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No Virus In The Faithful

Belying the Sangh's claims, experts say Indian Muslims hold no jehadi sentiments

No Virus In The Faithful
Gireesh G.V.
No Virus In The Faithful
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the rest of its parivar may still be on a relentless hate campaign against the 'minorities', but it's now being proffered that there are no jehadis in India. That is, if you leave aberrant elements in Kashmir. At the end of a year when US investigators and their allies have left no stone unturned in their hunt for Al Qaeda terrorists, experts have reached an interesting conclusion: while the Islamic terror network has been found to exist in Africa, Europe and Asia, Indian Muslims have not been attracted by the jehad ideology. This, despite the country having the world's second largest Muslim population (140-150 million).

Various other nationalities involved with Jehadi International Inc have been identified, but Indians don't figure on the list. "Jehad here is exported from Pakistan. There are no internal jehadis around. Despite having the second largest Muslim population in the world, the very diversity of India prevents the spread of such ideology," says K.P.S. Gill, former Punjab DGP and an acknowledged anti-terrorism expert. Indeed, Gill believes that Indian Muslims could well lead the way in showing how a composite culture can be used to counter "hate ideology" in the years to come. According to Gill, subversive activities tending to the jehadi kind, if any, remain localised and can be contained.

Points out Ajai Sahni of the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management: "The (absence of) jehadi culture here is best illustrated vis-a-vis Kashmir. In the over 10 years of terrorism in the state, there hasn't been a single non-Kashmiri (Muslim) from any other part of India involved in the so-called jehad or militancy."

India's list of 'Islamic' terrorists begins and ends with the Dawood Ibrahims and Aftab Ansaris of the world—basically criminal mafia unconnected to any ideology of any kind, but quite acive in urban areas. The closest to jehadis here have been organisations like the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) linked to Saudi-based bodies, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the now-banned Rabita. Outfits with similar inclinations can be found in the South too. Despite a lot of sound and fury, particularly with the arrest of its activists in UP, SIMI remains on the margins, unable to attract the kind of talent needed to achieve their objectives. "Organisations like SIMI are aberrations," points out Sahni.

Security analyst Kulbir Krishan explains: "Unlike other parts of the world, the average Muslim here knows the power of his vote, and despite the alienation in some pockets, there is no state-sponsored discrimination. That's a very big difference." According to him, due to lower levels of education, an overwhelming majority of Muslims do not opt for jobs with the government or private companies, mainly sticking to the unorganised sector. Also, their customers are largely Hindu. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims interact and do business with the Hindus on a daily basis, so despite the general impression of a gulf, there is an open line of communication at most times.

Not that there hasn't been any provocation for the Muslim community. Experts say that a delicate moment in India's history came in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. There was then a sense of insecurity amongst the minority community with groups of youngsters—mainly from western UP—contemplating taking to violence. But soon the UP elections came—in which the bjp was routed—and emotions cooled down. The Gujarat story is part of this kind of provocation. But the remarkable fact is that despite the violence in Gujarat, the rest of the country remained calm.

Even though the CIA releases periodic lists of possible Al Qaeda-style jehadis, an Indian is yet to be named, even though they can be found in the neighbourhood, ie Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In the light of all this, the VHP's attempts to raise the spectre of Indian-born jehadis just does not wash. "The VHP is basically attempting to garner votes and divide society for their cause. It has very little to do with jehadis of any kind," says a Union home ministry official, who deals with militancy.

In the days to come, with crucial assembly elections ahead in nine states (till 2004), the jehadi factor will undoubtedly get closer attention, both from the Sangh fraternity and the anti-Sangh activists still smarting from the bjp victory in Gujarat. Now, what the average Indian must realise is that there is little truth in the verbal pyrotechnics that the Sangh parivar periodically indulges in.

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