Indian Muslims and the well of victimhood

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Probably  the most powerful spectacle at the star-spangled Saifai mahotsav was  the cynical disdain of the Samajwadi Party and its Government in  Uttar Pradesh towards human suffering, specifically in the  Muzaffarnagar relief camps where 34 infants and children are  officially admitted to have died of cold and disease. But the deeper  lesson that the minority community would do well to ponder is that  this is the flip side of secularism, which erases the civilisational  anchoring that mitigates the arrogance of the powerful and reduces  human being to entities – mere numbers in society and utility items  in politics.

With  democracy functioning as a mathematical game for power rather than a  quest for the largest common good, secularism initially showed itself  as hostile to Hindu civilisation as the nation’s foundational ethos  and denigrated everything Hindu in public life. It enabled the  Congress (and later, its copycat parties) to consolidate Muslims into  a core votebank, add a few chosen castes on national or regional  basis, and form the government. But secularism is barren; it affirms  no human or cultural values. As a child of western colonialism, it  was only a matter of time before it showed antagonism or indifference  to Muslims.

This  has now manifested at Muzaffarnagar. Riots broke out more than four  months ago, over an eve-teasing incident that should have been  resolved at village level itself, and certainly by the district  administration later. What has happened thereafter is unprecedented.  Muslims who went into relief camps in late August-early September  2013 (locals said the administration incited persons in unaffected  villages to fill the camps in order to project Hindus and the  Bharatiya Janata Party in bad light), found themselves stuck there as  winter arrived. When they said they feared to return to their  villages, the administration turned cold to their plight; when the  deaths of children began to make news, some camps were forcibly shut  down.

In  a parallel insult, Hindu victims of the riots were cold-shouldered  and compensation offered to Muslims only, a policy axed by the  Supreme Court. So far, however, compensation seems to have been given  only to Muslims who accepted it and left the relief camps after  buying land elsewhere. Hindus remain aggrieved because a powerful  State minister got those arrested for the initial aggravating  incident released, while it took weeks for some BJP leaders to get  bail and several youth remain incarcerated.

The  Muzaffarnagar riot toll is a fraction of Gujarat in 2002, but most  Muslims there just wanted to get on with their lives once tensions  subsided. Even Qubtuddin Ansari, who was made the ‘face’ of the  riots by professional activists and had migrated to Kolkata for a  fresh start, came back to Ahmedabad after some years. The police case  in the matter of funds collected for the Gulberg Society proves that  none of the ‘well meaning’ NGOs who descended on the Gujarat  tarmac helped to rehabilitate any victim or family outside the State.

They  merely took the riot cases to Maharashtra where they felt in command.  The rehabilitation of the riot victims was the responsibility of the  State Government; to this date there is no report of persons refusing  to return to the old neighbourhoods. The difference is the secularism  or communalism of the respective leaders of the two States. If we  equate ‘communalism’ with respect for the religion and culture of  the individual and group, this could explain why some Muslim leaders  have begun to frown upon attempts to build a fear psychosis around  the persona of Narendra Modi. ‘Secularism’ may be translated as  sweet nothings, empty rhetoric, which is what Prime Minister Manmohan  Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi offered Muslims in the  relief camps they visited; Hindus did not get even that. Congress  vice president Rahul Gandhi also ignored Hindu victims when he  visited a camp in Shamli district at the height of winter (December  22, 2013). But he neither took relief materials like blankets with  him nor sent anything later, though he told the media that children  were dying and conditions in the camps were deplorable.

This  brings us to Narendra Modi and the fact that despite a decade of  organised defamation in the national and international arena, the  Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) found no  material evidence of complicity on his part in the riots. Ahmedabad  metropolitan magistrate BJ Ganatra accepted the SIT closure report on  the Gulberg Society violence on December 26, 2013. But Zakia Nasim  Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who alleged a  conspiracy by the Gujarat Chief Minister and others in the riots,  promptly announced her decision to appeal against the verdict.  Meanwhile, her son has been named by the police in a case of  embezzlement of funds collected for a Gulberg Society museum by  Teesta Setalvad (the fallout of a dispute between Setalvad and  Society residents).

Whatever  the provocation behind a riot (burning of train coaches; eve  teasing), the human suffering is real. But Zakia Jafri has allowed  some professional activists to instigate her to pursue the Chief  Minister as part of a political agenda. But the case against Narendra  Modi, his colleagues and officers, always rested on presumption,  prejudice and outright allegations which could not stand scrutiny  when examined by former CBI director RK Raghavan and his team at the  direction of the Supreme Court in 2009. It has not helped Ms Jafri’s  credibility that she always missed the deadline for filing appeals  and needed special judicial leeway to take her witch-hunt forward.

Ahmedabad’s  Gulberg society was surrounded by a mob on February 28, 2002. It is  widely admitted that Ehsan Jafri fired on the crowd with his pistol  before it ran amuck; 69 persons died. Yet it was only in June 2006  that Ms Jafri urged the Director General of Police to register a case  against the Chief Minister and others for conspiracy in the riots,  which quest led her to approach the Gujarat High Court in May 2007  and then the Supreme Court. However, the SIT report demolished the  testimony of RB Shreekumar (ADGP), Sanjiv Bhatt (deputy  commissioner-intelligence), and Rahul Sharma (DIG), on whom Ms Jafri  had relied to contend that the Chief Minister called a meeting at his  residence on the night of February 27, 2002, and instructed officials  to allow Hindus to vent anger for what happened at Godhra.

Indian  Muslims should see Muzaffarnagar as the midnight hour: the well of  victimhood has run dry. It is time to turn towards the dawn.

First  published Here. Click To View

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