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Issues which threaten peace and communal harmony in India

By Navaid Hamid for TwoCircles.net,

Four days back when I got the Agenda papers (for the meeting of National Integration Council), I was little bemused to see the question marks after every item of the agenda circulated. What I tried to understand and speculate, was the confusion about the communal harmony, discrimination and civil disturbances in the minds of the government functionaries. Are the officers who had drafted the agenda, had done so under duress and are in disagreement of the agenda? I could not reach to any conclusion.

I am also surprised not to find any mention of the discrimination being faced by the SC population at large in the agenda papers. Is that not true that even today there are numerous temples in the country which refuses entry to them in their sanctum? The violence in Mirchpur-Hissar, Kaithal, Bohana-Sonepat, Jhajjar-Dullina, Kherlanji-Maharashtra, reminds us about the pressure on them. For months the SC population was forced to live outside the violence affected areas. Their just demand for reservation in private sector needs urgent attention of the nation for inclusive development of the population at large.

A Bajrang Dal activist during the Gujarat riots. Communal riots on regular basis in India, remain a challenge for the national integration.[Photo by Outlook]

It would be easy to talk goody goody things but would be great injustice if we fail to do analysis of the actions of the political leaders and segregate these actions from the agenda or the discussions being held in the meeting.
There are forces in the country that have a wishful thinking of destroying the pluralistic nature of our nation and fail the constitution when it suits them. These forces unfortunately had been successful in infiltrating in every segment of Indian society and are deadly against the inclusive development and equal opportunities to every segment of our nation.

From time to time, attempts are being made to defame and indulge in hate campaigns against minorities in general and Muslim in particular. Question marks are put on their nationalism routinely. I wonder, is there any formula or blood test procedure for proving nationalism? I request the Honorable PM to advise the Ministry of Science & Technology to explore and encourage the Indian scientists to work and research on the same to satisfy neo-nationalists and the forces of hate.

I was amused when the Government had announced and nominated Mr. Udhav Thakrey to NIC and I take this opportunity to personally welcome him to this august body as a colleague. His nomination to NIC shows the magnanimity of those, who recommended his name to the PM, because they might have the wisdom to fully believe in the idiom “bell the cat,” after his party’s violent and aggressive campaign against the poor laborers and migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The only grudge I have, is about the non convening of the NIC meeting when the poor migrants were beaten, assaulted and forced to run from Mumbai.

Much water had flown in Narmada (river) in last nine years but the blood stains of the pogrom of Gujarat still reminds the nation about the political patronage to and involvement of the political figures in the genocide of innocent Muslims in Gujarat. Blood stains of martyr Ehsan Jafri, former Member of Rajya Sabha and dozens of his compatriots of Gulbarga Society, are still wet and their families, including the widow of former Indian law maker, Ehsan Jafri, are anxiously waiting for justice. For more than six years the travesty of Justice was at its blitz because of the indifferent attitude, criminal silence and acts of ignoring the crimes of their protégé in Gujarat by their masters in Delhi.

It was only after the intervention of the Supreme Court, a ray of hope for justice emerged for the victims of the genocide, when SC’s appointed SIT probed roles and arrested two of the high profile Ministers of Gujarat Government, Ms. Maya Kodyani and Amit Shah for their role in the Gujarat pogrom. I am amused that Ms. Maya Kodyani and Mr. Amit Shah are still members of BJP.

India needs a strong and effective Communal violence Bill which can address the protection of religious minorities , SC & ST population to enhance state accountability and check discriminatory exercise of state powers in the context of the identity based violence and thus restore equal access to law, to minorities and SC & ST population. The experiences of Nillei massacre of Muslims in Assam in 1983, the Sikh massacre of 1984 and the genocidal pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, are good examples of the failure of the state machinery to protect the numerically weak religious groups from the onslaught of the perpetrators of hate crimes. No doubt people from all communities are affected by the communal violence but studies point that religious minorities suffer greater harm and loss and find less protection of law due to institutional bias in the performance of statutory duties. This is a serious lacuna which needs to be addressed by the nation’s law makers.

Today Mr. Lal Krishan Advani ji is present in the NIC meeting. Nation was not only horrified with exposure of Sangh related terror activities and arrests of Sadhvi Pragya Singh and her colleagues, Major (Retd.) Ramesh Upadyayay, Col. Srikant Prohit and others in the bomb blasts in several Muslim concentrated cities including Hyderabad, Malegaon and Jaipur but also with the communalization and politicization of their arrests by Mr. L.K. Advani and his colleagues. If terrorism has no religion, what was the need to organize press conferences, led delegation to the Honb’le President of India, condemn the arrests, lend support to them and jump to early conclusion that these former active members of RSS and members of Sangh parivar at large are being victimized? Was that not the game of vote bank politics?

People talk about the sanctity of Saffron color in the cultural civilization of India. Does Sadhvi Pragya have not stained the saffron with blood? No body from Sangh Parivar is ready and forthcoming to respond to the million dollar question. I wonder where is our collective endeavor and commitment to fight militancy and terrorism when we rush to support or demonize because of our religious affiliations.

Right wing majoritarian terrorism is on the rise across the globe. In the recent Norway terror attack, the Christian Norwegian, inspired by Sangh groups in India had committed the heinous crime. It would be unfair to ignore such developments and realities.

After the acquittal of almost all Muslim youths arrested in the Hyderabad blasts by the AP High Court, justice demands that the government should at least give suitable compensation to the released youths, who had been wrongfully confined in the blast cases. Most of these youths were dreaming to contribute to the progress of the nation and were pursuing higher studies to excel in their lives before their arrests. Who can compensate for the agony and shame, they and their families faced because of their wrongful confinement and ruining of their bright academic future? The silver lining of the episode is that almost all released youths have no ill-feeling for the nation but they are worried about their future. Is this not our duty to stand with them and make them feel to be part of India? I would requests the captains of the Indian Industry to demonstrate compassion and mercy to the victims and evolve a process to make them co-workers of their vast business empire to send a message of affection and care to the innocents.

The way the Muslims are targeted and others are ignored, would complicate our desire to fight terror. People talk about the presence of Indian terror modules. If it is true that there are Indian modules who have been attracted to terror activities from the Muslim community, it requires an urgent analysis about the reasons behind the same. If the community who had remained indifferent to the developments in Afghanistan and Iraq and had refused to get inspired from the terror activities in J&K so far, what had made them attracted to such terror acts now? Why there have been no serious actions and discussion on the terror activities on Abhinav Bharat and other Sangh inspired terror outfits. One can claim that Sangh is a nationalist cultural organisation but why every Hindu terrorist arrested so far has root in the Sangh affiliated organisations.

We talk about integration of J&K but refuse to integrate its people in the Indian society. Most recently the activists of ABVP in the state of Madhya Pradesh, had violently opposed the admission of the Kashmir’s students in state universities, in spite of the fact that these students had got their admission only because of their academic excellence. I have not seen any statement of any nationalist leader in support of these innocent Kashmiri students. These misguided youth from ABVP have followed the path of hate shown by Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Narnirman Sena in Maharashtra. The only difference was the in Maharashtra the victims were north Indians and in Madhya Pradesh the victims were from Kashmir and Muslims too. During Amarnath Yatra row, one of the Ministers of the BJP in the coalition government of Punjab had organised an economic blockade of J&K state which was lifted only after the intervention of Mr. Advani when it was highlighted and condemned by the civil society and covered by the media. Unfortunately, some people talk about integration only when it suits them politically.

We have different parameters for judging and reacting to the political developments. It’s easy to condemn Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, for his comment on his hypothetical assumptions of a resolution by the J&K Assembly on Afzal Guru clemency but difficult to condemn the clemency’s proposal for the killers of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi , by the Tamil Nadu Assembly or that of the Khalistan’s propagator by the Punjab Assembly from the same people who had rushed to condemn Omar Abdullah. Is the killing of Rajiv Gandhi was not an assault on the nation? Amusingly the party who had condemned Omar for his wishful thinking is part of the coalition government in Punjab.

I was horrified to watch a TV debate after the debacle of the Left Front in West Bengal. One of the top functionaries of CPI, with whom I have good relations, commented that the Left had lost the elections because of the alliance of the Maoists and the communalist Muslims. The community who had stood like a rock behind Left Front in West Bengal for more than three decades suddenly became communal, if they voted for a different party because of the failure of the Left alliance to give it the justice and equitable share in development and empowerment for 35 years. The statement is enough to prove that the malaise to demonise the Muslims is not confined in one single political party. There are forces that are present in every party who consider them as vote banks, unfortunately.

After the Sachar report, Muslim community had expected a fair and inclusive development plan for its empowerment. I Know that UPA has expressed its strong desire to initiate schemes for the educational empowerment of the Muslim community but what all had been done needs an in-depth analysis. Nothing concrete would emerge unless there is a separate sub plan for Muslims in the ensuing Five Year Plan.

I must congratulate Sangh parivar for successfully brainwashing large segment of Indian middle class to oppose the entry of the Muslim families in their immediate neighborhood and opposing construction of Mosques. Most recently the nation’s capital had witnessed three unfortunate incidents. In the radius of four kilometers of Indian Parliament, the residents of Jorbagh opposed the repair of a mosque in the historical karbala complex and the extension of a Masjid on the Waqf land in Bhogal. In both the cases Sangh dominated RWA’s, went to the court and got orders to restrict the repairs in karbala and demolish the mosque in Bhogal. In the third case, within the radius of around 12 kms from Indian Parliament, in Rohini, the state government was forced to cancel the allotment of land for mosque to the Muslims of the area under pressure of the Sangh dominated RWA of the locality. If this had been the case in Delhi, one can easily imagined the situation in other far flung areas of the country. On the occasion of Eid 10 days back, the Naurangsar Panchayat in Churu District of Rajasthan had not allowed the small local Muslim population to perform Eid prayers on the unused government land and the strong police force had harassed the population of 300 Muslims throughout the Eid day.

The continuous decline of the Muslims in Parliament and State Legislatures needs an urgent attention. Sacchar had pointed that there are 80 reserved Parliamentary constituencies where the population of the Muslims is larger than that of the Scheduled Castes. In the delimitation process, constituencies are crafted in such maverick and unconventional way that the Muslims are finding it difficult to reach to the House of Legislatures. If the present version of Women Reservation Bill is passed, it is feared that the strength of the Muslims would come down to single digit within ten years of its implementation. If that happens, that would be the saddest day for the pluralistic character of the nation state. I humbly request all political parties to seriously consider on the dangers of restricting their participation in electoral process in nations’ interest.

There is a fine distinction between the concepts of integration and assimilation. A successful democracy is one which integrates all segments of its society and discourages all those who desire assimilation of its minorities.

(The author is a member of the National Integration council. The above presented text, is his speech at the recently held meeting of NIC. He can be reached at [email protected])