Joker in the pack
Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary (Home) Alok Sinha deserves a Razzie for determining that no offence can be made out against state minister Yaqoob Qureshi, who has placed a Rs 51 crore prize for the head of the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Muhammad. Mr Sinha's facile reasoning is that the threat made was against "a person living in a distant foreign country". Putting his heart on his sleeve, as it were, he went on to add that such declarations were normal in a democracy. On both points Mr Sinha could not be more wrong. Democracies do not condone threat to murder. Further, under the Indian law he is supposed to uphold, abetment and incitement to murder, regardless of the nationality or location of the individual, is a crime. What he has done, instead, is to show why it is possible to get away with murder in the state: because its administration and police have finessed the fine art of evading responsibility. As the man in charge of the state's law and order, Sinha ought to throw the book at the irresponsible minister and charge him under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
To take the view that the statement was a consequence of hurt religious sentiments is to get on to a slippery slope. After all, it is on the basis of alleged hurt to religious sentiments that the Sangh parivar justified the demolition of the Babri masjid. In this context, a number of Muslim voices, including that of prominent imams, who have condemned Qureshi's statement is more than welcome. So far the reaction of Indian Muslims to the outrageous cartoons printed in Denmark and elsewhere has been mature. Muslims across the country have been hurt by the depictions, but there were only scattered spontaneous demonstrations, and most subsequent protests were restrained. But now it seems retrograde political forces like the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) of Hyderabad are trying to use the issue to provoke violence.
In the case of UP, the Samajwadi Party's pandering to communal elements has been a matter of disquiet for some time now. The UPA government needs to exercise restraint and vigilance on the issue. Because the Sangh parivar will be the net gainer from any pandering to communal politics.