Everyone knows Afzal Guru was hanged to checkmate the BJP; competitive communalism claimed the poor man’s life. But the subtext is equally important. It seems that the Congress government despatched him to the gallows secure in the knowledge that a Kashmiri’s execution wouldn’t alienate ‘mainstream’ India’s Muslims or make a dent in the party’s Muslim votebank.
Barring “terror modules” on the home ministry’s radar, Indian Muslims are by and large not swayed by Afzal’s or Kasab’s cause. Muslims in Meerut, Murshidabad or Malegaon are hardly sympathetic to Kashmiri separatism. There is even unease among Muslims over Pak-aided Kashmiris killing Indian soldiers and getting killed in the bargain. The Indian army in Kashmir has captured or shot dead mujahideen from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan and Chechnya. But has anyone from Bengal, Bihar or Tamil Nadu waged jehad alongside the Kashmiris? Sonia Gandhi’s and Manmohan Singh’s words are worth recalling. Sonia categorically stated in 2004: “Indian Muslims don’t do Al Qaeda,” while Manmohan told CNN in 2005, “I take pride in the fact that although India has 150 million Muslims, not one has been found to have joined the ranks of Al Qaeda or participated in the activities of the Taliban.” True enough, there wasn’t a single Indian among the Islamists captured by US-led forces in Afghanistan. And Delhi still insists that no Indian was involved in the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
So far, so good. So one can safely say the Taliban and Al Qaeda are not magnets for India’s Muslims who have, thank God for that, also steered clear of Kashmir’s jang-e-azadi. But how valid is the Congress presumption that Afzal’s hanging hasn’t dented the Muslim goodwill which proved useful in 2004 and 2009?
Ordinary Muslims don’t back Kashmir’s secessionist war or global jehad but this opportunistic judicial killing may have touched a raw nerve, primarily because wounds inflicted in several recent incidents by a partisan state are still open. Instead of dismissing the hanging as just punishment for conspiring to attack Parliament, due to their own victimisation Muslims may start viewing it as state vengeance against a co-religionist. A convicted terrorist Afzal may have been but the denial of namaaz-e-janaza, or funeral prayers to the family, hasn’t endeared the Congress to any religious Muslim. I would reckon that most Muslims want Afzal’s Tihar grave to be promptly opened and the mortal remains handed to his family for a proper burial with Islamic rites. If Muslims have never been moved by the cries of azadi in Kashmir, Kashmir’s political establishment too hasn’t batted an eyelid when Muslims were massacred in Bhagalpur or Nellie. The National Conference didn’t storm out of the NDA after the Gujarat pogrom. Farooq and Omar—Delhi’s stool pigeons—didn’t give a damn! But emotions stirred by Afzal’s hanging have the potential of bridging the chasm.
The author is deputy editor, Outlook; E-mail your columnist: abdi AT outlookindia.com
Abdi’s claim about the Indian Muslims’ lack of interest in Kashmir is dated (Pandora with a Noose). The nia is even now investigating the case of the five Kerala Muslim boys who had landed in the Valley to wage jehad.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Most muslims are sensitive only to the problems faced by their community and they seem to get hurt at the drop of a hat.
Although, I completely disagree with the author's hypothesis but I sincerely want and pray that his 'wishfulthinking' becomes a reality and rest of the country's Muslim population line up behind their co-religionist Mr. Afzal Guru and give up their blind support to the Congress party which has been taking their blind support for granted ever since the country's independence.
It seems people can't see what is happening, and there is nothing particular in the scenery. In P. O. K., the Pakistan govt., wouldn't have asked for assistance, if none is required. It is apparent, that even in India, it doesn't matter if P. O. K. is not in the valley, but in higher altitude. Kashmiri's might be asking, why should what not matters to me, make me not unhappy? It does appear, that in other parts of the shared border, the sentiment is also positive, but people don't see why they should even think about it. The reason why in P. O. K, the govt. got interested was that people were asking each other, perhaps and there seemed very limited reasons for the situation.
People are held accountable, by others, when every person is sovereign in a sovereign democracy, and are only accountable to themselves. So, laws aren't really applicable to the individual, in specific but important ways. The most difficult thing is, that in a democracy, people are unhappy, that they really don't know, and they feel that they should be knowing. A person feels, what should be known, he really doesn't know, and hence, practically, he really doesn't know anything. It seems obvious, he isn't supposed to be associated with what he doesn't know. This is why it seems people want accountability, when it must not be concerning them.
"Mr Abdi do you know NIA is investigating the case of 5 Kerala Muslim fidayeen terrorists currently??(in which 5 Kerala fidayeens recruited by Lashkar e Toiba was shot dead by Indian army in Kashmir in an encounter 2 years ago), T Nazeer a Keralite- south Indian commander of Lashkar- was arrested from Bangladesh .."
It is true, by and large, that Indian Moslems are not involved with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and this is what is generally meant by Indian Moslems not falling for Islamic radicalism. And the majority of Indian Moslems in most states are not supporters of terrorists.
But indeed, what about Kashmir, the Indian Mujahadeen, the Indian cells of the Lashkar, the Kerala Moslems involved in the Kashmir jihad. For that matter, what about the very jihadic nature of the creation of Pakistan? Which Moslems were responsible for that, Al Qaeda, the Taliban? Psssst- it was Indian subcontinental Moslems, given subtle encouragement by the British.
The international or Western media is not looking at this issue in an honest and honourable way. All they care about is themselves, and their precious little caucasian lives and careers. Not once do they ask if India is suffering in any way, from Islamic terrorism, whether in Kashmir or Kerala. It doesn't occur to them that India is a diverse, pluralistic democracy,in some ways more than themselves, where every religion and non-religion exists openly. Their cold, narrow, parochial mentality finds it very difficult to identify with and empathise with India in its experiences and struggles.
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