'I am a Muslim and profoundly conscious of that fact that I have inherited Islam's glorious tradition of the last thirteen hundred years. I am not prepared to lose even a small part of that legacy. The history and teachings of Islam, its art and letters, its cultural and civilization are part of my wealth and it is my duty to cherish and guard them... But, with all these feelings, I have another equally deep realization born out of my life's experience, which is strengthened and not hindered by the Islamic spirit. I am equally proud of the fact that I am an Indian, an essential part of the indivisible unity of Indian nationhood, a vital factor in its total makeup, without which this noble edifice will remain incomplete. I can never give up this sincere claim.'
These were the words of Maulana Azad, spoken during India's struggle for independence and its subsequent partition. How many Muslims in India have a similar sentiment today? I suspect it is the majority of the Muslims with this attitude and feeling. But why are they not vocal? Why don't they shout it from their rooftops? I suspect it is the fear factor. Fundamentalists are hijacking Islam and the majority moderates are relegated to the sidelines watching helplessly. Case in point was the recent assassination of moderate leader of Kashmir, the seventy-year old Abdul Ghani Lone, who had denounced the meddling of Pakistan in Kashmiri affairs. He was gunned down in cold blood.
The Muslims are also finding out that association with the fanatical fundamentalists even for a short-term gain can have long-term consequences that are beyond their control. Since its formation, Pakistan has been hung up on the question of Kashmir and this seems to be the primary goal for its very existence. Fifty-five golden years have been wasted and the citizens have been neglected, all the time being fed with religious fervor and zealotry. The progresses India has made are in sharp contrast to that of Pakistan. It is hard to believe these two were a single country for centuries, before the partition.
General Musharraf wrestled power from his predecessor, a duly elected leader Nawab Sharif, because as a military leader the General was unhappy with Pakistan's capitulation to Western pressure regarding Kashmir. He even orchestrated an attack on Kashmir (Kargil), and after unnecessary loss of lives and heavy casualties on both sides, retreated. He has been talking with both sides of his mouth and the West seems to be finally getting tired of his tactics. It appears as though he is intricately involved with, and as much a part of the terror movement in Pakistan.
First it was the announcement that Osama was 'definitely dead', during the early phases of the Afghan war. When it was revealed that he might be hiding in his own backyard, the General was reticent, for a short while. When Daniel Pearl's murderers were captured, he did not announce it to the world for a week. This was done in a dramatic newsbreak on the eve of his arrival in the U.S. Only when the mastermind of Mr. Pearl's assassination told the whole world that he was held for a week for debriefing after his arrest did the West find out about it. In January, the General under pressure outlawed the Islamic fundamentalist groups committing crimes in Kashmir and arrested about two thousand perpetrators. All but a few have been released since then. In his recent speech he announced that he is not seeking war and terrorism will be curtailed in his country. In the same speech he made some encouraging comments towards the 'freedom fighters' (an euphemism for terrorists) in Kashmir. Now we are in the brink of war and the scenario also includes a nuclear exchange between two of the most populous countries in the world. The devastation that would result is incomprehensible.
Could it have come to this if Pakistani brass had not encouraged the terrorist groups like Al Qeida and Taliban? After all Pakistan was one of the two countries in the world to have recognized the brutal and primitive regime of Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan also provided a safe haven for terrorists groups just like Afghanistan did. It trained terrorists in clandestine camps in Pakistan, with the help of Al Qeida operatives as instructors. If not for this strange alliance between the U.S. and Pakistan, it surely would have been named as one of the six states that sponsored terrorism. But the U.S. is finally calling the General's bluff and putting pressure on him to act on his numerous promises that he has made in recent months. Sooner Pakistan understands its folly faster it can get out of potential self-destruction.
The terrorists based in Pakistan are seeing their dreams come true in another front. They have successfully incited the Hindus into frenzy and the result was Gujarat massacre of innocent Muslims. As a consequence, the largest democracy in the world has suffered a shameful blow in its history. Its foundation as a secular state has been shaken by a handful of Hindus, with the support of corrupt politicians. If not repaired now it may become irreparable, and there is the danger of anarchy and chaos in India too.
When the Taliban was under attack after September 11th, a large gathering in Juma masjid in Delhi had gathered to shout slogans and show its support to the Taliban. The mullah was calling for Indian Muslims to join the jihad. The well-known movie actress Shabana Azmi retorted that the mullah can go to fight his war in Afghanistan but she and the majority of Indian Muslims are happy to be the citizens of India and live in peace and freedom. How many of Indian Muslims have similar sentiments? I suspect it is the majority, yet they have come under a cloud of suspicion because of the conduct of a few die-hard fundamentalists.
Before we agree to have a plebiscite in Kashmir to have self-determination, let us have a referendum (or a sort of show of hands) of the minority Muslims in India as to whether they would like to join Pakistan. I suspect a thumping majority of them will want to stay put in India and enjoy the freedom of movement and religion. I cannot see them wanting to join the 'hot bed of terrorism' called Pakistan. The patriot Maulana Azad's quote should be taught to all the little impressionable children in the madrassahs in India, so that the future generations of Indian Muslims do not grow up thinking that they are aliens in their own country.