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Combat in Coimbatore - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
4 February 1997

Title : Combat in Coimbatore
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : February 4, 1997

The communal violence that has rocked Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu is familiar
insofar as the pattern is concerned - a murder sparking off retributive
stab-and-run killings. Seven people have already fallen prey to the mindless
violence let loose in what was once known as the Manchester of the South.
But to dismiss the whole incident as sporadic and unplanned is to gloss over
the hard reality. The forces of communalism have, of late, been striving hard
to consolidate their position in the State by taking up partisan and
potentially dangerous causes. Communal flare-ups have, therefore, become all
too frequent in the Dravidian state. What is significant about all such
incidents is that violence has remained confined to individuals attacking
individuals rather than a frenzied mob going after a whole community. In the
present incident too, as communities both the Hindus and the Muslims have
remained aloof while some cranks among them have gone on a killing spree.
Nonetheless, the communal organisations know only too well that such
situations provide them the right opportunity to make a killing. That is
what makes the incidents in Coimbatore all the more worrying. Not much
prescience is required to conclude that the murder of Palani Baba was not
merely aimed at bumping off an individual, but to foment trouble.

Left to himself, Palani Baba alias Ashraf Ali would have shortly faded out of
the political scene. In fact, he had already become a spent force with the
Jehad Committee that he formed no longer capturing the imagination of the
masses. In any case it could not have been otherwise. Where he erred, and
grievously at that, was not in articulating the sense of deprivation that the
Muslims felt over the demolition in Ayodhya but in blaming it on an entire
community. A victim of his own rabble-rousing abilities, he did not know
where to stop. Even so, it did not take long for the people to see through
his rhetoric and realise that it will never take them anywhere. They also
understood that it is the presence of such leaders that activated the
communalists on the other side of the divide to keep up the frenzy. The
relative obscurity that he had, of late, been enjoying was symptomatic of the
rejection of his brand of politics by the very people whom he thought he
represented. It is for much the same reason that his Kerala counterpart
Madani, who too can claim to have the same gift of the gab, is no longer a
force to reckon with in Kerala politics though atone time he had grand
visions of emerging as a latter-day Jinnah of Indian Muslims.

It is a measure of the failure of the traditional Muslim leadership that
short-sighted leaders are able to gain some control over the masses for
howsoever short a period it may be. While it is true that the people will
sooner than later recognise their true worth and forsake them, the havoc they
can play during the time they are on the ascendant and are in a position to
call the shots is often not taken into account. The trouble the people of
Coimbatore have to face is the kind of price that such leaders extract.

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