Good Muslim, Bad Muslim – A Response to Ashish Khetan on the ‘IM’: Warisha Farasat

Guest Post by Warisha Farasat

The recent opinion piece by Ashish Khetan in the Hindu has yet again reiterated the false and malicious stereotype: that Muslims somehow have something or the other to do with terror, either when they are directly involved or when they are silent about others of the community being involved. It is disappointing that the debate is framed in the stereotypical, “good Muslim”, “bad Muslim” tenor rather than a real engagement with issues of shoddy investigation and communal bias that marks terror investigations in the country. Perhaps the greatest disservice that has been done to idea of justice has been linking an entire community to terrorism.

While acknowledging the problem that beset terror investigations including that many innocent Muslims have been wrongly implicated in these cases, Khetan then relies on the information provided in these very investigations claiming that Indian Mujhaideen exists, and have been “busy bombing” places in India. Furthermore, he says that the evidence that support his conjectures are Investigation Reports (IR) reports on which he seems to place great reliance. He states, “Unlike confessions, which are of doubtful utility because they often involve coercion, interrogation reports are never intended to be made public or produced before any court.” It is precisely because of the fact that investigation Reports cannot be held up as evidence in a court of law, that we cannot rely upon them for our selective purposes to either make or break the facts of the case. Sharib Ali in his response to Ashish Khetan on Kafila has also outlined several reasons why the piece was problematic. I am raising some additional points as well as reiterating some of the arguments made in that piece.

Within the criminal justice system, there is a hierarchy of materials that can be relied upon as evidence, and Section 164 statements recorded before the Magistrate is something on which courts have placed great reliance. In fact, even statements recorded by police officers under Sections 161 and 162 can only be use to contradict the witness and no more. It is surprising how such a serious charge of terrorism against a group can be made based on evidence that can never be tested in a court of law. Nonetheless my point is not about whether Indian Mujahideen exists or not. Honestly, I do not know. But the sad fact is that we may never know for sure.

My point is much more fundamental and hinges on how justice has been consistently subverted by the police and investigating agencies in this country and after most bomb blasts, young Muslim youth have been implicated. Two recent examples: even before any official had said anything after the recent Mahabodhi temple blast in Bodhgaya, there were media reports quoting unnamed sources and claiming IM was responsible which implicitly meant a Muslim hand. The NIA, that is investigating the case, had issued a sketch but still the media speculation was focused along predictable lines. Similarly immediately after the recent Hyderabad bomb blast, around 400 Muslim boys were rounded up in the city.

Unfortunately, we have compromised cardinal rules of legal and procedural justice for terror investigations in such fundamental ways, that it will take a lot of time and effort if at all faith in these processes could be restored. And, yes, it will be most difficult for those persons or communities that have been targeted in these processes. It will still take far longer for a Dalit woman to walk into a police station and register a complaint of rape. And, yes, it is far more difficult for someone poor or belonging to the Muslim community to establish their innocence. These deep set class, caste and communal biases cannot be wished away by saying that most Muslims are good but some of them are terrorists and the Muslim community should own up to them. These biases can only be fought by delinking religion with terrorism and not by pitting “good Muslims” against the “bad ones.”

Finally, Khetan’s advice for the members of the Muslim community to move from the discourse of “minority rights” to that of justice is quite patronising. Minority rights is not something that the Muslim community has chosen for itself but is the framework in which historically governments choose to look at them. Here is what Khetan concludes: “And the demand for reinvestigation should come, besides others, from the Muslim community itself. This will help Muslim discourse move from minority rights to justice for all.” Why should the Muslims specifically come up with such a demand as a community? And what does Khetan mean by Muslim community here? Is it some homogeneous monolith that exists in one block across India? Besides it lends itself to the same convoluted argument that Indian Muslim have a responsibility to shout condemnation for each and every incident of terror. Why should fair investigation be subservient to a demand by Muslims only because Muslim youth are the receiving end of the shoddy and biased probes?

In fact, if anything the discourse of the Muslim community has been marked for a struggle for justice by survivors of communal violence. The support of secular and democratic groups too has been based on the principle of justice and the rule of law.

There are dozens of high profile terror cases like Samjhauta Express blast, Mecca Masjid blasts, Malegaon where the willful fabrication of evidence to implicate Muslims by police has been established by government’s own investigating agencies. Stage-managed encounters are national news and who are the victims of such cold blooded murders: Muslim youth. So if anybody needs to confront anything in this country, it is not the Muslims. It is the government, the parliament, the judiciary that need to urgently confront the police and other law enforcement agencies and ask direct questions about these innumerable false cases. If the surface is scratched a little bit, there is no doubt that it will expose the inherent biases and communalism against Muslims at every level of law enforcement.

And if the pitch of the condemnation is the yardstick to ascertain the so called Muslim opinion, that too has been done.  There is not a single Muslim group – political, social or religious – in India that has not come out strongly whenever there has been an act of terrorism. It is, however, unfair to ask Muslims across India to trust a few dozen Interrogation Reports recorded by the police to establish the existence of Indian Mujahideen when the police across the country have been fabricating evidence and facts to implicate Muslim youth.

Lastly, there is no monolithic Muslim identity, and I am at a loss to understand who Khetan is appealing to? All the stereotypes that have plagued these terror investigations are reflected in these subtle and overt biases, and unfortunately, Khetan has somehow reiterated these rather than challenging them.

Warisha Farasat is a lawyer based in Delhi.

7 thoughts on “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim – A Response to Ashish Khetan on the ‘IM’: Warisha Farasat”

  1. This is a much needed article, however it feels a little reactionary as it does involve its own generalizations which are as vapid as the ones made by Mr. Khetan.

    The problem with the narrative over IM or Religious Insurgency in Indian, in general, happens to be the unwillingness for either side to look at the horrendous nature and path of this discourse in the United States and Europe.

    As people fine-tune and haltingly rationalize their cognitive dissonance, we have two sides that are dug-in with barely valid points, and arguing louder with each turn until they turn into backfire effect inducing shouting matches.

    The idea that there is no groupthink in the Indian Muslim community towards a violent response is as fallacious as the farcically investigated piece published by Mr. Khetan. Unlike earlier times in India where insurgent groups needed a mic in their face for their message to get out, these days the silence of background machinations is their biggest strength.

    Any rational person will take great umbrage to the suggestion that all Muslims are complicit, directly or indirectly. However, this very same person will be equally guilty of a fallacy if they are unable to come up with a response better than “No Muslims are complicit and your entire theory is wrong.”

    Sweeping statements like the ones in this article, absolve guilty parties like the MIM or the various student movements in Kerala or WB of any wrongdoing whatsoever. The incursion of Hezbollah’s tech, Hamas’ fundraising patterns and the general recruitment/enlistment at Universities or Religious Events, all these are motifs of a tried and tested methodology which has produced effective results elsewhere.

    If a dispassionate defense cannot be made from an ethical point of view, then a biased one should at least accommodate for the possibility that the other side has stated facts but misrepresented them. This article fails on that account as well.

    Arguing with Mr. Khetan is going for the low-hanging fruit, and can be wholly avoided; the lowest common denominators of the Sanghis and their mobs can be written off anyway. Instead of a point-by-point rebuttal, a better approach to muckrakers can be to attack the validity of their claims without dismissing them entirely.

    Like

  2. When a single regional identity is bestowed to represent many faiths and gradually that identity transforms into religious identity, many confusions bound to flow. We are a poor nation, most Hindus and Hindu Converts are poorly educated (only 18% Indians are high school pass). Those slim middle class and over-whelming lower class (Arjun Sen Gupta Committee Report) can’t understand the world beyond their family, locality or state. It is a challenging task to recruit cops with sufficient understanding from this milieu. These deficiencies weakens the nation everyday from inside.

    Like

  3. if there can be Good Hindus (secular) and bad Hindus (communal), then why can’t there be good Muslim and bad Muslim?
    As every Hindu is now a days subject to the Secular litmus test, so is every Muslim subject to some other litmus test

    Like

  4. First of all, this is not an article worth my comment. I am simply asking, have you guys heard of Santosh Koli? Did she have same kind of ‘human rights’ as your team and warisha so proudly wnat to uphold? She is, a woman, daughter of a very poor father, a brave fighter against the system and ruling class (may be thats a negative point?!?) and above all – a dalit? Did her death make a few flutter in your ever-bleeding hearts? If not, please let us know why. In some other time we can discuss how many hindu youths are encountered for what reasons, how many of them are wrongly confined in jail or died mysteriously in jail. We can dig out their identities too, as it is most important factor to ascertain ‘human rights’.

    Like

  5. Well there are many postings on Facebook on “Good Hindu vs. bad Hindutvawadi” as well. or good secular Hindu vs.bad Manuwadi Hindu.

    Like

  6. A very balanced rebuttal to patronizing, derogatory canards against Muslims that are put out almost everyday by so called journalists and Modi’s stable of hacks. The question of Indian Muslims being treated as a vast unified monolith who are somehow, albeit covertly, party to these acts of terror, has to be tackled upfront, fearlessly and boldly by Muslims themselves. It is now obvious that for all the ostensible fair play in police investigations, we have very reason to suspect that the innate prejudice against this minority is unlikely to go away on its own. With the advent of the 2014 elections, political games are ping to get even dirtier and Muslims should be prepared to question motives/ tokenism put out by various parties.

    Like

  7. Ashish Khaitan has done some investigative reports which purportedly support innocent Muslim youth’s cases against police and intelligence agencies but, then what he has written about Muslim society shows the same patronising attitude which we have been hearing from many “Muslim-loving/secular” politicians. This couplet of Hafiz Jallandhari seems apt to understand Muslims’ predicament:

    अब तो कुछ और भी अँधेरा है, ये मेरी रात का सवेरा है
    रह्ज़नों से तो भाग निकला था अब मुझे रहबरों ने घेरा है

    Like

We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s