Muslim leaders should take stock

via Swapan Dasgupta - Pioneer published on September 21, 2008

The redoubtable KPS Gill was speaking a bitter truth when he suggested on a Friday evening TV show that the death of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma saved the Delhi Police from being lumbered with shrill and politically loaded accusations of having staged a false encounter in Jamia Nagar. That a police force doesn’t get its top daredevil wilfully eliminated in a stage-managed show inside a hostile ghetto should be apparent. Unfortunately, when it comes to the social environment of counter-terrorism, common sense is at a discount.


Consider the social environment of Friday afternoon’s raid that culminated in bloodshed. It was pretty apparent that the terrorists chose this part of Jamia Nagar as a safe hideout because it offered two layers of protection: The logistical security of an over-congested locality and, equally important, community protection. The sight of a police force conducting a major anti-terrorist operation while being abused by a local community chanting religious war cries is disturbing. Though the organised obstruction of counter-terrorism operations has become a feature of Hyderabad, its spread to Delhi has ominous implications.

It has become drearily predictable for every terrorist or terrorist facilitator to use the political clout of a community as an additional protective cover. On Friday, the slain Mohammed Atif was given generous character certificates by friends and neighbours. In his native Azamgarh, a media team was held hostage by angry villagers who insisted that the Indian Establishment was out to vilify educated Muslims. A few days back, the mother of Abdus Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer, said to be the Master Terrorist, berated the media and the police for painting her son as India’s Osama bin Laden. Her Press conference was organised by organisations such as the Muslim Personal Law Board and those who claim to control the Muslim mind (and, by implication, their voting behaviour). In 2006, it was a similar outcry from Muslim organisations that led to the State Government more or less abandoning the search for those responsible for the train blasts that killed 209 people on July 11 that year. Among those who got away as a result was the same Tauqeer.

This contrived victimhood is pernicious and plays into the hands of those who feed on the self-serving theory that Muslims can expect no justice in “Hindu” India. It enables Islamist radicals to link the Indian experience with other Muslim battles against an unjust world and posit an alternative centred on the fantasies of a Nizam-e-Mustafa. The Indian Mujahideen emails testify to the garbage that passes for nutritious thought in a ghetto built on theological certitudes. The weirdos who believe that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy to target Muslims are capable of committing themselves to the transformation of India into a Dar-ul-Islam. Bad ideas, it would seem, have a remarkable habit of taking hold of “educated” minds.

This is not to suggest that the police forces have an exemplary record. There is certainly something peculiar about the posthumous transformation of Atif from just another suspect who needed to be questioned into the “mastermind” of all the blasts, thereby overshadowing the elusive Tauqeer. It is understandable that there is a lot of public and political pressure on the Government and the Union Home Minister to “crack” the Delhi blasts case. However, is it necessary to prey on the willingness of crime reporters to swallow every police handout uncritically? More important, is the Centre playing a game of one-upmanship with the Gujarat Government and trying to tell Narendra Modi that what you can do in 25 days we can do in just six? Public faith in the UPA’s ability to handle internal security isn’t enhanced by the police making claims that may become impossible to substantiate? Nor do the death of the alleged mastermind and the arrest of two accomplices convince people that there is more to Shivraj Patil than an elaborate wardrobe.

India faces a serious threat that cannot be handled with the same casualness that was evident in the Arushi murder case. With growing evidence that the SIMI is still active and has a measure of vocal support in Muslim ghettos, it has become necessary to add a social and political dimension to counter-terrorism. If the community support that manifested itself in Jamia Nagar last Friday afternoon persists, the danger of stealth bombers being replaced by a supply of suicide bombers becomes very real.

These are issues that the Muslim community and its leadership can no longer run away from. If younger sons of small-time Samajwadi Party politicians have ended up as bomb planters, it implies that the Muslim elders are losing their grip on the younger hotheads in the community. If madarsa teachers like the notorious Abu Basher and small-time maulvis like Waliullah Qazmi (convicted of the Varanasi blasts) end up as the new mujahideen, it obviously means that there is something about Deoband’s anti-terrorism pledges that has escaped the eye. Banking on Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh, Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan to defend the indefensible will work up to a point but will become useless if an alternative common sense takes over the Indian mind.

If Muslim community leaders are serious about their proclamation that Islam is a religion of peace, they will have to walk the talk. India still awaits the unambiguous theological denunciation of not merely terrorism but specific terrorist groups like SIMI, HUJI, JEM and IM and specific terrorists such as the convicted Varanasi bomber and the man on death row who conspired to attack the Indian Parliament. Anything else is tantamount to short-changing India.

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