By M.V. Kamath
A report presently doing the rounds states that the Congress-led UPA government in Delhi is planning to have a fresh inquiry into the Gujarat riots of February-May 2002. It should be obvious to everyone that the aim is not so much to find the truth but to embarrass the Narendra Modi government and, if possible, to tarnish him with the blackest of paints. If inquiries have to be made, may it be suggested that they should start from the riots in Calcutta following the Direct Action Day that Muslims were asked to observe by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, when rivers of blood flowed in Kolkata'sstreets. And the inquiries should go into great detail of every riot that has since taken place. Their number goes into dozens and they have occurred in practically every part of India.
One study is already available in R.N.P. Singh'sRiots & Wrongs: Islam and Religious Riots. Singh is a highly respected retired police official whose distinguished career in the Intelligence Bureau has been commended by no less than K.P.S. Gill. In his foreword to the book, Gill has been remarkably frank and blunt. He writes: ?While lip service to the idea of ?secularism? has been universal, the actions of all political parties?including, if not especially, those that claim ?secularism? as their primary platform?can hardly withstand an objective scrutiny in this regard.? Furthermore he adds: ?Much of the ?secular? discourse in India has been based on a ?politically correct? refusal to confront the nature of religious communities and institutions, and their past and present activities… The truth is, unless communities acknowledge reality?warts and all?and recognise the transgressions of their own history within a constructive context, no real solution to the issue of communal polarisation and violence in India can be brought about.? Gill is so right. Our ?secular? parties refuse to face up to reality. And it has encouraged Islamic fundamentalism to flourish. It has invariably had the direct or indirect support of the secularists. One has to go through the chronological study of riots in India from AD 1713 onwards to understand the Muslim mind in India. A classic instance is the Moplah Rebellion in Malabar when ?massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages of women, arson and destruction were perpetrated freely…?. The Army had to interfere. In the end 2,266 Moplas (Kerala Muslims) were killed in action, 1,615 were wounded, 5,688 were captured and 38,256 surrendered. Is peaceful co-existence an anathema to Islam?
What is even more tragic, no matter how a riot started, the tendency among secularists is first to blame Hindus when the truth is anything but. These days it is the BJP or the RSS, which is held guilty. Forgotten is the role of the Congress in some situations. There is the case recorded by M.J. Akbar in his work Riot after Riot when innocent Muslims were ?massacred? in ?one of the most bestial crimes committed in recent years. This was in 1987.? According to Akbar ?more than two dozen young Muslims were picked up from the Hashimpura area by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) on the bank of the Hindun canal in Ghaziabad that night, shot dead and dumped into the water where their bodies floated downstream till they were fished out next morning… Survivors are talking of a figure around 200 dead… The administration says calmly that 2,568 people were picked up from about seventy mohallas…? This happened in Uttar Pradesh under a Congress government.
The point is not whether Vir Bahadur Singh or Narendra Modi or anyone else has had a hand in riots. We have to ask the larger question, which is, why is there Hindu-Muslim riots at all? And why have they been persistent since 1713? Has anyone made an honest attempt to understand both the Muslim and Hindu psyches? Are Hindus always to blame? Is the root cause economic as is made out by some and religious, linguistic and ethnic differences only provide the excuse and motivation to indulge in mindless violence? Why is it that secularists invariably side with Muslim trouble-makers, no matter what contrary evidence shows? How come that a historian like Bipin Chandra alleges that Hindu communalists and Hindu communal views are responsible for the Hindu-Muslim divide in the Indian sub-continent? How can there be any solution of the problem if blame is constantly and aggressively thrown always at the majority community? When any one party openly and pointedly anoints itself as ?secular?, thereby implying that other parties are inimical to peace, what kind of interaction between them is possible?
At some point in time, and the sooner the better, Hindu and Muslim historians must get together if only to understand themselves before trying to understand history. Each has to understand the psychology of the other. One sometimes wonders whether India would have been better off, if, following partition, it openly professed to be Hindu where the Hindu laid down the law. Take the case of Malaysia, where only 60.14 per cent of the population are Muslim. Here Islam enjoys State patronage and the federal government funds masjids. As per official rules on matrimony between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, the non-Muslim partner must adopt Islam. Non-Muslims are prohibited from propagating their religion amongst Muslims whereas no such restrictions are placed on Muslims in propagating their faith. And nobody charges Malaysia of being communal.
For five centuries the Portuguese ruled over Goa. There was one common law for all Goans, including Muslims. No one objected. That was the law and the law had to be obeyed. By opting for ?secularism? we have handcuffed ourselves. The Muslims have won both ways: they have got their Pakistan and in India they have got their way. And the country is poorer. Islam is holding secularism to hostage. Our secular friends have to be warned. Sometime there is going to be a terrible backlash.
Narendra Modi has more admirers among the non-BJP and non-RSS groups than many would wish to concede. When hundreds, if not thousands, attend Ishrat Jehan'sfuneral, it is a bad sign. It is as if terrorism has the support of Mumbra Muslims in an unspoken way. The time has come to stop talking about secularism and to look inwards into our past, into our history and find ways to come to terms with it. That way lies wisdom. That exercise is not going to be easy, but Hindus and Muslims must talk with each other and not at each other. And in their own interests, if not the interests of the country, the so-called secularists must disengage themselves from their perversity and try to understand why many Hindus are the way they are. That way lies salvation.