Why did it take so long for AR Antulay to retract his insinuating remarks on the circumstances surrounding the murder of ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, despite the seemingly heavy price he might have had to pay for it? And why has the UPA, and the Congress, been so chary of going the distance and accepting his resignation?
The reason surely is politics. Antulay would never have made, or stood by his remarks if they were purely his personal opinion, and if the intention wasn’t to reap political capital ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. He obviously believes that he has articulated a view widely shared by the Muslim community. That the Congress is reluctant to punish him shows that its leaders agree.
If Antulay is indeed right, and trying to consolidate a vote-bank, what does it say about the community he is targeting? First, it shows that despite the avalanche of evidence, a large section of Indian Muslims remains in denial about members of the qaum being responsible for a number of heinous terrorist acts, and justifying the same by using Islamic scripture.
Actually this is reassuring. It shows how distant the terrorists’ view of Islam is from that of an average Muslim, and how remote and utterly repugnant he finds the idea of setting off bomb blasts in crowded spots, or firing randomly at innocents.
Two other inferences, however, are less comforting. One: if Antulay is correct, it means a good number of Muslims genuinely feels there’s a conspiracy behind Karkare’s death. If so, it’s shocking that a community should have so little faith in the credibility of the state and its police. Two: Muslims also believe that in his pursuit of ‘Hindu’ terrorists, Karkare was a lone, shining exception and that the Malegaon investigation itself will be derailed after his death. This implies that most Muslims secretly believe that Hindu police officers, who dominate the force, are Hindus first.
This is all the more disturbing because, barring the 2002 Gujarat riots, the last 15 years have been relatively free of major communal flashpoints, with relatively harmonious Hindu-Muslim and police-Muslim relations. In recent months a vigilant administration has ensured that despite provocation, there has been no retaliation against Muslims. Any Muslim alienation, then, must be the result of day-to-day discrimination and bias, which the majority community must make an effort to redress.