Taslima Nasreen has nothing to do with Nandigram, but for some illogical reason she was moved out of Kolkata as an answer to months of protest against the Nandigram violence in West Bengal. This is the latest in a long list of examples of politics of appeasement practised in India since its independence.
By shipping Nasreen out, the West Bengal government seems to be “giving in” to the demands of Muslims, but it has chosen to act on an issue that has no socio-economic relevance to a majority of them. This appeases known anti-Muslim parties more than the average Muslim individual, as it gives them more ammunition to target Muslims with. It might also please those Muslim leaders and organizations that have been campaigning against Nasreen for their own ulterior motives. These Muslim leaders can now claim victory and be on the lookout for another symbolic issue to add another feather in their cap.
The violence in Kolkata that lead to Nasreen’s ousting happened on Wednesday, 21 November, on a protest call by a small group called the All Indian Minorities Forum (AIMF). Contrary to its name, the AIMF is not found all over India, nor does it represent all its minorities. Its president, Idris Ali is known for raising emotive issues. He was found guilty of being in contempt of the high court when he reportedly urged the imams of Kolkata to defy the court ban on the use of loudspeakers for azan.
Last week’s protest was attended by a few thousand, and for some unexplained reason the protesters resorted to battles with the police. The Kolkata Police, which should be an expert in dealing with demonstrations of any kind, was ill-prepared to handle the small numbers of youth engaged in the violence.
Just five days earlier, about 100,000 Muslims had descended on Kolkata for a peaceful demonstration against the violence in Nandigram. This was organized by Milli Ittehad Parishad, a body made up of various Muslim organizations such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Jamaat-e-Islami Milli Council and Majlis-e-Mushawarat. If the Muslims of West Bengal really wanted to resort to violence, why didn’t they choose that Friday’s rally instead of Wednesday?
Some other questions: Why did the state government “give in” to a few violent youths and a small, unknown organization, but not pay attention to the silent cry of 100,000 Muslims and a respectable, established Muslim organization? Are we not sending the wrong message to the Muslims of India that the only way to get your voice heard is violence? Does that explain the bomb blasts in various cities all across India? Also, why is the government not ready to budge on Nandigram, which is a social, economic and justice problem? What made it listen to the demand of a few Muslims on an issue that is symbolic and of religious sentiment?
These questions are not only for the West Bengal government; it is asked of all states and the Centre. Government officials, professionals, journalists, businessmen and everyone need to realize that if India is to reach its full potential it has to listen to the legitimate demands of the majority of Muslims. Fortunately, their demand of justice, equality, dignity, security, education, employment, etc., are those of any other Indian, there is nothing religious about these. Issues and demands that are religious in nature should be seen on their merit and not because of an opportunity to play the politics of appeasement.
Let not a tiny violent minority dictate what Indian Muslims want. More important, let not politicians reward this violent minority. If political parties are allowed to keep playing appeasement politics, they will keep Indian Muslims, and India, backward.
Kashif-ul-Huda is the editor of news website www.TwoCircles.net. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org