Mumbai Blasts: Hindutva Lobby Launches Anti-Muslim Tirade. Yoginder Sikand


Even as scores of Indian Muslim organizations have forcefully denounced the recent Mumbai train blasts and called for an impartial investigation into the carnage, the Hindutva lobby, ever on the prowl for an excuse to hound Muslims, has launched a massive anti-Muslim tirade. News reports speak of how the Hindutva fascist lobby is capitalizing on the bomb blasts and threatening to possibly launch an anti-Muslim pogrom in Maharashtra , similar to the state-sponsored massacre in Gujarat in 2002, in which some three thousand Muslims are said to have been brutally killed, with thousands more injured and left homeless. Some Muslim leaders claim that this itself suggests that, in the absence of firm evidence of precisely who was behind the blasts, they might possibly have been the handiwork of a Hindutva group, just as they might well have been carried out by some radical Islamist outfit. They point to the quick capitalizing of the blasts by the Hindutva lobby to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments and present themselves as self-appointed `saviours` of the Hindus as possible evidence of this claim. At the same time, they also argue that those behind the blasts, irrespective of religious or community affiliation, deserve to be strictly punished, insisting that such heinous acts have no sanction in Islam or any other religion whatsoever. For its part, the Hindutva lobby, along with influential sections of the media and intelligence agencies that often echo the Hindutva line, have automatically assumed that a Muslim outfit was behind the blasts, without there being firm proof of this as yet. As Muslim organizations have been insisting, the precise identity of the culprits should be established by an impartial agency before apportioning blame. Further, they rightly insist, an entire community should not be blamed or branded for the acts committed by a few people who claim to belong to it. Some of them also argue that they have no faith in a government-appointed commission, as, going from past precedent, such a commission might well turn out to be a stunt designed to conceal facts, protect the real culprits (Hindutva outfits or top politicians, if these are involved) and persecute innocent Muslims. The possibility of a Hindutva hand in the affair, which some have suggested, has thus been totally ignored by the media. Meanwhile, scores of Muslims are being arrested and harassed by the police in different parts of the country. Without adducing any firm evidence, several Muslim organizations are being branded as agents of `terror` and are being accused of involvement in the blasts. This stance can only further contribute to Muslim alienation and disillusionment with the system, widen the communal divide, and thereby strengthen Hindutva forces, who have a vested interest in promoting Hindu-Muslim conflict. The Hindutva media has, predictably enough, portrayed the Mumbai blasts in such a way as to cast aspersion on almost every Muslim, thus further fanning the flames of Islamophobia. It has also used the attacks to call for the imposition of draconian laws, which, in the past, have been widely misused to persecute innocent Muslims, as well as other marginalized groups such as Dalits and Adivasis. Thus, the 30 July issue of the ` Organiser`, the weekly mouthpiece of the RSS, quotes VHP President Ashok Singhal as demanding the introduction of anti-terror laws which, he says, `should be stricter than POTA`. Singhal describes the blasts as a "jehadi attack", without, of course, caring to mention the declaration by all major Muslim organizations and leaders that such attacks, even if perpetrated by Muslims, have no sanction whatsoever in Islam and are certainly not an Islamically legitimate form of jihad. The Hindutva lobby is using the blasts as an excuse to clamp down on various Muslim organizations, even small madrasas that essentially serve poor Muslims, victims of a system that has pushed them to the margins, being ignored and neglected by the state and routinely demonized by Hindutva forces. The ` Organiser` quotes Ashok Singhal as arguing that "without local Muslims` shelter and support, no outside jehadi can attack". Hence, he goes on, the government "should immediately clamp down on madrasas". The same point is made in the same issue of the ` Organiser` in an article by a certain S.R. Ramanujan. Like Singhal, Ramanujan, appears to suggest, without any proof at all, that the 3000-odd madrasas in Maharashtra are "potential breeding grounds for SIMI`s activities". The striking fact that, despite the immense sufferings, including brutal massacres, widespread discrimination and enforced ghettoisation, that Muslims in different parts of the country have suffered at the hands of Hindutva forces for decades, madrasas in the country are not engaged in promoting terrorism, a point made by Home Minister Shivraj Patil at an Ahl-e Hadith madrasa conference in New Delhi last week, is completely ignored in Ramanujan`s blanket denunciation of the madrasas. So, too, are the strident condemnations of the Mumbai blasts by numerous leading maulvis from various madrasas all over the country. The fact that Hindutva-inspired atrocities on Muslims, of which the recent Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom is only one instance, has caused widespread Muslim despair, hopelessness and disgruntlement, which might possibly attract some desperate Muslim youth to the path of militancy to seek revenge and as a means of protest, is also completely glossed over. The point that Hindutva and Muslim militancy feed on each other, that the one cannot exist without the other, is simply too inconvenient for the likes of Singhal and Ramanujam to admit, for their very political careers, as in the case of the radical Islamists whom they claim to oppose, depends on stoking the flames of communal hatred and violence. Hounding Muslims in the name of tracking down the perpetrators of the blasts, branding their institutions as `dens of terror` without adducing any evidence and threatening a repeat of the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat, Hindutva fascists are as guilty of setting India against itself as are their radical Islamist counterparts. Hindutva ideologues speak the same language of conflict and hatred in the name of religion as radical Islamists, being perfect bedfellows while claiming to be the most inveterate opponents. At the time when such forces are issuing what can be construed as nothing less than a summons for civil war, secular, democratic forces must take on the enormous threat of radicalism in the garb of religion with urgency. We can no longer afford to be complacent

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