“Sometimes you feel that there’s more respect for animal rights now than there is to be a Muslim in Australia,” he (Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils) said.
As images of Dr. Mohammed Haneef, in chains doubled up with his head between his knees being taken to a detention center for terrorists where he would be kept in 23 hours solitary confinement, are flashed across the world, the Osamas and the Al-Zawahiris must think that Christmas is early this year because this is exactly how they want the “war on terror” to be played out in the world media. Nothing enrages moderate Muslims more than to see one of their own, being humiliated and persecuted on the flimsiest of charges based on supposed facts now proven to be lies, as it confirms the Jihadi central thesis of the war of civilizations and the victim-hood of Islam in that war.
The Australian authorities through a mixture of incompetence and Jihadophobia have dug a gigantic hole for themselves [At this point of the post, inspired by the age-old habit of BBC and New York Times to point out how India is a land torn apart by caste and communal tensions in the context of most India pieces, I will add that till 1975 Australia had a “White Immigration Policy” by which a majority of non-Whites were excluded, by law, from becoming Australian citizens]. Unable to prove that Haneef had any kind of foreknowledge of the Glasgow incidents, the Australians announced that no matter what the result of the criminal case, regardless of whether he was innocent or guilty, he would be punished by the revoking of his immigrant visa.(“Cancel the certificate and get this guy out of Australia. The story ends there and he can become someone else’s problem.” said an Australian official)
If Australia’s policy towards terror is marked by more than a touch of overaggresiveness, the Indian approach ,especially under the present government, has been characterized by an over-compensating political correctness where connecting terrorism with radical Islam is seen as “Hindutva/BJP-ism”. So says Shekhar Gupta, in his editorial in the Indian Express:
The issue here is not of comparisons with its predecessor, who the UPA accuses of communalising the phenomenon of terrorism, of tarring one community and victimising citizens belonging to it. But has the UPA itself been guilty of the same charge, though in reverse? Has it served itself, and India, well by communalising the very approach to the fight against terrorism? Ask the police forces in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Hyderabad, the counter-terror veterans in the intelligence agencies and even the army, and the answer will stare you in the face. After the attacks they faced in the first flush of the Mumbai rail attacks for ‘targeting’ Muslims and the hurry in which they were forced to call off the searches and interrogations have put the fear of God in the minds of securitymen. Politics is much too complicated for them to figure, and fighting this kind of terror is an unconventional and risky business at the best of times. They have simply concluded that this is not the time to take those risks. This is reverse-communalisation of the fight against terror and the responsibility for this lies not so much with the security machinery, or the Union home ministry which controls it, as it does with this peculiar minority-ist politics the Congress has fallen prey to.
Of course, not everyone agrees with this. According to NDTV supremo, Barkha Dutt, the doyen of Indian TV journalism, India’s shocked reaction to Haneef’s fate is an expression of hypocrisy since the nation has no problem when similar things happen to minorities in India.
As an example, she mentions the case of SAR Geelani, a self-professed Kashmiri separatist and a co-accused in the Parliament attack, to show how biased the Indian judicial system is in its treatment towards Muslims.
Most people, except the severely indoctrinated ones, should have no issue with Mohammed Haneef being initially taken into custody —if your SIM card winds up in the hands of people trying to blow up an airport , it is nothing but foolishness not to believe that you will be treated as a suspect. Similarly, there should also be no ethical problems with the arrest and investigation into SAR Geelani because there existed telephonic conversations between Geelani and the Parliament attackers where it was believed that there were coded references to the attack—-a belief that the judge who sentenced Geelani to death shared with the prosecution and the Supreme Court judge who declared Geelani innocent did not (he believed the defense contention that what was being alluded to was a domestic dispute).
The crucial point that should be understood is that once the case against SAR Geelani was found unsustainable in court, he was not penalized further by the government. This is unlike what has happened in the case of Haneef who is going to be deported i.e. punished even though there is no legal case against him simply because the Immigration Minister says “I’m satisfied the cancellation is in the national interest”, a belief the Minister seems to be under no obligation to substantiate through a legally-binding argument.
Presumably, by Barkha Dutt’s line of reasoning, any person belonging to a certain religion, who is picked up by the authorities on charges of terrorism and against whom the courts ultimately return a not-guilty verdict (something that happens often due to incompetent police work or motivated pulling of strings) becomes yet another example of the system’s communal bias.
People like the Dawood brothers could presumably also claim to be of that victimized category. So would gentlemen like Bitta Karatay, the butcher of 42 Pandits and someone who is not coy in announcing how many he has slaughtered whose detention was quashed by the Supreme Court, after which he returned to a hero’s welcome in Kashmir. [Imagine for a second, the judicial system in Australia allowing a person who confesses to having killed tens of Australians to be released.]
Of course, I am not saying that the Indian justice system is doing great or is better than the Australian one. Manufacturing evidence, fake encounters, intentional bungling and politically motivated police work have been known to happen time and again. And the biggest tragedy is that each time these happen, the motivations of the honest few, fighting the thankless often morally ambiguous battle on terror, are tarnished and their hands subsequently get tied behind their backs in order to preempt charges of bias. But the point that needs to be remembered through all this is that, by and large, the judicial system in India evaluates terrorism cases on merit (as opposed to going with what the prosecution wants or what public hysteria demands), a fact that is attested to by its frequent severe reprimands to the police and the CBI when they have got it wrong. At the very least, they do not seek to punish a man against whom guilt has not been proven.
Barkha Dutt’s contention that miscarriages of justice, if they are committed against minorities in India, are insufficiently condemned is also rather harsh. There was a huge outcry at SAR Geelani’s arrest from those who believed in his innocence, and it was something that got a lot of press coverage. Legal teams representing Geelani were voluntarily formed.
Concluding with a NDTV-like hat-tip to the fashion world, JJ Vallaya, one of India’s premier fashion gurus gave Tariq Dar, the model whom Dutt mentions, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (why a relatively obscure model in the Indian fashion-world, Tariq was chosen post-arrest we can only speculate) to walk the ramp during India Fashion Week wearing Vallaya’s designer wear.
While Ms. Dutt makes a huge point of Australia’s concern through the example of a man who offered to post the bail of 10,000 dollars she of course neglects to mention the above incident.
But then again, I cannot say I am surprised by that.