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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 41

Two Incidents

Editorial

Wednesday 1 October 2008, by SC

Following the encounter at Batla House in the Capital’s Jamia Nagar on September 19 (that saw two terrorists being gunned down while an Inspector of the Delhi Police’s Special Cell was critically wounded and subsequently succumbed to his injuries, and another alleged terrorist was arrested) the Delhi Police has made tall claims of having ‘solved’ the case of the serial terror blasts in the Capital on 9/13. Responsible citizens have highlighted the fact that what the police has been saying now is completely at variance with the statements the security agencies made earlier. So if one takes the present pronouncements of the police with heavy doses of salt can one be accused of displaying any prejudice or bias against the guardians of law and order?

While the terror blasts on September 13 were horrific and one is at a loss for appropriate words to condemn those despicable acts that rocked the city that evening, the manner in which the police as well as influential sections of the media have gone about stereotyping the Muslim community, especially at Jamia Nagar and Jamia Millia Islamia (since the detained persons as well as those killed happened to be students of that university), must be decried and assailed without equivocation. In fact even such a soft-spoken and mild-mannered person as the Jamia Vice-Chancellor has been sufficiently pained and anguished to sharply criticise both the media and the police in the entire episode (his cogent arguments cannot possibly be dismissed offhand as some communally oriented personalities have sought to do subsequently).

Prof Mushir-ul-Hasan’s words were measured and carried considerable weight.

It is very shameful that the Muslim community is being projected as terrorist. For the recent gruesome incidents of Orissa and Karnataka, the entire Hindu community cannot be blamed. Similarly, for the recent bomb blasts and other incidents in the country, you cannot put the allegation on the whole Muslim community.

He further stated:

Media should be accountable to the society. We and the students are al united and we will do everything to fortify the confidence of teachers and students of the university.

He also made it abundantly clear that the university would provide legal aid to the arrested students. Explaining that the relationship between the students and the university was like ‘father and son’ he declared: “We are ready to help both the arrested students till they are proved innocent.”

It is this statement which has earned him the ire of the saffron brigade with the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for the Delhi polls, V.K. Malhotra, going to the extent of calling for the dismissal of Prof Hassan from the post of the university VC.

It is worth recalling that once Prof Hassan was physically manhandled by some orthodox elements in his own community for taking a sober stand on a particular issue. Today he is under attack from the Hindu communalists for whom Muslims are second class citizens (and with the spurt in terrorism the entire community has been branded as suspect in much the same way as the Jews in Hitler’s Germany—and not just in Jamia, the same treatment is being meted out to the Muslim residents of Azamgarh in UP since the alleged terrorists all hail from that region).

All democratic and secular persons of different persuasions must at this critical juncture unitedly stand by the students and teachers of Jamia Millia Islamia, and most notably its VC, as well as the residents of Jamia Nagar who are being forced tobear the brunt of a vicious slander campaign (almost on the lines of what the entire Sikh community had to suffer in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination). For the country’s secular, pluralistic identity is currently at stake.

At the same time one must unambiguously denounce the shocking and gruesome murder of the CEO of the Greater NOIDA-based Italian firm, Graziano Transmissioni. Such incidents must be firmly dealt with by the authorities and adequate steps taken to ensure that they don’t recur. Unfortunately Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes’ statement only helped to complicate matters. The Minister has subsequently tendered his “profound apologies” asserting that he “never supported any violence” and “did not refer to any specific incident”. Nonetheless what he said cannot treated as outlandish. It is true that the reference to the companies’ “hire-and-fire” policy and lack of compassion for the worker can be misinterpreted as an indirect justification of the workers’ attack on the CEO, but Oscar has categorically denied any such attempt on his part. However, while squarely condeming the incident can one reject outright the hardships borne by the workes due to the managements’ “hire-and-fire” policy? To do so would be callous and unjust, to say the least.

These two incidents underscore the need to adopt a broad and holistic view, in consonance with our democratic and secular traditons, while addressing such complex problems without in any way weakening the fight to root out terrorism of every hue from our polity and/or undermining the rule of law.

September 25 S.C.

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