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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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