By Salman Khurshid
Jan 03, 2018
The steady advance of anti-secular forces in the country over the last five years has challenged the very Idea of India, and, in particular, forced Indian Muslims into an uncertain silence. The sad thing is that we have to pretend that acts of terror seen in the Mumbai blasts or associated with the Batla House encounter are not part of a cause and effect chain. To even suggest it brings the charge of being sympathetic to terror. One can surely fundamentally abhor terrorism, yet analytically believe it to be precipitated by some rightly or wrongly perceived failure of justice.
When an honest attempt to understand the angst that leads to acts of subversion and virtual self-destruction itself is branded an illegitimate anti-national act , what hope is there that we will ever understand what is going wrong? How will we ever be able to eliminate the menace of wanton destruction?
Islam’s association with mindless violence in several parts of the world is truly painful. But let us not forget that the resort to weapons by the PLO was also linked with Islam but nobody except perhaps the Zionists would have thought them to be dishonourable. On the other hand, which Muslim in our world would condone the acts of Osama Bin Laden or the ISIS? Misinterpretation or misuse of its doctrines for extraneous political ambitions must not make an artificial enemy of a great, egalitarian religion. Co-existence, not confrontation, is the answer for survival and prosperity. People who demonise Islam to serve their personal agenda are no better than those who use it to perpetuate everything that it opposes in its true form.
There was a time when India had a voice and for reasons other than the fact that it has the second-largest Muslim population of the world. India was heard for what it meant to the oppressed anywhere. But how do we seek a voice now when we cannot even have an honest conversation at home. By stifling the voice of Muslims at home do we have the locus to speak to them and for them as trusted friends in the world? So Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the GCC, Syria and the OIC no longer wait to hear from India before acting or reacting to events. Russia no longer consults us and the US merely wants support for its fight against terror, not having supported us when terror stalked us but left it alone.
Leaderless and voiceless, the Indian Muslim lives in a fresh limbo. Political parties that have made much political capital out of the support for Muslims over the decades now caution patience and tactical forbearance. The idea of India we inherited from our founding fathers has proved to have the strength to overcome the challenge of adversaries over the decades. It will be overwhelmed by them only if we lose faith in its capacity to prevail.
The dilemmas faced by Muslims are even greater for their supposed leaders. To begin with they have traditionally been perceived as leaders of Muslims rather than leaders who are Muslims. But unlike Dalit and OBC leaders, Muslim leaders first suffer by restrictive labels and then are accused of being communal. At the same time, their own community questions their intent if not capacity to represent them.
The 2017 Gujarat election was an obvious example of how it is permissible to use caste for justice, majority religion for equality, but impermissible to seek equity for the minorities. One wonders if the rights story has given way to the might narrative permanently. India will indeed be more powerful than Pakistan but will we be able to claim the intellectual and moral superiority of our polity?