ONGOING DISCUSSION ON SIMI
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From: Amaresh Misra email@example.com
Date: Sep 1, 2008 3:00 AM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, DR MUJAHID GHAZI Ghazi <email@example.com>, gautam adhikari <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, gmoonis <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, SHRIKUMAR PODDAR <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Shakir Husain <email@example.com>, arif durrani <firstname.lastname@example.org>, aps khati <email@example.com>, Suman Tarafdar <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, Aamir Suhail <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, su204 <email@example.com>, Shahran Asim <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, randeep ramesh <email@example.com>, Arundhati Roy <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Fayyaz Khan <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Ashhar Hashimi <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, Arun Tripathi <email@example.com>, Terrie Albano <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Rasheed Ahmed <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, shahid askari <email@example.com>, bishmoitra <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Bibek Debroy <email@example.com>, Crispin Bates <Crispin.Bates@ed.ac.uk>, Meenal Baghel <firstname.lastname@example.org>, soumya bhattacharya <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Admiral Bhagwat <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, HARI DESAI <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Editpages <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, indrajit hazra <Ihazra@hindustantimes.com>, Radio Islam <email@example.com>, Mohsin Jamali <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
SIMI Question: The Political aspect
By Amaresh Misra
This might be considered a delayed response to Shri Yogendra Yadav’s last, detailed comment on the SIMI Question. I am on a US lecture tour to promote awareness about Indian history and 1857; the past few days were hectic and I had no time on my hands.
Shri Yadav raises four positions on the SIMI question: The Ghulam Muhammad line, the Amaresh Misra line, the Javed Anand line and the establishment line. Distancing himself from the establishment line, Shri Yadav finds empathy with the Javed Anand line. He says that the Amaresh Misra line improves upon the Ghulam Muhammad line but does not `delink’ SIMI from Indian Muslims at large—Shri Yadav broadly believes that innocent Muslims and SIMI sympathizers, are being harassed in SIMI’s name even though, as per law, the organization might not have been linked to any terror attacks. He says that we can only fight such harassment, or the secular forces will be more emboldened if secularists distanced themselves from SIMI.
The question is political for Shri Yadav raises the issue of winning the mainstream Hindu population to the secular cause and that this `winning over’ will be difficult if secular forces or Muslims welcome the lifting of a ban on SIMI. Now let us make one thing clear: were Muslims or the Urdu media welcoming the lifting the ban on SIMI per se? I guess not—since several innocent Muslims were harassed in SIMI’s name, they were welcoming relief for those victims. In fact if you read Urdu editorials carefully, you will find that they have not expressed support for SIMI’s ideology—for them SIMI’s ideology remains, a non-issue.
Now Shri Yadav might say that this is precisely the point: SIMI’s ideology is not a non-issue, if only because mainstream Hindus have a supposed dread of SIMI.
Shri Yogendra Yadav might not realize this—but this is exactly the argument put forward by soft Hindutva or pseudo/weak secular forces: fight Muslim persecution but do not raise the name of the association in whose name Muslim persecution was generated (for fear of a Hindu backlash). The same `backlash specter’ is raised when Bal or Raj Thackeray or Narendra Modi or Advani are to be arrested.
The problem is that this is impractical—in a political battle you have to focus on the main enemy—Shri Yadav says that secular forces ought to avoid, the label `pro-Muslim’ if they want to win mainstream Hindus over to the secular cause. I pose a counter question: what if secular forces, largely liberal Hindus like Shri Yogendra Yadav, have by and large, under the plea that the RSS will be strengthened, avoided defending civil rights guaranteed to Muslims under the Indian constitution as a minority group?
To me that is the main problem—in the name of delinking SIMI from Indian Muslims Shri Yadav gets his priorities wrong—SIMI’s name was never linked with Indian Muslims in the first place—the linkage is an invention of communal forces in India and the Indian security forces. It is a diabolical design to identify all Muslims with SIMI and then persecute them.
So SIMI more or less is an `invention’—the same way in which `the existence of WMDs in Iraq‘ was a lie and a fraud perpetrated by George Bush and his cohorts on the world, or the `Jewish enemy’ was invented by Hitler. You do not fight malicious, fascist stereotypical inventions by `delinking’ them from a community—you expose them by pointing out how and why they are inventions and what harm these inventions are going to do.
Indian secularists have to make a choice here—whether you regard `SIMI as a terrorist organization’ construct as an `invention’. Many of Mr. Yadav’s doubts stem from the concern that what if tomorrow some terror links of SIMI are discovered?
This `what if’ line is very dangerous—unconsciously it promotes murder. At the time of the Iraq invasion when the US State and Intelligence agencies were proclaiming for a `fact’ that Saddam Hussein has WMDs, Indian `liberals’ like Tavleen Singh and the like also insisted that one should not oppose the invasion blindly as there could be some truth in the WMD allegations. The same argument that `mainstream American or the world opinion will be alienated’ was given; in the end, what happened? Ultimately the American establishment was proven to be wrong—it’s `leftist’ and Muslim critics proven right. There were no WMDs in Iraq—so what is now the accountability of those intellectuals who misused their unique position by posing ifs and buts in a clear cut situation where the illegal American invasion had to opposed, without any doubts, simply because it was an evil act.
Of course, these people are intellectuals—so they are spared the burden of accountability—even though their ambivalence ended them making an accomplice in mass murder in Iraq.
I was amongst those who disagreed with Saddam and said so openly—but that did not come in the way of me defending Saddam’s legal rights against America. According to Shri Yadav’s logic, even if you disagree with SIMI’s thinking, you should `delink’ yourself from defending it, as that would send a `wrong message’.
Message to—what—the RSS? In fact the opposite is true and I would like Shri Yadav to ponder over this question: that the real `delink’ that ought to be made is between the RSS and the Hindus. In a Hindu majority country, the RSS-BJP has never won more than 15-20% of the vote as a single party. The RSS-BJP ought to have won 300 seats in the Indian Parliament at least once; the fact that they did not shows how much they do not represent Hindus.
I do not think even Shri Ghulam Muhammad for once said that SIMI represents the entire Muslims of India. His position is similar to that of mine that you cannot defend an `abuse’ by separating the content from the form arbitrarily. SIMI is the `form’, the bugbear that has been invented by the communal forces in the Indian State power. You do not `delink’ the bugbear—you expose it as a bugbear and how it was used to persecute Muslims.
Muslims have never associated RSS with all Hindus—in fact if you go to Deoband, there is a whole subject on Sanatan Dharma—you might know that Sanatan Dharma is the real religion of Hindus—the four Shankacharyas have condemned the RSS on several occasions and if you ask the Sanatan Dharma religious leaders they too say that SIMI is an invention!
Sanatan Dharma forces were engaged actively in defeating the BJP in the 2004 elections—I know this for a fact as I was part of these campaigns in UP in several constituencies where the BJP lost, was reduced to 10 seats in UP and lost the national mandate. When Golwalkar was alive he had a debate with Swami Swarupanand, the Shankaracharya of Badrinath and Dwarika, in which Golwalkar said that he regards Lord Rama as a `Mahapurush’ and not a God. Swarupanand replied that in that case, Golwalkar is close to the position adopted by Ravana—who too refused to believe that Rama is God’s incarnation.
Mark the subtle nuances of the Swarupanand-Golwalkar debate—the Shankaracharya is saying early on what he said right after the Mandir movement—that the RSS is atheist and `aadharmik’—RSS as fascists do not believe in the concept of God as a power independent of human will. True religion materializes—gives a concrete form and meaning—to spiritual reality. On the other hand, fascism spiritualizes material reality i.e. it ascribes divine status to a material entity like race, or homeland. In RSS run schools, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh are not worshipped—an abstract concept of the `motherland’ is worshipped—this concept has vague territorial boundaries and transforms into a tyrannical monster whose abstract will has to be enforced by force.
Any religion like Islam or Sanatan Dharma, which believes in a formless God existing independent of man’s will, reinforces humanism and enlightenment as it tends to take human endeavor towards understanding that formless reality. By contrast, fascist thinking blocks enlightenment as formless reality is not recognized there—instead divinity is ascribed to an abstract but grotesquely distorted and concrete entity like the race or the nation or the motherland.
That is why democracy is the opposite of fascism—the former rests on questions and doubts and celebration of difference in the human quest towards the understanding his or hers relationship with the formless reality—democracy believes that human mastery is never complete. Fascism however marks the `end of history’ and the depiction of the State or `Bharat’ or a race as an end to itself, as a truth unto itself, as perfection ordained and immutable, something before which the human head should bow down; religion says that man can only bow before the formless God; Muslims are justified therefore in challenging RSS’ concept of nationalism—in the latter nation is divine—it is not a man made, civilizational entity. If you recognize nation as a man made, civilizational entity, then you have to recognize Muslim contribution and the like. On the other hand, if the nation is a fixed, complete, divine entity from before—even before the Muslims came, then Muslims obviously have no part to play in the making of that nation. They are outsiders—the `other’ which has to be `purged’.
Because Hindus too believe in a formless God (Brahma) they also do not worship the nation and they do not understand when the RSS asks them to do so—that is where Islam and Sanatan Dharma stood shoulder to shoulder in 1857 and they do so now. So Sanatan Dharma Hindus will not be effected or prejudiced against Muslims if SIMI’s `invention’ is exposed or Muslim persecution is sought to be ended; you do not have to `delink’ SIMI and Muslims in order to defend the latter—if you do so, you will fall into the perfect trap set by the fascists.
Hindus are dismayed even more than Muslims because fascists have taken over the media and they project a distorted Hindutva image of Sanatan Dharma. In fact Hindus will support a position that fearlessly questions Muslim demonization in the name of SIMI. For the public at large, SIMI’s ideology is an academic question that only diverts attention from the real issues.
I have experience in dealing aggressively with the RSS and winning over even a section of the RSS support base. I hope you are aware of this; I have never had to explain to Hindus that what is SIMI or its ideology—I merely say that this is an `invention’ created to divert our attention.
I would again urge you that the Javed Anand’s line is a smoke screen, a variant of the Establishment line only. In the light of arguments given above, please consider this—without exposing SIMI as an invention of security/communal forces you will not be able to fight Muslim persecution. The communal forces will trap you in a position where you will have to chuckle and pass over the torture and killing of `Muslims who have SIMI links’. This is what happens in reality—and I am sorry to say, this is where liberals like you fail. I have the experience of fighting for the cause of 1993 Mumbai Bomb Blast accused with the blessings of the Badrinath Shankaracharya. And I was able to extricate several innocent victims out of the mess.
In a letter written to Rajiv Gandhi just after the infamous `shilanyas’, which opened the floodgates of communal politics in India, Shri Kamala Pati Tripathi, the Indira Gandhi loyalist and UP’s Chief Minister, openly stated that `the only way to fight the RSS was in the streets with Lathis’; and that Rajiv Gandhi is making a huge mistake in giving them leverage in Ayodhya. Shri Tripathi was not a radical—but he was a Sanatan Dharmi; note the aggression in his tone.
In India, often you have to be seen as pro-Muslim in order to fight fascism—this is what your enemy does—you do not have to fear it—Hindus know who is who and what is what; it is the fascist forces who want you to throw away the secular cause, or fight the secular cause `in a certain safe way’, who instill the fear that if you will talk about the right of Muslims you will be labeled as pro-Muslim.
Mulayam Singh Yadav did not fall into this trap when he was called Maulana Mulayam by Advani. Nehru did not reply when he was called pro-Muslim.
Please take note…
Yogendra Yadav <firstname.lastname@example.org>
5:45 am (4 hours ago)
TO: Amaresh Misra <email@example.com>
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Sep 3, 2008 5:45 AM
Thanks for your response. I really appreciate the tone of this exchange from you. Like the previous pieces, this piece also serves to remind me of how much I share with you, especially your emphasis on sanatana dharma. This latest piece also brings out three very basic differences between our positions:
1. You are convinced that SIMI’s terror links are an invention as much as Iraq’s WMD were; I am not, for I do not think we have seen enough credible evidence at this stage to be so sure of this judgment.
1A. You think that my agnosticism on this question is dangerous for it can support the evil. I recognise its risk (especially if I do agree with you some time later that SIMI terror link was purely a figment of imagination) but would knowingly opt for this in the present condition of partial information. I fear that the cost of your reading going wrong are so high (as it would then definitely lead to an inescapable link between Indian Muslims and terror) as to be completely unacceptable to me.
1A. You think that without exposing SIMI as an invention of security/communal forces it is not possible to fight Muslim persecution. I believe on the contrary, that it is counter-productive to get into a position on SIMI-terror link if our main purpose is to defend the innocent victims who are being harassed in the name of SIMI.
2. You believe that secularists in India should be prepared to be seen as “pro-Muslim” in order to fight fascism. I believe that secularists should neither be pro-Muslim (or pro-Hindu etc) nor be seen as such. They should simply follow a principled line and be assiduously truthful and take care that they are seen to be doing so. (in this pursuit they are bound to seen as pro-this or pro-that, but that should not deter them). The future of politics of secularism depends to my mind being able to capture this place in public consciousness.
2A. You think that in our context the secular politics should oppose majority communalism while tolerating minority communalism (is this a fair summary? I was not sure and would like to be corrected). I disagree. I believe that while there must be special legal and constitutional safeguard for minorities, there must not be any special concession to minority communalism.
3. You are convinced that the line you are suggesting is not only correct, but is self-evidently so for most ordinary Indians. Your experience tells you that it is enough to just say to your audience that SIMI-terror link is an invention. My experience is no doubt more limited but very different from yours. What I have learnt from my experience is that most ordinary people (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and so on), non-communal by nature, do not accept very easily the arguments that people like you and me put forward, that they suspect us to be partisan, that we need to earn their respect and credibility. If secular politics has to have wider acceptance in our society (in every community, including among Hindus) then it must be able to converse with these ordinary people. (I might add in parentheses that you may have inadvertently misreported my argument on this point. I have nowhere spoken about “winning the mainstream Hindu population”; you may have read someone else’s position into mine. I do believe that making secularism acceptable and attractive to the population at large, including but not limited to the mainstream Hindus population, should be the concern of any serious politics of secularism.)
In any dialogue it is something of an achievement to be able to agree on what we disagree upon. I would need to wait for some time, learn more and reflect on this issue before I can take this exchange any further. Allow me to close this exchange with a quote from (who else?) you: “[democracy] rests on questions and doubts and celebration of difference in the human quest … democracy believes that human mastery is never complete”. I sincerely hope that politics of secularism will continue to be democratic in the terms that you describe so powerfully.
Thanks for taking our time during your travel abroad,