Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Increasing defiance of secularism by Muslims?

By M.V.Kamath

When India became independent after being partitioned on religious lines, it was part of Delhi’s faith that it would be secular in every possible way in sharp contrast to Pakistan’s approach that Muslims constitute a separate nation. There was no other stand that India could possibly have taken.

If India’s political leaders agreed to partition it was not because they agreed to the Two-Nation Theory but because they were unwilling to land the entire country into a civil war on religious grounds. Perhaps they should have chosen the option, even if it reduced the entire country temporarily into a shambles.

At the very least it would have saved a lot of trouble in later years. The Muslim community would have found its place in a secular government and all would have been well. But after spending several years in jail and unwilling to see the country torn to pieces because of intransigence on the part of certain Muslim leaders, Congress leaders and they were then the voice of the people decided, howsoever unwillingly, to accept partition.

Those Muslims left in India then realised that they cannot afford to alienate the majority community any longer, lest they invite its wrath. The Congress Party fully cashed in on it and won election after election with the Muslim support.

At the same time, Muslims began to realise that they could live in India without, fear, that indeed they got better terms as a minority than they ever dreamt of and had not Pakistan turned into a religious state, first under General Ayub Khan and later under Gen Zia, their future would have been brighter than they visualised.

Instead of learning to live in peace, successive Pakistan leaders felt compelled to treat India as an enemy, their minds psyched to the days of Mohamad of Ghazni. That psyche has not changed. It was Gen. Ayub Khan who said that one Pakistani (Muslim) soldier was equal to ten Indian (Hindu) sepoys.

Never mind if he got a bloody nose and that in three successive wars, Pakistan was defeated. But the psyche, it would seem, continues. Pakistani students are now being taught that Hindus are “devious and cowardly”. And this, not in madrassahs which, according to facts revealed by a US organisation, at best teach 1.7 million students, but in Government-rum schools that cater to 25 million students.

What kind of society can one expect to grow in Pakistan under such a vicious educational system? This was noticed even by the Wall Street Journal. It was noticed that Pakistani text books were also describing Christians as “vengeful conquerors” and Jews as “tight-fisted money-lenders”; all this went unnoticed for a long time with military-dominated Islamabad managing to camouflage its bigotry infested curricula from outside purview.

The United States, eager to enlist Islamic fundamentalists in its fight against the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan, for a long time turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s educational system, but now, especially after what Al-Qaeda has done, is waking up to the reality that is Pakistan.

The US State Department has now apparently taken the matter on hand. In an unusually tough statement the State Department has said that continued teaching of prejudice in Pakistan is a matter of “serious concern” and that it has engaged the Pakistan Government on this issue described as “clearly unacceptable and inciteful”.

The State Department’s spokesman, Sean McCormick told the media that Pakistan’s Education Minister Javed Ashraf Qazi has been apprised of Washington’s concern but there is scepticism in many US quarters that Islamabad would do anything to rectify the situation, considering that Qazi is a former ISI chief and like Musharraf is a product of the Pakistani military that has fed a distorted historical narrative to its people.

According to Pakistani text books, “under the Khiljis Pakistan moved southward to include a greater part of Central India and the Deccan (and) in retrospect it may be said that during the 16th century,Hindustan`disappeared and was completely absorbed in Pakistan’.

It is one thing for Pakistan to write such stuff but, what is more to be aware of, is the increasing defiance of secularism in India by Muslim organisations which have not, for once, stood by the Indian Government on the matter of Jammu & Kashmir. The sheer impertinence of a Muslim organisation to claim that Taj Mahal is its property, takes one’s breath away.

It cannot just be a coincidence that the Deoband Dar-ul-Uloom recently tried to find out how far it can go to destroy India’s secularism. At first Deoband asserted that it has every right to issue political fatwas.

Had India meekly succumbed to this, Deoband would have gone a step further, and then still another step further, to destroy India’s secularism. Happily, the government quickly asserted that fatwas issued by Islamic institutions are not valid in the eyes of law.

The Deoband fatwa claims to have been only in connection with religious (read civil) matters. If the government had given in, Deoband would have interfered in criminal matters as well, turning the Government of India’s Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 into a huge joke.

In a timely intervention, Union Law Minister H. R. Bharadwaj has said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha that the procedure to be followed in criminal courts are set out in the Code of Criminal Procedure and that the fatwas issued by Islamic institutions do not have legal sanctity.

That is not enough; Deoband and all other Islamic institutions must be sternly warned that any interference with established law in the country would be very sternly dealt with.

Now we are told that Deoband has decided not to issue any more fatwas on non-religious matters and those that have political overtones. Maulana Marghoobur Rehman, vice Chancellor, is reported to have said that Muftis issuing controversial fatwas discouraging Muslim women from contesting elections, have been asked not to issue a fatwa having political overtones.

Deoband apparently received about 200 applications for fatwa every month. It is nobody’s contention that in a caste dispute, a caste body cannot act as an arbitrator. In Mumbai a caste organisation even settles civil disputes through mutual understanding of parties concerned.

That has become necessary because taking civil cases to courts is not only costly but time-consuming. Justice is not available for months, if not years. But it is one thing to settle civilmatters privately and quite another to issue religious fatwas making a mockery of secularism.

According to the new face of Deoband, in issuing a fatwa that women seeking elections should wear burqa all that was meant was that “Muslim women who participate in any political process should dress accordingly and conduct themselves with dignity in public life”.

Does that mean that Hindu women who address public meetings are dressed indecently and don’t carry themselves with dignity? What nonsense is being so openly purveyed? One suspects that there is a larger organisation that is behind these new developments in Bangladesh, when some 500 bombs and grenades were simultaneously exploded in 63 out of 64 districts, it became clear that some powerful organisation of fundamentalists was behind it.

It is not easy to manufacture these bombs, convey them to districts without interference and get them exploded within 30 minutes without some powerful organisation behind it all. Hardly anybody was killed; what is implied in this is that if the government does not bend down to the fundamentalists, they are fully capable of indulging in large-scale killings.

Some organisations like the Jammat-i-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote, Islamic tantra-Andonlam and Khilafat Andolan have been identified but they are obviously financed by outside bodies. Suspect are Pakistan’s ISI and, for good measure, Saudi Arabia. India is taking everything lightly. Bangladeshi Muslims are pushed into West Bengal and Assam districts to the point that many districts on the Nepal and Bangladesh periphery are having Muslim majorities.

The Bangladeshis have to be identified and summarily thrown out of the country. India cannot afford the luxury of tolerance and patience. Its very security is involved. It makes no sense to build fences. Fences can be broken. And the Bangladesh Rifles feel free to open fire on India’s Border Security Force in the Malda area. That is some cheek.

What India should do is to read the Riot Act to Dhaka and warn it that India might mount a major invasion to protect its territorial integrity. Magnanimity does not pay where fundamentalists are concerned. They treat Indians (read Hindus) as weak and their tolerance is misinterpreted as lack of courage and pure cowardice.

India must realise that it has to deal with two fundamentalist states which have no respect for law. It is now learnt that India is planning to give $ 150 million credit to Dhaka, which is totally unscrupulous when it comes to India, with Bangla Industries Minister Motiur Rahman Nizami even going to the extent of accusing India of triggering off the 17 August bomb blasts!

In 1998 then Governor of Assam Lt Gen S. K. Sinha had warned about Bangladeshi infiltration into Assam and West Bengal. Now, a former Director General of India’s Border Security Force is quoted as saying that it is high time “we changed our policy, attitude and national priorities and tell Bangladesh that enough is enough”. It was a proper Muslim, Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk, who had the courage to ban burqa and turn his state into a modern nation.

India must take a lesson from Kemal Ataturk. Burqa must be banned in public. That is pure secularism. But what can one expect from a Congress government which permits a text book published under its auspices to say that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was “mentally deranged”?

Hindu saints can be insulted under secularism. Muslim fundamentalism remains insulated. India is paying a dear price for its fake secularism. It is time Indians have started to realise it.

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