March 12, 2006

New face of political Islam

New face of political Islam

Last Friday, violence erupted in Aminabad and Qaiserbag, two prominent marketplaces in Lucknow, when an un-notified anti-Bush rally by local Muslims took a communal turn. Four lives were lost in the violence apart from injuries to another 10. The rally was un-notified but not unscheduled since, according to eye witnesses, preparations on a large scale were being made since morning. The violence could have been resisted but for the pronounced laxity of the police and the administration. The police should have anticipated the preparations that were afoot in full public view in Aminabad.

Violence erupted when Muslim protesters, after Friday prayers, marched through the streets forcing closure of shops on Latouche Road, Aminabad, Kaiserbagh, Nazirabad, Maulviganj and Hazratganj. They damaged shops and vehicles by pelting stones and set ablaze over two dozen two-wheelers. Bank of Baroda's Aminabad branch and a post office were torched by the rioters who also damaged two cinema halls. The Hindu shopkeepers, who have little to do with Islamic jihad against the US, protested against the bullying Muslim gangsters.

This led to pitched battle between the two communities. The Muslim gangsters were even carrying firearms and shot at three persons who later succumbed to their injuries. One of the victims was 12-year-old Shanu, son of one Rajendra Kumar. The police reacted strongly and effectively but only after rioters had inflicted heavy damage.

The events in Lucknow are latest from adherents of 'religion of peace and mercy'. This is an eerie reminder of grisly Kanpur riots in 1931. BR Ambedkar describes it in Pakistan or the Partition of India: "With three weeks of the 'pact' occurred the savage communal riots at Cawnpore, which significantly enough began with the attempts of Congress adherents to force Mahomedan shopkeepers to observe hartal in memory of Bhagat Singh who had been executed on March 23. On March 24 began the plunder of Hindu shops. On March 25 there was a blaze. Shops and temples were set on fire and burnt to cinders.

Disorder, arson, loot, murder, spread like wild fire. Five hundred families abandoned their houses and took shelter in villages. Ramchandra was one of the worst sufferers. All members of his family, including his wife, and aged parents were killed and their bodies thrown into gutters. In the same slaughter Ganesh Shankar Vidhyarthi lost his life (Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol 8, p 177).

Seventy five years later we observe a contrasting coincidence! In Kanpur it were Congressmen who were 'forcing' Muslim shopkeepers to close their shops. One should not misconstrue 'forcing' as compelling them on gun point because adherents of Gandhi were incapable of raising even a pen-knife. There was thus no vandalism. Whatever it be, the occasion was undoubtedly a solemn one for the whole nation - execution of Bhagat Singh and his two companions.

Bhagat Singh is a personality who is lionised by both the saffron and the leftist camps at the same time. Yet Muslim shopkeepers proved that Bhagat Singh meant nothing to them. It says a lot about their view on the freedom movement of India. Interestingly, Muslims not only refused to observe hartal but savaged the Hindu community. 300 lives were lost as per official estimate, in the riots that followed. It is no surprise that those who disowned Bhagat Singh also, subsequently disowned India later.

In Lucknow the reverse happened 75 years later. A Muslim mob, ready with arms and indulging in vandalism, tried to force Hindus to close their shops. The occasion had no connection with nationalism or national interest. They wanted Hindus to side with them to protest against US President George Bush's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, Mr Bush's actions in these two countries did not have a bearing on India. Therefore, the Hindus feel no animosity towards President Bush.

The only section of 'secularists' who were seen making common cause with Muslims were Communists. But there was nothing 'national' about their protests. It again centred on Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. Their leaders were seen sharing dais with leaders of Jamat-e-Ulema-e-Hind at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan recently, spewing venom against the US. In Hyderabad, the only other city on Mr Bush's itinerary, it were the Leftist and Muslim groups who were protesting against him. They seemed least concerned about India benefitting from the nuclear, agricultural, commercial deals with the US. They were more bothered about what

Mr Bush did in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr Bush is definitely no holy cow, but neither was Khrushchev or Zhou En Lai for whom Nehru had rolled out the red carpet. Why do Communists conspicuously shy away from even pronouncing on Tibet? Did they find Muslims by their side on the issue of Vietnam? However, India did not seek the track record of the USSR in Baltic countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that Russians had forcibly occupied in 1940. Our contact with Russia filled India with KGB agents about which The Mitrokhin Archives is quite explicit.

A fortnight before the anti-Bush riots, Lucknow had witnessed another Muslim mobilisation against cartoons of Prophet Mohammed published in Danish newspaper Jyellands-Posten. The BJP office had been attacked by a Muslim mob, which hurled abuses at Hindu deities as well. The concern of Hindus is quite legitimate. Why should they face Muslim ire for no fault of theirs? And how long can this be tolerated in a Hindu-majority country with the principle of secularism enshrined in its Constitution?

The sword of Islam is now tearing apart the mask of secularism. The burgeoning Muslim population and its increasing religious assertiveness will ensure that the days of living in the comfortable shadow of secularist ideology are numbered.

The tradition of 'secular' Congress caving in to communal demands of Muslim League had begun in Lucknow. At the time of signing 'the Lucknow Pact in 1916 the Congress had officially agreed to communal representation in legislative bodies to ensure peace and unity. In three years the Congress along with the Ali brothers was fighting for the jihadi cause of restoring the Caliphate.

Failure to restore Caliphate led the Muslims of India to vent their anger on Hindus in a manner never seen before. The secular formations that are today lending crutches to communal demands of Muslims like quota in armed forces, Government jobs and educational institutions must be forewarned about its after-effects. Such measures will most likely backfire.

Although Ms Sonia Gandhi might claim that Muslims are Congress's natural allies (only those who have not read history will believe it), Congressmen this time were on the wrong side of 'secular' divide. By rolling out the red carpet to Mr Bush, the Congress has acted in India's interest. It was necessary and the time for it had come. The generation next of the Congress will, for sure, not be able to escape the impact of Islamic explosions, a pernicious legacy of the party's appeasement policies over the last two generations.

Hence it is better that they are prepared for it, and don't repeat the blunders of the past. Mr Bush, at Purana Qila, did some hard talk which lacked the polish of 'secularism'. His tribute to the Hindu majority of India was no faux pas. It was confirmed by his rebuff to President Musharraf in Islamabad when he said there was a big difference between history of India and the history of Pakistan. Hence Pakistan, howsoever an important ally, cannot be equated with India. The history he was referring to was not merely post-1947 but started from 7th century AD.

(The writer, a Rajya Sabha MP, can be contacted at

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