This is her statement about Maoists, and even if I am using only that which has been quoted in the press, there is still room for no obfuscation or being wrongly interpreted:
“If I was a person who is being dispossessed, whose wife has been raped, who is being pushed off his land and who is being faced with this police force, I would say that I am justified in taking up arms. If that is the only way I have to defend myself,” she said when asked if armed struggle was justified. “We should stop thinking about who is justified... You have an army of very poor people being faced down by an army of rich that are corporate-backed. I am sorry but it is like that. So you can’t extract morality from the heinous act of violence that each commits against the other.”
The above quote is important because it comes after the association she has drawn. Her opinion about holding talks with them is valid, but it does not hold true when she says:
“My fear is that because of this economic interest (in mineral-rich states), the government and establishment needs a war. It needs to militarise. For that it needs an enemy. And so in a way what Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress.”
Where is the connection? The Indian Muslims for the BJP were a political nemesis that had to be decimated only because of their religion. They did not militarise because of their faith or otherwise. Muslims did not declare a civil war, they did not take up weapons, they do not constitute a whole, in fact. Mumbai and Gujarat happened not because of economic interest. The ones who were raped and dispossessed did not arm themselves; it was done by those who were anyway opposed to certain aspects of governance or had already formed organisations that may be called militant in nature. None of the retaliatory measures have been as combative and was in one case said to be sponsored by the Dawood underworld gang, which earlier had political patronage. The Indian Mujahideen or any of the smaller groups have not been able to sustain themselves.
From her remarks, it appears as though the entire community is on a crusade, and by such implication she makes the insidious insinuation that it would be justified. The Muslims will decide whether they are justified in doing something or not as per the laws of the land. That is what they have always striven for, including the maulvis who have said time and again that they will go for judicial probes and judicial decisions, including the one on the Babri Masjid.
I am not venturing into the Maoist Movement right now, but at least in this context she seems to completely ignore the role of Muslims in the political arena. They have never sought an armed struggle. It should be remembered that Muslims were not up against the corporate lobby in the BJP, but a strong middle class. This middle class resentment arose because the anti-Muslim theories fed by the BJP had managed to both emotionalise and intellectualise the issue. The middle class was at the centre of the internalised war in this case and continues to be so.
The weapons used are prejudice.
And prejudice, unfortunately, is not just bias from one kind of people. Liberals use it in large measure, too. When Roy was at a seminar with Pakistani peace activists among a predominantly Muslim crowd, she described Taslima Nasreen in these words: “She is not a great writer. Don’t waste your energy on her.” A week before that, at the same venue, along with Girish Karnad and many other intellectuals, she had battled for her.
So, how do these two versions work in tandem? Why are there different standards for the same person, the same issue?
With this background, it is indeed disconcerting to watch a complete disregard for the nuances of cultural reasons of protest. One would understand, though not fully accept, a comparison with insurgency in Kashmir. But most certainly not with Muslims. However, it is unlikely that the liberal brigade will raise any objections, for several reasons:
• You question the Roys and their ilk and in the populist and popular imagination you cease to be a liberal.
• You will not be considered a qualified proponent of dissent, for you will appear to be against the Maoist struggle.
• You will not be seen as supportive of Muslims, the last great bastion left for the liberals, much like vote banks for politicians.
What many will not understand is that to be a true liberal you do not need to follow a specific liberal ideology. That would be the antithesis of liberalism. If you do not question the people who speak your language even if you disagree then you are creating some new gods and heroes. You may not have the same reasons to support insurgency groups and armed struggle as this group. And while Muslims have got support from many people, no liberal or activist can change how people think about them. That will happen through symbiosis. We are dealing with history here, not mineral rich corporate games.
The Indian Muslim is fighting a daily battle for acceptance as a rightful citizen and not rejecting the state.
It perhaps won’t suit the professional liberal agenda but Muslims are not going along with this sham comparison.