MANGLED bodies, wounded people and fear-stricken faces — every bomb blast, anywhere, leaves this image in its wake. The recent serial blasts in Delhi were no different. What is different is that this blast confirms the existence of Islamist terrorism in India.
Unlike the past, when Pakistan was suspected straightaway in such events, this time the search is within the county. Still, the Indian Mujahideen, the terrorist outfit which has taken the responsibility, is linked to the Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami and the Lashkar-i-Taiba, the two groups said to operate from Pakistan. Defence Minister A.K. Anthony has put the blame on Pakistan but in a general way.
The Delhi blasts have followed a familiar pattern — low-intensity bombs, timer devices and emails to the media — that has been seen in Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Apparently, the group derives malicious satisfaction from killing the innocent, and selects crowded places like markets to obtain the maximum number of casualties. One thing is certain: the killers have no qualms of conscience although their functioning suggests that they are a highly educated lot.
What is disturbing is that the big cities from where they operate seem to have a network of people who support, shelter and guide them. True, money can buy such helpers. But the latter are like-minded and convinced about the righteousness of their task. This indicates that India has come to have a determined number of people who are willing to challenge the state which in any case remains inept and clueless.
Increasingly, people are starting to believe that the culprits are Muslims. The latter themselves want to know the identity of the killers. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is exploiting the situation. But neither the party nor its organisations has condemned the killing of Christians and the burning of their churches. After Orissa, the mayhem has spread to Karnataka, a BJP-run state. This has frightened the minorities. Muslims and Christians are feeling insecure. They are increasingly getting consolidated along religious lines. The added reason for Muslims’ alienation is New Delhi’s tilt towards Washington.
Indeed, the Muslim community has become disillusioned with the ethos of secularism which the dominant opinion in India upholds. Muslims have experienced how the reality is different when it comes to equal treatment. The Sachar Committee has proved the hollowness of the government’s claims with facts and figures which it has collected from official sources at the centre and in the states.
Therefore, the community is tempted to go it alone. The coming polls may show some evidence of it. The Muslim vote can influence some 120 Lok Sabha seats. The feeling of going it alone is understandable, but not beneficial. It may provide an outlet for the community’s exasperation and divide society further. This is not in the interest of Muslims whose numbers are the largest in India, after Indonesia. Even otherwise, the smouldering differences between Hindus and Muslims can catch fire, much to the glee of the BJP which is back to its Hindutva agenda with a vengeance.
However, the Muslim community may be smarting under a sense of denial; it has to strengthen pluralistic society by playing a lead role. Some Muslims leaders should take upon themselves the task of finding out the credentials of the so-called Indian Mujahideen who are trying to destroy India’s fabric of secularism and causing harm to the Muslim community.
A few days ago, some Muslims had announced that they would investigate the blasts at Jaipur and Bangalore to pick up concrete evidence which the government has failed to collect. Many Muslims believe that those who are being arrested on suspicion are not connected to the blasts.
The country is facing a real challenge. The majority and minorities are growing apart and the government doesn’t seem to have any idea how to span the distance. Jawaharlal Nehru also envisaged such a situation. There is something in what he said: communalism of minorities can be fought and curbed but the communalism of the majority would take the shape of fascism.
Another breed of terrorists has cropped up in India. They are not necessarily fundamentalist, nor are they from the underworld. You may call them roughnecks or goondas. Yet, they have acquired muscles to dictate individuals how to lead their life. They are everywhere. But they proliferate in Maharashtra. They are often targeting creative people, film stars or artists or writers because this is attention-grabbing. It also tickles their vanity and gives them the vicarious satisfaction of pulling down celebrities whom they can never equal in terms of name and fame.
In Maharashtra they call themselves the Shiv Sena and in Orissa, the Bajrang Dal. Their religion should not dupe you because they are the scum of society. Their strong point is that they either operate with the connivance of the state or with the confidence that society has no guts to intervene to fight them. They wish to wield political power but seldom come near it because the voters fear them.
For some time, Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray has been quiet partly because age has mellowed him. But also he has come to realise that Maharashtra is a part of India, and not vice versa. His notoriety began with his ultimatum to North Indians to leave the state but then this sentiment was converted into Hindutva and he joined hands with the BJP.
Raj Thackeray, his nephew, has come to reignite the same anti-north phobia. Many poor Biharis had to leave Mumbai following attacks on them and the destruction of their scanty belongings. But film actors are still on the top of the list.
Talented Jaya Bachchan was Raj Thackeray’s target because she said she did not have to necessarily stick to Marathi in Maharashtra and would speak in Hindi since she belonged to UP. Unfortunately, when public opinion was building up in her support, her husband Amitabh Bachchan offered an abject apology. Why don’t people put up a fight against injustice?
Another person to surrender to goondaism was Maqbool Fida Husain, the leading painter. Artists and others fought for his right to show Bharat Mata in the nude. While dismissing the 3,000 cases against him, the Supreme Court said that there are many such pictures, paintings and sculptures and that some of them were in temples. Husain should have come back to India but he preferred to celebrate his 93rd birthday in Dubai. It is a pity that decent people have no appetite to confront the indecent.
The writer is a leading journalist based in Delhi.
Source: Daily dawn, 19/9/2008