It’s time we stopped the immigrants by Girilal Jain

 In view of the intensity of riots in Bombay, it is not surprising that the voice of moderation and sanity among Muslims should have been heard there loud and clear. Muslims from different walks of life have, for the first time in recent history, felt it necessary to get together and issue a statement dissociating themselves from the provocative utterances of Naib Imam of the Delhi Jama Masjid calling for boycott of the Repub­lic Day celebrations and threatening civil war. This is a welcome development. Hopeful­ly, it will discourage men like Imam Bukhari and his son from adding fuel to fire as they have been doing for years.

But as the saying goes, one swallow does not make a sum­mer. All that can be said right now is that a good beginning has possibly been made.

The reference to the deputy Imam in the Bombay statement should have helped spotlight a related problem which has been evaded since Independence – the use of mosques for political purposes. Imam Bukhari has perhaps been the worst offender in this regard and he has been encouraged m this dangerous practice since the seventies by various political leaders.

It is equally plausible how­ever, that he has attracted the maximum attention and public­ity on account of his location in the Capital. He is certainly not alone in the abuse of the mosque as a political platform. The government has a responsibility in the matter. But it is not an issue which it can tackle without the cooperation of the saner sections of the Muslim community. As in the case of namaz in roads m Bombay, there would otherwise be a reaction. Already some Hindu sadhus are begin­ning to talk of writing a new Constitution.

The recent riots, particularly in Bhopal and Bombay, have drawn attention to another danger ahead – accumulation of modern arms and their extensive use. This doubtless speaks of the government’s failure to check smuggling of arms by men who live by this nefarious trade. But much more is involv­ed than normal smuggling.

As the Sunday Observer brought out once again last week, Pakistan is deliberately sending arms into India beyond Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir with a view to promoting the kind of civil war Imam Bukhari threatened recently. India can live with Islamabad’s campaigns to get other Muslim governments and organisations to condemn it. But arms smuggling is a different proposition altogether.

A third item, already on the agenda of individuals and organisations concerned with the future of India, has been pushed up and become a top priority.

This relates to the illegal immigration of thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims month af­ter month. Certain parties like the CPI-M have found these immigrants a useful ‘vote bank’ and certain intellectuals are too high-minded to make a distinc­tion between an Indian and a Bangladeshi. But they shall be making a grievous mistake if they think that they can perpetuate the soft approach. Reac­tion is beginning to build up, especially as it has come to be believed that immigrants have participated in riots. Hard fig­ures are impossible to get in view of the government’s ‘per­missive’ approach. But official estimates place the number of illegal Bangladeshis in Delhi alone at around 350,000.

Under the existing dispensa­tion, it is not possible to distin­guish between Bangladeshi Hin­du and Muslim immigrants.

But by any civilized reckoning, a distinction has to be made between victims of persecution and seekers of economic oppor­tunities and it may not be long before such a demand arises – with a force which will not be easy to repel.

The Observer of Business and Politics, 23 January 1993

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