Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BATLA HOUSE: HYSTERICAL REACTIONS, DIFFICULT QUESTIONS

The NHRC has, at last, confirmed what almost everyone has known from the very beginning: the famous Batla House encounter in Delhi in which Inspector MC Sharma fell to the bullets of Indian Mujahideen terrorists, two of whom were also killed by the police, was genuine. Refuting the allegation that the police had fired on unarmed persons and that Inspector Sharma was killed as a result of rivalry within the police, the NHRC has also said that there was no violation of human rights.

It may be recalled that immediately after the encounter took place, Muslims across the spectrum had gone more than overboard with their reactions. Not willing to accept that the encounter was genuine, some so called liberal intellectuals like Shabnam Hashmi had gone to the absurd and incendiary extent of charging on TV that the condition of Muslims in India was like that of Jews in Nazi Germany. The theme of alienation of Muslims was also echoed by other Muslim leaders, including the liberal Mushirul Hasan who went to the extent of getting Jamia Milia Islamia University, whose students the terrorists were, to pay for their legal expenses.

There were also calls by an influential lot of Muslims for instituting almost separate and exclusive criminal laws for Muslims with one of the demands being that at least one third of the raiding police force in Muslim dominated areas must be of Muslim officers. But the cake was taken by the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid who attended the burial of the two terrorists shot by the police, even though their parents had chosen to stay away. Then itself, I had questioned the dangerous message that the Imam of India's biggest mosque was trying to convey to Indian Muslims and the rest of India because he would most probably have known then through his links that they were indeed terrorists who were involved in the blasts in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

Those days, tempers were running high and there were endless debates in TV studios with many linking the terror attacks - justifying them too obliquely - to the alienation of Muslims. There were only a few voices then who spoke up against this unacceptable hyphenating of terror with grievance. Many individuals and groups feel alienated or aggrieved or discriminated against in not just India but all over the world. Is that justification for them to go around killing innocent people?

I had then written a post which partially captured the energy that had thoroughly vitiated the atmosphere those days. All seems to have been forgotten now. But at a time when the NHRC has given Delhi Police a clean chit, it is important to recall the very strong undercurrent of resistance to action against terrorists who were waging war against the state and killing innocent Indians in cold blood.

There is little doubt that it is because of this synchronised cacophony that the Delhi government capitulated and decided not to invoke MCOCA against the terrorists of the Indian Mujahideen, despite the evidence that they had carried out bomb blasts in three Indian cities. This will strike you in the face when you learn that the same govt later used MCOCA to book five men held for the murders of journalist Soumya Vishwanathan and IT executive Jigisha Ghosh.

At this point, I think it is only fit that I reproduce what I had written then so that readers get a fair idea of the charged atmosphere that prevailed after that encounter on September 19, 2008. If that is an indication of things to come, the state is not going to find it easy to carry out raids and encounters against terrorists, particularly in areas dominated by the minority community, no matter how many innocent Indians may have been killed by them. If that happens, not only is it going to make eradication of terrorism very difficult, it is also going to create deep divides between communities. Will that development bring good news to anybody?
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Of all the ugly charges and abuses being hurled at the Indian state, this one is the most horrific. And it has not been made by a demented cleric. It has been made by Shabnam Hashmi, the toast of India's English media. In a program on NDTV on September 22, 2008, she actually alleged that the condition of Muslims in India today was like that of Jews in Nazi Germany! Can anything be more incendiary and more blatantly untruthful?

As terror attacks on innocent Indians get bigger and more inhuman, bigger get the charges by educated, liberal Muslims against India, as if this country has consciously unleashed a pogrom to marginalise and demonise Muslims who really are the last word in peace, tolerance and inclusiveness. When the whole world knows that India is a ‘soft state’ unable to take even basic steps to tackle and defeat terrorism, Hashmi and the like want to make Indian Islamic terrorists look like heroic ’freedom fighters’ and jehadis, just as Pakistan does, by comparing the Indian state with Nazi Germany.


Suddenly, after the police managed to kill and nab young, educated members of the Indian Mujahideen(IM) who had been claiming responsibility for the blasts in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad, the tone of even liberal Muslims has changed. It is almost as if their gloves are finally off, now that it is no longer possible for them to keep pretending that Indian Muslims are not involved in terror attacks on innocent Indians across the country.

But for a cursory and slippery condemnation of the terror attacks, the focus is being sought to be shifted by Muslim intelligentsia to the alienation that Muslims are feeling in India. Hashmi, Owaisi, Mushirul Hasan and others are all now dexterously deflecting all discussions on terrorism to this alienation along various parameters like education, employment etc while at the same time saying that for the ‘yet unproven’ activities of a few individuals, the whole community should not be demonised.

No doubt the vast majority of Indian Muslims are silently against terrorism that clearly has Pakistani roots. But what is the direction being shown to them by their religious and community leaders? There is no honest introspection whatsoever, to truly educate the community which has got increasingly ghettoised in India and is now facing a similar situation globally. On the contrary, all their actions and statements show a peculiarly aggressive response which not only obliquely justifies terror attacks but also threatens that if the alienation is not reduced, even more innocent Indians will be blown to smithereens.


Is it not significant that the
Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid attended the burial of the two terrorists killed by Delhi police in Batla House, Jamia Nagar, even though their families stayed away? What message is that going to convey to Muslims? Of course, to the cameras he will say that till proved guilty, they are innocent. That is something that everybody knows. But where was the need for the Imam of India’s biggest mosque to give such high profile respect to those who might be really be killers of scores of Indians? And if, as some suspect, he actually does know through his subterranean links that they were indeed responsible for the blasts, what dangerous message is he trying to ram into his country and the relatives of those whom these guys killed?

There is more. Some Muslim organisations coming together under the auspices of the
‘Coordination Committee of India Muslims’ have issued a press statement rejecting the Batla House operation carried out by Delhi police as fake, notwithstanding clinching evidence to the contrary and the death of Inspector Sharma to the bullets of terrorists. They have not stopped there and have demanded virtually separate and exclusive criminal laws and procedures for Muslims.

This is what they want:
“We demand that whenever police undertakes a combing or search operation in any Muslim locality, at least one third of the raiding force must consist of officers belonging to the minority community, and minority elders of the affected area should be taken into confidence and made part of the enquiry and interrogation teams.” The separation that influential Muslim leaders want from the Indian state and other ordinary Indians is no longer limited to personal laws and a civil code. They now want a separate criminal code too. The sub text is that if the state does not give in, they will wave the alienation flag and justify all future killings of innocents by Islamic terrorists.

All this is really explosive stuff. This is just the perfect recipe to ensure increasing separation of Muslims from rest of the nation. This is just what is needed to ring alarm bells in the minds of people of other communities and destroy any possibility of mutual trust being built. Integration of any community or sect in the mainstream, essentially a matter of trust, is simply not possible when such statements and demands are made, not by religious extremists but by responsible community leaders.


It must be said that the process of eroding trust and fanning doubt is being helped no end by an irresponsible media obsessed with TRPs and brought up on theoretical secularism totally disconnected from the real world out there. Sections of the media are also responsible for inadvertently ‘justifying’ Islamic terrorism by myopically and dangerously linking it with ‘alienation’. Islamic terrorism has very different ideological roots and the Pakistan factor simply cannot be wished away.


It needs to be remembered that no other ‘alienated’ section of India’s population – there are many of them - goes around planting bombs to kill innocent people and taking pleasure in counting the ‘kills’.

Islamic terrorism has to be faced squarely without flinching and fought by all Indians, including Muslims, till it is decimated. It is time for the country’s many truly secular but silent Muslims and India’s media to recognise this fact which is staring them in the face, and contribute responsibly to the achievement of this sacred national objective.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Readers may also read: 1. Tackling Islamic terrorism: what India needs to understand 2. Rushdie and Jinnah: whither Indian Muslims?