Monday, October 13, 2008

National Dis-Integration Council

The National Integration Council has met in Delhi and agreed to disagree on whatever was on the agenda. In Orissa, Bajrang Dal mobs continue burning down houses and places of worship of Christians, raping, loot and even killing. In Karnataka, things have got better after the state government took some stern action. But in Andhra and Madhya Pradesh, two towns are burning in communal flames. The widening gulf between majority Hindus and Christians and Muslims were on top of the National Integration Council agenda. Nothing came off it. The agenda got lost in the din over whether to ban the Bajrang Dal. I had feared this result in an earlier post here.

Simplicity is the key here but politicians want to complicate matters to create a smokescreen. Both sides — the one demanding a ban and the one opposing it —are just seeking to extract political dividends as the national election draws closer.

Politicians need to ask themselves a simple question: What did we get out of banning Simi or Students Islamic Movement of India? The answer is simple: bloodshed. Simi offices were closed, its members went underground. Invisible, they could execute some of the deadliest terrorist acts. Indian Mujahideen would not have been born had we allowed SIMI to function in the open. If students were allowed to take part in its meetings, some students could expose their agenda, if it was so sinister. But the government loves banning stuff. And the result is there for all to see. We have laws against unlawful activities and if a SIMI member was found involved in such acts, the police could arrest him or her. But since law enforcement is not so dramatic, the government goes for a more theatrical tool called: ban.

India needs to value law enforcement, not just in Orissa but in every corner of this vast country. All citizens need the confidence that a single killing or an act of arson will not go unpunished. And that punishment must be swift. If it takes establishing a new force, a federal agency and special courts, we must get it done and get it done right now. Punish people who burnt Samarmati Express in Godhra and punish those who participated in riots thereafter. Catch the Bajrangis in Karnataka and Orissa, try them and punish them in six months. Don’t ban conversion but make it clear to the aggressive neo evangelists that the law will be after them if they were caught violating the basic tenets of conversion.

Muslims don’t need Sachar Commission handouts, they need integration. That integration will not come until they fear the law as much as a Hindu, a Christian or a Sikh does. Until they feel law will protect them as much as it protects a Hindu, a Christian or a Sikh. Banning Bajrang Dal to balance the ban on SIMI will only create a smokescreen the politicians would hide behind.

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