What on earth is the matter with Muslims in the Indian sub-continent? And when one speaks of the sub-continent one includes under that rubric all three countries, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. One had hoped that once Pakistan was conceded, Muslim who decided to stay on India would learn to live in peace with the non-Muslims majority. Any Muslim who felt that he was being oppressed had total freedom to leave India and migrate to Pakistan. Or, for that matter, to Bangladesh. But that is not happening. On the contrary, Pakistani and Bangladeshi jehadists are sneaking into India and are apparently being given shelter by Indian Muslims. Admittedly their number is minuscule. Admittedly the majority?and a substantial majority?of Muslims are totally opposed to any form of terrorism being practised against Indian targets. The tragedy is that because of an insignificantly small number of Muslims who are giving shelter to Pakistani and Bangladeshi terrorists, not only Muslims as a community, but Islam as a religion is getting a bad name.
According to knowledgeable sources, since 2001, Uttar Pradesh alone has seen the interdiction of at least 22 cells linked to Pakistani based Jehadi groups in operation. What happened at the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi is not a rare and isolated instance. It was merely a repetition of what happened at the Akshardham Temple in Ahmedabad in September 2002, when 37 Hindu devotees were killed and 80 injured.
Indeed, less than six weeks before the Varanasi bombings, a Kolkata police official, Prasum Mukherjee had told journalists that his force had arrested a Lashkar operative who had planned to execute strikes across urban centres in north and east India.
Following the Varanasi bombings reports indicate that jehadis were also planning to create havoc in many Hindu religious centres. According to a media report, in 2003 intelligence-led operations uncovered four terrorist cells of Jaish-e-Mohammad and arrests were made in Lucknow, Allahabad, Muzaffar Nagar, Sikandarabad and Noida. People may have forgotten it, but on December 6, 1993, Muslim terrorists helped set-off a series of 43 explosions in Hyderabad and Mumbai and seven separate explosions in trains.
By the mid-1990s jehadi cells had started developing a formidable all-India reach. What has India done to deserve all this? Muslims in India are free to practice their religion without hindrance. No VHP activists have dropped bombs on Muslim devotees kneeling at prayers. The Government gives liberal subsidies to Muslims who want to go on a Haj pilgrimage, which is being questioned by no less a Muslim personage as the Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammad Abdul Ali. Reacting to newspaper reports that the Union Government has decided to allow the Haj pilgrims to carry $ 10,000 as basic travel quota, in addition to 2,000 Saudi Riyals, Nawab Abdul Ali is reported to have said that this move means an annual outflow of foreign exchange to the tune of $ 1,000 million for one lakh pilgrims visiting the holy mosques at Mecca and Medina. Is attacking Hindu temples the Islamic way of repaying this extraordinary generosity? There is total freedom for Muslims to practice their religion in India, unlike as in Pakistan where Hindus?such as there now are?have to practice their religion under cover.
Sania Mirza is a national hero and everybody is proud of her performance. Mohammad Kaif, Wasim Jaffer, Irfan Pathan have made their mark in ODI and Test Cricket and they have been applauded. No one ever thought of them as Muslims; they were great players; if they failed no one condemned them. When they did well all Indians felt proud.
Time was when a Muslim film star had to assume a ?Hindu? name, as Dilip Kumar did. But who bothers to question the religious affinity of a Shah Rukh Khan or an Amir Khan? Or Shabana Azmi? We have heard of books on Kathakali, Bharatanatyam and Indian culture being confiscated and destroyed in airports of Saudi Arabia.
India is not a barbarian country. It respects all religions. It is, therefore, shocking to learn that a British airline has banned its staff from taking Bibles or wearing crucifixes on flights to Saudi Arabia ?to avoid offending the country'sMuslims?. And it is just as painful to learn that a Muslim girl in Kerala and her family are facing social ostracism because she is learning Bharatanatyam. Kerala Muslims obviously do not know that Ramayana is played in dance form in Indonesia by Muslim artistes.
In Pakistan there is a ban on 35 Indian entertainment channel. There is no Islamic country in the world where religious minorities enjoy equal economic, religious and political rights. In India women can wear burqa and nobody cares. The burqa is banned in Turkey. But for all the freedom that Muslims in India enjoy, it has in recent years been made the target of Islamic hatred.
One of the most active hate-India organisations is the Lashkar-e-Toiba which has been masterminding a lot of terrorist activity against India. Only a few weeks ago in January, Indian security forces in Kashmir finally were able to kill Abu Huzaifa who had master-minded the October 29, 2005 serial bomb blasts in Delhi that left more than 60 dead. Hatred is openly propagated as did an Uttar Pradesh Muslim Minister who promised crores of rupees to anyone who would behead the Danish cartoonist who had drawn a series of cartoons derogatory of the Prophet. And he continues to be a Minister. It is this kind of atrocious behaviour, one believes that provoked K.P.S.Gill to condemn Islamic intolerance in a powerful article in a national daily.
?What dishonours Islam more: A few irreverent cartoons? Or the acts of remorseless murder, or relentless violence against people of other faith, of the intimidation and abuse of all other faiths and communities which the Islamists routinely engage in?? Gill asked. But who is going to answer him?
Do jehadis think they can break-up India by their acts of terrorism? Or that they can ?free? Jammu and Kashmir by attacking the Indian Parliament? All that the jehadis are doing is to give both decent Muslims and Islam a bad name. The least that Muslim citizens of India can do is to give up violence.
Violence gets them nowhere. It only antagonises everyone against them. Is that bow they want to live for generations to come? As one poet put it: Jeena yahan, marna yahan, iske siva jana kahan? Can'tMuslims live in India in peace for India'ssake if not for their own? Why can'tthey handle the traitors in their midst instead of constantly berating the majority community? It is peace that give the richest social and economic dividends, not terrorism.