By R. Upadhyay (From www.southasiaanalysis.org)
(The writer is an eminent authority on Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, with insights born out of long years of dealing with the subject)
Facing the challenge of aggressive Muslim invaders since their first invasion in 712 A.D. and intervention in governance of the sub-continent from 1194 which spread for a period of over a millennium, Indian people are put on trial at every stage. Whether it was the soft attitude of Prithviraj Chouhan towards Mohammad Ghori or the alliance of Rana Sangram Singh with Babar the founder of Moghul dynasty against Ibrahim Lodi or the negotiation the Congress leaders had with Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Indians were always at receiving end. Although, they defied their civilisational extinction with valiant and ceaseless resistance against the alien tyranny and proved the song of Allama Iqbal -“Kuchh Baat hai ki hasti mitati nahin Hamaa” (There is something distinct in us which defied our extinction -correct, they ignored the second part of the above song -“Sadiyon raha hai dushman daure zaman hamaara” (For centuries we are facing our enemies) and therefore, the challenge remained.
Historically, so long the Arabian Indians or ‘Al-Arbi-al-Hind’ as the Indian Mujahideens call themselves - ruled this country; they had no problem with Hindu majority. However, after the failed Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 followed by firm grip of British rule when their former subjects took it as a change from one alien ruler to another, they launched sustained movements like Deoband, Aligarh, Nadwa, Ahl-e-Hadith, Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind, Tabliq Jamaat and Jamaa-e-Islami not only to restore Islamic power by re-organising their foot soldiers but also to save the community from the democratic rule under the political supremacy of the religious majority. Yusuf Abbasi, a Muslim scholar in his book entitled ‘Muslim Politics and Leadership in South Asian Sub-continent’ perhaps rightly observed – ‘The Hindus looked upon the British rule as deliverance from Muslim yoke, and considered English education as a blessing, the Muslims in their eagerness to preserve their religion and religious views rejected English education”.
Accordingly, the descendents of Arabian Indians mobilized their foot soldiers and partitioned the sub-continent into ‘Muslim India’ and ‘Hindu India’. However, even after the end of British rule and establishment of secular democracy their restive psyche remained a perpetual problem of this country. “
Democracy is a concept completely alien to the Muslim psyche to the extent that there is no equivalent terminology for it in Arabic or other languages spoken by Muslims (Understanding Mohammad – A psychobiography of Allah’ Prophet by Ali Sina, a Canadian Muslim of Iranian descent). After partition, people of Arab descent staying back in democratic and secular India identified themselves as Muslim Indians instead of as Indian Muslims and gradually converted the Muslim masses into a never ending demanding community. Thus, by reviving their communal politics and making it an unending reality with the support of vote-baiting political hawks, they have again pushed back the country in a socio-political environment of British India. Since the closing decade of last century when the coalition government at the centre was confused in handling the problem of jihadi Islamists they re-visited the century old history of Aligarh and Deoband leaders who had a secret understanding against the Indian National Congress, which they had termed as a party for Hindu revivalism.
Their aggravating unrest after Batala House encounter in Delhi on September 19 during which two suspected terrorists were killed and two Muslim students of Jamia Milia arrested on their suspected involvement in Delhi blast on September 13 reminds the people of the Islamists’ rage in the closing decades of nineteenth century, when prominent Islamists like Mawlawi Abu Sayed Mohammed Hussain (d.1919) of Ahl-i-Hadith and Mirza Gulam Ahmad (1839-1908), founder of Ahmadia sect – both belonging to Batala in Gurdaspur district of Punjab state had launched violent movements against Hindu renaissance led by Arya Samaj. Drawing inspiration from the puritan and military zeal of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid who had launched jihad against the non-Islamic Sikh rule of Ranjit Singh, they had given a call for communal unity of the Muslims.
Today, alarmed with the recent exposure of the net work of SIMI and its new incarnation Indian Mujahideen and the spate of arrests of Muslim youths in recent months on their suspected involvement in terror blasts the ‘Muslim Indians’ have invented a self perceived theory that innocent Muslims are victimised by the police to malign Islam. Accordingly, they have been exchanging notes in defence of terror suspects, holding meetings, visiting Batala House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi and Azamgarh and launching campaign not only to prove the innocence of terror accused but also mobilized their foot soldiers against the alleged conspiracy in blaming and targeting the entire community after every terror blast.
In view of their sustained campaign, the Muslims across the country are found convinced that their community members killed in the police operation and arrested were not terrorists. They have gone to the extent of suspecting the death of Mohan Sharma by the bullet fired by his own colleague either deliberately or by accident. When the whole country applauded the Police Inspector Mohan Sharma for his martyrdom in this encounter and Government too recognised it, Indian people barring Islamists and those pretending to be ‘secularists’ are left wondering about the scheme of defending the terror accused.
The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi Syed Ahamed Buqari wrote letters to various Muslim leaders across the country regarding the “bomb blasts, blame game, illegal arrests, torture of Muslim youths” and called for suggestions to fight back this issue concerning Muslims of India. He has alleged that “The highly discriminatory actions of State police forces and central intelligence agencies have let loose a reign of terror to which Central government has turned a blind eye. This is a matter of serious concern for the entire Millat. If we don't unite by closing our ranks to meet this challenge, history will never forgive us. I suggest that all Muslim organisations and leaders must unite immediately by creating one single platform for voicing our concerns and registering protests. For this purpose it is necessary to summon an urgent meeting of all Muslim organisations and leaders at the earliest” (A translated extracts from the original letter written in Urdu which is available in internet).
He also led a march against the Batala House encounter and subsequently called a meeting of All India Religious and Political Leaders of the community on 14th October 2008 at Jame Masjid and condenm the alleged fake encounters and arrests of Muslims Youths. The meeting was attended by prominent personalities like Moulana Khaled Qazipuri C/O Moulana Rabe Hassan Nadvi President All India Muslim Personal Law Board., Zafer Yaab Jeelani (Adv), Moulana Margoobur Rehman (Darul oloom, Deoband), Moulana Syed Arshad Madani President Jamaiat –e- Ulema –e- Hind, Amjed Ullah Khan Leader Majlish Bachao Tahreek (MBT) Andhra Pradesh, Maulana Anees Rahmaan, Imarat –e- Sharia, Bihar, Moulana Wali Rahmani ,Munger,Bihar, Qari Amirullah ,Bhopal and Moulana Mohd Shafiq Qasmi Kolkatta,West Bengal. Leaders like Mujtaba Farooque of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Maulana Abdul Hamid Nomani of Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind are blaming the government as well as media. Similarly, another group of Muslim leaders while setting up an ad hoc Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims also expressed their concern against the police actions in Batala House encounter and issued a press statement to mobilize the Muslim masses. Instead of discussing the remedial measures to tame the home grown Islamist terrorists they demanded stringent action including ban on Hindu organizations like VHP and Bajrang Dal . The signatories of the statement are: Mujtaba Farooq, Convenor, Coordination Committee & Secretary, Jamaat-e Islami Hind, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, President, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Ml. Abdul Hameed Nomani, Acting General Secretary, Jamiat Ulama-I- Hind, Ml. Abdul Wahab Khilji, Asstt General Secretary, All India Milli Council, Ml. Mahmoodul Hasan, President, Jamiat Ahl-e Hadees, Delhi Pradesh, Dr Taslim Rahmani, President, Muslim Political Council, Ml. Zeeshan Hidayati, Chairman, Majlis-e Fikr-o Amal, Irfanullah Khan, Chairman Jamia Nagar Coordination Committee, Ml. Jalal Haidar Naqvi, Secretary, Majlis-e Ulama-e Islam, Gopal Rai, Convenor, Teesra Swandheemta Andolan, and Bhai Tej Singh, President, Ambedkar Samaj Party.
Surprisingly, instead of allowing the dusty storm of restive Muslim minds to settle, Jamia Milia Islamia Vice Chancellor Mashirul Hasan a widely acclaimed campaigner of ‘moderate and tolerant Islam’ through his scholarly writings against the intolerant Islamists also joined the issue by offering to provide legal assistance to the two arrested students of the university and added fuel to the fire. Being an accomplished historian he is fully aware of the politics of communal polarization between the Hindus and the Muslims which took a front seat after the collapse of Muslim rule in the country and turned even a secular intellectual like Mohammad Ali Jinnah into a most communal leader of Indian sub-continent.
However, he led a street march in support of the Islamists which has no bearing on academic issues and made his liberalism questionable in the mind of intelligentsia. On what assumption he placed himself at the centre of a public debate on a communally hot issue may be best known to him but didn’t he anticipate that his action will subsume the acclaimed secular character of Jamia Milia? He might have a point to prove the possibility of the accused being innocent but the way issue is debated in and around the university, it has made the situation from bad to worse. His action has not only challenged the criminal justice system of the country but also created a controversy over the constitutionally framed public policy, university code and communal integrity in the country.
After creating the storm engulfing the country, the university’s Academic Council also issued an ‘open letter’ defending its ‘modern, liberal and non-denominational’ character. The letter while highlighting the names of a number of ‘secular’ leaders behind the foundation of this institution also claims “we were in the forefront of the national movement wholeheartedly, and opposed the pernicious two-nation theory.”
Whether Jamia Milia was in forefront or rear front of the national movement is not an issue of present debate. The issue is - what prompted this central funded educational institution to provide legal support to arrested terror suspects in Delhi blast case and to join with the Islamists on the issue of terrorism? As a ‘forefront participant’ of the national movement, the academics of the university were supposed to instill confidence among the restive Muslims of the country in general and Jamia Nagar in particular in the legal system of the country. Since the university played the same politics as Aligarh had played during pre-partition Pakistan Movement people of the country has no reason to disbelieve that both the universalities are birds of the same feathers.
The whole episode is apparently a reminder to the Muslim unrest during the first decade of twentieth century. On 1st October 1906 a 35-member delegation of Muslim Indians, which included nobles, aristocracies, legal professionals and other elite section in the community mostly associated with the Aligarh movement gathered at Simla under the leadership of Aga Khan and presented an address to Lord Minto. They demanded proportionate representation of Muslims in government jobs, appointment of Muslim judges in High Courts and members in Viceroy’s council, etc. However, after failing to obtain any positive commitment from the Viceroy, they organized the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference at Dacca (27-30 December 1906) which worked as a catalyst for foundation of All India Muslim League which subsequently succeeded in partition of the sub-continent on the basis of religion.
Calling for introspection and self-assessment some of the community leaders have expressed full faith in the security establishment and have favoured co-operation to the police in nabbing terror suspects. Salim Khan, a cinema-script writer and father of actor Salman Khan has even sent a sealed envelop containing condolence message with a cheque of an undisclosed amount to the family of police inspector Sharma. Arif Mohammad Khan, a hero of Shahbano case has suggested fighting the terrorists ideologically. He said, “Terrorism itself can be fought only by challenging it on the level of ideology and thought. It cannot be curbed only by police action” (Pioneer dated 11 October, 2008). Quoting a number of verses from Quran, he has tried to counter the terrorists’ concept of Quran. However, his voice to challenge the Islamist terrorists ideologically will hardly convince the controller of the foot soldiers in the community as they are not prepared to be quiet till the country comes under Islamic rule. Ironically, liberal theologian like Maulana Wahiduddin Khan an internationally known Islamic scholar who is known for his commitment to a complete ideology of peace and quiet competent to challenge the Islamists was not invited to the meeting organized by the Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims.
The combined politics of the ‘Muslim Indians’ and their priestly class have all along been the historical reality of the sub-continent. Conforming a saying - “wheresoever the carcass, there the Vultures will be gathered together”, the Muslim vote baiting political hawks behaving like street urchins spitting at Sun also joined the issue and supported the demand of the Muslims for judicial enquiry against the encounter. Their presumption on the innocence of the arrested terror accused from Jamia Milia without any supportive evidence suggest that the oft repeated Muslim communal politics in secular India by a combined force of Left-Castiest-Islamist alliance has once again become active to disturb the social harmony in the country. Instead of fighting the menace of terrorism they are flowing sympathy for the terror accused. Such negative sparks ignited by them will only make the situation from bad to worse.
It is widely believed that the terrorists involved in the recent blasts across the country belong to one or another Islamist groups with an objective to restore the institution of Caliphate. The success of home the grown jihadists claiming themselves ‘Indian Mujahideens’in attracting some of the well-educated Muslims towards their cause has not only pushed the community into the similar predicament as prevailed after collapse of Muslim power, increased the sense of alienation among them which has a deep impact on their increasing communalized psyche.
The most unfortunate part of the scenario is the role of a significant section of ‘secular’ Indians particularly intelligentsia, journalists, writers and politicians like Amar Singh , Lalu Yadav, Ram Bilas Paswan, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Arundhati Roy whose tendency to run down the image of the country has not only adversely affected the consciousness of saner section of people but has also led to aggravate the communalized psyche of Indian society as a whole. The prevailing Muslim unrest is therefore, a dangerous sign as far as the internal security of the country is concerned. If the people of the country in general and ruling class in particular are not taking lessons from the historical wrongs committed by Indians who brought defeat and dishonour to the nation either to save their throne or skin or self-seeking political interest we are bound to fail.
(The author can be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)