Friday, September 17, 2021

Book on life of revolutionary freedom fighter Sher Ali who had assassinated Viceroy Lord Mayo

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Revolutionary freedom fighter Sher Ali, who was hanged by the British in Andaman and Nicobar islands, was among the early revolutionaries on whose path Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Madanlal Dhingra and many others, walked, later. 
Though Sher Ali's sacrifice is well-known, but the need was felt for a long time to have a proper book on his life. Dr Md Shahid Siddiqui Alig has written the book on the revolutionary who was executed in Andaman and Nicobar. 
Sher Ali was hanged as he had attacked and assassinated Lord Mayo. No other such high-ranking British official faced such an attack on Indian soil. Sher Ali's life and patriotism, how he turned into an anti-imperialist, in the company of other freedom fighters, is a long story.
Sher Ali Afridi was born in Tirah valley. He had assassinated Lord Mayo when the latter made a visit to Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1872. He was immediately overpowered. Subsequently, he was arrested, incarcerated, faced trial and was executed. 
The author delves deep into history though Colonial era documents, and brings to fore the entire turn of events. The reader also gets to know about Andaman islands, the harassment and extreme torture meted out to freedom fighters who were kept in the prison.

Author brings to us British officials' comments about Sher Ali, as well. WW Hunter wrote that Sher Ali was a 'hillman of immense personal strength and when heavily fettered in the condemned cell overturned lamp with his chained ankle, bore down English sentry by brute strength of his body & wrenched away his bayonet with the manacled hands'.

We know well about great revolutionary leaders--Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad who planned the assassination of Saunders. Also, about Madanlal Dhingra, who in England assassinated William Hutt Curzon Wyllie, but a dedicated book was needed on Sher Ali's life. 

In foreword, M Ahmad Mujtaba mentions that earlier an event was held every year in Hopeland on March 11, in memory of the pioneering revolutionary of Indian's independence struggle. He mentions that not even a street in Andaman and Nicobar is named after Sher Ali. 

Dr Shahid Siddiqui Alig went through historical texts, documents, visited multiple libraries, accessed archives' records and also visited Andaman and Nicobar, before he began penning this book. It's an important book and must be in your collection, if you are interested in history and Indian freedom struggle.

You can get the book through a local Urdu publisher in your city. It has been published by All India Urdu Taleem Ghar. The cost is Rs 150, 10 US dollars for readers abroad. In case, you want to communicate, write to publishers at this Email:

READ: Remembering Sher Ali on the anniversary of first war of independence

Monday, September 13, 2021

Time for a new, articulate Muslim leadership to appear: Lack of leaders in Lucknow is a cause of concern

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

While there is considerable interest regarding politics in the society, the lack of initiative towards entering political arena, is intriguing.

This article deals with the issue of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. Already, the community is facing a serious issue of poor representation in political sphere. Major parties are not giving tickets to Muslim candidates, as they feel polarization will affect their chance of victory.

Every community needs a voice and its members must reach echelons of power--at all the three levels viz. civic body, state legislature and houses of parliament. Besides, there is also social, intellectual leadership that is needed, apart from electoral politics.

What is surprising is that we don't have more people emerging as leaders in our centres. Cities like Lucknow need leaders, voices. It takes sometime before a person gets recognized in the society. This is through sustained efforts, speaking up, learning how to 'emerge' as leader in a society. 

Sometimes, a person who was never even a legislator or councillor, is seen as an important person or a leader of the region, because he has a forum or speaks up on important issues. On the other hand, there are people who win and have held public offices for several terms, but are not recalled or considered 'leader'.

It's about vision, taking initiative and several other factors. Basically, how you present yourself, how you engage with your regional media. There are certain tricks of the trade too. We need leadership that talks about real issues and also gives hope to community. 

Firstly, let's talk about a leader who got elected as MLA from one of the constituencies of the city, after a long time. It's rare for a Muslim to get elected from Lucknow, because of the manner in which delimitation of constituencies took place.

The person got ticket, he won, he was highly educated, had party chief and the cadre's support, yet he  remained silent for whole tenure. Even after loss in the next polls, could have raised issues as 'ex-MLA', because person is known, established as a leader.

Surprisingly, one never heard his statements, support to people when it was needed or any intervention, let alone positive work that could have changed perceptions or helped people in his constituency. Isn't it weird? Why does a person get into politics.

At least for sake of furthering own career or strengthening your image, you should speak an act. But you remain totally inert, then how does it help you or the electorate and the community. Capital's MLA has power, can speak on state issues, raise them, present self as face of community in state. 

Gets more media exposure, has opportunity to be known across state and country. But when someone wins, and remains inactive, then this issue. Rehan Naeem was MLA in the term 2012-2017. He lost in 2017. He lost in 2017. However, he failed to make any impact. Not party's fault. 

Earlier, it was in 1985 that a Muslim legislator had won from the seat, during the Rajiv Gandhi wave. Easy to dismiss others as 'old school, 'out of touch' but if modern, highly educated and well-connected person, fails to act, then it's really depressing. 

Not visible or taking up issues. Even as ex-MLA, leaders take delegations, hold demonstrations, meet Chief ministers and Governors, call press conferences, speak for people but when you don't do these basic things, who is responsible.

You are considered a leader when you speak up, when you are visible, you speak, stand with citizens. Now imagine, in a city where Muslim MLAs don't get elected easily due to certain factors, you get elected & yet no one thinks about you when talking of leadership in your own city.

This city has such a huge educated elite among Muslims, yet, so less engagement with politics. If you don't engage with politics, avoid social or political or any kind of leadership, and then rue that some non-serious person is seen as your representative, then what's the solution?

New generation must take up leadership role, come forward. If you've no proper leader and just those 3-4 religious faces representing you from the city that is seen as heart of Indian politics as well as Indian Muslim politics, then what can be more depressing!

There is need for not just 1-2 but 10-12 faces. Alas 0. Own failure. Accept. There is no death of people with political understanding. Every second person is an expect and has 'siyasi shaoor'. But if you can't even project yourself as leader or get into mainstream politics, then something is definitely wrong, seriously.

You've a population of nearly 1 million Muslims in  district now. But you have one sellout joker who is seen as representative. Two-three more Sunni, Shia personalities. Where is politician, where is leader?Join any party but get in politics, there's space, don't let the void remain. Take it as a profession or along side your main job, but get into active role.

Contest, lose, but at least be in politics, there should have been many leaders for such a big population, visible real netas in many parties What you do best is labelling or being minor party activists, fighting for one party and running down the 'other'.

There are people who never won LS or VS elections in their lives but are seen as big leaders. In fact, people generally don't even realise that the guy has never won a election. So, you are basically, not even able to present yourself as a neta. That's the saddest part of the story. One can't leave the field wide open.

READ: Indian Muslims need to seriously take up politics, reasons for failure in the field

Thursday, August 12, 2021

INJUSTICE: Innocents arrested and jailed, hate preachers remain free due to policemen's power to apply harsh laws selectively

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In India, world’s biggest democracy, a huge debate is going on over incarceration of people who committed no crime and were framed.

A journalist who was going to cover a crime, was booked, arrested and languishes in jail. 

A doctor who saved lives of ailing children, was jailed for a speech and was much later given a ‘clean-chit’ by court, however, he had spent months in jail by then. A comedian was arrested even before 'cracking a joke'.

These are just three names from different fields. Apart from them, numerous activists are in prisons just because they were booked under harsh laws — one of them is Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or UAPA. It’s really strange, almost unbelievable that this can happen. 

That a man who came armed with pistol in front of university students, gets bail, another who makes inflammatory and threatening speeches day after day in Western UP is never arrested, yet another man who organised maha-panchayats and issued threats to minority community, was not detained.

In so many cases, such people were not even booked. It’s because the first step is an authority taking action and police doesn’t take ‘cognisance’. Or, even there is a person who is not high up in the rank and can be termed ‘fringe’ and arrested, then he gets booked under such sections that are ‘bail-able’.

Those who led a rally where slogans against Muslims were openly raised in Delhi recently and pamphlets containing extremely offensive content were distributed, [even minors brought in that demonstration], had it easy.

Such people, even when they are booked, are charged under such provisions that they get bail, within 24 hrs. This is because no UAPA  applied. No sedition charges either. The harsh National Security Act or NSA was not invoked and the officials prepared a soft case.

So it in a way creates a system where one person without committing an offence may rot in prison while other who is involved in issuing open threats, making genocidal comments, spreading hate, can breathe easy because no one is going to book them under a harsh law.

And, this is just a part of the story. People who have given inflammatory speeches in different states and that caused mob violence or communal riots, were saved because even after a case is registered, the State has power to withdraw charges.

Who will be booked or not booked under the harsh law, is a decision made by police officials. Laws can be applied selectively by an official who knows that depending on a person’s leaning or background or other factors, he will take ‘cognizance’ of his actions and act accordingly — case under a bail-able law or harsh law.

Even the video of a speech gets cleverly edited and a false complaint made, on the basis of which a person can be booked under harsh law, and will remain in detention and he, his family will suffer for months, year or even more, before it’s known that he committed no crime.

Worse, a standup comedian was arrested on the basis of a complaint. He hadn’t even performed in the city till then. But, a senior officer who arrested him, was quoted as saying that he hadn’t performed but he may have cracked a joke later’.

The names of a doctor, a comedian and a journalist mentioned to give an idea about the situation. The difference is clear when you see treatment meted out to Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Shahrukh on one hand or Rambhakt Gopal, Kapil Gurjar, Suraj Pal Amu and many more on the other hand.

Imagine, the seriousness of the situation. How do you resolve it when there is such disproportionate power — the power of ‘taking cognisance’, the power to book anyone and destroy their life, while let a hate-preacher get away without even detention!

Cops can add a section or just not add it. This causes sufferings for the person and his family. It’s an example of ‘show me the man, I'll show you the rule’. The officials know well depending on regime and political climate, how to act — very soft on one group, extremely tough on other. 

So that’s injustice at the first and critical stage. It can’t change until people realise how it impacts everybody. When there is public opinion. When top courts finally take a call on this power of police and administration.

Besides, does media even inform citizens about the double standards in implementation of law and actions, taking place! No. There are such twists, just listen how the TV anchors speak, that it confuses the ordinary viewer.

What would you do when one of the largest circulated dailies or the most viewed TV channels repeat a false claim and present in a way that it gives a totally wrong impression — that something happened though it didn’t happen at all!

But, as a result locally officials get under pressure or due to this reason, take unfair action. It can’t change until there is huge awareness and also action against those officials whose actions lead to false cases, undue harassment, unjust incarceration and such extreme injustice.

The freedom to consider an incident ‘cognizable’ or ‘non-cognizable offence’ just because of political line, affiliations or community link, and then adding harsh sections is nothing but a symbol of unfair action, tyranny, prejudice and clear double standards.

Recently, a movie and TV star’s video clip went viral. He was speaking in front of right-wing leaders and rued, “The issue is that people belonging to minority, are able to speak to us, look at us in our eye, talk as equals”.

If you want to subdue or harass minority or turn them second class citizens, will you bring a harsh law like UAPA, amend it to make it more tough, and then misuse it, so that discrimination becomes legal — through a law!

Another version of this piece is available on Medium.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

How Indian Media interprets data: Journalists' conditioning that never let's them go beyond 'Muslim backwardness'


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It’s painful to write this piece. But just read these few points to understand how even statistics are interpreted in a particular way due to ‘conditioning’ and biases.

1.How many times you see headlines that say, ‘Percentage of illiterates among Hindus 2–1/2 times times the percent among Jains’ or ‘Sikhs, Christians ahead in literacy in particular regions, X community still lag’ or ‘Buddhists performing better than Y community in this state’, and ‘Muslim women literacy rate set to beat Hindu women in rural India now’*.

This is a fact that Muslim women now have higher literacy rate in rural parts of the country that Hindu women. But have you seen anywhere this reported or big headlines that show this upward trend!

Also, the statistics now clearly indicate that overall [rural plus urban] literacy among women above five years is— Hindu women (69%) and Muslim women (68.1%). Quite close. Isn’t it. The Ministry of Statistics, NSS, PLFS, all reports, you can check and find it yourself.

2. Unfortunately, despite this data that is available in public space, it is the only Hindu-Muslim binary and ‘Muslims as backward’ headline appearing in papers despite so many other figures and different points.

Now, even if Muslims were behind — moving fast or slow, the journalists rarely mention overall figure of illiterates, as it will reveal something else — almost 250 million or nearly 25 crore Hindus are illiterates.

3. In India, every data is analysed in newspapers and reported in a way that it must not show majority community in poor light or backward. When there are figures, they are picked in a way to ‘reveal less, hide more’, and also presented in a particular manner — that’s the status quo of reporting.

Perhaps, it’s due to conditioning that just this aspect or on these lines, the story on social indicators is believed to be written and rarely people try to look deep into the reports and see the changes.

4. So extrapolation, NFHS surveys & reports like PLFS or others give us a picture. Even if we tilt towards positive side and believe that figure will reduce dramatically by next Census, still around25 crore or 250 million [illiteracy] are illiterate in India. Imagine extent of the problem.

5. If a community is small, then it’s comparatively easy to catch up. Small groups have shown way. Bigger the group, the tougher it is. As per 2011, illiteracy figures were 25.8 cr and 5.42 cr for Hindu & Muslim. 2021 are estimates.

6. If you imagine a rosy picture & say 25 crore, even this is bigger than population of 190 countries, only less than China, US and India. Still, we focus on nonsense, every day discuss those issues. Politicians, Anchors want not just illiteracy but probably want to snatch our brains too.

7. Now coming to second part of the article. I didn’t want to write it but such is conditioning of journalists that I have to write and I must remind — remember, as per statistics, Hindus still have the lowest level of educational attainment of any major religious group according to international studies. Jews are at the top but Christians and Muslims are also much ahead.

8. Globally, the average is 5.6 years of schooling, and 41% of Hindus have no formal education of any kind. On average, Hindu men have 2.7 more years of schooling than Hindu women, and just over half of Hindu women (53%) have no formal schooling, compared with 29% of Hindu men.

9. Whoever owns media can make you believe anything and such is power of ‘mainstream media’, its narrative that you blindly start believing them. If someone says something, talk on statistics and look at the complete picture. 

Ideally, educational backwardness or anything should not be linked with religion. In a huge country, there are regional differences, also state support, many factors, and any ‘issue’ should be seen as just an ‘issue’, not on communal lines.

But in India, media and channels’ job is apparently just to communalise and show entire Muslim community permanently as ‘backward’, hence, when it is linked to religion all the time, we too need to explain it with statistics.

10. As a citizen in world’s biggest democracy, we must know our real situation — it shouldn’t be that we are either too self-critic, gullible and believing that ‘we are bad, we don’t want to study, our community is really against education’ or even turn over-optimist. 

11. Opportunity and state support can make a community prosper fast and taking away support can have negative affect. We must know reality, neither turn pessimist, nor self-hating, but be aware and always make efforts to move ahead. 

12. Communities that are so big that they number hundreds of million, are so easily termed ‘backward’. This sort of crass generalization, ignoring the regional differences [the regions too are huge, states that have population over 100 million and even 200 million — ranging from Maharashtra to UP and are 175 most countries of the world] and without evidence and bringing focus on all indicators, is not just careless but dangerous.

One last point — never believe media’s narrative blindly, as the social conditioning and training of most journos in news rooms [or just because they feel it is the model or style going for generations] is to present news in a fashion by cherry picking data, so that Muslims feel they are indeed ‘poorest, backward, and behind everyone else’.

*It's true now, as per latest government survey results.

NOTE: The photo of child with skullcap is deliberately used as Indian Media has made this photo as symbol of backwardness. Though it shows how presence of maktab and madarsa ensures that even without availability of schools, Muslims do far better and get basic literacy with ease due to these institutions.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Death of Journalism: How Indian media remains soft on right-wing hate speeches and extremism, even refuses to report

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The headline may seem harsh but it’s true. In fact, it was unimaginable till a few years ago that we would be witness to the situation where hate speeches that have the potential to disrupt the social fabric would be delivered on a regular basis and media organizations would not be willing to report.

Imagine, a politician in central India gives speech in front of public and he openly gives a call to stock arms and indulge in attack and arson, yet, no major news channel or paper mentions it, though the video is available and complaint was made to authorities in this regard.

Within a couple of days, another youth delivers a speech in a public event, around 700 kms away [in Haryana], threatening to shoot the ‘Nawab of Pataudi’. The video is available, it was shared, but there was ‘pin drop silence’ from mainstream media.

The same media that talks about ‘Nawab of Pataudi’ day in and day out, covers his family like Paparazzi. But despite users on social media, expressing outrage, not a single TV channel or paper wrote a word on this ‘hate speech’.

Sometimes out of 50–100 major publications, barely one reports that too in a way that it dilutes the speech or avoids mentioning the worst part. Oh yes, there is another incident recently. Down South, a third case of extreme hate speech took place. 

A legislator created a song ahead of a Muslim festival and the song spreads hate against the community, in fact, in the song he gives a clear message — threatens to ‘bury them alive’ (sic) and in this case too, no one has reported it — not a single newspaper or channel.

It’s indeed phenomenal. So how this 'code of silence' has come into being? The cover-up and more than this, the ‘understanding’, that no one will write about it, lest the world gets to know about the level of hate speech and radicalization in our society.

That’s the same media which casually publishes unverified content, does stories based on mere claims, churns out reports after reports on the basis of hearsay by putting an exclamation or question mark in the headline and it even reports things that were never said.

How media covers up right-wing extremism, hate speeches and ignores growing radicalization in society

When ‘maha panchayats’— grand gatherings are held and such hate is spewed, and media doesn’t even focus on these speeches or tends to ignore or just write a bit in a passing mention, it raises serious questions on Indian media setup.

How can such a big cover-up take place? That, major news organisations avoid reporting when hate speeches lead to panic, fear and even violence. Due to failure of media, there is not adequate pressure and neither cases are registered, nor culprits brought to books.

In case after case, officials say, ‘we don’t get information’ or ‘no one has complained to us yet’. It is, of course, because the participants at such conclaves are aligned to the right-wing and the party sympathetic to them, rules many of the states.

But inaction of administration or silence of politicians aside, the issue is that how media has developed this system of not focusing on such extremism and the decision to not report these incidents. It’s clear that the right-wing doesn’t want the incidents to be known. 

That media outlets considered left-liberal or centrist too avoid, shows that there is a clear feeling that it will show us in poor light and hence it must not be reported. Worse, many of the leading journalists who avoid these cases, don’t even want others to write. 

The moment there is a video or a social media post, the veteran journos appear with the advice — ‘don’t give publicity to the chap’. This is weird because when things don’t get reported, there is even less chance of any official taking cognizance. 

And, if it is not reported, it’s easy to deny in future and say that, ‘nothing happened, who said it, bring proof’. Do they want these hate preachers to continue their work without any hindrance? Why else, they don’t write and stop others too from writing about such horrific speeches that are becoming a regular feature!

Quite consistent with the line that documentation of hate crimes and hate speeches is not liked. Hindustan Times had suddenly stopped its tracker and the editor had left the group. There are few outlets other than ‘mainstream media’. On social media, ‘reporting groups’ get active and accounts that document have been targeted and suspended.

Is media aim to allow fanatics to continue activities on one hand & on the other hand ensure that this doesn’t get reported or documented. Sharp management. It’s not new. Just that the speeches are now more common. In fact, it was the same earlier also. Almost twelve years ago, a leader gave an inflammatory and divisive, hate speech in UP.

He said a lot — from open threat and allegedly inciting violence. The journalists didn’t mention the horrific part. When asked, why you didn’t write, the reply was like, ‘oh I missed’ or ‘which part?’ Even after forwarding the video or the part, there was no change in story. 

So this issue has been there in ‘mainstream media’ in India for long. Just that there was no social media and it was difficult to keep track, then. The composition of newsrooms, the people who don’t want ‘own society to be blamed’ or seen as radical, try to hush up and remain in denial, even at the cost of objectivity and fairness in journalism.

It’s a majoritarian society and this is reflected in media, more in newsroom composition. It doesn’t want others to know that such things happen and that there is such level of ‘hate’ in the society, hence it zealously tries to conceal and hush up, even if it’s immoral and unjust.

Clearly, it is a complicity of epic proportion. Apparently, there is a strong belief that ‘our people can’t be fanatic like ‘others’, and if they are as we see them turning into monsters, it’s better to not write about them because this will affect our image’.

In fact, reality is opposite. By telling the truth, you won’t be defaming own society or nation, rather, it will be a self-correcting path, it will ensure that fanatics are pushed to boundary, exposed and brought to books. However, if you feel that reporting about their acts, would affect your own image, then it’s a huge mistake. 

Because, this will have far-reaching consequences for the society, faith and the nation. You can also read this report at the Medium. It's titled, 'If media stops reporting hate speeches and ignores growing radicalization in society, it shuns its duty, becomes complicit'.