The Pioneer Edit Desk, Editorial, 18 June 2008
Ahmadiyas are Indians, too
The cancellation of a conference of the Ahmadiya community by the Andhra Pradesh Government last Sunday is a gross infringement of the secular principles on which the country is founded. The State Government cancelled this conference, which was to be held at the open air Lalitha Kala Thornam in Hyderabad, by citing a patently spurious 'technical' reason -- that there was a "major breakdown" in the electricity supply line. This would have held more water had it not been that several fundamentalist Muslim organisations, which are not particularly representative but claim to be so, had threatened to besiege the place if the Ahmadiyas were allowed to hold the proposed meeting. Clearly the Congress Government in the State was eager to oblige these organisations and thus appease mullahs as part of the party's minority appeasement policy that subverts India's secular polity and divides its society along communal lines. This abject capitulation is in keeping with the manner in which the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre has been pandering to Muslim fanatics under the cover of 'secular' politics. Such capitulation flies in the face of constitutional guarantees and is unacceptable. Followers of every religion, faith and sect are free to practice and preach their beliefs in India; by disallowing the Ahmadiya conference, the Government of Andhra Pradesh, which has sworn to uphold the Constitution of India, has abridged this fundamental right and thus harmed the cause of liberty. Indeed, what the Congress has done is to legitimise the persecution of Ahmadiyas by fundamentalist Muslims -- what is widespread in Islamic countries where theocracy prevails over democracy, has now been given official recognition in India. Coming as it does in the wake of Bangladeshi dissident writer Taslima Nasreen being hounded out of this country simply because some mullahs and their cohorts wedded to intolerant Islam and given to violence in the name of Islam willed it so, the cancellation of the Ahmadiya meeting only serves to confirm, if at all confirmation was needed, that the Prime Minister's "Muslims first" policy is in reality "Muslim fanatics first" policy. In the process, India has been shamed, though not for the first time on account of the Congress's perverse notions of 'secularism'.
The Ahmadiyas are as Islamic as those Muslims who deny them the right to practice Islam and thus denude them of their religious identity. In any event, it is not for a secular state to decide who is or is not a Muslim -- or, for that matter, a Hindu, a Christian or a Sikh -- nor is it incumbent on a secular state to accept the primacy of one sect over another. What the Andhra Pradesh Government has done, and knowingly so, is to set an extremely dangerous and sinister precedent. Its decision will embolden fanatics to force their warped perception on both the state and society. To prevent this from happening and to dampen the spirit of those who are celebrating the suppression of the rights of Ahmadiyas in free India, everybody who cherishes liberty and pluralism must protest against the Andhra Pradesh Government's decision. It would be nice to see our self-righteous human rights activists speak up in support of the Ahmadiyas. It would also be in order for the Opposition to rally support for this persecuted community, unless it is as desperate as the Congress to stoop to any extent for a fistful of votes.