Friday, September 29, 2006

The Truth of Malegaon - The Story Behind the 8/9 Terror Attacks

For a change most of the dead bodies were buried, and not burned. The terrorist attack took place not on a Diwali evening, but on a Shabe-e-Baraat afternoon. The blast did not happen on a Mangalvaar, but on a Jumma. The worshippers who were trampled to death were not rushing out of temples, but from mosques.

For a change it was the Muslims who were the primary victims of terrorism.

But the terrorist attack in Malegaon, which killed 37 people and left more than 100 injured on September 8, 2006, is of no lasting significance, other than its 'breaking news' attention span. Malegaon is no Mumbai. The people who died, many of them children, were no middle-class wealthy citizens of this shining country. A large number of victims included beggars sitting outside the mosques for Friday zakaat.

What Will Happen

There will be a repetition of certain scenes of the past: one lakh rupees would be doled out by the government as relief money to the relatives of the dead; BJP will blame Congress for having a soft spot for Islamic terrorists; Manmohan Singh will affirm faith in country's 'inherent strength'; editorials will call it a conspiracy to disrupt India's communal amity; doubts will be cast on Pakistan and Bangladesh based terrorist groups. But the sad fact is that the Malegaon tragedy will not sear the soul of the nation as the Mumbai train blasts had.

The Dirty Town

Situated in the Nasik district of Maharashtra, Malegaon is a symptom of the worst aspects of urban India. It is also a depressing reality of the mofussil heartland. Malegaon is a kind of city which has no civic sense, no considerate administration, and which seems to have no visionary citizen. It is a city that does not even have a single civil hospital. It is a place where people have no occupation other than dealing with intricacies and petty politics of religious differences. It is also possibly the only town in India to witness processions in support of Osama bin Laden right after 9/11.

Interestingly, Malegaon is sometimes called a 'terror town' - In May 2006, twelve kilograms of RDX, five AK 47 rifles, 1000 cartridges and 10 magazines were seized from an electrical shop.

The Muslims of Malegaon

Malegaon happens to be, let's put it delicately, a Muslim majority town. Muslims constitute three-fourths of the population in this city of 7.5 lakh people. Majority of them are from UP, Bihar and many hail from Bangladesh. The town itself was settled by Delhi Muslims who were fleeing from the violent response of the British after the failure of the 1857 revolution - the first war of independence.

Hindu Muslim Conflict - The Same Old Story

Malegaon's short history is littered with bloodbaths and communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. The first one started in the 1960s over the clashes arising between the Ganpati Visrajan and Muharram processions. Since then Malegaon hasn't looked back from its steady march toward communalism.

However, the city once used to be a great textile center, which consequently was the only link between Hindus, who supplied the raw materials, and the Muslim, who were the weavers.

After a riot in 2001, which resulted after the police firing on the post-9/11 'Hail Osama' demonstration, any pretense of Hindu-Muslim amity disappeared. Hindus moved out of Muslim dominated neighborhoods while Muslims shifted out of Hindu mohallas. Now both the communities live on opposite sides of a filthy river called Mausam.

Further, the downfall of the textile industry left unemployed youths, Muslim youths that is, with no avenues but to do dirty, but paying, jobs for the conservative Islamic organizations, many with divisive and terror agendas. The town took no time in becoming synonymous with acronyms like SIMI, LetT, and RDX.

Malegaon's reputation is now so badly ruined that families from other towns think twice before marrying their daughters to families living there.

Only One Conclusion

No one will grieve long for the innocent dead of Malegaon. No politician will introduce schemes to improve the living standards of this wretched city. No effort will be made to turn this Muslim-majority urban disaster into a successful model town. Nothing concrete will be done to get this city, and this country, out of its Hindu-Muslim tragedy. No one cares - be it a secular or a communal government.

India, and all of us Indians, stand disgraced.

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