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Published in the 16-31 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Al-Qaeda “connection” in the North-East
HT’s hillarious claim
By  Shakil Ahmad

Imphal: That India faces certain elements of security threat from the activities of some groups outside the country is generally accepted. India faces another threat, perhaps more dangerous, emanates from well-organised groups advocating an ideology which negates the core principle of Indian nationhood — the pluralistic set-up of Indian society. The inter-play of these two threats has generated an environment that fetters the growth of Muslims in the country. They are blamed routinely for, in most cases, for an imagined connivance with external elements in destabilising the nation. This reckless game, a ritual inspired by a worldview of exclusivism, does not augur well for the country.

Hindustan Times, 28 June 2004

The Northeast region has been in a state of turmoil for some decades now. The reasons for this state of unrest are numerous. The unrest in the region does not remain confined to a particular group (group being defined in terms of religious, ethnic or linguistic peculiarity). A sense of alienation and resultant unrest permeates through almost all sections of the region. As a result, activities pursued by outfits belonging to various groups do not conform to the concept of national unity. Thus, we have NSCN (IM) fighting for a unified Nagalim (covering all Naga-inhabited areas of the states in the region in addition to areas now in Myanmar). We also have ULFA which recently went on a spree of bombing and killing in Assam. These two militant groups, with bases in Bangladesh or widely reported support by groups based in that country, are the strongest militant outfits in the region. These two outfits are capable of doing something should they really wish to.There is a border dispute going on between Assam and Ngaland and that exacerbates the ethnic relationship.

The image of Al-Qaeda-Muslims nexus across the globe was so craftily instilled in the minds of the people that whenever a “Muslism” outfit is heard of, the immediate conclusion drawn is that of an on-going conspiracy to establish an "Islamic supremacy". Some would call it even "Islamistan" without taking care to see the context of the emergence of such an outfit. When non-Muslim outfits in the Northeast are linked to groups outside the country, "experts" do not fail to "see" the context of the link. But when a Muslim "link" is reported, much less established, the conclusion drawn is simply that it is working for "Islamistan" or "Islamic supremacy".

Out of about 100 training camps about which the previous Indian government submitted to the Bangladesh government as belonging to various Indian outfits and based in Bangladesh, only two or three were named as belonging to “Muslim” outfits based in Assam, including Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA). Can this two-camped-strong rag-tag band representing a strand in an overall degraded Northeast region fight for an "Islamic supremacy", as reported on 28 June in the Hindustan Times? The activities of MULTA, a reactionary band active in an environment where every ethnic group and community is trying to raise a militia to protect itself, remain confined to Dhubri district of Assam. This explains their imagined "connections" and potentials. An Islamic supremacy, much less Islamistan, is a far cry for this tiny group. 
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