Monday, June 29, 2020

Urdu Podcast in India: Urdu Literature Radio brings excerpts from eminent Urdu authors in audio form to break script barrier, take text to more people


Podcast is fast emerging as a medium to communicate and connect with the audience.

The aim behind 'Urdu Literature Radio' is to present excerpts from major works of Urdu authors, poets, and litterateurs.

Firstly, the aim is that reading a few paragraphs from, may draw the attention of the reader and prompt him to read the book.

For example, if 5 pages are read out from a 500 page novel, it can be an introduction to the reader.

Once interest is generated, people make an effort to read the book. After the first episode itself, I got queries from people as to where they can get the book.

Hence, I like this idea. Besides, there is a need to focus on Urdu pronunciation. The podcasts can play an important role in this regard. Those who are not reading enough and have lost touch with the script, can again be brought back towards the 'rasm-ul-khat'. Also, there is yet another angle.

People who speak Urdu but never learnt to read the script. For them, it can break this barrier. It is an amateur work. So initial episodes will have glitches. Later on, not just literature but we plan to read from books that focus on a particular era or contain information.

The initial episodes are about Lucknow, the culture of Awadh, the battle against East India Companya and its aftermath, reading from Qurratul Ain Hyder's magnum opus, Aag Ka Darya. Hope, you will enjoy Urdu Literature Radio.

Check it here: URDU LITERATURE RADIO

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Police Reforms in India: Reasons that neither police atrocities go down, nor there is real intent to reform policing in India



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The aim behind 'police reforms' is to have a people-friendly force that is held accountable. A force that is more fair, less corrupt and treats people equally.

Unfortunately, all talk about 'police reforms' is basically elitist and has little connection with the ground realities. Giving you a recent example:

A man gets beaten up by policemen but when he approaches the local police station, his FIR is not registered. He was injured, there is the medical report, yet, no action is taken, even after he knocks all doors and goes to SP, IG and even DGP.

Worse, the cops refuse to give CCTV cameras recordings, then say all got deleted. So evidence was destroyed. With such levels of dishonesty? Even more, it is claimed that the person was at fault (after destroying evidence) and it is claimed that he was drunk and mistreated policemen, so as to defame the person and instead justify the 'action'.

This is when the medical report didn't find any trace of alcohol. Imagine, that's the reality. Dreamy-eyed youngsters who read about law, constitution & crack competitive exam to become officer, strangely, instantly start acting like the traditional Khaki-wala soon after join the force

Hide info, make false claims, save offender who is from their own ranks and go to any extent to discredit the complainant. This is just one of the examples. In this case, complainant is a lawyer, who is able to fight and still he faces a 'system' that is not in favour of the victim.

There is possibility of reform when there is morality, sense of justice & aware society. Not when officers parrot same line from constable to the top like a gang. You can't get a basic FIR registered in such a case until you reach courts & then department turns against you.

Just look at officers who led the movement for reforms. Many of them want more freedom [powers], not even the basic executive control [of IAS officers, politicians'. Right now, some cops get transferred or face inquiries, suspensions and dismissals.

But those in favour of reform, don't even want it in the hands of non-IPS officer or politician. The 'reform' that is needed is not on their radar. It is just more power and more autocracy. It is not about transparency or being more humane.

Media won't take it up or give due attention, because it generally suits media houses locally to establish good relations with 'officials' & 'force', rather than criticise-question them. Everything (entity) & everyone who has 'some power' is a 'holy cow' now. Stand with strong, bully is the mantra now.

As we all know, action is taken after 'public outrage'. When media won't take up these cases or will not take stand, rather, present a case of atrocity in a manner that victim appears aggressor, it is smart manipulation of public opinion. So when there is no public anger or pressure from top. No action.

This 'model' is well in place. Those who have power, have been able to create a successful arrangement. Interests of these people are foremost, rest of the society can live like 'ulloos', are victims, rights gone but don't realise, even cheer when someone like them suffers.

Vernacular media even makes humans wary of the word 'human rights'. Can we even think of a real reform when there is no intent to set right things that have gone wrong. We need real reforms. First, acceptance that there are issues, structural problems and then correctional measures.

For this, we need to understand that the policemen are to serve the citizens, ensure law-and-order and uphold the law. The policemen need a different training, they need to have more empathy, must be held accountable for their actions and there should be diversity--representation of people from all sections and communities in the force.

Monday, June 22, 2020

93-year old Hindu woman lived with Muslim family for 40 years, finally gets reunited with kin: Communal Harmony Project-54



An elderly woman who was found abandoned decades ago, was kept like a family member in a Muslim household.

The woman Panchu Bai, who hailed from another state and couldn't tell much about her kin, became a part of Noor Khan's family in Damoh in Madhya Pradesh.

The woman who hailed from Amravati in Maharashtra, 400 kms away, went missing in 1979. Noor Khan had rescued her from a bee attack in Madhya Pradesh in the year 1980. He gave her medicine and again found her on road side a few days later and then decided to take her home.

As she was unable to tell anything about herself and spoke a different language (Marathi), they couldn't find much about here family and ancestral place. She stayed with Khan's kin and became a part of the family.

Noor Khan had asked his children to take care of  'aunt'. Everyone was attached to her and respected her. Khan died in 2007. Recently, during lockdown period, she uttered a few words like 'Khanjama Nagar', a locality or place that was not found on internet.

Noor's son Israr Khan said that they finally found that Khanjama was a village in Amravati and sent her photos on WhatsApp. The message got circulated and finally she was identified. But when her kin came to meet her in MP, it was an emotional moment.

Not just Khan's family, she was an 'aunt' to everyone in the locality as kids grew watching her and counting her as an elder. Hundreds came out to bid her farewell. Her grandson Prithvi Shingne, who lives in Nagpur, says that he wasn't even born when she went missing. "She was taken to Nagpur for treatment when she went missing. Now we have found her 40 years later".

LINK, LINK, LINK

[Harmony exists all around us but is often ignored. Instead, stories of hate, discord and communalism get spread easily.

There are a million examples in our daily lives across India but they don't get promoted, hence, news of hate and discord gets heard more. Let's change it, now. This is a small attempt to change it through Communal Harmony Project. For reading similar reports on this blog, Click the link HERE and also find out more about Communal Harmony Project]

Saturday, June 20, 2020

From Hinduism to Hindutva: How fundamentalism changed religion and society in India


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In early 90s, right-wing leaders were addressing a public rally near my house. I was passing by and stopped.

There were fiery speeches, speakers were using terms like 'Babar ki aulaad' [Babar's descendants] for Muslims.

I met a 'friend' who was clapping, he saw and gave me smile but there was no awkwardness or shame in him.

I wondered how he is not uncomfortable. This was a 'friend'. I couldn't dare to imagine myself in a similar situation where my friend's religion is targeted or abused and I'm even listening, let alone clapping or feeling happy.

This was not the first such instance. It happened later too, a boy whom I'd taught when he was in sixth and I was many years senior. He respected me a lot. I'd never charged him a penny for the tuition but then the transformation was really surprising.

For me, it was not the normal human reaction. It bothered me for years. I tried hard to figure out what gets into these people. In my college life too, it happened. Remember, it was all much before Gujarat riots or the Islamophobia across the world.

This is all pre-2000. It was painful. It still happens and now people are even more audacious, don't at all care about basic manners or civility. Those who hate an entire religion or community, generalize, make sweeping remarks. It is too irrational but it is around us.

Trolls have made it worse. But over a period, we develop our own mechanism to deal with it. I've learnt to sever any such relation. Someone who can't take a stand, who knows your for years but still doesn't stand with you, rather, use racist terms, can't be a friend.

I understood more in years to come, the entire process--how it happens, not just this reaction, but the entire psychology. Apart from the cocktail that consists of victimhood, the competition and the grudges, there is a a lot more.

So much is drilled in them about invaders, kings and wrongs committed for centuries, that it changes the personality. Every generation grows up with own experiences. It happened in the 1980s and 1990s. It happened in 2010s and 2020.

Photo. Arti Agarwal

Friday, June 19, 2020

Dealing with 'dissent' in democracies: 'Discredit, defame, destroy' is the strategy but a bad one



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In an ideal or even a functional democracy, there must be freedom to speak up, question and criticise government's policies.

In strong democracies there are traditions--people are allowed to speak their mind, oppose official and government line and agitate on the failures. 

Earlier, it was mostly in monarchies that dissent is seen as 'rebellion' or even linked to treason. However, now a days even in several democracies, dissenters and opposition is seen with suspicion, they are viewed as 'enemy' and even termed 'anti-national'.

This is not a good sign for any strong nation. Of course, 'system' is powerful and can deal with a dissenter in many ways. But it's better to let him speak because diverse opinions make a country stronger. 

There must be right to agitate, right to peacefully protest, right to express our disagreement with the government. It also acts as a safety valve. If there is a section that is angry, it feels relieved once it is able to express itself, well.

But often it happens that detractors are seen as adversaries. So, they are discredited, defamed and steadily 'destroyed'. There are dirty tricks that are used, lapdogs on TV channels will target them and make the person(s) appear evil. 

In case of groups, new terms can be invented to make them sound more sinister. Defaming is not tough. Once, the lapdogs get signal, they go after the person. Cut a video, if not possible then insert audio in background or claim anything. 

If slogan was 'Jine (life) ki Azadi', it can be given a spin and falsely claimed that they were seeking 'Jinnah ki Azadi'. Media invents the new 'anti-national', manipulates the public opinion, ignoring all other important issues affecting us.

Somebody makes a provocative statement or not, it seems 'enemies' have to be invented constantly because youths, students continue to be hounded. If there is no statement, some media persons event 'invent' it to defame or for 'eyeballs'.

Then, they can be demonized and booked under harsh laws so that they don't get bail for months. On the other hand, those who threaten, warn of repeating 'Godhra like massacres', threaten just before riots in Delhi or give hate speeches, are never booked for sedition, let alone facing interrogations or arrests. 

This is happening for too long now. The script remains same and continues to play in front of us for years now. But it doesn't help anyone in real sense. it speaks volumes about a powerful government if they can't handle, deal with dissent.

Overall, temperature remains high, there is too much anger in the society and it doesn't help the country in the long run. If only the leaders realised that voices are necessary, all the voices, especially, the dissenting voices for a healthy democracy!

Photo courtesy: Jason

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Way ahead for Muslims-1: Be a change maker, stop negativity, lead the society




Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

You can't change entire nation over night but you can do it differently--making a start from your region.

Understand how things are controlled, how media narrative is formed and become a change maker, a leader in your region.

States are run from their capitals. If you are able to manage things in capitals, [remember cities are power centres and also perceptions are created from big cities], you can do a lot but it needs a bit of planning and dedicated individuals with perseverance and passion.

It's easy to explain more in interactive sessions (than in FB posts) but let's give some examples. If Mr Siddiqui runs a school or even a coaching institute, he can do a lot along with the institute. What if he decides is that he will hold a small event--say Maths Olympiad or Science Olympiad for your city, at a small scale, annually, and give prizes.

It not only helps in branding but also establishes the person's image as someone connected with science, knowledge, technology and it helps in growth of his/her stature, also perception about person's community in the area.

Within a few years he/she is seen as an asset to the society. Remember, on one hand there is an effort to constantly blame you, link you with social evils, term your entire community backward and brand you, so that not just others consider you 'nobody', but you also feel guilty about it and believe that you are indeed backward.

Hence, all the more, there is need to do your bit, an extra effort to tackle this propaganda. Take for example any state capital, how many Muslims manage to present themselves as experts in diverse fields--history, urban planning, agriculture, arts, science, human rights, education, health, RTI, city heritage and a long list.

If you carefully see, in your town, when you start your day and pick the paper, you will find certain names, individuals. On police atrocities' case, the report will carry a person's quote, on another story about vision of city in 2050 you will find another expert's opinion, on and on.

They may be 25-50 names but they are seen as prominent individuals of the city without whom events are seen incomplete and they are seen and intellectuals, change makers or activists. Representation and view of your community--is through how you and your community are able to present yourself.

It is soft power, cultural power, intellectual power, your activism and leadership in different fields that makes you a force in a region. You may be 30-40% in a city but how much percent you are here on this plane? In fact, it is these people who come out to represent the city.

It doesn't help if you have a degree in history, you teach for years but in the ongoing debate on an issue in city, you never speak. You don't take lead and remain isolated, believing that someone should come to you to seek your opinion or because you are afraid of taking initiative.

Be active in your city, region. And, be expert in at least one field. There is a person who doesn't have a degree but whenever there is case of police brutality in the city, he notes it down, least keeps a record or writes a letter to DGP or Home Minister, demanding inquiry.

As he is doing it regularly, he becomes a 'go to' person for everyone including newsmen. Over a
period, he becomes important and with him, his community also becomes important, the voice is also there.

If you have knowledge or expertise, you need to display it. You must not be shy about it. If you don't have skills, acquire them, be leader in one field. The 'nothing will happen' attitude is extremely damaging and there is need to come out of this syndrome.

If you are interested in a subject, track it and keep noting down things. Recording, documenting, making databases and interacting with others, its the basic job. Once you do it over a period, you have a command, understanding & you can now position yourself as an expert.

Every written communication has some effect. Also, by being a social or community leader, you ensure that others, outsiders, feel that you people do have a presence somewhere in the town, you don't go invisible. If you live in a society, you must be seen as leaders in all fields, not just those who are in complaining or victimhood mode.

It is not population or power but how you present yourself in your region, make yourself appropriate as leaders, prominent people and in a way real inhabitant of the place, that you make your presence strong in the society.

You may have hundreds of experts, educationists, professors but this is an era when you need to come forward and not feel that others will come to you, you have to make yourself seen, heard, learn tricks of PR. There are multiple examples, city to city within India.

How this can help even in law-and-order and dealing with persecution too, where presence of prominent persons, proper activism and a psychological feel has helped tide over the worse situations due to your strength in the region.

[As it is subject that needs deep understanding, it's not easy to explain nuances on social media. Still there is an effort and this is just a part of series of such posts that were earlier shared in Urdu and Hindi in the past]

Photo courtesy: Snapwire, Pexels

Thursday, June 04, 2020

End of Empathy: How deaths in lynchings evoke little reaction, response in India



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

*Man lynched--hardly any reaction, neither celebrities nor ministers take note

*If he is Muslim, term him 'thief' or bring any other negative angle to make him appear a criminal, even before basic probe

*Once it is found that he is Bangladeshi, then predictable reactions

*However, latest report tells that the person's name was 'RANJIT'. So, now, blame WB govt! But sadness? No sadness, no tears because you are incapable of empathy.

*You are capable of just hate, if incident is in one district, find a nearby 'Muslim district' to create more confusion. *Not just loonies, papers too carry reports on these lines. Same pattern.

*There is never any genuine grief. Every incident, every death just part of the plan to target 'Muslims, seculars....' and whatever they've been fed for years now.

*This is the most unique species, its entire existence rests on falsehoods, hate and propaganda. They can always come up with something new--add a false name, bring up imaginary things. 

*With multiple portals, thousands of FB pages, Twitter handles, IT cell and top leaders ready to push it, they make people believe. Others can keep refuting, defending, explaining but how much!

[Photo is just for representational purpose]

LINK

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Dirty secrets of Indian media: How newspapers cleverly mould public opinion that eventually hurts citizens, country



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

People often wonder why citizens don't react to injustice or brutalities in India, the way people do in other countries.

One of the reasons is the extremely bad role played by media groups because of their power to create public opinion.

Especially, regional and the vernacular newspapers who have a great hold. It is nothing less than a miracle how they are able to do it, but this needs to be told.

They are able to make you cheer for policies that will eventually hurt and destroy you. But this is the power and the clever game that nobody talks about. They make us bigots, unjust and insensitive, they make us hateful and still preach about 'values'.

When Shambhu Regar burnt alive Afrazul, there was no public support for victim and no statements of celebrities or any shame-tears. In fact, people came out on streets for Shambhu and raised Saffron flag on court. That's a feature of our society. Apart from communalism, there are various factors.

Explained in a few points:

1. Local papers played major role for decades in shaping public opinion in states in India. Within states, a victim can be defamed and passed off as 'culprit', after all, many reporters (more than them paper owners) want good relations with officers. Why go against DM-SP, irk them?

2. A reporter generally associated with mass circulated papers in North or Central India, won't pursue with zeal a story about policemen who cane-charges a group or assaults a common man, though it affects everybody. In fact, he'd generally praise such cops as 'Singham', because it suits him and his 'Seth'.

3. Reporter supposed to get things done for owner, his other side businesses, take care of interests. If newspaper group wants to hold a Garba function, he has to ensure police arrangement, get VIPs to reach, avail special permissions, that are possible when officers are kept in good humour.

4. So if a man is really tortured and the story is too big to miss, then there'd be a spin-- 'police sources saying that this man was a gambler or was under influence of alcohol' to create a 'balance'. Either ways, people fed something that eventually hurts his rights as citizen.

5. This is such a cleverly crafted system that citizen walk on road towards policies that will eventually hurt him. But he cheers for it. He is made to believe that this is in his interest, though it is in the interest of a model that has 'seth', a few beneficiaries.

6. Those reporters who try hard, are defamed too, even within fraternity, 'Zyada krantikari ban rahe hain'. To keep job, many learn what to write, ignore. Imagine, when humans can be made to believe that human rights (our own) are bad, you just know what hope is there for change.

LINK: Role of Hindi media is spreading communalism, propagating right-wing narrative

7. When you don't have concept of justice and empathy towards own fellow citizens, you can't emerge as a great nation. If you don't speak for people in your own country who are oppressed and are victims, then there is no bonding and without bonding, no country can prosper.

All the existing fault lines in the society viz.caste, community, religion, region, class are exploited and media--newspapers and TV channels ensure that it 'anti-victim' opinion is formed, such a view is propagated.

8. Biased reporting makes citizens and the majority sympathetic towards goons, lynchers, the cow vigilantes just like they go on supporting economic policies or government steps that would hurt them.

Media has power to influence our mind, our perception. Courage is considered a virture because it is about taking on the powerful, raising voice against those who misuse power. But, imagine if in a society, armed men beat up unarmed citizen, torture them, beat them, feel it is 'bravery' & this is praised.

LINK: How to fight fake news, media propaganda and false communal narrative

9. However, this is not even taken seriously, neither recorded, nor documented. In states like MP, police often take detained persons in the form of a 'juloos' and this is hailed. No one objects to the practice because media has made it fashionable and it praised police for such acts.

Already, there were major issues and prejudices among sections of society. You can always judge character of society, people with the stand they take. Won't speak up against the 'power structure', will remain silent on atrocities on own poor and weak.

10. Also, not just within country, internationally too, see tge silence over big bullies' aggression-insult. But getting excited over petty things and minor offensives against small fries. Rather than becoming more sensitive towards each others' pain, society has been made more indifferent and selfish.

The newspapers and TV channels have created this situation where they pit people against each other, entire communities are branded and targeted. Hence, the need to understand the society, the system and deal with it.


LINK: Why people came out in India to support Shambhu Regar, not for the victim

Photo courtesy: Class Art/Pexels.org

Monday, June 01, 2020

Lessons from US to India: Countries that stop injustice, fight oppression become great nations



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

After George Floyd's murder, USA erupted in anger.

Not just blacks, whites [the majority] too came out to protest and almost every celebrity was openly talking about the incident and speaking against racial discrimination.

Even the policemen seemed on back foot and made a gesture, apologised for their colleagues' horrible act. Does anyone here accept a mistake or says sorry for tortures?

Do we even have the moral character, this strength that is needed for it. Do we even care? This is the major difference between America and India.

When Shambhu Raigar had burnt alive a Muslim man Afrazul as if it was just a pastime & got it video recorded on his kin's phone 2-1/2 yrs ago, how many had protested. Just recall, who came out on streets?

Scores of Shambhu's supporters took to the streets in Rajasthan. They wanted him freed & had unfurled saffron flag at court. There was no feeling of guilt or shame expressed by right-wingers. As usual it was termed as a 'fringe person's action' and ignored.

Similarly, in most of the lynching incidents, from Akhlaq to Junaid, Pahlu Khan to Tabrez, there was never any solidarity, no apology. How many celebrities who otherwise speak in accordance with US' values, did the same in India?

Did you see them holding placards that 'we are sorry'? No. In fact, those involved in killings and lynchings get garlanded and feted. Even they are hailed as heroes and even asked to contest elections. We have a terror suspect win election by a margin of lakhs.

Nations that are strong have people who take stand, have empathy and 'hamdardi'--understand, feel each other' pain, stand with oppressed irrespective of their creed, at least, have some moral values, not selfish interests, majoritarianism or law applied as per whims.