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Is spring far behind?
By Saeed Suhrawardy

When Indian Muslims meet, they frequently pose the question:-- what does future hold for them? Gujarat, Palestine and Kashmir are three points, which give them a depressing feeling. Added to this are the reports that Muslims are ‘Americanizing’ their names in USA, for retaining their jobs. This is exactly the Bhartiyakaran that the Sangh Parivar has been demanding from them.

The riots in Gujarat are a wake-up call not only for Muslims, but also for all those who are committed to secular democracy. Gujarat incidents have served as the dress rehearsal of the play to be enacted if Sangh Parivar manages to secure a majority in Lok Sabha. Gujarat is the only state, where Bharatiya Janata Party has a clear and decisive majority. They have used this advantage to demonstrate as to how they will administer the country, if they get a chance. 

From the attack on the World Trade Centre to the attack on Sabarmati Express, Muslims are carrying the cross for the sins not committed by them. Who was the architect of the suicide attack on twin towers of World Trade Centre and Pentagon, is yet to be established? Similarly, how and why was the heinous arson at Godhra enacted? This too is not clear. But hundreds who had nothing to do with these incidents, have already paid the price for crimes committed by those who are yet to be identified, prosecuted and punished.

An impression has been created that Hindus and Muslims are not communities, sharing the great common heritage of the country, but two rival armies engaged in a battle for supremacy. The weaker community is denied the legal and constitutional shield to which it is entitled. It is the law of jungle that prevails for them.

The riots of Gujarat should not be judged in isolation. The carnage in Gujarat is linked with recent developments in Ayodhya and enactment of Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). There is an attempt to marginalise and terrorize political adversaries and minorities. The fears of all liberal and secular people about POTA are well grounded. The government claims that it needs a strong law to fight terrorism, but has shied from defining terrorism. Why? Any definition of terrorism will make it obvious that Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal indulge in terrorism against minorities. Obviously, a government that wants to hide this fact will use the draconian law against minorities.

In Gujarat, only Muslims were arrested under Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance while not even a FIR was registered against others who committed the same kind of heinous crimes.

A sinister campaign of hatred against minorities was always there, spear headed by Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), ever since the outfit came into existence. It included misinformation about history and propagation of false and baseless myths particularly about Muslims. Unfortunately, secular forces never took a serious note of their activities. There were secular elements that clandestinely connived with communal elements. 

The roots may be found in the words of their archpriest known as Guruji. M.S. Golwalkar in his work, We: Our Nationhood Defined (1939) laid down in chapter five, page 48, ‘The minorities may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen’s rights.’

Fortunately the founding fathers of secular democracy did not accommodate his views in the Constitution. Since then his followers have been carrying on a relentless fight against the constitutional set-up. Those who upheld the rule of law and correct constitutional position were blamed for ‘appeasement of minorities.’ 

Communalism of the majority community was there, much before the foundation of Bharatiya Jan Sangh by Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee. The starting point was the reconstruction of Somnath Temple in Gujarat. Muslims shall not dispute the reconstruction of a temple, which is already there. But the second chapter of communal mischief had different political overtones. The surreptitious planting of idols in the Babari Mosque in December 1949 was a deliberate mischief, calculated to hurt the feelings of the minorities. The State Congress Government and Congress Government at the Centre condoned the act. The FIR lodged about the crime in 1949 was not vigorously pursued. The police, administration, the politicians and the judiciary all of them taken together have to share the blame for the situation as it developed subsequently. 

We talk about the guilty men responsible for demolition of the Babari Mosque in December 1992, presently occupying high seats of power. However, there are very few who ask questions about the guilty men of 1949. They went on climbing from one position of power to another with impunity. The country has to pay for their sins and for the indulgence of those that sponsored and condoned the crime.

A countrywide misinformation campaign about Muslims was based on the unsubstantiated myth about the existence of Ramjanmbhoomi temple. The network of thousands of RSS shakhas, went on spreading the venom of hatred throughout the country. Their communication strategy relied on word of mouth, passed on from one person to another. They engineered thousands of riots, but cleverly sold the idea to the Ministry of Home Affairs that Muslims started the riots. 

The zenith of their gospel of hatred was the pulling down of the Babari Mosque. But that proved to be an anti-climax for their activities. They lost elections to state assemblies held after the sacrilege. They attribute their better performance in elections to Lok Sabha to their Mandir campaign. But that claim has no veracity. The people were disgusted with the performance of Congress. They wanted a change. 

Bharatiya Janata Party contested the elections to Lok Sabha under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, who kept a low profile, when his counterpart Lal Krishna Advani was conducting his aggressive rathyatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. The leadership of BJP was not sure that the credentials of Advani would win votes in favour of the party. It was the failure of the Congress Party and the moderate face of Atal Behari Vajpayee that ensured the emergence of BJP, as the largest single party in the Lok Sabha. However, the final destination of absolute majority in the House eluded them. 

Besides, for forging the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), they were compelled to forego three contentious issues that formed main planks of their political strategy. Ayodhya Temple, deletion of Article 370 relating to the status of Jammu & Kashmir and common civil code were excluded from the common programme of NDA. 

The question that bugs Muslims is, how can they survive in a state like Gujarat. There is no ready answer to the question right now. 

Beyond Gujarat, there are silver linings in dark clouds. The average Indian continues to be secular. Sangh Parivar and its affiliates have been discredited. Through media, print as well as electronic their ugliness in thought and action has been seen all over the world. 

There is large-scale frustration in Sangh Parivar. The results of four state assemblies and Municipal Corporation of Delhi show that political power is slipping out of their hands.

Muslims must understand that the conflict in the country is not Hindu-Muslim problem. It is the conflict of secularism and democracy with fascism and intolerance. There is a ray of hope for them. Secular elements are there in sufficient strength. They have already demonstrated their disapproval of the atrocities perpetrated in Gujarat, by rejecting BJP, wherever it has contested elections. The judiciary too, has acquitted itself well. Recent decisions of the Supreme Court of India and the strong indictment of Gujarat Government by Human Rights Commission, led by former Chief Justice J.S. Verma, lend support to optimism about future.

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