Human Rights

Will terror profiling of Muslims decline after Aseemanand’s confession

Aseemanand’s confession turns out to be a defining moment in the history of terrorism in India. There has been a sea change in government as well as people’s perception towards nature of terrorism in India. More variables are now being used to define terrorism and its threat perception. Terrorism as of now is no longer a synonym of Muslims, which was earlier thought by the layman as well as by investigative agencies.  

But what is even more important is the need of the change of heart of the investigative agencies and police department towards Muslims in the aftermath of Aseemanand’s confession and other exposures. The confession is undoubtedly a relief for Indian Muslims in one way or the other. The entire community has lived with the notorious terror taunt for the last two decades in varied ways. Feelings of insecurity have been entrenched in the mindset of Indian Muslims in the wake of sweeping arrests of Muslim youths after every terrorist attack. The recent development has come as a respite for Indian Muslims.

But the big question is: will terror profiling of Muslims come down after Aseemanand confession or is this simply a breather? In the backdrop of Aseemanand confession, the demand from Muslim community to free all innocent Muslims in jails is gaining momentum. Recently over 50 religious groups and NGOs in a rally in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan demanded the government to release, compensate and rehabilitate innocent Muslim youths implicated in the blast cases.

The London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) in its latest report has outlined that Muslims in India and in South Asia are targeted using terror as an excuse. The incidents of targeted attacks and persecution have increased. Religious intolerance is on the rise and minorities earlier attacked for racial reasons are now being targeted for their religious beliefs. In India, large number of Muslims were detained by the government using counter-terrorism measures. Shobha Das, MRG’s head of programmes, has said, “In some South Asian states, national or regional governments are actively supporting extremist groups, while in other cases states are turning a blind eye to their increasing influence. Nationalist and extremist groups quite often have a free hand to target religious minorities due to a climate of impunity.”

A cable sent by the then US ambassador in India David Mulford to the US State Department in 2005 said, “India’s over 150 million Muslim population is largely unattached to extremism. Separatism and religious extremism have little appeal to Indian Muslims. Islamic extremism is not popular in India and most adults are not interested.”

There have been a number of bomb blasts across India which were earlier believed to have been carried out by Muslims but now in all these cases Hindutva terror links are suspected or probed. The needle of suspicion has for the moment shifted towards Hindu terror, e.g., 1. Nanded blast on 6 April, 2006, 2. Jama Masjid blast on 14 April 2006, 3. Malegaon blast on 8 September 2006, 4. Samjhauta Express blast on 18 February 2007, 5. Ajmer blast on 11 October 2007, 6. Mecca Masjid blast on 18 May 2007, 7. Kanpur blast on 28 August 2008, 8. Mehrauli blast on 27 September 2008, 9. Modasa blast on 29 September 2008, and 10. Goa blast on 16 October 2009. The Muslims arrested after these blast are still languishing in jails.

A national seminar was organised by human rights groups, including ANHAD, Foundation for Civil Liberties, INSAF, and the Jamia Teacher’s Solidarity Association on the topic ‘Tracing Sangh Terror Links and Stories of Innocent Muslim Boys’ on 28 January in Delhi. A resolution was passed that demanded objective investigation into all terror incidents of the past two decades. The eleven-point resolution has been handed over to Home Minister P Chidambaram. Civil rights groups are also contemplating a white paper on the number of Muslim youths arrested in the aftermath of terror attacks in various parts of India. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, while speaking on the occasion, said that his party will raise the issue of terror attacks and involvement of RSS activists in the coming budget session of Parliament and will exert pressure on the government to release innocent Muslims arrested in connection with these attacks.    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2011 on page no. 11

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