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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 49 New Delhi November 28, 2015

Terror in Europe, Intolerance in India

Friday 27 November 2015, by SC


Speaking at Kuala Lumpur while addressing the Indian diaspora there, PM Narendra Modi made a significant assertion last Sunday (November 22). This had not come from him in India. He underscored that terror must be delinked from religion, adding: “The only distinction is between those who believe in humanity and those who do not.” A moment earlier he had said:

Terrorism knows no boundaries. It uses the name of religion to draw people to its cause but kills people of all faiths.

These views of the PM, articulated on foreign soil, were indeed welcome. But if these he had spelt out with due consideration, a pertinent question arises: why, then did he remain silent when some weeks ago members of his own religion had brutally lynched a middle-aged Muslim, by the name of Mohammad Akhlaq, at Dadri, not far from the national Capital, merely on the basis of rumours that the person had stored beef in the fridge at his residence? And that was not a stray or isolated incident. Such incidents, engineered by extremists of the majority community, had taken place earlier as well—the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi were testimony to such violence. The silence of the PM to these happenings caused legitimate concern and some wondered, on hearing his speech Kuala Lumpur, whether he was actually running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

The same day, that is, Sunday (November 22), saw a write-up in a major daily brought out from Delhi by a well-known columnist who afirmed, while referring to the horrific terror strikes in Paris, that “jehadi terrorism has everything to do with Islam”. This was conveyed for the benefit of “those who think of the time of the Prophet as a blessed time that Muslims must return to”. The following day, that is, Monday (November 23), found the same columnist asking actor Aamir Khan for his opinion on the Paris attackers invoking Islam to justify their act. The reply was cogent, coherent and comprehensive—a fitting rebuff to the motivated query.

A person who is holding a Quran and killing people may feel he is doing it in the name of Islam, but as a Muslim, I don’t feel he is doing an Islamic act. He may claim to be a Muslim but we should not recognise him as that. My problem is not just with the ISIS, the fear is with that thinking. Today there is ISIS, tomorrow it would be someone else. The extreme thinking is what I worry about.

This happened at a function held to present journalists of various categories the Ramnath Goenka awards for excellence in journalism.

At the same function Aamir had also given a measure of the Muslims’ sense of alienation when he confessed, in utter frankness, how his wife in the wake of recent incidents had asked him to think of migrating to some other place for the sake of their son.

On Tuesday (November 24), The Times of India carried a brilliant edit-page article entitled ”Road to Islamic State was paved by America’s Faustian bargain with Saudi Wahhabism”. Tracing the roots of the Islamic State or Daesh, it squarely blamed the West, and the US in particular, for “planting cancer, which Daesh.... is a symptom of” and maintained:

It is unfair to collectively blame Muslims for IS since they are and have been the worst victims of the mindless violence of the creed it represents for three centuries.

This article was an exhaustive answer to those semi-literates who seek to blame Islam for the IS terror that has gripped Europe today.

In the Indian context, regrdless of what the PM has publicly stated in Kuala Lumpur, members of the Modi Government, ruling party activists and associates of the Sangh Parivar continue to target minorities, notably Muslims and Christians, with the party and government stalwarts, the PM and BJP President in particular, looking the other way. This immeasurably hurts the idea of India all secular democrats of the nation are wedded to.

In fact, this is a grave matter that has prompted leading writers, historians, scientists—recipients of awards for their creative work and achievements—to return those awards as a token of protest against incidents of intolerance unprecented in post-independence India precisely because of the mounting evidence of state indifference to, and at times even complicity with, these developments.

Are we, then, on the verge of a new turn in the country’s chequered history? If that is so, what will happen to the India we have known since independence? These are currently assuming increasing relevance.

November 24 S.C.