General Secretary’s Address
Colleagues from the All India Milli Council; fellow workers from other Muslim, Dalit, Christian, Sikh and other religion-based organisations; friends from human rights and civil liberties groups, colleagues from other liberal and left groups and NGOs, friends who are here as individuals, and ladies and gentlemen from the media.
We are here together at a crucial moment in our history. As far-reacting changes are taking place in a globalsing world we, too, as citizens of a great nation, are at the cusp of massive technological, economic, political and social transformation. After traversing this vast land for close to five months (August through December), from shore to shore, we have come to realise that a substantial proportion of India’s population is not prepared, has not been prepared, for such monumental changes.
As the All India Milli Council Political Awareness Caravan moved through state capitals, divisional headquarters district, towns, casbahs, villages and hamlets, stopping at different locations to interact with the local people, we discovered the depth of educational and economic deprivation that seemed to have remained untouched by the wave of technological change of the last decade of the 20th century and the economic boom that came riding on it.
Elements of deprivation have an interacting pattern that reinforce each other: dire poverty leads to lack of education, lack of access to nutritious food, clean water and employment opportunities. Even access to justice is drastically reduced by poverty. Muslims, like other deprived sections, had benefited in extremely small measure from the expansion in wealth generation. We realised that special government projects for the benefit of the weaker classes, including the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and Mishra Commission for improving the Muslim condition, were inadequately implemented, if at all.
Past episodes of massive anti-Muslim violence still rankled in the hearts of victims as they saw the perpetrators moving around freely, planning to create similar mayhem in future while policemen accused of killing of Muslims (as in Hashimpura) went unpunished, and even got promotions. One wonders as to how one can reconcile our high constitutional ideals of freedom and equality with such prolonged, repeated and habitual denial of justice to such a large section of society.
One thing is sure that India would not shine without rule of law, and fascist thuggery has to be reined in for rule of law to take hold. In the absence of rule of law and access to justice we cannot hope to build the nation. For that we are incorporating a few demands from the Union government in our “Delhi Declaration” to be released in a few moments.
We have seen persons accused of masterminding massive communal riots and demolishing Babri Masjid going on to become Union cabinet ministers (including deputy prime minister) and chief ministers, instead of being jailed. Now we are seeing men (and women) of Abhinav Bharat being involved in waging a war against the Indian state. The Maharashtra ATS has documented their plan to destroy the unity of India with the help of Israel and the former king of Nepal.
Can we imagine ever emerging as a great nation with people like this among us? However, we are sorry to say that the Maharashtra ATS under Mr Raghuvanshi is, according to media reports, not pressing the charge of “waging war against India” against Col. Purohit and Co. The victims of Malegaon bomb attacks have been apprehensive of the idea of Mr Raghuvanshi heading the ATS because he had earlier whitewashed the case against policemen firing at and killing Muslim worshippers in Mumbai’s Hari Masjid without provocation. We cannot allow people like Col. Purohit to go scot-free and still hope to build a great nation.
Friends, colleagues, guests, the point that we are passing through a crucial phase in our history bears reiteration. General elections are looming. We have to be alert not to allow subversive elements to sneak into power because of our miscalculation. For the last four days newspapers have been full of reports of an attack on a Manglore hotel by goons of an organisation called Ram Sena. First, the BJP denied having anything to do with this organisation although its denial sounded hollow. Later, its spokesman, Ravishankar Prasad, had to admit that the mastermind of the attack, Pramod Mutalik, was associated with it. This man was involved in attacks on churches as well, but was shielded by the BJP government in Karnataka.
This man, who describes himself as a devoted RSS worker, was also a Bajrang Dal member at one point. Now it turns out that he has the backing of Abhinav Bharat as well, the same Abhinav Bharat whose members failed to capture power after killing Mahatma Gandhi and are now planning to subvert the Indian state with the help of foreign powers. It’s time the Union government and the country as a whole did something about it.
I would like to request Muslim youth as well as all other youth not to fall in the trap of terrorism. We don’t have to compete with organisations like Abhinav Bharat and must, in every situation, keep ourselves away from violent activities.
We have to keep in mind that we are faced not with one set of threats, but several. Although the process of globalisation has slowed down for sometime, it is going to accelerate in the coming months and years. We had been told time and again by our government that we will have an inclusive growth, but that inclusion is not visible in the countryside. Resentment over being left behind is palpable among the masses as a small class of people in cities enjoys all the fruits of growth. The gap would grow once globalisation picks up speed again.
In our foreign policy we have jettisoned our independence and aligned too closely to Western and Israeli interests. That would serve to advance Western and Israeli foreign policy objections, not ours. We advise some course correction on this count. If there is a correction its effects must be visible to all of us.
A word for the government: Postponement of appropriate action can’t wait, and only action will count when the crunch comes. The Indian voter cannot be fooled for too long: he/ she has got to get the efficient, clean, secular government that they deserve.
Finally, I must tell you that this is not a permanent condition, and the nation has to move from its present state of despair to a state of hope. We have to make sure that the polity is kept pure by keeping the corrupt, the communal, the criminal and the cowardly out of power. g
(This paper was proposed to be read out at the Milli Council’s Grand Conference at Ramlila Ground in Delhi on January 31, 2009. The Conference was the culmination of a five-month long caravan that traversed the country from August through January. The paper could not be read out for paucity of time, and was circulated instead.)