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EDITORIAL: 16-30 June 2001

Paranoia as State policy:
Indian Muslims branded as 'internal security risk'

The Government of India (GoI) released on 23 May an extraordinary report on national security which may be considered as the most important official document issued by the current BJP-led government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The report, titled ‘Reforming the National Security System,’ has been prepared by the four-member Group of Ministers (GoM) which was headed by Home Minister LK Advani, a BJP hardliner. Other members were the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, the current Defence and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha. In other words three-fourths were from the Hindu nationalist BJP and one-fourth from an allied party which has lost its way on the long journey from socialism to corruption exposé…

The GoM was set up to review security in April last year in the wake of the Kargil fiasco in which India was caught napping. The GoM was required to present its report within six months. This was later extended by another five months. Finally it presented the report last February after going through the pangs of 27 meetings in which National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra also participated as an special invitee. Mishra too is under a cloud after exposé and may soon lose his national security post.

Reportedly the report issued on 23 May is highly censored with many deleted passages. It has tried to identify the ‘risk factors’ for internal security. Since it is not a public document yet we rely on what the ‘national media’ has reported. Here is a report which appeared in the Delhi edition of the Asian Age of 24 May:
Muslims and Madarsas have been identified as risk factors for internal security by the Group of Ministers in their report on reforming the national security system.
The report says, 'A recent phenomenon is the mushrooming of pan-Islamist militant outfits with links to radical organisations in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and some other West Asian countries. Funded by Saudi and Gulf sources, many new Madarsas have come up allover the country in recent years, especially in large numbers in the coastal areas of the west and in the border areas of West Bengal and Northeast. Reports of systematic indoctrination of Muslims in the border areas in fundamentalist ideology is detrimental to the country's communal harmony.'
The report has clearly stated that the secessionist movements in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in the country are being transformed into a pan-Islamic movement against India. 'The Taliban success in Afghanistan has brought about a qualitative change in the security environment of the region. It has also given rise to groups of Jihadi forces. These forces are unlikely to stop in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These bands of religious fanatics are indulging in subversive activities and have expansionist designs. They will work relentlessly for the break up of the Indian union.'
The report has indicated that the situation in Punjab needs to be kept under close watch. 'Many pro-Khalistan militants continue to enjoy shelter in Pakistan and there are reports of plans to revive terrorism in Punjab. Subversive propaganda is being aired from Pakistani Punjab. The appointment of a former head of the ISI as chairman (a Muslim) of the Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee in Pakistan is an indicator of Pakistan's malafide intentions,' the report states.
Referring to the internal security environment in J&K, the report has attacked Pakistan for pursuing a multi-pronged strategy to destabilise India. 'Militancy is a direct consequence of the unremitting efforts of Pakistan's covert agencies, particularly the ISI to exploit the prevailing discontent and destabilise the established authority by creating an anarchic situation.’ [end].

If we are correct, this report tries to say that the entire 200-million-strong community of Indian Muslims (through so-called fundamentalist movements and mushrooming madrasas) is a threat to India’s internal security. The Bangladeshi migrants have been identified as the second major source of insecurity. Their numbers have been put at ‘15 million’ (it is not clear how this figure has been arrived at). These migrants are Muslims too and, if the GoM is to be believed, they are all busy leading their lives as agents of the Pakistani military intelligence (ISI), smugglers and criminals and agents of foreign powers which now also include certain named Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia, Sudan and 'Gulf') besides Pakistan and Afghanistan, the usual suspects. Interestingly this very same GoI is going out of its way these days to improve its relations with Muslim and Gulf countries.

The major thrust seems to be a more vigorous campaign against Muslims in the India's North-East whose indigenous Muslim population is sought to be clubbed together with some economic migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Similar migrants from Nepal pose no security risk since they are Hindus.

This kind of irresponsible generalization was hitherto the hallmark of the ultra Hindu nationalist Sangh Parivar led by the RSS. Now this is the first time that such statements enjoy the stamp of approval of the State simply because it is ruled by a coalition led by the BJP which is the political facade of the RSS. The offer of ‘work permits’ for the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and the Home Ministry order that hosts have to register the names of their foreign guests with the police is a logical part of the steps which the GoI will take to tackle such ‘internal security risks.’ However, as a result of strong media protests the reporting to police order has now been conveniently modified in order to place the middle classes out of its purview. Now it applies only to guests from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In other words, it mostly applies to Muslims since the overwhelming majority of both such hosts and guests will be Muslims.

The omens are clear. India under BJP is steadily moving to a fascist State where the ‘Other’ will be actively and vigorously identified and persecuted by official agencies. Since madrasas and mosques, which posed no threat all these centuries and played a very active role in the freedom struggle, are now enemy hideouts and ISI centres, an era of active persecution will start in which the onus of proof of innocence will be on the victims, not on the accusers and the persecutors. To set the record straight, it is mostly Hindus who are caught spying for Pakistan, though these incidents are hushed up or identities of the accused are suppressed when not belonging to a 'particular community' which is the euphemism used by the Indian media for Muslims…

Various Muslim organisations have already expressed their alarm. Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, rector of Darul Uloom Deoband, has expressed his deep anger at this blatant negation of Muslims’ patriotism and their services to the freedom struggle. Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (Qasimi group) has called for an all-India convention on 24 June to discuss the ramifications of this new policy which will soon take shape since the report has already been accepted by GoI. Dark days lie ahead not just for Indian Muslims but for the whole country if it succumbs to the unfounded paranoia of the saffronite zealots who are converting their phobias into State policy. It is a wake-up call for Indian Muslims before it is too late.

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