Coffee Break: Kanchan Gupta
Ever since Azamgarh hit the headlines in newspapers and grabbed prime time on 24x7 news channels after the police tracked many of the bombers responsible for the slaughter of innocent people in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi to this district of Uttar Pradesh, mullahs and politicians who trade in Muslim votes have been flocking there to record their indignation that those guilty of mass murder should be brought to justice.Earlier, Azamgarh would provide the cannon fodder for Mumbai’s vicious and bloody gang-wars with Azamgarhis offering their services as ‘hitmen’ to Dawood Ibrahim and others of his ilk. The argument one would often hear in justification of their carrying out ‘supari’ killings was two-fold: The lure of Mumbai’s glittering lifestyle and easy money; and, the frustration of unemployed Muslim youth discriminated against in ‘Hindu’ India.Those who terrorised Mumbai’s rich and famous, ran extortion, betting and hawala rackets, killed defaulters and the defiant in cold blood, and took delivery of contraband ferried to the city’s shoreline from Dubai in dhows were not to blame for their crimes — they were victims of an elaborate ‘conspiracy’ against Muslims and an ‘uncaring’ system. Any effort to tame the mafia was resolutely met with howls of protest and cries of ‘Muslims are being targeted’.Few people would remember today that when Mrs Indira Gandhi introduced what was then considered a tough law to fight organised crime and money-laundering under the guise of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, popularly known as COFEPOSA, she was accused of ‘targeting Muslims’ and trampling on ‘civil liberties’ because most of the high profile arrests were those of Muslim gangsters like Haaji Mastaan. According to an apocryphal story of that time, when the police went to arrest a notorious racketeer in Gujarat’s Jamnagar his henchmen claimed their boss was praying and hence could not be disturbed. When the police insisted on entering the house, a huge crowd gathered to block their way, raising slogans similar to those heard in Jamia Nagar in Delhi after Atif and Sajid, two members of the murderous Indian Mujahideen, were killed in an encounter on September 19. Later it transpired that the wanted man was busy burning incriminating documents; what could not be destroyed, including wads of high denomination currency notes, was cleverly concealed under the burqas of the women in the house.Riding the crest of the ‘Muslims-under-attack’ protest, Haaji Mastaan floated the Muslim Majlis Party; that it sank without a trace soon after bears testimony to the fact that most Indian Muslims are as repelled by criminals who use the cloak of Islam to justify their crimes as the rest of India. If they falter, it is on account of cynical politicians and rabid mullahs, though not necessarily in that order, of the variety that has been travelling to Jamia Nagar and Azamgarh to genuflect at the altar of jihadi Islamism.To take note of the utterances of politicians like Mr Amar Singh and Ms Mamata Banerjee, who have been visiting Jamia Nagar and denigrating the supreme sacrifice of MC Sharma, a Delhi Police anti-terrorism expert, with the sole purpose of instigating a Muslim blowback which they hope will fetch them votes, would be tantamount to elevating them as those worthy of comment. But it would be a grave mistake to ignore the statements of the mullahs because embedded in them is the sinister strategy to radicalise India’s Muslims and thus make them a part of the global surge in Islamism; they also indicate a design to reiterate and reaffirm Muslim separatism anchored in bogus grievances and imagined victimhood.Last Monday, the Ulema Council organised an Ajimoshaan Ehtazazi Ijlaas-e-Aam, a conclave that was attended by 100 Muslim clerics from across the country, where mullahs made two points through their fire-and-brimstone speeches, listened to with rapt attention by 15,000 people. First, Akbar Ahmed ‘Dumpy’, BSP MP from Azamgarh and a former Sanjay Gandhi crony who recently appeared in Parliament with his face covered with an Arabic kaffiyeh much like Osama bin Laden’s foot soldiers, Mr Iliyas Azmi, BSP MP from Shahbad, and Mr Abu Azmi, SP member of Rajya Sabha who openly preaches hate and worse, would not be allowed to enter Azamgarh unless they conveyed to the world the ‘outrage’ over the arrest and killing of Muslims from the district, never mind the fact that they went about setting off bombs in bazaars and hospitals. Second, they “resolved to teach a lesson” to those who had renamed Azamgarh as ‘Atankgarh’: The credit for this goes to the atankwadis or terrorists who seem to flourish in the gullies and mohallahs of Azamgarh but as always, pretending victimhood, the mullahs have sought to place the blame on the victims of the Indian Mujahideen. All this was of a piece with what Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, had said while commiserating with the jihadis of Azamgarh: “We have lost faith in the administration and the police of the country and are feeling insecure.” What was not mentioned but disingenuously implied is that having lost their faith in the Indian state, India’s Muslims must now look elsewhere.But it was Taslim Rehmani, the chief mullah of Muslim Political Council, Delhi, who made the most startling declaration at last Monday’s Ajimoshaan Ehtazazi Ijlaas-e-Aam: He described Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as a “terrorist”. Later, when contacted by this newspaper, he lashed out at Sardar Patel for “forcibly annexing Hyderabad” and reiterated his assertion: “Sardar Patel was responsible for all the riots after Partition, for lakhs of Muslims who were killed in the riots. He deliberately allowed them to be killed. He was a terrorist.”There are those who would scoff at Rehmani as an inconsequential mullah and urge others to ignore his rant. This is the usual response to every offensive statement, each hateful allegation, and all despicable calumny that we get to hear from the spokesmen of the community, berating Hindus, shaming the Indian state, belittling the nation, and denigrating national icons. To listen to the counsel of those who are not perturbed because they do not wish to see their vote-bank go the way of Lehman Brothers would be to toe the line of least resistance. As a nation we must stand up and counter such insidious propaganda that nourishes jihadi Islamism and confront the preachers of hate and peddlers of fiction as fact who masquerade as ‘learned men’, or ulema. To prevaricate would be to delay the inevitable clash between those who are with India and those who are against the idea of India. The cost then would be enormous.
AGENDA Sunday Pioneer, October 26, 2008