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Government list fails to mention any “Muslim” outfit: 

Blaming Muslims for others' mischiefs

The 16 "Muslim fundamentalist" organisations The Pioneer talked about in its April 14, 2002, issue is nowhere to be found in the list of 99 militant groups Government of India has given to Bangladesh.

Out of the 99 training camps in Bangladesh, which Indian authorities say are run by various insurgent outfits in the north-east, only two are run by a Muslim organisation called Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MALTA). Various tribal/Christian/ Hindu groups, based in the region run the remaining 97 training camps whose location India has pinpointed. Of these, 20 camps are run by National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) , a tribal group, 18 by NSCN-IM, a Christian/tribal organisation with which Indian government has entered into a dialogue, 17 by ULFA, a Hindu outfit, and 10 by Manipur-based Meitei group called PLA.

Despite the shrill cry that the north-east is fast becoming another hub of Islamic activity which may, if allowed to continue, lead to the formation of an Islamic state, the reality is that the region is plagued by insurgency unrelated to Muslims in any way. If we go by the strength and number of religious composition of the insurgent groups, the region seems to be approaching a sort of ‘Hindu-Christian-tribal federal state’, instead of an Islamic one as projected by some anti-Muslim people. Paradoxically, mutual animosity between these is apparent as all of them are community-based organisations that necessarily lead them to project other groups as adversaries. This portends balkanisation of the region. The case in point is the threat of NSCN-IM to carve out portions of Manipur and some other states in the region for a proposed homeland.

It is significant to note that the "16 fundamentalist" Muslim organisations that the Pioneer claimed had come up in the past five years (Pioneer, April 14, 2002) are nowhere mentioned in the list India has provided to Bangladesh. A PTI report that carries the list of the insurgent groups whose training camps India has identified mentions only one Muslim group from Assam. There is no Muslim group from Manipur despite the scare created by the Pioneer.

Recent detention of the head (Amir-e-Shariat) of the Assam Muslims in Golaghat district goes on to show the attitude of the administration towards Muslims. Despite knowing the identity of the man, the administration detained and asked him all sorts of embarrassing questions. The Telegraph (November 11, 2002), in a front page report, quoted United Minorities Front (UMF) president Hafiz Rashid Choudhury as saying at a public meeting in Nagaon that Khairul Islam, who is also the vice-president of the Jamait, along with one of his aides was "detained for over six hours and interrogated like a criminal" by the police at Sarupathar in Golaghat district on October 25. Seizing upon the current popular trend of maligning Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism, police in the north-east are harassing Muslims. If the ISI is active in the region, then certainly it must be helping those who run training camps in Bangladesh, not Muslims who are unnecessarily humiliated.

Because of the high Muslim population in Assam, certain influential sections depict them as a threat for security. Currently, there is a favourable environment for such propaganda. These quarters try to push the theory that significant Muslim population is synonymous with a fifth column for anti-India activities. This pernicious theory enables anti-Muslim elements to harass all Muslim organisations. 

This strategy serves primarily two purposes. First, it keeps Muslims preoccupied with the sole question of physical security all the time. Second, it seems to create a condition for, as the UMF president alleged, a "plan by the administration to repeat the mass and indiscriminate deportation of Muslim people to erstwhile East Pakistan in 1965".

Muslims in the region form the poorest sections. Yet, to their credit, they have not been part of any militant agitation. They form a community not only by a common religion, but also by common deprivation, vilification, and pauperisation. In short, by common life-situation. They have been pushed to the wall. Alienation should naturally come in such a situation. Yet, they remain calm believing in the secular laws of the country. However, that somehow does not suit Muslim-baiters, who are trying hard to push them towards militancy, so that they can be persecuted with some justification.

¯ By Our Special Correspondent

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