Of Religious Rights
Is A Challenge To Democratic
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Immediately after the Delhi bomb blast, the police as usual, claimed to have cracked the case by arresting several people in a raid at Batla House, in the South Delhi's Jamia Nagar area. Vice Chancellor of Jamia Milia Islamia, Mushir-ul-Hasan, who was seen to be a villain in the community on his forthright comment on the prohibition of ' Satanic Verses', became a hero as soon as he decided that the University would provide all the legal assistance to the alleged terrorists who were student of the University. While 'seculars' have applauded the case, the Hindutva affiliates are up in arm against this, terming it unconstitutional as well as appeasement of the Muslims.
I am not entering into this debate on what is right and what is wrong as some people have decided to become judgmental terming one community always wrong while other always feel that it is victimized without introspecting our own self. Prof. Mushirul Hasan recently said in a meeting in Delhi as why should Muslim always be answerable to everything that is happening around them. He was actually saying that why do we expect Muslims only to react when there are bomb blasts or there is a Fatwa. His question was that the debate liberal verses fundamentalist Muslims is a sham and nobody ever think of other communities in the same way. Have we ever talked of a liberal Hindu verses communal one? That question would not arise as the upper caste Hindus are always perceived to be liberal one. Prof Hasan suggests as why should Muslims in India be responsible for whatever happening elsewhere? Ofcourse, Muslims of India are not responsible for whatever is happening in Bangladesh, Pakistan or any other 'Islamic' country but definitely they can speak against the treatment that minorities gets in these countries. Let us not speak about ordinary Muslim who is working harder for his survival in this country but why should those who champion the cause of Muslims remain mute to such things. Are we so naïve to say that there is nothing common in South Asia and we remained neutral to things happening in our neighborhood even when majority of us have relations in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan as well as Sri-Lanka. If the things in our neighbors do not affect us then Karunanidhi and entire Tamilnadu should not have felt the jitters because of the conditions of Tamils prevailing in Sri-Lanka.
Now, the debate revolves around the students who were picked up by the police as well as the encounter that was carried out by the Delhi police in Batla House. It is extremely unfortunate that today's embedded media do not give the other side of the story. This CNNisation of the news and later pontification by the editors on their own story is a bit too much to digest. Much worst is the case when 'breaking news' appears and a reporter gets 'confession' from the 'terrorist'. If we accept police confessions as the proof then why the Indian media and agencies are afraid of not accepting the same when an Indian prisoner in Pakistan confessed his hand in bombing.
Unfortunately, we are in the midst of an information war. Whether it is the Islamic sites or the Hindu fascists, every one is speaking to their own converts. And the biggest casualty here is the truth and freedom. Fact of the matter is that in this game of religious war, the common man, the poor and the women are at the receiving end. All talks of reforms are closed down as the main threat is then perceived from outside the community.
It is unfortunate that a legal aid given to a person is considered against the nation. One can disagree on the nature of support but one can not deny right to defense to those 'alleged terrorists'. Ofcourse, I would hate it if people like Mulayan, Advani and Amar Singh jumps into the fray and sing the chorus. The political degeneration of the country is so much that none is going to believe in the truth. Hence every community should be vary of these power hungry politicians who are selling the country to the private parties, engineering communal and caste riots and then coming with great ideas for a secular idea. Sorry, in the state of affair, the credibility of our political class is so low that it gives strength to fundamentalist forces as they appear better than others. People easily ignore that corruption and dishonesty is not just in financial term but also in the ideological form.
As the elections season approaches we will witness continuous violence against the minorities in the country. Muslims are already in the receiving end and now the Christians are also being targeted systematically. The Hindutva propagandists have planned every thing well in advance and how to describe each of their action which has one agenda in different forms. The Muslims therefore are easily described as 'terrorists', suited to each one of us in India after George Bush's notorious Islamic Fascism and ' either with us or our enemy' statements. Christians, the blue eyed boy of Indian establishment are now at the receiving end. Despite churning out best Brahmins of the Hindutva brand today, the Christians face the dilemma of the political system in India. Surely, evangelism is part of Christianity but definitely there will always be violence on such cases as Hindutva's targeting Christians is a threat to freedom and liberty of choosing one's faith. It threaten the Dalits indirectly to be ware of such conversion to either to Christianity or Islam, else you will meet with the same fate.
Yet, Orissa's violence can undoubtedly be termed as ethnic cleansing of the Christian minorities. That Sangh's goons are roaming around, preaching hatred and killing people at their will shows how the Navin Patnayak's administration has failed to protect the hapless Christians who happened to be Dalits. The Sangh parivar and its offshoot organizations have organized their hatred in the tribal dominated areas. From the very beginning the Sangh says that Lakshmananda was not killed by the Maoists despite their claim. Ofcourse, most of those who have been following such violence know that Maoists rarely make such claims and counter claim and in this case their claims are also surprising. Nevertheless, the government of Orissa's pathetic helplessness reflects a mindset which gives an almost free hand to RSS and its affiliates to do things at their will.
Union Home Minister Shiv Raj Patil and his two colleagues have been miserable for the country. Patil had lost his Latur seat and was awarded the plum ministry for his loyalty to Gandhi family. If he was an efficient man, nobody would have objected to his cooption in the Ministry but he seems to be a Minister for nothing. Such sensitive department can not be left to just personal loyalists as country would have to pay a price for it.
If the home ministry had been strong enough to take action in each of these issues, the Sangh Parivar and its goons could not have got such freedom to assault any one at their will. Patil represent at best the duality of Congress party in dealing with the communal elements. Congress, which actually was a representative body of a majority of diverse Indian communities once upon a time despite its Brahmanical character slid in the decimation after 1980s as Indira Gandhi started using the upper caste Hindu sentiments and the first call was Congress's role in subsequent elections in Jammu and Kashmir and then operation Blue Star in June 1984, when the government ordered Army assault at the Harmandir Saheb. It mobilized the Hindu population of the country despite the fact that Sikh were completely marginalized. None had bothered to wipe the tears of those Sikh families who became victim of this marginalization.
But the rulers have understood well that by making mockery of law and vilifying one community, you can easily come close to power and therefore there is always a danger in India which is the entry of brahmanical supremacy through various doors. Through, the Hindutva propaganda and vicious violence against minorities, through the congress in action which allow the Hindutva lunatics to carry on their threat to minorities and Congress than proclaiming their sole protector and thirdly, through the state apparatus which has completely been Hinduised in the name of terrorism and goes by the same way as have inherited from the British and finally through secular platform which look different from Congress but a motley group of disgruntled politicians mainly from the upper caste Hindu background, secularism for whom means sitting with an Imam Bukhari or some Holy priests who can cry against the Indian state and the government of the day . Secularism has other vanguards also in India. Whenever these things happen, we see the same faces at one platform swearing in the name of secularism and protecting 'minorities'. Deve Gowda, the other day, said how much pained he was on the happenings against the minorities. One should have asked him the question if he had thought beyond his son's interest in Karnataka state, BJP would not have played havoc with them. Yeren Naidu was there who had no words for the Sangh parivar and their activist. Rather, his focus was how Congress had engineered communal riots in Andhra. Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh are now the biggest champion of secularism as Bombay's king Bal Thackeray has asked for a ban on Samajwadi party and asking Amar Singh to leave India. Amar Singh's greatest friend and brother Amitabh Bachchan is one of the best friends of the Thackrays so one does not know what kind of ideology they belong to. So far, Indian secularism has always been of pampering communities through bad examples like issue of terrorism, uniform civil code, Shariat and so on. None of them have time to feel that secularism is participation in nation building and socio-cultural political life of the country. And therefore, any one who believes in secularism, must feel convinced that Muslims are one of the most vulnerable communities in India at the moment. A majority of them live in poverty, malnutrition and deep insecurity. There is a hidden biasness against them in the government and even in the secular circles. If the secular parties were so much concern including Mr Mulayam Singh and Deve Gowda, they should have been more worried about the common Muslims and not with the issues of giving certificate who is a terrorist and who is not. Instead, one would have thanked to ensure fair participation of Muslims in our administration, in police and paramilitary forces, in our industries as well as civil services. Alas, our politician would never venture to think as why Muslim participation in our power structure is reducing and that it need redressed. As long as this happen, only the caste Hindus will be the leaders of Muslims in the name of secularism and those Muslims who do not believe in these fundamentalist leaders will either be termed as liberals or terrorists.
India's basic problem lies in this certification of what is terrorism and what is not. While the Advani and company want every Muslim to be arrested and hanged for the 'blasphemy' of challenging the Indian state, the Indian 'secular' parties and political activists, seems to have lost faith in the political structure. And in this, the fundamentalist grains the most because those who do not believe in democracy and secular values are actually the biggest beneficiary of the secular state.
The threat to Indian statehood is bigger and vital but the response has been mute and reactionary. Rather than proactive, it is becoming more in the form of symbols and so called unity of all the reactionaries who are outside the brahmancial reactions. So, it is becoming a fight between the Hindu reactionaries and all other reactionaries who do not like them. Can India survive a fight between different reactionaries? Where will be the common person and her interest? All these reactionaries are opposed to basic human rights, whether right to livelihood, right to choice and right to abort. They preach gospels and are against individual freedom and right to question religion.
Yes, these reactionaries only feed each other. They cry against the other except questioning their own misdeeds. The state of India has become a virtual enslave to these religious heads. It would have been greater if the Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Sikhs, Christians demand for secular laws and secular values san the fundamentalist leaders. The longer the leadership goes to the religious fanatics pretending peace mongers, the more dangerous the entire issue of diversity. These priests actually do not fight a political battle but a battle of religious supremacy. They know the weaknesses of others but not ready to discuss their own issues. They scuttle all kind of reforms with in the communities and therefore this war of various religious identities in India is going to defeat people's movement for reform. Secular groups must be vary of this and join hand in such a war where a common man can challenge the religious head of the community and even question him.
The other day, a few members of the catholic community met at Advani's house. Some of them 'discussed' the growing tension between different religious and the answer was Advani's condemnation of the rape of the nun. Are things so simple as our priests think? The goons of Sangh Parivar have been active in Orissa and they need to be tackled administratively by the government but here the Christian priests showing their spine to Advani and he in term is talking a dialogue between different communities. The problem is what is an administrative problem has been made a national problem and an ideological fight on the secular vision is completely been termed as communal problem. The hoodlums of the Hindutva are roaming free, taking course of action which they like and finally the political patronage.
It is important to understand the current crisis in India is self created by the Hindutva protagonists which in turn strengthen the similar forces elsewhere as the religious heads take over as the leader of the community. Now, one should ask the government what is the need to discuss about what happened in Adilabad. A shameful and most atrocious incident happened in Andhra Pradesh when a Muslim family of six was burnt alive by the Hindu militants and nothing happened. It is tragic that the government seems to be sleeping and the incidents just passed as we see so much from the secular gangs about Batla house simply because the things happened in Delhi and you make a good news but why we keep quiet on what happened in Adilabad which should have put all of us to shame and shock.
Many of our friends say that Muslims do not need to speak all the time. Why not? We all need to speak all the time against fundamentalism. Muslims are no exception. If we do not speak the space will be taken over by the fundamentalists gangs who need some enemies to fight with and if there is no enemy they will create one.
After the Batala House incident, a well known TV anchor wrote an article asking Muslims to ponder over as why they need to support terrorists when Jamia Milia teachers decided to speak. In democracy, we all need to be vigilant and if an incident like Batla House can happen in Delhi, you can not imagine what happen in other parts of the country. Indian media as well as activist-politicians are treading dangerous path. Here people are already being declared as terrorists according to their religion and hence none of the media person will dare to call Bajrang Dal a terrorist organization. Advani is a nationalist, so is Thackeray and others but if other do the same; they will be branded and questioned. But the interesting news has just appeared in the Indian Express today when for the first time the mainstream media has reported in its front paged item that behind the Malegaon and other blasts, the police believe the hand of Hindu Jagarn Manch. ( Indian Express, Delhi October 23, 2008). I am sure the next day there will be many ifs and buts and not all Hindus would be declared as 'terrorists'. Question is why the entire community should be vilified for the act of a few if they happen to be from the community. Indian media and society will have to ponder over this before putting any question.
Normally, these 'liberal' Hindus are more dangerous. Often they put question as 'we accept that every Muslim is not a terrorist but why every terrorist is a Muslim'. This question is often asked to me and my answer is simple. It depends on your definition. You have not called people who can burn a family in Adilabad or Ahemedabad as terrorist. You have not called those who raped the nun and killed her as terrorist. You do not call who start his Rathyatra with a trail of blood behind it, as terrorist. You do not even stop him from becoming a prominent minister. You talk of morality but for others as you have information and media with you.
Yes, we are living in time when each one of us is passive about our own issues and about own communities. We have documents, truths and everything about our communities. We want to sale that victimization mindset. And it is here we are getting nowhere. Those who do not read history will always misinterpret it as we only believe in what our forefathers have told us. That is the beginning of fundamentalism and radicalism in our self. Therefore the Hindu liberal intellect would always say as why no Muslim country is either secular or democratic. It wont understand that in Algeria and Turkey the military had always intervened to stop a democratically elected government in the name of secularism. That the Islamic fundamentalist groups had been winning elections in these countries providing ample fuel to 'secular' army to intervene in the interest of the nation. Can we think of such an intervention in India to stop the likes of Narendra Modi in the interest of the country? Why should the same journalists, writer ignore the vital fact that the secular regimes in the middle eastern countries were dictatorial in nature resulting in religious revivalism fully supported by the American regimes to counter the former Soviet regimes.
It is important to understand the issues in wider perspectives and not be judgmental simply because somebody has got a newspaper and a channel in his hand. Media, academics as well as activists in India need lot of introspection. We simply do not speak on issues but are divided on communities line, both simply justifying their own positions. None of them dare to speak and support the dissent with in their own communities. As most of our communities want to listen to only those ideas which they have been conditioned and writers and activist know that and therefore vilify others. The biggest victim of this calumny is free thought and human rights which are perhaps still far cry with in each of these communities. Our state just represents our existing mindset. Why should we pretend that a democratic India is secular India also? The dirt in the name of secularism need to be cleaned first. Those who take shelter in the name of secularism need to believe in its perception and practice otherwise India is heading for a Afghanistan kind of a situation where we all will be speaking for our respective communities and not for those whose rights are violated and dignity challenged. It is a grave challenge and we must think it over. Give a space to common man please do not make the religious thugs an alternative to what is happening among us. A country victim of religious hatred can not look again to the mindsets who have concealed hatred in their heart and pretended smiles on their faces when they meet for a photo session.