October 9, 2001


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Arvind Lavakare

No limit to 'secular' lies and distortions

Miya ki daud masjid tak is an old aphorism which, when transliterated, means, 'The Muslim's run ends at the mosque.' Its message has wisdom: everything must have a limit. But there's apparently no limit to the conduct of India's 'secular' fundamentalists towards any BJP-weighted government. What follows is proof of that.

On September 27, 2001, the Vajpayee government declared the Students Islamic Movement of India an 'unlawful association' through the home ministry's notification number 705 published in The Gazette of India Extraordinary.

The next day, leading English newspapers had headlines screaming 'SIMI Banned' but, after a mere para or so on the government's notification, went into a spin on the riotous reaction to it. The reasons cited in notification 705 for imposing the ban were ignored almost totally.

In the days thereafter came caustic editorial comments. 'It's a political ban,' they proclaimed; it's 'cynical and dangerous,' they shouted; 'it's selective,' they averred; 'it's part of Hindutva's hidden agenda,' they roared. All this calumny simply poured from these 'secular' newspapers without even one of them publishing the 130-odd words that spelt out the Vajpayee government's opinion on why SIMI needed to be proscribed.

Millions of readers therefore tended to accept all that calumny. After all, they were being 'informed' and 'educated', they thought, by a newspaper which professes to practise the 'journalism of courage,' or by one which is 'the oldest in India', or by one which is 'India's national newspaper'. With hard facts concealed from them by the very institution that clamours for transparency in governance, newspaper readers could hardly be blamed for thinking that the ban on SIMI was ill conceived, biased, unjust.

In reality, the core of that gazette notification -- a copy of which is with this writer -- is the Vajpayee government's opinion, quoted in full below, that --

  1. SIMI is in close touch with militant outfits and is supporting extremism/militancy in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and elsewhere
  2. SIMI supports claims for the secession of a part of the Indian territory from the Union, supports groups fighting for the purpose, and is thus questioning the territorial integrity of India
  3. SIMI is working for an International Islamic Order
  4. During Ikhwan conferences the anti-national and militant postures of the SIMI were clearly manifest in the speeches of the leaders who glorified Pan-Islamic Fundamentalism, used derogatory language for deities of other religions and exhorted Muslims for jihad
  5. SIMI has published objectionable posters and literature which are calculated to incite communal feelings and which question the territorial integrity of India
  6. SIMI is involved in engineering communal riots and disruptive activities in various parts of the country.
It is for these reasons that the BJP-led government's notification 705 believes that 'the activities of SIMI are detrimental to the peace, integrity and maintenance of the secular fabric of Indian society and that it is an unlawful association'.

Is the Union government empowered to do what it did? Yes, under subsection 1 of section 3 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967).

Why the ban on SIMI now when the non-BJP state governments of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh had recommended it earlier to Delhi? Terror Tuesday, September 11, resulting in the Taleban and Osama bin Laden igniting a call for jihad worldwide, is the crystal-clear reason why. As notification 705 says, 'The Central Government is further of the opinion that if the unlawful activities of SIMI are not curbed and controlled immediately, it will take the opportunity of (i) escalating secessionism and supporting militancy; (ii) instigating communal violence in different parts of the country and thereby disrupting the secular fabric of the country.'

Let us now get some legal definitions clear before dealing with the 'secular' wolves.

Under section 2 of the above act, 'unlawful association means any association -- (i) which has for its object any unlawful activity or which encourages or aids persons to undertake any unlawful activity, or of which the members undertake such activity; or (ii) which has for its object any activity which is punishable under Sec 153-A or Sec 153-B of the Indian Penal Code, or which encourages or aids persons to undertake any such activity, or of which the members undertake any such activity.'

And what is 'unlawful activity' under the above act? Its section 2 defines it to mean 'any action (i) which is intended... to bring about... the cession or the secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union, (ii) which disclaims, questions or disrupts or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India'.

In the context of the above background, see the 'secular' response.

In its first editorial of September 29, The Times of India, Mumbai edition, wrote, "According to the home ministry the provocation for the crackdown was SIMI's overt support to Osama bin Laden." Where it got that reason is a mystery because nowhere in notification 705 is Laden even mentioned.

That did not prevent the particular 'charge' from being attributed for the ban once again by that newspaper -- in a report by Aunohita Mojumdar published on October 1.

In a separate story on the same day, Mojumdar wanted readers to believe that one 'charge' in the ban by the government pertained to 'SIMI's protests against the alleged burning of the Quran in Delhi in March 2001 and publicising the same through the Internet and posters'. That's another lie if you look again at the six clauses of notification 705 that made the central government form its opinion on SIMI.

Mojumdar also contests the charge against SIMI of being in 'touch with militant outfits'. She ridicules this 'charge' by wondering how SIMI's act is different from the Union government holding 'much-celebrated meetings in Srinagar as also in Amsterdam with leaders of various militant groups'.

The perverse distortion in that argument makes one puke. The government, remember, was negotiating peace with those 'militant groups' while SIMI is, according to clause (i) of notification 705, in close touch with such outfits for 'supporting extremism/militancy in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and elsewhere'. Incidentally, note how Mojumdar dropped the adjective 'close' before 'touch'. Inadvertent or deviant?

Mojumdar's report also says 'the ban [on SIMI] does not seem to have been preceded by any government effort to proceed against it [SIMI] under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code'. If Mojumdar had only met the right man in government or surfed the Net, she would have learnt of a home ministry report that 'there are a large number of cases under sections 153 & 295 of the IPC registered against SIMI in the last few years'.

Then there was Siddharth Varadarajan, a senior journalist of The Times of India. In his piece on September 30, he concealed four of the six charges against SIMI and instead chose to highlight just one -- that 'SIMI is working for an international Islamic order'-- to lampoon Home Minister Advani's disapproval of SIMI's goal. He wrote that in the copy he had seen the Constitution of India and the Indian Penal Code, and such an aim is not a ground for banning an organisation. How flippant and infantile can a journo be?

The Concise Oxford Dictionary says a constitution is a 'body of fundamental principles according to which a State or other organisation is governed'. The key phrase there is 'fundamental principles' -- not laws, be it noted. A body of laws is enacted to uphold those principles. If the Constitution of India were, in fact, such a body of laws to decide on bans and bails, we just wouldn't need the IPC or hundreds of other legislation that exist. Varadarajan's anti-BJP bias probably prevents him from understanding this difference.

Further, our Constitution commits the people of India to a secular order and not to a theocratic order -- Hindu, Christian or Islamic. So, isn't SIMI's support to an Islamic order unconstitutional? Proof of its evil intent is its Bihar zone secretary's statement, 'The Quran is our Constitution. If the Indian Constitution clashes with the Quran, we are not bound by the Constitution.' That statement is not imaginary; it was a major sub-title in ... Varadarajan's newspaper!

As for the IPC not banning the goal of an Islamic Order, section 153-B there makes it an offence if anyone makes or publishes any imputation that any class of persons cannot bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India. And, remember, an offence under section 153-B by an association makes it liable to be declared an 'unlawful association' with imprisonment for up to five years.

One 'charge' against SIMI that Varadarajan says 'may well be true' is that 'the group is spreading intolerance towards other religions, especially those based on shirk, or polytheism'. That condescension itself is so blatantly a fašade for being 'objective' as he proceeds to use that very 'charge' as a peg to demand a ban on the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena. There are two fallacies in that 'logic'.

First, the wording of clause iv of notification 705 is at considerable variance with what Varadarajan wants millions of Times readers to believe. As seen earlier, that clause just does not mention 'polytheism' or 'intolerance'; instead, it refers to SIMI leaders' speeches, which 'exhorted Muslims to jihad'. Most importantly, that clause stresses 'the anti-national and militant postures of SIMI'.

Secondly, there is the demand for a ban on the Bajrang Dal -- a demand shared by 'secular' politicians like Deve Gowda and Congress chief ministers Digvijay Singh and Ashok Gehlot -- on the ground of it having conducted an arms training programme.

Now the Bajrang Dal's arms training is not, by itself, an offence under the existing law. The IPC's section 153-A makes it an offence provided the training is 'intended' to be used for 'criminal force or violence'. Has anyone any proof that that is indeed the Bajrang Dal's intent? The Bajrang Dal's 'Trishul Diksha' programmes are hardly the terrorist training camps of Pakistan or Al-Qaeda.

As for banning the VHP and the Shiv Sena in the manner of SIMI, they are not anti-national and extra-territorial, are they? What's more, the Supreme Court has decided that merely inciting the feelings of one community or group without any reference to any other community or group cannot attract either section 153-A or section 153-B of the IPC (AIR 1997 SC 3483 Billal Ahmed Kaloo v State of AP). So what is unlawful if the VHP provokes Hindus into demanding a Ram temple at Ayodhya to obliterate an old insult of history? What is unlawful if Bal Thackeray's Sainiks demand that Muslims owing allegiance to Pakistan should leave India?

Nothing wrong there -- nothing really, if only our 'secular' fundamentalists limit the lies and distortions of their hate-Hindu mindset.

Arvind Lavakare

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