Mohd Mahir, MP state convenor of the Muslim Vikas Parishad, believes there’s more to the SIMI encounter than what meets the eye.
“This is not an incident related to the functioning of the Madhya Pradesh government or its police alone. This incident contains a message to the country’s Muslim community, plainly telling us that we should either accept the diktats of the government on common civil code, triple talaq, etc, or face the consequences,” he says, demanding a judicial probe by a sitting apex court or high court judge into the encounter.
Mahir is not the only member of the Muslim community who smells something fishy in the administration’s encounter theory. Recently, as many as 18 Muslim leaders, including Shahar Qazi Bhopal Mushtaq Ali Nadvi, also sought a judicial probe into the matter.
Last Friday, many Muslims had gathered in several parts of the state to protest against what they believed was the staged encounter killing of eight SIMI operatives in the outskirts of Bhopal. They just couldn’t see the incident as a simple act of some prisoners escaping from a jail, and then getting gunned down by police personnel. According to them, this was a cold-blooded murder executed as part of a larger conspiracy to teach Muslims a lesson.
Even if their understanding of the situation is misplaced, the SIMI issue only threatens to further aggravate the Hindu-Muslim divide in the state.
On Monday, about 200 right-wing activists turned up at former advocate general of the state Anand Mohan Mathur’s residence in Indore and shouted slogans against him for questioning the authenticity of the encounter. Police personnel deployed at his house foiled their attempts to throw stones and cow dung at Mathur’s house.
Mathur was placed under house arrest on Saturday for trying to stage a demonstration against the encounter. In a letter to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the 90-year-old former advocate general had demanded that the government drop retired high court judge SK Pande as the head of the judicial commission on account of his alleged right-wing leanings, and appoint a senior Supreme Court judge instead.
Professor Zameeruddin, retired professor and president of the Guardians Guild, Bhopal, says: “What happened in Bhopal was glaring. The Muslims are being driven against the wall. But I am not worried (only) about what will happen to Muslims. Ultimately, the religious bigotry being practised here will lead the country to a place where Pakistan stands now. And history will not forgive us.”
Right to Food activist Sachin Jain says that with people viewing the SIMI encounter from a deep-rooted Hindu vs Muslim angle, it was imperative for the government to instil confidence in a section of the society by ensuring a free-and-fair probe into the matter.
So, will the Bhopal incident cause polarisation of votes in Uttar Pradesh during the upcoming state assembly elections? BSP chief Mayawati has already demanded a judicial probe into the killings.
Mahir says this is not a question of politics, but the very survival of Muslims. It’s high time members of the community looked at all possible ways under the constitution’s framework to seek justice, he added.
However, given the nationalistic sentiment being raised by the saffron brigade and the feeling of victimisation pervading the Muslim camp, the bypolls for the Shahdol Lok Sabha and Nepanagar assembly seats this month may just turn out to be a litmus test of the SIMI encounter on the people’s psyche.
Trying to cash in on the situation, BJP leaders have already begun delivering speeches underlining the government’s “achievement” in curbing terrorism. However, it remains to be seen how effective this strategy would be, given that both the constituencies in question are tribal-dominated.