Secular India – Compare and Contrast

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How the UPA devalues democracy

How the UPA devalues democracy
M R Venkatesh, February 13, 2009

In a remarkable string of coincidences over the past fortnight or so, the United Progressive Alliance government has successfully and repeatedly denigrated our democratic institutions. Naturally, if the silence of our intellectuals on this issue has left me intrigued, the response by the opposition parties to the same has left me completely flummoxed.

Denigration of democratic institutions has virtually become a way of life in the country ever since the sixties when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi went on to subvert every single institution for her narrow political gains. Over a period of time, this became the norm for all political parties, whenever they occupied power.

But the UPA government seems to have done one better. It seems, like many of its predecessors not only denigrate democratic institutions for political expediencies, it has gone to develop an unhealthy contempt for democracy itself. This is the crucial difference between the UPA government and its predecessors. Let me elaborate.

A PM who is selected, not elected
The prime minister is still a member of the Rajya Sabha and not the Lok Sabha. That he was handpicked by the Congress leadership to lead the government and continues even after five years enjoy its confidence and trust is a different matter. But that does not mean that he enjoys the confidence of the people of the country. And that can be tested only when he prefers to contest for the Lok Sabha.

Nevertheless, the practice of denigrating institutions and devaluing democracy by the UPA government begins at that point in time. What mattered were personal loyalty and political considerations, not constitutional propriety and healthy democratic traditions. What would explain the idea of the UPA to exploit a constitutional technicality — of allowing a Rajya Sabha member to lead the government — to the maximum?

The net consequence — we had a selected PM; not an elected PM. This reduced the office of the prime minister into that of a vice-chancellor of a university or to that of a government appointed director of a company like Satyam [Get Quote]. In short, the manner in which the Dr Manmohan Singh became PM and continues to occupy the high office may not be illegal, but surely does not make him a morally legitimate PM either.

Be that as it may, let me turn to the events of the past fortnight. First was the prime minister’s surgery. As the septuagenarian alternated between being anesthetised and sedated in the past fortnight, the UPA did not think it even necessary to even announce a number two to the cabinet. World over, democratic conventions has it that at-least in such circumstances the number two in the cabinet is formally announced.

Naturally, the reasons for which the UPA has denied naming number two in the cabinet is the subject matter of intense speculation in New Delhi [Images]. Mostly, it points to intense unease of the UPA leadership in trusting even senior cabinet members of its own party for a limited period of time!

Unfortunately, the functioning of the PMO, cabinet, government and more importantly, the constitution has been reduced to the personal likes and dislikes of the UPA leadership. And that is the crux of the issue which seems to have escaped the attention of most analysts.

A split Election Commission?.
For the UPA, such constitutional impropriety is not an exception. Rather, it would seem to be the rule. The second instance, concerning the spat between the Chief Election Commission and the Election Commissioner, is equally serious, perhaps more serious than the technical issues raised above. After all we are talking of the institution that would conduct polls in a few weeks from now.

Naturally, one should not and cannot handle the situation casually as the UPA government has sought to do. In contrast to the demanding situation, the response of the UPA government has been appalling. The Election Commissioner in question, Navin Chawla, has a chequered past. Commentators have repeatedly brought out this fact even while he was appointed a few years back as they have done now.

Therefore the crucial question remains — why appoint someone who has even a hint of taint in his character? Or is it a prerequisite for an appointment to the high constitutional office in the UPA regime? And remember, more than 200 MPs had petitioned against his appointment to the President. Yet, this did not agitate the collective conscience of the UPA government.

If the appointment of a person with an allegation of taint was appalling, the response of the UPA government to the allegations of CEC — was outrageous. What would explain the fact that the government alternated between two stands — one, to dismiss the allegations of CEC without even a cursory examination and two, to dwell on the technicalities as to whether CEC had the suo moto powers under the constitution or not.

The arguments by the UPA legal luminaries possibly could be constitutionally right — the CEC may well lack the suo moto powers to suggest the dismissal of his colleague. After all, it is a matter of interpretation and hair splitting technicalities. But this argument beats common sense too — does that mean that a police inspector has to wait for a formal written complaint from a victim before proceeding to act?

Crucially, by refusing to act and by imputing motives to the CEC, the UPA has, as it has done to several democratic institutions across the country, undermined its independence. Surely, with elections scheduled shortly, we are in for a torrid summer.

And a partisan CBI
Given this state of the nation, can the comrades be far behind? But for a change this time around they are at the receiving end from the UPA government. The issue is one of referring a corruption case involving a politburo member from Kerala who was involved in awarding the contract to a company while he was a power minister of Kerala in the mid-nineties.

What is interesting to note here is that the investigating agency of the state government under the Congress party in 2006 had virtually exonerated Pinarayi Vijayan, the minister and politburo member in question. Yet, the matter was subsequently referred to the CBI by the then Congress government in the state.

Strangely, the CBI did not choose to act between 2006 and now. It was only last fortnight that the CBI deemed it fit to approach the governor and seek his permission to proceed and file a charge-sheet against Vijayan.

In a classic case of misuse of the CBI, when the Left supported the UPA government, the case was kept in hibernation. When the Left withdrew support and threatened not to support a future Congress-led government at the Centre, the knives are out.

Similarly, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati [Images] has been facing active CBI probe ever since her party parted ways with the UPA. In contrast, when Mulayam Singh Yadav [Images] came forward to support the UPA, the pace of the CBI probe against him seemed to have slowed considerably as evidenced by the stand of the CBI in the Supreme Court recently. The use of CBI could never have been more blatantly political as it has been under the UPA regime.

The strange silence of the opposition, intellectuals and media
As stated at the outset, it may be recalled that all that is stated above have been issues that are engaging the attention of the nation for the past fortnight. In a nutshell this is the report card of the UPA government for the past fortnight. Yet, the opposition, notably the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties, seem to have been strangely silent on these developments, perhaps not realising the consequences.

It is not only the silence of the political parties that is inexplicable — equally the silence of our intellectuals (who otherwise seem to be preoccupied with the ugly events in Mangalore) is intriguing. It is often said that such issues attract maximum attention of our intellectuals. The events of the last fortnight only confirm the adage.

One reason why opposition parties are silent is perhaps they feel that they could use these precedents to their advantage should they come to power. In the alternative they are completely oblivious and innocent of these developments. Whatever be it, it does not speak highly of our opposition parties.

What is worrying is that our intellectuals and sections of media have rationalised these developments. The reluctance of nominating number two was rationalised as Indian democracy having sufficient institutions that could take care of any situation, not otherwise!

The politicisation of CBI is so complete that no one expects anything better from it. In case of the spat in the Election Commission between the CEC and his colleague, it is invariably seen as a proxy war between the BJP and Congress, not otherwise!

By repeatedly denigrating our democratic institutions, the UPA government has explicitly demonstrated its complete disdain for healthy democratic traditions. But what should worry the nation most is the fact is the silence of our intellectuals, media and our opposition parties.

Once we rationalise all these negative developments or remain silent, democratic institutions may still remain, only we would have killed democracy.

M R Venkatesh is a Chennai-based Chartered Accountant. He can be contacted at mrv@mrv.net.in

Pseudo secular left and congress lets down Taslima once again

No room for Taslima

18 Nov 2008

The secular establishment has let down Taslima Nasreen again. She was first hounded out from her adopted city of Kolkata following demonstrations against her by a Muslim group.

The Left Front government was so eager at the time to placate the minority community that it didn’t bother to consider whether kowtowing to a demand based on bigotry was in accordance with either Marxism or secularism. The Bangladeshi author was first flown to Jaipur, but since refuge in a BJP-ruled state was embarrassing for both the communists and the Centre, she was brought back to Delhi, but only to be kept under virtual house arrest. Pranab Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, both of whom belong to West Bengal, also warned her to be careful of what she says and writes.

Now, she has to pack her bags again because, according to her, the Centre gave her a resident permit for six months with the “secret condition” that she must leave the country at the expiry of the term.

It may not be too fanciful to link the denial of hospitality to the controversial writer to the proximity of a series of assembly polls which are to be followed after a few months by the general election. At a time like this when the Congress is not too sure of its fate, it evidently thought it prudent not to offend the Muslims in any way even if its concept of catering to their sensitiveness means pandering to the fundamentalists among them. Since this has been the pattern of the party’s conduct ever since the ban on Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, it is hardly surprising that it is following the line of least resistance yet again. But what is curious is that the Left, too, hasn’t demurred, apparently because it also wants to play safe, notwithstanding all its protestations about opposing retrogressive forces. So, when the comrades say that their fight is against imperialism and communalism, they are not referring to the Islamic version. The Congress’s pusillanimity in the matter of standing up for artistic freedom is essentially no different from its failure to act against the vandalism of Raj Thackeray now and of his uncle in an earlier period. The cowardice stems from a lack of principles and the fear of alienating an identifiable group of voters.

It will be laughable, therefore, if the Congress and the Left claim to be champions of secularism during the election campaign.

Kutubuddin Ansari, Poster boy of secularists asks: Why my photo in terror mail

Why my photo in terror mail, asks ‘face of riots’
17 Sep 2008, 1604 hrs IST,TNN

Kutubuddin Ansari, the man who became the face of post-Godhra riots (TOI Photo)
AHMEDABAD: Qutubuddin Ansari (40), the man who became the face of post-Godhra riots with his folded hands and tearful expression, is irritated with the terror group Indian Mujahideen using his photograph in its recent e-mail dashed off just before it struck in Delhi.

“The terrorists want to convey that my plight is being avenged, but I don’t believe in the theory of revenge. I don’t understand why they chose my photograph,” Ansari told TOI. He added that on the contrary, he has been insisting on peace and has also been convincing his neighbours that he would like to participate in meetings which are held to promote communal harmony.

He laughed off the content of the e-mail ‘Eye for an Eye’ and said, “It’s their look out, I can’t help it. My photo has been used by many people for serving their own purposes, what can I do when terrorists too titled their message with my picture?”

Recalling the use of his famous riot-ravaged photograph during the Bihar Assembly elections to appeal members of the Muslim community, he said that he failed to understand why his photograph was used by politicians.

“It has been more than six years now, and things have calmed down. People no longer want to turn back to those incidents. And it is useless to remind people of those distressful things, when both the communities strongly depend on each other,” Ansari believes.

After being shot to fame with the photo, the West Bengal government invited him to Kolkata and provided him with sewing machines to earn livelihood. He stayed there for a year, but returned to Ahmedabad in 2005, following his mother’s illness.

“I returned with my family empty-handed, but the West Bengal government sent four sewing machines here too. But why should we recall all those incidents whenever there’s any problem?” he questioned refusing to be photographed again. He lives in a narrow bylane in Rakhial with his wife and three children.

Muslim appeasement has crippled India

Muslim appeasement has crippled India

Thanks to UPA government’s policy of soft borders, Pak-Bangla nationals are infiltrating into India every-day changing the demographic map of various states in the country. And even before perpetrators of 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai could be punished, Mumbai faced fresh blasts on July 11, 2006 in trains which claimed about two hundred lives.
By J.G. Arora

Genocide and eviction of Hindus from Kashmir to be made refugees in their own country; frequent Pak-Bangla sponsored terrorist attacks on security forces, civilians and temples; continuation of Article 370 conferring a special status on Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir; infiltration of crores of Pak-Bangla nationals into India to create one more Islamic country on Indian soil represent the bitter harvest of this suicidal appeasement.

Congress government under Jawaharlal Nehru started “Haj subsidy” for Muslims in 1959 though such subsidy is anti-secular and though none of the 57 Muslim countries pays any such subsidy.

A large majority of Indian Muslims who demanded Pakistan for Muslims and exchange of population on creation of Pakistan stayed back in India, and did not go to Pakistan.

Sir Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last”. Though India is being devoured bit by bit every day by its tormentors, India continues to appease them. Poisonous politics of appeasement has crippled India and ravaged its body and soul.

Genocide and eviction of Hindus from Kashmir to be made refugees in their own country; frequent Pak-Bangla sponsored terrorist attacks on security forces, civilians and temples; continuation of Article 370 conferring a special status on Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir; infiltration of crores of Pak-Bangla nationals into India to create one more Islamic country on Indian soil represent the bitter harvest of this suicidal appeasement.

Long legacy
This hideous policy of appeasement started in 1921 when Mahatma Gandhi and Congress Party’s support to Indian Muslims’ demand for Khilafat (to install Sultan of Turkey as the Caliph) led to Moplah rebellion in 1921 in Malabar in which thousands of innocent Hindus were massacred by Muslims. And Hindus had nothing to do with British policy towards Turkey. Sir C. Sankaran Nair (1857-1934), a former judge of Madras High Court has described horrors of Moplah rebellion in his book “Gandhi and Anarchy”. But Mahatma Gandhi reportedly described Moplahs as “God fearing,” who “are fighting for what they consider as religion, and in a manner they are considered as religious.”

Persistent appeasement philosophy of Congress culminated in the Muslim League demanding Pakistan for Muslims in March, 1940, and creation of Pakistan in 1947 and eviction of Hindus and Sikhs from present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. But even after 1947, the same doctrine has guided successive Congress governments’ actions. Only a few illustrations of such countless actions are given here. Congress government under Jawaharlal Nehru started “Haj subsidy” for Muslims in 1959 though such subsidy is anti-secular and though none of the 57 Muslim countries pays any such subsidy. And to placate Muslim uproar over Supreme Court’s judgement in Shah Bano’s case, the then Congress government passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 and nullified the said judgement. And the same Congress which had rejected “Communal Award” in 1932 is now spearheading Muslim reservation in government jobs; and is sharing power with Muslim League which had demanded and got Pakistan. Besides, debunking nation’s security, after regaining power in 2004, Congress government repealed Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) the way it had repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) in 1995. Besides, to please pro-Pakistan elements, UPA government is planning to withdraw security forces from Kashmir. But the most vexatious outcome of this capitulation is the demographic and terrorist invasion of India.

Demographic and terrorist invasion
In their bid to demolish and dismember India, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, and its Bangladeshi counterpart are bent upon creating one more Islamic country on Indian soil for which they have illegally sent crores of their nationals into India.

AASU leader Sarbananda Sonowal took the issue of Bangladeshi infiltration to Supreme Court. By its judgement dated July 12, 2005, Supreme Court struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983 as unconstitutional; and termed Bangladeshi infiltration as “external aggression” and directed that “the Bangladesh nationals who have illegally crossed the border and have trespassed into Assam or are living in other parts of the country have no legal right of any kind to remain in India and they are liable to be deported.”

But instead of deporting the infiltrators, on Feb. 10, 2006, UPA government brought in the Foreigners (Tribunals for Assam) Order to nullify the Apex Court’s judgement. However, on December 5, 2006, Supreme Court quashed this Order also as illegal and unconstitutional, and called for a strict implementation of its earlier judgement dated July 12, 2005 “so as to ensure that illegal immigrants are sent out of this country.” Shockingly, despite the Supreme Court’s clear directions, no infiltrators have been deported by the government.

Rather, thanks to UPA government’s policy of soft borders, Pak-Bangla nationals are infiltrating into India every day changing the demographic map of various States in the country. And even before perpetrators of 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai could be punished, Mumbai faced fresh blasts on July 11, 2006 in trains which claimed about two hundred lives. And these attacks are in the long line of attacks Bharat has suffered since Muhammad bin Qasim’s Arab army’s attack in 711. And such attacks continue to hammer India due to government’s terrorist-friendly approach.

‘Settlement’ as against ‘appeasement’
Immediately after Muslim League demanded Pakistan for Muslims and exchange of population in March 1940, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar wrote his book “Thoughts on Pakistan” in which he criticised the Congress policy of ‘appeasement’ of Muslims, and advocated the policy of ‘settlement’. As per Dr. Ambedkar, ‘appeasement’ sets no limits to the demands of aggressor. ‘Settlement’ does. Besides, appeasement increases aggressor’s aggression. Accordingly, Dr. Ambedkar held that as a ‘settlement’, creation of Pakistan would end constant appeasement.

Besides, as a ‘settlement’ of Hindu-Muslim conflict, Dr. Ambedkar suggested that exchange of Hindu-Muslim population must accompany partition of India. But despite Dr. Ambedkar’s counsel against appeasement, Congress kept on pursuing appeasement. In the 1945-46 elections, Muslims voted for the creation of Pakistan. And despite conceding Pakistan in 1947, Congress continues to cling to its policy of appeasement.

A large majority of Indian Muslims who demanded Pakistan for Muslims and exchange of population on creation of Pakistan stayed back in India, and did not go to Pakistan. But with the creation of Pakistan in 1947, it was the permanent settlement of Hindu-Muslim problem in the sub-continent. Accordingly, appeasement must come to an end.

Now or never
Because of its surrender and inaction, India is being taken over by crores of Pak-Bangla infiltrators silently. Besides, countless Pak-Bangla terrorists are stalking all over India to strike at the time and target of their choice.

Since drastic situations demand drastic remedies, all nationalist organisations and individuals must come together and force the government to act as follows: (a) Terrorists must be crushed; not welcomed and embraced. Chanakya Neeti as also Sun-tzu’s Art of War, and countless lessons of world history emphasise the crushing of enemies before enemies crush us. (b) Let infiltrators be treated as invaders, And not as vote banks. (c) Let Indian borders be sealed to prevent infiltrators from entering India. (d) Let all Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangla road and rail journeys be discontinued. (e) Let the Supreme Court’s judgements be implemented, and crores of Pak-Bangla infiltrators be deported. And their daily influx be curbed. (f) And let Pak-Bangla design to destroy India and plant one more Islamic country on Indian soil be defeated.

Here, it is relevant to quote Sir Winston Churchill who deprecated the British policy of appeasement of Germany before outbreak of Second World War thus, “Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival.”

The writer is a retired Chief Commissioner of Income Tax

SIMI’s ‘secular’ admirers

SIMI’s ‘secular’ admirers
Thursday August 21 2008 00:39 IST
S Gurumurthy

Afew publicly known facts expose the state of the Indian debate on- Islamist terror. The Ahmedabad serial blasts of July 26 killed over 50 people and injured over 200. The serial blasts in Bangalore, a day before, did not yield the same rich harvest of blood. After the blasts, day after day, the Gujarat police kept uncovering and defusing dozens of live bombs in Surat that fortunately did not explode.

Even as the recovery of such bombs was being telecast live on all channels, on August 5, a court in Delhi annulled the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), faulting the UPA government for providing “no fresh evidence” to continue the ban.

How did the “seculars” react to the court lifting the ban on SIMI? Mulayam Singh and Lalu Yadav said that the ban was wrong in the first place! Congress party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said the order was “no setback.” He went one step further and said, “Wherever terrorist attacks have taken place in the recent past — Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat — it is the state governments that are investigating the matter. It is their responsibility to submit the evidence against SIMI to the Central Government,” almost implying that, as the state governments had not provided any, no evidence existed against SIMI. Other secular parties, the “seculars” in the NDA included, were careful not to fault the government for allowing SIMI to escape the charge of terror.

Stunned by the court’s view that “fresh evidence” of terror was necessary to keep the ban on, the state rushed to the Supreme Court and got the ban continued.

It was against the background of such prevarication on SIMI that the Gujarat police announced on August 16 that it had arrested 10 top SIMI officials and activists who had masterminded the Gujarat blasts; and also the blasts in Rajasthan and elsewhere. It also came out with an irrefutable story of how the terrorists conspired, how many of them and when and where, with identities, dates, sequences and locations.

When the secularists were handing out negative certificate of good conduct to SIMI, thanks to the court order, a study by the Institute of Conflict Management headed by KPS Gill, the terror of the Punjab terrorists, had already catalogued over 100 incidents from 2000 to July this year, that characterised SIMI as a terror outfit. Its cadre had been charged as motivators and perpetrators in major attacks from 2002 to 2008.

State governments, including Congress and communist governments and the UPA government at the Centre, had told courts and the Parliament at different times that SIMI was an anti-national, terrorist organisation; that it was linked to Lashker-e-Toiba and other Islamist terror outfits; that huge quantities of arms and ammunition including RDX were seized from their hideouts and cadres.

In February 2007, holding that the SIMI was secessionist, the Supreme Court said that it had not stopped its activities when its counsel pleaded that, after 2003, there was no evidence to link it to anti-national activities. Moreover, it is the secular Maharastra government’s police that alleged in a chargesheet that SIMI was linked to Pakistan!

And now a brief note on SIMI. It was founded in 1977 by Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at Western Illinois University Macomb, Illinois, but originally from Lucknow!

To make “the Holy Koran the governing text of human life, propagation of Islam, and jihad in the cause of Islam” were its founding goals.

Javed Anand, a secular icon, has this to say about SIMI: “True to its ideological mooring, in the ’80s, SIMI produced eyecatching stickers proclaiming “Secularism, no; Democracy, no; Nationalism, no; Polytheism, no; Only Islam.” But no one seemed unduly perturbed by this dangerous drift of a section of Indian Muslim youth spreading wings under the loving care of its patron, JeI (Jamait-e-Islami Hind). It was only in the late ’90s that the JeI officially snapped the umbilical cord that organically linked it to SIMI.” But Javed Anand wrote this not in the 1980s, not in the 1990s, not even till August 15, 2008, but only on August 16, after SIMI was seen as the culprit in the Gujarat blasts.

How did SIMI grow to these menacing proportions? The plain answer is that it was receiving open and clandestine political patronage from the seculars. The NDA government first banned SIMI in September 2001 and extended the ban in 2003,which continued till September 2005. The UPA government, which came to power in 2004, did not extend the ban when it expired in September 2005, helping to revive a disintegrating SIMI. This, according to Wikipedia, was the state of SIMI after the second ban: “It was unable to function in any manner because all its members were demoralised or had crossed the age of 30 years which automatically disentitled them to continue as a member of SIMI … and due to lack of offices and as all its accounts were frozen, some of the erstwhile members also had to fight criminal cases foisted against them by the state.”

But why did the UPA not continue the ban? Because Sonia Gandhi and her party opposed the first ban on SIMI in 2001. They were not only admirers of SIMI, but also its advocates – yes, really, advocates as Salman Khurshid, president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress committee, was the counsel defending SIMI in the high court and in the Supreme Court against the ban.

See how these secular admirers of SIMI defended a terror outfit that was anti-secular, anti-democracy, anti-India according to Javed Anand, when the NDA government first outlawed it in 2001. While speaking against the introduction of POTA in the special Parliament session in 2002 Sonia censured the government for banning the SIMI, which was not involved in terrorist activities!

Sirprakash Jaiswal, UPCC president in 2001, said the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was a greater threat to the nation than SIMI.”

The government of the same party had to re-impose ban in 2006 after its own Maharashtra government found SIMI involved in the Mumbai train blasts in 2006. Later, the very same Jaiswal, as junior minister for home affairs in this government told the Rajya Sabha on April 23, 2007 and the Lok Sabha earlier, that SIMI was linked to LeT and was anti-national and that huge caches of arms and ammunition were seized from its cadre! But this was after SIMI had grown to gigantic proportions and struck at India some 10 times between 2004 and 2008 before it struck again in Gujarat on August 26. Even now, Sonia has not uttered one word against SIMI. Does it mean that she admires it still? Or she is so saintly that, like one of the three noble monkeys of Mahatma Gandhi, she sees no evil whether it is SIMI or LTTE or Nalini or Afzal — the RSS and its allies being the only exceptions!

comment@gurumurthy.net

About the author: S Gurumurthy is a well-known commentator on political and economic issues.

Javed Anand: Indian Muslims must recognise the organisation for what it is: against secular democracy

COLUMN Suspect SIMI? Of course
Indian Express, Saturday, August 16, 2008

Indian Muslims must recognise the organisation for what it is: against secular democracy

Javed Anand: The special tribunal under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2006, headed by Justice Geeta Mittal, recently lifted the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The joy with which several mainstream Muslim organisations and much of the Urdu press greeted SIMI’s return to lawful existence proved to be short-lived since the very next day the Supreme Court stayed the tribunal’s verdict. Nonetheless, the misguided show of solidarity with SIMI raises some very disturbing questions. Are Muslim leaders and the Urdu media wilfully blind to the malevolence sheltering in their own backyard? Or, is it that in the interests of “communal balance”, anything goes?

The nefarious nature of SIMI has been evident from the moment it emerged from the womb of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) in 1977. “Character building” to fight against the perceived twin evils of communism and capitalist consumerism with its “degenerate morality” was the declared objective. But in less than a decade this self-styled moral brigade metamorphosed into “the real inheritor” of the legacy of the founder of JeI, Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, who argued that all Muslims must strive for an Islamic state.

True to its ideological mooring, in the ’80s, SIMI produced eye-catching stickers proclaiming “Secularism, NO; Democracy, NO; Nationalism, NO; Polytheism, NO; Only Islam”. These stickers adorned many Muslim homes and shops throughout India. But no one seemed to be unduly perturbed by this dangerous drift of a section of Indian Muslim youth, spreading wings under the loving care of its patron, the JeI. (It was only in the late ’90s that the JeI officially snipped the umbilical cord that organically linked it to SIMI.)

There is a filial relationship that unites different fundamentalisms and there is a sibling relationship between fanaticism, extremism and terrorism. Put differently, there is a thin line that divides one from the other. By the early ’90s, it was talking the language of “jihad” and an “Islamic caliphate.” In SIMI’s case, jihad can mean nothing other than armed struggle?

Don’t trust information doled out by intelligence agencies? What about ex-SIMI members, its founding president and unit chiefs?

Take, for example, Saeed Ahmed Khan, its former Mumbai chief, who confessed last month that he visited Pakistan in 1991 after learning that “the ISI was training Indian youths to cultivate (sic) the culture of jihad”. Khan said that the then SIMI top-brass C.A. Baseer and Asraf Zafari were pushing it in a more militant direction. “It was at this juncture that the gun culture took root in SIMI — these radical preachers toed the line of jihad and brainwashed Indian youths who later turned into anti-Indian jihadis.”

Don’t believe him? What about Dr Ahmadullah Siddiqi, its founder president, who left India in 1981 and has been a professor of journalism and public relations at Western Illinois University, Macomb, USA the last 16 years? In a September 2003 interview, he agreed: “Perhaps the group has been hijacked by elements in other countries and other Muslim societies and not all of them may be, but some of them have become misguided and radical .”

What about yet another ex-SIMI-man, Kanpur’s Haji Mohammed Salees, horrified by what he saw and heard at SIMI’s “Ikhwan Conference” in his city in October 1999? Among the things that shocked Salees was reportedly the war cry of the seven-year-old Gulrez Siddiqui before an audience of over 20,000 people: “Islam ka ghazi, butshikan/ Mera sher, Osama bin Laden  (The warrior of Islam, the destroyer of idols/ My lion, Osama bin Laden)”. Those who addressed the gathering, long-distance telephonically, were Hamas founder, Sheikh Yaseen, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, and the imam of the al Aqsa mosque, Israel/Palestine. “It was all a shock for us. We realised they are developing international links. We distanced ourselves,” Salees has said

Two years later, at a gathering of 25,000 Muslim youths in Mumbai, SIMI reiterated that the time has come for Indian Muslims to launch an armed jihad in India with the establishment of an Islamic caliphate as the ultimate aim.

Don’t believe any of them? What about SIMI’s own posters plastered in the by-lanes of Muslim mohallas across the country following the demolition of the Babri mosque, with an invocation: “Ya Ilahi, bhej de Mahmood koi  (Oh Allah, send us a Mahmud)”. Who does not know that the reference was to Mahmud Ghaznavi whom fanatics revere as a “But Shikan (Destroyer of Idols)”

Which editor of an Urdu paper can disclaim knowledge of these inflammatory posters? Could it be that Urdu papers never received press releases from SIMI on their official letterhead with a logo depicting a Quran and an AK-47 perched on top of a globe? And who has not heard of SIMI’s open adulation of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, for both of whom India is Enemy No 3 after the United States and Israel?

Let’s now turn to the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. It provides for a ban on any organisation that is inimical to the sovereignty and integrity of India, or is involved in terror acts.

Are the blasts after blasts, in city after city of India in recent years, part of the “jihad” espoused by SIMI? The investigating agencies obviously believe this to be the case. Why else would SIMI activists be routinely detained, arrested, interrogated, charge-sheeted and put on trial? Admittedly, they have yet to establish the terrorism charge against SIMI activists before any court of law in any of the blast cases.

A continuation of the ban on SIMI would need it to be established as guilty of one or more of the charges — secessionist activity, terrorism, spreading communal discord, hostility to Indian constitution — since 2006, the last time the ban was re-imposed. Otherwise a ban cannot legally be re-imposed.

But is it merely a question of law? Should SIMI not also be judged from a socio-political perspective, in terms of its implications for India’s secular-democratic polity? Should any sensible citizen be embracing the Bajrang Dal merely because it has not been convicted under the law of the land? If that is not acceptable, by what logic can Muslim bodies rush to the rescue of SIMI?

Before the first ban was slapped on SIMI in 2001, the chief ministers of Maharashtra, MP and Rajasthan made a strong case before the NDA for a simultaneous ban on SIMI and the Bajrang Dal. And rightly so. But the Vajpayee-led government chose to act against one and not the other. The UPA has done no better.

Why are Hindu extremist organisations also not placed under the scanner of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act? To ask this question is to rightfully demand an end to discriminatory justice and even-handed application of the law of the land against all. Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad’s welcoming of the lifting of the ban on SIMI can be explained away in terms of vote-bank politics. But for Indian Muslims to be seen as standing by a self-declared enemy of secular-democratic India is nothing short of suicidal.

The writer is co-editor, “Communalism Combat”, and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy

express@expressindia.com

Government of India: Pro-Muslim to anti-Hindu

Pro-Muslim to anti-Hindu
Prafull Goradia, Pioneer.com

A perverse Government rules India

The Manmohan Singh Government has been candidly pro-Muslim from the day it was formed in 2004. Soon it appointed four committees for minorities, the leading one headed by Justice RS Sachar. By 2007, ‘Muslims first’ became a slogan often voiced by the Prime Minister. This year the UPA Government has turned from being pro-Muslim to Anti-Hindu.

On the morrow of winning the July 22 confidence vote, its advocate in the Supreme Court declared that Sri Ram had himself destroyed the Ram Setu after defeating Ravan and crossing back to home soil. Presumably, the stone setu that is visible immediately under the water surface is a Hindu illusion.

Earlier, the Solicitor-General had denied the existence of Ram. The historicity of Ram was not only questioned but also denied — how irrational! Even the factor of faith cherished by Hindus over the centuries was conveniently overlooked. The oversight was merely to serve the desire of the DMK, a partner of the UPA Ministry. What was the vested interest of the south Indian party is difficult to tell. The Congress Prime Minister’s interest was confined to appeasing a coalition partner.

For so small an advantage, how low could the UPA descend? Would the same Government have questioned the historicity of Jesus Christ or discussed the legend of his birth or the name of his father or was he god? Would the Government have dared to question anything about Prophet Mohammed and not accepted whatever has been stated in the Quran, the Hadith and the Sunnah? No one debates the attributes of allah; he is omniscient and omnipresent, period.

There is, however, no hesitation on the part of self-styled secularists who are born Hindus and who are likely to die Hindus to be cremated in grand style with the help of pure ghee and sandalwood. Hindus denying Ram in order to oblige some shipping companies is a moral nadir below which it is not possible to descend. And only a convinced anti-Hindu can do it. Uncannily, neither a Muslim nor a Christian would denigrate Ram. On the contrary, poet Mohammed Iqbal had described him as Imam-e-Hind.

A Hindu condemning his community or denying a Hindu avatar is an indication of mental or moral derangement. Could it be attributed to the Hindu suppression for centuries first by Muslim invaders and then by British conquerors? Sections of Hindus must have felt enslaved and helpless. A slave has access to few pleasures in life and in frustration might turn to masochism, so called after an Austrian psychologist Chevalier Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who discovered that there are people who derive pleasure by experiencing pain or humiliation. Is the Hindu fringe which runs down Hindus and denies their avatars suffering from this mental illness?

The radical humanist MN Roy was earlier a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist. At a young age and although an Indian, he was an elected member of VI Lenin’s Presidium in Moscow. He was an atheist and yet in 1930 he named himself ‘Mahmood’. In Volume IV of his Selected Works (OUP, 2000), he wrote, “Hindu superciliousness towards the religion and culture of the Muslims is absurd.”

More Hindu historians have been anti-Hindu rather than objective scholars. Take Prof Romila Thapar who has defended Mahmud Ghazni’s idol-breaking with an extraordinary argument: He was a robber and not an iconoclast. Not satisfied with the strength of her defence, she went on to argue that even King Harsh Vardhan also used to desecrate temples in order to appropriate wealth.

Prof Gargi Chakravarthy, another historian, claimed that Mahmud Ghazni was not a religious fanatic because he neither converted the defeated people nor disallowed his soldiers to blow the sankh. The same distinguished scholar has defended Temur Lang’s massacres on the ground that he had butchered more Muslims in Central Asia than Hindus in India. The same book of history published by People’s Publishing House carries forward Prof Harbans Mukhia’s defence of temple desecration by Aurangzeb: The emperor did not destroy temples unless they became centres of conspiracy or rebellion against the state. Prof Bipan Chandra, another well-known historian, has taken great pains to prove that Rana Pratap, Shivaji and Guru Gobind Singh did much to undermine secularism and national integration.

Such anti-Hindu perversion is not confined to historians. It extends to political figures from early-20th century. Abdul Rashid murdered Swami Shraddhananda in 1926 because he persevered with offering shuddhi or return to Hinduism. In court, Asaf Ali, Jawaharlal Nehru’s friend, defended him but failed. Rashid was hanged by the British Government. At the Guwahati session of the Congress in the same year, Gandhiji described Abdul Rashid as his “brother”.

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