The SIMI question: Indian democracy’s acid test

The SIMI question: Indian democracy’s acid test

 

                                                              

By Amaresh Misra

 

 

          The lifting of the ban on SIMI by the Special Tribunal constituted under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2006, headed presently by Justice Geeta Mittal, needs to be welcomed by all secular Indians.

 

The persecution meted out to SIMI cadres during the past 15 years is nothing short of a legal scandal; the recent Tehelka story on the subject paints a frightening story of deliberate negligence, blatant disregard of the rule of law, violation of constitutional and civil rights of Indian citizens and cynicism towards the secular ideology of the Indian nation-state, by functionaries of Indian State agencies themselves. In the name of combating SIMI, ordinary Muslims were demonized, picked up from their homes in broad daylight, given third and fourth degree tortures and made to `confess’ to `crimes’ that were never proven. It is therefore painful to see so called secularists like Javed Anand taking—at this juncture, when some legal relief to beleaguered Muslims of India seems to be in sight, and when it is becoming apparent that the bomb blast phenomenon in India is a handiwork of communal elements in State services and the RSS-Sangh Parivar—the Urdu media and Muslim organizations to task for welcoming a plainly legal judgment!

 

          The Supreme Court since then has stayed the lifting of the ban—and this seems to give comfort to Mr. Javed Anand! Mr. Anand has failed totally in distinguishing between support for SIMI’s ideology and opposing persecution of Muslims in SIMI’s name. One can remain deadly opposed to SIMI’s ideology—but if a secularist or a leftist fails to welcome the lifting of the ban on SIMI then he or she is either willfully ignorant or willfully supportive of the Indian brand of fascism.

 

          Several quotes form Lenin and Mao can be presented to prove the point that leftists have to stand up for persecuted religious minorities irrespective of the ideologies of their representative or fringe organizations. But in India of late some pseudo or fake version of secularism has gained currency. Mr. Anand raises the question of going beyond the `law’ and seeing the SIMI threat on the `ideological’ plane; Mr. Yogendra Yadav in his reply to Mr. Ghulam Muhammad’s very reasonable riposte to Mr. Javed Anand goes one step further to say that there is `truth’ beyond `law’!

 

          Come on, people—are we discussing philosophy, the nature of truth etc. here? What kind of ridiculous levels are we descending to? Mr. Javed Anand and Mr. Yogendra Yadav ought to answer two questions: whether the ban on SIMI was justified on legal grounds? Just a simple Yes or No—and whether the lifting of the ban is as per the spirit of the Indian constitution—again a simple Yes or No; there are no other issues involved—the Urdu media has been at the forefront of fighting all anti-national conspiracies; it is more patriotic than the Indian English media for sure. There are several stories which the Urdu media highlighted and which the English media picked up later—the Urdu media began the whole debate around the non-implementation of the Sri Krishna committee in 2007-2008; the English media picked up the theme later.

 

          When the Urdu media welcomes the lifting the ban on SIMI, it is acting not as a `Muslim media’ but as a responsible `Indian media’ conscious about the constitutional rights of all Indian citizens. The Urdu media was vocal about Muslim persecution in India not because Urdu is spoken and read largely by Muslims, but because they realized the unconstitutional nature of that persecution. The Urdu media in the 1990s has also been very vocal on atrocities on Dalits and the OBCs. It has carried long campaigns against several ills within the Muslim society, including the spread of ideas which even faintly suggest terrorism of any kind. Its nationalist and secular credentials are beyond doubt. The Government of India has had to consistently support the Urdu media and shield it from vicious attacks from communal forces because of this very reason.

 

          There was an attempt by communal elements in the Maharashtra State administration to book a journalist called Danish Riyaz in July 11 2006 Mumbai blasts; Danish was used to put pressure on the Urdu Times, which had spoken out consistently against minority persecution in general; one can cite several such instances.

 

          It is people, like Javed Anand who need to be a taught a lesson in secularism. They represent a section which makes fun of Muslim religious beliefs in the name of secularism—they shed crocodile tears over Muslim persecution without once daring to confront the RSS head on—have Javed Anand or Javed Akhtar or Yogendra Yadav been able to stand up against the RSS on any public platform? The RSS loves them for they represent some caricature of secularism, which can easily be used to paint secularism as against religion and Muslim appeasement.

 

          Defending the constitutional rights of Muslims is a political question—today in India, the ideology of SIMI etc is a non issue. The real issue is whether we will allow the RSS-Sangh Parivar and other fascist forces to derail the idea of India as a secular republic.

 

Mr. Javed Anand therefore stands guilty of creating an issue where there is none and therefore helping the RSS indirectly. Anti-religiosity has never been the hallmark of Indian secularism—in fact in the Indian context anti-religious secularism has always ended up as being friends of fascism which too is anti-religious; in fact, the pseudo-westernized culture of the Indian secular elite has been responsible to a great degree for the rise of the RSS; what India needs is indigenous secularism, of the Ganga-Yamuni Tehzeeb variety.

 

Recently, when the Shankarcharya of Puri attacked Narendra Modi for dividing Hindus and Muslims and for planting bombs in Gujarat to defame and persecute Muslims, Mr. Javed Anand or Mr. Yogendra Yadav did not come forward to welcome the statement. Here was a golden opportunity to harness the liberal tradition within the mainstream, the anti-RSS majority Sanatan Dharma Hindu element, to the cause of secularism. But people like Mr. Javed Anand and Mr. Yogendra Yadav of course, have no conviction in the power of the Shankaracharyas to fight the RSS. They do not realize that India has remained secular for so long, that in a Hindu majority country like India, Hindutva fascists have failed to secure more than 20% votes ever, because of the pro-Muslim nature of Sanatan Dharma, which had allied with Islam during the Mughal era and in 1857.

 

          Papers like Indian Express stand guilty of going against their own traditions of fearless journalism. I have contributed a lot to Indian Express’ edit page, mostly on themes like 1857. But any article against Muslim persecution has been shot down. I am saying this openly and blaming the Indian Express edit page editor Saubhik Chakravarty and Shekhar Gupta for their subtle and not so subtle anti-Muslim biases. Somewhere down the line, every pseudo-westernized Hindu holds an unexplained grudge against Muslims. This translates into biases in the media. I am a member of the Governing Council of the ICSSR. And if I can be published on several issues and rejected on issues of Muslim persecution, then you can imagine the treatment a Muslim journalist gets in the Indian Express.

 

          So it is true that the Indian `secular’ English media suffers from a pro-Hindutva bias. Even a rookie journalist will tell you that. A legal case has to be brought out against the Indian Express and the Times of India. India needs tough anti-defamation and anti-discrimination laws, where people would have the right to sue the Indian Express and the Times of India.        

 

One has to understand that in India secularism has been protected by the `illiterate’, non-westernized peasants and the common sense of the ordinary Indian. Indian/Hindu modernism and modernists have surrendered before fascism; on the contrary Indian/Hindu tradition and traditionalists have fought against the RSS. This dialectics needs to be understood—the soul of India needs to be understood in the fight against fascism. For fascists are pseudo-modernists of a different variety. And they fear not modernism but the everyday religious-traditional-political consciousness of the Hindu and Muslim Indian peasant.   

 

         Right now also it is not some so called secularist but a traditional politician like Digvijay Singh, the ex-CM of MP, who in an interview given to Tehelka, has openly spoken about the BJP-VH-RSS making bombs in India—Mr. Singh has said also that he has direct evidence in this matter. But of course, why would Mr. Javed Anand or Mr. Yogendra Yadav write on this, or welcome Mr. Singh’s statement or demand an enquiry into the role of RSS in the bomb blasts that have been rocking India? And why would the Indian Express publish any such thing?  

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