Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Muslim Ulema and India’s freedom struggle

Muslim Ulema and India’s freedom struggle: By Aazeen Kirmani The freedom which we attained on 15th August 1947 was result of a long struggle which involved contributions and sacrifices of men and women of all classes and communities of Indi...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why Bijnor communal villainy did not spread - By Saeed Naqvi

Why Bijnor communal villainy did not spread

Heavy police deployment at Peda village in Bijnor after the communal tension (Photo credit – DNA – Manit)
By Saeed Naqvi,
I had the Muzaffarnagar riots of February 2013 at the back of my mind when I drove towards Pedda village on the Bijnor-Najibabad Road where three Muslims had been shot dead by Jats who fired with guns and pistols from the terraces of their homes.
Trouble began when two Muslim girls were harassed at the bus stop. When their men folk protested, the economically stronger Jats decided to teach them a lesson.
Muslims in Pedda have for generations been “dhobis” or washermen. In Sir Saiyyad Ahamd Khan’s framework, these are “arzals” or “menials”. Above them in the caste/class hierarchy are “Ajlafs”, weavers, and “Ashraf”, the genteel lot, the ones for whom the Aligarh Muslim University was initially opened.
That Yasmeen and Farheen are college-going girls is not a negligible detail: it is a glimmer of hope in a picture of unrelieved gloom which envelopes the community. Jats are prosperous farmers but socially static on issues like gender and are still bound by Khaps. The man-woman population ratio is eerily adversarial to women. In the Muslim hovel, there is economic want, not social regression.
Arrogance of economic power bristles at the sight of the lowest strata crawling upwards. This explains some of the accelerated violence against Dalits and Muslims. Caste and communal prejudice converge in such instances.
The gram pradhan or village head of Pedda, Anis Ahmad, is a short, dark man with a well trimmed beard and a mandatory skull cap, headgear which defines all Muslims from Madrasas. He has gone through the drill at the Deoband seminary, a stint as a tailor in Kuwait and now a dress designer (believe it or not) for “fashion shows”. He is not free of the usual Mullah hypocrisy: “I don’t touch female bodies; I tailor clothes for mannequins.”
With the advent of washing machines, Muslim washermen in villages like Pedda have diversified as tailors, barbers, fruit and vegetable sellers, automobile mechanics, handy men of all sorts.
The Pradhan takes me into the house where three men were shot dead on the terrace of their home. Below, in a dark verandah, women wail.
Outside, across the lane, is the fortified house of Pedda’s most powerful Jat, Sansar Singh. He hid in another village five kilometres away, but has since been arrested along with eight others involved in organising the violence.
A dozen or so policemen are snoozing outside Sansar Singh’s house, their weapons on their laps. This is the scene outside every Jat house in the lane up to the highway where a large number of policemen keep vigil.
“Look,” Anis Ahmad points his finger, “they are protecting only Jat houses.”
At Bijnor’s police headquarters, Superintendent of Police (Rural) Dharam Veer Singh thumps his table gently. “Yes, we are protecting Jat houses. If police were not posted as a deterrent, angry Muslims may retaliate against Jat women and children.”
Theoretically, Singh has a point but do Muslims in their current state of demoralisation ever retaliate? The two local journalists, Naresh Sharma of Swatantra Awaz and Jalil Ahmad of a local TV channel, India Voice, are crouching on Singh’s table, symbols of watchfulness.
Singh smiles: “Please give the police some credit for having prevented riots from spreading.”
Why did these riots not spread?
He cites geography as a roadblock to communalism. “The Ganga flows between Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor — the communal wave that overwhelmed areas the other side of the Ganga some years ago weakens crossing the river.” There are other reasons for weakened communalism in Bijnor.
BJP President Amit Shah’s very determined presence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli three years ago made the difference. Trumped-up stories of “love jihad”; fake video from Pakistan’s northwest circulated as Jats being lynched by Muslims; Maha Panchayats of weapon-wielding mobs and Amit Shah’s famous refrain, “Yeh badley ka election hai” (We go into this election to seek revenge) — all augmented the incendiary atmosphere. Today, there is saffron in the air, true, but not murderous saffronisation.
In Bijnor, Muslims as well as the administration (even some Jats) have praised the local MLA, Ruchi Veera of the Samajwadi party, who was present in the village round-the-clock for the duration of tension. In fact, she was able to extract Rs 20 lakh from the government in Lucknow by way of relief within days of the violence. Assessments of damage are being made for more.
District Magistrate Jagat Raj is flanked by City Superintendent of Police M.M. Baig and Senior Superintendent of Police Umesh Kumar Srivastava to address about 60 print and TV journalists around a giant oblong table. Seldom have I heard media being so lavishly thanked for having exercised restraint.
On my return, when I cross the barrage on the Ganga, I remember SP Dharam Veer Singh’s words: rivers block communal waves. Before reaching Meerut, I see road signs to Muzaffarangar. I have horrible memories of that pogrom. Past Meerut is Maliana, the site of the notorious 1987 massacre. The police had separated 42 Muslim young men, lined them up by the nearby canal and shot them.
P. Chidambaram was Rajiv Gandhi’s Minister of State for Home. He knows that incident like the back of his hand. He is now a columnist. May be some day he will give us the inside story on why the case drags on into its 29th year? Approaching Ghaziabad, I see signs to Dadri where in September 2015 Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched by cow protection vigilantes. His family is still implicated in unproved charges.
As lights of Delhi shimmer, the villainy of Pedda recedes. Nastier memories surface.
(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on saeednaqvi@hotmail.com. The views expressed are personal.)—IANS

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Why Indian public is delusional on Pakistan - By M K Bhadrakumar - Rediff.com


Indian Punchline
Reflections on foreign affairs

Why Indian public is delusional on Pakistan

 (Former diplomat and noted analyst of international politics)

While watching various Delhi TV channels tonight on issues surrounding Sunday’s attack on Uri base, one gets the depressing feeling that we are being delusional. What is entirely lacking is the ethical standard that the media should not incite public opinion by feeding it with such patent falsehoods.

We are living in a fool’s paradise, being led up the garden path by a bombastic leadership and led to believe falsely that the international community is rooting for India, that the country’s prestige is soaring sky-high, etc. and, therefore, Pakistan stands ‘isolated’.

In reality, though, the readout of the US State Department on the meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York on September 20 should come as an eye-opener. The readout is reproduced below:

  • Secretary Kerry met Monday with Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif to discuss our strong, long-term bilateral partnership and to build upon the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue. The Secretary commended the Prime Minister for restoring macroeconomic stability to Pakistan over the last three years and expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s cooperation on climate change priorities.

  • The Secretary reiterated the need for Pakistan to prevent all terrorists from using Pakistani territory as safe havens, while commending recent efforts by Pakistani security forces to counter extremist violence. They also spoke about regional issues, including recent developments with regard to Afghanistan. The Prime Minister and Secretary Kerry expressed strong concern with recent violence in Kashmir — particularly the army base attack — and the need for all sides to reduce tensions.

  • Secretary Kerry also stressed the need for restraint in nuclear weapons programs. The Secretary praised Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for over 40 years and highlighted the importance of continued respect for humanitarian principles.

This is a carefully worded document, drafted by career diplomats with the full knowledge of the intelligence inputs available with the US State Department regarding the attack that took place on Uri base over 36 hours previously on Sunday. Nonetheless, such manifestly effusive sentiments and fulsome praise for Pakistan have been attributed to Kerry.

See the expressions that have been used in the document with great deliberation – “strong, long-term bilateral partnership”; “commended the Prime Minister”; “expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s cooperation”; “commending recent efforts by Pakistani security forces to counter extremist violence”; “praised Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for over 40 years”, et al.

Most significantly, the reference to J&K and Uri attack is framed as the shared opinion of Sharif and Kerry – “The Prime Minister and Secretary Kerry expressed strong concern with recent violence in Kashmir — particularly the army base attack — and the need for all sides to reduce tensions.” What does this single stunning sentence imply in plain language, shorn of diplomatic idiom?

  • One, US is not willing to censure Pakistan;

  • Two, US shares Pakistan’s “strong concern over recent violence in Kashmir”;

  • Three, the Uri base attack is to be seen squarely in the context of the 2-month old upheaval in Kashmir Valley; and,

  • Four, US agrees with Pakistan on the need to reduce tensions (read on the imperative need of India-Pakistan talks).

The point that really makes one shudder is that Kerry does not think this is an act of cross-border terrorism. The Americans seem to have arrived at some conclusions of their own regarding what happened in Uri, which do not tally with our account.

Now, unless we shake ourselves free of the myopic vision regarding ourselves that has been systematically created by our ruling elites through the past 2-year period, ably assisted by the unscrupulous TV channels in Delhi day in and day out, we will come to grief. This is all nothing but Goebbelsian lies that we are being fed with by our TV channels.

The unfortunate part is that almost two-thirds Indians are today clamoring for military action against Pakistan. The ruling elites would know they are riding a tiger and if they dismount at this juncture, the public opinion will devour them for not living up to the myths the people have been led to believe all this while. The Indian public does not know that the realities of the security environment surrounding India today are pretty grim and we desperately need an exit strategy.

Equally, our strategic choices are virtually nil today, thanks to the nuclear stalemate and Pakistan’s stockpile of tactical weapons that can neutralize our forces (while on their territory) without even giving cause to provoke (or justify) a nuclear counter-strike by us. These are theatre weapons which have focused usage in a specific limited area, but will annihilate the enemy in real time. Our public should realize that any provocation by us could draw forth a Pakistani retaliation the scale of which will be simply prohibitive in cost in human lives and destruction.

Read an insightful perspective on Uri attack by the well-known US pundit George Perkovich on the strategic dilemma India faces today vis-à-vis Pakistan – Perkovich candidly says India has run out of options and is left with no sensible way of addressing the challenge posed by terrorism on an enduring basis except by engaging the people of the Kashmir Valley in political dialogue, and the alternative will be a seamless asymmetric war. (here)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Eid ul Adha: Two faces of India

Eid ul Adha: Two faces of India

The Times of India, Mumbai - September 14, 2016
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The Indian Express, Mumbai - September 14, 2016

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The rise of the cultural Muslims


The rise of the cultural Muslims

September 13, 2016, 12:00 PM IST  in Stepping Out | IndiaWorld | TOI
There is a stereotype of what a Muslim looks like, dresses, behaves and thinks. Hence every conversation/discussion or debate with any perceived Muslim starts with certain prejudices or certain assumptions of the boundaries of the discourse and taboo topics which are best left out.
Time to catch up!
Behold the millennial or new cultural Muslims. They are bold, they are smart, they delve into areas of theology which their parents and grandparents considered off limits or best left to the mullahs. They are techno-savvy and have no qualms about picking up blasphemous issues with risks to their lives and that of their families. They do it out of a fierce sense of social justice and political equality and they do it out of immense love for all communities so that civilisations and cultures progress towards more pluralistic and tolerant societies.
The stereotype about Muslims needs to be broken – on one end the picture perfect ”jihadi” terrorist brandishing an AK-47 or the (niqaab posh) veiled ”jihadi” brides luring youngsters and on the other end of the spectrum the bumbling, ignorant, squawking, verse spouting, offensive-in-a-jiffy, bearded Muslim with equally ignorant and caged / indoctrinated hijab- wearing, brash, confident women/wives/sisters/mothers/daughters.
(Representative Image)
The new cultural Muslims are not afraid to find the essence of the original ”message” from the deserts of Arabia even if it means digging up contradictory verses, or antique manuscripts which point to a human intervention while copying verses onto parchment, sheepskin, cattle bones, rocks, palm leaves, or leather skins.
They don’t mind questioning, being critical or skeptical about stories handed down since centuries in the folklore, myth, legends, stories, metaphors, proverbs or sayings – the prevalent medium in those times of preserving literature. They keep going to the core intentions of those narratives and subverting the images of fierce and brutal Muslim invaders singed into the psyche of many populations who bore the brunt of pillaging with those of philosophical, scientific-minded astronomers, alchemists, medical practitioners, botanists, mathematicians, and theological dissenters.
(Representative Image)
The new cultural Muslims are fiercely secular who believe that religion is a private matter and any open display of beliefs borders on bigotry, domination or a sense of superiority and should not be not be encouraged or appeased. Rather the secularism of the constitutions of their respective countries should be upheld in every phase of daily life. This will create a paradigm shift in regions where religion is a political tool and a mass indoctrination campaign.
The new cultural Muslims are action oriented who explore new ways of upholding the message of humanism in all religions through charity or volunteer work across communities irrespective of caste, creed, gender or belief system. They are bringing new meanings and new interpretations to animal rights, women’s rights, child rights and gay rights in Islam. They don’t mind exploring assisted suicides or pledging their bodies to medical science after death thus upending the notion that there is an afterlife and everything that we do in this life is actually reward for the next.
They have pledged to get their communities out of the medieval mindset and take them on par with other belief systems which evolved with modern times and contributed greatly to the advancement of humankind instead of staying wrapped in regressive philosophies and regressive cultural practices. Those evolved belief systems went onto to develop medical research and chance upon life-saving discoveries and technological inventions. The cultural Muslims have sworn to get their communities out of the choke hold of the mullah/politician alliance and develop community leaders who will not hesitate to pull up families, mosques, ideologues which resort to extremism and fanaticism and end up plunging entire generations into bloody gore and mayhem scarring the collective psyche of peaceful communities by giving them the legacy of historical wounds, one of which is my hometown.
The new cultural Muslims are exactly what is needed in the world right now. They follow the Mutazalli traditions of the great medieval scholars Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and the formidable Ibn Khuldun who gave preference to primacy of reason rather than advocating the backward theological policy of primacy of the text. They are the new game changers and they are growing in numbers. They can bring back the tradition of ”ijtihad” which was very crucial to early Islamic era and without which it has ossified and frozen in time, completely out of sync with the needs of the ”ummah” in modern times.
The state needs to listen to these cultural Muslims who are paving the way forward for a new leadership among Indian Muslims and Muslims everywhere. There is an existential war between regressive Islamists who are not averse to using nuclear, chemical and biological warfare against populations whether Muslim or not and in this battle for secularism, freedom of speech and pluralism, it is these cultural Muslims who are in the front line and bearing the brunt of vicious smear campaigns, vitriolic online trolling and even machete attacks and beheading/stabbings.
It is the responsibility of every nation state who wants the secular fabric of their country to be preserved and the responsibility of every rational, logical, democratic citizen to listen, protect, defend and promote these cultural Muslims. This is the only way for a more peaceful world, a more tolerant Islam, a more understanding Western civilisation and a more pluralistic approach to belief systems.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

The biryani takeaways: Not a happy Eid as cow protection brigades continue to fuel violence and conflict - TOI BLOG by Saba Naqvi


The Times of India

The biryani takeaways: Not a happy Eid as cow protection brigades continue to fuel violence and conflict

September 13, 2016, 2:00 AM IST 

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A friend saw scope for dark humour in the instruction given to Haryana cops to go sniffing around biryani stands in Muslim dominated Mewat and use detection/ deduction to determine whether it’s made of beef that is allowed (buffalo) or that which lands you in prison (cow, bull, bullock). One can imagine some cops making a hearty meal of their licence to investigate fragrant biryani, he said, suggesting a cartoon depicting policemen engaged in the business of biryani “takeaways”.
But the joke would fall flat on the targeted people, especially now that women, including a minor from Haryana, have said they were raped and their rapists said this was done because they ate beef. One just has to examine the written literature of the cow protection outfits to see it’s not just love of cow that is part of the ideological agenda but also targeting a particular community. Read also the writings of M S Golwalkar, the supreme guide of the RSS, to which Haryana’s chief minister M L Khattar belongs, to clear any confusion whether this is blind cow bhakti or something darker. All these incidents are also designed to show Mewat’s Muslims their place in the world.
According to the 2012 livestock census of India the number of buffaloes in Mewat were 2,28,972 while there were 33,765 cattle which includes cows. That means people are overwhelmingly more likely to consume buffalo meat during Bakrid (mutton is currently at Rs 450 a kilo in the NCR region hence out of the reach of many) or in their regular lives. But since buffalo and cow meat looks similar (referred to as “bade ka gosht”) people could just be randomly humiliated, attacked and terrorised over what is part of their diet.
What’s been happening in Haryana should be a national embarrassment. In end June this year a video surfaced of two men in Haryana, both members of the minority community, being forced to eat cow dung by cow protection brigands. The video of the thrashing of Dalits in Una, Gujarat was an embarrassment for the BJP/RSS as the community is viewed as a potential and growing vote bank. The Haryana footage does not directly damage them since Muslims are not an existing or potential voter bloc for them. But the footage has had serious consequences. It’s been circulated widely among the minority community including people in the Kashmir Valley that too will have another wretched Eid in 2016.
Let’s also use this occasion to recall that the rage in display for the last two months actually began to burst out around Eid ul Adha last year in the Valley. Then people took to slaughtering cows as a mark of protest against the resurrection of a 153-year-old ban on beef by a Jammu court. Since mutton is the preferred meat in Kashmir this was a reaction to the assertion of the cow agenda. Violence broke out, curfew was imposed and communications snapped.
On October 19, 2015, Zahid Ahmad Bhatt, a Kashmiri trucker died from the 70% burn injuries received, when his vehicle was attacked by a mob in Udhampur that claimed he was dealing in cow meat. Again, protests were called in the Valley and curfew imposed.
Then in March 2016, four Kashmiri students in Rajasthan had to be picked up by the police when a mob claimed they were cooking beef in their hostels. It was a story that was widely circulated in the Valley and TV channels played footage of four terrified boys explaining they had not cooked beef.
Do we therefore really imagine that the actions of the state in Haryana and reports of women being raped over beef would not fuel the narrative of Muslims being targeted in secular India? Do we believe that incidents like the Dadri lynching on September 28 last year have not impacted the psyche of an entire community? Or that people have forgotten the horrific image of a 12-year-old boy strung up from a tree in Jharkhand by the cow protection brigades in March this year?
There is a narrative of trauma being built up around these incidents across the country, from Haryana to Kashmir, undermining the ideas of magnanimity that have held India together. This is not a happy Eid.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Government clamps down on Kashmir valley for Eid

| TNN | Sep 13, 2016, 01.21 AM IST
SRINAGAR: A grenade attack by terrorists in Anantnag's Sherbagh police station killed one civilian and left 14 people including three cops critically wounded shortly after the state government decided to impose curfew+ in all 10 Kashmir districts to prevent any outbreak of violence.

The valley will hardly see any Eid festivities on Tuesday with the state, after a high-level meeting of all security agencies, deciding to use drones, choppers+ and high-resolution cameras to monitor the situation and prevent movement of separatists, violent mobs and protesters during Eid.

The decision was taken following a call by the separatists for a march to the Srinagar office of the UN, officials said. This would be the first time in 26 years since the onset of militancy in 1990 that there would be no Eid gatherings at Idgah and Hazratbal shrines. The state also ordered shutdown of internet services of all telecom networks and mobile telephony except state-run BSNL for the next 72 hours.

The Army has been put on standby and will step in if there is fresh outbreak of violence in the valley. which has been witnessing widespread unrest for over two months leading to death of over 75 people so far, official sources said. Troops have already been stationed at vantage points in rural areas which have a history of violent protests.

Meanwhile, in the ongoing Poonch encounter, a fourth terrorist was killed, holed up in a semi-finished government building on Monday. On Sunday, three Pakistani fidayeen were killed in a day-long firefight with security forces. One cop was also killed.

Sources said two groups consisting of four fidayeen each had sneaked in from the LoC and taken shelter in a government building and an under-construction private house in Poonch town.
Defence spokesman at 16 Corp, Col N Hari, said the gun battle is still on. But he refused to give the number of terrorists in the vacant building.

The decision to completely ban the internet was taken after a review of the prevailing law and order situation, sources said. They said Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone and Reliance have been ordered to shut down their services+ with immediate effect for 72 hours. BSNL too has been asked to stop its broadband services for internet.

Top Comment

Where is love of Pakistan for Kashmiris ? Still no offer for asylum. So, Pakistan doesn''t want Kashmiris, they lust only for the land. None of the Kashmiris also showed any intetest in migrating to Pakistan. Ha ha.Aranya Deb

However, post-paid BSNL connections, which are mainly used by the police, Army and government officials, have been kept out of the purview of the ban, sources said.

Mobile telephony was banned immediately after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commanderBurhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8 which set off the current spiral of violence in the Valley. It was partially restored on July 27 followed by opening of only broadband