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A Belated meagre response
By Saeed Suhrawardy

A part of the group expected to court arrest at Parliament Street, decided to march to the Prime Minister’s residence to stage a dharna there. But for that impromptu action, the two-week old ‘Jail Bharo’ movement would have ended without a whimper in government circles. Shri Vijay Goel, Minister attached to the Office of the Prime Minister saved the situation, which had taken the police authorities by surprise. He received a deputation headed by Maulana Asad Madani, President, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. Their charter of demands had already been sent to the Prime minister along with a memorandum two months back.(Please refer to the previous issue) Feigning ignorance, the Minister obliged the deputation by receiving a fresh copy. The deputation expressed their disappointment over non-receipt of a reply from the Prime Minister. The Minister assured the deputation that their demands shall be taken up seriously and a meeting shall be convened shortly to consider the issues.

It was last day of the movement. On October 15, 2002, Maulana Mahmood Madani, General Secretary, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind led a group of 10,313 protesters for courting arrest. Speaking on the occasion, he observed that ‘the stability of a structure depends on the pillars which hold it. Muslims are one of the pillars supporting the country. If that pillar remains weak politically, educationally and economically, the country cannot be strong.’He surprised the audience with a stirring strong criticism of Indian National Congress. He reminded the Party, ‘If you desire that the disgraceful chapter of Gujarat is not rewritten, direct your state governments to provide reservation for Muslims in every walk of life; the officials who fail in controlling the riot within three hours should be suspended; there should be a law for compensation to riot victims as decided by Delhi High Court. Communal organizations should be banned. If that is done the minorities shall believe that Indian national Congress is serious about keeping its promise to protect minorities.’Unfortunately the experience of Malegaon and Sholapur shows, that at least the coalition government of Maharashtra, led by Indian National Congress is not inclined to oblige Jamiat leaders. Perhaps that was responsible for that sharp criticism.

“Mulk-o-Millat Bachao Tahreek” was launched to draw the attention of the government to the charter of 13 demands, conveyed to the Prime Minister. The main plank of the movement ostensibly to save the country and the nation, was non-violent civil disobedience by defying law for courting arrests. Naturally the movement was nicknamed ‘Jail Bharo’ or (Pack the jails) movement.

On the first day of the programme on October 2, 2002, Maulana Arshad Madani of Darul Uloom, Deoband led a group of 313 protesters. He happens to be the younger brother of Maulana Asad Madani. Speaking on the occasion Maulana Asad Madani declared, “We are appalled by the vicious anti-Muslim and anti-Islam propaganda going on since the present government assumed power. The organizations indulging in that sinister campaign have had a free play as they had never before. The minority institutions have been accused of harbouring anti-national elements and fostering anti-national culture without a shred of evidence. Indian Muslims have suffered excessive atrocities. Hundreds of thousands have perished in communal riots and they have lost property worth millions of rupees. Where is justice for Muslims, if the government ignores them?” Starting from 313 on the first day of the movement, the strength of the group was gradually increased day by day. On the final day of the movement on October 15, a group of 10,313 protesters led by Maulana Mahmood Madani courted arrest. The groups were drawn from the broad spectrum of the country-the north, south, east and west.The movement had a chequered career. Originally Kali Masjid in Basti Nizamuddin was fixed as the starting point for protesters. They were expected to march in procession to Parliament Street for courting arrests. But on the very first day the police blocked the protesters at Khusrau Park, near Police Station, Nizamuddin. Traffic was disrupted for two hours. The organizers had to change their tactics. On the following days the group was carried to Jantar Mantar, by buses for their march to Parliament Street. The Police Station of the area took them into custody there.After the experience of the first day, there was no attempt to obstruct the demonstrators. So it became a routine affair except the last day, when a batch decided to march to the residence of the Prime Minister.The movement was spearheaded by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which attracts its cadre from the network of Madaris, mostly affiliated with Darul Uloom, Deoband. It goes to the credit of much-maligned Islamic institutions that they conducted their movement peacefully in a quiet and dignified manner, in a communally charged atmosphere. They took every possible care and precaution to forestall any risk of conflict and confrontation throughout the entire course of the movement.The organization has demonstrated its prowess for mass mobilization several times. The recent movement was an exception. They ensured that irresponsible elements did not get entry into the groups for creating unpleasant scenes. Lists of persons were prepared in advance after proper screening. That made the task of those arresting them simpler and easier. The police arrested 30,818 protesters in the course of two-week old “Jail Bharo” movement. However, it was not meant to be a show of strength. It aimed at projecting their stand for broadening their support base. The leaders of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind have been quietly busy in cementing their ties with Dalit and Christian organizations.

Their main aim is to forge a broad based secular front of forces that are committed to secularism and are willing to stand up against fascist intrigues of Sangh Parivar.However, no representative of Christian organizations led any group of protesters. Two Dalit leaders led groups of protesters on October 12 & 14, 2002.

On October 12, 2002, the eleventh day of ‘ Jail Bharo’ movement, Shri Dhani Ram Panther, President Dalit Panther, Uttar Pradesh led a group of 1551 protesters for courting arrest. Before being taken into custody, he addressed the Group, “The Manuwadi Brahmin communal forces in the country have targeted two major sections of the population-Dalits and Muslims. They do not desire the unity of Dalits and Muslims. We have to work jointly to defeat their intrigues. If Dalits are victims of atrocities, Muslims should come forward, if Muslims are suppressed, Dalits should protest. A small symbolic number has joined the movement today. If need arises, we shall join in larger number. The communal forces are leading the country toward disaster. The Peace Corps proposed by Maulana Madani is the need of the hour.”

Shri Udit Raj, who led a group of 7,308 protesters was more emphatic on that point. In his speech before being taken into custody Shi Udit Raj declared, “The Manuwadi elements do not desire the progress of Dalits and Muslims. Dalits can get respect if they get converted. The Chief Minister of Tamilnadu has banned conversions by issuing an ordinance. That is a part of her attempt to appease RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad.Organizations that are a part of the present establishment or engaged in helping it in retaining power, whether it is BSP, DMK or AIADMK, we regard all of them as part of RSS. The pogrom in Gujarat was part of the struggle between communalism and secularism. That was struggle for power. For preventing communal riots and for the honour of minorities Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has been holding rallies for past 13 days. I support the demands of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and shall cooperate with them in every possible manner.”

The statements of the two Dalit leaders assume special significance because they were uttered before the lynching of five Dalits in Jhajjar in Haryana, allegedly for skinning a dead cow. The debate currently in progress is whether the dead or a live a cow is more than human lives.The essence of the movement was summed up by Maulana Habibur Rahman Qasmi, Editor, monthly journal, Darul Uloom who led a batch of 340 protesters on the second day of the movement. He said, “The Constitution of the country binds the nation with secularism and democracy, but the experience so far indicates that the governments of the day are guilty of suppressing democratic and secular values. Muslims have already suffered loss of life and property. To rub salt on their wounds, there is onslaught on their culture and religious identity. He strongly condemned the statement of RSS Sarsanchalak Sudarshan that all those who live in India are Hindus.The truth is that with their respective religious identities, the people living here are Indians. The time has come that we should start peaceful struggle for securing our rights and protection of our Islamic identity. This movement is a part of that struggle.” There should be no illusions about the success or impact of the movement. Its symbolic nature has to be appreciated. It was like lodging FIR, when you are certain that there shall be no police investigation or prosecution on that basis.

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