Friday, August 29, 2008

State's softness on Bajrang Dal, VHP and allied organisations

1. Two persons including an RSS activist and a former Bajrang Dal activist were killed while allegedly making bombs in Kanpur recently and police recovered explosives, timers and other devices from the room, but it didn't make much of a news.

Except a few papers, none took notice of the trend and also the revelation that they were planning blasts to take revenge on Muslims. There were no follow-ups of the sort of 'links' that we hear in other cases which keep news on front page for days after such incidents.

Even media watchdog The Hoot had this to write under the headline: No Followup

Mail Today carried two stories on August 26 and 27 on
the Bajrang Dal bombers, members of the BD who were accidentally killed in
Kanpur while assembling bombs to mount a terrorist attack. It said police
suspect these were meant for retaliatory attacks for the Ahmedabad blasts. The
second story said the bomb- makers of Kanpur seem to be part of a larger network
of terrorists planning a major attack. Amazingly, except for a small inside
story in the Indian Express on August 27, no paper thought this was worth a
follow up!

Now, is it strange! Not at all.

2. In June, Hindu Jagran Manch activists were arrested for bomb blast at a theatre in Thane. The news had again got underplayed. They had confessed that they were involved in similar attempts in the past also.

3. In Nanded, the police had even recovered 'Muslim topis (skull caps)' and 'fake beards' during search at the house of Hindutva militants who were responsible for blasts. Again, most newspapers and channels ignored it.

4. In Tirunelveli, the police arrested workers of Hindu Munnani for blast at RSS office that was aimed to pit both communities against each other and lead to communal conflagration.

5. And there are many more examples. This is not a propaganda blog, which is aimed to highlight such things. But I am really disturbed by the tendency to take any Muslim as suspect and brand him as terrorist, with lawyers not ready to take up their cases and then throw him in jail, but ignore any other offender or probe his involvement especially if the person belongs to RSS, VHP, BD, at all.

I discussed it with a journalist friend (non-Muslim) and despite his secular views, he was adamant that Hindus can't be involved in such activities. I truly understand now why the police wouldn't think the same.

But this is the root of the problem. Flashback 1992. The Babri Masjid was demolished. It was a terrorist act and most Hindus were also unhappy with this development. We all know what happened after that.

PV Narsimharao's Congress government instantly decided to ban five organisations including RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal along with Jamat-e-Islami and ISS. Though it was very clear that Jamaat-e-Islami and ISS (Abdul Nasser Madani's Islamic Sevak Sangh) were not involved in the demolition.

But the message was that it was a sort of 'balance' that three Hindu organisations were banned so two Muslim bodies had also to face a similar situation. At least, Jamat-e-Islami had no reason to be banned.

But those involved in Kar Seva and demolition were never booked under any stringent provision of IPC and were let off. Kalyan Singh mocked Indian judicial system when he was awarded a day's sentence and almost became a hero rather a culprit.

Clearly, the state was being soft on Hindutva oraganisations. The organisations had tasted blood. However, the situation didn't change in the years to come. For extremely provocative statements the leaders like Pravin Togadia and Bal Thackeray were never booked and when their cadre went on rampage nothing happened but Muslim leaders like Madani were thrown into jail and ordinary Muslim youths were framed and booked under TADA and POTA.

In state after state, in small districts, towns and villages, (just like Gujarat or in Orissa's Kandhamal where the scale is too large), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal have been involved acts that easily fall in the definition of terrorism. But they are never made to face the law of the land.

This is a major issue which our state must deal with, at the earliest. Be harsh on anybody who breaks the law. And if one has any doubt on the kind of treatment that is being meted out to innocent Muslims by a section of biased police, just read the last four issues of Tehelka.

My sole submission is that the state must take harshest possible action on Muslims found guilty of any terror activity, but don't let off the other person just because of his faith or the organisation he is allied to.

Ban the Bajrang Dal and also the VHP, if the state has guts and if the Congress wants to give a message that it has secular credentials. As a secular party it can't have a 'laddoo' in both hands---appeasing Hindu fundamentalist and Muslim fundamentalists. Ban both SIMI and also the VHP-BD.

Read Subhash Ghatade's article 'One India, Two people' that tells how innocent guys were framed and branded terrorists.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Urdu's poet laureate Ahmad Faraz passes away

Ahmad Faraz, who was considered the greatest living poet of Urdu, is no more. The poet of 'romance & rebellion' died in Islamabad at the age of 77. He was ill for a long time but the news has come as a jolt to poetry lovers and fans of Faraz.

His name is familiar to even those who have little interest in poetry and literary. In an era, when poetry is losing its status in the society, Faraz's couplets are still recited in conversations in drawing rooms, at the pan shops in the dingy bylanes and teenagers embellish their love letters with his poetry.

Even in my early years in the school when I had no interest in Urdu poetry, I had seen girls writing his couplet on their friends' notebooks at the end of session

ab ke ham bichhde to shaayad kabhi khwaaboN mein mileN
jis tarah sukhe hue phool kitaaboN mein mileN

In teenage years, it was common to hear the couplet (incidentaly of the same ghazal):

tu khuda hai, na mera ishq farishtoN jaisaa
donoN insaaN haiN to kyuuN itne hijaaboN mein mileN

Who hasn't even heard of the famous ghazals like:

ranjish hii sahii, dil hi dukhaane ke liye aa
aa phir se mujhe chhoD ke jaane ke liye aa (Read)


sunaa hai log use aankh bhar ke dekhte hain
so uske shahar mein kuchh din Thahar ke dekhte hain....

He was in the true sense a poet of masses. But not just a poet of romance and love. A poet, whose revolution didn't stop in his divan, rather a crusader who fought against oppression, raised his voice against injustice and never shied away from taking on the establishment. During the regime of Ziaul Haq, he was arrested and had to later leave his country.

main bhi chup ho jaaunga bujhti hui shama'on ke saath
aur kuchh lamhe Thahar aye zindagi.....

We prayed the same when the rumour of his death came recently when he was admitted in a hospital in America. Lekin zindagi Thahri nahiiN. Alas!

A fighter to the core, Faraz remained the angry soul and during the Mushrarraf rule, he returned the civilian honour Hilal-e-Imtiaz to protest the removal of judges and the curbs on civil agitations.

This Pathan poet never compromised in life. Syed Ahmed Shah, who was known as Ahmed Faraz (1931-200*), had become a legend in his life time. He was fortunate that he earned not just fame but also money from his poetry, and at his own terms.

muddatein yaad rahengii ye baateN haamriyaaN....

Monday, August 25, 2008

No house for Muslims: Controversy over Shabana Azmi's statement

The outrage over Shabana Azami's comments, especially the extreme reaction of filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, composer Aadesh Shrivastava and director Shashi Ranjan is quite misplaced.

Firstly, it is a problem which we must understand. Today, it has become immensely difficult for a Muslim to get a house on rent in urban areas of this country.

The problem is more in North, Western and Central India, while it is comparative less in the four Southern states [not entirely absent though].

Just the other day a friend told me about the problems he faced in getting a house in Jaipur. That's how the conversation progressed:

Landlord: Give three months advance rent and take the keys
--Sure. No problem.

What's your name Sir

Ajay bhai, what's your caste? [he felt that the name as Ajay]
--I am Muslim

Muslim! how come your name is Ajay
--My name is AZHAR...AZHAR...

...Sorry bhai sahab, we can't give you the house

I have faced the situation so many times. It's terrible, you feel really bad. Every time you go house hunting it's the same. It's got nothing to do with vegetarianism or non-vegetarianism. Of course, it's a good shield to say, 'We don't give house to non-veg eaters than directly say, We won't let you in because you are a Muslim'.

The trio--Aadesh Shrivastava, Ashoke Pandit and Shashi Ranjan, have no idea about the situation. People are even objecting if somebody in a society (housing colony) gives a flat to a Muslim tenant. The landlord is asked by others, to desist from giving his flat to a Muslim. Mr Pandit, this culture (as you said) can't get respect but only contempt. It is pure bigotry and hypocrisy.

Like, a guy wants Rs 25,000 (rent) for his big house and a Muslim comes, he may allow him. However, if the rent is Rs 2,000-5,000 and a Muslim knocks at his door, asking whether the house is vacant, the landlord would, in most cases, wait for some one else.

If a few Muslims manage to get house, then it is because they have fat pockets and can pay more than the market rate. Ask any Muslim and you will hear a similar tale. One can't imagine how bad it feels unless he has experienced this 'rejection' himself.

Sadly, this is leading to a serious situation. Urban ghettoisation across India. Two cities in each City. A Hindu City and a Muslim. It will be a horrific situation in future. Unfortunately nobody sees it serious. Our glorious composite culture is facing extinction due to this divide in each Indian city.

And no politician sees it as an issue. Shabana has spoken and is being ridiculed. This is the same hypocrisy for which we are known. There is a problem, let's accept it. I wish the governments could embark upon 'forced segregation' like in Western countries including America where the racial divide had led to a similar situation.

There should be housing schemes and constructions in new areas in such a way that all religious communities should have a fair mix. Housing societies on religious, linguistic and community lines must not be encouraged. The beauty of a society is in its diversity and the harmony with which different communities live together and understand each other's culture.

I know, Shabana, can buy a house, an entire apartment, but how many have her financial status. But, if she has spelled it out, it doesn't need to be condemned. It's our age-old practice to not confront our own biases. Yes, we have an issue, this society has a problem. Accept it, disccuss it and have a discussion. Why can't we sort it out?

Now read other posts on this issue on this blog:

1. Emraan Hashmi denied flat in Mumbai
2. Builders' boycott pushing Indian Muslims into ghettos
3. What about ghettoes of Gujaratis, Christians, Jains, other castes?
4. At last, a bank for Muslims in Juhapura [Ahmedabad]

Friday, August 22, 2008

What if Kenneth Haywood was Karim Hasan?

Kenneth Haywood is safely esconced in his Arizona home in America, leaving a trail of unanswered questions about the email that was allegedly sent through his wi-fi internet connection just before the Ahmedabad blasts.

Had the email been sent from the connection of one, say, Karim Hasan, would he have been so fortunate? He would certainly have been declared the mastermind of the blasts and a dozen other cases would have also been slapped on him.

But Kenneth Haywood is an American citizen. He is no Karim Hasan. Editor, Roznama Sahara, Aziz Burney in his series of special editorials, has raised the issue. "He was called by ATS but he didn't go, the narco test was not conducted, why?

...even his passport was not seized and later no lookout notice was issued at the airports and he managed to slip out of the country so easily....

"The escape of any other citizen during the course of investigation wouldn't have raised a storm but in this case, there was no brouhaha, why?" questions Burney. "He had a confirmed ticket, proving that it was all well-planned". "Did the US pressurise the Indian security agencies in letting him out?"

But Kenneth Haywood is no Karim Hasan.

Also, if you still consider me a cynic and suffering with a persecution complex. Read this:

There is an Indian in America who was in a similar position of Kenneth Haywood. About two years back his computer was traced to send emails to the president of US George W. Bush and the Vice-President Dick Cheney.
His name is Vikram Buddhi who is son of a navy captain. And he is languishing in a US jail.
Why in this case there was such haste? Because he was White and an American?...Read this at Twocircles.Net

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Maithili Sharan Gupt: A poet of Vaishyas!

It was a brief news, a single sentence that appeared in the inside page of a mass circulated Hindi paper about famous poet late Maithili Sharan Gupt recently.

The 'Vaishya Gupta Gahoi Samaj' had recalled the contribution of the great poet on the occasion of his birth anniversary.

The news was published slightly late, as his anniversay passed early this month. However, what beats me is the trend of particular sections of every caste, appropriating the legendary figures.

Of course, the Samaj did well to remember the renowned poet of Khari Boli. But would they do the same on the anniversaries of Jaishankar Prasad, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Sumitranandan Pant or for Harivansh Rai Bachchan, who were not Vaishyas.

Unfortunately exactly this is happening now. Literature has taken a backseat and apart from a few literary organisations, the poets and their contribution are only being recalled on caste-lines. Of late, I have noted a sudden rise in such events in which particular castes and sub-castes remember their own 'poets.

In a society where caste is only getting strengthened, every group is trying to find their 'heroes' to instill a sense of pride among their children. Isn't that ironic? Quite sometime back I had written a post: Chandrashekhar Azad or Chandrashekhar Tiwari!.

Figures like Chandrashekhar Azad or Rashtra Kavi Maithilisharan Gupt are national icons. It's saddening to see this happening to such great heroes. They must be paid homage by the entire society, irrespective of the caste and communal lines.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rakshabandhan: Recalling Karnawati's 'rakhi' to Mughal emperor Humayun who honored it, chased out her enemy [Communal Harmony Project-7]

Almost 500 years ago, Karnawati had sent a 'rakhi' to Emperor Humayun and sought his help when her kingdom was besieged by the enemy forces.

Humayun left Delhi and reached Chittaur in keeping with the age-old tradition of Raksha Bandhan.

The attacker Bahadaur Shah Gujrati had annexed Malwa in 1531 AD and was marching on. As his forces surrounded the fort of Chittor, Rani Karnavati, the Raja's mother, appealed to Badshah--the mughal king Humayun for help.

Along with her letter, she sent 'rakhi', the sacred thread that girls tie on the wrists of their brothers and in turn they pledge to take care of them.

Humayun accepted the 'rakhi' and proceeded to Chittor though Bahadur Shah didn't expect the Emperor to rush to Chittor and fight him.

Humayun did reach Chittor and Bahadur Shah had to flee. He escaped to Malwa but Humayun followed him to Fort Mandu and later on to Champanir where he took refuge.

But Humayun reached there also and captured it as well. Bahadaur Shah saved himself by reaching to Diu island.

Though Humayun had got delayed in starting off, he did honour this tradition and taught a lesson to the aggressor.

Even historians with a Saffron bent don't dispute this occurrence, as it is no myth and is recorded in history. Isn't it strange that so little we hear about this episode these days.

While the myths (and truths) regarding Muslim kings' persecution of other community are blown up all the time, such aspects are ignored.

Such glorious aspects of Indian history that are shining examples of the composite culture need to be highlighted. And this is just an example. In fact, in countless homes across the country, Hindus sisters tie rakhi to Muslim brothers and there are also Muslim girls who tie rakhin on the wrists of Hindu brothers.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playing flute to a buffalo: How to deal with Islamophobes, anti-Muslim trolls and racists on the internet?

Having spent lot of energy in replying to hatemails and Islamophobic comments, I have finally understood the great Indian saying 'Bhains ke aage been bajaana' in the real sense.

This ancient saying can be translated as: 'It is futile to play flute to a buffalo'. The buffalo is a different species and one can't fault her. Unfortunately it is more difficult to deal with your fellow species.

Take for instance Mr Kuldeep Trisal. In the context of Kashmir, he gives me a long feedback that 'the problem began when Islam first showed its face on the valley'.

And then goes on to mouth the same theory about 'most militants being Muslims' and that 'Islam teaches to kill' and after all his venom, dares me 'if you have the balls, publish my comment'.

I would love to publish his comment along with his photograph, I hope he has the courage to send me the photo and own up the comments. But I can't tolerate badtamizi. There has to be a bit of decency. I respect all religions and take the names of the religious figures respectfully.

I have always written either Ramchandra Ji and Krishna Ji. If you want your comment to be published and want a real debate, either stop being disrespectful to holy figures of other religions including Islam [at least, don't mention the names if you can't be respectful]. 

Else, you can start your own blog and write whatever you want on that space. I will say Harmony Harmony. Their slogan will always be Hate Hate.

The fact is that one can deal with all sorts of guys but it is useless to talk to such hate-filled creatures whose only aim is to spread communalism through their propaganda in the form of comments on sites, blogs and forums.

It is interesting to see how all these people seem to know the same anti-Islamic propaganda sites which they frequently quote and make similar charges against Muslims. They may also smell their success in my outburst. Anyway.

inke aage kyaa, sar par bhi baith kar been bajaao to koi faaida nahiiN...

Meanwhile, wishing you a Happy Independence Day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hindu-Muslim prisoners hug outside jail

Isn't it a cute photo? A middle-aged Muslim guy with a long beard and the Hindu guy with the tilak, hugging each other. Both have the typical looks of a Hindu and a Muslim hailing from the country-side of India.

Their smile conveys the feeling of freedom and happiness. Together they must have spent quite some time in the jail. And as they come out they bid each other adieu, before going towards their respective families who have come to the jail to receive them.

There is nothing unusual about this picture except their facial expressions. The smiles are genuine. And it is people like them who are still a majority in this country.

These are the people who may not have studied books and got degrees but have naked wisdom in abundance. When they meet again, they will smoke a bidi together and have a conversation over a tea.

They are the guys who don't care a damn about communalism or nurse grievances against other religion unlike many of us with urban upbringing who appear polished but have numerous biases against each other. At least, that's what my experience has been.

It's a photo taken at the jail's main gate. Generally prisoners are released from the jails all over India at the time of Independence Day and the Republic day. All the state governments reduce the sentences ranging from a few months to a couple of years, depending on the age and other factors.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Indian Kids: Playing marbles & catapult

In my childhood, it was a common sight to see kids playing with marbles or boys running with the tyres and wheels. The slightly elder ones graduated to games like gulli danda and later on to kabaddi and other desi sports.

It's rainy season. Two decades back it was usual to see kids playing in the sand and making mud houses.

Also, kids would play with a rod. The boys would throw the iron rod and the depth to which it went into the ground, determined a boy's success.

After India's world cup win in 1983, the advent of television and the steady rise of prosperity, all these 'unsmart' things faded away from urban India. Even in villages you no longer see the games which kids played in the past.

On a recent visit to a 'lost town'* in Central India, I felt as if I was again back to my childhood. In the first photo, you can see kids sitting on a platform, around a mazaar, and immersed in their games--two kids are counting their glass marbles (kanche), two others are comparing their collection of cards with movie titles and stars printed on them.

Others are playing one of the desi version of ludo-type games in which kids use chalk to make a pattern and then play with pieces of stones or the gotis (gotiyan). In every street or corner, I found the kids loitering, collecting matchboxes or playing games.

The two kids with innocent and earthy looks one of whom aimed at me with the ghulail (slingshot or catapult) were sitting in the morning when I passed the area and again when I walked back in the evening, they were sitting there.
The Indian Muslim street (or for that matter any ghetto) is quite similar in most cities of North India, and the unemployed youths and kids are still seen simply sitting and whiling away time or playing such games.

As I was busy in my job, I couldn't roam around and get many pictures, but the town had a strange effect on me. I will write about it more in coming days.

Though the trip brought back nostalgia, it made me sad to see the lack of schools and dispensaries.
Goernments won't open schools (long back it seems state governments have stopped opening schools and left the field open for private schools).

The parents have no option but to let kids roam and play. A few years from now they will also help their parents in weaving, carpet making and bidi industry.

One political party will announce a commission a la Sachar, the other will oppose it and things will remain just the same. [*I call it lost town, because there is no railway connection and nowhere iin this town you can see the signs of an emerging and shining India, which is being talked about all the time.]

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Abusive messages, anti-Muslim comments & this blog

It's tough to deal with abusive comments that keep coming every day. There are regular such emails and comments on the posts. Most of these guys don't even bother to read the posts and it appears they are full of hate towards Islam and Muslims.

I was forced to start moderating comments sometime back when I felt that almost every day I was getting such comments that used to hurt and unsettle me. Often, they are full of so much hatred that you shudder and think, is this real? How much percent of people in this country hate Muslim and do they really hate us so much?

Then I would always console myself that cyberspace is different from normal world. Here people who don't have the cheek to say or do anything openly, can make anonymous comments or send emails, and they are a handful of people who keep doing that regularly and makes you feel that there are so many Islamophobes.

You write a post on harmony, the ganga-jumni culture and then you get an email that starts with 'Saale Kat*&*' and keeps on telling you every atrocity which he believes Muslims have committed on him and his ancestors interspersed with English and Hindutani gaalis.

I feel bad, very bad.

No matter how much you think that you won't give a damn to them, the fact is that everytime you get such a mail or comment, it hurts. Sometimes when it is terribly abusive, you feel why not get this guy tracked and booked for his action.

After all, if someone abuses you openly on the street, it is tough to act against him legally but if someone sends you an email or writes an abusive post, it is possible to teach him a lesson that he will not forget.
The evidence is strong, the IT [Information Technolog] Act makes any such crime punishable and the sentence is much more but nobody bothers. Sometime you feel you should take the lead and get a few guys caught. At least, this will send the message across. Racism and hatespeak aren't taken seriously in India yet and people often forget, but it's a serious crime.

If you hate me just for being a Muslim and will keep calling me names, it is irrational. You can write in proper and decent language. Anonymity gives you freedom to abuse. You don't fear that a friend of you, who is a Muslim, may come to know that you have such deep biases. But if you are courageous enough, why don't you stop every passing Muslim on the street and abuse him.

I still want to believe that such guys don't form more than 1% of the populace.

Write your full name, address and also post your photo, if you dare, in forums, sites and blogs. Else talk in a civilised way. Blame me, be critical but enough of abuses. Don't wear the mask of anonymity to spread hate on internet.
Sometimes I really wonder, what could be the cause of such deep hate?
Today there are bombs exploding and Islam is linked to terrorism. But why was such a similar hatred, 16 years ago or even before that, when Babri Masjid was destroyed and when Muslims were openly abused.

Tab Tushtikaran thaa...the so-called appeasement of Muslims by politicians. And people had suddenly become such experts in history that they could tell you how many atrocities Aurangzeb and Babur had done on Hindus in this country. Even then, it was not easy for Muslim to get a house on rent (I am not talking about jobs or any other thing).

Simple hatred. Why?