Asif Ibrahim, the Intelligence Bureau chief, says the terrorist challenge from the Indian Mujahideen (IM) remains “undiminished”. And the prime minister warns of terrorist threats to disrupt elections. How do we meet the challenge of alienated Muslim youths getting radicalised on our own soil? Here’s what the IB chief offered as a solution: “We will rigorously pursue the leads emerging from investigations to neutralise the IM network.” I seriously wonder if that isn’t self-contradictory. If determined pursuit alone were to work, why would the IM challenge remain “undiminished”?
The IM cannot be stopped with surface-level policing. Its recruits grow on the soil of Muslim disaffection. And the violence of policing—especially if mistargeted—itself contributes to it. Don’t blame Pakistan alone for it. India shares the blame. It is just that Pakistan is naturally eager to tap aggrieved Muslim youth. Rahul Gandhi expressed concern over Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) allegedly talking to Muslim youth in Muzaffarnagar after the recent riots there. Why would these youths be talking to the ISI if our institutions had provided full safety to Muslims of the region and immediately addressed the friction that led to the rioting? We should never give room for the erosion of the minorities’ sense of belonging.
The Muslim community is deeply alienated. It does not know where to look for support. Every ‘secular’ political party has cheated Muslims, the Congress above all. Secularism is like a hill stream that cascades on the slopes of political rhetoric but dries out on the sands of governance. Then there is the alarming spread of aggressive Hindutva forces. On one side, attackers; on the other side, no protectors. Muslims feel cornered. The isolation is made worse with stigmatisation. There is a school of thought that is predisposed to seeing them and projecting them as a community of blood-thirsty savages. Some are taken in by that sort of propaganda.
Muslims hate the IM for bringing the community a bad name. But a major grievance of Muslims is that, instead of working to diminish their sense of stigma, the police is working to worsen it. Had the police prosecuted real terrorists instead of picking up innocents and putting them through torture in lock-ups, long-drawn legal processes and time in jail, the community would have felt happy. Instead, the community feels hurt. A boy who is picked up can’t get a job, can’t get a wife. The whole family gets ostracised.
Our cops shoot with one eye shut, and our fight against terrorists has been exactly like that—often random groping in the dark with sharp tools, done with no thought to who it wounds. Anti-terror operations are therefore seen by the community as anti-Muslim, even Islamophobic. There is no communication between the police and the community. Both feed upon stereotypes of each other. This has eliminated scope or any eagerness on the part of the community to support the police in its anti-terror efforts.
The wall of distrust between the police and the Muslim community must be broken down. Home-grown radicalisation cannot be reversed without partnering with the community. The fight must be broadened, from being intelligence-based to being community-based. One way to regain the trust of the community is to focus on quick grievance redressal and conflict resolution. In Muzaffarnagar, the conflict over a girl’s alleged harassment flared up into a communal riot. Had the police built up strong links in the community, the whole thing could have been resolved—or at least contained without a violent flare-up. Prevention not done, the IB chief has to go in pursuit of a cure. He still is moving in the wrong direction: that of treating the symptom. Admittedly, there are complexities in building trust: Muslims will not cooperate if the police intend only to increase the number of informants. They would be willing to be allies, not spies. The police can start building such an alliance by addressing their local grievances and concerns effectively.
There are hopes for building such an alliance. The Deobandi clergy, highly influential with one band of the faithful, has issued a national fatwa against terrorism, declaring it un-Islamic. Other Muslim sects and schools too have denounced terrorism. Top Sufi cleric Syed Kichhauchhawi has been asking Muslims to hand terrorists over to the police. Several clerics have braved threats from the IM. The police must establish a partnership with Muslim clerics and social organisations for conflict resolution at the grassroots. The bonding—when the community sees the police is quick, even-handed and respects human rights—will not only make the ground infertile for radicalisation but also build community vigilance for any indicators of terror activities. And most of all, as the first Muslim IB chief will agree, a little more active recruitment into the forces won’t harm anyone.
In response to Arun Sinha’s column A Subtler Intelligence (Dec 9), I’d like to say that moderate Muslims need to stand up against extremism and the radicalisation of their religion. They should also not allow religion to get mixed up with matters of governance and law. In some ways, Islam remains stuck in medieval times while most other religions have accepted concepts like free speech, democracy and women’s rights.
Rahim Singh, Pune
Sinha’s point about the police alienating Muslims by randomly rounding up the youth among them without any evidence after every riot or terror strike is well taken. I also agree it is better for sleuths to penetrate terror groups and trail suspicious individuals. But the wall of distrust between Muslims and the police can only be broken if both sides are sincere. How many times have you heard of Muslims helping police arrest terrorists or criminals in their midst? The author’s suggestion that the government recruit more Muslims in the police force is no different from the proportional representation of pre-Partition days.
R. Venkatanarayanan, on e-mail
This is a superficial analysis. What we need is better policing and better investigation. Police should work like eye surgeons, who aim to retain sight in the eye while cutting it up to correct distortions.
Bowenpalle Venuraja Gopal Rao, Warangal
Muslims glorify conquest and violence. Not a single Muslim country—Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan—has denounced this historical emphasis on conquest and subjugation even as they all the while advance the claim that Islam’s a religion of peace.
Varun Shekhar, Toronto
If Muslims are turning to terrorism, it’s because they lack in education, they are treated as second-class citizens and rarely get jobs in the private sector. Hindus should, in fact, treasure Muslims in India for having stayed back after Partition. Here’s some advice from a saying by some elders: “Don’t hit a cat that’s in a closed room; finding no escape, it will leap for your throat.”
M. Zakir, on e-mail
"I always find it amusing when people try to blame Hinduism for destruction of Buddhism (usually with no evidence,"
Yes, Buddhism was probably not very widespread, institutionally weak, and not very different from Hinduism to begin with. That combination led to its gradual reduction in the subcontinent. Sikhism and Jainism are different, they have always had more institutional support, and more of a 'parish' concept.
There may also be a tendency to transpose the history of Christianity and Judaism onto India. But there is no such relationship historically in India. Religions in the Indic group have never been restricted into water tight compartments. There was always a fluidity of worship and ideas and devotees between the Indic systems.
>> Hinduism here did not fail against Islam's march. It is totally false. Here first Bhuddhism came
Buddhism, by most accounts, is about 2600 years old. What was the religion followed by people in these parts before that? Was it Hinduism, or something else?
I always find it amusing when people try to blame Hinduism for destruction of Buddhism (usually with no evidence, or worse, spurious evidence, like our resident jehadi did with his fake links). Was Buddhism ever popular amongst masses, or only amongst a few kings? Did people really distinguish between the two? Was its spread, if it really did spread amongst masses, peaceful, or was it violent in any way, and if Hinduism caused its decline, was the decline caused by any violent actions of Hindus?
>> The problems of Hindus or for other minorities in Kashmir valley is a political one rather than a religious one.
All Muslim majority areas/countries all over the world seem to be having some "political" problem. Any idea why?
>> The culprit was V.P.Singh as PM
While I have no love for Singh, I wonder who are the VP Singhs of Pakistan or Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia or Kenya or Nigeria or Turkey, and more.
Over 20 years after he was voted out, and with no political legacy or progeny to defend him, it's convenient, even if dishonest, for you to blame him. But then you've given little evidence of honesty in your recent posts.
>> Kashmiri muslims are not different from rest of India. If you go to Kashmir and live there for some time you would soon realize this
Do the rest of Indians use loudspeakers from their religious structures threatening minorities to leave, but leave the women behind?
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