Radicalisation of Muslim youth: wages of minority alienation (Comment)
One communal party, the Muslim League, was responsible for the partition of India. The provocative role of another group of communal outfits, the Hindu supremacist Sangh Parivar led by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and its fraternal organisations like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, has been alienating the minorities as never before.
There is little doubt that the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 by a mob of Hindu fanatics and the Gujarat riots of 2002 have spawned an indigenous brand of terrorism involving a section, though a small one, of Indian Muslims. The latter comprise 13 per cent of the country's population, numbering 140 million out of India's total of one billion people - the third largest Muslim population in any country after Indonesia and Pakistan.
Even if the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan as well as terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed based in Pakistan have been providing arms, money, shelter and guidance to the misguided minority of Indian Muslims, it is the latter who are now apparently acting as the foot soldiers of terrorism in India in addition to the mercenaries from abroad.
What has evidently made this section take to jehad in India is apparently the belief that the virulent anti-minority groups under the Parivar have been able to firmly establish themselves in Indian politics. As such, the minorities are now virtually at the mercy of these rabid elements, as the Gujarat riots earlier and the recent burning of churches in states where the BJP is in power show.
It is necessary to remember that the minorities in India are made of the Muslims, the largest group, Christians, Sikhs and Zoroastrians or Parsis. Of them, the Muslims and Christians were marked out as 'Internal Enemies Nos 1 and 2' by M.S.Golwalkar, a former RSS chief, in the 1960s.
Although the RSS and the Jana Sangh-BJP have long been a part of the social and political scene, they were essentially marginal forces till the late 1980s. Three developments around that period enabled these anti-minority outfits to move to the centre stage. One was the Congress's decline, another was the failure of the Left to grow beyond its bases in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, and the third was the alliances - direct and indirect - which former Congressmen like V.P. Singh, and also the Left, formed with the Jana Sangh-BJP to keep the Congress out of power.
Incidentally, a similar anti-Congress tie-up is now again evident between the Left and the BJP on issues such as the nuclear deal, inflation and so on.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid was the first fallout of the new self-confidence as well as influence which the BJP gained from its association with the V.P. Singh government at the centre in 1989-90.
It was an unprecedented incident since places of worship had never before been targeted for destruction by any political group. For the BJP and the Parivar, it provided a kind of psychological breakthrough for, earlier, they were uncertain how the people would react to such an act of sacrilege.
But once they realised that they didn't have to pay too heavy a political price, they lost any inhibitions about sparing a house of God, as the recent attacks on churches from Orissa to Karnataka to Madhya Pradesh to Kerala by the saffron activists show. These acts of violence go against the grain of India's multicultural polity underlining respect for all communities, not to mention the Constitution, which is based on the rule of law and fundamental, including minority, rights.
It wasn't only the Babri Masjid demolition which told the Muslims that a dangerously divisive force had appeared with little respect for law and order or for the norms of civilised conduct. The Gujarat riots were another traumatic reminder of what could happen if such a force reached the corridors of power. Not surprisingly, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal ran amok in Gujarat while the police looked the other way. It is now the turn of the Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh to discover the same bitter truth.
The grouse against the Christians is that they are forcibly converting people into their faith, although the census figures show a drop in the number of Christians in India from 2.5 to 2.3 per cent.
The inevitable consequence of loss of faith in fair governance because of the BJP's political clout was the radicalisation of the Muslim youth. Once the routes of legal redress are closed, terrorism casts its fatal spell on the helpless victims. In Gujarat, the failure of the police to protect the minorities was compounded by the subversion of the judicial process by Chief Minister Narendra Modi's administration, which compelled the Supreme Court to transfer some of the cases to states outside Gujarat since no justice was possible under the BJP government.
It is possible that the example of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere had primed the misguided among the Indian Muslim youths for similar acts in India. However, but for the vicious anti-minority stance of the Hindutva camp, it is unlikely that they would have adopted terrorist tactics. As is known, the Indian Muslims had taken little interest in the Kashmiri insurgency even if Kashmir was mentioned in the same breath with Palestine, Bosnia and Chechnya by the jehadi groups abroad to enlist recruits.
As the attacks on the churches show, a part of the Parivar's game plan is to exacerbate communal tension and use any retaliatory action by the minorities as a pretext to take the campaign to a more provocative level. The apparent belief is that this is a sure fire way for the BJP to garner votes by consolidating its base of support among the Hindus.
It is obvious that these confrontational tactics of the saffron lobby have succeeded in driving a section of the Muslims towards terrorism. Now, apprehension has been expressed about the Christian youth, too, taking to violence if there is no let-up in the attacks on the churches.
(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com)
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