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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#1014, 15 April 2003
Muslim India as ‘Threat’ Firdaus AhmedFreelance Writer on Security Issues
It has been repeated often enough to acquire the status of a ‘given’ that Muslim pockets all over India are potentially subversive enclaves. In this perspective, at least a few sections of Indian Muslims are being exploited by the ubiquitous ISI to further Pakistani design of balancing India’s power by whittling its social coherence. The intrinsic inclination towards fundamentalism of the community facilitates ISI penetration as also terrorism tainted pan-Islamist influence. The Bombay bomb blasts, the Coimbatore incidents, the Godhra episode and the continuing instability in J&K demonstrate the pervasive nature of the security ‘threat’. This perspective has not been adequately combated in security literature despite its shallow, possibly politically inspired basis.
No less a conservative security analyst than B Raman has revealed that no Indian Muslim has ever figured on any list of transnational terrorists. Also, no non-Kashmiri Indian Muslim has participated in the Kashmiri insurgency. This record has to be contrasted, without rationalization, against the incidents of internal ‘terrorism’ in which Indian Muslims have been implicated. In assessing these, the intertwined national political context and local dynamics require to be factored in. The foremost feature of national politics is a marked shift towards the Right. One of the means of bringing this about has been reference to the strained security environment of the past two decades, the primary characteristic of which has been the internal threat to national security seen as an expansion of Pakistan’s proxy war into India’s innards. At the local level, the creation of the ‘Other’ in the national narrative has been exploited for political ends and furthering a majoritarian agenda.
The forces impacting on the several Indian Muslim communities that comprise Muslim India (a construct rather than a lived reality as a singular, monolithic Indian Muslim ‘community’) are at three levels. At the transnational level it is globalization that has brought about a defensive impulse within most communities adversely affected. Some have coped through recourse to religion accounting for the spread of fundamentalism the world over, not necessarily confined to Muslim communities alone. At the national level the marginalizing discourse has reduced the life opportunities of several Indian Muslim communities resulting in ghettoisation. At the local level, activism of certain sections and in coping with their attenuated circumstance has served the persuasiveness of the militant image of Indian Islam conjured up by interested political quarters.
Given the requirements of the political heads to which the institutions charged with security are answerable, there has been an institutional accommodation effecting particularly the Intelligence and Police forces. Even our foreign policy makers have taken this threat as a principal one in their bid to get on the American anti-terrorist bandwagon. This aspect has to be reflected upon in gauging the principal events alluded to in assessing Muslim India, Bombay 1993 and Godhra 2002. In so far as Kashmir is concerned, it is moot whether it is an ideological confrontation or a relatively secular dispute over territory or power differentials. The conservative dominated strategic community has uncritically accessed biased information resources, and worse, has served to incestuously repeat them into a ‘truth’. Thus has the image of being a prospective ‘fifth column’ for Pakistan or pan-Islamist forces attached itself easily to Muslim India in public perception. Clearly, therefore, does immediacy attach itself to the need to highlight that the actuality of Muslim India is enamored of the ‘Idea’ of secular, democratic India.
The point that emerges is that reversing this discourse will forestall it from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would help undercut forces from the political periphery that have already drawn blood, both figuratively and literally, from taking over the Center. To this end, Muslim India’s diversity must be seen as being reflective of India’s strength. The limitations of Pakistan’s ISI and the practical sense of its strategic leadership require to be appropriately reassessed. The contribution of the strategic community to this would be as a necessary corrective. It would help sensitize both the security services and the public at large. This would help contain the forces of majoritarianism which is fed on by Indian Muslim extremist elements to expand their allegedly fertile support base.
Doing so is important not only to set the record straight. A fixation on faulting the minorities has the advantage of obfuscating more pertinent threats to national security, specifically those originating in an arbitrary redefinition of ‘India’. While ‘India’ as a concept cannot be expected to ossify, deliberate move away from its founding principles would amount to a threat to values and is constitutive of a threat to ‘national security’. Therefore, there is a need to relook at the ‘threat within’. To this existential threat can be attributed most of the episodes used to paint the minority into a corner, rather than to the proverbial ‘foreign hand’. Identifying this phenomenon as a ‘threat’ will help not only in meeting it, but also whittle the more visible ‘threat’ misidentified currently as the more potent one.

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