February 17, 2005

Laloo's defeat will be a defeat for peace [in Bihar] Andalib Akhter)

Indian Express
February 17, 2005

Laloo's defeat will be a defeat for peace

There can be no doubting his role in keeping the state free of communal tension

Andalib Akhter

All eyes are on Bihar's "Muslim vote". The chattering classes swear that if the Muslim vote swings towards Laloo Prasad Yadav's political rivals, he will be in deep trouble. But the question is, why would the minorities ditch a man who always stood by them in their hour of crisis?

In 1990, when Laloo Prasad Yadav first came to power in Patna, the Muslims in state were traumatised by communal violence. The Bhagalpur and Hazaribagh riots were still fresh in their minds. In fact, communal riots supported by the local police, had become an yearly feature for Muslims in the state. One day it was Jamshedpur, the next time it was Biharsharif, the next, Nawada, the next, Ranchi, and on and on it went.

Interestingly, it all happened when so-called secular governments were in power. Although the Sangh parivar never got to rule Bihar, it had attained more power on the streets of the state than in the Patna assembly. Riots would rage for a month and administrators would not know how to control them. In 1990, when Laloo Prasad Yadav came to power, the Ayodhya movement was at its peak. Muslims in the state were living under a pall of fear. Certainly, riots broke out even under Laloo's guard but he knew how to control them. When violence erupted in Sitamarhi, for instance, the man who for many was only a 'joker' camped in the city, holding a torch in one hand and a danda in other. When a riot broke out in Nawada, Laloo was in Delhi on an official assignment. When news of the riots came in, he dropped everything and rushed to the trouble spot. The riots were controlled in a jiffy.

During the NDA years, Christians were targeted in various parts of the country, including Bihar. But the official response in the state was swift. The miscreants were quickly made to feel the heat. Consequently, such attacks did not resurface. How can the minorities and peace-loving people of Bihar forget Laloo's contribution in maintaining communal harmony in the state for the last 15 years?

By checking communal violence in the state he has not only helped minorities but the country at large. Today you will not find Muslim extremists in Bihar. If there is peace, prosperity comes automatically. Moreover it was Laloo Prasad Yadav who never compromised with the Sangh parivar politically, despite coming under a great deal of pressure. Had he compromised, many of the cases that he is now saddled with would been quashed much earlier.

It is true that Laloo Prasad Yadav's record in developing Bihar has been abysmal, but Bihar is not unique in this. All north India states have done little to improve the lives of the marginalised.

Like any other citizen, the Muslim too want to live in peace in the country. With peace come prosperity and change. If Laloo Prasad Yadav's party is defeated, it will also be a defeat of the forces of peace and communal harmony.