India's Pro-Hindu Party Vows to Force Elections as Rao Government Struggles to Regain Control after Last Week's Sectarian Riots in Ayodhya, the Hindu Movement May Urge Further Violence

By Cameron Barr, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 1992 | Go to article overview
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India's Pro-Hindu Party Vows to Force Elections as Rao Government Struggles to Regain Control after Last Week's Sectarian Riots in Ayodhya, the Hindu Movement May Urge Further Violence


Cameron Barr, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


OFFICIALS of India's leading opposition party said yesterday they would bring the government of Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao to a halt in an effort to force nationwide elections as early next year.

The opposition Indian People's Party or Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political face of a nationalist "Hindu movement" that has brought India to a crisis in the past 10 days. BJP members disrupted both houses of Parliament yesterday, waving black banners and calling the prime minister a "murderer of democracy," in a show of outrage over the government's arrest of senior BJP leaders and its dismissal of state governments once controlled by the party.

In spite of the government's actions, and in some ways because of them, BJP supporters seem confident that they are on the verge of significant political gains in this country.

"We want early elections," a BJP vice president, K. R. Malkani, said in an interview. He said his party would begin to mount demonstrations.

"We will create a situation in which the government cannot function," he said, but denied that the BJP and its allied organizations would promote violence to destabilize the country. Nonetheless, some analysts argue that the BJP now has a stake in civil unrest, since it will only hurt the image of the ruling Congress Party.

"There has been a subtle campaign from their side to tell people that more Hindus than Muslims have been killed {in recent rioting} and preparing the way for a backlash which they can unleash without any problems because they are not in power and will not be called upon to contain it," says Mrinal Pande, the editor of the weekly Saptanik Hindustan.

The crisis began when radical Hindus allied with the BJP destroyed a 16th-century mosque in the north Indian city of Ayodhya on Dec. 6, igniting sectarian violence across India that killed more than 1,200 people. In efforts to control the strife and calm angry Muslims, the government last week arrested BJP officials, banned five organizations it accused of fomenting religious animosities, and dismissed the BJP-led government of India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located.

Then late Tuesday night the government dismissed state governments in three more states where the BJP held power. It said the BJP administrations, allied with the militant Hindu groups responsible for the mosque's destruction, could not be trusted to enforce the central government's ban on such groups.

Echoing the protestations of his colleagues in Parliament, Mr. Malkani sharply criticized the dismissals. "It's absolutely lawless," he said.

The dismissals will not have much practical impact on the lives of Indians in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan, but Rao's action appears likely to cause a backlash of support in favor of the BJP.

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India's Pro-Hindu Party Vows to Force Elections as Rao Government Struggles to Regain Control after Last Week's Sectarian Riots in Ayodhya, the Hindu Movement May Urge Further Violence
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