May 31, 2008 must rank as a very consequential day in modern Indian history.
Indeed, it might be said, in modern Muslim history as well.
On that day, in a public gathering at Delhi’s historic Ramlila grounds, hundreds of thousands, mainly Muslims, received a fatwa from the Darul Uloom, Deoband—a seminary that played a leading role in India’s secular anti-colonial freedom movement—declaring terrorism "un-Islamic."
Considering the fact that the gravest provocations notwithstanding, Indian Muslims—the second largest in the world—have remained aloof from terrorism, the question might be asked as to why the need for such a fatwa was felt in the first place.
One reason clearly was to make it known to the nation at large what seminaries teach their students in private confines—that the Koran explicitly forbids the killing of a single innocent human being, of any faith whatsoever, equating such killing with the murder of all humankind.
A second: to send a message to the state and its agencies, as well as sections of the media and civil society, that Muslims do not take kindly to the frequent use of the term "Islamic terrorism."
The point was made that whereas the terrorism of the IRA, the Mizos and the Nagas was never called Christian terrorism, or of the LTTE and the ULFA Hindu terrorism, or of the Khalistanis as Sikh terrorism, or of the Irgun and Stein gangs as Jewish terrorism, the term "Islamic terrorism" could only be understood as a political currency floated by imperialists abroad and their collaborators in India who seek single-mindedly to destabilize western Asia and the Middle East inorder to install puppet regimes there and obtain control of the oil wealth of the region.
It is to be remembered that of the forty or so groups designated "terrorist organizations" by the Indian state, only six have Islamic nomenclatures.
Indeed, it has been obvious for sometime that those who persist with the "Islamic" nomenclature ("all muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are muslims," never mind that the gravest acts of terror in post-independence India have been perpetrated by non-muslims, namely the murders of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, and Rajive Gandhi) have but objective in mind. This is to keep in place the convergence of the interests of communal" nationalism" inIndia and of global anti-muslim imperialism. Communalism and terrorism are thus sought to be deployed inseparably as a hegemonic strategy to alter the character both of the Indian Republic and the World Order at large.
Thus a concomitant objective of the Deoband initiative must be to defang majoritarian fascists whose political well-being has for decades now rested on keeping alive the myth that India’s muslims are not good enough nationalists because their primary loyalty remains allied to the muslim ummah worldwide.
Remarkably, no questions are asked when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (Global Hindu Organisation) worries day in and day out about the fate of Hindus in all corners of the world. It might be noted that the collapse of the Hindu state and monarchy in Nepal has caused less hurt to the people inside Nepal, more to the imperialists in America and theVHP/RSS/BJP in India! Or, at the fact that millions of dollars are received by these organizations—all unaccounted—from Hindu NRIs in America and elsewhere in the West purely for the purpose of refurbishing temple trusts and the political prospects of India’s Hindus qua Hindus.
And far be it for anyone to question why Jews globally should be willing to stake everything for the well-being of the Zionist state in faraway Israel.
Yet, Indian muslims are advised to suppress whatever opinions they may have with regard to a predominantly muslim Iraq, Iran and so forth—all in their own good interests (see Harish Khare, Indian Muslims and their Linkages, The Hindu, June 6, ’08). Truly a communal argument unbeknown to the writer, it would seem. Ergo, it may be alright for non-Muslim Indians to pronounce on those matters, but not for Indian Muslims, since they would immediately run the risk of being branded "terrorist sympathizers". Expressing a middle-class, centrist view of the matter, Khare—a political commentator who has generally stood out for his sensitivity and perspicacity—goes on to further advise Indian Muslims to be wary of those "progressive" elements in India’s polity and political system whose "ability" or "intention" to help Indian Muslims out of their "ghettoized existence" is to him questionable.
Simple correction to that view: it is majoritarian communalism, expressed variously through hate-filled propaganda and brutal killings, and the failure of the state to be non-partisan that keeps Indian Muslims "ghettoized", not "progressive" thinking among Indian secularists. Misjudging that reality, even if for a well-intentioned purpose, is fraught with implications that everyone had better understand.
The fact is that the painful ferment among the world’s Muslims has more than one simple cause.
There are of course those who wish to establish Islamic theocratic states worldwide. So that their "anti-imperialism" is at bottom a fake one, wishing to replace one regime of tyranny with another. This falange is then properly understood as one that remains unreconciled to the fruits of modernity and liberalism—ideological archives of which secularism is an integral component.
But there are those as well who have been fighting what are essentially "nationalist" struggles against a so-called globalization which seeks essentially to neuter the sovereignty of states. The justification for this sort of struggle can be found dime a dozen in the ravages and betrayals effected by western powers in vast swathes of the Middle East, South-East Asia, and South Asia, and indeed of Africa. Not to speak of South America where most countries have already defeated the hegemony of the imperialists.
A third cause that is the one germane to a country like India has to do with the relegation of Muslims from the due rights of equal citizenship and opportunities thereof.
That such relegation is an Indian fact has been eloquently testified to and enumerated at least by two high-powered government Commissions—the Gopal Singh and Sachar Reports.
The dastardly trick, however, employed by the Hindu-right has been to pooh pooh the reality and substance of such relegation, to propagate that catering to findings that establish it is tantamount to "appeasement," and, most sinister of all, to deflect such relegation towards the wholly unsubstantiated polemics that in fact Indian Muslims fall within the first category of Islamic oppsition—one that has the objective of turning India into a theocratic Islamic state.
Thus Hindus are everyday reminded that if Muslims continue to be allowed polygamy, a day is not far when the demographic profile of the country will be reversed, to wit, when Muslims will grow from their current 14 or so percent of the total population to being some 80 percent or so—namely the current strength of the Indian non-Muslim population.
Before you laugh at that, you must pause and note that wide sections of middle-class Hindus, chiefly among the educated, propertied upper castes, lend willing allegiance to that fear! A stock on which the BJP has been basing its venomous anti-Muslim politics ever since its first beginnings in the Jana Sangh.
Now that two concomitant facts are to the fore—the multiple axes of Muslim relegation, and the open and public denouncement of terrorism by the most influential of Muslim clerics and seminaries—the major planks of Hindu right-wing communal politics must be deemed to be faced with some roadblocks.
And yet, all this may come to nothing for one simple but, in the end, all-important reason. Namely, the will of the state and its agencies, especially the law-enforcement ones, to heed these facts and developments.
Hurt by some repeated calls on behalf of various political segments that the best thing for India would be for the two major national parties, the Congress and the BJP, to join hands in the governance of the realm, an argument that encapsulates the ruling-class desire to see a two-party system enshrined wherein both parties equally cater to the interests of the fat-cats, an articulate and civilized spokesman of the Congress party, Abhishekh Singhvi, (see Never the Twain Shall Meet, Hindustan Times, june 4, ’08) has posed the question whether the visions of a Hedgewar and Golwalkar on the RSS/BJP side and of a Gandhi and Nehru on the Congress can ever be reconciled.
It is indeed the key question to ask. Yet, it also remains a frustrating reality that whereas the Congress continues to project a socially inclusive, secular vision, its doings have been repeatedly found wanting where it has concerned the injustices meted out to the Muslims.
A long story this, but just three recent instances will suffice to underline the point:
One, when the Babri mosque was set upon by fascist hordes of the majority community in 1992, the then Congress Prime Minister remained somnambulant throughout the day-long proceedings of wanton assault. Indeed, it is well-known that he was popularly referred to as the first BJP prime minister of India; and a chief accused in that mayhem, Lal Kishen Advani, continues to strut the stage and aspire to be the next prime minister of India.
Two, post the riots in the then Bombay, following upon the demolition of the mosque, wherein some seven hundred muslims were butchered, the findings and recommendations of the Srikrishna Commissions which courageously named culprits in high places, such as Bal Thackeray, have remained in limbo despite the promises made by the Congress to bring the guilty to book; where prosecutions have taken place, chiefly of low-level hoodlums, the accused have been found not-guilty, ostensibly for want of evidence, but truly because of a total absence of will either to find the evidence or to press a credible prosecution.
Third, no recent pogrom against Muslims has blown apart the secular credentials and credibility of the Congress as conclusively as the Gujarat massacre of 2002.
As the mayhem went on for three whole days, taking the life of the Congress’s own Member of Parliament, Ehsaan Jaffri, the party both in the state and at the national level found itself paralysed into a complicit submission.
Those, therefore, who tend to see the BJP and the Congress, at bottom, as a tweedledom and a tweedledee may not be much blamed. After all there has to be a reason why the country’s law-enforcement forces remain deeply infected by the communal virus, or why Congress dispensations one after the other have sought to do precious little either to rectify that social reality or to enact other police reforms conducive to credible and non-discriminatory policing. As the Sachar report points out, the percentage of Muslims in such law-enforcement agencies remains a pittance primarily because they are not trusted to be any part of law-enforcement.
Suffice it to say that the agonized introspections of Indian Muslims notwithstanding, or the scale of the latest Uloom initiative conducted in a massive public meeting in broad daylight, unless the state, now led by the secular UPA, shows the will and the verifiable conviction to translate policy initiatives into implemented programmes on the ground, all this may not come to much.
It remains a sorrowful and damaging fact of Congress history that, however it may protest, it does willy nilly come to see India’s Hindus as a vote-bank much as the BJP.
This fundamental failure to conduct politics on the ground of non-discriminatory citizenship and to fight electoral battles on those principles continues to play into the hands of the Hindu right-wing.
It is to be much hoped that the historic event at Ramlila grounds can lend to India’s secular parties the inspiration to take the communal right-wing head-on, just as one hopes that secular citizens across communities can find it in themselves to become the bedrock of a new configuration of humanism and fairplay.
Were it to happen that the state fails to rise to the momumental initiative taken by India’s Muslims in publicly denouncing terrorism, the consequences can indeed be distressing in the extreme.
Conversely, can it be expected that an Advani-led BJP will answer the Deoband call in equal measure, and in a similar public meeting declare a new covenant—that the majoritarian right-wing will henceforth abjure all recourse to minority-bashing, to hate-agendas, to the the communal poison taught little kids in shishu mandirs and ekal vidyalas (schools run by the RSS in the thousands that routinely teach an anti-muslim bigotry), to "Islamic terrorism" and the demand for draconian laws, and support nationalist movements that seek to thwart the hegemony of militarist imperialism?
Will the leopard change his spots? Time and the consolidation or otherwise of the secular forces within the polity and of fairplay on behalf of the state alone will tell.
But kudos to the new leadership initiative that makes these introspections possible