Secular objective sans objectivity
Balbir K Punj
2nd July 2004
Nehruvian "secularism" is a fragile experimentation that needs constant window dressing at the cost of credibility and objectivity. Much of it is simply whistling in the dark or, ostrich-like, burying the face in the sand.
Three recent events, albeit completely unconnected, can serve as strong indicants. The "secularist" responses to these betray their complete intellectual and moral bankruptcy.
The most scandalous of these was the "secularists" jumping the gun to claim that Ishrat Jahan, the Mumbai girl gunned down by the police in Ahmedabad along with four other Muslim terrorists, was innocent. The second was the "summary trial and purge" at the NCERT by Messrs S Settar, JS Grewal and Barun De to "detoxify" the History syllabus. The third is a complicated case and can be appreciated with the benefit of hindsight.
It betrays "secular" inhibition to take note of the ground reality, and pertains to a news report that pro-Al Qaeda groups are on "talent-scouting" mission amidst Muslim settlers in Bangladesh. Further, they are reportedly providing Rs 2,000 per month as stipend to help create an "Islamistan" in the region ('Al Qaeda bait for Assam militants', Hindustan Times, June 28). In 1999, when the then Governor of Assam, Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha, had submitted a 42-page report on the ominous portent of migrations from Bangladesh, the "secularists" had promptly branded him a communal hate-monger.
"Secularism" in the intelligentsia, and among academia and the media, has thus reached the nadir of perversion. It reflects a willful disconnect from reality at the cost of the nation's security and the survival of civil society. Previously, this was restricted to connivance by Islamic conservatism or fundamentalism. It was justified by "secular" politicians and intellectuals as a result of backwardness or the fundamental right to follow one's religion in the manner desired. But now it has come down to the unfortunate level of presenting terrorists as innocent victims and demonising the security forces.
The "secular" press chose to highlight the niceness of Ishrat Jahan as a student of Mumbai's Khalsa College, and to establish that she was innocent, but at the same time charged that the Ahmedabad police was a bunch of trigger-happy communalists. The Congress-NCP combine, in order to woo Muslim voters in Maharashtra in the forthcoming Assembly elections, virtually indicted the Ahmedabad police and demanded a CBI enquiry. The "secularists" took leave of their senses by failing to ask what was Ishrat Jahan doing in the company of three armed men in Ahmedabad!
How many mothers in India would let their teenage girls go out with unknown men for days together? Why were the "secularists" trying to establish that Ishrat was an icon of modesty and innocence in college? And what were they trying to prove by saying that Pranesh Kumar Pillai, who became Javed Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh to marry a Muslim girl (and later a member of LeT) was a great cricket enthusiast?
Terrorists do not have horns on their heads. If anyone believes they have, let him go through the video tapes of Osama bin Laden. He came across as a lesson in modesty and soft-spokenness. His fellow students at Hamburg could hardly believe that a gentele Mohammed Atta was amongst those who destroyed the World Trade Centre towers on 9/11. Incidentally, can't terrorists be fanatical about cricket matches? After all, a Pakistan cricketer did claim that every cricket match between India and Pakistan was a jihad.
The "secularists" have been caught on the wrong foot ever since the "secular" Pune Police (and not the "communal" Gujarat Police) recovered two passports from Javed's house, one in the name of Pranesh and another in the name of Javed. Some other documents showed he owned a third passport under the assumed name of Sayyad Abdul Wahid. Javed's own sister informed the Pune police that one of the two Pakistani terrorists killed in the attack had stayed with Javed.
The handwritten diary recovered from Ishrat Jahan shows how the "innocent" girl had received Rs 4.80 lakh of which she gave Rs 1.70 lakh to Salim, a fellow victim. Twenty-five kg of explosives, a dozen coconuts which could be used to make crude grenades, 81 AK-56 live cartridges, a satellite phone, and two mobile phones were also recovered from that fateful car. Strangely, the "secularists" find these irritating circumstantial evidences inconsequential. Hence, they must be swept under carpet to save "secularism"!
Then, Messrs S Settar & Co undertook an "ex-parte summary trial" within two days for "de-saffronisation" of NCERT history textbooks. They found time to entertain a students' delegation from Marxist-Islamist outfit, Sahmat, but none for the authors in question despite written offers of cooperation. Mr Settar went on camera ("We the People", NDTV) saying authors in any case would have defended their writings. Bravo! Even a murder accused is provided an opportunity to defend himself. Can a judge say, "Why give him an opportunity to speak-he is only going to claim he is innocent"? If one reads between the lines, there is a contradiction in the Leftist establishment's charge.
On the one hand they claim that the Sangh Parivar is "distorting" history. On the other, they say that references of Muslim vandalism and iconoclasm should be completely deleted to maintain communal harmony. The NCERT issued a directive in 1982 to this intent. So are we in agreement that medieval history is actually unsavory, but must be window-dressed to suit today's compulsions?
To present India's medieval history impartially (as the British did) would be deemed "communal". Babasaheb Ambedkar did not mince his words writing about the extermination of Buddhism by the sword of Islam in 12th and 13th century (The Decline and Fall of Buddhism; Vol III, Writings and Speeches).
Islamic chroniclers have themselves gleefully recorded such works of depredation as acts of great virtue in the extermination of jahilya (infidel tradition). But Leftist historians claim that Buddhist shrines were destroyed and pillaged by Hindus, and Islam had no role in it.
If the Marxists are right, then Ambedkar, who himself became a Buddhist, must be "communal"! The truth is that the Buddha, himself a Hindu, received patronage from Hindu kings. In pre-Islamic era, Buddhism not only flourished in India but sailed to South-East Asia, where it still survives in Thailand, Myanmar Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. But "Hindu atrocities" must be invented and Islamic atrocities must be overlooked in order to defend "secularism".
The dream of "Bang-e-Islam" or Islamistan originally belonged to Fakruddin Ali Ahmed. He supported large-scale infiltration of Muslims from East Bengal (later East Pakistan) into Assam. He hoped that in due course the increasing Muslim population would swamp Assam and West Bengal, which may be incorporated with East Pakistan. The Congress rewarded that great Pan-Islamist by making him the President of India. And they derided Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha when he presented the ground-reality of Assam. This was a classic case of shooting the messenger.
Indira Gandhi later passed the draconian IMDT Act, 1983, which virtually sealed the fate of Assam. Today, in demographic terms, lower Assam is an extension of Bangladesh. United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), that was a child of Assam agitation to force the infiltrators out, has paradoxically ended up as a reserve of jihadis. ULFA bases in Bangladesh groom Bangla Muslims by teaching them Assamese facilitate their settling down in the State. However, the same authority that sponsors ULFA, the ISI, supports a parallel organisation called MULTA (Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam).
Its ultimate goal is Islamisation, and ULFA will be discarded as used napkin once this is achieved. The Marxists vehemently championed the cause of Pakistan under the right to self-determination. On gaining Pakistan, they we re the first to be booted out from there. The same Marxists came over to "communal" India and started their "secular" game. What is the possible objective of this distorted "secularism"? Another Pakistan? Only time will tell.