An ineffective move

Published : May 26, 2001 00:00 IST

In seeking to ban the Deendar Anjuman, the BJP-led government appears to have been influenced by considerations of furthering its majoritarian politics.

RAVI SHARMA in Bangalore

THE Union Home Ministry's April 28 notification of a ban on the 75-year-old Deendar Anjuman is in keeping with the Bharatiya Janata Party's worldview in which the greatest threat to the security of the nation and peaceful coexistence of the minorities and the majority Hindu community arises from Muslim organisations backed by Pakistan and not from majority fundamentalism. The notification also raises serious questions about the politicisation of law enforcement in the country.

Deendar Anjuman had been accused of engineering bomb blasts between May and July 2000 on the premises of churches in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa and carrying out a hate campaign against the Christian community (Frontline, September, 15, 2000). The order declaring it an unlawful association was issued under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The validity of the ban will be determined by a single-judge tribunal. If the notification is upheld, the ban will be effective for two years from the date of publication of the notification in the Gazette of India.

THE Deendar Anjuman sect was founded in 1924 by Hazrat Moulana Syed Siddique Kibla, who was born in Balempet (Andhra Pradesh) and migrated to Gadag in Karnataka. Siddique Kibla claimed that he had a dream in which he was 'visited' by Channabasaveswara, the founder of Veerasaivism. Siddique Kibla proclaimed himself to be an avatar (incarnation) of Channabasaveswara and propagated a kind of syncretic Islam and a composite form of god. Realising that Gadag was too small a town for his activities he moved to Hyderabad where he started an institution and established a congregation at Asifnagar.

Kibla died in 1952 in Hyderabad and an annual urs is performed at his samadhi. Currently the sect is headed by his son, Syed Zia-ul Hasan. A resident of Mardan, a town near Peshwar (Pakistan), Hasan is believed to have visited India periodically. His known visits were made in 1977, 1996 and 1999.

The sect, however, has been disowned by both Veerasaivas and mainstream Muslims. The latter do not consider Deendar Anjuman a part of their religion. The basis of the sect's philosophy is that Veerasaivas are Dravidians who were subjugated by the Vedic Aryans, and they could only be liberated if they and Muslims united. For this reason the sect has little appeal north of the Vindhyas where there are no Veerasaiva communities. Veerasaiva presence is restricted to Karnataka (Lingayats), Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (Pandarams).

As early as 1926 the Anjuman met with strong protest from Hindu groups, which felt offended by Siddique Kibla's two-volume Kannada book Jagat Guru Sarwar-i-'Alam, in which he argued that Prophet Muhammad was actually Kalki, whose arrival had been predicted in the scriptures of Hindus, and therefore the salvation of Hindus lay in converting to Islam. Siddique Kibla contended that God had sent him on a special mission to reveal the "truth" to Hindus.

To this day, the organisation holds on to its belief that Islam is but a fulfilment of the prophecies of Hindu scriptures. On the face of it this belief would appear to be rooted in goodness, aiming as it is at uniting Hinduism and Islam. The sting, however, lies in the detail. For instance, as early as 1922 Siddique Kibla had presented his version of Hindu-Muslim unity, which envisaged mass conversion of Hindus to Islam.

It was this desire to convert India into an Islamic state that brought Deendar Anjuman close to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. The Home Ministry stated: "The Anjuman was working on a grand design of the ISI to foment trouble in the country by pitting one religion against another with the objective of reducing the moral strength of the country, weakening internal structure and weakening the facade/thread of secularism."

EXPERIENCE has shown that banning an organisation is hardly an effective way to curb its activities. A number of organisations have been proscribed in India but their activities have not been stalled, for reasons ranging from loopholes in the law to ineffective enforcement of the ban. For instance, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was banned three times - after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination (1948), during the Emergency (1975) and following the Babri Masjid demolition (1992). But it managed to keep its cadres active during each ban. Similarly, in more recent times, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in Assam and the Ranbir Sena in Bihar were outlawed. This has hardly stopped their activities.

Thus, going by the record of such bans, the present notification holds little promise of being effective in curbing the activities of the Deendar Anjuman. Legal experts have expressed their doubts about the ineffectiveness of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in the long term. Said Additional Solicitor-General of India Abhishek Singhvi: "The Act provides for a detailed procedure of inquiry and full natural justice to any organisation. Indeed, if that is not provided, the Act would have been unconstitutional. However, one major lacuna that remains is that even after banning an organisation, its activities carried on under a different name or by a front organisation need not be stopped."

This was exactly the case with the RSS when it was banned in 1992. In the five months and 25 days of the ban the RSS continued with its activities through its sister organisations such as the Janadhikar Samiti and the Durga Vahini for women and girls, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat for Sikhs, the Samarasata Manch for Dalits, Yuvak Shaurya Shibir and Yuvathi Shaurya Shibir (training camps for young men and women) and several keertan sammelans. Worse, the government's actions on this front were of an ad hoc nature. The ban order, issued under Section 3 of the Act, confined itself to accusing the RSS of demolishing the Babri Masjid. But even that charge was not pursued properly. At the hearings at the P.K. Bahri Tribunal, the government failed to present even a single RSS worker who had participated in the demolition. Further, the proceedings of the tribunal created disquiet when Justice Bahri called the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement a "laudable" one and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) a body that pursues "laudable objects". In the event, the entire episode reiterated the ineffectiveness of the Act in curbing the activities of the RSS.

It is therefore not difficult to conclude that in seeking to ban Deendar Anjuman the BJP-led government was influenced by considerations of furthering its majoritarian politics. Such an argument is buttressed by an examination of the government notification, the text of which points to blatant politicisation of the law enforcement machinery.

The accusations of the government against Deendar Anjuman range from the specific to the ludicrous. Specifically, the government has charged the Anjuman with engineering bomb explosions on church premises and other places in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. However, the notification states: "The Deendar Anjuman has links at Mardan in Pakistan and has been organising bands of disgruntled Muslim youths in India into a militant outfit for launching jehad with the avowed objective of total Islamisation of the sub-continental (sic)." However, the law of the land is silent on any "total Islamisation" or total Hinduisation projects. The Constitution guarantees freedom of belief and the freedom to propagate one's faith. At the same time the Indian Penal Code prescribes strict penalties for fomenting ill-will among communities on the grounds of religion, language, caste or other affiliations. Why the Deendar should be banned when majority communal organisations have in the recent past been treated with extreme leniency, may need some explanation. By the same argument, the charge seeks to reinforce the BJP's oft-repeated claim that the greatest threat to peace in the subcontinent is from Muslim organisations acting under the tutelage of Pakistan and not from the Sangh Parivar.

In totality, the notification seems to back the efforts of the Home Ministry to show that the bomb blasts were a result of communal tensions between Muslims and Christians. Even at the time of the blasts, Hindu fundamentalist groups and their apologists had triumphantly seized on the news of the arrests of Anjuman members and promptly ascribed all such attacks to Islamic organisations.

Not surprisingly, such an attempt has not gone down well with Christian groups, which have accused the National Democratic Alliance government of protecting the bigger culprits - the RSS and the VHP - which, they say, are responsible for the bulk of anti-Christian activities. John Dayal director and secretary of the Centre for Policy Research and Communication, said: "We do not see the Indian situation as a Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Christian, Hindu-Sikh people-to-people conflict, but violence against each of the minorities by people professing certain ideologies, the most pernicious of them being of the Hindutva parivar."

Some of the Muslim organisations have already denounced the Anjuman for working against the teachings of Islam. Several organisations have denied that the Anjuman is Muslim. The Amir-i-Shariat of Karnataka, Mufti Ashraf Ali, has reiterated a 15-year-old fatwa declaring the founder of the Anjuman a kafir and the organisation as being well outside the principles of Islam. The organisation has been described as propagating heresy rather than Islam.

Given the seriousness of the charges against the Anjuman and its alleged links with the ISI, it was to be expected that the government would go beyond political considerations in tackling it. By notifying a ban against the Anjuman the government has overruled a far more effective option of lodging a criminal case against it.

OFFICIALS of Karnataka's Corps of Detectives (CoD) and Andhra Pradesh's Criminal Investigation Department (CID), who investigated the serial bomb blasts in 10 churches, a temple and a mosque in various places across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa, have expressed satisfaction over the ban. Members of the sect, however, feel differently. Syed Zia-ul Hasan said in Islamabad that the ban was part of a conspiracy to exterminate the minorities and establish Hindu Rashtra and that the sect would challenge the decision in a court of law.

However, one argument is that given the nature of the evidence against its members, the Centre found it difficult not to impose a ban. Officials of the CoD alleged that members of the sect were involved in inciting communal trouble, possessed timing device-activated explosives, worked to organise jehad, passed on classified information to foreign countries, distributed communally sensitive pamphlets purportedly written by members of the Hindu community warning Christians against their proselytisation efforts, and had links with the ISI. They had also planned to target the railway network, power grids, oil refineries and defence installations, the officers alleged.

According to informed CoD sources, the ban came after "exchanges between the Home Ministries of the Centre and the States of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh". But surprisingly, though it considers the organisation as a whole responsible for the blasts and not "just a few misguided elements" as claimed by the sect, the Centre has chosen not to file criminal cases against any of the sect's leaders. In all, in the four cases registered by the CoD, five charge-sheets have been filed against 37 people, including an airman of the Indian Air Force.

The police claimed that the conspiracy to cause communal disturbances and embarrass the BJP-led government was hatched during the annual urs in Hyderabad in September 1999, when Syed Zia-ul Hasan organised a separate meeting with chosen members of the sect.

Some leaders of the sect told Frontline that Deendar had been falsely accused of violence, but admitted that "misguided youth belonging to the sect could have been involved". They also averred that the ban would not deter them from going ahead with their religious tasks, including the uniting of all religions".

With the process of charge-sheeting the accused having been completed, the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka governments would, subject to the approval of their respective High Courts, constitute special courts to try the accused. According to CoD sources, the Union government has been requested to take steps for the extradition of Syed Zia-ul Hasan and his son Zaheed Pasha, both Pakistani nationals.

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