Growing intolerance is dangerous
Be it Balasaheb Thackeray’s call to form death bombers of Hindus to take on the terrorists who are supposedly Muslims or Sikh protesting against the Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief, Baba Ram Rahim Singh, or Hurriyat Conference leaders’ rally against the land transfer to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), these are some of the many shows of intolerance that the country is witnessing today.
Thackeray’s call to create Hindu death bombers is the height of intolerance, and which is rightly condemned by all political parties including the BJP, its ally in Maharashtra. Neither such a provocative statement could solve the menace of terror nor will it create an environment of amity between the two communities.
Moreover, an illegal means to counter an illegal crime is no way feasible in a civilised society. But then, this is his style of functioning, which more often has created rift in the state politics. So, creating a death squad to counter terrorism would add fuel to the communal fire rather than to solve the problem. Fighting a hidden enemy is gargantuan task. Where will the death bombers find the terrorists that Thackeray wants to create?
Now look at the real scenario, so far the bomb blasts are concerned.
After almost every bomb blasts in the country, the first reaction of the media as well the investigating agencies have been to pinpoint their finger of suspicion on Muslim. In fact, the investigating team, in a desperate attempt to show some results, does harp its activities on two things: making arrests of some local Muslims to gauge the lead in that could provide some clues to the real culprit (that never happened); and come out with some sketches, based on eye witnesses account, which are always Muslim names. A non-stop highlight of these sketches sends a conclusive message: Muslims are the culprits. As a result, Muslims individuals and areas face the police wrath in the form of late night raids and undue arrests. Till date, not a single culprit of any terror attacks that the country has witnessed during the last five years has been prosecuted.
In recent times, several Muslim and human rights organisations, supplemented with general feeling among the community, accused the police of acting with "preconceived notions" against the minority community. Jumping to conclusions without even beginning the investigation has sent the wrong signals and thus created a sense of fear among Muslims.
In an article (The usual suspects: the ISI activities in Hyderabad, The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle August 2007) by Syed Akbar explains the scenario: “The police came out with the name of Shahed (Bilal) soon after the Mecca Masjid blast but failed to document the charges against him. Dozens of Muslim youth from the Old City of Hyderabad have been kept in custody for more than 100 days but the police are yet to charge sheet them.”
According BBC (October 10, 2006), all the seven key accused in the Mumbai train blasts in July 2006 retracted their alleged confession to the police, saying they were illegally forced to sign blank papers. In the aftermath of Mumbai train blasts in 2006, Police detained over 400 people (all Muslims) from Mumbai suburbs with no success. In Delhi bomb blasts in which 60 people lost their lives went the same way.
Dera Sacha Sauda sect issue emerged last year when the country witnessed, which has once again has taken a violent turn these days. The sect, made up of largely the marginalized and backward sections, has it’s at Sirsa, with Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is the spiritual leader. It grew from strength to strength in recent years, along with controversies. In 2001, Rajinder, a follower, fell-out with the leader and was murdered for which two Dera members were accused. Then came the sexual abuse charge against the Dera chief in 2003 by a local journalist, who printed a letter written by an anonymous woman. The poor journalist was brutally murdered. His case is being investigated by the CBI.
But the trouble started in May 2007, when Dera Sacha Sauda was charged for insulting Sikhism. When Baba Ram Rahim Singh, dressed like the last Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh appeared in public, the trouble snowballed into serious law-and-order problem in various parts of Punjab, and even riots broke out between Sacha Sauda followers and some Sikh groups. Now this time, the Sikhs are blocking the train services, much like the Gujjars’ agitation recently, in the wake of Mumbai firing incident, in which a Sikh community member was killed by a body guard of the Dera chief.
Turning to the 800 kanals of forestland to the Delhi based Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), to which the Kashmiri separatist leaders say illegal and immoral, is becoming another issue borne out of intolerance, and which led to one person fell to the bullets. As the Kashmiris feel the issue aimed towards confiscating lands in Kashmir and accused the government to change the religious, demographic and cultural composition of the state.
Though outgoing Governor S K Sinha has dismissed such charges of Kashmiri leaders, things do not seem to die down as protesters are on the roads to counter the move. Even some of leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also threatened to go for state-wide protests if the government does not break its silence over the transfer of forest land to SASB.
Intolerance breeds hatred, which in turn, damages the social fabrics of the country. Mumbai, which is already boiled over migrant issues, can face a communal divide if Thackeray’s call is put into action; Kashmir, which is already in trouble due to prolonged militancy, can see much violence over land issue; Punjab, which has already tasted the community divide over Dera Sachcha Sauda issue, can experience bitter divide further.
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