By M. Zajam,
India and Indians hold West and especially USA in highest regards. We always look westward for appreciations, recognitions and ideas. Any appreciation received from the West especially USA is much valued here. We are so much influenced by the USA that now every major policy decision is taken keeping USA view in mind. During recent Obama’s India visit, India media debated whether Obama will use the “K” word or not and his opinion about the India candidature to US security council permanent seat.
Wikileaks has placed few US diplomatic cables originated from India in public domain. These cables have brought discomfort to Congress and BJP. But surprisingly a few leaked cables have brought relief to Indian Muslims. This cable was sent by David Mulford to US State Department in December 2005.
“India’s over 150 million Muslim population is largely unattracted to extremism. Separatism and religious extremism have little appeal to Indian Muslims, and the overwhelming majority espouse moderate doctrines.”
“With Indian Muslim youth increasingly comfortable in the mainstream, the pool of potential recruits is shrinking, while Muslim families and communities provide little sanction or support to extremist appeals.”
“Islamic extremism is not popular in India and most adults are not interested. This forces extremists to pitch to young and naive audiences who may be more amenable.”
Above view expressed by former US ambassador about Indian Muslim’s rejection of extremism and is quite contrary to image portrayed by right wing parties and certain section of media.
Earlier bomb blasts were blamed blindly on Muslims and innocent Muslim youths were locked up. Whole community and religion was blamed for either supporting terror activities or not doing enough to stop it. Few parties and organization held the notion that “all Muslims are not terrorist but all terrorists are Muslim.”
It took some time for Muslim community to get grasp of the situation. Muslim community and religious leaders campaigned actively to change the perception and isolate any extremist element in the community. They held close to 40 anti-terror rallies all over the country and issued fatwa denouncing terrorism. The massive public gatherings in May 2008 at the Ramlila Grounds of Delhi and in November 2008 in Hyderabad have helped in mobilising the Muslim masses against terrorism. Imams at the local Masjids also got involved actively in this task and spread the message of peace. Community themselves initiated neighborhood watch schemes to keep unwanted elements out.
George Bush reportedly introduced Manmohan Singh to his wife, Laura, as “the prime minister of India, a democracy which does not have a single Al Qaida member in a population of 150 million Muslims”.
USA was convinced about Indian Muslim rejection of terrorism but Indian leaders and media were not. We never heard these encouraging words from Indian leaders or even intellectuals. None of them came out and vouched for Muslim’s integrity. Muslims were left to fight these twin battles all alone, one was to counter the propaganda and other to isolate extremist element in the community.
Earlier, all the blasts were blamed on extremist Muslims but 2008 Malegaon blast changed it all. Malegaon blast investigations led to extremist Hindu groups. Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Purohit are the main accused. After their arrests all right wing parties and group like RSS, VHP, Hindu Mahasabha and Shiv Sena came out openly in their favour. BJP President at that time Rajnath Singh declared “those believing in cultural nationalism cannot ever take to terror”. BJP Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani forcefully took up the alleged torture case of the Malegaon blast suspects, Lt Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya with PM Manmohan Singh. After this, National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan, along with Intelligence Bureau chief P.C Halder, called on Advani at his residence with all the evidence of Malegaon Blast case which Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) led by Hemant Karkare was investigating.
A TV channel broke the story of extremist Hindu group plot to target Vice-President Hamid Ansari and planning an underground outfit to kill Muslims. The channel was attacked by the RSS workers. RSS initially accused the opposition and the media for conspiring and targeting Hindu leaders and saffron-robed sanyasis” and now they maintain that terror and religion should not be mixed and the word Saffron terror should not be used.
“India’s Muslim population is estimated to be as large as 150 million (the second largest in the world after Indonesia), and suffers from higher rates of poverty than most other groups in India, and can be the victims of discrimination and prejudice. Despite this, the vast majority remain committed to the Indian state and seek to participate in mainstream political and economic life.”
This observation comes when Indian Muslims are asked to prove their loyalty to India time and again. This clearly shows that inspite of abject poverty and discrimination, Indian Muslims faith on Indian state is unshaken.
Right wing parties and organization continue to blame the government for minority appeasement. It was difficult to understand what kind of appeasement brought Muslims to become worse than dalits, who have faced discrimination for thousands of years.
Muslims continue to use the legal and political means to address their economic and social problems. They have high hopes from government, judiciary and media. They have used legitimate means like protest rallies,signature campaigns and legal route to press for their demands be it implementation of Sachar Committee report, Babri Masjid demolition case, Batla House encounter, detention of innocent youths, demand for reservation or other demands. Whereas Jat had cut off water supply of Delhi and threatened to block supply of vegetable, food and milk to press for their demand of reservation. Jats even threatened to to disrupt the Commonwealth Games if their demands were not met. Gujjars in Rajsthan blocked and disrupted the main rail routes and roads for days demanding reservation. Other marginalized section have taken up arms in form of Naxalism. PM Manmohan Singh termed naxalism as “The single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country”. Naxals are active in around 200 districts of India. They claim to represent the most oppressed people in India, those who are often left untouched by India’s development and bypassed by the electoral process. Invariably, they are the Adivasis, Dalits, and the poorest of the poor, who work as landless labourers for a pittance, often below India’s mandated minimum wages. Thousand of Indian lost their life in this battle including 76 CRPF jawans, who lost their life in deadliest single strike against government forces in April 2010. Right from political leaders, intellectuals to religious leaders have sympathized with the naxalites.
“The Indian media has published colorful stories implying that Madrassas are recruiting centers for Islamic terrorism and that many are funded by Pakistan’s ISI.”
“The accounts are mostly anecdotal, however, and there has been little or no hard evidence linking Indian Madrassas to terrorist recruitment.”
This observation also breaks the myth propagated by certain section of Media and right wing parties. During NDA regime, Madrasa were the targets with L K Advani taking the lead in the attack. He as Home Minister had termed the Madarasa as breeding ground of extremism and dens of Pakistani espionage and training ground for the terrorists
“Attempts by extremist groups to recruit children from Muslim homes are likely to run into a wall of opposition from parents who would see involvement in extremism as counterproductive and a threat to future success of their children. This means that extremism is most attractive to children from families that are so poor that opportunities for education and advancement are all but non-existent.”
It is the fact the poor are most vulnerable to extremist groups. Though majority of Muslim population living in abject poverty they have manage to keep these groups at bay. This shows that inspite of living in hopelessness they have faith on Indian government and system.
Muslims have continued to be loyal and proud citizen of India. It is high time that their loyalty test is put to an end. Few members of other communities who are much better off are indulged in all kinds of anti-national activities like corruptions, scams, siphoning off money to Switzerland, tax evasion, adulteration of milk and food, hording and making spurious drugs, but their loyalty are never in doubt. Their actions are taking India down the slope.
Hopefully this US convictions reflected on this cable will help Muslims in regaining some credibility which they lost during smear campaigning. Their loyalty test will be over for once and all. It is imperative that Muslims are not kept away from the development. Inclusive growth will be the real growth for India. Muslims have no doubt in their mind about their Indianness and they just want others also to not to doubt. Politicians, intellectuals and media need to work towards undoing the damage done by malicious campaigning against Indian Muslim. Muslims are ever hopeful, optimistic and faithful, now it is turn of the government to pass this faith test.