On the day when the results of Indian general elections were announced 6 Muslims from the Indian state of Gujarat were acquitted by the Supreme Court of India of all charges levelled against them. This was after they had spent 11 years in jail. Two of them had been convicted to death and two to life imprisonment. At the time when these 6 men arrested and charged with a terrorist attack on a Hindu temple, 11 years back, the new Prime Minister of India was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Although the jubilation of the victory in elections however overshadowed this news of their acquittal but this represents a familiar pattern which security agencies in India follow. In most of the cases, after a terror attack, be it on a mosque or a temple or in a market, young Muslims are rounded up and put behind the bars merely on the basis of suspicion or flimsy and fabricated evidence. The arrest of these Muslims serves to satisfy the collective anger of the society after a terror attack and hence relieves the police and agencies of their responsibilities. But years or even decades later, after the lives of these arrested men have been tainted and their careers destroyed, the persons framed are acquitted of all charges. No one asks why did they spend more than a decade in jail being innocent and no one again asks if not them who actually did that terror attack. It remains a mystery but the pattern remains the same. Examples galore - Lajpat Nagar blasts case in which two Kashmiris were acquitted after spending more than a decade in jail. Akshardham temple attack case is the recent one. Mumbai 26/11 attacks case in which many young Muslims were rounded up and subsequently released. Other cases include Malegaon blasts, Mecca masjid blasts, Hyderabad serial blasts.
The victory of Narendra Modi in the recent elections is being celebrated as the victory of the Hindu right even though Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) vote share was just 31 % of the total votes polled. 66% of the total eligible voters participated in the elections.
Although Mr. Modi has toned down his anti-Muslim rhetoric but his elevation to India’s top post serves as an encouraging factor for Hindu nationalists who view India as a nation for Hindus alone. His swearing-in ceremony as the 15th Prime Minister of India was attended, apart from politicians, business tycoons and filmstars, by Sadhvi Rithambara, an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur, was demolished by a Hindu mob on 06 December, 1992 consequent to a rally led by senior BJP leaders.
Given his new responsibility as the head of the government of a country which by constitution is to function as a Secular Republic he may not do anything horrible in his capacity but this goes without saying that his elevation to the top post certainly emboldens the Hindu nationalists as is evident from the recent incidents of communal violence in three different cities of India, just days after the election results were out. Another incident which cannot just be just ruled out as a pure coincidence was the protest by a little known Hindu extremist group in the south Indian city of Mangalore demanding a ban on Muslim call for morning prayer across India.
The Kashmir policy of the BJP has more or less been sustained and expressed by rhetorical statements revolving around complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India, supposedly by the repealing of Article 370 of Indian constitution. Article 370 of the Indian constitution allows for some special provisions for the state of Jammu and Kashmir and constitutional experts argue that the repealing of this article is impossible under current circumstances when the erstwhile nation of Kashmir stands divided between India (Jammu and Kashmir), China (Aksai Chin) and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan).
Although it is true that Article 370 of the Indian constitution has been a factor in preventing the complete integration of Kashmir and assimilation of Kashmiris into India and has hence contributed in preserving the separate identity of the Kashmiri nation but it hardly matters to a common Kashmiri, in the bigger context of continuing human rights violations, arbitrary detentions and draconian laws. The bigger issue which Kashmiris are concerned about is not even being discussed. Kashmir remains the world’s most heavily militarized region in the world. The huge presence of around 700,000 Indian soldiers in Kashmir even makes the number of US army personnel during the peak of Iraq war look insignificant.
The new Indian Prime Minister in a recent statement has promised to deliver justice throughout India from “Kashmir to Kanyakumari”. This statement in its very essence conveys the idea of (in)justice which is being talked about. The problem with statements like these is that it is taken for granted that Kashmiris are living happily in an India which extends from Kanyakumari to Kashmir while as in reality Kashmiris essentially do not want to be a part of it.
(The author is a Muslim, Kashmiri, and a student. He can be reached on twitter @TavseefM)Last Mod: 04 Haziran 2014, 16:34