We can’t ignore the role of perception in Indian politics today. Judiciary or SIT could provide relief to Narendra Modi in the case of Gujarat riots but Muslims continue to believe that he headed the pogrom in 2002. And these perceptions do not get constructed out of nowhere. Media images and text appeared in postconflict scenario and atrocities live in public memory force many of us to be critical of Modi and demand his accountability. I suppose Student Islamic Organisation (SIO), the student wing of Jamat-e-Islami-Hind ( JIH) also think on similar lines.
So why their stand looks sheer hypocrisy on the issue of Bangladesh genocide or attack on Bangladeshi Hindus and especially when they try to raise the bogey of Islam to justify the alleged atrocities by the leaders of Jamaat counterpart in Bangladesh today? I have many reasons to claim so. In the month of December, 2013 I spotted this poster on the notice board of Sir Syed Hall (North) in Aligarh Muslim University. It was from SIO AMU zone and it says, “This is not the last martyrdom for Islam. We Salute Shaheed Abdul Qadir Mulla. Shame of Bangladesh”! So apparently SIO equated the hanging of Bangladeshi Jamaat leader Abdul Qadir Mulla for being convicted on genocide charges (even if we question the fairness of the trial) to the martyrdom for Islam. It is quite an emotive term for Muslims given that they normally use it for the faithful hearts who laid their lives in the battle of Badr or Khandaq or Karbala to spread the message of Islam. The act of pasting posters in a residential Hall of a central university in India on the genocide trial happening in Bangladesh, SIO also engaged in pan Islamism. They did it earlier on the Muslim Brotherhood issue in Egypt as well but that was quite different from this time as it can affect the wellbeing of Indian Muslims.
In the politics of perception, in our neighbouring Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami has historically the same standing for religious minorities as the RSS in India. It is communal, lives on a fascist ideology, opportunistically violent and aimed to create a theocratic state with minorities as second class citizens. Today SIO of Bangladesh, Islami Chhatra Shibir is on the dock for their alleged role of targeting Hindu lives and properties in the recent barbaric violence against them for voting Awami League candidates. Even though SIO people in India claimed the innocence of their Bangaldeshi counterparts, but the perception of Islami Chhatra Shibir as goons and thugs remain with the Hindu population there. It is not a rocket science to imagine that Sangh parivar in India extensively use the same media texts and images of Bangladesh Hindus getting attacked to sustain their anti-Muslim campaigns in India. Therefore if Indian Muslims have to make a strong ground to attack Modi in the upcoming parliamentary elections in spite of his proved innocence from court, it can’t allow SIO or JIH to be hypocritical and engage in panislamism with respect to Bangladesh.
There is a Pakistan angle of this story which could be extremely harmful for Indian Muslims in future if SIO continue its campaign for Jamaat leaders in Bangladesh on behalf of the community. Already the political atmosphere of this country is very much charged and Modi’s PM candidature causing serious religious polarisation in Indian politics since the days of Ayodhya movement. At the time SIO was busy pasting posters for Abdul Qadir Mulla in AMU claiming he played no role in 1971 Bangladesh genocide, on the other side Pakistani parliament was passing resolution for him saying that he played valorised role in Indo-Pak war and sacrificed his life for the idea of Pakistan. If some Sanghi activist today wishes to draw a conclusion from these events, then SIO is clearly cheering for an enemy of India and harbouring serious anti-Indian sentiments. Given the importance of symbolism in Indian politics today, this sustain campaigning by SIO for the Bangladeshi Jamaat leaders is a strategic mistake given that Pakistan is very vocal on this issue. All their activities and statements claiming to be patriotic would be of no use if they don’t mend their ways. SIO should also answer that if they feel so much ideologically bonded with the Jamaat in Bangladesh, whether they hold the same views with regard to their Pakistani counterpart and their stand on terrorism and other issues?
The issue of panislamism should also be avoided given that it put the focus away from the socio-economic problems of Muslims in India which are very different than in Bangladesh or Pakistan. In the upcoming parliamentary elections, if Indian Muslims intend to stop Modi from coming to power, it can’t ignore the need to form a broad alliance by joining hands with secular Hindus and other minds alike. They need to understand that communal organisations like RSS and Jamaat-i-Islami Bangladesh feed on each other’s fascist activities and ideologies and should not be given an inch to attack the patriotism and allegiance of Indian Muslims to their nation. If politics of perception is here to stay then organisations like SIO should not be allowed to represent the voice of Indian Muslims.