Gul Panag dropped an intellectual bombshell yesterday (Nov 28) when we called her, surprising the nation with her vision and comment on the Mumbai bombings. She quoted, “I don’t know how my comments will be taken by you but this had to happen and is not a complete surprise. Me and you only take notice of terror when it enters the malls or the hotels. But if the same thing happens in the slums we are ok with it. This is a much larger issue than it looks. Have you ever taken into consideration the Islamic population of India? It’s in the region of 18 to 20%. The figures keep on varying. Do you know what percent of Islamic population is living below the poverty line? It’s 40%. I am not a fundamentalist but I am looking at a much bigger picture. There are certain segments of the society which have not got its due, whether you agree or not. But if you look at the demographics, you’ll understand. Whatever the population of Muslims in India, is that population proportionate and reflect in the jobs of this country? When people are poor and have no where to go, they have no choice but to turn into radicals. I hope my views and comments make people understand the broader picture”.
Gul’s comment ignited anger demanding an explanation to the above quote. While some demanded an explanation to her remark, others said it wasn’t enough, and some even agreed to what she said. One of the replies to her quote on Bollywood Hungama said, “I do agree with what Gul is trying to say, people are just taking it wrongly. Islam doesn’t teach violence and neither does it allow innocent killings and mass murders. When Muslims do something like this in terms of revenge, they are called terrorists but when Hindus, Jews and Christians do it, they are called Freedom Fighters”. Debashri, one of the surfers of Bollywood Hungama who thinks that Gul’s comment was a flaw, said, “It’s not because of poverty that some Muslims take the fundamentalist route. Then we would have had an equal number of Hindu terrorists too. I think we have made a habit out of making terrorists look like victims! It is fashionable to side with them. Do we then take out guns and start killing people? No. The trouble is the indoctrination that takes place”. Another surfer Roopa also disagrees. She said, “Poverty doesn’t justify the birth of radicalism. Many terrorists are rich and come from educated backgrounds (Osama). If people feel the government isn’t helping them, it is up to them to educate themselves and grow”. A surfer with the user id ‘Mamuh’ who sides Panag, said, “I like Gul’s view (as it) was very much well thought-out and accurate. We can’t stump terrorism, until we see the root of it. Injustice like Gujarat Riots or Orissa Riots need to stop. When significant politician(s) turn a blind eye and something drastic happens. India just sucks if you’re a poor or a minority”.
So when the actress got up this morning and logged on to Bollywood Hungama, she was taken by surprise to read comments posted by users on her quote. This got Gul to write even more. Within 10 minutes, the actress sent us what she thought of the above reactions and many more posted their views on the website. This is what she had to say:
“Poor and disenfranchised Hindus/Sikhs/Christians are not the ones being radicalized. There is no planned sustained movement in place to do so. India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world. Yet their representation in all walks of public life remains dismal (what ever the reasons). A disproportionate chunk of the Muslim population lives below the poverty line. These people are the ones the radicals target as their recruiting ground.
Yes, there are rich who also get involved. The percentage is small. The machinery in place that goes about recruiting these people is very advanced and unscrupulous. They are highly motivated by people whose full time job is to mislead these people. Their modus operandi is to show videos of Muslims being tortured /killed/women being raped, and other forms of propaganda. In Punjab ( I am a Sikh from a village in Punjab called Mahadian, Distt Fategarh Sahib), many youngsters from well to do families after seeing their relatives/ kin burnt alive by mobs, tortured and raped by the forces were badly shaken up. Psychologically numb. And were ready when extremists came knocking on their doors to garner support. As for the security lapses, I am sure there are many loop holes. We apart from being a booming economy are also a country of the poor and homeless, (who’s primary focus is two square meals). We are NOT the United States, where we can single mindedly pursue security). But having said that, it’s important to understand, that not even the best trained force in the world can be prepared for someone who is ready to kill himself. The terrorist wins by not losing/dying (for whatever short period he wreaks havoc) and the forces “lose” by not winning immediately (ultimately they do in a Mumbai like scenario, but not in J&K, Iraq). And how can I be biased? Because I am in Indian and believe that the same set of rules must apply to all? So Muslims who kill people are terrorists but Bajran Dal/RSS activists who burn Christian homes, rape nuns are “angry misguided youth”?? My father is a serving army officer; he has 40 years of service to the nation and is currently posted as Army Commander Central Command, at the very tip of the army pyramid. He also served as Northern Army Commander. I have been brought up in the most secular way possible, where I have observed at close quarters what the army does for the Nation. And it pains me to read about people pointing fingers at the forces being “inefficient” when they constantly give away their today for us to be able to blog like this, sleep peacefully and enjoy life as we know it.”