Don’t mitigate, stop this horror
By Abdul Khaliq
In the immediate aftermath of the bomb blasts that devastated Ajmer Sharif (2006), Mecca Masjid (2007), Samjhauta Express (2007) and Malegaon (2006), our intelligence agencies had claimed that these gruesome attacks were the handiwork of Islamist terrorist groups. The disclosures were followed by large-scale arrests of suspects – predictably Muslims. That was not all. The intelligence agencies fed the media with detailed “accounts” of how the accused men had planned the mass killings in cahoots with their Pakistani and Bangladesi counterparts. As tangible evidence, Muslim men and even boys with beards and skull caps were paraded as the perpetrators of terror before an unquestioning media, and in turn mischievous mediamen like Arnab Goswami and Praveen Swami coloured the incidents with a communal hue. It was no surprise then that during this period, a vicious SMS proclaiming “all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims” was widely circulated in a clear attempt to reinforce prejudices and further the divide between Hindus and Muslims in the country.
The woes of the ordinary law-abiding Muslim were compounded by these mindless acts of terror. Living on the margins of society, discriminated against in the job market, in education, when seeking loans and even when looking for accommodation, he is now burdened with the stigma of being in tacit collusion with terrorists. His commitment to the nation is being questioned because of the widespread belief, fuelled by intelligence agencies and media, that all terrorists were Muslims. Numerous Muslims complained about being called “aatankvaadis” sometimes by their associates and sometimes even by strangers. An entire community is being punished for the crimes of an aberrant few. Scores of Muslims have been rounded up, detained without any proof of crime, and tortured. So insecure is the Muslim mindset that following every terror attack, we have the poignant yet ludicrous spectacle of Muslim leaders and celebrities of every hue and colour condemning the barbaric attacks. Clearly, the Muslim celebrity feels that unless he publicly condemns the terrorist acts, the general impression would be that he actually approves of these acts or was indifferent to them. Perhaps at the back of their mind was the infamous statement of the former Prime Minister Vajpayee who almost justified the Gujarat riots by stating that the Muslim condemnation of Godhra incident was not loud enough: hence the loud protests now. They tiresomely proclaim the universal truth that terrorists have no religion. And yet Muslims feel insecure and harried with every terrorist attack as they sense the country’s negative focus on them.
But now the truth is out. Swami Aseemanand’s confession has finally and indubitably confirmed what Hemant Karkare had first exposed-the Hindutva nexus with terror. Brave Karkare’s investigations had sent shock waves through the nation and inevitably invited the wrath of known Muslim baiters such as Bal Thackeray and L.K. Advani. Despite the grave allegations against Sadhavi Pragya of inspiring terror attacks, the president of a national party visited her in jail and came out strongly in her defense. But somehow the media and public at large did not seem to be too outraged by the open support given to such criminal and antinational elements by leading functionaries of a national party.
There is a lesson here. Would the nation at large be as tolerant if a Muslim leader had visited the perpetrator of the 26/11 attacks and spoken in his defense? Such a Muslim leader would most certainly have been pronounced an antinational. Clearly, there are dual standards in assessing actions of the dominant and minority communities, respectively.
That the Hindutva terror network has spread far and wide is evident from the fact that apart from the Sadhvi, the Swami and myriad underworld figures, there is a serving army colonel involved in planning the attacks. For some strange reason there has hardly been any discernable public outcry at the revelations that Hindutva terrorists have executed a series of deadly terrorist acts. However, it would be dangerous to dismiss the evil of Hindutva terror as a mere aberration, ‘the handiwork of a few hotheads’ as inappropriately described by a leading T.V. personality when they should actually be regarded as monsters for the heinous crimes committed.
What is disturbing is that many misguided Indians believe that these mass murderers are giving the Muslims a dose of their own medicine and therefore deserve only commendation. Little do they realize that violence is a zero sum game and that every murderous act will inevitably be followed by retaliatory horror. There are no winners in this horrendous expression of hate.
There is no doubt that the fight against terrorism in this country is coloured with religious overtones. It is therefore essential that the government acts firmly and without prejudice in stamping out this cancer. The first job of the government should be to unconditionally release all those Muslims detained in connection with the blasts admittedly authored by Aseemanand and his group. The government and its law enforcement agencies cannot possibly undo the hurt caused to the thousands of Muslims who have been persecuted for no fault of theirs. But by releasing these innocents unconditionally, the government would be sending a message that a grievous wrong is being corrected.
Our country has been extremely sensitive to victims of any form of devastation whether natural, social or accidental. While no amount of compensation can make up for the torture and harassment undergone by countless Muslims for crimes they knew nothing of, it is imperative that the government adequately compensate the victims and their families. Apart from monetary compensation, jobs should be given to each victim or some members of his family.
The law enforcement authorities have been merciless in dealing with Muslim organizations such as SIMI that are suspected of nurturing terrorists. While the government may have strong reasons for the stringent action taken, it is intriguing that there is no move to ban equally dangerous organizations like the RSS, VHP, Bajran Dal and Abhinav Bharat etc. Soft peddling on this issue would not only encourage these antinational groups to continue their criminal activities aimed at the minority community, but also heighten the sense of insecurity among the Muslims. If the fundamentalist outfits are not challenged and defeated, this country will continue to live in the shadow of terrorism.
In the last two decades, innocent Muslims have suffered grievously at the hands of religious fundamentalist groups. The Mumbai pogrom of 1993, the Gujarat genocide of 2002 were not random killings but mass murder of a particular community, and both these ghastly happenings were at least as heinous as the dastardly Sikh killings of 1984. Our Prime Minister rightly felt that the nation owed an apology to the Sikhs for that terrible act and it was indeed honourable of him to tender such an apology. In the last few years, thousands of innocent Muslims have been rounded up, confined and tortured for bomb blasts engineered by fundamentalist Hindutva groups. Would it not be in the fitness of things for the Prime Minister to say sorry to the Muslims for the suffering that they have had to undergo for no fault of theirs?The author is Secretary General of Lok Janshakti Party and its leader in Rajya Sabha.