Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rise above Ummah victimhood (July 23, 2006)

By Swapan Dasgupta

What do you say to a Prime Minister who, a few days after ruling out the re-introduction of a POTA-like legislation, admits to a meeting of Chief Secretaries that our response to terrorism has been “inadequate”? Should we praise Manmohan Singh for realising the truth? Alternatively, should we pillory him for abdicating one of the prime responsibilities of government—the protection of the citizen?

Since the serial blasts in Mumbai on July 11, the Government has been conducting itself like a headless chicken. Having flaunted a ritualistic G-8 condemnation of the bombings as a spectacular diplomatic triumph, it went into a tailspin after the world leaders greeted the charge of the ubiquitous Pakistani hand with more than a measure of scepticism. To cap it all, the country had to be subjected to the cocky insolence of President Pervez Musharraf demanding “proof” of Pakistan’s involvement. Having put the “peace process” on hold before embarking for St. Petersburg, Manmohan Singh returned a mellowed man.

Nor have things been any better on the domestic front. First, there was the outrageous insinuation by Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh that Hindu groups had a habit of committing atrocities and blaming the “other”. The theme was gratefully echoed by loose cannons like the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid and the redoubtable general secretary of the West Bengal CPI(M) Biman Bose. The Shahi Imam was addressing his congregation after Friday prayers and Bose was addressing a Milli Council meeting in Kolkata. Like good secularists they felt that a convenient way of averting awkward questions of culpability is to turn victimhood on its head, even if it means whitewashing murderers. .

Secondly, there were desperate attempts to deflect attention from the Government’s own failings by attacking Narendra Modi for what he did not say in Mumbai last week and Jaswant Singh for what he did not do in Kandahar seven years ago.

Finally, in an act that straddled a twilight zone between stupidity and lunacy, the Government decided to ape totalitarian China and block access to blogsites—the cyber variants of coffee house chatter. Reuters quoted Gulshan Rai, director of the Government-run Indian Computer Emergency Response Team justifying the ban because “the blogs are pitting Muslim against non-Muslim.”

The Government’s disorientation is not the result of some Inspector Clouseau being at the helm. It is a consequence of its inability to face up to the political ramifications of the Mumbai blasts. The investigations may not have produced concrete results as yet but they definitely point to the involvement of home-grown Muslim terrorists.

This comes as no surprise. The March 1993 blasts were also the handiwork of home-grown terrorists, many of whom subsequently fled to Pakistan, as were the Ghatkopar and Gateway of India bombings in 2003. The 1993 and 2003 blasts were attributed to retaliation for the Mumbai and Gujarat riots respectively.

What was the July 11 carnage meant to convey? That jihadis have the ability and technology to bleed India to death?

Since no group has yet claimed responsibility, the motives are still a matter of conjecture. However, the portents from the Varanasi bombings, the RDX haul from Ellora and the foiled fidayeen attacks on Ayodhya and the RSS headquarters in Nagpur are ominous. Despite official attempts to point accusing fingers at foreign paratroopers, all these incidents involved Indian jihadis. In other words, while there may be an overseas command centre of global jihad—maybe located in Pakistan—the war is actually being conducted by fiercely motivated locals.

The leadership of the Indian Muslim community can no longer take refuge in denial. Nor is there any percentage in appealing to Sonia Gandhi to stop racial profiling by the police. After Mumbai, the community bears a collective responsibility for isolating and hounding out the radicals. For this to happen, it is incumbent that Indian Muslims dissociate completely from pan-Islamism. A clutch of half-baked and fanciful theories of ummah victimhood in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al, are responsible for turning gullible youth into monstrous killers.

(Published in Sunday Pioneer, July 23, 2006)

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