Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nitish wins Bihar: Trend of Muslims voting for BJP or NDA alliance

Yeh kya ho gaya bhai!
The resounding victory of Nitish Kumar's JD(U) led coalition in Bihar has surprised even the most sympathetic psephologists. Most exit polls had indicated that the NDA was poised to win Bihar but this sort of thumping majority was not predicted.

It was clear that a section of Muslims would vote for JD(U). The reasons were simple. Nitish Kumar looked sincere, he kept the state riot-free, his decision to reopen the Bhagalpur riot cases closed by Lalu Yadav, and remaining steadfast on his commitment to let the AMU campus open in Bihar despite the open opposition of BJP's youth wing BJYM, earned him respect among the community.

Muslims fear nothing more than a communal riot. During Congress regimes in North India, large-scale riots used to occur in cities with substantial Muslim percentage. In each communal riot, tens of thousands would not only be snatched of their means for livelihood but also lost whatever little they had and took them at least twenty years back.

First Congress exploited this fear of riots. In fact, BJP had begun to get a fraction of Muslim vote and its vote share among Muslims would have risen long ago, had the massacre in Gujarat not taken place. Besides, the BJP-led Centre's inaction and the party's refusal to regret the events in Gujarat, turned Muslims even more wary.

No wonder almost everywhere Muslims made it a mission to vote for the candidate who appeared in the strongest position and capable of defeating the BJP. In Orissa, Navin Patnaik failed to keep a check on BJP and the latter's sister organisations.

The anti-Christian violence perpetrated by VHP and Bajrang Dal, later forced him to dump the party. However, in Bihar, the BJP cleverly played second fiddle. The Saffron think-tank was aware that Bihar has one of the highest Muslim concentration (17%) and has regions where Muslim population goes up to 50% or even more so it was prudent to use Nitish's charisma.

While Nitish Kumar succeeded in keeping his secular image intact, perhaps the Sangh Parivar also kept a measured stance as successive failures to form government in the Centre made them review their strategy. The lumpens were kept in check and Hindu remained on the backburner.

The decision to open Bhagalpur riot cases earned Nitish Kumar goodwill. But it was his tough stand of not allowing Narendra Modi for campaigning in Bihar, that proved crucial. Indian Express' editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta mentioned how a Urdu teacher at a rally told him that Nitish is 'sher ka bachcha' as no one else could do it elsewhere.

The tag of lion for not letting Modi into the state, is not unusual. Apparently this had caused enough strain in the coalition but Nitish stuck to his stand. Gujarat carnage is etched in collective Muslim consciousness as it was first large-scale riot shown on live television.

Meanwhile, the other Modi, Sushil Kumar Modi, as Deputy Chief Minister has all along maintained the image of a moderate. It is this sort of moderation which is expected from a right-of-centre party that aims to govern a nation of 110 crore.

The lack of development and the poor governance had dented the image of the state. In fact, the word 'Bihari' had turned into a derogatory term. This affected all Biharis irrespective of caste and creed as it hurt their pride. But during Nitish Kumar's regime, crime was controlled and law-and-order restored. Things were looking up and as a result he has received unexpected support from all quarters.

Right now the BJP is buoyed with its success. But the truth is that the NDA coalition has won Bihar over the plank of development. Any responsible government has to be inclusive and must ensure that all segments of population are looked upon as equal partners in shaping the destiny of nation or the state.

Despite having several polished and mature leaders at the national level ranging from Sushma Swaraj to Arun Jaitley, there is no dearth of communal and lumpen elements in the party who have an open communal agenda.

In Bihar, Nitish Kumar could rein them in. The BJP and the Bajrang Dal-VHP cadre also remained subdued as victor was in sight because of the alliance. But the million dollar question is whether the BJP change the course at the national level and emerge as a right-of-centre but moderate political party?

Let's see.

Similar posts on this blog in the past:
1. BJP and Muslims.
2. 'Pro-Muslim RSS' had irked radicals

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Darul Uloom Deoband turns into a Fatwa Factory: Triple Talaq and Women's rights in Islam

Due to Darul Uloom Deoband's historic role and its Ulama's recent social initiatives, one could have ignored a couple of controversial fatwas but the latest fatwa has once again proved that there is something seriously wrong with the seminary, especially the Darul Ifta or the 'Fatwa wing'.

It is no longer an aberration when the Darul Uloom opines that even if a person has uttered the word 'talaq' thrice and his wife couldn't hear it, the divorce takes place.

In fact, the query was about whether the marriage is annulled when a person has said 'talaq' thrice over phone when the wife has heard and it happened in the presence of a witness.

But in the reply, the seminary went ahead and answered something which had not been asked. The mufti said that it is not required whether the wife has heard it or not, or whether there is a witness around. The talaq is valid. Even when the wife has not heard [she is not aware].

I am sorry but this fatwa is unjust, it is clearly against women, it is irresponsible and against the spirit of religion. 'Talaq is valid even if the wife hasn't heard the word thrice, the talaq is valid', is the Times of India report. And though fatwa is a mere opinion that is not binding, it sends a message particularly when it comes from such an institution.

While on one hand, Ulema in many countries accept that 'three talaqs' in one go ought to be considered as one, the Indian Ulama continue to behave irresponsibly. It ruins countless marriages and puts a sense of fear among women.

Fatwa: Darul Ifta's reply to Query number 27275
 Several major Muslim countries have banned the 'triple talaq'. The pronouncements have to be at regular intervals, so as to give the couple a chance of reconciliation. As marriage is a contract, talaq is an option but Islam discourages it, and it is considered a repulsive act though acceptable when it becomes impossible for a couple to live together happily.

Recently, there was a Deoband fatwa in reply to a query from a man who had jokingly typed the word talaq thrice during an internet chat session with his wife and in this case also Darul Ifta had said that the divorce had taken place.

Whether a man is drunk or the wife has not heard it, it is all the immaterial and the Ulama not just pronounce talaq, they in fact seem almost eager to pronounce talaq on every question relating to marital dispute between husband and wife.

Is it a joke? Sorry it's too serious to be a joke. It affects lives, hurts clans and it also serious dents the image of Muslims. When there is no dearth of Ulema, who claim that 'putting out the word talaq in one sitting' is raj'i talaq which is not permanent and woman can return to her husband, the Ulama remain admant.

On one hand, the Deoband Ulema had chartered an entire train and taken it to Hyderabad to deliver the historic fatwa against terrorism, held anti-Terror conferences across the country and now they regularly issue diktats that Muslims must not slaughter cows in India, as it hurts our Hindu brethren. These things have earned them goodwill.

They go the extra mile to ensure that there is political correctness in their approach and statements. However, when it comes to internal issues of the community, particularly, the state of women, they remain rigid. There is no thought given to what leading Sunni scholars have said about the practice of 'triple talaq' and its misuse.

Ideally there should not be any institutionalised clergy in Muslims. However, there is one and perhaps it is needed to an extent. But with its narrow interpretation of Islamic principles, the leading institution has shown itself in poor light.

News in Urdu daily Siasat, Hyderabad published on November 16.

The practice of seeking answer to every issue on website and obtaining online fatwas has created lot of controversies earlier also. In the past, mischief-makers have also misused it by asking frivolous queries and also sought answers on delicate issues, twisting them latter to tarnish the image of the seminary. But now Deoband itself seems scoring self goals with the unique fatwas.

Not just Shias, Sunni majority countries from Indonesia in the far East to Turkey and even Pakistan, have held 'triple talaq' as unlawful. What prevents the Ulama to join heads and think over it? Social movement and proactive role of Muslim community is a must in achieving this objective.

Either it's Deoband or any other institution, it is not above criticism. Ulema must introspect. It is timely that they should go away with their illogical and irrational interpretations. Not just them, the prestige of the community is also at stake.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

21 'Indians' killed but it's not termed a Terrorist attack: Hindi speakers targeted in Assam

Anjali and Manoj's parents killed in Assam terror attacks
Militant group NDFB had vowed to kill 20 'Indians' to avenge the death of one Bodo, however, when the militants of the banned outfit carried out four strikes across Assam, gunning down 21 Hindi-speakers it was almost ignored by mainstream media.

Times of India published the news on page number 15. The headline didn't mention the word 'terrorists'. Other newspapers also treated the news in the same manner.

The fact that the four coordinated attacks in Assam occurred when US President Barack Obama was in India and still the news got filtered, is the all the more surprising.

In fact, when tackling terror is on the agenda, such news always gets even more highlighted. Stress is given that such mindless killings are all the more reason why terrorism has to be dealt with sternly. However, the Assam strikes were just not taken seriously.

TV channels who generally go hysteric when even a bullet is fired [remember gunshots near Jama Masjid recently] and hardly anyone is critically injured, flashing 'Possibility of Terror Attack Not Ignored', were not interested. And it's not that incidents in Assam have been totally ignored earlier.

On this occasion, Bodo groups had earlier said that they would avenge the killings and they killed Hindi speakers. Minor kids were orphaned, women widowed in this killing spree in India's North East. In fact, the final figure after the recent attack touched 25.

 Times of India published the news on page 15. The headline said 'Bodo rebels kill Hindi speakers' while Express carried it on page 10. The Indian Express headline was NDFB pulls men off bus, gus 19 in Assam. Nowhere the word 'Terrorist' or even 'Militant' was mentioned in the headlines.

Who knows NDFB outside North East. When the word terrorist is not used, when news reports are hidden deep inside papers and when channels simply ignore such incidents, what will happen? Terrorism will remain associated to just a religion or organisations with Arabic-sounding names.

It is media coverage that is responsible for creating images in public mind. Even Hindi dailies didn't consider it worth while to carry it on page 1. Dainik Jagran did carry the news on front page but it also didn't mention the word 'Aatanki'.

During the anti-Hindi/anti-Bihari[or UP] agitation in Maharashtra, one or two lives were lost. But Hindi media in North India had reported it extensively. However, on this occasion planned killings of Hindi speakers were treated as no-news. They were taken off bus, separated from others, lined up and shot dead.

The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) has been described as 'anti-talk faction' in most reports. It has been responsible for the serial bombings in Assam in 2008 also. Of course, here there is no reference to words like terror modules or the particular terminology used in such reports.

Wouldn't this led to feeling that media is knowingly or unknowingly complicit in creating false impressions. I don't know if this journalism is bad or biased but it is simply bizarre. Soul-searching, introspection are oft-repeated words but what will change this perception?

When newspaper headlines read as 'Terror invades Assam' or 'Terror strikes once again' on front pages, it creates panic and national debate. Dilute the words, put the news somewhere on page 15 and see how everything is hushed up.

So what's the definition of terror, after all? [Read a report on NDTV about the siblings who lost their parents. ]

Friday, November 05, 2010

Urdu language, Roman script in South India

In mosques and Islamic shrines in Southern India, I have often noticed Roman Urdu, that is the language [Urdu] written in Roman script.

On the left is a photograph which I clicked in a mosque. It is about a 'Zaroori Elaan' [Important Announcement] that the particular mosque is now 'Khud-kafeel' [self-sustaining, self-supporting] and donation must not be paid to any person who demands money either for renovation or for other needs of the mosque.

The language is quite standard and it can even be termed chaste Urdu. Roman Urdu was used extensively before independence also, particularly, in Indian Army where it was the standard language used for communication.

Urdu script is no longer commonly seen in public places in most parts of the country, except a few Cities. Even in Muslim ghettos in  most towns, Urdu signboards are now becoming a rarity.

As far as decline in Urdu signboards is concerned, one of the reasons is  that painters proficient in Urdu aren't easy to find at all times. Lack of Urdu medium schools and fewer private schools teaching Urdu as third language compound the problem.

Of course, other reasons are well-known and oft-repeated. Situation in UP, Bihar and other parts of North India are not favourable for the language. In Southern India, Urdu continues to flourish in pockets in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and even Tamil Nadu where the region around Vellore has Urdu-speaking populace.