Media, Muslims and Mujahideen
By Mubasshir Mushtaq
Now that the Delhi Police has "cracked" the bomb blasts, I can make my own confessions. Suspicion is not a fundamental right enshrined in Indian Constitution but it is an unalienable right in a flourishing democracy. Suspicion is the fundamental premise on which the edifice of our intelligentsia stands. Therefore, intelligence agencies cannot be denied the right to suspect. The same right to suspect cannot be denied to ordinary Indians. Equality is the hallmark of a true democracy.
The journalist in me has a problem when an official declaration, a chronological monologue, is treated as the gospel. It is not the job of a journalist to arrive at conclusions. The job of a journalist is to stand outside the circle and communicate nuances and niceties taking place inside the circle. When a journalist jumps into the circle, he becomes part of the story. Proximity breeds bias. Bias breeds bigotry. A true journalist can be anything but he can never be a bigot.
Journalistic bigotry is dangerous for it plays a vital role in shaping public opinion. Each such story leaves an imprint on public consciousness. In each blast, media, the fourth estate, behaves like fourth mistake. The needle of suspicion automatically swings towards Muslims whether it is Mecca Masjid blast or Malegaon blasts in which devout Muslims were specifically targeted inside their mosques. Every time there is a blast, Muslims find themselves in the no man's land. They are caught in the crossfire between intelligence agencies and terrorists. Neither of them will trust Muslims. The day-today Muslim problem is bread and butter rather than the bomb.
Each blast is viewed from the green lens of Islam although saffron lens is equally making India red. One of the reasons for these blasts is to put the entire Muslim community in the defensive mode by systematically manipulating Islam. The trick is like a psychological warfare before the beginning of actual war.
It is true that a minuscule minority among Muslims has become radical. It is equally true that a minuscule minority among Hindus has gone on the extreme. SIMI, RSS and Bajrang Dal, are competing identities, each one claiming to represent their respective community. It is competitive extremism at work which can be summed up in one-line: My version of extremism is better than yours! Media plays safe when RSS and Bajrang Dal are involved in bomb blasts while it indulges in triumphant journalism when SIMI comes under the scanner. The reason for this differential approach is commercial: No businessman would want to antagonize the majority Hindu readers. Media, therefore, claims to be nationalistic but it only practices majoritarian nationalism.
From a journalistic point of view, I have a problem when Police changes the names of 'alleged' (it is one adjective which we in the media have abused and used at will) masterminds overnight. First it was Abdus Subhan Qureishi (alias Tauqeer), now it is Atif, the "terrorist" who has been gunned down.
The journalist in me finds it hard to digest that Mufti Abul Bashar, the alleged mastermind of Ahmedabad blasts, is linked to Delhi blasts. If Bashar is really connected to Delhi blasts, the bomb blasts should never have taken place since he was in police custody when the blasts took place. How can Bashar, a poor madrasa-educated person mastermind Ahmedabad blast with such precision? When did Indian Madrasas start producing tech-savvy Muslims? Indian government would love that to happen! There won't be any need for Central madrasa board for modernization then!
Police says that the educated Muslims are involved in the blasts yet they arrest who will not be termed 'educated' by worldly standards. Mufti Bashar is just one example. A section of the mainstream media is extremely behaving like the nautch girl of Indian intelligent agencies. Instead of investigating the police claims, media is promoting self-contradictory journalism.
The journalist in me has a problem when a TV correspondent spits out the intelligence feed that there was a meeting of SIMI in 2001 where 200 youth were recruited to wreak havoc across India. What was our intelligence agency doing for the last 8 years?
Muslim accused are being branded as terrorists before the proper investigation and filing of the chargesheet. The actual trial by a court of law is yet to begin but the trial by media has already passed its judgement. Sample this:
"Mohammed Saif, the terrorist (emphasis added) who was arrested after Friday's encounter, even possessed a fake voter card." (TOI, September 21, page 1, Delhi edition)
Isn't it a perfect example of Judgemental journalism?
Meanwhile Muslims live under siege and fear. State, said Mahatma Gandhi, is nothing but organized violence. Friday's encounter of Jamia Nagar in Delhi raises some disturbing questions. Local Muslims have termed it as "dubious." They have reasons to believe so. As a Delhi friend put it, "No one saw cross firing yesterday. Only the police claim it happened. Did you read in any report that anyone actually saw cross-firing?" She added, "How come the two so-called terrorists managed to flee? There was only one exit." She asked, "If they knew they were going for a possible encounter, why wasn't the building or the area properly covered by the police?"
Her conclusion was chilling and disturbed me:
"But the point is that they can kill anyone anywhere. Tomorrow my brother might be the target and on flimsiest of grounds with no chance of proving the innocence. You are guilty just because they say so."
"It makes me bloody angry."
Indian Muslims live with fear, security, discrimination and terror tag. A bunch of the so-called 'Muslims' have hijacked their Faith. I detest when somebody says those who planted the bombs were Muslims. Indian Mujahideen, a faceless body, has launched a faceless jihad for the sake of Indian Muslims. A true jihad can never be faceless. If one peers through Islamic history, he will come to know that a jihad is a battle which is fought under the banner of recognition and not anonymity.
I see a problem when a country of more than one billion people can't arrest a loose bunch of murderers who want to convert India into a slaughterhouse.
Indian intelligence agencies have some much input yet they produce zero output.
India's 160 million Muslims have a problem: fear. And nobody is willing to even listen to them. They are the in-betweens of India's fight against terrorism. They want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. India needs to integrate them. A Muslim friend put it bluntly, "Rabindranath Tagore's poem 'Where the mind is without fear' no longer adorns my wall."