India E News
Sunday, July 23rd, 2006
The pride which the Indians felt in the ability of their country’s multicultural democracy to stem the tide of Islamic fundamentalism infecting the Indian Muslims has received a blow because of suspicion that the Mumbai train bombings may have been the handiwork of locally recruited foot soldiers of the Pakistani sponsors of terrorism.
Earlier, it was believed that even if the avowedly pro-Hindu organizations like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena spread fear and aroused animosity among Muslims, the recent electoral success of the secular parties and the impartiality of the judiciary would ensure that Muslims did not lose faith in the system.
Te improved performance of the secular parties may have fostered the belief that the wounds of the Babri mosque demolition of 1992 were being healed. Besides, the judicial intervention to book the guilty of the Gujarat riots of 2002 was also expected to be a sign of reassurance to the aggrieved.
But now it seems that these were false hopes and that far greater efforts will have to be made to prevent the misguided elements among Indian Muslims falling prey to the machinations of the Pakistan-based jehadi masterminds.
The belief till now was that it was only the mercenaries from Pakistan and Bangladesh who were responsible for the murder and mayhem in India. While the Pakistani jehadis were more active in Kashmir, along with a handful from Afghanistan and other Islamic countries, the Bangladeshi involvement was more apparent in other parts of India.
Bangladesh was also believed to have become a base for the terrorists (along with Nepal) after American pressure compelled Pakistan to crack down on some of them. But India, on the other hand, could proudly claim that none of the Indian Muslims had joined the Al Qaeda.
Even now, it is possible that Al Qaeda hasn’t been able to lure any Indian Muslim into its terror network. But what seems to have happened is that the sponsors of terrorism across the border have managed to brainwash a section of Indian Muslims to act at their behest. And they have apparently succeeded in enlisting them by harping on Gujarat.
It is a development which is fraught with ominous portents. As Indians are arrested in connection with the blasts, the longstanding saffron propaganda describing Indian Muslims as hidden Pakistanis will increasingly seem credible to many Hindus.
Already the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Ashok Singhal has called for a Gujarat-type ‘jhatka’ (blow) against the Muslims. To these bellicose Hindutva stalwarts, the Gujarat riots were not a matter for condemnation, but a laudable sign of Hindu ‘awakening’ against the ‘anti-national’ Muslims. The views of the Rashtriya Swayamsevan Sangh, too, are not very different.
That a section of Hindus harbour such opinions is no secret. Historian Tapan Raychaudhuri wrote in The Telegraph of Calcutta recently that he was aghast to hear educated Bengalis in supposedly Left-oriented, ‘progressive’ Kolkata endorse the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat.
The BJP pretends to follow a more moderate line. But it will not be unhappy with garnering whatever votes such inflammatory propaganda fetches for the party. Its only difficulty is that such fiery sound bytes may alienate its coalition partners like the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), which tries to keep its ’secular’ pretensions alive.
But the JD-U will not hesitate to jump on to the saffron bandwagon if the BJP is able to gain in electoral terms from the involvement of Indian Muslims in acts of terror. After all, parties like the JD-U, the Biju Janata Dal of Orissa, the Telugu Desam Party of Andhra Pradesh, the Akali Dal of Punjab, the AIADMK of Tamil Nadu and other such regional outfits remained with the BJP throughout the Gujarat tragedy.
The BJP can also gain because of the perceived weakness of the Manmohan Singh government in tackling terrorism. As it is, the secular lobby has always been seen as pro-minority and, ipso facto, hesitant in the matter of tackling Islamic terrorism. Indeed, this was the crux of the BJP’s successful campaign in the 1990s that brought it to power at the centre.
Now, the government’s vulnerability on this score has become all the greater because of its frailty on other fronts – the retreat on economic reforms because of threats from the Left and the DMK, the tendency of some of the ministers to pursue their own agendas, the suspicion that India is surrendering too much to the US on the nuclear deal, the failure to check the depredations of the Naxalites, and so on.
The government’s only solace is the current political weakness of the Hindutva brotherhood. While the BJP is yet to recover from its 2004 election defeat, the departure of several prominent leaders like Uma Bharati and Madanlal Khurana and the removal of L.K.Advani from the president’s post by the RSS, the Shiv Sena has suffered a split with the exit of the Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s nephew, Raj Thackeray, from the party and the decision of several of its well-known leaders like former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane to join the Congress.
However, that doesn’t mean that the hotheads in these parties will not try to provoke the Muslims, as the attack on a mosque in Surat by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal storm troopers on the day of the Mumbai tragedy showed.
To ensure that the situation does not spiral out of control, it is of the utmost importance for Muslim politicians and academics to come forward to clarify that the minuscule section of their co-religionists in India, who are involved in terrorism, are victims of Pakistani propaganda and are beyond the pale of mainstream Muslim society.
(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at [email protected])