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Periscope
Muslims betwen Gandhi and Godse
By Saeed Suhrawardy

The Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, in a scathing attack on the Government in the recent debate in Lok Sabha accused it of "betraying the hopes and expectations of the people and failing the nation." She was critical of the Centre’s handling of Gujarat and Ayodhya. She accused Gujarat Government of "complicity" in recent communal incidents. She demanded the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi’s resignation stressing that "his continuance is an affront to our democracy."

In a significant remark she observed that the Gujarat developments were a result of "politics of hate" practised by the BJP. "The traumatic events in the State have demeaned us as civilized human beings and as citizens of a modern, progressive, liberal society."

By and large, Muslims have been the main targets of the politics of hate, to which Mrs. Gandhi made a special reference. It is not a secret that the zealots of Bajrang Dal, masquerading as ‘Kar Sevaks’, ‘Ram Bhakts’ or ‘Ram Sevaks’ are gradually but persistently undermining secular democracy of India.

Setback in elections to four state assemblies has lent fresh frenzy and fury to their commitment to Hindutva agenda. It is reflected in communal riots of Gujarat that seem unprecedented in their ferocity and brutality.

The editorial note of Indian Express, dated March 19, 2002 sums up the present situation: "There are a number of questions that are plaguing the mind of the average citizen in this country. Just what is going on? Why does Gujarat continue to burn? Why do people in Srinagar feel threatened by a newspaper story and storm the streets? Why does a perfectly peaceful town in Haryana suddenly witness 300 Shiva Sena activists go on a rampage, on the basis of a mere rumour, and burn down places of worship, shops and homes belonging to the minority community? How is it that hundreds of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists storm the Orissa assembly—the very temple of democracy, as Prime Minister Vajpayee put it—destroying furniture, doors and vehicles parked outside? Are we as a nation, failing to recognize the wolf at the door, even as we continue to pretend that it is a mere lamb that followed us home?"

But the wolf has not made a sudden appearance. It was always there. It grew and gained strength and credibility before our eyes. It was nursed in thousands of "shakhas" being regularly held in ever nook and corner of the country. It found support in the communal poison spread through word of mouth and literature that contained false and baseless information about relations between communities in medieval history. The so-called politics has had one single motive "Subversion of secular democracy and its substitution by Hindu Rashtra."

The state and the media have turned a blind eye to the machinations of the communal elements of the majority community. Tragically, they have been persistently blaming the minority community for continued communal divide. 

Unfortunately the government and the media cannot blame Pakistani ISI for the attack on Orissa Assembly. Blaming ISI has been frequently resorted to for covering failure of Indian intelligence and security forces in dealing with lapses in maintaining law and order. Ironically, nobody has questioned the token plea that of blaming the ISI, adopted by the Establishment when caught napping by lapses. 

Every member of Sangh Parivar has been harping on Godhra tragedy for sparking off the conflagration in Gujarat. But nobody has pointed out that Godhra too happens to be a part of Gujarat. It was the duty of the State Government of Gujarat and the Railway Police to ensure that nothing untoward happened at or near the Railway Station. 

It is the gravity of the crime that matters and not the religion or community of the criminal. One crime should not be cited as justification for more heinous and brutal crimes perpetrated elsewhere.

Reacting to the recent riots in Gujarat, Ashutosh Varshney, Director, South Asian Studies, University of Michigan, USA has correctly identified the ‘wolf.’ "In the past, Gujarat may have taken pride in Gandhian values of peace and non-violence. But there is no doubt that increasingly since the mid 1960s, the 1969 riots being a turning point, an awful transformation has taken place. Violence, hatred and crime have taken over. The state’s Gandhian soul has all but vanished. It is the ideology that killed Gandhi that is ruling Gujarat.

In the article, "To reclaim Gandhi, Gujarat must disown Godses"* he further observed, "In the first half of the 20th century Gujarat gave us Mahatma Gandhi, a man India and so much of the world found irresistibly great. Over the past four decades, Gujarat’s political classes have increasingly embraced the killer thinking. 

In the 21st century, if Gujarat wants its glory back, the silent Hindu majority will have to make a clear choice: it must begin to disown the political organizations embracing the thought of Godse."

The "politics of hate" is the conflict between Gandhi and Godse. Muslims are the soft targets of those, who appear bent upon robbing India of its soul, represented by the best elements of Gandhian legacy.

Gandhi’s spirit is not confined to lifeless statues installed on important routes or in the colourful pictures adorning the walls of government offices and public sector establishments. The real Gandhi is enshrined in the Constitution of India. That is the foundation of secular democracy of the country. The ghost of Godse is doing its best to infiltrate into its august portals. It desires to kill its spirit although the letters may be left unchanged.

The voice of Godse was heard perceptibly, when the RSS joint general secretary, Mohan Dass Devi called on the "Muslims to understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority." He also urged the Muslims of the country to come out of the clutches of their extremist leaders and Hindu-baiters. His intention and intention of the organization he represents, would be clear if the word "terms" is substituted for the word "goodwill." That is what Godse would have welcomed. That is what Gandhi must have opposed, even at the cost of his life. Devi has not pinpointed extremist Muslim leaders and who among them are Hindu-baiters. He would have made his point in a better and more effective way, if he had sought for RSS, the authority to nominate leadership for Muslims. 

But, any Muslim leader who has the moral courage to stand up and speak for the rights and interests of Muslims shall not be acceptable to the Sangh Parivar. What the RSS leader seems to convey is that Muslims should approach Sangh Parivar, with folded hands for the safety of their life and property.

It shall be relevant to cite appropriate provisions of the Indian Constitution on the subject. Article 15 of the Indian constitution lays down that "the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste or sex." "No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability or restriction."

In view of the clear and unambiguous constitutional position, Indian Muslims do not have to rely on appeasement of RSS and Sangh Parivar. It is the duty of the State to ensure security of life and property of all citizens irrespective of their affiliations of creed and community. 

The words of Madan Dass Devi are a violation of the spirit of Article 51, which states that it shall be the duty of every citizen to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions. If that is done in sincerity and entirety, it shall promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India. The fraternal bonds uniting castes, creeds and communities should transcend religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities. It is the spirit of the Constitution alone that will be the guiding star in its onward march through history. Now, when the country is passing through a dangerous phase of external and internal dangers, it is the unity and solidarity of the nation that shall serve as the most reliable shield for its destiny. 
q
*Indian Express, March 19, 2002

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