Many are the questions raised by Kerala Police’s arrest of M M Akbar, head of Niche of Truth, the body to propagate Islam, a regular speaker on platforms of Mujahid organizations, and director of Peace International School.
The case against him is based on the allegation that the text books of Peace School create communal discord, and charges him under IPC 153(A). The others accused in the same case were arrested earlier and they came out on bail. Akbar who had been in Qatar for nearly a year, was arrested around Saturday midnight at Hyderabad where he was in transit between Melbourne and Doha, after being intercepted by airport immigration. Soon after this, Kerala Police brought him over to Kochi and produced him before Judicial Magistrate in Ernakulam where he was handed to police custody for five days.
The religious text book for Class II of Peace School had contained a question, “If your classmate decides to embrace Islam, what advice would you give him?” The case was registered following the conclusion of the District Educational Officer of Ernakulam that this question and the answers to it would spread religious hatred. The head of Burouj Realization of Mumbai, the publishers of the book, its content editor and designer were the other accused in the case. They were all arrested in December 2016 and put in jail for nearly a month, but later obtained bail from High Court. The school officials explain that once they found the disputed part of the lesson inappropriate, they had already given instruction that it should not be taught.
It cannot be said that the lesson that prompted registration of a case is one that overtly spreads religious hatred. The publishers clarify that this part was included as an activity to teach children that declaration of faith by truth (kalima shahaada in Arabic) is the first step to becoming a Muslim. Still, the publishers announced, since it was likely to be misconstrued they were withdrawing the book. In other words, Peace School cannot be said to be trying deliberately to inject enmity towards other religions, although it could be argued that under close scrutiny there was imprudence in teaching second level children a lesson that was likely to create misunderstanding. As for the school, the contention that they had already issued instructions not to teach that portion, need not be taken as such by everyone. All the same, the propaganda to the effect that Peace School was a centre producing hatred are malicious. It was the wide spread of such misinformation that pitted the school and its chief MM Akbar in the centre of controversy. And then his continued tour abroad following the case gave further ammunition to those who inflated the propaganda.
M M Akbar is not the first person to be charged with section 153 (A). Of late, this particular section has been imposed on half a dozen people including SNDP leader Vellappally Natesan, former DGP T P Senkumar and BJP president Kummanam Rajasekharan. But none of them was arrested. The most recent one to be arrested under this section was Mujahid orator Shamsudheen Palath. And now, M M Akbar as well. From this, it could be easily understood that the government and the police have been adopting a bigoted stance on the matter. M M Akbar is only the latest victim of this discriminatory policy. The central government has been moving ahead with a goal of tracking down Muslim individuals and groups, demonizing them and entangling them in legal issues. It is a fact that Kerala government has been following the same approach in several matters. The girls who escaped from the controversial Ghar Wapsi centre in Tripunithura, Ernakulam had given their statements that lessons inciting hatred towards other religions were being taught there. Still, the police have been reluctant to charge section 153 (A) on the owners of the yoga centre. And as regards the Sangh Parivar influence on Kerala police, it is a matter raised as an issue even by those in the Left wing. M M Akbar’s arrest should be analysed in this perspective.
Akbar’s arrest is just one of the many instances of state terrorism aiming at Muslim community. And terrorism by state has been going forward on the pretext of fight against extremism. And often there were examples when the Mujahid movement went alongside the government position that those were necessary as part of countering extremism. And now a scholar from among them is becoming a victim of the same terrorism by discrimination. Thus the message from MM Akbar’s arrest is that collective efforts to take on governmental aggression brooks no delay.