Harsh words spoil diplomacy

By K.N. Pandita

Iran has joined three other Islamic countries to express “anguish” on what they call “killing of Muslims” in recent communal riots in north-eastern Delhi. Turkey and Malaysia lost no time to react angrily on the incident. The OIC has also given vent to similar statement.

None of them has ventured to know the facts of the incident available only from the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India. Apparently, they have depended either on the sections of media usually critical of India or on what partisan sources conveyed to them.

OIC’’s anti-India resolution is nothing new; it is a normal practice with them to begin with an anti-India resolution on Kashmir. The general impression created is that the signatories are not really serious in what they want to convey. Pakistan with embedded animosity against India, pushes the Islamic countries at the OIC meets to rake up Kashmir issue.

The use of rather strong words by the Turkish President and Javed Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran at the previous OIC meet is somewhat surprising. Even the twitter of the supreme Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei is certainly uncalled for. Release of about 85,000 persons from the jails of Iran owing to the covid=19 threat speaks volumes of how freedom and rights are curbed in Iran. Arn’t they giving vent to some cumulative anger about something that has little to do with the Delhi riot incident and more with political underpinning?.

Some high mark facts of the history of past one century of the sub-continent will help these Islamic countries understand the fundamentals of the Indian State. A majority of exclusivist Muslims of united India, led by their UP feudal class, had vehemently opposed Gandhi’s freedom movement against the colonial rule and demanded a separate state arguing that Muslims will not and cannot live under the majority domination of the Hindus. Gandhi was asking freedom for all Indians and not of Hindus alone. Many enlightened Muslims of India like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad lent full support to Gandhi’s struggle but communal Muslim leadership denounced him.

Unable to convince the Muslims of India that a free, secular and democratic India would give all Indian communities their rights and status, Gandhi agreed to the partition of the country and creation of a new State (Pakistan) on the basis of religion. The demand of the Muslim League was conceded and the Muslim State of Pakistan with two wings (West and East Pakistan/Bangladesh) distanced by thousands of miles came into existence.

The partition took place with all the bitterness and animosity imaginable. Millions of people of both communities were butchered and millions were forced out of their homes and hearths for no fault of theirs. The wounds and scars were deep.

Hardly twenty-four years after the creation of a new state for the Muslims of India viz. Pakistan, that state broke into two and one part declared its independence and adopted the name of Bangladesh. Thus the state created on the basis of Islamic religion did not survive beyond two decades and half.

Pakistan (actually West Pakistan) was declared an Islamic Republic like contemporary Iran while India declared herself a secular democratic republic. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the population of the Hindus, now its religious minority dwindled from 27 per cent in 1947 to 1.3 per cent in 2019. On the other hand, the population of Muslims in India in 1947 (at the time of partition of India) rose from fifty million to nearly two hundred million in 2019 to become the second largest Muslim concentration in the world. Is this the “massacre of Muslims”– to borrow Ayatollah Khamenei’s twitter?

Iran, Turkey and Malaysia should try to ask how come this demographic scenario shaped differently in two neighbouring countries. The simple answer is that India is committed to secular-democratic ideology not as a matter of political expediency but as the manifestation of her age-old cultural value.

The question is what would have been the demographic complexion of India today if she had also decided to be a Hindu State as against the Islamic State of Pakistan or Iran, and treated her minorities the same way as in these Islamic Republics? It has to be noted that the present regime in India, which these critics of ours call “Hindu Right Wing” government never even thought of converting India into a formal Hindu State and then resort to bigotry and revanchist ideology.

Unfortunately, the critics have been carried away by the intransigent propaganda unleashed by those who believe that one particular faith is destined to rule the world and other faiths have no right to exist. What these detractors should have tried to understand is what freedoms and rights and privileges are conceded by the Indian constitution, civil society and the Indian administration to its minorities of which Muslims form the largest one. A dispassionate study of the rights and freedoms allowed to the Muslims of India and the steps taken by successive governments in New Delhi to alleviate their backwardness and deprivation will undoubtedly make them ask a question to their own selves whether their countries have allowed same level and quantum of rights, privileges and freedoms to their own Muslim citizens. We will bring in only one example. The triple talaq (divorcing a legal Muslim wife by uttering thrice that I divorce you) has been considered an aberration and hence discarded by almost all Muslim countries in the world including Pakistan. But India did not touch it until a time came when a very large number of leading Muslim women demanded that the government bring in legislation of discarding the practice. This government introduced a bill in the parliament which was hotly debated in both houses and finally adopted on the basis of a majority vote. Most Indian Muslim women welcomed it as a very progressive step. Yet surprisingly, the opposition in the Parliament and some sections of fanatical clerics raised hue and cry and called it interference in the private lives of Muslims. The question is did the India government want to ameliorate the lot of her Muslim women or relegate them to distress?

Voices have been heard in the circles of India’s detractors that the acting “Hindu Right” government in Delhi has deprived the Muslims of the Babri Masjid and handed it over to the Hindus. This canard surfaces owing to total ignorance of the history of the case. The Babri mosque dispute is about a century old and a legacy of the colonial rule. The two communities of Hindus and Muslims failed to resolve the deadlock through dialogue and finally agreed to abide by the decision of India’s Supreme Court. After decades of litigation and after examining a plethora of documents and evidences the Supreme Court of India decided that the site should go to the Hindus and about eight acres of land are given to the Muslims for construction of a new mosque away from the site. The “Right Wing” government has had nothing to do with this verdict.

While the secular democratic India protects the rights of all communities including the Muslims, it is, in a way, more liberal and sympathetic to the Muslims in particular. The critics will be surprised to know that the Indian government which they call “Rightist Hindu” government imposes taxes on Hindu temples and shrines and pays from this revenue the free financial assistance to the Muslims of India proceeding on Hajj pilgrimage. Indian government provides scholarships to the Muslim students, from the lowest to the highest levels, whose number is larger than the number of the students in many Islamic countries put together. Indian government gives monthly stipends to tens of thousands of Muslim Imams conducting prayers in mosques and delivering Friday sermons (in most case anti-national) to the audience. Indian authorities never closed a mosque, never denied the Muslims to observe religious rites and never dictated a dress code as is the case in some developed Asiatic countries.

However, Indian government and the Indian nation expect its Muslim population to be rational, thankful and righteous. In the armed insurgency that surfaced in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, about 1341 members of the Hindu religious minority of Kashmir called Pandits, — the most innocent, harmless and defenceless community — were killed in cold blood in their homes, workplaces, markets and in buses. The entire Hindu minority comprising nearly four hundred thousand souls was forced to leave their homes and hearths and find safety of life hundreds of mile away from their homes. Not a single Muslim organization of India said a word in sympathy for these unfortunate Kashmiri Pandits. For last thirty years these hapless people are refugees in their own country thanks to Islamic grandeur. The OIC never said a word when India brought to its notice how terrorists trained, armed and sponsored by a neighbouring country infiltrated into Indian part of Kashmir and unleashed the mayhem against its religious minority. We wish the Iranian leadership had known from its own sources how these Pandits had, over the centuries, served Iranian culture, language and literature without asking for any favour, and had at least said a word of humanism and sympathy to assuage the wounds inflicted on them by the external as well as internal armed jihadists.

We understand that these countries are critical essentially for political reasons and far less for any love of faith. Iran is sore why India has reduced oil imports after the renewed economic sanctions imposed by the US on Iran. India has always opposed imposition of sanctions. However, India is not a small country that can please its friends by risking relations with wider implications. Turkey wants to grab the leadership of the Islamic world and is in conflict with the Saudi monarchy but in tandem with Iran. It is an internal matter of the Muslim ummah. India has good relations with the littoral states and many more Islamic countries essentially because hundreds of thousands of Indian labour force has found work in these Gulf countries and few of these have flourishing trade relations with them.

In final analysis, we would like that Muslim countries do not bring in religion while international community runs its relationship on the basis of suave diplomacy, just and equitable trade and commerce and hunch for good neighborly relationship. Hatred and animus are not the way international diplomacy is run.

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