//Demonizing the Muslim Community in India

Demonizing the Muslim Community in India

By Shahid Raza Burney, Arab News

PUNE, 23 September 2006 – It has become fashionable in India, the world's largest democracy, for the government to launch campaigns that institutionally demonize the country's Muslim community. They are labeled as terrorists and unpatriotic and their religion is described as one that breeds terror.

When police, rightly or wrongly, arrest Muslims in relation to bomb blasts, such news is given bold headlines; it is featured on the front pages of all newspapers and television channels title it as breaking news. However, the Indian media reacts differently when Hindu fanatics or militants are arrested for carrying out terror activities. The attitude of blaming Muslims for everything, and shielding Hindu fanatics, appears to be a common psyche in India – an attitude similar to that of the pot that describes the kettle black.

It should not be that all Muslims and all Hindus for that matter are terrorists. Stories of terrorism need to be objectively scrutinized. Who knows how many innocent Muslims out of the 123 arrested following the 1993 Bombay serial blasts or from those arrested in relation to this year's train blasts will be acquitted. The question certainly remains how these people, who have gone to hell and back and suffered torture and humiliation at the hands of the police, will be compensated for the valuable years they have lost during incarceration.

For instance, the vast majority of fair-minded people from across all communities are demanding answers as to why the family of Iqbal Haspatel of Shrivardhan in Raigad district of Maharashtra, were cruelly tortured.

Maruti Shankar Maheshgauri, the former deputy inspector general of police, found that Raigad police had framed baseless charges against Iqbal and his family and brutally tortured him and his son. Behind the brutality was the former head of Raigad police, T.S. Bahal (now deputy inspector general of police), and his deputy, Chandrashekhar Daithankar (now deputy commissioner of police in Pune).

What Iqbal suffered was disgusting. He was made to stand naked in front of his daughter-in-law, who was forced to do disgraceful acts with her father-in-law as police officers mercilessly looked on. This is the brutal sexual torture that India's minority citizens have to face. As a result, police officers were suspended and then shortly later reinstated. To add to the fallacy of the case, Iqbal was charged with possessing rockets – in reality the supposed "rockets" were merely weaving spindles that were found at his home in a police raid following the 1993 Bombay blasts.

It may come as a surprise to many people that there are also Hindus who commit acts of terror. Their story hardly ever even comes into the media. This week, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad arrested two terrorists from the Bajrang Dal, a right-wing Hindutva militant organization. Yogesh Maruti Wagh and Ravindra Deshpande, both from Nanded district, were arrested by the ATS in connection with a bomb blast that took place in Nanded on April 6 this year. The bomb had gone off while it was being manufactured, killing two Hindu terrorists and injuring 12 others.

Speaking of the arrest of the two Bajrang Dal terrorists, ATS chief K.P. Raghuvanshi said that the ATS arrested Wagh and Deshpande after they were discharged from hospital, where they had gone following injuries sustained during the blasts.

Interestingly, the ATS officials said that even though activists from the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are under surveillance in relation to the Bombay and Malegaon bomb blasts, the ATS is also questioning members of the Bajrang Dal.

An ATS official also said that they were on the look out for the financier and the brain behind the conspiracy to explode bombs at Muslim religious places in Parbhani, a town in Maharashtra.

The official added that they were interested in identifying the mastermind who was using the Bajrang Dal militants to manufacture bombs and carry out acts of terrorism. However, another ATS official said that during the interrogation of the arrested Bajrang Dal members, it was revealed that Naresh Rajkondwar, who died when the bomb being manufactured exploded, was the mastermind behind all the blasts.

The ATS is also probing bomb explosions outside the Mohammedi Mosque in Parbhani, another mosque in the Central Avenue area of Nagpur, a mosque in Jalna and another mosque in Purna. It is suspected that all of the explosions were the handiwork of Hindu militants. There is also a tendency for the explosions to occur outside mosques after Friday noon prayers.

Sanjay Chaudhary told ATS police how he had been assisted by Wagh and Deshpande to manufacture bombs during a narco-analysis and brain-mapping test in Bangalore. According to the ATS, Rajkondwar and his friend Himanshu Panse were the two men who died in Nanded when bombs exploded during manufacturing. Both were the office-bearers of the Bajrang Dal unit in Nanded. ATS officials also said that they had also questioned a chemical supplier who revealed the quantity and make of chemicals that were supplied by him to the Hindu militants.

ATS officials said that those who were arrested and those who were killed were Hindu militants who had been trained in connecting devices, timers, switches on detonators and using gunpowder on the outskirts of Nanded.

On discovering all this, the question remains why the anti-terror police only targets Muslims as terrorists and then actively brush the activities of Hindu militants under the carpet? If Muslims are allegedly causing blasts and responsible for terror, then so are the Hindus. Why blame the Muslims alone for terrorism. What about the Hindus?

It is perfectly true when it is said that terrorism has no religion. There are terrorists in Japan, Ireland, Cambodia, Sudan, France, UK and Sri Lanka who are not Muslims, but Christians, Communists, Tamilians and Buddhists. So to tag a particular religion with the epithet of terrorism is absurd by all standards. What is also absurd is the way in India Hindu terrorists are not exposed due to the media and the government wanting to keep the reality hidden.

To conclude that the entire Indian government machinery is biased or that all people are partial would be unfair and an incorrect conclusion. Had that been the case, the Anti-Terrorist Squad would not have arrested and exposed Hindu terrorists, as it has done now. When will it be that India truly lives up to being a secular democracy and extend the same considerations to all its citizens regardless of culture, religion and ethnicity?

Source: Arab News, Jeddah