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Greater alert, more restraint needed during Ramzan

Last updated on: August 13, 2012 14:17 IST

Image: The site of the Mumbai violence the day after, on Sunday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

Till the situation returns to normal, it is important for our police and intelligence agencies to step up their vigilance and security alert, says B Raman

The Muslim holy fasting period of Ramzan, which started on July 20 this year, is expected to end on August 20 with Eid ul Fitr.

Muslims all over the world will be observing the International Quds (Arabic name for Palestine) Day on August 17, the last Friday of the fasting period, to express solidarity with the Palestinians and renew calls for the liberation of Jerusalem from Israeli control. The call for the observance of Al Quds Day was given by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran in 1979 and is followed by all Muslims, Sunnis as well as Shias, every year.

Muslim feelings of solidarity with each other and grieving for the sufferings of fellow Muslims anywhere in the world tend to remain intense during Ramadan. A careful mapping of violent incidents involving Muslims across the world would show that many of these incidents took place during Ramzan.

The serial blasts of March 1993 In Mumbai, which are seen by some analysts as the first act of catastrophic jihadi terrorism in the world, were carried out by Dawood Ibrahim's group, with the help of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence,  during Ramzam.

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Greater alert, more restraint needed during Ramzan

Image: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan visits the injured victims of Mumbai's violence
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

The police and counter-terrorism agencies in many countries of the world, affected by jihadi terrorism, remain extra alert and watchful during Ramzan. It is, therefore, quite likely that Indian intelligence agencies and the police in different states would also be in a high state of alert during the present Ramzan.

Two people were killed and 55 , 45 of them policemen, were injured in Mumbai on August 11 when a group of Muslims demonstrating against alleged anti-Muslim incidents of violence in Assam turned violent, clashed with the police and burnt down a number of vehicles, including some reportedly belonging to the media.

The Mumbai police need to be complimented for bringing the situation quickly under control, though they seem to have been initially taken by surprise. Our media also deserves to be congratulated for reporting on the violence with restraint and balance.

This year's Ramzan has coincided with a period of suffering for the Muslims because of the anti-Muslim incidents reported from the Rakhine state of Myanmar and Assam. Our media has been covering these incidents with its usual caution, restraint and balance. Some sensational stories, including photographs regarding anti-Muslim incidents in Rakhine, have been circulating through the internet.

While our media has refrained from disseminating these sensational stories and pictures, one cannot say the same thing about the media in Pakistan and the West Asian countries. TV channel Al Jazeera, for example, disseminated a story on August 9 regarding alleged atrocities against Muslims in Rakhine state.

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Greater alert, more restraint needed during Ramzan

Image: One of the suspects held for the violence in Mumbai
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

While the text of the story was about alleged discrimination against Muslims in the Rakhine state, the headline spoke of regional discrimination against Muslims. The West Asian media is not yet giving the same attention to Assam, but one should keep a watch for distorted stories about Assam making their appearance there.

The important question is not whether these stories are accurate. It is what impact such dissemination will have on the reactions of the ordinary Muslims. The reach of the internet in the Islamic world is limited, but that of Arabic TV channels is extensive. The dissemination of such stories could have an unpredictable impact on the emotions and reactions of ordinary Muslims.

Till the situation returns to normal in Rakhine state of Myanmar and in Assam, it is important for our police and intelligence agencies to step up their vigilance and security alert.

It is equally important for our political leadership and administration to closely interact with the leaders of the Muslim community, keep them informed of the measures taken by the government for the relief of Muslims affected by the recent violence in Assam and urge them to exercise restraint and not to exploit the situation for their narrow religious interests, which could be detrimental to broader national interests.

If any Indian leader does not accept this advice for moderation and tries to exploit the situation for narrow ends, the police should not hesitate to act against him or her appropriately under the law. The political leadership should not interfere with the actions of the police.

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