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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hindu-Muslim just like Ram & Laxman, says Shankaracharya

When the Shankaracharya and Imams meet, the event should get due attention and media coverage.

Especially, when both sides join hands for the society, unlike politicians who bring Sants or Ulema for political mileage.

The Shankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati, said that Hindus and Muslims in India have always been like Lord Rama and Laxman and the distance that came up between the communities in the last couple of decades must be bridged back again.

"The mothers of Ram and Laxman were different [Kaushalya and Sumitra], yet the love among Dashrath's sons was unparalleled while Bali and Sugriv were born to the same mother but were enemies", he said referring to Hindu epic Ramayana.

Muftis, Qazis and other Ulema honoured Shankaracharya. Imam Organisation office-bearers said that all issues can be sorted out if religious leaders and community members come together for discussion rather than letting politicians take charge. Sanskrit mantras were chanted along with echos of Allah-O-Akbar in the same function.

All this may be dismissed as rhetoric but the truth is that the mainstream Hindu leaders like Shankaracharyas never got swayed by the right-wing political movements including the Hindutva wave. Else the frenzy created in the 80s-90s may have acquired another level.

It is to their credit, just like some of the major Islamic seminaries who remained calm during the movement. The speakers urged the gathering to revive the ganga-jumni culture and celebrate each others' festivals. The era when Hindus made tazias and Muslims helped in making the Dol, should be recreated.

One of the Shankaracharya's trust in Ayodhya is working for the benefit of Muslims also. He announced that another trust would be soon established to help unemployed Muslim youths through vocational training and assistance for entrepreneurship.

Even cynics must accept that such events do send a message to members of both communities. Jayendra Saraswati is the head of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham in Tamil Nadu. The event was organised to mark his 75th birthday.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is Indian Police, a force to safeguard rich?

Janeshwar Sharma, 41, died after he was allegedly set afire in a high-profile industrialist's residence in the national capital recently.

But initially the Delhi police didn't act and the policemen did not even record the dying declaration of the man. They neither interrogated the occupants of the palatial residence where the incident took place nor they approached the deceased's family members.

Had it not been TV channels who recorded the statement of Janeshwar, before he died of burns, and followed the entire incident, this case would have been buried without any investigation.

When TV channels showed the badly burnt man on his deathbed, speaking about the murky affairs inside the Nanda household, the police appeared slightly alarmed.

But it took headlines about 'male prostitution' and 'young boys were brought in the house' to stir the Delhi police. The fact is that police had already lost enough time, that many evidences would have destroyed, is another matter.

It was media which was telling police that the house had private cameras installed and the footage can help the investigators. Read and watch the IBN report about the alleged murder inside Anil Nanda's residence.

Also, see TOI's story about the statement that accuses Nanda of doing 'bad things' to boys and forcing employees for sex. Vernacular media and a particular channel got real explicit now and this ultimately forced the police to act, at last, and the cops were finally in the field.

Doesn't it speak volumes about the character of our police? The policemen who never leave slightest opportunity to catch a law-abiding citizen, simply change their ways and turn a Nelson's eye when an influential man gets caught in a situation.

In this case, media got air of scandal and later on screaming headlines forced police to take notice. Mediamen talking to victim's family, informing the police about threats to Janeshwar's brother and the deceased's letters.

But in very few such cases, the victims' kin get justice as media can't lap up every story. It's a national issue that needs a serious debate. The police force, in general, is heavily biased in favour of the rich, the sophisticated and the well-connected person. So what if justice is the casualty!

An unconnected, uninfluential man can be killed in encounter but an influential and well-connected man whose role is suspicious in a case will face a nice and soft police that can pass off his 'slips' and even speak for him.

Between a poor man and a rich man, the latter will get favour. The Rizwanur Rahman case in which the young computer engineer was found dead after he married Ashok Todi's daughter, the role of police was no less worse. Rizwan was not a Muslim in the eyes of police but a poor man and that was reason for initial hush up.

And when two rich persons are involved, the richer of the two might get a better deal. Isn't it sickening? This is by-and-large the attitude of policemen in the thousands of police stations and chowkis across the country, but even this doesn't stir the nation.

In one or two high-profile cases, the media smells blood and acts with vengeange trying to get justice for the victims. But that's a minuscule number. Indian police remain the same colonial force governed by the Police Act formulated in 1861 to deal with the 'natives'.

Due to hesitation in interrogating the VIPs and prominent persons, the delay in investigation results in loss of crucial evidences. No wonder, many such cases get botched up and are never solved, just like the Arushi murder case.

Police Reforms are stalled at every level. With hardly any activism, lack of awareness about one's rights among poor and the society remaining apathetic, the much-needed total overhaul of police will perhaps remain a dream.

Media can't fight all cases. It can alarm the society by raising such issues. Each such case should then give rise to heightened vigil, greater activism and increased awareness. But after that, the onus is on the civil society to understand and force the polity to set the system right.

See related posts on this blog that were published in the past:

1. Extra-judicial killings: Ranvir's encounter in Uttarakhand
2. Police brutality: Truth of an encounter in Manipur
3. UP police had arrested the wrong 'Aftab'
4. What's wrong with our society: Innocent Kuldeep gets bullet, vandals get respect
5. Rizwanur Rahman paid the price for marrying Priyaka Todi

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Khuda Hafiz Abdullah Kamaal: Mumbai's egoist Urdu poet is no more

It's a regret that will stay for life. I couldn't meet one of my favourite poets, Abdullah Kamaal, who passed away recently. I must curse my laziness for delaying my trip to Mumbai.

ajab thaa uskaa hunar, pai-qafas rakhna parinde ko
aur uske saamne shaakh-e-sharar pe aashyaaN rakhnaa

Kamal was a poet of exceptional talent and like two other major poets of his generation, Rajendra Manchanda 'Baani' and Irfan Siddiqui, he kept away from publicity. In fact, Kamal's expression of his self-respect 'anaa' [ego] is unmatched in contemporary Urdu poetry.

koi us shahar meN kab thaa uskaa
use yeh zom ki rab thaa uskaa

sidq-zaada thaa vo shahzaada Kamaal
bas yahii naam-o-nasab thaa uskaa

Though he lived in Mumbai, Kamal kept himself confined to literary circles. He had nothing but contempt for self-projection and publicity tactis though this is also a reason that he didn't get the due recognition outside Urdu world.

Abdullah Kamal was born in Muzaffarpur on April 17, 1948. He made Mumbai his home in 1966. Life was not a bed for roses for Kamal but he was the first of the generation of modernist [post-progressive] poets, who made their mark in Mumbai.

ye chaaNd taare merii nigaahoN kaa husn haiN
varnaa merii zamiiN pe koii aasmaaN nahiiN

His collection of poetry, MaiN, was published in 1973. The intensity of his poetry and the poet's unique metaphors, drew the attention of critics as well as aficionados of Urdu poetry.

bohat sambhaal ke rakhi hai maiN ne apnii saliib
ki merii zaat ki pahchaan hai anaa* abhii tak [anaa=ego, self-respect]

Kamal's angst is revealed in numreous couplets

maiN ne maanaa ki ye shab guzregii, magar kab guzregii
maiN ne maanaa ki sahar hogi, magar kab hogii

duur bohat hai ghar meraa/zakhmii hai shahpar meraa
apne muqaabil khud maiN thaa/qatl huaa aksar meraa

Kamaal, the ringmaster of Ghazal: Kali Das Gupta 'Riza'

Abdullah Kamal's diction is cleary different from other poets of his era. This had prompted the legendary Kali Das Gupta 'Riza' to label Kamal as 'Ringmaster of ghazal'. It was in context with Kalimuddin Ahmed's old saying that ghazal is a a sort of wild genre and needs a perfectionist to restrain it by putting thoughts in poetic form with regard to constraints of meter, as each couplet of ghazal despite being similar to the other has an independent identity as well.

Ghazal is a unique genre of Urdu poetry and though it appears it's easy to write a ghazal, the fact is that it takes a real wordsmith to do justice with this format. Kamal forged a new path in modernist Urdu poetry.

chaar jaanib, ek, akelaa aasmaaN
sogvaar, afsurdah, mujhsaa aasmaaN

maiN apnii Daar se bichhRa huaa parindaa huuN
merii uRaan abhii dard kii navaaH meN hai

In Mumbai, when his heart craved for his native Muzaffarpur [Bihar] place, he wrote:

guzishta biis baras se huuN bambaii meN magar
haraa hai zaKhm-e-taalluq Bihar ka ab tak

Tilism-e-shahr hai hammam-bad-gird* Kamaal
milaa na lauT ke jaane kaa raasta ab tak

[Hammam-baad-gird was the City of no return, the last expedition of Hatim]

toD aaya to huuN har rishta tere shahar se
tasma-paa yaadoN kii zanjiir kahaaN le jaauN

na koii Khwaab na Khwaahish, na Gam na Khushii
voh be-hisii hai ki har shaKhs raaigaaN hai yahaaN

His second collection Be-Aasmaan was published in 1991. He had suffered two heart attacks. Lately he avoided participating in events for obvious reasons and stayed mostly in his house in Mumbra suburb near Mumbai.
 
kab chaDhtaa huaa suuraj dharti pe utar aaye
kab raah meN ruk jaaye yah chaltaa huaa ziinaa

The moving stairs or the 'chaltaa huaa ziina' finally stopped. On May 18, he suffered a stroke that proved his last. Read Abdullah Kamaal's ghazals in Urdu, English (Roman) and Hindi (Devanagari) scripts at Best Ghazals.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

''Pro-Muslim' RSS irked radicals: Aseemanand's link to Kanpur blast

The use of the term 'Pro-Muslim' for RSS may surprise a lot among us. Not just the section which feel that the Sangh is a nationalist organisation but also those who consider it an outright fascist group.

But perhaps that was the feeling among a fraction of right-wing radicals members when the former RSS chief made overtures towards the community--a shift from the Sangh's earlier position.

So was the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) really changing and aiming at improving its relations with Indian Muslims? We will discuss it later but first the latest reports about investigators suspecting Aseemananda's links with the Kanpur blast.

Indian Express report says that role of Aseemananda who is wanted in Ajmer Dargah and Malegaon blasts, is under scanner for the incident in Kanpur where two persons died, which was similar to Nanded where explosion occurred while assembling bombs.

A fringe group had established across North India, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and in parts of AP, Karnataka, that was willing to take on 'Islamic' terror. This Hindutva-inspired fringe group had targeted Muslim-dominated towns, mosques, graveyard, dargah, Muslim gatherings and several other places.

Apparently, these elements were unhappy. They felt that the RSS had diluted its core ideology, became softer and even pro-Muslim.

They must have felt that the RSS' political front, the BJP, was also going the Congress way by appeasing the Muslims.

2. It is true that at least publicly RSS hasn't taken a strong anti-Muslim stand for long. In fact, till the 70s and early 80s, Hindu Mahasabha used to be much more aggressive.

The RSS had been mulling over ways to get Muslims in its fold. It approached minorities, went to Muslim households in certain cities to explain its ideology. It gave handouts to Muslims. Even supported formation of an RSS wing for Muslims, which began functioning a few years back.

3. RSS Sarsanghchalak KS Sudarshan repeatedly urged for the need to get Muslims closer to the Parivar. Sudarshan did the unthinkable, taking up the cause of Waqf properties in India, and expressing concern over poor salaries of Imams and Muezzins. No doubt it was a positive statement.

As more and more Muslims were getting into BJP across the country, the party members were also getting more acquained with Muslims at the grassroots. However, all this was not going down well with the hardened members.

The Nanded blast and similar incidents in Marathwada had roused the suspicion that there was a loose group that was at work. But Maharashtra ATS didn't act initially. It was later when Hemant Karkare took charge of the squad, that he investigated the cases and began unravelling the entire chain.

4. The list of terror attacks including Ajmer Dargah, Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, blast in Jama Masjid Delhi, Malegaon, Modasa (Gujarat), Nanded, Parbhani, Jalna, Panvel, Vashi, targeting Bhopal Ijtima, Samjhauta Express, Goa and Kanpur among many others.

The groups ranging from Abhinav Bharat to Sanatan Sanstha were all consisted of fanatics who felt RSS had diluted its ideology.  Dayanand Pandey [of Kanpur], Sunil Joshi [killed in Dewas], Samir Kulkarni {Maharashtra], Pragya Thakur [Gujarat] and Rakesh Dhawade [Maharashtra] are just a few of the names.

Aseemanand had earlier oranised a 'Virat Hindu Sammelan' in Jhabua. He played a vital role in anti-Christian violence in the Dangs district in Gujarat. While the police and intelligence agencies kept an eye on SIMI and other Muslim fundamentalist organisation, they initially remained indifferent to similar trends among Hindus.

5. One hopes that henceforth all fundamentalist groups would be dealt with a heavy hand. Hate-preachers of different religions should be booked under the law for promoting enmity among sections and all cases of terrorist attacks should be handed over to the NIA, so that there is credible investigation and a crackdown on all such groups.

Lately there has been a decline in terror activities, as SIMI, Indian Mujahideen, Abhinav Bharat and Sanatan Sanstha are all under cops' scanner. The bottomline is that if investigative agencies act strongly against fundamentalists of either community and take on radicals without any bias, it would send a positive message.

Read an earlier post on this blog 'Muslims and RSS leaders meet in UP'

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Turkey's tilt isolates Israel: Changing balance of power in Middle-East

Turkey, one of the strongest allies of Israel, has taken an unusually strong stand over the flotilla raid, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan is almost daily issuing statements that 'warn' Israel.

The Turkish premiere's tone and his consistent attack on Israel, even going to the extent of asking the world community to punish the Zinoist state, has come as a surprise for not just Israel but the rest of the Arab world.

Erdogan is not just playing for the gallery. After almost a century, Turkey, with a resounding economy, wants to emerge as leader of the Middle-East. However, it was all unthinkable till recently.

Long ago when headscarf was not much heard of and ban on hijab was not remotely on agenda anywhere in the world, Turkey, a 99% Muslim majority country, had kept the headscarf banned. Its strange secularism surprised us in South Asia, as a woman entering Parliament with her head covered would lead to nation-wide row in Turkey.

Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Pasha 'Ataturk' had dumped the Arabic script and took to English. It tried every bit to appear European. It shed its Islamic identity and the 'sickman of Europe' was the first country to recognise Israel, way back in 1950.

Even during the 1967 war when joint Arab armies were routed by Israel, Turkey didn't term Tel Aviv an aggressor. But the restlessness among Turks was growing since late 90s. The Turks did everything they could to be inducted into European Union.

For years Ankara tried to adapt itself in accordance with the EU demands. Either it was the issue of human rights, relations with its neighbours, treatment of minorities or other concerns. This happened despite the fact that Turkey was a member of Europe Council since 1949 and was associate member of EU in the 60s.

However, rising Islamophobia in Europe resulted in more objections against Turkish bid. France amended its constitution to seek for referendum on the issue. Other countries also got apprehensive.

Turks were getting angry and with every passing year, the percentage of citizens supporting EU bid was going down.

In fact, Turks felt humiliated. As they were made to feel that the country was not worth a membership in the elite club despite chasing [or begging] it for decades and doing everything to change themselves for it. Now there was a movement against EU bid in Turkey.

Erdogan is known to be practising Muslim and has taken a populist stand. The plight of Palestinians and the Arab leaders' lipservice towards ameliorating the situation, is reason for rise of Hasan Nasrullah and Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In fact, lot is common between Erdogan and Ahmadinejad. Erdogan was a Mayor of Istanbul before he became the Prime Minister. Ahmadinejad was also Mayor of Teheran before he became his country's president.

Since 2009, Erdogan has gradually taken a harsh stance against Israel. However, after the raid on flotilla in which nine Turks were killed, Erdogan went on to ask the world community to take action on Israel and even termed it 'state terrorism'. Turkish Foreign minister went ahead, terming it a 9/11 for his country.

In fact, Erdogan seems to have captured the imagination of Arab street and has beaten Ahmadinejad in the recent round of rhetoric. Jews are no less worried as the state of Israel is increasingly getting cornered over the Gaza blockade. For Arab states, it is no a happy situation either.

Though they can briefly take delight in the fact that Turkey is aiming for greater influence in the region. This is a shade better than Shia-majority Iran wielding influence and swaying the youth with its sharp rhetoric and stand against USA-Israel.

Turkey is a NATO ally. Any attack on a NATO country is an attack on the entire organisation. After its brush with Hezbollah, Israel is no longer complacent about its armed superiority over its neighbours.

It has been a calculated process of distancing itself from Israel. With Egypt, another strong power, facing a credibility crisis in Arab world and receiving flak for its 'inhuman' approach to Palestinians, Turkey is playing the role of the Arab-leader in the geopolitics of post-Iraq Middle-East.

Turks may or may not be doing it to avenge the humiliation inflicted by European Union. It has a robust economy and almost a year after the global meltdown, USA is no longer in the power to box the ears of the heads of states which are its allies.

It is clear that 21st century Turkey is aiming for a neo-Ottomanian era. Turkey is allying with Latin American countries that thrive on anti-Americanism and is also ready to play the leader in Arab world by strengthening ties with Lebanon and Syria.

This will also help it in negotiating on better terms with EU. As a result, it sees no harm in dumping its old ally. With Russian leader holding meet with Erdogan and Ahmadinejad, the situation is becomeing a little too comlicated for USA as well. Interesting days ahead in Middle-East.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Urdu newspapers hail Mamata Banerjee's success

Mamata Banerji's Trinamool Congress won the polls for civic bodies in West Bengal, which has jolted the Left front.

Though Urdu press appeared backing Mamata, the reaction in some of the newspapers has been euphoric.

Kolkata-based Akhbar-e-Mashriq [see page on the left] devoted the entire front page and inside pages, hailing the victory.

The headline 'Ghuroor Gharat', translated as End of Arrogance, along with the caption about Trinamool's wave sweeping across Shahar-e-Nishat [Kolkata or City of Nishat ie Joy], shows the obvious support for the party.

Not only front page but inside pages also have couplets on Mamata Bannerji. Delhi-based papers didn't go overboard but poets have eulogised Mamata Banerjee and couplets hailing her win, have been published in most papers including Roznama Sahara. So much poetry, including Qatas!

Was the Left front government too bad for Muslims? On law-and-order front, it kept the state riot free. But after Sachar commission report, the discomfort of Muslims was obvious as they formed 25% of state population but were nowhere seen in services.

Perhaps, a 32 year rule was too long and all sections wanted change. The left retained its core support for decades due to the land reforms initiated in the past. But Nandigram and Singur angered rural folk. Muslims who are mostly inhabiting rural areas got more disturbed.

Though Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and his CPM comrades kept on claiming that the minorities would be given due share, the recent selection of 800 government employees in clerical posts, again proved that the promises were hollow as not even 2% Muslims were inducted.

Mamata is known to be mercurial and nobody knows how much change she can bring about in West Bengal, if she manages to win the Assembly elections. But, presently its Mamata's moment, after routing one of the most enduring leftist reign.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Educational revolution among Indian Muslims!

A silent revolution seems taking place among Indian Muslims, just when it had become cliche to write about the educational backwardness of the community. Positive news is coming from across the country as Muslims students are emerging successful in competitive exams as well as securing top ranks in schools.

*Shaista Neelu secured the top rank in the highly prestigious CLAT-2010 examination which was held for admission in the law institutes and universities of the country. Shaista who hails from UP secured the first rank in the Common Law Admission Test [CLAT] held for admission in elite law schools which gives guaranteed and highly paying jobs.

*Two sons of a policeman killed by Naxalites got into IIT. Yasir and Aman both fulfilled the dream of their father Abdul Wahid Khan, slain inspector, who wanted his sons to get into IIT or crack civil services. Khan was killed last year in Chhattisgarh. This year both the boys cracked the IIT-JEE. Chief Minister Raman Singh visited the residence to congratulate the boys. This is similar to Shah Faesal* story.

*Muslim students of Bihar's Rahmani 30 coaching class achieved higher ranks compared to last year. The number of successful students was less compared to last year, but it must be kept in mind that the fledgling institute established by Maulana Wali Rahmani with the help of Mr Abhayananda has shown a way. Also, this year famed coaching institutes including Kota and Bansal classes failed to repeat the levels of past success.

*S Jasmine Bano who hails from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu topped the High School board exam by security 495 marks out of 500. Her father Daud goes door-to-door selling clothes while mother Noorjehan is a housewife. Jasmine also doesn't come from privileged background.

*Muslim students have either topped or secured place in intermediate exams' merit lists in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where separate merit lists have been announced for science, arts and commerce streams. In Maharashtra, once again students of Urdu medium schools.

*Allahabad's Faizeen Zafar got fourth rank in the highly competitive All India Pre-medical/Dental test. Daughter of a doctor couple, she made her mark in the AIMPT exam.

*The success of Shah Faesal, who topped the list of all successful candidates in the civil services examination, is now known to all and sundry. A victim of militancy, the J&K doctor became the first ever Kashmiri to top the UPSC exam ever. Though the number of successful IAS candidates went down to 21 this year, the fact that Faesal got the first rank, would inspire innumerable other youths.

*Results of Urdu medium schools in the national capital, Delhi, have seen a huge turnaround. Ten years ago the pass percentage was just around 30. This year it went up to almost 90. In fact, the success rate of Urdu schools has been better than government-run and private schools.

These are just a few examples. It augurs well for the nation that Muslims are taking education seriously. It's the only way out for Muslims to enhance their social status as also in improving the image of the community.

If India's biggest minority remains educationally backward, it hurts the nation also. The trends are definitely encouraging. While a middle-class had emerged among Muslims in the last two decades, the fact that even lower-middle class and poor Muslim families have understood that education is the key to success.

Photograph of Shah Faesal [right]. Jasmine Banu's photo [top left] courtesy TwoCircles.Net