Varun Gandhi’s diatribe against Muslims is quite understandable. His idea of politicking was to polarise Hindu votes, a move necessitated after the delimitation exercise by the Election Commission.The process has added few more Muslim blocks to Varun’s Pilibhit constituency making his victory on a BJP ticket somewhat suspect. After the delimitation, analysts say, the number of constituencies where Muslims constitute 15 per cent or more votes and thus in a position to influence election results have increased from 119 to 164. For rightwing BJP, it is a nightmare.
Though Indian Muslims lag behind in every sphere, they have used their electoral prowess to punish their detractors very effectively. Their sense of taking revenge is exemplary. They were instrumental in the death of Congress party in Bihar following 1989 Bhagalpur communal riots and the emergence of Laloo Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar. They madeCongress party almost non-existent in Uttar Pradesh for its role in the Babri Masjid demolition.
During 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the Gujarat pogrom was heavy on the minds of Muslim electorate. At many places, they voted en-mass and en-block to stop the march of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) spurning all its allurements.
Ironically, while the Muslim electorate in India helped the larger secular consolidation against the BJP to avenge the killings of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat and earlier against the Congress to punish it for Bhagalpur riots and the demolition of Babri Masjid, the violence in Kashmir, which has devoured tens of thousands of Muslims, has hardly evoked a sense of empathy amongst Muslims in rest of the country.
Undoubtedly, the Kashmir crisis includes an inherent communal angle as its manifestation lies in Partition. Indian Muslims have largely kept themselves aloof. Despite provocations from communal outfits inside and outside the mainstream, including the Hindutva camp, the Indian political system has not been communalised. So much so, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 did not end in a cataclysm, despite BJP hardliner LK Advani unleashing the Ram Mandir frenzy in north India around the same time.
The method, though uncanny, seems to follow an unhappy pattern. Omar Abdullah, now chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir told this writer few years ago, that various governments as well as the Indian civil society now seems willing to “tolerate” a slightly heightened level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir. Militant attacks in the state – even the worst types – never put brakes on the India-Pakistan peace process.
But the Mumbai attacks and blasts in Delhi earlier did convince India to send peace process in tatters. It is not only the government; civil society also seems unconcerned about violence in Kashmir. There is a sense of dispassion. Daily killings of five to six people don’t make a big difference. But a strike that kills 200-300 people in Mumbai in a day creates a major impact, even though the number of people killed in Kashmir every year is much higher.
Besides, there are deceptive layers which remain unseen. While the killing of minorities dominates headlines in Jammu and Kashmir, official figures reveal that violence has claimed more Muslims than Hindus. As many as 1,11,057 Muslims were killed between 1988 and 2003 as against 1,490 Hindus falling to the bullets of militants.
Intelligence agencies claim that like certain small sections of the Sikhs during the Khalistani movement, some Indian Muslims were always on the radar of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Since early 1980s, they had tried to motivate some Muslim youth to cross over for training.