Vote for justice
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi
In the last week of February, 2008, at a congregation of more than 10,000 clerics, the Islamic seminary of Deoband made a path-breaking declaration: it condemned terrorism as un-Islamic.
Deoband's declaration was important. For long falsely criticised and condemned as the 'nursery' for training terrorists, the famous madrasa near Saharanpur in UP was responding to the methodical witch hunt to which young men from the community were being subjected by the police after every terror attack in the country.
Police investigations that invariably targeted the young were wreaking havoc on middle class families that had invested substantially in their children's education and careers. What was worrisome for many from this community, which has more than 13 per cent population in the country and has important sway on about 105 parliamentary constituencies, was that they were being targeted when one of the most so-called "minority-friendly" governments was in power.
It was this Congress-led UPA government that rode on the insecurities of the Muslims after the 2002 Gujarat killings, which had appointed the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee to look into their social, economic and educational status. The expectations from this government were immense. But they seem to have got little except a good report.
The Sachar report shook policy planners from their stupor about the abysmal state the minorities were living in this country. On some indicators, they were shown to be performing worse then the scheduled castes. There is a difference of opinion on the exact import of the Sachar report. Hindu fundamentalists say it is a recipe for a second Partition and the fringe elements among the Muslims use the report to indoctrinate the gullible to show how there was no salvation for them in a secular democracy. The saner elements on both sides see it as an end of a state of denial and a starting point for greater integration within the mainstream.
The economic boom and paucity of trained and skilled hands has been throwing up employment opportunities for young Muslims in BPO, retail and media. Young graduates were getting jobs.
Before this process could gather momentum, terror strikes in Hyderabad, Varanasi, Delhi and other places irretrievably derailed it. The central government identified Indian Mujahideen, another avatar of the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and began to round up youngsters. The Batla House encounter became a tipping point.Interestingly, the police action was met with organised resistance from the local people, who were doctors, teachers and other professionals. They realised that they needed to take advantage of the democratic instruments to fight police oppression. The protests by the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Group in Delhi marked a rupture in the spell of fear after the encounter when youngsters were being picked up at random. Chartering a train from Azamgarh to protest against the police is an expression of anger and also growing confidence in Indian democracy.
This mood of defiance and hope got further reinforced when the Mumbai police, in an independent probe, found that there were Hindu fifth columnists that were responsible for the blasts at Malegaon and not Muslims as it was made out to be. Led by a professional police officer of high integrity, Hemant Karkare, the investigation unraveled a Byzantine network of Hindu radical organisations that were priming themselves to cause more riots and bloodshed all over the country, and literally, planning a coup.
Karkare seemed to have cracked their linkages with some key personnel in the army and the intelligence agencies. There are suggestions that these ties were leading to some top members of the Sangh Parivar before Karkare was killed on November 26, 2008, during Mumbai terror attack. Karkare's probe that was serving as salve to soothe the hurt psyche of the Muslims (and secularists) expectedly lost its way. The circumstances of his death have provided ample substance to a roaring conspiracy theory industry. Muslims, in large parts of the country, are convinced that Karkare was killed by the Hindutva-Jew nexus. This whetted the appetite of conspiracy theories which is sustaining a political outfit - Ulema Council.
Immediately after the Mumbai attack, Muslim organisations, armed with the Deoband declaration, trashed terror and Pakistan. The partition between secular democratic India and Islamic Pakistan was truly solemnised. Muslim youths see in the elections an opportunity to lay claim to the truth about the circumstances that cause their disenfranchisement and misery. They have realised that education alone does not help in changing their lives. Rather, political power has the potential to transform lives in a democracy. Sachar committee's findings, which shows poor political representation of Muslims in legislature and Parliament, holds important lessons.
There is seething rage against the Congress and the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav, who have only reinforced Hindu fundamentalism. Muslims are experimenting with floating their own parties all over the country. This is an expression of disillusionment with the way their interests have been served by caste-based and 'secular' parties. Old timers are trying to convince them to stay with the Congress.
The 2009 elections would be a defining moment for this new generation of Indian Muslims who have politically decided that they cannot allow vote contractors, fixers and the clergy to control their life and destiny. They want to prove that they have an equal stake in this secular pluralist democracy, marking its own space in the global arena country.