It will be a while before Mumbai recovers from its ghastly wounds, but that could also be no thanks to some of our political class who see in Tuesday’s blasts a means of nurturing their vote bank. On one hand, Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, is being deputed by the BJP to participate in the Mumbai leg of its nation-wide campaign against terrorism. On the other, it has been reported that at the Union Cabinet meeting on Thursday some senior Congress members sought to play down the possible role of jehadi terrorism, by arguing that ‘Hindu’ groups tended to routinely blame them for such violence.
Mr Modi, undoubtedly a popular Chief Minister, is also a polarising figure in whose watch 2,000 of Gujarat’s citizens, mainly Muslims, were massacred amid charges of police complicity and administrative apathy. Since then, he has failed to heal the torn bodypolitic of Gujarat, which remains a tinder-box of communal passions. What is worse is that jehadi terrorist groups have used the massacres to recruit volunteers for their ‘cause’. An earlier generation of terrorists had used the destruction of Babri masjid to do the same. At the same time, it is difficult to accept the case of those who want to take a soft-line on jehadi terrorism, arguing that a tough approach penalises the Muslim community as a whole. Among the other votaries of this line are UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, and everyone knows why. The fact is that while the overwhelming majority of our Muslim community are loyal citizens, some of them have come under the sway of fundamentalist propaganda. There is sufficient evidence to show that agent provocateurs belonging to Pakistan-based jehadi groups have been able to successfully motivate some of them to carry out terrorist acts.
This bad news comes at a very dangerous juncture for the country. The battle against global terrorism is far from being won, and while the report that al-Qaeda may have set up base in J&K may be far-fetched, it would be imprudent to ignore it entirely. In the past year we have witnessed a pattern of terrorist activities carried out by jehadi terrorists in New Delhi, Varanasi, Bangalore, Aurangabad and now Mumbai. In most cases, a local support structure was subsequently discovered. Considering the numerical size and spread of the Muslim community across the country, every effort must be made to prevent its large-scale alienation and subversion. But while the country must do anything and everything to destroy terrorism and terrorists, root and branch, it can only do so through the politics of conciliation and unity, not polarisation.