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TARIQ HASAN | 17 DECEMBER, 2015

INDIA 2015: Dadri, Daesh And Development


ALIGARH: In a recent lecture at the Aligarh Muslim University, well-known political scientist and social activist Yogendra Yadav voiced his fears on what he foresees as the developing socio-political landscape in the country's most populous state Uttar Pradesh.

Yadav is not given to polemics and so his words of concern on the possible scenario in the run up to the forthcoming elections to the state assembly in 2017 cannot be dismissed as mere political rhetoric.

Yadav said that he did not wish to indulge in hyperbole but there were ground reports to suggest that the communal cauldron in the state was heating up thanks to contentious issues like beef politics. He feared that certain political groups and fringe elements were readying themselves for exploiting sectarian issues for polarisation of communities to score electoral gains. Yadav said that the electorate in neighbouring Bihar had given short shrift to such communal politics but it would be foolhardy to presume that the voters in Uttar Pradesh too would also see through such nefarious designs.

Later Yadav told this writer that he was so exercised over what he senses as a serious threat to the country's internal peace by contentious issue like beef politics. He is actively considering the possibility of involving non-political groups from civil society for working out a national-level solution to the vexed issue of banning of cow slaughter in India. He said that he was quite hopeful that a compromise solution could be reached keeping in mind the Hindu sensitivities on the issue while simultaneously ensuring that the rights of other groups were also not infringed upon. He said that he would shortly be meeting civil rights crusader Anna Hazare to seek his nod for such an initiative.

Yadav is certainly not alone in his concern over alarming rise in temperature in the country in recent months following what is clearly a sharp rise in hate politics and religious intolerance in the country. But the key question here is whether leading political players in Uttar Pradesh, including the ruling Samajwadi Party, are also prepared to eschew their selfish interests by refusing to indulge in sectarian politics despite the temptations offered by the Hindutva brigade which still harbours the hope of rich dividends merely by keeping the communal cauldron hot.The ongoing controversy over some derogatory remake by a Hindu Maha Sabha leader against the Prophet of Islam is yet another pointer of the prevailing state of affairs.

By now it should be clear to the ruling dispensation in the country that the rise in divisive politics in the country will ultimately derail the development plank which propelled it into power in last years Parliamentary elections. In fact, the growing agrarian crisis in the country is certainly placing the Modi government on an unenviable play field where it is viewed as a direct adversary to the rights of farmers. The central government has allowed itself to be pushed to a corner when it is viewed as anti farmer while at the same time it has not been able to fulfil the high expectations of its favoured corporate constituency.

It is certainly a time for mid-course correction for deciding the priorities of the NDA government.

The mainstream media has failed to take due notice of it but the fact remains that large tracts of the country are facing one of the worst famine like conditions in recent memory.

The famine-hit areas of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh have become so denuded and with the sunken eyed half starved children the scene almost mirrors what we identify with sub-Saharan, according to Yogindra Yadav.

Yadav, who recently toured the affected areas in that region for a field study along with the well-known economist Jean Dreze, said that if the country does not wake up to the looming farm crisis in that part of the country it would reduce to mockery "all talk of development in India".

Yadav said that his studies had revealed that at least "fourteen percent of the rural folk in Bundelkhand had been forced to consume flour made of grass at least once during the past nine months". He said that "forty percent of those interviewed had not eaten Dal for more than a month. Sixty percent reported that their children had not had a drop of milk for more than a month".

This then raises the central issue - has mainstream politics in India pushed aside the real issues of development in preference for sectarian politics?

Can an atmosphere of internal strife and sectarian tensions which has been simmering since the run up to the last Parliamentary polls allow India to pursue a much needed development agenda?

This leads us to the critical question: how safe is India's internal security from the threat of terror attacks from external groups keeping in mind that India happens to home the worlds second largest Muslim population?

To be precise it raises the the query about the possibility about Daesh (also known as Islamic state) inspired terror strikes in India.

Talmiz Ahmad, India's-former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and one of the country's leading experts on West Asia, has aptly summed up the situation saying: Indian Muslims have seldom if ever been influenced by happenings in West Asia. Palestine certainly exercises Muslims the world over but only upto a point. He further points out that Indian Muslims have largely been concerned by issues linked with internal issues and have sought remedy within India's internal socio-political system.

What Ahmad was extrapolating was that he does not expect any major response amongst Indian Muslims to the Islamic States no doubt growing pan-Islamic influence.

The main reason for this that Indian Muslims have traditionally remained aloof from the Wahabi school of thought which has always spawned groups like Islamic state. Islamic scholars are quick to point out that 99 percent of Indian Muslims come within the ambit either of the Deobandi, Barelvi and Shia sects and schools of thought. All these groups are opposed to the Wahabi school of thought. It is true that since the past decade or so the well-oiled international Wahabi propaganda machinery has made gains in India especially among the Indian diaspora but there is a strong internal resistance to the Wahabi ideology.

Terrorism among Indian Muslims is the result of internal discord. If one leaves aside the Kashmiri-led terror apparatus then all acts of terror in mainland India can can be traced to two trigger points: the demolition of the Babri mosque and the Gujrat riots.

In other words what should be of concern to India's security agencies is the rising alienation of Muslims caused by the failure of the justice delivery system and more recently by the simmering heat caused by contentious issue like beef politics, Ghar Waapsi and love Jihad.

All these manufactured problems are in a way providing fertile ground for external jihadi elements to exploit.

It would of of course be naive to rule out lone wolf terror strikes by external groups like Daesh but the major challenge to India's growth and prosperity lies in confronting future "Dadris."

No security or intelligence agency in the world can prevent lone wolf type of terror attacks. One moment of madness by a single motivated individual can play havoc in today's crowded cities of the world. What can however be prevented is large scale indoctrination of groups.

India's neighbouring countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have in the recent past paid a heavy price for allowing religious radicalisation to prosper.

This was the time for India to promote the mainstreaming of radical youth be they Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs. But during recent years we have seen just the reverse.

(Tariq Hasan is the author of recent book Colonialism and the Call to Jihad in British India published by Sage )

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