The re-emergence of the Congress party after the recent elections has created confusion and insecurity for Muslims. The media and some Muslim leaders are celebrating the downfall of the BJP and the ‘resurgence’ of secularism. The record of the Congress party suggests that there will be no respite for Muslims under Congress rule. Never, from the partition of Pakistan to the creation of Bangladesh have Muslims been assured of justice under a Congress regime. Never in history has Congress failed to encourage Hindu organisations to marginalize Muslims.
The British viceroy Lord Linlithgrow considered Congress a "movement of Hindu hooliganism". Gandhi undermined leaders such as Subash Chandra Bose and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who attempted to change this ‘Hinduness’ of Congress. Jinnah learnt the hard way to accept that "Congress is a Hindu body". Ambedkar, the "father of the Indian Constitution", stated with more clarity, "It is no use saying that the Congress is not a Hindu body. A body, which is Hindu in its composition, is bound to reflect the Hindu mind and support Hindu aspirations. The only difference between the Congress and the Hindu Maha Saba [an earlier version of the BJP] is that the latter is crude in its utterances and brutal in its actions, while the Congress is politic and polite." Arundati Roy, a winner of the Booker prize, gave a modern interpretation: "The BJP is, in some senses, a spectre that Indira Gandhi and the Congress created. Or, if you want to be less harsh, a spectre that fed and reared itself in the political spaces and communal suspicion that the Congress nourished and cultivated… The BJP … has chosen to light its fires directly on the streets, and in the homes and hearts of people. It is prepared to do by day what the Congress would do only by night."
The integrity of secular Congress policies is already being tested: their first mission directly concerning Muslims was the talks with Pakistan: the two-day foreign secretary level talks in New Delhi that started on June 26. The meeting followed a week after Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri and Indian external affairs minister Natwar Singh met in China.
Pakistan foreign secretary Riyaz Khokhar was to discuss vital issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, the road-map for the ‘peace process’, and confidence-building measures (CBMs), with his Indian counterparts
Officials in New Delhi said that they were aware that some movement on Kashmir was necessary to sustain the peace process. So they would propose a host of CBMs, civilian as well as military. For the first time both parties would attempt to approach the talks not with "stated positions" but with new ideas. However, neither India nor Pakistan would reveal what these new ideas would be. This is the first such engagement between the two countries for six years; foreign secretaries last met in Islamabad within months of the nuclear tests in May 1998. But subsequent tensions, despite attempts to break the ice in Lahore in 1999 and in Agra (2001), ensured that such meetings were not held again. Details of most confidence-building measures have not been made public. The two sides would discuss peace and security, and the confidence-building measures, on June 27 and the following day would be reserved to discuss Kashmir.
On whether the talks on Kashmir indicated any change in India’s stance, the sources from New Delhi’s basic position remained the same. One parliamentary resolution stated unambiguously that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an "integral" part of India. Natwar Singh, the new foreign minister, had earlier made it clear that talks on Kashmir would resume on the basis of the Simla Agreement (on the existing political borders). However, this is a clear betrayal of the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, who were promised self-determination during the Standstill Agreement signed in 1948. The Simla Agreement discourages tripartate talks involving Kashmiris, and proposes a bilateral resolution involving only Pakistan and India.
More than 700,000 Indian troops confront less than 5 million civilians in the Kashmir valley. No chronicle can truly describe what the people of Kashmir have endured. The atrocities include torture, gang-rape, cold-blooded murder and "disappearances" (kidnaps and abductions, often followed by murder). Human-rights activists have documented more than seventy thousand killings and a similar number of disappearances in the valley. The number of ‘disappearances’ exceeds the scandalous proportions reached in Pinochet’s Chile. The systematic genocide practised by India on the people of Kashmir is unforgivable. Tales of Congress betrayal are never-ending. Sheikh Abdullah, the "lion of Kashmir", who stood with the Congress and India (despite enjoying the full support and trust of his people to choose any destiny by himself) was imprisoned and humiliated by the first prime minister of India. The brutality unleashed by the occupying forces in Kashmir owes much to the policies of Congress. Nor does the future seem likely to be any better.
It was during Congress rule under Rajiv Gandhi that the gates of the 464-year-old Babri Mosque were opened for Hindu pujas (acts of worship). January 1989 marked a crucial watershed: meeting on the fringes of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, the Dharma Sansad –” the VHP’s religious assembly –” decided that no earthly power, such as the government or the judiciary, could thwart it in its "divine mission" to construct a temple at Ayodhya, and so it proved. Despite all the historical and archaeological evidence, and the laws of the land, ‘secular India’ could not prevent the destruction of Muslim security in India on December 6, 1992.
On that date, the Babri Masjid was martyred. The demolition was no simple matter of vandalism. Behind it lies a long history of Hindutva politics, celebrating aggression and violence, declaring war against other communities, and scorning legal and democratic norms. The Babri Masjid was chosen as a token victim. The Ram Janmabhoomi agitation was designed to demoralize the Muslims, the Sangh Parivar having decided to express its supremacy by destroying the 464-year-old mosque and constructing a Ram temple in its place. Once again it was during Congress rule, this time under the leadership of Narasimha Rao, that the Babri Mosque was razed in broad daylight while the entire police force and administration watched. As news of the demolition of Babri Masjid spread, a new wave of anti-Muslim pogroms swept across the country.
Because Congress ruled India for more than four decades, the so-called secular party oversaw the virulent growth of anti-Muslim propaganda and policies. It is no coincidence that the anti-Muslim movements articulated by Sangh Parivar went unchecked by Congress governments. Provocative speeches, unabated media propaganda and distortion of historical facts: all were implemented to demoralize Muslims and were green-signalled by Congress governments. It would therefore be naÃ¯ve to expect a Narendra Modi to emerge overnight as butcher of Gujarat or an Advani to mobilize millions of thugs to demolish a Mosque, without the approval of a seasoned party like Congress.
A draconian anti-Muslim law, TADA, was introduced during Congress rule to arrest thousands of Muslims, most of whom are still being held in Indian jails. Today the new Congress government is trying to appease Muslims by promising to abandon POTA (the prevention of terrorism act), another law introduced by the BJP. The Muslim massacre in Gujarat has been devastating. A meticulously-orchestrated state-sponsored genocide has shocked the Muslim world. However, the trends of anti-Muslim pogroms were set under Congress, and thousands of such pogroms have been conducted.
The Vajpayee-led government’s attempt to bully Pakistan by testing India’s nuclear might in 1998 has been widely criticised. However, Indira Gandhi launched India’s nuclear threat as early as 1974, three years after her Congress government interfered in Pakistan’s internal affairs by creating Bangladesh, three years after signing the Simla Agreement.
The BJP government’s open relationship with Israel has caused concern for Muslims in India and the Arab world. But it was the Congress government in 1992 that established full diplomatic relations with the Zionist state. Muslim leaders have also openly criticized BJP’s call for a ‘uniform civil code’, because it would mean interference in Muslim personal law. Yet did Congress not bring in the constitutional amendment of Muslim personal law that resulted from the Shah Bano case?
BJP and its Sangh Parivar affiliates have prospered under Congress. Their anti-Muslim infrastructure, built across the country, took root with blessings from anti-Muslim elements within the Congress party. Muslims in India need to learn lessons from the hypocrisy and brutality of the Congress party in the past, lest they fall into new ‘secular’ traps that may unfold soon.