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JANUARY 2001

MONTHLY    *    Vol 15-01 No:169    *   JANUARY 2001 / SHAWWAL 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

OPINION


BJP Agenda : It is all on the Board
A Talisman for Kashmir
Muslim Must Join : Mainstream of Activism

BJP Agenda

It is all on the Board

The curtains are off from the BJP and the Sangh Parivar agenda and the Prime Minister seeks to extricate himself by buying peace with the hardcore

Ahtesham Qureshy

THE recent debate in Parliament on the Ayodhya issue has once again revived the controversy, not so much on “how” the Babri Masjid was demolished, but “who” are the people responsible for the shameful incident. The Bharatiya Janata Party leadership as well as the Sangh Parivar have been deliberately trying to confuse the real issue by floating different versions such as the bomb theory by the RSS chief K. Sudarshan. These are mere red herrings.

The revival of Ayodhya agenda by the BJP signals Prime Minister’s bid to buy peace with the hardcore RSS lobby as well as a bid to consolidate its hold over upper castes in Uttar Pradesh

The debate came to an end with a humiliating defeat for the Vajpayee government when the Opposition motion was carried by 121 votes in favour and 86 against it. Since the defeat came about in Rajya Sabha, and not Lok Sabha, it did not have the effect of pulling down the government. But all the same, it carries the message that the Ram Mandir campaign was neither a national movement, nor an expression of national sentiment. It also lends weight to the demand that the three Central ministers, Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharati, should either resign or be dropped from the cabinet. The prime minister is patently wrong when he says that there are no charges against the three ministers. The fact is that they have been charged with criminal offence by the CBI in a court of law, and if the law follows its due course, they would stand trial to prove their innocence. It is a sacrilege to equate the Ram Mandir campaign with the national freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi. There could perhaps be no worse insult to the long-drawn independence movement and the sacrifices made by thousands of freedom fighters. How ridiculous! While the movement by lakhs of hard core Hindutva enthusiasts was aimed at pulling down an old masjid.

Can Advani deny that he had led the Rath Yatra in the late 80s? Is it his case that his actions and speeches did not arouse the sentiments of a section of Hindus? If his campaign was not aimed at building up a frenzy for replacing the Babri Masjid at its site with a bhavya (grand) Ram Mandir, then what else did it aim to achieve? And if an emotionally surcharged atmosphere was built up in the country, leading to the convergence of a huge mob of kar sevaks at the Babri Masjid site on December 6, 1992, to carry out the mission, then why a man of his public stature is now feeling shy of owning up the responsibility for all that he did with support of other BJP leaders of the ilk of Joshi and Bharti. The time must come for accountability for all those whose actions and inactions brought the country to the shame in December 1992. And this should include then Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao and his colleagues.

The Unfinished Innings, the memoirs written by Madhav Godbole, who was the union home secretary in 1992, make interesting disclosures about the failure of the Rao government to play its rightful role in stopping the damage aimed by the Sangh parivar. It is an insider’s story which tells us that during the two years preceding the demolition of the Masjid, no formal meeting of the union cabinet or its political affairs committee was held to consider the threat posed by the call of the BJP and the VHP.

The deliberate inaction reached its height in December 1992 when, after much reluctance Rao first gave his approval for sending three directors of police of the CRPF, to Faizabad to command action in order to stop the Kar Sevaks from causing damage to the Masjid. But then, suddenly, a message was sent by the PMO to three police chiefs to get down at Lucknow railway station and return to Delhi instead. The result was that the kar sevaks had no one to stop them from pulling down the masjid, despite the presence of a massive police force. The sinner was not Rao alone; the blame should equally go to the then home minister S. B. Chavan, who as the book tells us did not even care to carry important file to the prime minister. The inaction in fact facilitated an un-hindered execution of the plan by the BJP-VHP combine.

The defeat of the BJP Government in Rajya Sabha does indicate that the Nation refuses to endorse Ayodhya movement as a national movement and urges the three cabinet ministers to resign their postsWindow: Muslims must avoid confrontational course. Those who failed to protect the mosque cannot be trusted with their promise of rebuilding it

The debate and the carefully scripted statements made by Mr. Vajpayee have however made one thing quite clear; that the Ram Mandir mission is yet unfinished, and so far as the BJP is concerned, it has all the clear intentions of satisfying the “national desire” by getting the Ram Mandir built at the ruins of the Babri Masjid. Let us have no illusions about it. There is no hidden agenda now; it is all on the board.

The re-assertion of its position by the BJP government have a purpose behind it. One, there was a growing, though subtle as yet, threat to the position of Vajpayee with a clear signal that one day he could be replaced by Advani, the real representative of Hindutva. Vajpayee has sought to avert that threat by taking the hard RSS-BJP line on the issue so that he is no longer blamed for alienating a large section of Hindus from the BJP. And, secondly, it is aimed at having the right impact on the Hindu mind when it comes to assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in about a few months time.

UP is much more important for the BJP where it is surviving in power thanks to support of a dozen parties. The only purpose behind all this is to get back the support of a section of Hindus who were getting to believe that BJP has diluted its stand. It is crucial for the BJP to win a majority of its own in UP. It would not mind forgoing the token Muslims support it had begun attracting in lieu of consolidation of Hindus behind it.

It is also time for the Muslim community to make a cool introspection whether it was the right strategy to invite confrontation on the Babri Masjid dispute. Does the community stand to gain in the long run? They will have to get out of the emotional mould and start the new phase of life in independent India by living under the fear of riots, and a constant atmosphere of distrust. It led to a deep sense of insecurity, physical and otherwise. They got over this trauma after the 1971 Bangladesh War, when the Indo-Pak borders were sealed. Now, they say without fear that they are part of India, and that they do not need any one’s mercy for their security. They should not fall in the trap of those forces in the country who have widened the communal divide. They must shape their responses in a way that are conducive for social and economic development as equal partners in the stride.

So far as the Babri Masjid dispute is concerned, realism must prevail. Muslims should realise that the Babri Masjid stands demolished; those who failed to protect it cannot be trusted with the promise that it would be rebuilt. Narsimha Rao had made that hollow promise. No government is going to honour it. Muslims’ future lies in getting involved in removing their educational backwardness as a matter of priority. Their children should not only get educated, but should achieve excellence in various fields to be better equipped to face the challenges of life, individually and socially.

The author is a senior journalist and has earlier worked for The Hindustan Times, New Delhi for decades. 

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A Talisman for Kashmir

Mohammad Mujtaba Khan

THE cease-fire initiative of the Government of India during Ramadan against militancy in Kashmir is a welcome measure. The gesture has sent down a message of goodwill.

Although the Kashmir problem is a British game plan but the Pakistan’s invasion through tribals (Qabaili) hordes politicized it and left the Maharaja with no option but to seek help and accede to India in the wake of the partition of the sub-continent. Since then, the Muslim majority factor in the state became a trump card for Pakistan to give communal overtones to the issue and invoking Islam whenever and wherever it politically suited Pakistan. However, India under the stewardship of Jawaharlal Nehru remained committed to seeking a solution to the issue within India’s secular and plural-democratic framework. India was even prepared for a plebiscite in the region if it was devoid of religious considerations. The special status accorded to the Jammu and Kashmir in the Constitution with special provisions under Article 370 was a pragmatic attempt at preserving India’s communal harmony.

The ruling elite of Jammu and Kashmir always exploited the Central government’s threat perception to deny the people of the state their due in terms of development. This is also proved by the Kashmiri rulers to get even with those ruling the Centre, be they from the Congress or the BJP or any coalitional arrangement

The ruling elite of Kashmir fully utilized their special status with New Delhi and exploited India’s threat perception from Pakistan as a source of trouble in the state tactfully balancing the pro-Pakistan and pro-independence elements in the Valley. The fact that the Kashmiri leadership has always maintained a close alliance with the party in power in New Delhi- whether it is the Congress, the BJP or any coalitional combination- for nearly 50 years is proof enough that Kashmiris in general feel more secure and prosperous in remaining a part of India rather than acceding to Pakistan or maintaining an independent identity.

Curiously enough, a large portion of the funds from New Delhi to the state for ‘development purposes’ was accounted as a blessed source of corrupt income for the ruling elite while only a meagre portion was spared for the common weal. Consequently the gap between the ruling elite and the common people greatly widened, manifesting into unrest on the streets. This provided a fertile opportunity for Pakistan to play the religious card and add communal and anti-India flavour to the issue.

The exit of Nehru from the political scene gave a severe setback to India’s perspective on the Kashmir issue. His successors had neither his vision nor his approach. The events that ensued in the post-Nehruvian Congress rule — Turkaman Gate incident, events in Punjab, demolition of Babri Mosque — derailed the Congress from the path of secularism. The steady erosion of the Congress as a federal political force explains the validity and relevance of the Nehruvian political perspective of accommodation and communal harmony as an important tool of governance in a composite democracy like India.

It is a sad commentary that the past few years have witnessed a sharp rise in anti-Muslim propaganda on the agenda of Hindutva forces. The frequent howls from the so called tiger of Shiv Sena implicating every Muslim on the street as an ISI agent, the bizarre demonstration by the chaddi clad boys of Shiv Sena in front of Dilip Kumar’s house forcing him to surrender Nishan-e-Pakistan, culminated into further vitiation of the communal harmony to validate the two nation theory. And to top it, Huntington’s flawed formulation on “the clash of civilizations” added a catalytic flavour to communal disharmony. In this background, Pakistan’s ‘jihad’ strategy is to be seen as the latest move to fish in these troubled waters. A misperception is often shared in a section of Indian society that Indian Muslims in general have remained passive towards the Kashmir problem. As a matter of fact, Indian Muslims are not an apathetic lot to the issues of national concern and their stand on such issues mostly conforms to that of the government. Partly New Delhi is also responsible for such a perception of passivity. The Kashmir problem was kept confined to the Valley itself and no attempt of any sort was made to involve the community and take it into confidence at any stage. Moreover despite repeated suggestions not a single Muslim was sent to Srinagar as Governor. By and large, Indian Muslims, for socio-political and historical reasons normally prefer to remain politically inert. Although they are emotionally volatile, yet at the same time susceptible to strange limits of restraint. It is perhaps this inherent quality that failed to fully ignite them when the Babri mosque was demolished in broad daylight while the “secular” government in New Delhi remained a silent spectator. Ironically not a single Muslim Minister whether at the centre or any state ventured to at least express a feeling of resentment, if not resigned from his lucrative position!

The ceasefire initiative of the Government of India is indeed a fitting response to Pakistan’s ill-conceived Jihad campaign. It is a welcome move to expose to the world, particularly the OIC, the political strategy of Pakistan in the sub-continent to avenge the formation of Bangla Desh. Let it be known that Pakisan’s Jihad is causing more harm to the Muslims in India than serving their cause.

The Muslims in India are well aware of the plight of Muhajirin in Pakistan who are yet to receive acceptability in that society. Moreover, the deep ethnic conflicts in the Sindh region and the unstable polity are well noticed in the Valley. Under these circumstances Kashmiris can scarcely dream of being a part of Pakistan. There were failures on the part of India also mostly at the bureaucratic and political levels in dealing with the problems of Kashmiris. However these can always be corrected and rectified. What is urgently required is the creation of a congenial atmosphere for communal harmony in the country in general, which, unfortunately the Union Governments in the post-Nehru era failed to do. Nevertheless, winning over the confidence of the Kashmiris is an immediate necessity to demonstrate on the one hand the government’s renewed faith and commitment to the ideal of secularism and on the other, to combat obscurantist forces.

The Kashmiris have also shown an equally strong disillusionment with the role of the security forces. As a matter of fact, the security forces are largely responsible for shattering the confidence of common Kashmiris who felt caught and sandwiched between two varieties of terrorism- the militants’ and the security forces. In the backdrop of a pathetic scenario, the cease-fire offer from the Prime Minister is a positive step in the right direction. Although Indian press is full of unsatisfactory reports about the implementation of the cease-fire, the initiative has generated a general sense of optimism for the dawn of a lasting solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.

(The author teaches at the Department of Political Science in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.)  

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Muslim Must Join

Mainstream of Activism

Muslims should not keep away from groups that fight for the well being of the mainstream population.

Hasan Mansur

THE tragedy of the Muslim community lies in its abysmal ignorance of the environment in which it lives. Never in the history of free India has it known the precarious state in which it finds itself. When there is an effort to distort history, subvert the meaning of faith and define culture and nationalism to connote parochial and partisan and perverse meanings, the Muslim intelligentsia must be most alert and act with clarity and conviction, not be caught napping when calamity strikes. Social activism that arises from issues that affect all the poor and marginalised irrespective of faith, caste, region, language etc, brings together all the impoverished on one platform that seeks social justice and the right to live with dignity. This is where the mainstream lies and Muslim youth and intelligentsia must be an inalienable part of it.

Here it is necessary to recall where the Muslim youth and intelligentsia have to be in the forefront. A crucial issue like the sinister bid to review the Constitution that threatens the status of minority rights and pave the way to the Uniform Civil Code and erodes the freedom of conscience and religion has evoked little interest in the country. In protests against this review, Muslim presence has been most insignificant.

There will be held census in 2001 but till now there has been no mention of caste except the column for SC/ST. The absence of BC is a denial of Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution that has special provisions for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes; this information is essential for reservations in professional courses and for representation in Central and state legislatures and in state services. Sections of Muslims that stand to gain under this Article have not joined the BCs of other communities in the campaign for these rights.

The Sangh Parivar is engaged in a vicious campaign against Christians. There have been killings of the latter, their Holy Books and chruches desecrated and yet regretfully Muslims who have been victims of genocidal slaughter have not stood by their Christian brothers and sisters. Dalits who have been victims of Manuvada from times immemorial have consistently stood by Muslims but it is sad to witness there is no reciprocal sentiment forthcoming from the Muslim community.

There is the campaign against globalisation; Dr. Sheik Ali, the renowned historian, quoted Tipu Sultan’s, “Flag follows trade” and went to say, “the benefit of liberalisation accrued only to a small section of society. A culture and a civilisation could not be invigroated from the top, but from the grassroots which is where the masses lived. Urbanisation would lead to growth of slums, which reflected social inequality. Creating more wealth would cause great social disparities.... Liberalisation and globalisation is a new form of colonialism. The cultural impact of the West through television bringing images of violence, consumerism and gender injustice is a part of the globalisation process. Muslims must combat this pernicious influence too with others.

Restoring peace and amity between Pakistan and India is a priority and the first step is to fight communalism in both lands. Overcoming prejudices will lead to lessening of tensions too. This is also a campaign against militarisation, particularly nuclearisation, because phenomenal sums spent on armaments should go into social welfare, specially on literacy, jobs, shelter, health etc which most people in both lands need most. Muslim youth must join this campaign along with their brothers and sisters of other communities. Besides, there are campaigns against price rise, privatisation of education, hospitals etc, displacement of people by big dams, all these call for social activism and Muslims must be a part and parcel of these.

All these issues outlined above have a grave impact on the lives of the majority of people that social activism must address itself and Muslim youth and intelligentsia must be in the vanguard of these struggles that constitute the mainstream and forces of revanchism arising from a medieval mindset must be stemmed so that India of pluralistic democratic culture could prevail.

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