Three articles that have appeared in the media in the past one month deserve not only praise but the widest possible circulation in the country. They are on three different subjects and appeared in three different media. The first is Praveen Swami'sarticle in The Hindu (April 22) dealing with the emergence of Bangladesh as a base for Islamic terror groups. It provides a lot of details which could only have been obtained from discreet Intelligence sources.
Swami has been doing exceedingly well-informed reporting from Delhi in recent months and one supposes that Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has discussed the growth and spread of Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh with Khaleda Zia when she recently called on the Prime Minister. For reasons unknown, the PM'soffice seldom tells us the whole truth of what is discussed when the Prime Minister meets foreign dignitaries. It is possible to respect the necessity of secrecy upto a point, but the PMO does little service in keeping the information lid too tight. Khaleda Zia deserved a proper dressing down in the matter of the resurgence of Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh. Apart from that, for those who want to know more about Islamic terrorism and its origins, recommended reading is Maloy Krishna Dhar'sexcellent work Fulcrum of Evils: ISI-CIA-AL Qaeda Nexus Dhar, incidentally, is a former joint Director of the Intelligence Bureau and he should know what he is writing about. It is as much a damning indictment of Islamic Terrorism as of the CIA. The manner in which the CIA helped financially and in other ways the Al Qaeda makes one wonder who the real criminal is: The United States or Bangladesh and its colonial masters in Islamabad.
The second article is really not an article but the text of the 37th Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture delivered by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in Delhi on November 21, 2005, which has since been published in Indian Horizons (Vol. 52, Autumn issue). That text should have been published in full by any self-respecting Indian newspaper as once upon a time?that is a long, long, long time ago, some did ?because of its wisdom, its understanding of current economic trends and its courage of convictions. As Lee Kuan Yew says in conclusion: ?At stake is the future of one billion Indians. India must make up for much time lost… The time has come for India'snext tryst with destiny?.
The third article deserves very special mention because it tackles a subject that many deliberately keep away from. It is entitled Indian Muslims: Past, Present and Future, and is written by J.S.Bandukwala and published by Economic and Political Weekly (April 8). Bandukwala suffered during the Godhra riots and, he writes, ?with police complicity? his house in a Hindu locality ?was destroyed in 15 minutes?. He asked for university quarters. He was given one flat in a block having four flats, all of which were occupied. But soon all the others left and the three other flats have remained unoccupied since then.
Writes Bandukwala: ?Incidentally, almost all university housing is occupied, except for the three flats in my block. I retire one year from now, Where do I shift? Muslims would certainly welcome me in their areas. Yet the dream of plural society cannot die within me, my first choice is a cosmopolitan locality?. Bandukwala is not bitter as well he might be. The problem apparently is food. He found a flat he liked but was told by its owners: ?We do not mind. But promise not to eat any non-vegetarian food?. The most remarkable thing about this article is the lack of bitterness. He tells us that within the Muslim community the old castes became ? the new jamaats? and inter-jamaat marriages are still rare and can often lead to a violent reaction. He says he made the mistake of asking a Syed to consider the proposal for his US-based son for the Syed'sdaughter. Says Bandukwala: ?The answer was short and brutal: Get out!? Bandukwala also reminds us that Narendra Modi is a Hindu Ghanchi and the Godhra accused are Muslim Ghanchis. The Ghanchis surely would understand each other'spsyche well whether they are Hindus or Muslims.
According to Bandukwala in centuries past ?religious association with the rulers gave the vast poor multitude a sense of empowerment.? But when Muslim rule collapsed with the advent of the British, it brought with it a ?deep insecurity, both for the nobility and the poor, Muslims?. The response was a turn towards religion and a rejection of all symbols?of the new rulers that included English, science and modernity. Writes Bandukwala: ?To close our eyes to the future and live the present in a fantasy is an ideal concoction for social disaster?.
He reminds us that in all these years there has not been a single Nobel Prize winner, the odd exception being Abdus Salaam who belongs to the Ahmediya sect which the Pakistani Government declares as non-Muslim. Bandukwala is opposed to reservations for the Muslims saying that ?reservations in educational institutions and in employment is not the answer to Muslim backwardness but may cause a further widening of the gulf between communities?. As he sees it, ?Muslims must stand on their own feet?. He is opposed to reservations for Muslims even at Aligarh Muslim University claiming that ?the best tribute we can pay Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is to have the best and brightest students, Muslims and non-Muslims, enter AMU making it the Harvard of the East?.
Bandukwala says that ?such a University could serve the larger Muslim interests far better than one in which Muslim admission is reserved? especially because ?a 50 per cent admission reservation in one university will automatically reduce the chances of Muslims being admitted to the hundreds of other universities?. Bandukwala is opposed to reservations also in the Army insisting that ?better educated and determined Muslims will get more jobs and at a higher level, than reservations can offer?.
His suggestion to his fellow Muslims is: ?Most important, we have to stop complaining and stop demanding separate quotas?. He asks: ?Why are we fighting for crumbs?? As he sees it, Muslims ?must reach out to Hindus and our words and deeds must never he such that they alienate Hindus. Their goodwill is essential?. There is more to this long article than can be described here, but it is about the first time that such an article has seen print. Both Bandukwala and Economic and Political Weekly deserve our heartfelt congratulations. It is about time that matters such as Bandukwala has raised are discussed and debated. Haven'twe had enough of hatred?