Dying for Islam in India

While the west and its Muslim admirers have been gripped by a frenzy of grief over the destruction of Buddha statues in Bamiyan (Afghanistan), Hindu fascists in India have busied themselves with burning copies of the Qur'an and killing Muslims. The murders of more than 35 Muslims in India have been met with a barely-repressed yawn in the west; Muslim life is obviously cheap. This was also the reason cited by the Taliban for destroying the statues after European Union ambassadors and UNESCO officials told them that there was money to save the statues but not for the starving children in Afghanistan. One may disagree with the Taliban's crude tactics, but they can hardly be blamed for getting angry.

Muslims protest 17 March 2001, over the burning of a Quran in New Delhi

It is in India, however, that Hindu terrorists, acting in concert with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and the police, have wrought havoc. On March 5, Hindu Vishwa Parisad (VHP) thugs burnt a copy of the Qur'an in Delhi, allegedly to "protest" the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan. Why are Hindus concerned about statues of the Buddha when they kill and maim Buddhists in their midst? When Muslims protested against this sacrilege, they were set upon and murdered in cold blood. The Hindus have no particular love for Buddha; it is their anti-Islam animus that puts them into a frenzy whenever an opportunity presents itself.

The BJP government had its own agenda in setting the VHP thugs upon the Muslims. The regime was embarrassed by the revelations of the Tehelka tapes, in which top military officers and ruling party members were caught on camera taking bribes. With the government's reputation in tatters, the tapes set off a storm that led to the resignation of defence minister George Fernandes. Major disturbances erupted in Kanpur on Friday March 9. The media deliberately misrepresented them as a "communal" (read Hindu versus Muslim) stand-off. While Muslims were upset over the burning of the Qur'an, the Kanpur demonstration was a Congress-led event organised to burn the effigy of prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee because of the bribery scandal. Local Muslims merely joined in after Friday prayers. That the regime had planned to give the incident a Hindu-Muslim slant became evident when B. Pathak, the additional magistrate, who ordered the police to arrest BJP workers, found the police siding with the trouble-makers. Pathak was attacked and killed by BJP zealots.


The tragedy of the Muslims in India is that they are leaderless.


The Congress-led demonstration planned to march to the BJP office to burn Vajpayee's effigy. On the way, BJP workers and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members taunted and attacked the procession, especially Muslims. It was outside the BJP office that RSS and BJP members attacked demonstrators with iron bars, clubs and knives. The police and provincial armed constabulary also joined in the attack. The mayhem spread swiftly to other cities, engulfing Delhi and Bombay as well. The Hindu terrorists attacked mosques, madrassas and Muslims. At least 35 Muslims were killed in different parts of India, and five mosques were demolished. The BJP government is clearly not interested in halting these attacks: they distract attention from the bribery scandal.

Extremists from the right wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (Hindu World Forum - VHP) burn a copy of the Quran during a demonstration outside New Delhi's UN office 05 March 2001.

Surendra Jain of Bajrang Dal, a coalition partner of the BJP, who led the Qur'an-burning in Delhi, even insulted the noble Prophet, upon whom be peace, during a press-conference in Hyderabad. He called upon the Muslims of India to renounce Islam and become "good" Hindus. He also revealed that a million youths were being trained for more terrorist attacks, without the authorities doing anything about it. In fact, two members of Jain's group arrested over the Qur'an-burning incident were released on bail while thousands of Muslims, including women and children, are in jail for protesting against the sacrilege. As often happens, Muslim businesses were also targeted: more than 300 Muslim business-centres and shops were looted in the Kanpur area alone.

The police have especially targeted members of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) because they have been vocal in denouncing, albeit peacefully, the Qur'an-burning episode. Ziyauddin Siddiqui, former secretary-general of SIMI, as well as other SIMI members, have been illegally detained in Aurangabad. Last December, at the Babri Masjid protest rally, Siddiqui was beaten so viciously by the police that he lost an eye and his sense of smell and taste. He remained in the intensive care unit for several weeks. Abdul-Nasser Madani, founder of the People's Democratic Party in Kerala, has been held since March 1998, accused of masterminding the Coimbatore explosions of February 14, 1998, but so far he has not been tried. Thousands of other Muslims are imprisoned likewise.

The tragedy of the Muslims in India is that they are leaderless. Most of the so-called leaders, ulama and imams have been co-opted by the Hindu regime or bought over. In the face of Hindu fascism, these self-appointed 'leaders' advise Muslims to accept their oppression in silence. This 'strategy' only encourages Hindu fascists. The latest episode simply confirms this reality of the world's "largest democracy."


Waseem Shehzad reports for Crescent International, the news magazine of the global Islamic movement.

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