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Communalist Clashes Provoke Concern


LALIT is concerned about the recent flaring-up of communalism. We note that, as the systemic crisis unfurls with the end of preferences specially for the sugar cane industry, bringing disorder in its wake, there are increasing numbers of increasingly violent communalist incidents.

In Plaisance, Rose-Hill, for example, an unfortunate incident of an everyday nature occurs. Whichever of the two versions is correct, both of Sunday evening's incidents are incidents that, in normal times, would blow over with a few exchanged words. But stage one of the new volatile situation is that people are easily angered. They are angered about someone driving badly, and perhaps over-react. Others are too quick to jump in. Further over-reactions occur. And then the second stage of the new volatile situation occurs, people call in organized and even armed groups to support their cause in the fray, and this often takes a decidedly communal turn. Often it involves masked men and weapons. In no time, people are injured. In this case, unfortunately, very badly injured. In no time, windows are broken, vehicles are destroyed, and scars become difficult to heal.

In Candos, just up the road, an incident begins in a quite different way. People in the neighbourhood of the Candos Hospital are resentful because, as a result of the excellent government decision to supply methadone to drug addicts who sign up for it, there are now "junkies" in their area, they claim. This rather short-sighted reaction in the neighbourhood, it should be mentioned, follows a long and rather fascistic campaign to encourage the State to use repression against the victims of drug addiction, a campaign mainly run by whatever party is in the Opposition, often in alliance with most of the Press. This has gone on since the drug hysteria around issues like the "Amsterdam Boys" incident in the mid-eighties. This 25 years of hysterical propaganda against the victims of drug abuse then whips up some anger in a neighbourhood near the hospital. In no time, the Voice of Hindu, an extreme communal group, arrives on the scene and intimidates hospital workers, beats them up, wields weapons, and stops the doctors and nurses from supplying the medicines to those suffering from drug addiction, a health problem. This band is even "received" by the hospital authorities. As far as we know, no charges have been laid. And this is only one in a series of dozens of cases of gross intimidation, terrorising people, all with a background of right-wing communalism. The Voice of Hindu receives the Prime Minister at a Divali function, where he announced that they were not a communal organization. The Finance Minister receives them to discuss taxes. Previous Prime Ministers have been similarly received them, notably Paul Berenger.

And this is a reason for additional concern. It is no longer just Opposition Parties and many newspapers that whip up right-wing reactions, but the State itself promotes communalism.

The big supposed "Gregoire" phenomenon is also not just out of the blue. It comes AFTER the State running of a Kreol Festival last December under the aegis of the Minister of Tourism, Xavier Duval, son of the late Gaetan Duval, a festival which is both communal and commercial.

So, increasingly the Government, the Opposition and the media give political space to communalist groups. When neighbourhood groups take action, it is very hard for them to get results. When workers' organizations demonstrate, for them too, results are hard. But there seems to be a tacit understanding that the communalist groups should be pumped up, received, negotiated with, responded to, and bowed down to.

This is extremely dangerous. It is, however, one of the predictable events of the relative weakness of political challenges to capitalism. And this is all the more reason to come up with counter-strategies to capitalism, in which this kind of communalism have no part.

2 July 2008