Tuesday, August 11, 2020

More Indian Muslims need to take up politics as full-time career: Reasons Muslims are not successful in politics in India


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

You often get to hear arguments about reasons Muslims are not doing well in politics, or about dwindling representation in legislatures and parliament. 

Also, there are people who have quick-fix solutions and even go to the extent of saying that Muslims should avoid electoral politics. 

This is immature and emotional talk. Any community needs leaders, not just political but social, intellectual and community leaders. However, politics is full-time job, a profession, you need hard work to succeed, you've to speak up constantly, ensure that your voice reaches people. 

It's not about party or region, you have to do work on a daily basis, ought to be strong enough not to be irked by criticism. Leadership is social, political, community, intellectual. If you have the drive to hone your skills, know a few facts and can speak decently to media, you can become a voice too.

Lucknow, that was considered heart of Muslim politics for ages, known for institutions like Nadwatul Ulama, personalities like Ali Miyan. Today, it's sadly, Khalid Rashid Firangimahli and Bukkal Nawab, who have come to represent this great city. We deserve better. It's not the fault of political parties, alone. 

People have to come forward, work hard, speak up, take politics as full-time career, issue statements, at least, show that they can talk sense. You don't become 'voice of region' or 'representative of community' or MLA-MP, one fine day.

It needs planning, serious ground work. This city has no dearth of educated Muslims, despite all nonsense and propaganda, this city is home to one of the most educated and affluent Muslims too, who have political sense as well as command over multiple languages. 

A legislator, or corporator or even a strong voice from capital, has great strength, it also helps in many ways that don't need to be explained in a Facebook post or Twitter thread. But you have people who get ticket from parties, won or lost & yet never even visible. 

People say 'education is the solution' but you have no dearth of it. Mute, voiceless but 'educated'. I will give example of Rehan Naeem, close to Akhilesh Yadav, got elected as MLA from Lucknow in last term. Well educated, 'modern' but never seen or raised voice. 

An elected leader comes to represent people, the city. Urban issues, civic issues, vision. But even Lucknowites don't remember him. It's a great opportunity, if you are elected as MLA from capital, you have cameras, attention, but if you fail to even speak, let alone work, then?

If you don't speak up, duffers or plants get the chance & they are made to represent 'you'. That's how you are seen as. But that's not the end. One doesn't need to be a legislator or even a corporator, or to win election. 

One does need to have commitment, the ability to learn, understand PR, how media and world functions. You've to be a leader who attends calls, gives bytes, ready to learn things, not be petty and short-sighted.

Media too needs people but not the sort of ones whom you call and get weird replies or delayed responses. Once it's known, that he is the 'go to' person who will speak with facts, that he talks some sense, there is recognition. But questioning, dismissing others!

The bottom line is that there is no alternative to hard work and learning. Stop blaming others or targeting small or big people for own failure. You need to hone your skills, get facts ready, just like you work hard in any other field. That's the road to recognition, which helps.

It was after several terms that a Muslim MLA was elected from Lucknow. Hence, there were expectations. Still, he was never heard or seen. Even when after the term as MLA, he could have spoken as ex-MLA or leader but despite several major issues confronting citizens and Muslims, he was never visible. 

Now, I am giving example of Lucknow, just because this city has a very strong Muslim 'elite', the 'class' too, you meet them in parties, functions, events & you will marvel at their knowledge but somehow withdrawn from politics. 

Activists, lawyers, youngsters rose to the occasion and spoke up in last two years or so, but not him. If there is an incident of lynching or an assault, hate crime or discrimination, if a leader speaks up, it does have impact. 

When a politician takes representation, leads, takes up petititons to ministers or bureaucrats, it is published in media, citizens too feel the strength. But if you're in politics, still, you fail to do the most basic job, it's really sad.

This is the reason we need to have multiple 'visible' leaders take up politics. You've to have certain basic ideas--clarity about your goals, not negativity, but self-determination and focus on getting ahead. You have to be able to carry people along, so you must have patience, ability to listen & be large-hearted. If just for theka, tenders etc, then.

Human behaviour is same everywhere. We like people who are efficient. Journos need byte, reactions. If you don't respond, fail to be media friendly and despite having nothing extra to add, show tantrums, who will come to you and why? So learn to be courteous, understand world.

It is in no way to be taken as UP Vs South etc. In certain regions when there is established leadership, the next generation learns, takes cue, transition is easy. Sometimes other factors, comparisons are always not fair. 

Lot of finer things can't be described in Tweets, nuances lost in conversations on social media. Population alone is not a factor. Difference in degree of communalism in regions is yet another aspect in this society. 

Yes, Moradabad district has more Muslims than Hyderabad district. Hyderabad suffered during Police Action & what happened in 1948, is not even known to 95% outside. There were riots till 1990s. There is a party that has managed its base, did well to keep sectarianism at bay, despite attempts.

But there is absolutely no comparison between Malda, Purnea or Moradabad or Katihar or Mewat. Don't just waste time in these debates, rather, if you are interested, take up leadership role. A strong leader can emerge from Cuttack too, from Balasore too. 

Speak up on issues--on not just Muslim issues, talk about your vision of the capital or city or state, about what your city or place will need in 2050, about infrastructure, about daily issues, about cost of medicines, about power bills, about civic issues. 

You have to do it with a mission, without hoping that next day, you will get a reward. It takes time but citizens notice that there is a person who is constantly raising issues. That he doesn't talk nonsense, he talks about things that matter. 

Anyone who is serious must work on the ground & avoid getting rattled or engage in long social media' debates, just for ego. Much better to take a plunge, learn, do serious work and make a mark. If you are educated and have a passion, don't waste it. 

Don't get into negativity or the frame that 'x gets more attention'. When you become leader or at least turn into a recognizable face in public life, as leader in your field, it also helps change perception about your community. Frankly, things aren't as tough as they appear, just that one needs to throw self in public life, act. 

Frustration, hopelessness and self-loathing are useless. Don't lead to any solution. Learn, Lead.

READ: Way Ahead for Indian Muslims is to be change maker, lead the society

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

How Indian middle-class, a product of institutions built in Congress era, turned against it



It's often discussed that how the urban middle-class that had emerged due to the institutions that were built in India, after independence, turned against the same model and went on to hate it. 
The generation that got jobs due to colleges, schools, hospitals, IITs and AIIMs, PSUs and major institutions, vital installations, was the first that provided the push to Ram Temple movement in the decade of 1980s.
Also, later when Nehru-Gandhi family was targeted, it was generally the middle-class that lived in cities, bought this propaganda and wholehearted supported the BJP. Over the years, the babus who enjoyed job security and even managed to get his next generation, fully settled, turned into the Congress-hater.
Actually, as it is about past, one must remember how certain rulers felt that if they tried to uplift masses, it would be disastrous for them as the people would have growing aspirations, will seek more, and would never be satisfied. 
In princely states, some of these rulers didn't want people to get educated. If masses are poor, they are resigned to fate. There is less of feeling of entitlement, let alone raise voice or speak against the regime and the Raja. 
Post-independence, there was nation building, institutions were set up, lakhs got govt jobs. Those benefited, those who came out of poverty, they wanted continuous growing prosperity---for self, not others i.e. not for other sections. 
Their next generation too wanted same, the 'entitlement'. Also, this class that didn't have to worry about two square meals, was now relatively affluent. With luxury, comes time to think of golden past. As it happens, those who enjoyed fruits of development, became critics of the set up that propped them, saw it as completely against their traditions, culture and Sanskar. 
Remember, the more misery, poverty and unemployment, it suits the ruler who has committed supporter base. It's a wonderful idea and system to ensure that focus is not kept education or job creation, that institutions are sold or destroyed.
Many rulers considered 'clever' in the past, who managed to keep their throne and had totally 'dedicated subjects', followed this model. Even otherwise, as they say that if all get educated, its tough as they would want desk job, which will create imbalance in society.
The thought that let them have 'chutney roti' and they would be happy with a 'mithai' once or twice on festivals. This keeps the public happy, otherwise, once it is used to comforts, there is no more thrill in it and no question of being grateful for smaller or even bigger things.
After all, 'optimum' number of people uplifted (out of poverty). It is not for the rest, entire populace. Now, the need for more people as cheap labour. Less job security for them would ensure that they are insecure, fearful. The more vulnerable, the more dedicated they would be.
For any ruler or regime in a modern democracy, toughest task is to deal with 'expectations'. How you deal with it, because expectations will continue to rise. And, there'll be anti-incumbency, too. So, how can a dream merchant, deal with it for long! Be a crook or totally break the system. Do both.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Coronavirus shows inequality in 'system': Celebrities get facilities but ordinary citizens run from pillar to post, suffer




Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Coronavirus has once again brought to fore the inequalities in the 'system'.
That, how it is unfair towards not just the poor but also a common citizen, unless he or she is a celebrity or politician. 
For influential people, it's easy. For them, it's just an ailment and there are chances of recovery because they don't face procedural issues or stigma. 
There will be no trouble in getting tested or getting timely medication. If a celebrity or a politician gets unwell, he won't have to worry about getting treatment or finding hospitals. 

He will not face issues--poor infrastructure at hospital or lack of hygiene at the quarantine centre apart from factors like quality of medication, availability of oxygen, cost of treatment.  The celebrity will get doctors' focus, full attention, medicines and the best available medication. 
But common person? From trying to get self admitted to worrying about expenses, it's a really tough journey, at times, too lonely. The standards that are applied in his case could be too tough for him and his family. This 'tension' worsens the situation.
At every step, there might be issues, depending on the hospital he is treated in--private or government, and several other factors. Every one deserves equal attention and at least, basic treatment but doesn't happen. In many cases, the fear, apprehensions have caused shock. 
From delay in getting ambulance to not finding proper hospital, it's not easy for an ordinary citizen. However, when it comes to celebrity, the sense of 'power' is such that they don't feel anxiety, fear, panic attacks. After all, they don't need to worry about these issues. 
This is the difference, at least, in India. Any other person and his entire family faces uncertainty, suffer a lot due to stigma in society apart from lack of adequate attention, non-availability of medicines. Strangely, even citizens seem to have resigned to the fate. 
They don't demand or expect best facilities. It is a general feeling that the celebrities deserve the best and that they are 'more than equals' in our society, hence, no collective anger over this discrimination in services. 
Media too doesn't run campaigns to keep focus on cost of treatment or equality for patients. The result is that there is little scope for a nationwide consensus or a push to ensure that there is at least a semblance of equality in terms of health services for all patients. 
Photo courtesy: Oles

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Muslims ahead on nutrition, health indicators: Status of women, dietary discrimination in other communities


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Firstly, this post is not for those who've no interaction with Muslims but have preconceived notions about the community and without statistics or any report, generalize, branding entire community as backward.
This is about the fact that in Muslim households, girls are valued much more, comparatively, and this is evident, statistically, also.
Even when female foeticide was rampant in North India, this was not a major problem in Muslim society.
In households, you often hear, 'Hamare huzoor ki nasl bhi unki beti se chali'. Many people don't understand that at ground level, even among the poorest of poor, this slight difference in attitude due to religion, plays a major role.
This is to highlight how certain religious teachings, sayings about women's status, have impact. Those working in social sector sector for years, knew difference but said, 'ya, they [Muslims] have less of this problem among women' (or in malnutrition too) but won't tell more.
There are big regions where Muslims don't have much land holdings, less than even 1% in govt jobs, yet, on these indicators like nutrition among girls, doing much better & despite less affluence, attitudes towards girl child-daughters, different-visible. Problem is sweeping generalization, false narrative.
Either it was about dietary discrimination or birth of girl child, these social evils were prevalent more in other communities. But nobody termed them as 'backward'. Backwardness is in social evils, attitudes. Being less affluent is not being backward. Open mind, shun prejudices.
It's not that we don't know or won't focus on our own shortcomings, we do and we must make an effort to get rid of social evils, try to improve. If on one indicator, we are doing well, we must try to do even more better in coming years. But branding & falsehood will be tackled.
It's not that you have a sex ratio of 850 in a region but still remain 'forward' or that women-girls in your community are more stunted, anaemic and malnourished, but you continue to term others as backward just because of your power to brand others and use majoritarian privilege to brand the 'other'.
This blog has a series of posts on this issue. Also, regarding backwardness, the false narrative that is shaped and how propaganda is used as a means to brand an entire community. More on this topic, with statistics would be posted, soon.
It is interesting that if you ask journalists on social sector beat, why they don't give religion-wise figures on these indicators, they quickly say, 'oh ya, we never thought about it'. Nobody else will tell your story, you need to tell it, claim your voice.
Else, even if community doing well, the report will be published with a classification among Muslims, OBCs, Dalits and Tribals, not as Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jain, Buddhist--and you won't even know your own progress. Either it is NHFS or similar reports, keep an eye, read, write and tell. This series about the 'backwardness narrative' will continue and figures will be shared in coming posts.
Photo courtesy: Mr Joy Deb, Pexels

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Colonialism through Journalism: Establishing, appropriating, otherising and suppressing voice of locals through 'media power'






Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
It is an aspect that needs to be talked about more. How, locals can be totally sidelined and their voice suppressed cleverly through a complex but established process. 
That people can be made voiceless in their own land. This is possible through media. 
You can be made to believe that 'it' is a traditional 'vegetarian land' or the local history can be totally altered-erased, as in the case of several towns where it happened within a comparatively short period, around 15-20 years.

The ability to mould public opinion, gives this power. In front of your eyes, it will happen but you can't even notice. It is difficult to even understand as this is a different sort of power, you don't acquire it by cracking a examination or winning election. But this creates the discourse and sets the agenda for everyone, in later years.
Highly opinionated, biased and arriving with a sense of entitlement--a few people can make it happen. A job in a mainstream newspaper gives people this freedom, the power to push such a narrative. It is bizarre, the power to decide what to publish, what not to publish.
And, whatever is published on a regular basis, is believed. 
The lack of diversity in the newsrooms, as well as TV channels, makes it a universal phenomenon. If in the largest circulated newspaper, you won't find a single person belonging to local community, most of the caste groups or any of the minority religions in editorial, just imagine the situation. 
Similarly, in tribal regions, you may not find a single tribal in the editorial section. Groups that form barely 5-10% of population, form the overwhelming majority, and hence, the ability to present, misrepresent and project things in a totally different way.

Recently, I had given an example, which was posted on social media. I am again mentioning it. It is about a guy who came from a town 500 km away from the region. No great qualification, not even command over Hindi, but as he has an uncle in media, the youth gets job in newspaper.
Initially, he is asked to see copies from small towns, and soon becomes journalist.
Without knowing city or making acquaintances, no idea about town but believes 'local populace here is too backward and uneducated', though he has no statistics to support it. This is amazing sense of entitlement, armed with half-baked notions.
But the person is confident and feels that whatever he knows is absolute truth. He is ready to shoot his mouth, everywhere. He hasn't met people in the town despite having lived a couple of years now but never ventured into lanes or entered into households, but reflected in writings too about city, region.
Goes to a hotel, becomes friendly with him, then even tells him about what's wrong with 'your community', telling the owner whose daughters' and sons' achievements or education he has no idea about. Hotel owner has a beatific smile, nods, he has seen such saviours earlier too.
Meanwhile, his reports continue to show extreme lack of knowledge even about his 'beat'. Within 2-3 years he believes that he is voice of the region, now a 'buddhijeevi' [intellectual]. Imagine when there are dozens of such people in each media house.
Photo courtesy. Pexels

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Craft of Urdu Ghazal, Nazm: Meter, Prosody and charm of couplets vis-a-vis poetry sans meter


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

When you write 'ghazal' or even a nazm, it's not just radeef & qafia [rhyming system], but 'beher', 'wazan', the meter too you need to be aware of.

The ghazal has to be in one particular 'beher' [among many] & all couplets in this ghazal will be in accordance with this pattern. For ages, 'faaylun, faaylaat' has confused young writers.

To some, it comes naturally. You remember 'dohas'--the laghu [1] & guru [2] or even in lyrics in songs, the 'dhun'. Classical masters, bards who never studied, knew it well, it came naturally to them. Others learn it.

Initially, it appears too tough & master poets tell you basics, correct the mistakes. If one knows the system, it's good. If you don't know, try to learn. In many languages, poetry is no longer dependent on prosody. But it is also true that this art is the reason Urdu couplets and ghazals have tremendous reach, quotability and are remembered.

Don't dissuade: Knowledge of Prosody is not for patronizing, rejecting

Everyone is free to write. And, knowledge of prosody must not be used to deter and dissuade anyone. As the 'ustaad-shagird' system has weakened in recent decades, unfortunately, some senior poets, don't help, rather their command over the subject becomes a ruse to reject others.

I remember, I was sitting with veteran poet, Kausar Siddiqui, when he was asked by a young boy about 'arooz'--prosody. He instantly took out a piece of paper and started explaining the system of 'beher'. There are ways to easily make you understand when a teacher is around. How the words are broken, where you can take liberty, how much is allowed, etc.

There are arguments in favour and against this system. Debate has been going on for decades. 
But it is still believed that if you want to write literary ghazal or even a nazm, (except Nasri Nazm), there has to be meter. But apart from that, there is another aspect.

For example, a youngster has a superb potential, he has imagination. He writes a ghazal or nazm, the master poet says, 'it is kharij az bahar' or simply junk, this is patronizing. Rather than telling, correcting and asking him to keep writing and learning, he tries to impress him with his knowledge of a 'lesser known art'. 
The youngster gets disheartened, reads lot of books, but is still not able to learn, even the names of the 'behers' are so tough, he gets disheartened. In case, he tries to read Dr Naresh, understands a bit, then may watch Bhatnagar Shadab sb's videos, but there is a greater chance that he may get overwhelmed.
However, if he decides that there is no need to learn this craft and he starts writing in Hindi, presenting the same compositions in devnagari, he is hailed as a poet. In Hindi poetry, there is no such issue. The 'chhand' was was shunned long ago.

Uniqueness of Urdu poetry: A tradition of centuries and focus on art, language

It's not that 'arooz' is something that should scare us. It's an asset. When it comes to Urdu poetry, it is the uniqueness. And, Urdu has an extremely tough system about judging poetry because of a long history, tradition, three hundred years of master poets who took inspiration from Bedil and Hafez etc.
Anyone who knows 'arooz' naturally feels that the youngster who doesn't know it, is just not 'mauzoo.n' for poetry, and that it's junk. This is also an extreme view. I remember Ustad-i-Shahar Ishrat Qadri sahab in Bhopal, would instantly tell youngsters--go write prose.
'Aap ke bas ka nahi, aap rahne dijiye', he would say. He felt there were too many poets and there was need to focus more on prose. Then, you see those who know arooz, try to patronize, else dissuade others while on other hand give 'crash course' to son or preferred 'shagird', telling them the ways how to ensure that their ghazals follow rules, but reject others. 

You must not patronize, decide or control what others write

Most basic thing in life is that, one must try to learn and if someone asks you something, share your knowledge, help them out.  Lekin aap izhaar par 'qaid' bhi nahi laga sakte. If someone writes, he-she is satisfied, adhering to meter or not, it's fine.

They seek your help, you should give them the necessary tips. Every ghazal or nazm may not be literary as per your standards. But everyone has the freedom to express themselves. You can't hold others at gunpoint--write in meter or I'll not consider you a poet unless you prove yourself in this format.
If someone is writing, it's their choice. 'Paband shayri' ya 'azad', whatever they do, it's their choice. Don't give gyan, unless asked. And if asked, don't discourage but make person realise what he can do, best. Not 'Gyan ka Ghamand' or becoming a 'pir tasma-pa' unknowingly.
Similarly, if someone ready to provide you tips, you must be thankful and treat them respectfully. Lot of Hindi knowing youth now learning arooz, practice daily on FB. This is a topic that needs our attention, discussion and it may go on a bit longer.
Post-Script: 
Not just ghazal, either it's Azad Nazm or Nazm-i-Muarra, all genres in Urdu poetry have 'beher'. The sole exception is 'Nasri Nazm' which many accomplished Urdu poets still feel is 'prose'--that is scattering sentences [prose] to turn it into a 'Nazm'. Many purists even believed that Nasri Nazm of only those people are worth consideration who can write ghazals, nazm in meter. However, there is a change in opinion now.