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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 19:12 GMT
Muslim hopes and fears
Saeed Naqvi

Senior journalist and commentator Saeed Naqvi offers his personal reflections on what the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya meant for India's Muslim minority.

I believe Indian Muslims remain at a crossroads even today, 10 years on from Ayodhya - and there is still no-one to show them the way.

The immediate reaction of an ordinary Muslim who watched the television images of the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 was to ask this question:

Indian Muslims need a visionary leader whose caste and creed are immaterial

"If this Congress Party government failed even to save a building, can it save us?"

Up to that moment, Muslims had absolute faith in the Congress Party, as the guardian of India's secularism.

India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the undisputed leader of the Muslims and even after his death in 1964, the Muslim community maintained faith in the Congress Party.

But when on 6 December 1992, the Congress government - headed by PV Narasimha Rao - failed to prevent the disaster at Ayodhya, several questions started to plague Muslim minds.

They asked what benefit there had been in giving Congress their steadfast support.

Leadership failure

Some Muslim leaders added to the confusion rather than showing true leadership. Community figures such as Syed Shahubuddin and Abdullah Bukhari came up with not one single suggestion that could have served the interests of the Muslim community at that time.

Indian Muslims need a visionary leader whose caste and creed are immaterial. What is needed is a leader with a healing touch and someone who can boost morale.

I actually believe it is dangerous to talk about leaders for particular religions or castes. After all, what exactly is a Hindu or a Muslim leader in the Indian context?

And where would this country end up if we started having leaders representing Hindu castes such as Brahmins or Thakurs or Harijans?

Suspicions

The 11 September attacks in the US have made Muslims synomymous with terrorism. All over the world, we are now viewed with suspicion.

World Trade Center
The attacks on the US heightened suspicion of Muslims
And in my view, the media has played a big role in creating this image of Muslims.

The riots in Gujarat earlier this year have only fuelled this insecurity among the Muslims of India.

But I am absolutely certain that the outcome of state elections in Gujarat later this month will spring a major surprise and the whole country will watch.

I believe that the average citizen in India, and Muslims in particular, have tremendous hopes for the Gujarat elections.

They are waiting and hoping that those who ride the communal tiger in India could finally be heading for a fall.

Ayodhya special report

Ten years on

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