Indian Muslims and ‘terrorism’: Some searching questions

By Yoginder Sikand,,

Although the so-called mainstream Indian media carefully ignores this, enough evidence exists to suggest that at least some of the killer bomb blasts that have rocked various parts of India in recent years might not at all have been the handiwork of Islamist outfits or of Muslims seeking revenge for anti-Muslim violence, although they are inevitably blamed by intelligence agencies and the media for all such attacks. Because, despite their secular pretensions, influential sections of India’s Hindu-owned, so-called mainstream media are deeply anti-Muslim, they maintain a stony silence on the possibility of Hindutva terrorist outfits being behind several such blasts, as has been alleged by many Muslim as well as secular human rights’ organisations.

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This is not to say that I do not agree that some fringe Muslim groups might be involved in some of these blasts. This might well be the case. In addition, the possibility of some hapless Muslim victims of Hindu terrorism, as in Gujarat, or of state terrorism taking to violence in revenge cannot be discounted. My point, however, is that at least some of this violence does not at all appear like the handiwork of Muslims to me, contrary to what the so-called mainstream Indian media would like us to believe.

The Hindu Right has, ever since its inception, consistently used terror as its major weapon for stirring up Hindu passions so as to cultivate a Hindu vote-bank. This has been particularly the case on the eve of major elections, as is the case today. Because the economic and political agenda of the Hindu Right is clearly antithetical to the interests of the vast majority of Indians, particularly the Dalits, Adivasis and Backward Castes, it has no other means of wooing these sections of society than by stoking anti-Muslim hatred. It would not be an exaggeration to say that anti-Muslim (and now, increasingly, anti-Christian) hatred is the major political plank of the Hindu Right. This has been the case from the very onset of the Hindutva political project. Thus, immediately after 1947, the Jan Sangh, the progenitor of the present-day BJP, took up with fiery passion such causes as Cow Protection and the abolition of the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir in order to stir Hindu passions against Muslims and garner Hindu votes. The BJP followed in the same path, with its agitation against the Shah Bano judgment and its bloody campaign for the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Today, the issue of ‘Muslim terrorism’ is being deployed as the latest weapon in the Hindu Right’s armoury to fan anti-Muslim hatred and consolidate its Hindu vote bank. Several cases of Hindutva activists being engaged in manufacturing bombs have come to light, and these might just be the tip of the iceberg.

It is thus quite possible that some Hindu extremist outfits might well be behind at least some of the blasts that India has witnessed in recent years, seeking, with the willing compliance of intelligence agencies and influential sections of the media, to portray these as the handiwork of ‘radical Islamists’. After all, this entirely fits in with the agenda of the Hindu Right, for it provides it further ammunition in its anti-Muslim tirade. Following these blasts, anti-Muslim sentiments, even suspicion and hatred, have mounted, and this suits the Hindutva brigade admirably. The fact that such bomb blasts inevitably hurt Muslims by further intensifying anti-Muslim hatred might suggest that several of these blasts might not be the handiwork of Muslims after all, contrary to what the intelligence agencies and the media tell us. This suspicion is further reinforced by credible reports of numerous fake encounters, involving the intelligence agencies, the police and the supine and increasingly anti-Muslim media, in which perfectly innocent Muslim youths are picked up, branded as deadly ‘terrorists’ and incarcerated for years or even shot dead in cold blood.

In this regard, one must ask that if indeed all these blasts have been orchestrated by Muslim groups, that are said to have access to sophisticated technologies of destruction, why is it that most of them have been directed against ‘soft’ civilian targets (particularly in poor and lower-middle class areas) and not against more strategically ‘important’ installations, people, places or institutions? Then, again, the question arises and begs to be answered as to why, as the media alleges, a group such as the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) could indeed be behind all of these blasts if it is still seeking to get the ban that has been placed on it lifted, and has been consistently challenging successive orders of court tribunals that have recommended that the ban remain in place. Surely, plotting deadly blasts would in no way serve their effort to have the ban on them lifted.

Curiously, when the intrepid Tehelka reporter Ajit Sahi recently discovered that in not a single case involving ex-SIMI members could it be proved that they were involved in promoting terrorism, the mass media and the intelligence agencies suddenly shifted their attention to another group they claimed to have discovered, the Indian Mujahideen (IM), blaming it for numerous blasts. The fact remains, however, that there is no confirmed evidence to prove that any such outfit does exist, and going by the number of reportedly innocent people who have been said to be arbitrarily branded, arrested and even killed as alleged IM leaders and ‘masterminds’ it might be, as some have claimed, that the IM is a figment of the fertile and devious imagination of some media persons or intelligence agencies.

Several of the blasts that have occurred in recent years have occurred at largely Muslim locations. Why Muslim terror groups would attack Muslim places of worship or largely Muslim inhabitations, as the media and intelligence agencies have alleged in the case of blasts at the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, the Ajmer Dargah, Delhi’s Jamia Masjid, and in predominantly Muslim settlements in Malegaon and Modasa, Gujarat, needs to be answered. It is very likely that those behind these particular attacks were not Muslims at all. They might well have been some Hindutva outfits, although this the media, the police and the intelligence agencies have been loath to admit.

The noted historian Amaresh Mishra recently penned a piece which was widely circulated on the Internet suggesting that the hand of American intelligence agencies in some of these blasts cannot be ruled out. Some others have pointed to the possibility of the Israeli Mossad, working in tandem with some elements of the Indian intelligence, being behind them. This angle needs to be probed further. These forces seem to share a common vision, shaped by a shared anti-Muslim agenda. Engineering bomb blasts which the media willingly blames on Muslims and staging fake encounters of ‘terrorists’ involving Muslim youth might thus be a means for them to pursue this common purpose, and for further cementing the India-US-Israel axis.

The impact of the blasts and the developments that have followed on the Muslims of the country has been nothing short of devastating. Hundreds of Muslims have been rounded up, shoved into prisons, brutally tortured and even made to sign false forced ‘confessions’ of guilt. Numerous Muslim youths have been wrongly branded as ‘terrorists’ and shot dead. Across large parts of the country, Muslims live in constant fear, not knowing when they could be picked up by the police on any flimsy and cooked-up excuse. Muslim organisations have been forced to divert their energies and resources to defending themselves from false accusations of promoting terrorism, and this is having a severely deleterious impact on their work of internal reform and development of the community. In the increasingly hostile anti-Muslim climate that is being deliberately created, the possibility of the state acting on its Constitutional obligations towards its Muslim citizens in terms of allocating them adequate resources for their development, as suggested by the authors of the government-appointed Sachar Commission Report, is becoming increasingly remote, and any such demand on the part of Muslims is bound to encounter even more stiff Hindu opposition than before. The fake branding of even well-qualified Muslims employed in top private sector jobs as ‘terrorists’ is bound to make it even more difficult for educated Muslims to gain jobs in this sector, in which, as it is, Muslims enjoy a very insignificant presence.

Just as most Muslims know that terrorism engaged in by fringe Islamist groups, by Muslim victims seeking revenge for Hindutva or state terrorism or by non-Muslim forces who seek to attribute this violence to Muslims, is deeply harming their community, Hindus, too, must realise that state terrorism and Hindutva-inspired terrorism directed against Muslims must ultimately backfire on Hindus as well in the long-run. For, hounding innocent Muslims in the name of countering terrorism, engaging in violence that is sought to be passed off as the handiwork of Muslims, fanning anti-Muslim hatred and violence and demonising the entire Muslim community, as the Hindu Right is engaged in, might force Muslims to the wall and threaten to engulf the entire country in the throes of interminable civil war. While radical Islamists and Hindutva terrorists might relish this horrifying prospect, this would spell doom for the vast majority of Indian Muslims and Hindus, who wish nothing more than to be left to lead their lives in peace.