The collective Muslim response to dropping of MCOCA against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and company may have confused ordinary Indians but this response is a mirror image of decades of cries for justice. It encompasses and narrates the story of decades of bias, hate, neglect and subjugation openly practiced by communal forces and at times by the state apparatus directly. It captures the mood of a downtrodden and penniless Mussalman. There is indeed a sense of victimhood among Muslims, but too is not misplaced. Exaggeration of victimhood is a natural corollary to the events that unfolded on the night of Independence Day and continue to reoccur in various forms and manifestations till today.
There was a time when riots were a means of terror. And this terror was being implemented with a sickening regularity. In the beginning, riots were sporadic, localized and controllable but this changed in post-Nehru era. As eminent historian Mushirul Hasan writes,
“Riots at Aligarh, Kanpur, Meerut, Moradabad in UP, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Baroda and Surat in Gujarat, were bloodier, more widespread, and extended over weeks and months.”
Post-Babri and Gujarat 2002 riots are the finest example of this phenomenon. What more, this phenomenon was being helped and abetted by the State governments. As India entered into internet and 24x7 eras, it became extremely difficult to engineer riots. (Gujarat genocide of 2002 is an exception but then it has been heavily documented. It is precisely for this reason that Narendra Modi’s role is being investigated).
The Muslim answer to the riots came in the form of serial bomb blasts. Dawood Ibrahim pioneered this trend at such a time when Muslim self-esteem was below the belt. He successfully channalised Muslim despair into violence which turned to be fatal for the community in the long-run. Dawood’s one-single devilish idea has uncorked blocked arteries of Hindu fundamentalists! Bombs began to explode in Hindu as well as Muslim neighbourhood wearing the cloak of anonymity. Investigating agencies only gave a ‘Muslim’ name to this anonymity and the ‘Hindu’ remained anonymous till the Sadhvi episode. It was being implemented to redress a community’s grievance that it has been denied justice. Bomb-plotters of 1993 have been punished by India’s judicial system. Judiciary deserves a standing ovation for this feat. The culprits of 2003 twin blasts have been punished. But judiciary behaves like a toddler when it comes to punishing the rioters. A toddler cannot do anything without the help of his parents! (read executive). To an average Muslim, it is natural to ask: Is judiciary biased? Does it only favour the majority community?
The seeds of anger breed despair. And despair did begin to crawl in the Muslim mind. Despair can be a deadly weapon as senior journalist Shoma Chaudhury writes,
“When you lose faith that a system will protect and play fair by you, it breeds fatal recklessness. It makes you abdicate from the rules that cement human relations. Despair can turn you from citizen to perpetrator. From the hunted to the hunter.”
Meanwhile the trend of exploding bomb was being implemented by Hindu zealots as well. The myth that bomb blasts are only a Muslim specialty was ripped apart only in 2008 when Hemant Karkare’s ATS decided to lift the curtain from the hidden Hindu fundamentalists. Anonymity finally got another name. The long list of deadly masterminds (Safdar Nagori, Maulana Haleem, Mufti Abu Bashr, Atif Ameen etc) got another names in the form Sadhvi and Colonel Purohit. Bomb blasts of Hyderabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Malegaon 2006 had only the ‘Muslim’ names. Malegaon 2008 revealed a ‘Hindu’ name for the first time although the same set of elements have been targeting mosques and other places in the Marthwada region (Parbhani, Purna, Jalna, Nanded) since 2003.
There was a full stop to a long sentence of despair.
Muslims once again regained faith in Maharashtra’s premier terror agency. The one single act of arresting Sadhvi and the company began to erase decades of mistrust. Hate, revenge, bias and injustice began to evaporate from the Muslim mind and then came the first judicial jolt which paralysed the Muslim psyche. For the first time, Indian Muslims had got an opportunity to prove their innocence. To prove that bombs-making techniques are not taught in their madrasas and homes alone. Temples and Ashrams too have been used as a terror factory. They rightly raised the issue that there was not a single blast after the arrests of Sadhvi.
The first test of sincerity of ATS will be proved in Bombay High Court or Supreme Court of India. The real test of ATS will be the conviction of all the accused of Malegaon 2008 blast; be it under MCOCA or under Indian Penal Code (IPC). If the grave charges of the ATS are to be believed, all the accused can be easily convicted under IPC. Conviction and not the legislation will be the litmus test for the ATS. And even after all this, if ATS fails to convict the accused then they will be remembered as an anti-Muslim agency like Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of yesterday years which has slaughtered many Muslims of UP in the riots of 70s and 80s. In his book, New Wave of Violence, C.F. Rustamji quotes a senior police official as:
“I have watched with dismay during the year 1982, the conversion of the Uttar Pradesh PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) from the model force that I worked with in the fifties to a unit which is feted by the Hindus and hated by the Muslims in the towns of Uttar Pradesh.”
ATS can’t afford to be compared to dreaded PAC. Krish Pal Raghuvanshi can still save his team and men-in-khaki from the bad name.
The seeds of anger and despair have been planted on the soil of Malegaon. It should not turn into a volcano.
Sunday Inquilab, August 9, 2009