Author: Saadut
•8:30 AM

On the 11th anniversary of 2002 Gujarat riots, where hundreds of Muslims were massacred by Hinduvta extremists, not much outrage was heard in India. As if this barbaric chapter of India had been torn from its pages or consigned to deliberate forgetfulness. As some Kashmiris were expressing their views on the Gujarat massacre, an Indian asked me “why should Kashmiris bother about Gujarat, given their political grievances and demands from India?”  But while Gujarat outrage is about humanitarian concerns, the political demands of Kashmiris were more reasons to be bothered about Gujarat.
Free India was created as a ‘democratic, republic’ where the state and its practice was claimed to be separated from religion. And it was these proclaimed ‘secular’ credentials of the ‘Indian republic’ that minorities here embraced, including those Muslims who chose not to migrate to Pakistan.  While Pakistan was created on the basis of religion, India could not have afforded to and did not choose to become a theocratic state, since it was a confluence to many religious, ethnic groups, even other than Muslims.  

The Indian ‘secular republic’ proclaimed “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them" (Article 15(1)). However post independence, in practice these constitutional provisions of equality and justice were mostly honored by their blatant violation than by any practice.

While Indian Muslims were willful partners to the Indian Republic and wanted to integrate into the mainstream out of their own choice, Kashmirs were not. The princely state of Jammu & Kashmir (referred to Kashmir here) was ruled by a Hindu king and had majority Muslim population, most of who nurtured an independent dream. Since Indian intervention to Kashmir was military, the final decision about the future of Kashmir was left to a plebiscite agreed upon by both India and Pakistan under United Nations Security Council Resolution 47, adopted on April 21, 1948. For decades the political, economic and governance control of Kashmir was managed by New Delhi, which was viewed as a brutal proxy rule. And for decades this colonial treatment of Kashmiris by New Delhi only ensured that the aspirations of breaking away from shackles of New Delhi became stronger. 

Back in India the influence of right winged Hindu groups into its politics gradually took centre stage and influenced not only its polity but also its practice and governance. Even though Muslims formed the second largest religious group (largest minority) in India, their social and economic condition was worse than all other ethic, religious groups. The right winged political groups in earlier years often portrayed Muslims as a threat to the Hindu majority, linking them to the erstwhile Muslim rulers of India and tagging them as alien settlers. As right winged extremism and political footprint grew, Muslims started being tagged as the ‘other population’ often linking them Pakistan or other Muslim countries.

Not only did such negative portrayal, for political benefits, create a mindset against Muslims in India, it also strengthened the bias against them across the political, economic and social systems. More often than not, Islamophobia was used by these right winged parties as a tool to rally Hindus. The cry for a ‘Hindu Rasthra’ was gaining momentum.
This exclusion ingrained in the system for decades, according to a government survey Muslims lived shorter, poorer and unhealthier lives than Hindus and were often excluded from social benefits like, education, jobs, healthcare and civic amenities. The Sachar committee report on Indian Muslims portrayed a dismal picture of rights denial and gross systematic injustices against them.

But such injustices were just the tip of the iceberg. Indian Muslims had been targets of more systematic violence for decades now. In the Ahmedabad riots of 1969, Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission reported that “This commission of inquiry has cited more than half a dozen instances where Muslim religious places adjoining police lines or police stations were attacked or damaged. The argument advanced by the police officers that because they were busy quelling riots at various other places, these police stations were shorn of adequate strength and hence these attacks on religious places could not be punished, did not impress the Commission. It has made this observation because not a single case of damage to a Hindu place of worship near a police station was reported to the Commission.”

In the Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad events of 1970, Justice D.P. Madon CommissionThe working of the Special Investigation Squad is a study in communal discrimination. The officers of the squad systematically set about implicating as many Muslims and exculpating as many Hindus as possible irrespective of whether they were innocent or guilty. Cases of many Hindus belonging to the Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Utsav Mandal (an extension of the local branch of the Jana Sangh) were wrongly classified as ‘A’ category and investigations closed and no proper investigation was undertaken into several complaints of murders of Muslims and arson of their property. No investigation was conducted into the composition and activities of Hindu communal and allegedly communal organizations operating in Bhiwandi but only in respect of Muslim communal and allegedly communal organizations. Deputy Superintendent of police S.P. Saraf held private conferences and discussions with several leaders of Hindu organizations including many who were implicated by Muslims in offences of arson and murder.”

In the Mumbai riots of 1992–1993, Justice Srikrishna Commission reportedThe response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post; on others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim less...Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in–built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots. The treatment given was harsh and brutal and, on occasions, bordering on the inhuman...The bias of policemen was seen in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs, on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive on–lookers on occasions…”

There are countless such cases where Muslims became targets of right winged extremism and the system turned a blind eye. While what happened in other anti Muslim attacks was seen as a bias in the middle and lower rung of state systems, what happened in Gujarat 2002 massacre was seen to have been abetted and engineered at the highest levels of political and governance powers. While in earlier incidents, police was seen to have acted as silent onlookers (and accomplice), here they were seen to be in collusion with extremists and rioters. Not only did the state here facilitate inciting anti Muslim passions by blaming them for burning Sabarmati coach and then allowing Hindus to take the burnt bodies of victims in a procession much against the advice of the city collector but Chief Minister Modi is also reported to have already instructed state officials to sit back while the Hindu backlash was taking place. The state had become a facilitator at the highest level to this massacre and rapes, which were followed by denial of justice for these crimes. In the politically sponsored, planned and coordinated attacks, more than 2,000 Muslims were massacred within days while tens of thousands were rendered homeless. What followed the massacre was a constant refusal of the rights of displaced Muslims, often oppressed and hounded by the state machinery. Muslims were stopped from returning to homes (most of which had been destroyed and looted by Hindu arsonists), FIRs from Muslims were refused and refugee camps were denied amenities or support by the state. A programmed bias against Muslims was openly executed.

The displacement of Gujarat Muslims was in a way akin to Pandit migration from Kashmir, both being  cases of IDP’s (Internally Displaced People) who were fleeing violence in own areas. In Kashmir the Pandits were migrating because of a conflict (where mostly civilians of the majority community became the targets), in Gujarat Muslims were forced to flee because of a state supported massacre. Even while tragedies don’t recognize numbers (219 Kashmiri Pandits killed in Kashmir since 1989, more than 2,000 Muslims killed in Gujarat in a few days), the state looked at both the tragedies differently. While Government of India did make all out efforts for rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit migrants, offering them opportunities, sops, incentives and educational / job quota, the affected Muslims of Gujarat were left at the mercy of fate.  Clearly the Indian Constitutional claims of “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only religion, race…” were not practiced here, Indian state failing the Indian Muslim migrants in providing them justice, rehabilitation and social support. Religion had become the deciding factor in India for all government support systems.

Over years this prejudice had seeped so deep within India that Muslims have become the primary targets for both investigating agencies and media whenever a terror attack happens here. Malegoan case , Samjauta Express bombing or the Mecca Masjid cases destroyed many innocent Muslim lives, who were accused and jailed only to be exonerated years later.  A Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) report of 2011 also exposed an extreme bias against Muslims by Maharashtra police. While Muslims comprised 10.6 % of the total state population, they were 32.4 % of the prison population. And most of them had been arrested for just being Muslims, flimsy charges pressed against them, while charge sheets had been filed in only 47.4 % of the cases. Such deep prejudice has also resulted in widespread social exclusion of Muslims in India, who are blatantly refused to be part of housing areas. And this is not limited to the middle or lower class, in many cases even higher class affluent and celebrity Muslims are known to have faced such open prejudices.

Kashmir wary of India

The decades of conflict in Kashmir have not only resulted in thousands of innocent deaths but also colossal denial of justice by India here. While India has been involved in the hollow rhetoric of inclusiveness for Kashmiris, its own crimes in Kashmir have bared open its reality. The fraction percentage of Kashmiris, who might have ever looked at India in hope all these decades, has diminished since, having understood the fate of Indian Muslims awaiting them with India. While the silence of Muslims of India for India’s crimes committed against Kashmiris is often seen as a criminal comprise for their own survival when their own existence in India is subject to denial, Kashmiris seem more determined not become like them. Gujarat has become symbolic for India, where these state supported massacres against Muslims were followed by denial of basic rights (including rehabilitation), justice and recognition by the local and the federal government. India, where malice, discrimination, and hatred against Muslims has assumed criminal proportions and at the behest of the political powers; where the anti Muslim sentiment is openly and brazenly preached by Togadias and Varun Gandhis of Indian politics, without fear of law. It is this picture of India, this Gujarat that is recognized by Kashmir.

11th March, 2013
This entry was posted on 8:30 AM and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.