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PUCL Bulletin, November 2006

Price of alienating a community

Lessons from the Malegaon by Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Malegoan, infamous for communal disturbances came back to haunt the entire nation when several bombs exploded on last Friday killing around 38 people and injuring more than 200 people. After the Mumbai blasts, this was the first major incident in the country and since it happened in Maharashtra raises many uncomfortable questions.

While last time, the blast occurred in the local trains of Mumbai killing over 200 people, the Malegoan explosions were clearly aimed at targeting the Muslim community. It was the occasion of not only the usual Friday prayers but also Sabe-barat, an occasion to remember their dead ones. And therefore the blasts not only occurred inside the mosques but also the burial grounds killing the innocents particularly the children who died in the stampede that happened in the aftermath of the blasts.

It is not strange in these hours of crisis that the role of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence was willfully highlighted by the media and ‘security experts’ some of them are now the members of the think tank of the Sangh Parivaar. These 'security experts' have not ever attempted to ask the Parivar and its goons to have an introspection on their own role in masterminding a large number of communal riots in the country. It is therefore more than unfortunate that the security agencies are working with single minded pursuit of a Pakistani hand in these blasts. While no body deny these facts for which ISI is notorious yet would it be wise to ignore our own communal organizations. Is it because that in these terror times?,

It has become fashionable to dub only Muslims as terrorists. The police and other organisations got a sigh of relief in Mumbai when the Ganesh Chaturthi festivals passed off peacefully. Yet none of them could think that the Muslims or Christians could also become target of another willful group, which might take revenge from them.

It is more unfortunate that in the past few months after the British police 'exposed' the biggest terror attack to explode 10 US planes, the Muslims became the softest target of willful campaign to deny them not only basic human rights but also dignity. Keeping beard or Purdah and speaking in Arabic or reading Urdu has become somewhat a crime. Societies, which considered themselves the most civilized ones, soon became the most fanatic and idiotically fearing a dissenting voice and face, which was not necessarily European or American.

Any news about Muslims and their involvement in terror activities is big news in India. Therefore news coming out of London is picked up with more vigour here than in Britain itself. Even London Police was more careful in not declaring the entire community as terrorists but here in India our 'security' experts start discussing the issue in totally communal terms. No questions are ever raised about those who communalized India and created communal disturbances. A former DG of Uttar-Pradesh police Prakash Singh openly said in a TV interview as what could he do all the terrorists happen to be Muslims? Yes, Prakash Singh either does not know history or pretend not to know it. Hopefully, he will read text of Israel's terror regime in Gaza and other parts of the Palestine.

After the Malegaonblasts, the political leaders started making visit to the town and news channels started campaign for 'united India'. One does not know how India could be united without participation of a community, which is being singled out for such an atrocious treatment. Just by lighting a candle in your house for India's unity would not bring unity of mind between the Hindus and Muslims or for that matter other communities in India. It is essential that any plural society can only function when there is a fair representation of it in every sector of governance and public life. Had there been more Muslims in our newspapers and TV channels, the stories like terming them terrorists would have never been there because you realize the other side of the story.

In Britain when things went out of hand the government tried to found out whether the Asian community is feeling alienated and tried their best to bring them to the mainstream. In India any positive effort made by any government in the direction of bringing the marginalized to the mainstream is opposed. We have seen the protest against the Mandal Commission recommendations. The Hindutva's political outfits do not oppose Mandal openly though their love for an Indian state based on the 'high' ideals of Manu is an 'open secret'. Yet, in the matter of Muslims, any effort, even if it is half hearted, is fiercely opposed as 'appeasement' by the Hindu fundamentalists.

Not only Mumbai but Malegoan had also become notorious for its malfunctioning for the past few years. Power looms are closed like other parts of the country when Muslims happened to work on. Studies show how the criminal activities increases when one lose its livelihood. It is nobody's guess that Muslims in India survived because of their own hard work and entrepreneurship whether it was small industries or hard work. Had they been depended on the mercy of the government, they would have not survived more than a few years. It is the great spirit of the community that starvation, hunger and female feticide are least found in the community. And see the irony, those who preach us the 'merit', 'tehjeeb', liberlism and morality, are worst offender of violating all these norms of a civil society. The Hindutva and its theorists should ponder over their misdeeds and try to learn from the Muslims a few good things to take care of their children and families.

However, I am not amused by the response of the Muslim leadership either. While rightfully, they expressed doubt over the involvement of the 'communal outfits', they simply have not accepted that the Kashmiri militants or terrorists organisations outside the country cannot do it. Why? One must realize that people are just pawns in the larger game of politics. International politics is as dirty as the domestic one. When one read document related to Palestine, it is no doubt that Israel did its best to finish the spirit of that great country which has perhaps the best bankers as well as economy in the middle east but very few now realize that Yasser Arafat was equally responsible for the current crisis in that country. The chaos as well as corruption in that region is the result of the crisis of Palestine leadership.

What I mean to say here is that in the game between India and Pakistan, Muslims simply are being used to justify stated positions. Muslim leadership has to be careful. The Kashmiri Muslims leadership want to go to Pakistan and perhaps has no linkages the Muslim groups in other parts of the country while the mainstream Muslim leadership has little time to persuade their Kashmiri brothers to condemn the ethnic cleansing in that state. The Pakistanis are interested in the conditions of Muslims here in India while refuses to provide democratic set up to their own Kashmiris and Baloochis. At least India did not toe the American line that easily and this country has still have the resilience to teach lessons to those governments which have crawled in front of the alien government at the cost of national interests but what about the governments in middle-east, Pakistan and elsewhere. Despite, Muslims being branded as terrorists and extremists, the government of the Middle Eastern countries remain thoroughly impotent. The only exceptions were Iraq and now Iran. The democracy of Iran is the real 'threat' for the western world. The puppet government which export Mullahism elsewhere are the best friends of the American Administration. What could be bigger irony than this that a progressive state of Iran is considered as fundamentalist and the biggest exporter of Mullahism to the world, the Sauds are the best friends of the biggest democracies of the world.

In his wonderful book 'Secrets of the Kingdom', American writer Gerald Posner, has exposed the linkages between the American administration and the Saudi royal family. In his remarkable investigations into various oil and arms deal, Posner reveal how American companies started acquiring the assets in Saudi Arabia during the period of Richard Nixon and how the Sauds always played the Jew card to blackmail the Americans. India has to learn its lesson from the past. Its Muslim population here is living here for over 400 years. In fact, much before George Bush's country became Christian, India had Christianity on the shores of Kerala. These communities have distinct culture habits and they are completely submerged to Indian nationalism. Of course, their religious practices prohibit them to follow certain things, which they consider against the basic ethos of their values. Except for those, all these communities have contributed tremendously to India's growth. How can one forget that India's best architecture comes from Muslims? Not only this, the contribution of Muslims to India's culture, music, political life and religious values is unparallel. They fought against the British for Indian freedom. It is therefore more important for the government and political parties to consider certain things carefully with out politicizing the issue. How much has India given to the Muslims? Do they have a right to demand a job reservation or fare representation for them in the services or not?

There need to be more inter community exchanges. How would it be possible? Not just for TV cameras or newspapers. Not with the usual business of the NGOs for Holi, Diwali and Eids. Not even by the gimmickery of the new 'sharva dharma' businessman who bring all the 'faltu' 'conservative' 'orthodox' religious heads over our head to preach. We all know that it is only possible by more participation in our daily lives. The Muslims-Hindu and others are dependant on each other. Their economies thrive together. More such initiatives privately are available but no participation of the community in the governance. This is a dire need of the hour to bring the faith of the Muslim community to the national law makers by providing space in the governance. Communal disturbances, threatening calls of political gangs ghettoize communities and pitch them against each other. The rule of the law must prevail and the administration must remain secular. Can we say these things are adhered to very well in this country? Will the government of Maharastra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madha Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, ask their police officials to remain secular and cannot have a 'Hanuman temple or a Kali temple' in the police station. Of course, the Muslims should also reject government's dole out on the Haj. Rather, they have the capacity to organize these trips at their own. Government's dole out gives an opportunity to the Hindu fundamentalist organisations to term it as an appeasement. There is no appeasement when the police force guards your temples and takes you to the Amarnath Yatra or provides you facilities for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

Those who did not care for the promise to the Supreme Court on the Babari Masjid issue and got a heroic welcome after one-day jail level these charges of appeasements. More paradox when you see that media would be broadcasting live from Mumbai the judgment in 1993 Mumbai blast. Since a majority of the names would Muslims therefore media does its work well in projecting a community as a terrorist without saying so. The same media has no time to focus and repeatedly as why the same aggression is not shown in filing cases who were responsible for killing of Muslims during the post Babari riots in Mumbai. What happened to those who were responsible for Bhagalpur, Meerut or Kanpur riots, not to speak of Gujarat riots. Where is our Judiciary and governance and fair play. Let some of those also go to jail and face life and death sentences who were responsible for some of these biggest carnages in post independent India. Let us not make the murders from the upper caste Hindus as the champion of Indian nationalism and those from minorities as villain. A murder is a murder irrespective of his religion and caste. If we are a true democracy and believe in fair play, let us send to gallows to all those who work against this secular fabric, who are against the idea of an idea of Bhagat Singh and Ashfaq Ullah, where all of us could live with liberty and freedom, without fear and caste and religious discrimination. Criticism based on communal and caste interest will take India nowhere. Let us not give a license of patriotism and anti nationalism to people on the basis of their castes and religion. An Indian has to defend the secular values of the country and believe in fair play. A country denying dignity and right to its minorities cannot remain peaceful and would rarely progress if it alienates its second majority, the Muslims. – September 10, 2006 .


People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014