Harivansh is a former editor of the Hindi daily Prabhat Khabar and is one of the most profound scholars from Jharkhand. Before taking over his new role as Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from Janata Dal (U), Harivansh had earned his reputation as a field journalist who travelled across the state to connect with people.
With regard to a spate of communal violence that recently rocked the state, Harivansh shares his thoughts in an interview with Firstpost.
Q: How do you see these communal riots following the Ram Navmi festival? Is this a new trend in the state?
A: Jharkhand has always been a communally sensitive state. In the sixties, there were serious riots in Jamshedpur and Ranchi that claimed thousands of lives. Whereas in united Bihar, there was still a semblance of order.
Communal riots were sporadic not endemic. But if you look at the statistics now, 61 cases of communal violence were reported in the state ever since the new BJP regime took charge 15 months ago. This is a clear indication that either the state administration has abdicated its responsibility or that the communal elements are out of control and do not fear the law. In either case, the situation is certainly scary.
Q: Why has the situation come to such a pass? Whom do you hold responsible?
A: This is the first majority government since the formation of the new state. People voted for the BJP with high expectations. But they seemed to have lost the narrative right from the get go.
I am told that the chief minister’s lack of administrative experience is coming to the fore. For instance, his choice of bureaucrats is not appreciated. Similarly, there is a visible lack of cohesion in the cabinet, where talented colleagues are being sidelined.
Q: According to you, what instigated the recent riots in Hazaribagh?
A: Hazaribagh is known for being communally sensitive and I am informed that a procession was taken out through the sensitive areas in an aggressive manner. So much so, that there a helicopter was also deployed to shower flower petals on the procession.
But what ultimately seems to have provoked the violence was the playing up of provocative CDs on a public address system. The tirade was directed against a particular community.
The most surprising part is that the administration was well aware of the circulation of these CDs and did nothing to check it. Just a day before the procession was being taken out, members of the peace committee in Hazaribagh requested the administration to keep a check on these provocative utterances, but nothing was done.
Q: What is your take on the situation in Hazaribagh?
A: I am really at a loss to understand how an administration can be so lax in dealing with a communal situation. I am now told that some more deaths have occurred in Hazaribagh.
Similarly Bokaro, which is a cosmopolitan city because of its industrialisation, has also witnessed serious clashes of the communal nature. In many parts of the state, the situation is tense.
In Bokaro’s case , the BJP legislator is accused of deliberately taking the procession on a wrong route to provoke riots. This cannot happen unless approved by those sitting at the top of the government.
Q: Do you hold the BJP regime, and the chief minister in particular, directly responsible for it?
A: The buck obviously stops with the chief minister and therefore the BJP. I do not intend to level any allegations on any particular individual, but there is no denying the fact that a discernible trend of stoking communal violence exists in the state to trigger social consolidation.
It is also true that the BJP has thrived on communal polarisation in Jharkhand, where it has developed a strong base. Can you imagine that one of the BJP Lok Sabha MPs from Hazaribagh, Jadunath Pandey, had earned a nickname of 'Danga (riot) Pandey'?
My worry is that the BJP regime’s expedient short-term politics would compromise the long-term social interests of Jharkhand.
Q: How do you rate the performance of the government so far?
A: This government has nothing to talk about in terms of performance. It comes across as the most inefficient government, on that is losing people’s confidence by the minute.
Although there are no reports of corruption against the government, it has failed to deliver in terms of performance. They are hardly doing anything except fomenting tension. And surely that does not augur well for Jharkhand, and for the country as a whole.
We must not forget that mineral-rich Jharkhand is strategically quite important for the country’s development and 'sabka saath sabka vikas' must begin from here.