Delhi blasts: need for positive approach
by K.N. Pandit on 04 Oct 2008 1 Comment

Nine Muslim organizations held a protest in the capital recently, slamming Congress for victimizing Muslims who they claim are innocent. The protest was evoked by Delhi police investigations into this month’s Delhi bomb blasts.

The phenomenon of protesting against security forces and police conducting enquiries in the light of clues obtained through investigating agencies is being increasingly communalized and politicized at various levels. The trend was first set two decades ago by the Kashmir Islamic insurgency, in which case people came out in multitudes to protest the arrest of a suspected collaborator with insurgents or their conduits. The media would jump into the fray and click shots that highlighted so-called victimization. 

In the case of Jamia Nagar investigations and the rounding up of two students of Jamia Millia, no less a person than the Vice Chancellor has come out in open support of the students alleged to have links with the Delhi bombers. He has offered financial support towards the legal defence of the arrested students.

It is important to note that the Jamia students would normally receive legal assistance under the law. The Vice Chancellor had no compulsion to join the issue unless he wanted to be in the limelight for some reason. Moreover, though a central university is an autonomous body, it has to go by norms set by the funding agency; UGC does not recommend its grants be used for the defence of alleged criminals.

The Union HRD minister, more loyal than the king, has given a clean chit to the Jamia Vice Chancellor. Another cabinet minister has hinted that the government is considering a ban on some Hindu organizations like Bajrang Dal and RSS. This is UPA’s secular balancing. Yet only a few days before the HRD Minister patted the Jamia Vice Chancellor for his stand, the Prime Minister’s Office had issued a missive to the Union HRD Minister to rein in the Jamia Vice Chancellor.

Kashmiri leader Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, patron of the Peoples Democratic Party, has warned the Prime Minister of a dangerous situation developing in the country, in which the Muslim community is subjected to discrimination and defamation. It is not his first open threat. In the early 1990s, when armed insurgency erupted in Kashmir and the political process was derailed, Mufti found a new constituency in Azamgarh to fight elections for a seat in Parliament. With the sordid story of Azamgarh as a hotbed of Islamic radicalism and terrorism now coming out, one can easily understand Mufti’s commitment when he was taken as Home Minister in the V.P. Singh government.

With extended links between Muslim youth of Azamgarh working in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and known anti-national elements back home, it is not unusual to see Muslims of the region rise in protest against punitive measures by government to curb crime. Nobody says all Muslims are terrorists: nobody says all Muslims are anti-nationals and subscribe to the concept of Islamic Caliphate from Turkey to Indonesia. Nobody believes Islam preaches violence. But why are only Muslims involved in bomb blasts and terrorist activities in this country?  A satisfactory answer has to be produced to this question.

Either there is dichotomy in what ordinary Muslims preach and practice or there is a revolt within Islamic society in which the use of terror is made a legitimized instrument. That terrorists are using Muslim localities and houses as hideouts, that they are using Muslim students and others as informers and conduits, that terrorists seek shelter in Muslim ghettos after they execute a terrorist attack, raises questions.  

When community elders believe that police pick up innocent youth and a protest against this has to be made, have not they the responsibility to issue instructions to the community not to give shelter to terrorists if they are Muslims; not to assist their subversive schemes and conspiracies, not to provide logistical support. Should not suspected terrorists and their accomplices be isolated and made social outcasts (tark-i-mawalat)?

Islam is a religion of immense social reach. Historically speaking, Muslims always show greatest regard to the ulema and learned theologians. They are the pathfinders. Hence the ulema and learned men have a responsibility to step forward and stop aberrations which let terrorism make a dent among sections of Muslim youth. Islamic terror cannot be eradicated by a state on its own; civil society has to play a role to normalize civil life and inter-community relations. 

The Deoband fatwa against terrorism has been hailed as a positive move by all nationalist forces. But the writ of the ulema that should run in the length and breadth of the country appears to be lost. It has not stemmed the tide of terrorist subversion. Indian Muslims need to take stock of this situation and not let people get the impression that its anti-terrorism decree is hollow or that it is helpless before the radicalized mentality. Whatever the case, it cannot absolve itself of responsibility at this juncture. 

There is another aspect to the issue. Instead of joining hands to protest lawful police investigation process, instead of creating a confrontational situation, Muslim elders should have constituted mohalla committees in each Muslim locality to undertake house-to-house checks to flush out terrorists and anti-national elements, if any. Security personnel should have no difficulty in contacting locality elders and receiving briefs from them. Community involvement will reduce pressure on security forces and in the process no innocent person would be victimized.

Indian Muslims are faced with the same situation that faces contemporary Pakistani civil society with the difference that Indian Muslims have tasted and even drawn mileage from a well-entrenched democratic and secular arrangement. They have not only become crucial to other political parties, but have floated their candidates directly and won many seats in Assemblies and Parliament. They cannot afford to disregard the democratic option.

The writer is former Director, Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University

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