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What is causing Muslim radicalism?

August 13, 2012 14:55 IST

Muslim youth are neither meant for being indoctrinated and hired by any destructive foreign agency like the ISI, nor are they meant for being fired at by their own security agencies, says Mohammad Sajjad.

How do we explain the reported rising of hot-headed radicalism among a small section of Mithila (north Bihar) Muslims? Is it due to their exclusion from the structures and processes of power, or are they falling prey to the ideological indoctrination done by some destructive foreign agencies?

Of late, India's security and investigative agencies through the Indian media have started conveying that there is a 'Darbhanga Module' which is alleged to have carried out some terrorist activities in certain cities of India.

There have been few arrests of some educated professionals, some of them working in the Middle East. The real truth will come to us after a long haul of slow-paced judicial trial (even in TADA the conviction rate was as low as below two per cent). There have been allegations against the agencies of procedural lapses in the modes of arrests made thus far.

(For a more comprehensive, powerful, and nuanced analysis, see Irfan Ahmad: 'The (In)visible Indian Terrorism (external link), September 16, 2011).

Nonetheless, just for the sake of pushing my argument ahead, if we believe, only for a moment, that the allegations against the detained Muslim youths are true, and if this has something to do with 'alienation', exclusion, and marginalisation from the structures and processes of power, and with State discrimination against them in socio-economic uplift (as provocatively and irresponsibly 'suggested' by a parliamentarian of essentially rightist persuasion like Mr Owaisi on the floor of the Lok Sabha on August 10, 2012), then we need to ponder over this:

Darbhanga-Madhubani is a region from where among a particular social class of Muslims, relatively speaking, there is fairly good proportion of educated youth. The Constitution's provision under Articles 29 and 30 have been made better use of by Darbhanga Muslims; the educational entrepreneurs among Darbhanga Muslims have been running minority institutes of teachers' training (BEd), the Katihar Medical College, dental colleges, etc.

In Bihar, during the Lalu-Rabri regime, doors to the BEd courses were closed except in these Muslim minority institutions. This was further facilitated by the appointment of Professor Abdul Mughni as the vice-chancellor of Mithila University. It must have been a source of envy for Maithil Brahmins and other Hindus.

Darbhanga has been gifted by the Union government with the off-campus of a central University, the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU, Hyderabad), which offers professional courses like diploma in engineering and technology in Urdu medium to ensure greater inclusion of Muslims.

Since long, this region has been sending Muslim MPs to the Lok Sabha; on occasions, simultaneously two MPs. In the 1990s, Professor Wahab Ashrafi (1936 to 2012), and Professor Shamshad Husain were the chairman of the Bihar State Universities Services Commission and there was fair representation of the Muslims (roughly 20 per cent) in the recruitment of lecturers in 1996.

Many times governors of Bihar have been Muslims, like Professor Akhlaqur Rahman Qidwai, Yunus Saleem, Shafi Quraishi, etc. The Bihar chief minister during 1973 to 1975 was a Muslim, Abdul Ghafoor (1918 to 2004) whose integrity in public life was vouched and appreciated even by Jayaprakash Narayan (1902 to 1979) even while in the thick of opposition against his chief ministerial tenure at the time of 'Total Revolution'; several times the presidents of the Bihar Congress were Muslims.

The fiercest anti-colonial newspaper of Bihar, The Searchlight (1918 to 1986) was launched in 1918 by a group of luminaries led by Syed Hasan Imam who had contributed the highest amount of Rs 5,000 for the purpose, and its first editor was a Muslim, Syed Haidar Husain.

Having won freedom from the British and played the most significant part in the post-colonial reconstruction of Bihar after Independence, the newspaper lived till 1986 when it was taken over by The Hindustan Times. The communal separatist politics of the Muslim League remained so weak in Bihar even in the 1940s that it did not find any large stature leader from Bihar.

In 1990-1991, Darbhanga's Muslim MP, Professor Shakilur Rahman (former VC, Mithila University, Darbhanga, and Bihar University, Muzaffarpur) was the Union health minister. He had won the 1989 Lok Sabha against all odds put by the powerful caste group of Darbhanga, and his onslaught against vested interests deeply entrenched into the Mithila University had earned him great popularity which ensured his victory.

Darbhanga's (several times) MP, Mr Fatmi, an engineer from AMU, was the Union minister of state for human resource development from 2004 to 2009; Madhubani's several times MP, Dr Shakil Ahmad, an MBBS from Muzaffarpur, was the Union minister of state for home affairs, 2004 to 2009; earlier, he was minister of health in the Bihar government; his father was the deputy speaker, Bihar assembly. Presently, Dr Shakil is the national spokesperson of the Congress party.

Darbhanga Muslims had made contributions in the freedom struggle; their oldest Madrasa Imdadiya, its teachers and students made proud contributions in the anti-colonial struggle.

Ghulam Sarwar represented a segment of Darbhanga in the Bihar assembly; he was minister of education from 1977 to 1979, then he held several portfolios including speaker of the Bihar assembly from 1990 to 2004. Abdul Bari Siddiqi, an MLA from a part of Darbhanga, is an important leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal which ruled over Bihar for 15 years, and throughout this period he had been a minister; at the moment he is the Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar assembly.

Among the Muslims qualifying for the civil services, there is hardly any list which is not represented by a Darbhanga Muslim.

Secondly, certain fallacies apart, the Indian State and its democratic processes are responsive enough. Once you assert your demand in a concerted and sustained manner, it stands conceded and fulfilled by the State. The National Council for Minority Educational Institutions, NCMEI, has been empowered to do the needful towards educational uplift; it has declared the Jamia Milia Islamia, a central university, as a Muslim minority institution, reserving fifty per cent of the enrolment intake for Muslim students.

The government/UGC offers certain funds to the Hamdard University. One can multiply such instances. The recent legislative piece of the fundamental right to education is a wonderful revolutionary weapon of the uplift and empowerment, more particularly for the weaker and oppressed sections. We ought to launch a campaign to make full use of it.

Invest in education for a turnaround

The point I am trying to make is: Among the Muslim educated youth and the middle classes there should not be any feeling of alienation; rather than falling prey to any hard-headed, right-wing, foreign-inspired chauvinistic radicalism (if any), they should organise themselves to pressurise the democratic institutions and processes to press their demands, pertaining to education, employment, health, security of life and property, religio-cultural freedom, and all such things.

India's secular democracy, the accommodative orientations and practices of the State offer a lot to all of us, we must strengthen it. All of us should unitedly force out any hard-headed tendency of resorting to blasts. Meanwhile, the struggle for justice to the detained youths must also continue.

Needless to add, the Muslim youth are neither meant for being indoctrinated and hired by any destructive foreign agency like the ISI, nor are they meant for being fired by their own security agencies.

Mohammad Sajjad is a commentator on Muslim issues.

Mohammad Sajjad