Blame it on Muslims
ISN’T it an interesting coincidence that within hours of a humbled Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde apologising for mixing saffron with terror, Hyderabad gets whacked by terror?
And within minutes of the blasts, India’s television sleuths manage to identify the culprits – even before the police reached the scene and the victims’ bodies were removed. It was the Indian Mujahideen (IM) of course, we were told, who had done it with the blessings of Pakistani agencies and terror outfits.
This time around it’s not just the national media networks; their cousins from the south have been equally swift to crack the case within minutes thanks to their highly placed ‘sources’. On being alerted about the blasts by my daughter in Hyderabad, I scanned several Telugu channels. It was the same story everywhere: it was Muslims alright. Clearly, India’s regional media, like their counterparts in Delhi and Mumbai, had their ear to the ground and access to information that isn’t available to even those in power. As Indian activist-lawyer Shafeeq Mahajir put it, “the media seems to know a great deal more than even the police.”
He goes on to ask: “Despite the innumerable Muslim accused having been found by law to be innocent, and despite the confessional statements of Hindutva group members and corroborative evidence, how is it that only Muslims are stated in the press as being investigated and interrogated?”
But then what’s new? We’ve been here before. It’s a familiar game – played and replayed with the same cast even as politicians pontificate against jumping to conclusions and linking religion to terror. If it’s not the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), it has to be Indian Mujahideen (IM), which the Press Council chief Katju trashes as a figment of the imagination of the paid media and security agencies.
I am not sure who sets the agenda – a biased media that gets away with murder, attributing its received wisdom to ‘sources’ in the administration or is it the other way round? The result is always the same: a swift and predictable witch-hunt of the usual suspects – as happened all over again in Hyderabad. What do you expect when the home minister himself sets the direction of the investigation by sug-
Aijaz Zaka Syed gesting that the bombing may have been a reaction to the execution of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru?
No wonder there’s fear in the air once again in the city that I call home. As soon as the attacks were reported, a palpable pall of gloom descended over the ever-bustling city that seldom sleeps. Muslim businesses and shops were shut. Streets were deserted even the next day when I went out with the kids.
Given the pattern of police investigations over the past few years, the Muslims’ anxiety is understandable. As a press statement by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association points out, Hyderabad Police have been quite ingenuous – from raiding Muslim neighbourhoods to torturing young men at private farmhouses to recovering RDX and fictitious records of terror training in foreign lands.
If the media is to be believed, Hyderabad is crawling with the IM and Lashkar sleeper cells and Pakistani spies. Little wonder then that Muslims are afraid – very afraid.
As feared, there have been indiscriminate, mass arrests across the city, although results of the investigation into CCTV footage and other evidence are still awaited. Even those honourably acquitted in the Mecca Masjid case have been detained again.
Who needs evidence or anything else to pick up Muslims? If it’s terror, Muslims must be behind it. It matters little what the law says or evidence suggests or the fact that these cases don’t stand in courts as has repeatedly been the case. You could pick Muslims up from anywhere in the country and beyond, without fretting about public outcry or political consequences. Nobody gives two hoots about Muslims. No wonder, as an anguished blogger puts it, every time a bomb goes off anywhere in India, there’s an explosion in the hearts of its Muslims. And the efficient law-enforcement agencies never fail to oblige. Little has changed even after the incriminating evidence and official admission that all the recent terror attacks, from Mecca Masjid to Ajmer shrine to Samjhota Express that were blamed on the Muslims, have been the handiwork of the RSS and its offshoots. Swami Aseemanand, a senior RSS ideologue, is in police custody and on record singing all about the series of attacks and the plot to target the Muslims. Home Minister Shinde, no less, chose the Congress session in Jaipur to talk about Hindutva’s terror links. Yet Muslims remain the prime suspects.
The police witch-hunt and trial by media has acquired such absurd proportions that a hawk like B Raman notes in Outlook that “instead of waiting till the investigation makes substantial progress, the police and agencies, with the help of sensation-hungry media, have already started pointing the finger at the Muslim community, Indian Mujahideen and Pakistan.
If there is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, he has to be from the IM. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of the ISI. That seems to be the thinking reflex of the police and the agencies.”
In its desperation to shock and awe, the media can go to ludicrous lengths as it has once again by flashing the picture of slain MQM leader Manzar Imam as the IM mastermind behind the Hyderabad attacks. It was withdrawn only after some Pakistani papers exposed the blunder. There was a time when the Indian media took pride in standing up for the underdog and confronting the excesses of those in power.