The arrest by the Central Crime Branch of police in Bangalore of 14 Muslims with alleged links with the LeT and HUJI late in August raises some important questions. The standard belief is that it is poverty and unemployment that lead to the growth of terrorism but judging from the economic standing of those arrested the conclusion doesn’t stand to reason. Among those charged are, to one’s surprise, a scientist from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a doctor, a journalist working for a leading English daily in Bangalore, a tech-savvy final year MCA student, a BCom graduate, a sales executive for a marketing company, a medical graduate pursuing a diploma course and a technician with a diploma in tool and dye-making, not one of them hailing from the class for the poor and the needy.
Their alleged aim, reportedly, was to eliminate political leaders and right-wing journalists at the behest of their handlers from Saudi Arabia. That the arrests come after the event in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan when a crowd sponsored by an organization of doubtful reputation called the Raza Academy attacked the police and assaulted some of them makes one wonder whether the violence indulged in was pre-planned to test the extend to which the administration is capable of controlling communal passion, It is well to remember that the Azad Maidan conflagration was organized in the context over half-a-million Assamese living in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka leaving their homes in panic, following threats to their lives conveyed liberally through the social media. It was cyber warfare at its worst. The initiative for engaging in cyber warfare was, is now clear, taken by the ISI at the instance of Pakistan’s military establishment; but even worse the decision to indulge in terrorism also seems to have been simultaneously planned.
What does it say of the ISI and its indigenous supporters in India? And how long is this sponsored tension to continue? In the course of the past 60 plus long years the Pakistan military establishment has sought to do everything possible to destabilise India. It has fought three major wars — and lost all three. It has tried infiltration of jihadis into J&K to create turmoil in the valley but has got nowhere. The latest attempt by the Pak military to push trouble-makers into Indian soil has been exposed following the discovery of tunnels dug from the Pakistani side deep into Indian territory. And now comes the use of Indian citizens, Muslims all of them, for planned terrorism. This is a new development. It comes as a shock to learn that among the tasks assigned to some of those arrested in Karnataka are attacks on the Kaiga nuclear power plant and the Sea Bird Naval Base at Karwar. Another, and equally serious development is Pakistan’s plan to widen the schism between Hindus and Muslims through devious means so that the country is under perpetual strain. The media does not seem to realize that. In the Naroda Patiya case, the torching of a Sabarmati Express coach and the slow and tortuous roasting to death of 50-odd women and children is underplayed while the crimes committed at Naroda Patiya are overplayed giving Hindus a great sense of guilt.
This, in the end can only result in growing and possibly uncontrollable anger against Muslims. As the well-known columnist Tavleen Singh has noted, “Raj Thackeray may be wrong to tap into Hindu anger for his own political aggrandisement, but anyone who thinks this anger does not exist needs to think again.” As she put it: “So when the police allow Muslim mobs to go berserk in a city like Mumbai, they end up pandering to a dangerous new kind of fanaticism that should never be pandered to…one mob nearly always leads to another”. A great responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Muslim community. Granted that the Muslim community, too, is divided along sectarian lines, it is incumbent on it, especially in the matter of national security, to see that fully exposed are those among it who are playing the ISI game to widen the gulf between India’s two major communities.
According to media reports, some members of the gang that has been arrested have been in regular touch with their ISI handlers in Saudi Arabia. Being secular does not mean taking a soft approach toward minority hasslers while constantly running down the likes of Raj Thackeray who do not need much instigation anyway. The charge has often been made against the Congress that it has frequently turned a blind eye to infiltration into Assamese territory of Bangladeshi Muslims for political reasons while it has similarly looked the other way while Kashmiri Pandit have been forcefully thrown out of the valley for much the same reasons.
If the UPA government has any sense of decency it must take immediate steps to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pundits into their own homeland and assured of total security. The concept that the Kashmir Vale belongs only to Kashmiri Muslims is an outrageous one and must be attended to. And there is no reason why those belonging to another community should not also enjoy the right to make Vale their home whatever the understanding presently in existence. Tribalism is a dying concept. The Assamese, for instance, have migrated in large numbers to Andhra and Karnataka and have the full rights to do so. And no Raj Thackeray has the right to insist Mumbai is only for Maharashtrians. Division along these lines will only encourage our enemies both within and beyond boundaries to exploit it fully as even now an effort is being made by the ISI to fully separate Muslims from Hindus. We must look beyond the immediate present to the coming future when, to paraphrase Mohammad Ali Jinnah in another context, we all forget our religious and linguistic identities and will be plain and happy citizens of the State, nothing more, nothing less, just Indians in the loveliest sense of the term.