“Terrorism Has No Religion” —Ahmed Bukhari Shahi Imam, Jama Masjid, Delhi
“The Indian Muslims feel marginalised and prejudiced. They are framed and implicated and the law stands harsh upon them. Every Muslim is not a terrorist but every terrorist turns out to be a Muslim. This is acutely and brutally embarrassing for the whole community,” said the 13th Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi, Ahmed Bukhari. He, who took to Imamat on 14th October 2000, speaks candidly in chaste Urdu on different issues from terrorism to Hindu-Muslim demarcation to government and Muslim as a vote bank. How a majority of Muslims are living in plain hell, these homeless, deprived of work and struggling to keep body and soul together are caught, framed and slapped unnecessary charges. The rough sleepers are picked from public parks and streets and booked under NDPS. In an interview to Syed Wazid Ali, Shahi Imam talked on many issues concerning the Muslim community. Excerpts:
How do you look at terrorism in India?
Why India, it’s a global threat. Terrorism is faceless and has no religion. To link it with Muslim will not be fair. Even Saffron outfit, Sadhvi Pragya and Col. Prohit were found involved.
Is Kashmir issue a crucial part of this terrorism, militancy cited in the valley when JKLF and HM operated in order to defend themselves from the BSF and the Army?
Yes, you can say that the Kashmir issue is the epicenter, but then that was a different time. The issue was extremely grave when the innocent were slaughtered at the time when Jagmohan was the governor there.
Pakistan is believed to sponsor gun powder show across the LoC. Is that so?
Absolutely, that funds terror but you see what is happening in Pakistan today. Within Pak itself people are insecure as they keep falling prey to terrorist acts. Maoists and Naxalites are too close to the neighbouring country.
How will this be resolved?
Peace will prevail through dialogue only either today or in years to come. But before that the peace process should start. Talks are the only way out to find an amicable solution.
Where does the problem lie? Can this be resolved?
In the system, in us, in you… A terrorist caught turns out to be a Muslim, either he is an ISI agent or related to some terror outfit like Jaish, HuJI, LeT even to Al Qaeda and now Indian Mujahedeen. No, this cannot be resolved by the government in power. Otherwise it would have been solved long before. Humanity is the key to solving this issue. It’s about time we forgot Hindu-Muslim divide and joined shoulder to shoulder to combat the menace.
February 2002, Godhra massacre, how do you take it?
It was absolute a communal flame sparked off by Narendra Modi, Chief Minister, Gujarat. He is wholly responsible for the whole carnage in which about 2000 Muslims were slain.
Modi is a demi god and worshipped by many those who follow the doctrine of Hindutva. So much so the Muslims were seen supporting him. He is sure to retain his place in the state, in coming elections, your say?
Whatever he is doing let him do in his state. Modi is known to stage the show pretty well. Those Muslims shown on televisions are either framed or they must crawl to him for their vested interests or they are not Muslims at all.
Which party do you think should come in power and whom should you support?
Can any party that comes in power think about the aam aadmi’s needs and slash down the inflation rate? No political parties do so except for the fact that they go about garnering brownie points. Every one of us in the prevailing scenario is wrestling with price hike. Let’s see what NDA does in the centre (if it comes), I can think of voting for it.
Why BJP or NDA? Are not they the same thing?
Congress stabs in the back, but the BJP stabs from the front.
Muslims are believed to back Congress, is it true?
Yes, they do but now they too have seen through their double standards and fork-tongued version. They cannot be browbeaten into doing what Congress wants them to do.
What if Modi becomes Prime Minister?
I did not say that, I said that the BJP without Modi is capable of leading the country. As long as communal forces pervade, the country cannot flourish.
IPS Sanjiv Bhatt the then DCP who saw the pogrom from a close range, now has been sent to prison, what’s that all about and how do you assess it?
Look, Modi is a dictator he can do anything. Bhatt is honest I sympathies with him. He has been bailed out, he fell prey to the highly coloured report.
What kept him mum all these nine years, though he could have spilled the beans earlier on if there was something fishy?
He must have had to undergo certain mental tortures. He must have been suppressed under pressure now he thought this appropriate time to open the can of worms and the real colour of Modi is revealed.
Like you’re speaking of BSP and its unity, can’t the Muslims stand parallel on one single platform?
There are loads of differences and reservations about the whole issue. These cannot be sorted out unless they are ready to sink all their differences once and for all. We, if ever have a party in Parliament we will be able to raise and discuss issues related to Muslims’ education and their jobs, rather than being dependent on others. This is time for action rather than just be happy about casting our votes and keep on suffering till the next election.
After Tehelka had exposed Amit Shah (Ashish Khaitan’s sting), State Home Minister was cornered and put behind bars on being found under a cloud, but Modi made an escape route smartly, what game did he play?
Modi is a smart politician with chutzpah. He knows how to play his cards—he had to sacrifice something so as to retain his chief ministership. Muslims (majority) are in a pathetic situation, deprived of education and constantly living in grinding poverty that compels many to take to crime as a means of survival. How can they be brought on a par with others, with the mainstream?
They should be given job opportunities and free education so that they understand their capabilities and take up work rather than be pushed into crime and other like activities. The government, if sincere, must see this dark side and help them wriggle out of the mess.
The Muslims are divided and end up fighting with each other. We are no force to fend for ourselves. We must stand united on the political dais to fight for our rights and justice.
What’s your standpoint?
I must emphasise the line again that we need committed and dedicated leaders like Kanshi Ram and Mayawati who have done a great deal to their community. Muslim leaders are hell bent on lining their pockets and benefiting their families rather than address the plight of the community.
Most Muslim leaders are either uneducated or ill educated and are responsible for the deplorable condition of the Muslims today as they cannot differentiate between the good and the bad except to fill their treasures. how can this gap be bridged?
Education, the Muslims remain deprived of, has been the only culprit for long. Maybe schools and other institutions draw a thin line on the basis of caste and religion, as a matter of fact they want to study and do well. Besides, they must be given reservation in schools and colleges.
How can you say that the Muslims are insecure?
Muslims are used as a vote bank. Before an election they are wooed and sweet talked into getting what they want. Once the elections are over, their promises turn lies and all the dreams come crashing down like a pack of cards. The Muslims are terribly insecure. In many cases in the past the Muslims fell prey to the police’s brutality. Moreover, there is no law and government protecting them. This makes them insecure and when oppressed and tortured they come out into the streets to protest against such injustice. Then they are labelled as an atankwadi.
Muslims with a crab-like tendency do not see a Muslim make progress, besides, many leaders hold high posts but once they have reached there they forget the community and its people and turn their face when it comes to helping them in a sticky situation. Why is a Muslim an enemy to the other Muslim?
Very true, I never ask a Muslim to come to my rescue if the need be. I know that first he will dilly-dally then if at all he does he will start blurting it out publically and he will end up reminding you of his obligation. I tell you an incident, I had some work which could have been done by a gentleman, who happened to be a Muslim and I had this at the back of my head that he would not favour me. I then turned to ML Khurana, the then CM of Delhi, who in no time solved the problem.
Why have the Muslims not taken to education and remain confined to a ghetto?
Those whom we have elected our representatives to raise the issue in Parliament do anything but table our issues there. No government at least Congress has ever been interested in uplifting the standard Muslims’ education.
Some Muslim ministers in the cabinet are ruling the roost; do you expect something from their quarters for the minorities?
They just renew the old hope. Once they reach this height, they remain no longer a Muslim. They hobnob with the top notch in the coterie so that they can stick to their kursi.
You are said to fly into a rage abruptly and pounce upon reporters lobbying questions at you bitter to your taste?
There’s nothing like that. I know who you are talking about. In a PC (Press Conference) one reporter asked a question and I replied, then this reporter from Zee News repeated the same question despite the fact that I’d already replied. He sort of provoked me, this all happened.
This is a journalist’s job to put questions and you have to field them, why irritate?
There was something wrong; he pestered me, getting asked questions does not irritate me at all.
Do you ever think of going to Parliament to personally raise the voice of Muslims?
No. I am least interested in politics. I am happy where I am. I do not want to reach a stage where I am folding my hands in front of all and bowing to them.
How do you look at Anna’s Lokpal Bill?
Fine, if he stands his ground but in my opinion corruption is a grave issue that has gone skin deep. It cannot be ironed out overnight.
You appeared miffed over his staging the drive, and there was some linguistic misfire (with reference to Gujarat CM)…
No, there wasn’t any but then yes, he talked about everything except the welfare of the Muslims. Moreover, it was well fuelled by RSS that can never talk of Muslims’ uplift. It is no Gandhism nor is he a Gandhi. Gandhji never marked a line between the Hindu and the Muslim.
How can corruption be stopped in its track?
Corruption is an official face and Indians have got accustomed to this age-old custom. A policewallah spends the whole day standing in the scorching sun, working against the time for a princely salary frustrates him, and above all, his monthly expenses are far more than his salary. So he finds a way out to make up with. Bribery in a way is good as the Muslim voice remains inaudible without hush money.