By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHIâ€”The silent dissent brewing among Indian Muslims about their being discriminated against is making louder noise than ever before with each passing day. Particularly after terrorists strike in the country Muslims feel the heat from this discrimination. Now the Muslims intend to take their efforts beyond the level of holding seminars and conferences across the country, many of which have been organized recently by leading Muslim organizations. In addition to forming defense groups against terrorism, the Indian Muslims seem determined to start â€œan effective movement against terrorismâ€ throughout the nation. This was evident at the June 29 general body meeting organized by a leading Muslim organization Jamiat Ulam-i-Hind (JUH) under the chairmanship of its president Maulana Arshad Madani.
Though the JUH of late has itself been subject to internal politicking, this has not prevented prominent leaders representing the organization from raising their voices against terrorism. The significant aspect about the JUH meeting, attended by several thousand members from across the country, is its decision to take some action-oriented measures against terrorism and for development of Indian Muslims. Against this backdrop, the JUH members â€œunanimously pledgedâ€ to fight against terrorism under Madaniâ€™s leadership, according to a press release from the organization.
On this, Madani said: â€œThe JUH general body has decided to form defense groups against terrorism.â€ The Muslims are passing through a crucial phase as stereotyping of their community has led to tension and fear among them, he observed. â€œWe are passing through and important and crucial phase. A Muslim is not a terrorist but those who falsely term them such, are. People who frame, catch and implicate innocent Muslims are the people who are real terrorists,â€ he said.
In addition to contributing towards eliminating terrorism from the country, â€œeach member was advisedâ€ to play an important role in tackling other â€œsocial evils in the country.â€ What is also noteworthy is the strong move made by JUH towards making others realize the role that a leading religious organization can play in strengthening the countryâ€™s secular consciousness. This is marked by JUH membersâ€™ decision to â€œrestore, secure and strengthen the secular fabric to transform the country into an united, effective and strong nation.â€
Taking note of economic backwardness of Indian Muslims and the failure of the government to implement recommendations of the Sachar committee, the JUH pointed out that steps taken by the government continue to be â€œunproductiveâ€ regarding injustice and bias suffered by the Muslim community for the past six decades. In this direction, the JUH voiced the need to solicit â€œactive support and cooperationâ€ from all like-minded organizations in finding effective solutions to these â€œserious problems.â€
The JUH also decided to take steps to elevate the educational standards of Indian Muslims and for their economic development to â€œenable them to participate in development of the nation.â€ Expressing â€œserious concernâ€ about the â€œfate of thousands of young Muslims languishing behind barsâ€ under â€œfalse and frivolousâ€ charges, the JUH spelt out the need for the government to provide them substantive legal aid. In addition, the government should direct investigating agencies to â€œexpedite investigationâ€ against the ones arrested so that all innocent persons are released â€œto lead their lives honorably,â€ the JUH said.
Drawing attention to role of several non-Muslim organizations engaged in anti-social and terrorist activities, the JUH asserted the need for the government to effectively â€œcheck and probeâ€ into activities of such groups, particularly in states of Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and others. In this context, the JUH took note of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray having recently advocated formation of non-Muslim terrorist squads. â€œProvocative statements by all such leaders if not effectively checked,â€ with firmness, the JUH said would be dangerous to â€œsecular fabric and character of the country.â€
To check internal disturbances caused by â€œvested elements,â€ the JUH decided to have a central level committee, which would oversee the functioning of state level committees. The latter, comprising of district level committees down to village and block levels, â€œshall keep vigil on all suspicious and anti-national elements and/or their activities,â€ the JUH said. â€œAll these committees would work hand-in-hand to ensure that areas under their superintendence would be kept under a proper vigil, surveillance,â€ â€œfree from all future troublesâ€ and shall keep the â€œadministration well informed.â€
It was also decided at the JUH meeting to invite people from all religions, caste, race, creed and sex to â€œstrengthen the process of nation buildingâ€ with active participation of all. In addition, the JUH decided to create a think tank of intellectual persons and adhere to their suggestions and advices from time to time to achieve the goals outlined at the meeting.
It may be pointed out, the high level Sachar committee was appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for preparation of a report on social, economic and educational status of Indian Muslims. The 403-page report was tabled in Parliament on 30th November 2006, 20 months after securing terms of reference from the Prime Ministersâ€™ Office. Though the report, viewed as an eye-opener for steps that need to be taken to include Muslims in the Indian mainstream, has been debated upon and discussed repeatedly, concrete measures in this direction have yet to be taken by the government.
Notwithstanding the hard fact that Indian Muslims across the country cannot from any angle be viewed as united politically or even socially, the voice raised by them against being linked with terrorism and the latest JUH meeting is certainly an eye-opener to one strong fact. Rather than wait for government to help them, they have at least accepted the need to start taking steps in this direction, beyond rhetoric confined to conferences and politics!