There is no denying the fact that in the last two to three decades the divide between the two dominant communities in India, Hindus and Muslims, has increased progressively. Today it has reached worrying proportions with no solutions in sight. It may also be true to state that there is no constructive initiative from either side to try and bridge the divide. While most political, religious and social leaders, from either side, may disagree with this statement but then deep inside their hearts they too know that it is true. Such a situation is obviously not good for the nation as a whole and as things stand it can only worsen in the times to come unless there is a deep introspection on either side to understand and admit that there is a serious problem on hand. Unless this first step is in place, no worthwhile solutions will ever be found and the chasm will continue to grow since vested interests will continue to exploit the divide and the common man’s distrust for the other community will only grow further.
Islamic terror or Muslim terror is not a localised Indian phenomenon. It is an international issue and today there is hardly any part of the world that is not affected by it, including predominantly Muslim nations. Olympic Games may be taking place in far off land of Brazil in South America, yet one of the major security threats is perceived from Islamic terror, mainly because of ISIS. Today whenever any major event is organised anywhere in the world the security concerns because of terror strikes are always on the forefront. Unfortunately in today’s environment such threats are invariably linked to Islamic terror outfits who want to target not only people from other faiths but also people of their own faith who do not subscribe to their ways of thinking and interpretation of the Islamic religion. Moderate voices within Islam are far and few in between and many times even these are silenced with threats and violence. This approach ensures that the common Muslim does not even harbour any liberal thoughts and continues to remain a mute spectator while the terror groups go about their business unchecked without any meaningful opposition from their community.
What is terrorism? In principle terrorism involves the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce people especially for political or religious purposes and / or to resist a legitimate government to either destabilise it or to overthrow it. Terrorism requires a long term religious and political agenda, formal hierarchical leadership, an established organisation that has vast financial resources, indoctrination cells, media cells to propagate their thoughts and highlight their actions, use of sophisticated means to counteract governmental counter terrorism measures and intimidation of local civilian population to ensure their passive or active support. Terrorism has no boundaries and depending on their agenda and organisational support they can strike anywhere. It has no qualms about killing innocent people including those from their own faith – sometimes just for show of strength and at others to further their religious or political beliefs. Equally it has no reservations in sending its own recruits on suicide missions to further their cause.
Islamic terror stems from an interpretation of the Islamic faith as contained in the Holy Koran where anyone other than a Muslim is considered an infidel and it is the duty of every Muslim to either convert an infidel to believe in Islam or to destroy him. For them the only way of life is as defined in the Sharia laws where clergy’s word is supreme, religion is not to be questioned, women are subjugated and everyone has to follow a way of life as prescribed in the laws derived from Quran and Hadith. There may have been some logic or reasons in the 7th century when this was propagated by the Prophet but today in the 21st century it is certainly irrelevant and misplaced to say the least. Religions have to evolve with times to remain relevant but unfortunately Islam has not only been slow to change with changing times but it seems to have fallen back in times in the last few decades. Regrettably there has been no worthwhile opposition to this phenomenon within the Muslim community, both in India and elsewhere, and this has resulted in an upper hand for the extremists and those who propagate the seventh century Islam today.
Hindu religion on the other hand has had no such problems and is by far the most well adjusted religion with changing times, notwithstanding a few isolated and irrelevant voices that invariably find no support. No Hindu scripture, unlike the Koran, advocates violence or conversion or killing of people of other faiths. Hinduism has always advocated peaceful coexistence with people of other faiths. If it was otherwise then possibly the Indian History, since the advent of Moguls in the tenth century, may have been written in an entirely different manner. The mass conversions carried out under various Muslim rulers may never have happened and India may not have had such a vast Muslim population as it has today.
A lot has been made about Hindu Terror (or Saffron Terror), a term coined by Mr S K Shinde, the Home Minister in UPA 2 government under Dr Manmohan Singh in January 2013 with reference to Samjhauta Express and Malegaon blasts purely for political reasons. His absurdity touched new heights when he went on to say that both BJP and RSS were running terrorist training camps. Unfortunately Mr Shinde had no idea what he was doing and what implications such a move would have in the future since he was guided only by short term political gains and appeasement of the Muslim community, a trait practiced by Congress for many decades that has caused a lot of irreversible damage to the nation. Today all Indian Muslim leaders fall back on this term whenever they are at a loss to explain why most acts of terror are perpetuated by people of Islamic faith not only in India but across the world. It bothers no one that there is no comparison between the Islamic Terror and the so called Hindu Terror – former is a harsh reality while the later is only a myth.
It is pity that for the sake of political convenience and in their fixation to establish credibility of Hindu Terror, some leaders and others with similar vested interests fail to differentiate between communal riots / clashes and terrorism. The former is a localised phenomenon that invariably occurs between Muslims and Hindus due to a few established reasons like desecration of a holy place or scripture, eve teasing, local property disputes and threat of an inter community marriage mainly in rural areas. The clashes while being violent at times are in no way acts of terrorism. The people involved from both sides are invariably local residents of the place where clashes take place barring a few outsiders who mainly act as catalysts to fuel the unrest. These acts are invariably spontaneous in nature because of inflamed passions or tension due to reasons outlined above. Once the clash is over, both communities go back to their daily routines and continue to live together. Most acts attributed to Hindu Terror are nothing but communal riots / clashes in reality. 1989 Bhagalpur riots, 1992 Mumbai riots, 1994 Anti Urdu riots in Bangalore, 2002 Gujarat riots, 2006 Vadodra riots and 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots were all clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Unfortunately both communities suffered in such riots where local political and religious leaders played pivotal roles on both sides. They were not acts of terrorism by any stretch of imagination.
Perhaps the only two incidents where some terror angle with Hindu links gets credence are the Samjhauta Express blasts in 2007 and The Malegaon blasts in 2008. In the former there is also a fair amount of evidence to suggest it was possibly perpetuated by LeT through its USA based operative Arif Quasmani who is believed to have funded the operation. In the Malegaon case while fingers were pointed at Abhinav Bharat, a rightist Hindu organisation, nine Muslim activists too were arrested in connection with the blasts. As on date there is no final verdict on either case and it may be premature to say who was responsible for these acts of terror. On the other hand 26/11 Mumbai attack, 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, 2002 Akshar Dham Temple attack in Ahmedabad, 2005 Delhi serial blasts, 2006 Mumbai train blasts, 2008 Assam bombings, 2001 Parliament attack in Delhi and the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir valley in 1990 where hundreds of Hindu Pundits were killed and over three hundred thousand had to flee their homes were all acts of terrorism perpetuated by highly motivated and brainwashed Muslim terrorists without any doubts. In all these acts of terror innocent people were killed in cold blood. In addition the number of civilian and security forces personnel killed over the last three to four decades in various terror attacks in J&K by Muslim terrorists’ runs in thousands.
In a debate on a national Television Channel after the recent Bangladesh terror attack in Dhaka, a point was made by one of the participants to ban Dr Zakir Naik, who it is believed had influenced some of the young men involved in the massacre of non-Muslims in the Dhaka restaurant. It was also pointed out that a few other misguided Muslim youth in the past too had confessed during their interrogation to have been motivated by this preacher who is banned by many leading countries like USA, UK, and Malaysia from entering their territory. Two Muslim clerics on the panel immediately demanded that in case Dr Zakir Naik is to be banned then there should also be a ban on RSS, VHP, Yogi Aditya Nath and Sakshi Maharaj since they too promote Hindu Terror. Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde of Congress Party should hang his head in shame since such nonsensical mutterings by the Muslim Clerics on national television have been made possible only because of his Hindu Terror remark three years ago. The warped thought process of these clerics is actually a matter of concern since they are opinion makers within their community with vast followings. Can any of these learned gentlemen tell the nation how many Muslims have been killed in India in last two years because of a few innocuous statements made by Yogi Aditya Nath or Sakshi Maharaj or can they enumerate any acts of terror related violence by RSS where innocent Muslims have been the victims? If there had been Hindu Terrorist modules alive and kicking surely by now a few hundred innocent Muslim lives too would have been lost in J&K alone, fortunately there have been no such losses.
The point being made here is that the very idea of Hindu Terror is a hypothetical figment of imagination since it does not exist in reality. A few hard core Hindu voices that are heard from time to time are only aimed at ensuring that the nation does not forget that more than 80% of the population is of Hindu origin and therefore Hinduism is important for the nation. Nowhere do any of these voices demand destruction of other religions, they are only seeking a rightful place for the most predominant religion in the country that certainly has been eroded due to the appeasement policies of successive governments over the last few decades. Surely this cannot be equated to terrorism.
In India, Hindus and Muslims, as also other religious minorities like Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains etc share a very special bond with each other. It is important to understand that Indian Muslims, at least majority of them, are from the same stock as the Hindu population of the nation. Most Indian Muslims are a result of forced or voluntary conversions that started from the tenth century and went on till about eighteenth century when Aurangzeb was the Emperor of India. This differentiates Indian Muslims from other Muslims of the world as India’s Muslims and Hindus are basically from the same stock and share a common heritage. So somewhere we have to understand and accept that not too long ago our ancestors shared the same religion, customs, social practices and whatever else one can think of. If today our beliefs and way of life are different there is still a strong bond between the two communities. This analysis may offend some but it certainly cannot be denied.
Today we live in an India where a Hindu is not inclined to rent out his premises to a Muslim irrespective of who he is. This is true even in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai apart other parts of the nation. Similarly a Hindu is not welcome in Muslim dominated areas in these cities and elsewhere in the country including the Kashmir valley. Possibly this reservation may also be prevalent to a lesser degree in job placement at times. Inter community marriage between a Muslim and Hindu is unthinkable and in rural or semi urban areas such a proposal could even endanger the lives of young people involved. Muslims and Hindus alike are adopting more and more “in your face” attitude when it comes to religion and individual identity. Be it religious processions, loudspeakers in mosques and temples or encroachment of public spaces for carrying out prayers, there is an utter disregard to the inconvenience that is caused to public in general. Communities are equated with vote banks and the value of individual vote seems to be depreciating on a continual basis which is extremely counterproductive for a vibrant democracy. To some it seems being part of a minority is like having a licence to push the majority without the fear of any repercussion or fallout. Certainly this does not bode well for the nation.
It is time as a nation we understand, admit and find solutions for these follies before the situation goes totally out of control. It goes without saying that both communities will have to leave the past behind and work earnestly towards a brighter future. The first step in this regard will be to keep ones religion out of the public domain totally and ensure it remains as a personal trait that one does not have to wear on ones sleeve or flaunt in public. As a nation it would do us good if we stop talking about our religion or practice it in public domain. The public domain should only be about India and Indians as envisaged in our constitution where every Indian, irrespective of his or her personal choice of religion is deemed equal in all respects.