India has great cultural wealth. A multi-religion, multi-language population comprising several ethnic groups makes us rich. We can truly boast of enjoying the unity in diversity. However, this uniqueness in composition also carries its own problems.
What happened in Azad Maidan in Mumbai on 11 August 2012 and its ripple effect across the country is a cause for great concern. It really hurts those of us who spent many years of their military service in different areas of northeast and came to admire the simplicity and human values of the people there. The unfortunate exodus of our fellow Indians from some States, even if instigated by doctored electronic propaganda, impels introspection.
We have still not fully realised Pak intentions to hurt us, despite mass of historical evidence ever since 1947.
The host States deserve to be complimented for handling the unfortunate exit of students and workers in a sensible, sensitive and humane manner. Most of them have either come back or are returning. Equally worthy of compliments are those corporations that have promised to restore them to their previous jobs.
This episode had the potential of creating lasting alienation between our citizens of the Northeast and the rest of the country. Luckily, that was avoided. However, it would be a mistake to ignore it and move on, as we often do. There seems little doubt that the mischief originated in Pakistan. Buoyed by this success our neighbour is likely to further sharpen its tricks. Ironically, India with the highest tech savvy population was left to passively defend against a cyber attack instead of counter attacking. We have still not fully realised Pak intentions to hurt us, despite mass of historical evidence ever since 1947. The fact that there has not been a major terrorist attack against India since 26/11 should not be interpreted as a change of heart on the part of our neighbour and any contrary inference would be imprudent and risky.
The relative quiet has been mandated by her deteriorated relationship with US and a worsening situation along its western borders; no General wants to fight on two fronts simultaneously. On ground the LeT continues it’s fund raising unhindered; not a single training camp has been closed; attempts at infiltration into J&K continue under covering fire provided by Pakistani posts; the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack has become a farce. Our overtures of peace have elicited only meaningless rhetoric.
The recent mischief to frighten our fellow Indians from the Northeast is a new front and we need to be prepared for it. A few lessons from this episode are noteworthy and need addressing.
Even if it hurts our national pride, it has to be admitted that it was rather easy to frighten our north-eastern countrymen into a stampede. It indicates that they were apparently feeling insecure in the host States. Little attempts had been made to integrate and welcome them in our societies by our religious and social organizations, corporations and universities over the years. Ignorance leads to prejudice and fear. It is the job of our civil society to remove it. A government cannot do it. Among other things, it will help if our media and education institutions run mass awareness programmes and series about the rest of India particularly about the States and regions whose residents are studying and living across the country.
The student and workers of the northeast either believed that the assurances were insincere or more likely that these institutions were incapable of fulfilling these.
Unfortunately some of the people from the northeast were attacked while passing through the minority neighbourhoods. The police should have taken firmer action. To say that the matter is being investigated is too much of a déjà vu to inspire confidence.
Another unsettling fact was that the appeal and assurances of our Prime Minster and Parliament, the highest institutions of our country, fell on deaf ears. The student and workers of the northeast either believed that the assurances were insincere or more likely that these institutions were incapable of fulfilling these.
The fact that our police just a few days earlier was found incapable to protect even itself in Azad Maidan, could have reinforced their apprehension. The unfortunate spectacle watched over mass media by the entire country, does considerable damage to our society and lends credence to rumours of impending attacks. The fact that no meaningful follow-up has taken place on that rioting beyond arresting a few foot soldiers who were caught on the CCTV, feeds public fear and foreboding. Law enforcement is a basic function of a State and must not be compromised for expediency.
It is the responsibility of our Muslim religious leaders to ponder whether bringing in of foreign quarrels into a secular India, is appropriate. There is no denial that Rohingyas are suffering. But how are they a responsibility of the Muslims in Mumbai?
It might be relevant to mention that Muslim Bangladesh which is next door does not allow them to enter its territory and even refuses to provide water and food to Rohingyas stranded on its border islands. Nor has any other Muslim in the world raised more than a token voice on their behalf. Our violent support cannot in any way help the hapless Rohingyas?
While solidarity of ummah in religious matters is understandable, rioting for that solidarity is not permitted. In true secularism, one’s religion must play no part whatsoever in one’s public behavior or conduct. This must be correctly understood and followed by every citizen of our country irrespective of his faith or ethnicity.