Nasbandi scare spread like the proverbial wildfire among Muslims during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, turning the entire community viciously against her. Though there were only a few stray cases of forcible sterilization in Haryana, and on a much smaller scale in the neighbouring states, due to malicious propaganda unleashed by mullahs and maulvis, almost to the last Muslim came to believe that Indira’s wayward son, Sanjay Gandhi, was out to sterilise the entire community. Communal colour was given to the sterilisation drive. Family planning was an eyewash, the real objective was to control the steadily rising proportion of Muslims in the population. Muslims voted with vengeance against the Indira Congress in 1977, ensuring its complete wipe-out in vast swathes of the country, barring the South.
Of course, the Nasbandi fear was blown out of all proportions. Friday namaz being a potent weapon in the hands of the imams, the platform can be used either to preach a message of peace and progress or to propagate a hard version of Islam, emphasising separatism and superiority over all other faiths. It being always easy to sell fear than hope, the cry of “Islam khatrey mein hain” is uttered more often than an appeal for peaceful co-existence with members of other religious communities. Not since the demonisation of Sanjay Gandhi in the Emergency, have the Muslims targeted with as much venom and viciousness as they now have the Modi-Shah duo.
Unlike Sanjay Gandhi, who was an extra-Constitutional power, exploiting his mother’s love and fear in equal measure to lord it over the Congress and its governments at the Centre and in the states, Narendra Modi is a duly-elected Prime Minister, having won huge majorities in two successive contests. To treat the popularly elected leader of the country as a virtual ogre, to ascribe to him the basest of motives, to rage against him daily from religious pulpit, raining curses on him to the extent that children of the community swear to eliminate him physically, is a reflection of the deep schism the community leaders have systematically created for advancing their own Islam-centric agenda.
Recent disclosure by Maharashtra Congress and NCP leaders that prior to entering into a power-sharing arrangement with the Shiv Sena they had taken abundant precaution to obtain the prior permission of the Muslim community ought to rubbish all talk of their marginalisation. Whether or not it occurred to Sharad Pawar and Ashok Chavan, their revelation has only bolstered the oft-repeated charge that all other parties other than the BJP, and now even Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (as against cousin Raj Thackeray’s), appeased the largest minority with an eye on its en bloc vote.
Besides, why Muslims would countenance the Sena—all through self-avowedly rabidly anti-Muslim—in power while wanting to keep the BJP out, when at least on record the latter has always made conciliatory noises towards them, is not hard to understand. The opportunistic Sena, they believed, is easy to smite like a mite but the decimation of the nationalist BJP, with deep and far-spread out roots in the national polity, must be the number one priority. Pawar, for once, slipped, embarrassing his new-found ally, the Sena, and providing ammunition to the Sangh Parivar about the undemocratic character of the obscurantist Muslim leadership.
Whether one likes it or not, the Opposition feels obliged to lend vocal support to the anti-CAA noise because the Muslim leadership, for long in the hands of extremist mullahs and maulvis, has seized on the essentially innocuous amendment in the citizenship law to wreak vengeance against Modi for a slew of events, including the coming construction of the Ram temple, the neutering of Article 370, clampdown on Zakir Naik’s school of sedition and hate, etc, etc. Alarmist rhetoric, spreading fear of disenfranchisement, detention camps, expulsion from the country and such-like nonsense is the crucial arsenal in the hands of the Islamist hate-mongers. How the denial of fast-track citizenship to Muslims from three Muslim-majority countries can cause an upheaval among 20 crore Muslims is beyond the comprehension of anyone with a modicum of common sense.
Now, if secular-liberals have thrown weight behind a senseless protest it only shows them in poor light. CAA by itself seeks to harm no-one while it may benefit a small group of refugees. In some ways, the anti-CAA protest is akin to the anti-Mandal protest insofar as all those who were left out of the reservation net had then felt aggrieved. But how can any sensible person suggest that India should open its doors to Muslims, persecuted or otherwise, from self-avowedly Islamic countries? About the Ahmadiyas too, it should be noted that their representatives in the National Assembly had whole-heartedly supported the resolution turning Pakistan an Islamic state.
Instead of educating the Muslims that CAA contains nothing that can jeopardise their citizenship, sections of the elite media have actively collaborated with the hate-spewing imams and the Congress propagandists. You have to be a complete nut to believe that those who have lived here for centuries, who have freely partaken of freebies bestowed by successive governments, who have ration cards and voter cards can be overnight declared non-citizens and stripped off all their rights.
Without such utter rubbish it would be hard to put up a sham show of solidarity at Shaheen Bagh and orchestrate many other copycat made-for-media Shaheen Baghs in Muslim ghettos in UP, Bihar and elsewhere. A too clever-by-half ploy to hide the obscurantist mullahs-maulvis, the driving force of the community, behind the scenes while enacting a charade about embracing the symbols of the Republic such as the flag, the Preamble, the national anthem etc., can only delude those who were never reconciled to the ascendancy of Modi in the national polity.
Meanwhile, a PIL admitted for hearing by the Supreme Court a few days ago might have a bearing on the CAA litigation. It challenges the basis on which the Minorities Commission was created back in 1992. At the time, it had omitted some minority groups. But the rationale behind allocation of thousands of crores annually to religion-based groups ought to be equally questionable. It is one thing to allow religious groups to set up and run their own educational institutions, quite another to spend taxpayers’ money on designated religious minorities, though to bypass the bar on religion as a determinant of state policy language was added as an afterthought. If it was licit for the Commission to leave out a few minority groups, why should it not be ok to exclude Muslims from Muslim-majority states?
WAGES OF MALICIOUS PROPAGANDA
Sanjay Gandhi’s nasbandi campaign made family planning a dirty word for Muslims. Now the anti-CAA protest may have made all opinion polls, census, voter enumeration, economic surveys, including for joblessness, suspect. The experience of Nazreen Bano in Kota, Rajasthan, and Chumki Khatun in Birbhum, West Bengal, last week shows how. Bano was interviewing villagers for the National Economic Survey when she was set upon by angry men and allowed to go only when she proved that she too was a Muslim after she recited a few verses from the Quran. Khatun met with a worse fate. Conducting a survey for Google India’s and Tata Trust’s joint Internet Saathi Initiative for rural women, she was suspected of being a surveyor for NRC. Her home was set on fire and she and her family had to take shelter in the local police station.
How scary scenarios are drawn to oppose CAA. A columnist in a Mumbai tabloid argued that even if the Constitution obliged the states to enforce CAA, they should not. And then went on to ask: “What if Parliament passes a law declaring everyone in Maharashtra a non-citizen?” Yes, indeed. What if Parliament mandates that all those who have lost their heads to go and seek medical help?
First published in Sunday Guardian