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Published in the 1-15 June 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

In the people's court
An Indian Muslim seeks justice
By M Hasan Jowher 

India may be shining for some now. For the Muslims of Gujarat, however, the skies shone up quite sometime ago. February-March 2002, to be precise. Their sky was lit afire for days with the burning of their homes, factories and shops. As the shrieks of the rape victims and injured children dimmed in the deafening shouts of victory of hooligans let loose by the forces of hate, their lives became dark for ever. Within days over 2000 Indian lives had fallen, several more injured permanently and hundreds of crores of Indian property was destroyed.

Narendra Modi
To rub salt to the wounds of conscience the ruling political party took out processions of pride in a barbaric expression of glee. The Gujarat state machinery did its best to destroy every evidence and silence its critics. Besides numerous fact-finding teams and activists, the NHRC and the Supreme Court of India have since bared the nexus between a decrepit state establishment and the marauders.

To rub salt to the wounds of conscience the ruling political party took out processions of pride in a barbaric expression of glee. The Gujarat state machinery did its best to destroy every evidence and silence its critics. Besides numerous fact-finding teams and activists, the NHRC and the Supreme Court of India have since bared the nexus between a decrepit state establishment and the marauders.

India has been shining similarly in the sky at Meerut, Ghaziabad, Bhagalpur, Mumbai, Aligarh, Bhiwandi and dozens of other places for the "children of Babar and Ghaznawi" in independent Bharat. No more of this shine please, Muslims would say. We could do with a little darkness if this is what shining implies.

Sadly for Muslims, the clergy, the politician and the "bhai" constitute the bulk of their leadership with woefully ineffective social leadership. Blatant discrimination born in the womb of history has added to the woes of the community making them the worst sufferers in independent India. The unresolved Kashmir question and the Indo-Pak relations keep thwarting the struggle of the community to march in step with the Indian mainstream.

Sandwiched between selfish, unimaginative or obscurantist leadership on the one hand and forces of hate on the other, for the Indian Muslim the nation is not shining. Not for some who endowed the nation with the Taj Mahal, the Qutub Minar and Gol Gumbad, who enriched its music, sports, poetry, films, food and clothing indelibly; who crafted many of its handicrafts and who efficiently man the nation's small service sector.

Fortunately a majority of Indians retain a sense of history and the essence of "bharatiyat", viz, sarva dharma sambhava or co-existence and assimilation. The Muslim cause evokes wide endorsement. Their cause is truly and effectively championed by conscientious Hindus. In this sense India has always been shining for its minorities. But for political maneuvering the Indian voter instinctively prefers peace-makers to the divisive elements.

Ironically as BJP asked for the votes of a community its star campaigner, Narendra Modi, derided them as puncture repair-walas. Even more astonishing was that some Muslims should hobnob with it without the slightest public assurance of corrective action on its part.

Muslims undoubtedly should not be the captive voters of the Congress, SP, BSP or anyone else. But surely they should vote sensibly for their political advantage. Let the BJP make amends and provide due assurances towards impartial and benevolent governance.

BJP's pro-Muslim posture appears false appeasement at best and a crafty move to divide their votes at worst. Nobody can return my dead brethren, or their fallen limbs. But surely I deserve a modicum of compensation and a measure of security for future. Surely I have my legal rights in my nation. Surely my motherland should shine for me, too. All that the political parties need to do to convince me of their sincerity is to announce at the highest level the following few steps:

a. To throw out of the party all political bosses who abetted or endorsed the Gujarat carnage. 

b. To prosecute through CBI under NHRC supervision all those guilty of heinous crimes against humanity, both at Godhra and everywhere else in Gujarat during 2002

c. To appoint a Compensation Commission to compensate the victims adequately in keeping with the standards of a shining India. 

d. To make the NHRC and the Minorities' Commission constitutionally as powerful as the Election Commission.

e. To enact effective legislation making any willful discrimination against the minorities on grounds of religion and caste a cognizable offence 

f. And to provide a package of incentives for the educational and economic advancement of the minorities to catch up with the rest of the nation.

Regardless of the political dividends, would this not, in its own right, be entirely a just and honourable course for a national party? Would not such a move truly shine India bright in the comity of nations? Morevoer, it will compel other parties to make their stand public and expose them.

In a diverse and pluralistic nation like ours, there can be no development without real harmony, sincere reconciliation and recognition of the beauty of diversity of a united, peaceful India envisioned by Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru.
The Muslims of Gujarat have been brutalized as were the Hindus of Sabarmati. The latter criminals are being actively hounded while the former criminals are shining in the glory of power. 

M Hasan Jowher is president of Society for the Promotion of Rational Thinking, Ahmedabad (www.mysprat.org/www.mysprat.org) and may be contacted at mhj@mysprat.org

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