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The Enemy Within is a hatchet job

The following rejoinder was sent to the Mumbai-based newspaper DNA on 16 July but it has failed to publish the same, as usual with our arrogant “mainstream” media. DNA had published excerpts from a just published book titled Indian Mujahidin: The Enemy Within by Indian Express journalist Sishir Gupta. To read the excerpts in question, visit: http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report_mumbai-blasts-azamgarh-the-jihadist-factory_1565873. These excerpts amply show the kind of fabrications, generalisations, myths and imaginations which have gone into this book, thanks to generous IB and police help. To fool readers, the book sports a bibliography at the end, but it fails to support any single sentence, claim or conclusion within the book itself. More shocking is that a foreign publisher of repute like Hachette comes to India to publish this kind of a dubious hatchet job against an integral part of the Indian population.
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I am amazed to read the excerpts (“Mumbai blasts: Azamgarh, the jihadist factory,” DNA, July 15, 2011) you have chosen to publish from Shishir Gupta’s yet to be released book, “Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within”.  In the light of what you have published, the author’s libellous claims about Azamgarh have no basis in facts. The published matter shows that the author simply does not know Azamgarh which he abuses as “microcosm” and “nursery for jihadists.”

He claims that certain “villages” of Azamgarh like Saraimir, Sanjarpur, Phariha [not “Faria” as he writes] and Phoolpur [not Phulpur as he writes] are “conclaves” which emerged as a result of the post-1992 riots. These are centuries-old Muslim-dominated habitations and I have myself seen them since the early 1960s. Nothing has changed there apart from normal growth and expansion, like any village or town over the decades.

He claims that these “villages” (towns is the right word for them) are located on the highway linking Azamgarh to Lucknow. This too is not correct. This highway links Azamgarh city with Shahganj Junction which, in turn, is connected to Lucknow.

It is true that the area, which until recently had only a narrow gauge railway track, has been traditionally neglected and offers little scope for employment and this is the reason why natives of Azamgarh are found all over the world today, even among the erstwhile indentured labourers of the West Indies and South America. Before independence, people from Azamgarh used to go to Indonesia, Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore), Burma and Ceylon, and many are now settled in those countries and maintain close ties with their kins back home.

The author claims lack of mutual trust between the two largest communities in the area, which too is a fabrication of his fertile mind. Azamgarh has been largely free from the communal germ though outsiders like the Yogi of Gorakhpur have been trying hard to introduce it there.

People from this area went to the Gulf [none went to Yemen as the author claims] precisely for the reasons which pushed their predecessors to go to Burma, Malaya and Indonesia etc, i.e., in search of greener pastures.

In what brings out the author’s utter ingnorance of Azamgarh, he claims that Kaifiat train runs between Azamgarh and Mumbai, while in fact it runs between Azamgarh and Delhi. Moreover, this train started very recently during Shabana Azmi’s membership of the Rajya Sabha [it is named after her father, the famous poet Kaifi Azmi] while Azamgarians’ rush to the Gulf started four decades ago, since mid-1970s, after the oil boom.

The author further claims that “the Indian Muslim imbibed the puritan Salafi winds sweeping the area and got radicalised towards the Ummah.” It is a very sweeping statement which has no basis whatsoever in facts. The migrants may have brought back some cultural traces but they, being totally ignorant of the language of the Gulf, remain largely aloof there - moving from their living quarters to their work places and back with almost no interaction with the local population. The amount of broken colloquial Arabic they pick up is good only for minimal transactions on the streets and in shops. It cannot take them anywhere for serious religious or cultural discussions with the locals. The Indian Muslim may have become more religious in keeping with the general trend with other communities and as a reaction to the chain of riots, Babri demolition in 1992, Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and the threatening postures of the Hindutva gangs like VHP and Bajrang Dal.

After this baseless claim, the author goes a step further, to claim “subversive influence from Pakistan-based Takfiri groups” on Indian Muslims. One is at a loss to know that there is any such “influence” from across Pakistan. For Indian Muslims, Pakistan’s religious violence and sectarianism offer a dreadful lesson and nightmare which has only to be avoided and not emulated. Today, only those families in north India, whose relatives migrated to Pakistan in 1947, have some contacts with their relatives across the border. Six decades and three generations later, these family relations are very weak today and will almost vanish within a decade or two. The majority of Indian Muslims do not have any relatives in Pakistan and hence have no actual or emotional contact with Pakistanis. The author is ignorant of the fact that while in the Gulf, Indian Muslims keep a good distance from Pakistanis. The two communities do not trust or like each other.

The author further alleges that Pakistan “tacitly supported the indoctrination” of Indian Muslims. This is total humbug and needs solid and material proof in the open, not in the secret concocted files and briefings of the paranoid IB.

The author then effortlessly moves on to his next baseless claim: “Indian Muslim youth… used their newly found economic clout to attract their families towards the jihadi agenda”. Is there any proof of this tall claim, rather baseless lie? And has anyone who has been arrested on charges of terrorism gone to the Gulf? And, were their families too accused of terrorism?

The excerpts end with the author moving further to claim that his imaginary radicalised Indian Muslim youth is “the feeder stock for the jihadist factory based in PoK”[!]. In other words, the author claims that Indian Muslims were/are involved in the Kashmiri militancy which is a simple lie and crude fabrication as there is no proof whatsoever that Indian Muslims got involved in Kashmiri militancy while there is material proof that Hindu youths were recruited by Kashmiri militant groups and several of them were even arrested by the security forces in J&K.

In short, these excerpts amply show the kind of fabrications, generalisations, myths and imaginations which have gone into this book. More shocking is that a foreign publisher of repute like Hachette comes to India to publish this kind of a dubious hatchet job against an integral part of the Indian population.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2011 on page no. 1

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