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Mumbai: bomb blasts <i>again</i>

They’ve done it again. Three bomb blasts killed 21 ordinary civilians in Mumbai and injured more than a hundred during the rush hour on Wednesday. Only cowards of the worst kind unleash unprovoked violence on innocent people – women, children, old people, men who have never harmed a soul in their lives.   

Why don’t these inhuman monsters understand that they cause incalculable harm  to their own people? They unleash a never-ending cycle of anger, hatred and revenge, which is causing untold misery to the millions of Muslims around the world, while they cry jihad and terrorize ordinary, harmless, poor people. 

I understand the anger of the jihadist, the Tamil Tiger, the Kashmiri separatist, the committed Naxalite. But why don’t they exact revenge on the men who killed Muslims, Sri Lankan Tamils, Kashmiri children both Hindu and Muslim, or hapless adivasis?

Everyone knows who these people are. But the murderers of innocent Iraqi civilians, Sri Lankan Tamils or Muslims in Gujarat are protected by armed guards. It would be truly brave to assassinate those men. If the terrorists had guts, they would target presidents, prime ministers, politicians and generals who unleash the dogs of war unjustly. It is total cowardice to kill innocent men, women and children in the name of revenge.  

I vividly remember an old Muslim woman in Gujarat. Mad with grief – her only child, a beloved son, had been killed in the pogrom in 2002 – she screamed, ‘The Hindu men who killed our people told us to go back to Pakistan. I have never left my village in Gujarat. I have never even been to the big city [Ahmedabad]. What do I know of Pakistan. Tell Advani [India’sDeputy Prime Minister, in 2002, Hindutva Nationalist party leader] to go there. He was born there. Leave us alone.’

These are the kind of people who are victims of bomb blasts and revenge pogroms. Ordinary folk with no evil inclinations or malice in them towards anyone. But they pay for the sins of the venal politicians who order their generals to make war on civilians, and to rape and kill ordinary people. How can this be justice and how can ANY terrorist group, whether it’s Al Qaeda or the LTTE, imagine any God, Muslim, Christian or Hindu, can condone the murder of innocents?

In India, animosity between Muslims and Hindus goes back centuries, the legacy of Muslim invasions hundreds of years ago. But, they coexisted. Periodically, fights broke out. At the time of Independence there was violence, hatred and a terrible carnage of an unimaginable scale. But despite that, India survived. There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan or any Muslim country except Indonesia, a fact not widely known. Yet they survived. Co-existed, not in perfect harmony, but neither with serious enmity.

9/11 changed the world. And changed the world most horrendously for Muslims, especially in the West. In India, the Bombay blasts changed life for Muslims as nothing had ever before. Pre-9/11,  Muslims were perceived as different, often clannish. But so were Christians, Parsis, Jews,  Anglo-Indians, Armenians – all the minorities had their little ghettos, though they socialized superficially and broadly with each other.

This was normal, not strange. The scenario has changed slowly, but perceptibly since the Bombay blasts. Life has become far more difficult for the average Muslim. Muslim terrorists have done this to their own people. Made them the enemy in their own country. Many progressive Muslims are being engulfed by a wave of fundamentalism.

There is little choice. A young Muslim friend sadly explained: ‘I grew up with friends from all communities, Hindus, Christians, Parsis and Muslims. Now you hear the conversation stop when you enter a room. My brothers who were like me have started moving more and more towards Muslim groups. There’s safety in numbers. Also we get threats from fundamentalists if we don’t go to the mosque on Friday and if we avoid wearing a burka. Girls whose mothers and grandmothers didn’t wear burka are forced to conform because of the fundamentalists.’

Even as I write this, I am overwhelmed by a sense of futility. After all, my blog is not read by terrorists or fundamentalists. But I wish this message could go out to them: ‘You are cowards if you kill ordinary, innocent people. And you are the worst enemies of your own people.’

Can Al Jazeera please send this message out?

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