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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Muslim-Dalit alliance in Maharashtra: Police excesses, Dalit fury & poetry on harassment of Muslims


Given the anger of Muslims with government over indiscriminate arrest of Muslims and inaction against Bajrang Dal activists accused of planting bomb near mosques in Parbhani, Nanded and other Cities, the third front stands a strong chance of trouncing the Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.

The Dalits are also an angry lot after Khairlanji killings. But the Republican Party of India [RPI] is now divided into innumerable groups.

It has been due to the strong Dalit [neo-Buddhist] population that BJP coalition could never come to power in Maharashtra, the state that has the headquarter of RSS. In fact, it was as late as 1995 that they could finally form the government.

Of late, Dalits and Muslims have joined hands. A host of rallies in Maharashtra illustrate the growing bonhomie. In a later development, the desecration of Dr BR Ambedkar's statue prompted Dalits to hit the streets. 


Police fired at Dalit youths who were also cane-charged. Even children and women were not spared. Though many consider these demonstrations and protests as excessive, the fact is that the contempt of the police force towards citizens who are fired at without trying any other measure of crowd control, is unjustifiable


The problem with Dalits is that they are almost leaderless in Maharashtra. Link for Khairlanji incident.
Time and again, the police apparently act with vengeance and without trying water canon, rubber bullets, tear gas and other measures, straight fire at protestors.


In case of Muslims also, police readily opens fire--be it Seelampur in Delhi, Vadodara or on Dalits in Osmanabad-Nashik. Nine compartments of Deccan Queen Express were set ablaze. I will write on the issue and the police's role later.

The picture above shows Muslim activists [holding an Urdu banner that reads 'Dalit-Muslim Ittehad=unity] protesting and court arrests in hundreds at Dadar, a news which was again not reported in mainstream media.

Clearly, if Dalits and Muslims come together, both alliances [Congress-NCP & BJP-Shiv Sena] are in trouble. Muslims are fed up of Congress' double-face and the suspicion with which most Muslims are being looked at, in this regime.

A Ruba'ii published in Inquilab Urdu daily:

thaane meN bulaaye jaa rahe haiN Muslim
har tarah sataaye jaa rahe haiN Muslim

pahle hii aapkii niyatoN pe shak thaa
daanista phaNsaaye jaa rahe haiN Muslim


Such has been the situation in Maharashtra that Supercop KPS Gill had recently termed midnight swoops by police as counter-productive.


Police not only barges into ordinary middle-class or poor citizens' comes but also mistreats the family and children, which hurts the psyche of people.

On Tuesday, Maharashtra's former IG SS Saradkar in an interview with Urdu daily Rahstriya Sahara acknowledged that 'Muslims are facing prejudice and injustice'. 

He claimed that when even postings at senior levels in police are 'bought', nothing could change the existing situation as cops are ready to do anything to make their political bosses happy.

'In Khwaja Yunus's custody death, police are trying to save its skin but it would not succeed.

The culprits belongting to any community should be dealt with sternly but innocents shouldn't be harassed and one-sided action must not take place. Congress doesn't seem to realise the pent-up anger amongst Muslims and other marginalised sections with the party in the state.

Over 800 farmers have committed suicide in Vidabhra only due to crop failure and the village money-lenders who charge excessive interest on loans. The Deshmukh-RR Patil government is failing in all fronts and the public is disillusioned but will there be an alternative?.

Brass Crescent Awards

Voting is on for the annual brass crescent awards for various categories viz. Best Blog, Best non-Muslim Blog, Best Female Blog, Best Group Blog, Best Ijtihad, Best Thinker et al.

Your's truly Indscribe has been nominated in the Best Middle-East/Asian bloggers' category. So bloggers can decide their favourite bloggers. The site is www.brasscrescent.org and you can directly vote at brasscrescent.org/vote.php

Malihabad's Pathans embarrassed about Jew lineage!

A Malihabadi Muslim family 
Of late, a mad rush is going on with different groups and tribes in India claiming Jewish heritage and a subsequent migration to Israel in search of greener pastures.

Several tribes from North East have converted [or reverted] to Judaism. But at least the Afridi Pathans of Malihabad [near Lucknow], who have been told about a Jew connection seem not at all enthusiastic.


In fact, they are embarrassed [even offended].
Not at all surprising though. Senior journalist Farzand Ahmed reported the story in India Today recently.

In India, the Shanivari Telis of Maharashtra claimed that their fast on Saturday was nothing but an age-old tradition of Jews.

Similarly, a number of tribes of Manipur and Mizoram claim that they were converted by Christian missionaries in 19th century but they were in reality the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel [Bnei Menashe].

Many of them who migrated from India to Israel are not happy as they were reportedly discriminated against, once they got settled in Jerusalem or nearby towns. Rabbis from Israel routinely come to India's North Eastern region for re-conversions.

The story of Jew lineage came from nobody else but a Afridi Pathan himself. Navras Afridi has published an e-book 'The Indian Jewry' that traces their lineage to one of the lost tribes of Israel. It was a doctorate work for Lucknow University.

Israeli descent

A research team including Professor Tudor Parfitt of Jewish Studies Centre London had visited Malihabad and collected DNA samples from 50 paternally unrelated Afridi males to confirm the Israeli descent. Many scholars hail it as a landmark research.

So why the fuss? Even if they have a Israeli lineage. Israeli news agencies seem quite excited about the news and have flashed it. An elderly Malihabadi Qavi Kamal Khan says, 'I have heard that we have this lineage but we are Afridis, not Jews'.

Why are Pathans embarrassed?

Anybody's ancestor 1000-2000 years ago could be a Jew, Manichae, Zoroastrian or anybody. And isn't Judaism an Abrahamic religion! Owing to Muslim sympathies with Palestinians and considering Jews as enemies, the thought that they had Jew blood in veins, can be really annoying.

After all, Urdu papers are always filled with [suspicion towards Jewry] conspiracy theories being blamed on Zionism and Jews. It is in this context that once can understand why the Malihabadi Pathans are least excited about this theory regarding their genetic lineage.

[Pix: Photo of an Afridi Pathan family of Malihabad, the town near Lucknow that produced great litterateurs and warriors including poet Faqeer Mohammad Khan Goya and Shaa'er-e-Inquilab Josh Malihabadi].

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pandit Hari Chand Akhtar's claim on Pakistan and his Urdu couplets

Hari [Green] Chand [Moon] Aktar [Star]
Pandit Hari Chand Akhtar was a popular Urdu poet. His wit [like poet Majaz] has also been part of Urdu folklore. His ghazal with the following couplets finds place in every standard collection of Urdu poetry.

shabaab aaya, kisii but pe fidaa hone ka waqt aaya
merii dunyaa meN bande ke Khudaa hone ka waqt aaya
&
unheN dekhaa to zaahid ne kahaa iimaaN kii yeh hai
ki ab insaan ko sajdaa ravaa hone ka waqt aayaa


Read the complete ghazal in Urdu, Hindi and Roman here

Hari Chand Akhtar's poetry gives you a glimpse of the era when taking liberty with Sheikh [or Pandit] were a distinct feature of Urdu literature. Once sitting amongst some Muslim League sympathisers in a poetic meet, Akhtar got irritated over the cries of Pakistan. 


'Who will be a greater Pakistani than me?', asked Hari Chand Akhtar. 'My name پنڈت ہری چند اختر symbolises the flag of your would-be-Islamic state', declared Pt Hari Chand Akhtar. He meant that Hari (Sanskrit=God) in common parlance would mean Green, Chand would stand for Moon [Crescent] and Akhtar is the Urdu word for Star


Together they formed the Pakistai flag [Crescent and star in green background]. 'Nobody can claim Pakistan more than me', he said. Everybody turned silent now. These were poets who were secular and humanist to core. [Akhtar was his pen name]

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bayaan: An Urdu novel on Hindu-Muslim relations during the turbulent period around Babri Masjid demolition

Bayaan, the Novel
Musharraf Alam Zauqi's 'Bayaan' is the most important novel that captures the anxieties and fears of both Hindus and Muslims in the turbulent years from 1986 to1992--an era when the right wing BJP grew from strength to strength and ultimately the Ram Mandir movement led to the demolition of Babri Masjid.

I had heard so much about the novel but surprisingly I hadn't met anybody who had even read this novel. Agreed, Urdu has seen a decline in readership in India but it took me nearly a decade to get the book and when I held it, I had to finish it in one sitting.

The story revolves around elderly Balmukund Sharma 'Josh', a retired official and Urdu poet as his 'takhallus' suggests, his friend Barkat Husain and their families.

Balmukund Sharma believes in the culture which developed with the interaction of Hindus & Muslims in the country over centuries. He is an epitome of 'wazadari' and puts principles above everything.

One of his son, Narendera, a doctor, is fiercely anti-Muslim and is member of a right wing party (of course, BJP) while the other son is a trader and a small-time Congress worker. The sons don't understand their father's love for a language 'that is spoken by Muslims and the script which looks strange to them'.

They don't understand why their father goes to 'mushaira' and spends time with his Muslim friends and poets.
His friend Barkat Husain's son, Munna, is a clerk at the electricity office. He is tired of hearing the taunts of being a 'Pakistani at heart'. 


The fathers helplessly watch their sons who turn even more communal than the generation that had seen the horrors of partition. The demolition of Babri Masjid comes as a big setback for Indian Muslims and causes irreparable damage to their psyche.

Munna gets restless and decides to join the anti-Muslim party. 'If we treat them as untouchable and it comes to power, how will we deal with the situation, after all, we have to live and die here', he feels. He starts going to the party meetings and in turn becomes a pariah in his community. No body understands his dilemma, not even his father who could never understand his introvert son.

Meanwhile, Balmukund Sharma Josh has serious differences with his elder son. At a mushaira Josh is mocked at by some unemployed Muslim youths who tell him that his own son is a BJP-wala but Josh enjoys the best of both worlds, as an Urdu poet getting acclaim amongst Muslims.


Josh is sick of his sons who hate everything about him and his culture. Even his grand-daughter asks him, 'Are you Muslim dada-ji, but Muslims are bad'. He decides to deprive his communal sons of any share in the property. 


Now his sons try every bit to please him. Meanwhile, his granddaughter gets ill and Munna and his wife gets the kid admitted in hospital and treated when Narendra was away to a party convention. Narendra's wife, a strict Brahmin who never ate at anybody's place discovers a postive side to Muslims and fights her husband. Munna is her brother now.

But Munna feels that he is a misfit in the right-wing party and begins to distance himself from the outfit that badly needed a few Muslim showboys. The local party leaders feel he might reveal their secrets. A man wearing a skull-cap (Muslim topi) is entrusted by a hard-core party leader to kill Munna and give the impression that Muslims killed the traitor of their community.

Shaken by the grief at the blood and gore, communal riots and the destruction of composite culture in India, Balmukund Sharma Josh is fast getting insane and decides to write a 'bayaan' [a statement, a will or a confession]. His sons are worried what is in store for them...what is going to be this bayaan?

It is undoubtely a magnum opus. It was the story of every Indian town in that era. The curfews, riots, clashes, angry rhetorics against muslims, the steady lumpenisation of the middle-class that was fuelled by politicians and Hindi newspapers in North India, which had threatened the entire social fabric of the country.

The novelist manages to capture it with perfection. Zauqi is a master story-teller and is not only the leading Urdu writer of his generation but also acclaimed Hindi writer, who is published in Hans and other prestigious literary magazines. 


Lots of lessons from the novel. Surprisingly, there are so many major works about partition, Bayaan is the probably the only Urdu novel that focuses on the inter-religious relationships and the communalisation that affected both communities in this era. 


Has this generation even lost its voice?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Unique wedding photos of Bulgarian Muslims


The Muslims who live in the Rhodope mountains of South Bulgaria and Greece have a unique culture.


They have faced intense persecution in both countries for nearly a century [since the Bulgarian revolt against Ottoman rule].


The governments banned use of Turkish script and also  changed the names of their towns.


Among other steps that were taken was prohibiting new constructions and ban on repair of the existing old mosques.




They had also confiscated Waqf properties in a bid to erase the Islamic cultural heritage.


Many were forcibly converted. They can't buy land, get jobs in government or business licenses.


The Pomak marriage is a colourful affair though the make-up [face of bride is painted] may look astonishing to outsiders.


Its an amazing world we live in. Isn't it? So many regions about which we simply have no idea.


The boys and girls in are generally married off early (mid-teens and after). For some really good pictures of Pomaks.

Click

Monday, November 20, 2006

Indian Sikh women meets Muslim sons after 59 years

Harbans Kaur with her sons
The story of Harbans Kaur is just one of the thousands of untold stories of partition of the sub-continent.

It is a tale of unimaginable suffering and the ordeal a woman went through for over half-a-century. Kaur, 75, a Sikh woman finally met her sons after 59 years.

The story had begun when her family was leaving Pakistan at the time of partition. On way, she was attacked by a kin. She survived the violence.

Saved by a Muslim, she lived with a family in Pakistan, while the rest reached India. In Muzaffarabad, a few years later, the Muslim man who had adopted him, married her off to a Muslim.

She was married to Sakhiullah and had two sons, Karamatullah and Qudratullah, from him. However, ordeal had only begun then, as a few years later pact for exchange of abandoned women began.

Muslim women from India were to be taken to Pakistan and Hindu-Sikh women to be brought to India. After Nehru-Liaqat pact, the army sent her out from pakistan as she was termed a 'foreigner'. Her sons, who were six and seven years old then, remained in Pakistan.

Her husband, an armyman Sakhiullah, could not stop her forced deportation, despite his best efforts. She was finally handed over to her family who arranged her marriage with one, Sikh, Kaur Singh, in India. Kaur Singh died a few years later.

All these years Harbans Kaur, who was living in Mumbai,  dreamt that one day she would see her sons again but had no idea how to search them. Two years back she went to Pakistan on pilgrimage to Panja Sahib where she met another pilgrim Jassi Singh, on whose taviz, she could read the word 'Muzaffarabad'.

Singh promised to her that he would do his best to look for her sons. In 2005, he ultimately succeeded [a professor recognised the old photo given by her[ and Kaur spoke to her sons on phone.

Once again she applied for visa. The mother and sons met after nearly 60 years during the Guru Nanak's birth anniversary celebrations. Now Kaur's sons don't want her to go back but the duration of visa has expired. Politics is standing between the mother and her sons.

Poet Zahida Hina narrated this emotional story. 'When a Samjhauta Express' will be run for such Hindu, Sikh and Muslim women in India and Pakistan', she asks, adding that 'in rishtoN ke saamne mazhab, reet-rivaaj sab haar jaate haiN'.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Watching Al-Jazeera English in India: The Channel Finally Reaches Indian Homes

AL JAZEERA
For the last couple of days I have been watching Al-Jazeera's recently launched English news channel and I am really impressed.

It is not available in India but the news capsule is available on their website or you can go through this LINK FOR their LIVE STREAM directly.

Seems the channel is not welcome in America. The channel has been launched worldwide but is not available on Echostar's dishnetwork or any other major US cable or satellite network.

Agreed that Bush administration doesn't like the channel but why corporate America is against it. New York Times wrote that it's a shame that Americans couldn't watch it. The news channel is known to unbiased and for its reporters' courage in covering wars from conflict zones.

Its journalists are already getting known for their professionalism. Tony Blair's interview and admission of failure in Iraq has been a good start for the channel. Most newspapers agreed that it's presentation was standard and at par with the best in the world.

END TO EMBEDDED JOURNALISM

People call it as end of western dominance of global news space. But surely Europeans and US citizens can get the other side of story also. The world has just got another quality news channel with a different perspective and agenda than the CNN, FOX et al.

Many journalists working for the channel have lost their lives, while covering the news. Such is their dedication! Will my cable guy show it? It is Rajat Sharma's India TV that shows a 15-30 minute news clip [in Urdu] in the evening. 


Recently, reports have suggested that Indian government has allowed the Qatar-based TV channel to broadcast in India also. One hopes that we'll soon be getting the channel here also. At least, this will raise the bar, and our Indian channels will stop presenting Bollywood trivia, and start focusing on hard news & issues.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Don't blame just the Muslims: What about ghettoes of Gujaratis, Christians, Castes ?

Farzana Versey makes an interesting point in the article, 'Ghettoes reserved for Muslims'.

She writes that on a househunt she found that every caste group and community was busy creating its own ghetto but it is Muslims who are only termed [or accused] as the ghettoised people.

In Mumbai, it is very tough for a Muslim to find a house in a multi-cultural society because no body is willing to give a house to Muslim on rent [or for purchase either].

The situation is similar in most cities of the country and unless a strong movement emerges against this ghettoisation (by any community) and governments take certain measures, it will damage the social fabric of the nation. She writes:
One has heard of instances about how the Malabar Hill-Napeansea road belt (the most prized and pricey areas of Mumbai) are being take over by the Jain-Marwari business families.
Old Parsi bungalows are being bought just to ensure that the particular part of the city is left pure for a group of people.
Christians too have begun to form their own buildings, so do Parsis and Gujaratis and Sikhs. But these are not called ghettoes. Why, then, must Muslim-populated areas be deemed ghettos?
This blog has raised the issue of discrimination with Muslims in housing societies, on many occasions. Read the stories:

1. Builders' boycott pushes Muslims into the ghettos
2. No House for Muslims: Controversy on Shabana Azmi's comment
3. Finally, a bank for the Muslim-dominated Juhapura in Ahmedabad

[Link to Farzana Versey's story]

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Diwali in Pakistan: Muslim League ministers celebrate the festival with Hindus

Pakistan Muslim League leaders seek  'ashirwad' from 'Bhagwans'
It is now slightly late to post the picture but I really liked this photograph and thought that it must be shared with you.

The ministers of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) celebrating Diwali at the party headquarters in Islamabad.

The person who is seen third from the left in the photo is Ejazul Haq, the son of former Pakistan president Ziaul Haq.

The PML leaders are seen with 'tilak' on foreheads and seeking 'ashirwad' blessings from a couple that is posing as Hindu gods. They have been garlanded and offered the customary sweets.

We don't get to see such pictures about our neighbouring country in Indian media. Even if it is just a gesture, it is important. Religious minorities must get the feeling that they belong to the place. Their culture must be respected fully.

When different communities come together to celebrate a particular festival, it shows a society in positive light. Just like 'iftaars' are organised in India during Ramzan, despite the politics, such gatherings and events sends a message to the minority and generates goodwill.

It is easy to be cynical but believe me these gestures signify a lot and go a great way towards sending the right message to the minorities. When we see it happening in Pakistan, it has an even greater impact. Let's hope that such goodwill extends in all spheres.

For the FIRST PART on Hindus in Pakistan, you can CLICK HERE

[Photo courtesy Mr Adil Najam's website Pakistaniat.com]

UPDATE 2013: For more photographs showing Diwali celebrations in Karachi go to this LINK.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Muslim youths' unique protest in Malegaon: Against illegal detentions, indiscriminate arrests


Angry at the indiscriminate arrests & illegal detention of hundreds of Muslims in the aftermath of Malegaon blasts, a unique protest was held.

After the Friday namaaz, local residents wore the kind of masks which police make the accused to wear after their arrests.

Especially, when they bring them before journalists at press conferences. The protesters sat outside the Hamidia mosque and Bada Qabristan.

'Hum sab dahshad-gard hain, hamko bhi jail mein thuus do', was their message to the police officials and administration.

Hundreds of Muslims were wearing black bands on their arm as protest against the police high-handedness. 'In the eye of Maharashtra police, we are all terrorists', said one of the agitating youths. There is a feeling of persecution and that people were wrongly arrested.

The anguish had spilt on the street. A human chain was also formed against the police action [rounding up of hundreds of youths[. On November 14, the bandh has been called. But who will report such a protest?


Post-Script: I am adding to this post a few years later. The protest and the local residents' feeling was correct. People were framed. For Malegaon blasts, ATS under Hemant Karkare arrested Abhinav Bharat's activists. The Saffron terrorists are now in jail.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Firaq Gorakhpuri's famous Urdu couplet: Is daur mein zindagi...

Firaq Gorakhpuri
Raghupati Sahay 'Firaq' Gorakhpuri, who was born in 1896, is considered one of the giants of Urdu poetry in the 20th century.

Firaq's father was also a noted poet and poetry was in his genes. Here is one of his couplets:

is daur meN zindagi bashar kii
biimaar ki raat ho gaii hai                   [*bashar=human being]


اس دور میں زندگی بشر کی
بیمار کی رات ہو گیء ہے  

[فراق]


A simple but outstanding couplet. For a sick person, the night is painful and seems everlasting. Comparing this to suffering human beings in the current age, and putting it so simplistically is just what Firaq is famous for.

One must remember that Firaq wrote the couplets in the era between the first and the second world war, when humanity was sick of the battles and massacres. India was in the grip of imperialistic powers and freedom was still far.

Firaq passed away in 1982 in Allahabad. Another great poet of the same era, Josh Malihabadi, who had migrated to Pakistan, after partition, had died the same year, across the border, thus ending this era of Urdu shayri.

Today Firaq is remembered for his imagery, use of Hindustani words, bringing Hindu culture in Urdu poetry, though its shades were present in Urdu earlier also. Firaq is also known for his 'rubais'.

Read some of the selected couplets and ghazals of Firaq AT THIS LINK.






Monday, November 06, 2006

'Muslims, Sikhs need not apply for job with Indian intelligence agencies'

*India's premier intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing [RAW[ has a strength of 10,000 but has no Muslim officer. No Muslim appointed ever since 1969 and even the late Humayun Kabir's son not selected after cleared in interview just because of his religion.
*The Intelligene Bureau (IB) with a strength of 12,000 personnel has a handful of Muslims.
*The NTRO and Special Protection Group (SPG) also don't recruit Muslims, it is the unwritten rule.
The lead story in weekly news magazine OUTLOOK by Saikat Dutta that divulges these figures, begins with the intro, 'You can blame all of India's intelligence fiascos mainly on Hindus, as the agencies don't find Muslims or Sikhs fit to work for them'.


How much the entire system [Government & bureaucracy] has been against inducting Muslims can be gauged from the fact that 'a decision was taken during Narsimharao government's tenure to recruit Muslims in IB, but still not in the RAW'. 

So a decision had to be taken [does't that reveal what is in the hearts of politicians and officials and what is on the lips when it comes to Muslims]. Even as ex-RAW chief and senior officials of army assert that it is critical to have Muslims in intelligence because they can bring crucial information and know the psyche of Muslims, the intelligence agencies are still not recruiting them.

Is it absolute foolishness on the part of government then? Or so deep a hatred that no amount what happens the Muslims should not be allowed entry in these establishments. Pathological hate. That tthey should not get any good jobs i.e. a foothold anywhere in these prime agencies. 

Or it is a Free Mason's secret, something so much against Muslims that if they enter into the RAW, that will be exposed! The anti-Sikh bias in NSG, SPG and other agencies started after 1984 with Indira Gandhi's assassination. 

So what about Mahatma Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi's killers? Did the government stop recruiting Hindus or say Maharashtrians and Tamilians--Godse and Dhanu's respective castes. That's a naive argument and when it comes to the challenge of security, there should not be such profiling. 

Anyway. I have a feeling somebody saying to me: Sardar ko Prime Minister bana diya, Muslim ko President, ab kyaa hamaari jaan loge.....IB, RAW ko to chhoR do [With Sikh Prime Minister, Muslim president, what else you minorities want. Now please leave our intelligence agencies]

Sorry, sirs. How can I dare write on this SENSITIVE issue. Thanks to Outlook, that it was revealed. I just dared to comment. Now back to serious note. I think there is a need to get professional people, really good hands, belonging to all communities and all cross-sections.

And I think, there has been a slight change in policy. Muslims are being recruited now. This will not only show that state has full faith in its minority citizens but Muslims will also, just like they have done it in army, excel and ensure better intelligence gathering. 

[Link to Outlook Story]

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Civic elections in Kakori: Witnessing the colourful festival of democracy in the heartland

Photo (C) Shubh M Singh*
I have just returned after spending around 10-12 days in my hometown Kakori [just 15 km from Lucknow] and still can't stop thinking of Hamida, Shanno Bhabhi, Hasrat Ali, Najmi Arfi et al.

How can I forget these names when the loudspeakers blared even after midnight? The election for civic bodies had kept the entire Uttar Pradesh in high mode. 


Though I tried to keep myself disinterested in the beginning, I had to finally succumb to the high pitch of campaigning, the endless discussions & speculations.


It's impossible not to get affected by the election fever in this colourful festival of democracy in the heartland. The amount of money spent and the manpower used in campaigning was astonishing. Independent candidates with symbols like kite, clock, scooter were holding motorcycle rallies that had 100-odd vehicles.


I have seen many parliamentary and assembly polls but the scale of expenditure in a local body elections truly amazed me. Every candidate talked about the 'punya bhumi' of Kakori and the courage of Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah in the pre-Independence era but as the D-day approached it all narrowed down to Us and Them.

'There are ten Muslim contestants and just one strong Hindu candidate, so our votes would ultimately be divided and the BJP will win'. 'If SCs don't vote for kite-wala [the BSP had not put up candidates in UP but supported contestants], there is chance of a non-Muslim winning'...such conversations we are all used to.

Attempts to create communal tension and polarise voters, clashes, firing incidents, character assassination of women candidates, gun-toting bullies roaming around & lakhs spent over parties. I saw it all in just over a week.

Where was Election Commission to check the expenditure and how could the stakes be so high in such an election! I kept wondering. The day of polling was November 3 and I left the town a day earlier. So I am now waiting for a word from my cousin about who won.

TODAY IS THE 537th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF GURU NANAK

Sikhs all over the world are celebrating this day. The akhand path and kirtans would be held today to mark the occasion. There will be processions in many cities. Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism and its time to greet all Indians and Sikhs specially on this day.

Desipundit is not shut!

So much hoopla and ultimately Desipundit continues to run like it was. How could Patrix change his mind and hand over reins to others? However, good to see Blogbharti setting off. An alternative and more accommodating blog was needed.

[*The photo courtesy Shubh M Singh]

Saturday, November 04, 2006

No Azaan in Gujarat villages: Muslims turned second class citizens

NO AZAAN IN GUJARAT'S RURAL PARTS 
In Hindustan Times, the lead story 'Gujrat Muslims give up rights, buy truce', Neelesh Mishra writes about the villages where Muslims were allowed to return after riots but have to live on harsh terms. [Published on November 4, page 1]

This is a disturbing news. 'In a few months, it will be five years since Shakil Bhai last heard the call of the muezzin from the mosque by the village pond...

...the four minarets of the mosque were smashed in riots and the dargah also damaged. Dargah has since been repaired but mosque remains without a head'.

In many villages Muslims have given up 'azaan', in others they can't openly sell meat and must observe their festivals as low-key affairs. Mani Bhai Patel, a resident of the village says, 'The Muslims mind their business, we mind ours, No fighting but we don't often go towards their houses'.

So much has been written about Gujarat in the last five years. But this is a terrifying scenario. It can be wreak havoc on the psyche of any community if they have to live under such terms--not allowed azaan or the temple bells.

But nothing could be worse for our social fabric than such detachment where communities stop going towards areas inhabited by the 'other'. No use blaming Gujarat, Gujaratis and Government. The problem exists everywhere and we need to address it urgently. 


What shall all of us do to de-communalise the society ? What kind of small steps we can take in our individual capacities to reduce tension and enhance interaction between communities that to could lead to harmony ? 


[The photograph is symbolic though this is also a mosque in the same state]