First Prove the Guilt, Then Punish the Culprits: JIH Sec-Gen.

MR. NUSRAT ALI, Secretary-General Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, who has just returned from the Caravan for Peace and Justice that he was leading in some West and Central Indian States,

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MR. NUSRAT ALI, Secretary-General Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, who has just returned from the Caravan for Peace and Justice that he was leading in some West and Central Indian States, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, talks to Radiance Viewsweekly on the issues the Jamaat raised during the caravan and some other issues confronting the Muslims in India. Excerpts:

What are the major issues the Jamaat addressed through the Caravan for Peace and Justice?
The very name of the caravan – Caravan for Peace and Justice – suggests its objective and purport. We know that for the last few years our country has been inflicted with the scourge of terrorism – many people have lost their lives, many others rendered homeless. And it also happened that whenever a blast took place anywhere in the country, Muslim youth were charged and arrested on the allegation of involvement in the blast(s). The Muslim youth arrested were further tortured brutally. Little or no voice was raised against this. It was wrong.

Apart from this, riots took place in different parts of the country. Riots used to happen but the frequency with which it happened during the recent past was pathetic. It has a spill-over effect; for example what happened with the Christians in Orissa and Karnataka and add with this the recent incidents of regionalism. These were the alarming incidents that we decided to come up during the caravan. With a message of peace and justice we called upon people from all sections of the society to join hands with us in telling the nation and its citizens to shed off the environment of violence and intolerance.

We also wanted that the government and the police and investigation agencies must realise their duties. For we can progress only if there is peace in the country.

What was the response you received from the masses?
We were accorded with warm welcome at every place we touched as the people were very much enthusiastic about the issues we raised. In this caravan apart from the Jamaat people, members from other Muslim and secular organisations from all over the country came with us – both at the central level and the state level caravans. People took active participation, some were with us from the very beginning and others joined us when the caravan reached the respective places. All the places we went, we saw people more than we had expected.

The most affected lot today is the Muslim youth. So what was the response of the Muslim youth in particular?
The confusion which were there in the Muslim youth because there are one who are mostly targeted –we had different programmes lectures and discussion, but we took out rally everywhere, they participated in  large numbers, in this way they also got encouragement and the voice they raised seems to be coming from the core of their heart. The Muslim youths who earlier seem to lost confidence are now in confidence. And the pressures and tension they had has reduced.

Is the situation going to change or will it continue for some time?
Obviously, it will change. It can’t change within a matter of days, but it will. The situation demands that a strong voice should come from the Muslims in particular and Indians in general. This is just a beginning and Insha Allah if this process continues, it will automatically bring about a change.  People who have been subjected to atrocities should come forward and help in bringing the desired change regardless of their subjective considerations.

Reports say that the Jamaat is going to launch a political party. So when is it expected to come? Will it be an exclusive Muslim party?
We have already acknowledged this in the media that we are going to launch a political party but its details are yet to be worked out. Our political party will be fully committed to the cause of the suppressed and the affected people of the society. This will work on all issues concerning Muslims and other groups like Dalit Christians. We will see that the issues related with women are also dealt with properly.  So far we have observed that the political parties do make promises and sometimes they fulfil them. But they do it only when their political interests are served. So we have always felt the need to launch a political party which will represent the voice of all sections of society equally.

This will not be an exclusive Muslim political party; we will include other secular individuals and organisations to work for a common goal.

The caravan has just concluded, and then the terrorist attack took place in Mumbai, whatever the faith and confidence you have restored among the Muslim youth will once be affected. How do you see this situation?
We have been saying and will always say – we have also mentioned it in the caravan – that one should not mention the name of any community and link an act of terror with any religion. Because it has been a phenomenon that the Muslims have been charged with and arrested and even tortured for their alleged involvement in such incidents. We have been exerting pressure upon the government and investigation agencies not to link terror cases with Islam or for that matter with any other religion or community. First prove the guilt and then punish whosoever the culprits are. Terrorism in itself is a crime and can take any name and form; no religion or community supports this.

Media has played a biased role during the recent incidents. Do you have anything in the pipeline to counter this media onslaught?
Media is thought to be the mirror of society; it should bring out the facts. But we have realised that a section of media has been biased, not all of them. There are people in the media who have worked impartially to present the facts and have been responsible in their duty.

In the recent incidents of terrorism or riots whatever the police briefed the reporters, the latter took it as gospel and did not try to have further investigation. This is not healthy journalism. They should investigate into the matter and instead accepting whatever the police or the investigation agencies say. And then the media played the role of judiciary by giving the ‘judgment’ without trying to know further that such and such person is involved. This is what has happened in the Batla House encounter incident. They did not even wait for judicial decision or further investigation reports.

Yes, the media played a good role during the Gujarat riots. Most of them served their duty responsibly. But during the recent incidents they were not that responsible. And we have raised this ‘media trial’ at the places we went during the caravan.

Presently we do not have a plan for a national media. But yes we have a media cell which keeps an eye on the media.

What do you think should be the role of the police in bringing the desired change?
It is the duty of the police to protect the citizens and ensure peace and justice in society. The police personnel should discharge their duties in an unbiased manner and keep from all sorts of corruption so that the common man feels quite at ease at the sight of a policeman. Only then the desired change can be achieved.

So what do you think that can make the police impartial?
There should be proper training. The training should aim at making them discharge their duties above communal lines. There are provisions for this and many commissions for police reform have recommended those provisions, but the government has not worked on this. We are just urging the government to follow these recommendations and implement these into police reforms. Then automatically it will make our police force impartial.

But what do you think about the homogeneity in the police force?
Apart from the police reforms we have also been demanding from the government that there should be at least proportional representation of all the communities in the police. That will really help to a great extent in bringing a quantitative as well as qualitative change in the police system.