, March 26, 2021

How religious composition and population percentage prompt right-wing to create communal polarization: Majority, Minority and Insecurities

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

If the religious minority constitutes around 10% of the total population of the city, right wing is not much active and there are hardly any hate speeches or controversial political statements.

But if the population of the minority is close to 20% or even higher, you find such rhetoric in the city and as a result polarization in the particular place. 

In fact, in these cities newspapers too continuously peddle propaganda and raise divisive issues. 

As a result, citizens too feel that these issues are important and the statements, counter-statements, the feeling of insecurity and communities distrust towards each other, continues. 

This is an aspect and if one takes a look at most of the cities above population of 5 lakh or half-a-million, this distinction is quite clear. 

In many cities that have less than 10% minority population, you don't even hear about communal issues or confrontational statements. But if the minority population is around 25-30%, right-wing gets into an overdrive, making majority feel 'insecure' and there is nonstop propaganda about 'minority population growing fast'.

The vernacular papers too report in such a manner. Local politicians, certain groups instill fear about 'take over', everything in city seen from religious prism, lot of polarization. Of course, there is a difference--from 10% to 20% or higher. 

When people in a region are constantly made to think in terms of 'us' and 'them', and also on the degree i.e. 'opponent' and 'formidable opponent'. This is due to campaigns, yatras, events, programmes and focus on each festival. 

Apart from this, historical reasons in certain region--ruling class, culture, that cause insecurities, division. Regions, historical grievance and more. It's deep. At 40% Sikar in Rajasthan or 45% in Kadiri in Andhra, things can never be what they are at 30% in Khandwa or 30% in Azamgarh*.

However, there is another factor, which is not linked to population. There are certain cities where conflict in just one locality or one point or between two groups in a neighbourhood, due to local history, makes the place appear prone to conflict. 

The difference between Kanpur and Pune, Bhopal and Solapur, Ahmedabad and Jaipur, Indore and Cuttack, it explains a lot. Yet another thing that needs attention is that once cities have even higher Muslim population, there is even less conflict. 

Cities with Muslim majority have less history of communal riots, conflict 

Rampur, Malegaon, Sambhal, Burhanpur and Bahraich are just among the many towns that are clear examples. We need to discuss and talk about it more openly, so that certain elements in media and politics who create this communal divide, can be exposed. And, citizens should know this pattern. 

[The figure is not to scale and does not claim to represent any authentic boundaries,. It is just for illustrative purpose. This is an old map based on 1931 census and does not represent geographical boundaries, perfectly. It is a pre-independence map and is just for representation and educational purpose]

*The regional aspect, as communalism is less widespread in South compared to North.