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Fighting for freedom

Fighting for freedom

Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: Organiser
Date: November 25, 2001

In recent weeks there has been a great deal of talk about 'Freedom fighters' in Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf going out of his way to describe terrorists operating in there as "freedom fighters". The General has some queer idea about fighting for freedom. He obviously has no concept of how India-and Pakistan-originally won freedom. If one takes the Indian freedom movement, say, from 1920 on to 1942 - a bare space of a little over two decades -it was 'fought' (if that is the right word) entirely in the spirit of non-violence. No Indian killed another Indian. Under Mahatma Gandhi's leadership the struggle for freedom remained non-violent throughout those turbulent years. People sacrificed themselves; men like Motilal Nehru or C. Rajagopalachari, to name but just two names, gave up their lucrative legal careers, as did so many others, to court imprisonment. Ordinary but patriotic citizens invited sufferings; they took physical beatings, but never hit back, never. In the end it was as much a triumph of the spirit as it was of patriotism. Consider what has been happening in Jammu & Kashmir in the last one decade. Figures of those killed by terrorists vary. According to one figure, some 8, 600 Muslims were killed by terrorists; Hindus killed number 1,180. If Kashmiri Muslims, as it is alleged, were fighting for freedom, would they kill fellow Muslims? No

Indian freedom fighter ever killed a fellow Indian in the name of freedom. If the truth has to be told the killing in Jammu & Kashmir is being undertaken by terrorists trained and sponsored by Pakistan. It is no secret that Pakistan has set up over 150 camps on its side of the Indo-Pakistan border specifically to train killers. And one in three of those killed has been identified as an 'outsider', notably an Afghan or an Arab. According to one reliable source, at least 900 young British Muslims every year have received training in Pakistan camps. When India fought for freedom it did not have to depend on foreign elements. But this is nothing surprising. Pakistan was never in the minds of Indian freedom fighters. Pakistan was born in blood. The Muslim League's concept of fighting for "freedom" was in killing. Direct Action Day called by the League on August 16, 1946 saw the killing of over 10,000 people whose corpses piled up in Calcutta's streets, blocking the city's drainage system. Declaring a jihad against the British and the Indian National Congress, Ghulam Ali Khan, minister for law and order (I) in Sind proclaimed that anyone opposing Muslims in pursuit of Pakistan "shall be destroyed and exterminated". And they were. So what Musharraf has been doing all these years is in perfect consonance with what his Muslim League predecessors of the forties did: kill. The question may be asked: weren't there 'nationalist' Muslims within the Congress who also courted imprisonment and served the country non-violently? The names of many leaders come to mind starting with the noble-minded Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, known as the Frontier Gandhi. Then there were several others like the distinguished nationalist editor Syed Abdullah Brelvi, M. Harris, M. A. Ansari, Asaf Ali, Sadiq Ali, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad but in the larger context of the freedom movement, percentage-wise their number has been small. By and large the Muslim middle and lower middle class stayed away from the mainstream freedom movement. Jinnah had no use for Indian freedom. Khalid Bin Sayeed in his book Pakistan, The Formative Years quotes Jinnah addressing Pathans. in the Frontier Province thus: "Do you want Pakistan or not? If you want Pakistan vote for the League. If we fail to realise our duty today, you will be reduced to the status of sudras and Islam will be vanquished from India. I shall never allow Muslims to be slaves of Hindus". That was Jinnah's contribution to freedom from British imperialism. But today Indian Muslims are complaining that they are being mistaken to be terrorists. But why aren't Muslim leaders speaking up condemning the terrorism let loose by Musharraf in Jammu & Kashmir? Why aren't they telling Musharraf to lay off? The only loud-mouthed Muslim is the so-called Shahi Imam of the Delhi Jama Masjid who, on September 28 supported the cry of war given by Afghanistan's ruling party, the Taliban and had the nerve to tell Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to keep quiet on the issue. Addressing a Friday prayer meeting attended by thousands of Muslims, the so-called Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari said that "if any Islamic country or its Ulema announce jihad, it is obligatory for each and every Muslim in the world to support it morally and express it openly". This is sedition and the Shahi Imam deserves to be arrested.

But the government won't dare to do so when of the Prime Minister the Maulvi said: "It would be better if Vajpayee keeps his mouth shut. We very well know his secular credentials". India is a democracy and it gives plenty of elbow room for its citizens to say what they want. Ms Shabana Azmi by way of reply said in an interview that the Maulana does not represent true Muslim opinion. But then who represents Muslim opinion? Ms Azmi? Why does not she address a meeting of Muslims publicly and speak out her mind? How many Muslims have publicly condemned Musharraf even after the October 1 suicide attack on the Kashmir legislature? On the other hand when SIMI was banned, Muslims in Lucknow came out into the streets rioting. The ban on SIMI, incidentally, had come after its national president Shahid Badr Falahi made inflammatory speeches in Uttar Pradesh urging Muslims to support the jihad of Osama bin Laden and asking Muslim youth to come forward and join the jihad. The unanswered question is: who speaks out for Muslims? The so-called Shahi Imam? SIMI? M. S. Usmani, the minority cell president of the Bharatiya Janata Party has condemned Pakistan for distorting the meaning of jihad but many Muslims are treating him in much the same way as Muslim League leaders of the Jinnah era condemned Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. A Muslim leader, Ziauddin Sardar writing in Asian Age (October 3) has demanded that the "silent Muslim majority must now become vocal". He said that Muslims must "go further". According to him, "it is the duty of every Muslim to spare no effort in hunting down, apprehending and bringing to justice" those involved in the planning, financing, training and harbouring of terrorists. For a starter, Muslims could begin in Jammu & Kashmir. But will they? Will they as a people condemn the Shahi Imam? The president of SIMI? General Musharraf and his gang? And if they don't or won't can they blame those who question their credentials as patriots? The time has come for Muslims in India to look into these questions, lest their continuing silence is misconstrued. If they won't they would have only themselves to blame.

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