Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Bangle seller was beaten up, then booked and got bail after 107 days: Role of Hindi media in Indore case


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

More than three months ago, the video of a man being threatened and brutally thrashed, had gone viral.

People were outraged as they saw the person was beaten just 'for selling goods in a locality'.

Soon, it was confirmed that the incident had occurred in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. There were voices in support of the bangle seller. 

But those who tried to help him get justice, also faced a lot. The attacker claimed that the bangle seller was a Muslim who posed as Hindu, and harassed a girl. 

So, the victim who got thrashed, was not just booked, but also arrested and charged with provisions under the stringent POCSA. The youths who tried to help Tasleem were seen as troublemakers and they were given notices that they would be externed from district limits. 

Shockingly, when right-wing groups staged a huge protest without any permission and raised objectionable slogans in full public view, no action was taken. The man who had attacked Tasleem was freed. However, he remained in jail.

The role of TV channels was also similar. The attacker's strange logic about a Muslim person going to Hindu locality to sell bangles, was linked to the 'Love Jihad' controversy. The regional TV channels' reports were on these lines [see screenshot].

It took months, in fact, 3-1/2 months before, he could even come out. However, those who had stood for him, still appear as they had got notice to explain their role by administration. 

In between, the local Hindi newspapers remained soft on attackers and their supporters, didn't portray the groups that had raised slogans as troublemakers. 

The newspapers and TV channels shifted the report and gave it a twist, immediately, and pushed the right-wing narrative. 

As a result, the attack on victim was no longer the story. He got booked and went to jail, remained there for such a long period and continues the case, as trial is on. However, those who created ruckus and raised slogans faced nothing at all. Is that 'journalism'? Unfortunately, that's 'mainstream journalism' and more so, Hindi journalism.

HORRIBLE AND BIASED REPORTING THAT TRIES TO PROTECT WRONGDOERS

If one reads Dainik Bhaskar and analyzes its coverage then it shows clear bias in reporting. When right-wing groups gathered in large numbers, the paper calls it 'protest by Indore'--'Indaur jutaa'.

What a spin! An attempt to legitimize the ruckus, twisting and presenting it as genuine protest over an issue while delegitimizing the other one where a small gathering that came to stand with victim, is termed 'unmaad', a very strong word. 

So in one case, paper presents a group in a totally negative way, even if very few people came up and they just wanted justice, stood without sloganeering or ruckus. But in the other instance, which is huge, they don't see 'unmaad' or even criticise the mob or ask questions as to who was behind such a huge gathering. Worse, despite video evidence, paper doesn't report slogans. 

Rather, support it, and even bring 'LJ' angle, own it up, as 'our' and 'of entire Indore'. Why no mention about inflammatory words, how such a gathering was allowed despite Covid protocol and admin was not aware! 

This is India's largest circulated daily. The way it gives 'spin' day after day. Can make any rowdy group or goons as 'your city', 'you', 'your representative' and as a result, you won't go against them. 

Paper ensures that you, the reader and more so, the majority, feels that it's your people, your protest, your issues, your demand and make you take a stand in favour of the attacker and against the victim. This is the sort of 'journalism' that so cleverly divides society, moulds the mindset of society and stops the wheel of justice from moving ahead. It has affect on everyone. All politicians, all officers. And the society. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain: Leading educationist, author and champion of women's rights in undivided India


An author and educationist who opened the famous school for girls more than a century ago, Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, is one of the most inspiring women and a role model in the sub-continent. 

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was a multi-faceted personality who was champion of women's rights and a writer. 

In fact, she wrote extensively and left two volumes that has collections of her essays apart from a famous novel. 

She dreamt of a world where women were at the top--working as scientists, flying aircrafts, running universities and taking stand against war. 

Talking about her achievements, just remember the era she belongs to--she was born before Maulana Azad and Jawahar Lal Nehru. She presided over education conference, organised women, opened the school that runs in Kolkata till today [now run by the State government]. 

After marriage, her husband had fully backed her and she learnt English. Begum Rokeya had gone from house to house, urging women to send their daughters to school. She attended conclaves and conferences, even presided over Indian Women's Conference.

Her life is a shining example of how a woman in that era, worked hard for emancipation of women. She died in 1932, at the age of just 52. She was buried in Sodepur in North 24 Parganas in West Bengal, India. She was born in undivided India and she is a hero in Bangladesh too. BBC's poll had her listed at sixth place. 

She was born in Rangpur. Her birth and death anniversary fall on December 9, and hence it is termed as Rokeya Day. Great women leaders who led in social, educational fields, wrote & stirred people apart from literary output, pathbreaking work on the ground, must be remembered. 

Photo courtesy: Pirganj Kasimon Nessa Girls' High School, Pirganj, Rangpur [Facebook page]

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Communal riots in India: Jalgaon, Bhiwandi killings and failure to act on Commission's reports


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

As lynching incidents and hate crimes continue, we talk about the failure of institutions, particularly, the inability of police and agencies in promptly dealing with violence. 

Also, we talk about how police often fail to act on mob and often the victim gets harassed or framed due to the street power of the goons and their political associations. 

But we have reached the state not in a few months or years. It has been a weakening of institutions over decades. Decades ago, when riots occurred, it often happened that the officials didn't act promptly and excesses or biased action took place.

Imagine, just a year after the horrific Ahmedabad riots of 1969, there were communal riots in Jalgaon, Bhiwandi and Mahad in Maharashtra. Over 120 persons were killed in the riots in these three places and property was destroyed.

The riots had again drawn attention of the nation. Muslims suffered heavily, in terms of loss of lives too. After the riots, justice DP Madon was given task for judicial probe in Jalgaon. Running into six volumes it was a very clear report. 

The role of police had come up in debates. In Jalgaon, out of 43 persons killed, 42 were Muslim. One of the most heart-rending incidents was the killing of Hajra Begam's children in front of her eyes. This had prompted Nida Fazli to wrote the famous verse. 

But, as usual, communal riots were seen as a regular feature in those days. After a few days, news would not be on front page and then focus was lost. The Madon Commission report was voluminous, it had brought out everything in open. 

There was documented evidence, commission report told everything. Evil should have been nipped in the bud. Government should have acted. The names of organisations, their role, their entire planning and all other information was there in the report. 

In Lok Sabha, Mohd Ismail had tabled adjournment motion. Speaker said that he was not sure that the motion could be allowed as it was state subject. The point is that if governments were serious, they could have taken banned the outfits that were involved in large-scale rioting and killings, then only. 

But this didn't happen. The will was missing, there was no intent. If government acts tough, there is fear among the lawbreakers and rioters. These organisations continued to function and there was no serious action. Neither the special acts or tough laws were invoked, nor there were steps taken to stop these organisations from expanding. 

As a result, they were emboldened and within a decade--by 1980s they were able to mobilize so many people that violence spread across India during Rath Yatra. So today when talk about how institutions collapsed, it's not that suddenly in the last five or ten years this has happened. 

Two decades later, the deadly Mumbai riots too witnessed the same pattern. The Justice Sri Krishna Commission report kept gathering dust for years and its recommendations were not acted upon. Role of Congress was perplexing and the major changes that were needed in administration, forces, composition of police and implementation of laws, couldn't take place.

Successive governments played a role and the decades of softness towards fundamentalist and radical groups, made them so powerful that it became almost impossible to stop them in later years. Photo is just for representational purpose. Courtesy

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Circulation of Urdu newspapers in India in the decade after Independence


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The Urdu press has a nationwide presence and it was naturally strong in the pre-partition era.

Even after partition, Urdu newspapers had strong impact in parts of the country.

Especially, in national capital, Delhi and Punjab. 

The centres remain the same, even six or seven decades later. Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Bhopal and Bangalore. However, contrary to general feeling the circulation of newspapers in the post-independence era was high, the figures were not too impressive.

Pratap, Tej and Milap were major papers in Delhi. Post-partition, the Hindu and Sikh populace that continued to read Urdu, preferred these papers. In 1959, Siyasat Jadeed Kanpur was quite a big paper and had higher circulation that Siasat, Hyderabad.

Among major dailies, Mumbai had Inquilab, Lucknow had Qaumi Awaz, Calcutta had Asr-e-Jadid and Azad Hind apart from Rozana Hind. Jalandhar had Hind Samachar, Hyderabad had Rahnuma-e-Deccan apart from Siasat and others. 

In Bhopal, Nadeem's circulation was less but again circulation is not a criterion, it had impact. Just like, Times of India and Hindustan Times sell 20-25 times or even more than Indian Express in Delhi, but Express probably still has more impact.

The belief is that it was a golden era of some sorts, as people always look towards past, with love and longing. However, printing newspapers was not easy and litho was the system, before the advent of modern technology. The circulation figures are from the annual report of the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI).

READ: LINK OF TOP URDU NEWSPAPERS AND WEBSITES IN 2021

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Cow protection group's bid to storm parliament 55 years ago: Yet no right-wing outfit was banned or perceived as threat to nation


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It was in the month of November, 55 years ago, when a shocking incident had occurred in India's national capital. 

The year was 1966. A big gathering in support of cow protection took place in Delhi.

The protesters who gathered near the Parliament, turned violent. The situation went out of hand. 

Ministers' houses were attacked & burnt. The policemen later resorted to firing. As per reports, 7* persons were killed, while nearly 200 were injured. 

Papers carried the reports on front page, bold top lead stories. But they were not harsh, quite soft. They termed them 'unruly demonstrators'. The words were not 'attackers' on 'temple of democracy' but words used were 'paraders' and 'demonstrators'.

Though it was an attack at the seat of the government. Gulzarilal Nanda was Home Minister. It was claimed after Swami Rameshwaranand had exhorted audience to prevent ministers from coming out of parliament, that situation deteriorated.

K Kamraj's house was targeted. Also, minister of state Raghuramaiah's bungalow was attacked and set afire. So many trucks, buses and vehicles were damaged and set afire. The leaders of these 'demonstrators' had openly announced that they won't let ministers come out of the parliament. 

The scale of violence was unprecedented. Centre, the government and the Delhi administration was 'taken aback'. Lieutenant General AN Jha had expressed 'complete surprise', also 'intel had no info! On November 8, despite Opposition push, Centre said no to judicial probe demand and house was adjourned. 

Army was alerted just in case need arose, though it was police that handled the situation and remained on the scene. Hundreds of Sadhus were arrested within 24 hours. Swami Karpatri Maharaj was also among those taken in custody. 

The figure of arrested persons crossed 1,400 later. Those arrested belonged to Jan Sangh, Arya Samaj, Sadhu Sabha and Sanatan Dharma Samaj. Then, on November 9, Gulzarilal Nanda resigned as home minister. 

YB Chavan became the home minister in the next few days. But were the 'major disturbances in Delhi' seen as a national security issue or threat to country, causing worries about future? In fact, the policy continued, that right-wing can never be perceived as security threat, even its fanatic wings. 

Turning Right-wing: Softness towards right-wing, the reasons for the shift

The point is that any minor stir or a statement of a leader in a far-flung part of the country, leads to so much brouhaha, immediate concerns and casual use of words like 'traitor'. But even an incident of this magnitude--almost an attack at the seat of democracy, hadn't shaken the government enough. 

And as we know, later also, no serious action was taken. No right-wing outfit was banned despite such an incident. Subsequent governments too remains comparatively soft towards the right-wing. On the other hand, a year later, the unlawful activities (prevention) act--UAPA came, in 1967. 

It has resulted in thousands of arrests and curtails the rights of citizens, denies them the right to bail.The softness towards right-wingers continued. Two decades later, VHP and BD had become big strong groups with all India presence, lakhs of volunteers and so by 1980s groundwork was complete. Congress got another decade later--from 2004 to 2014, and then after all the work, handed over, completely.

The threat was not dealt with, sternly. Hence, right-wing groups were emboldened and emerged stronger. By 1980s, there was a fresh resurgence. And every time the approach was similar, soft. Jan Sangh that turned into BJP, used VHP and Bajrang Dal cadre during the Rath Yatra.

There was violence in dozens of towns in the country, yet, no action was taken. A few years later, in 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished. This, despite chief minister's pledge that he won't let anyone harm the structure.

If this was not enough, those involved in the demolition, those who gave inflammatory slogans and made the speeches, incited the mobs, were never made to pay for their acts. The cases dragged for years and none of the conspirators were jailed. 

The failure was on all fronts, not just administrative and political, but on all fronts. When executive fails, people look at courts. However, Kalyan Singh was given just ONE day symbolic imprisonment! No wonder, the message went that right-wing ideology is part of nationalism. 

The post-Godhra pogrom in Gujarat occurred in the year 2002. Many culprits involved in violence managed to get bail despite getting convicted. Over the years, Hindutva became synonymous with Hinduism and Nationalism. 

Many groups were found involved in planning and executing attacks eg Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid at Hyderabad and Bhopal Ijtima apart from similar plots at Jalna, Nanded, Modasa, Purna, Thane and Goa but, none of those groups was put on the list of banned outfits.

Even when Congress was at the Centre, it didn't do it. The State government in Maharashtra too belonged to the same party, yet, they couldn't do it. And, later leaders would pass the buck, claiming that they didn't get the file!

The shift to right-wing was complete. This happened because every important pillar that needed to stay strong, crumbled. Not just the bureaucracy and the political class, but this was facilitated by the the Fourth Estate--the role of press and media, particularly, vernacular newspapers in North India, in taking side and changing public opinion.

Now, coming back to November 7, 1966. The incident didn't lead to serious action against right-wing groups. Rather, cow protection laws came up in different states. Over the years, these laws were made more and more stringent, and Muslim youths faced charges, getting framed and prosecuted even over rumours of cow slaughter, mere claim over possession of beef or transportation of objectionable meat.

The attacks, lynching bids and the murder of Akhlaq, the father of an armyman, in Dadri in Western UP, and many such incidents, were example of how right-wing influence had grown on the country and how it had affected the society, as lawmakers went on to protect and garland those involved in lynching.

Another version of this report is available at the medium

NOTE: Though a major incident, the cow protection brigade's agitation in 1966 was quickly forgotten, and was rarely talked about. It's only in recent times, when WhatsApp messages gave a twist and talked about government firing on Sadhus made rounds that some news outlets recalled it. 

This report mentions it as 'the very first attack on Indian parliament'. The report mentions that how BJS' MP Swami Rameshwaranand who was elected from Karnal in undivided Punjab led the mob towards Parliament  House complex 'with a clear intent to storm it' and finding the gates closes, the mob 'launched a free for all attack on govt buildings'.

Another report mentions that it was the first attack and it was carried out by the 'gau rakshaks'. It also gives information about the death of a policeman in the attack and also throws light on the backdrop, giving examples like the use of an objectionable caricature. 

Yet another report in The Caravan, quotes newspaper reports of the era to tell how mob caused extensive damage and destruction, that there was hardly a building on the parliament street that didn't bear signs of vandalism. CRPF was out on streets, curfew was imposed and loss estimated at Rs 90 lakh.

[*another person's death was confirmed later, taking the toll to, at least, eight. The incident had occurred on November 7, 1966.]

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Indian politics: Reasons that people keep electing politicians, leaders repeatedly irrespective of performance



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It's often seen as a mystery that people keep electing non-performing or bad performing leaders and then lament, yet, continue to support them. 

I would start with an example. The story of a politician. This 'neta' or leader belonged to a group that was backward but members of this community didn't like the tag.

They felt that their community [caste group] was forward. This happens quite often, every group tries to find groups that are more backward to position itself as 'forward in comparison'. 

So the leader and his party were pro-poor and pro-backward. However, his own community didn't like him, as they felt he was pro-other castes. He remained in politics and after struggle, he became big leader. 

This was the turning point. Everything changed. His people fell in love with him now, the community was suddenly proud, even got too possessive about him. No personal benefit came for the members of the community in the long run either. This was 'Pride' Factor! 

All those years, he was agitating, they didn't even like him, but once he 'arrived' as big leader on the scene, he readily gets 'adopted' by the same community. So everyone in the caste group feels happy as if it is their own success, as if till then community was poor. 

Isn't it something about the inferiority complex too that we need success of someone like us to feel that 'our community too matters'. Even his decisions do not benefit and even hurt now, the community members justify everything. 

READ: How 'identity interests' override personal interests in Indian society and politics

They support him fully. They immediately come with such one liners: 'It's politics so he has to make adjustments'. Even in big failures or blunders, everything is justified, no anger or frustration, because ultimately he is 'own', a 'reflection of me'. 

The sense that due to him our community and in turn we have got respect. He is there, so 'a part of me in him'. A collective 'sense of kinship' or 'community pride'. Not just for representation sake. A new Thakur or a Brahmin, new Kurmi or a Jat leader is emerging, becomes CM or powerful minister, then it evokes such  sentiment within groups--OUR MAN, PRIDE. 

Other leader may do good, but he remains 'other'. A person who as leader or Chief minister brings qualitative change in lives through efforts or schemes will not be rewarded despite his work, as he is 'not your own'. 

READWhy rogue politicians, goons and musclemen are elected in India?

Historically backward communities have aspirations. It is understandable. But certain strong communities have leaders, still they too fall in this system, as t hey feel their voice no longer matters [compared to the past and their own hegemony], the past imagined as 'golden era' [not necessarily true].

There are groups that are numerically small but get higher representation, yet they're not happy despite progress. They are doing well but compare selves with 'other communities' in own cities, who seem doing even better. So that's a strange cycle. 

You elect leaders just for your 'identity', kinship and because you feel good that a person of your clan or caste or community has reached a point, even if he has no vision or plan and this doesn't even bring a change in your life. That's how these things continue, year after year, decade after decade.

[The photographs are just for representational purpose. It is not a reflection of their performance.]

Friday, September 17, 2021

Book on life of revolutionary freedom fighter Sher Ali who had assassinated Viceroy Lord Mayo


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Revolutionary freedom fighter Sher Ali, who was hanged by the British in Andaman and Nicobar islands, was among the early revolutionaries on whose path Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Madanlal Dhingra and many others, walked, later. 
Though Sher Ali's sacrifice is well-known, but the need was felt for a long time to have a proper book on his life. Dr Md Shahid Siddiqui Alig has written the book on the revolutionary who was executed in Andaman and Nicobar. 
Sher Ali was hanged as he had attacked and assassinated Lord Mayo. No other such high-ranking British official faced such an attack on Indian soil. Sher Ali's life and patriotism, how he turned into an anti-imperialist, in the company of other freedom fighters, is a long story.
Sher Ali Afridi was born in Tirah valley. He had assassinated Lord Mayo when the latter made a visit to Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1872. He was immediately overpowered. Subsequently, he was arrested, incarcerated, faced trial and was executed. 
The author delves deep into history though Colonial era documents, and brings to fore the entire turn of events. The reader also gets to know about Andaman islands, the harassment and extreme torture meted out to freedom fighters who were kept in the prison.

Author brings to us British officials' comments about Sher Ali, as well. WW Hunter wrote that Sher Ali was a 'hillman of immense personal strength and when heavily fettered in the condemned cell overturned lamp with his chained ankle, bore down English sentry by brute strength of his body & wrenched away his bayonet with the manacled hands'.

We know well about great revolutionary leaders--Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad who planned the assassination of Saunders. Also, about Madanlal Dhingra, who in England assassinated William Hutt Curzon Wyllie, but a dedicated book was needed on Sher Ali's life. 

In foreword, M Ahmad Mujtaba mentions that earlier an event was held every year in Hopeland on March 11, in memory of the pioneering revolutionary of Indian's independence struggle. He mentions that not even a street in Andaman and Nicobar is named after Sher Ali. 

Dr Shahid Siddiqui Alig went through historical texts, documents, visited multiple libraries, accessed archives' records and also visited Andaman and Nicobar, before he began penning this book. It's an important book and must be in your collection, if you are interested in history and Indian freedom struggle.

You can get the book through a local Urdu publisher in your city. It has been published by All India Urdu Taleem Ghar. The cost is Rs 150, 10 US dollars for readers abroad. In case, you want to communicate, write to publishers at this Email: allindiaurdutaleemghar@gmail.com

READ: Remembering Sher Ali on the anniversary of first war of independence

Monday, September 13, 2021

Time for a new, articulate Muslim leadership to appear: Lack of leaders in Lucknow is a cause of concern


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

While there is considerable interest regarding politics in the society, the lack of initiative towards entering political arena, is intriguing.

This article deals with the issue of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. Already, the community is facing a serious issue of poor representation in political sphere. Major parties are not giving tickets to Muslim candidates, as they feel polarization will affect their chance of victory.

Every community needs a voice and its members must reach echelons of power--at all the three levels viz. civic body, state legislature and houses of parliament. Besides, there is also social, intellectual leadership that is needed, apart from electoral politics.

What is surprising is that we don't have more people emerging as leaders in our centres. Cities like Lucknow need leaders, voices. It takes sometime before a person gets recognized in the society. This is through sustained efforts, speaking up, learning how to 'emerge' as leader in a society. 

Sometimes, a person who was never even a legislator or councillor, is seen as an important person or a leader of the region, because he has a forum or speaks up on important issues. On the other hand, there are people who win and have held public offices for several terms, but are not recalled or considered 'leader'.

It's about vision, taking initiative and several other factors. Basically, how you present yourself, how you engage with your regional media. There are certain tricks of the trade too. We need leadership that talks about real issues and also gives hope to community. 

Firstly, let's talk about a leader who got elected as MLA from one of the constituencies of the city, after a long time. It's rare for a Muslim to get elected from Lucknow, because of the manner in which delimitation of constituencies took place.

The person got ticket, he won, he was highly educated, had party chief and the cadre's support, yet he  remained silent for whole tenure. Even after loss in the next polls, could have raised issues as 'ex-MLA', because person is known, established as a leader.

Surprisingly, one never heard his statements, support to people when it was needed or any intervention, let alone positive work that could have changed perceptions or helped people in his constituency. Isn't it weird? Why does a person get into politics.

At least for sake of furthering own career or strengthening your image, you should speak an act. But you remain totally inert, then how does it help you or the electorate and the community. Capital's MLA has power, can speak on state issues, raise them, present self as face of community in state. 

Gets more media exposure, has opportunity to be known across state and country. But when someone wins, and remains inactive, then this issue. Rehan Naeem was MLA in the term 2012-2017. He lost in 2017. He lost in 2017. However, he failed to make any impact. Not party's fault. 

Earlier, it was in 1985 that a Muslim legislator had won from the seat, during the Rajiv Gandhi wave. Easy to dismiss others as 'old school, 'out of touch' but if modern, highly educated and well-connected person, fails to act, then it's really depressing. 

Not visible or taking up issues. Even as ex-MLA, leaders take delegations, hold demonstrations, meet Chief ministers and Governors, call press conferences, speak for people but when you don't do these basic things, who is responsible.

You are considered a leader when you speak up, when you are visible, you speak, stand with citizens. Now imagine, in a city where Muslim MLAs don't get elected easily due to certain factors, you get elected & yet no one thinks about you when talking of leadership in your own city.

This city has such a huge educated elite among Muslims, yet, so less engagement with politics. If you don't engage with politics, avoid social or political or any kind of leadership, and then rue that some non-serious person is seen as your representative, then what's the solution?

New generation must take up leadership role, come forward. If you've no proper leader and just those 3-4 religious faces representing you from the city that is seen as heart of Indian politics as well as Indian Muslim politics, then what can be more depressing!

There is need for not just 1-2 but 10-12 faces. Alas 0. Own failure. Accept. There is no death of people with political understanding. Every second person is an expect and has 'siyasi shaoor'. But if you can't even project yourself as leader or get into mainstream politics, then something is definitely wrong, seriously.

You've a population of nearly 1 million Muslims in  district now. But you have one sellout joker who is seen as representative. Two-three more Sunni, Shia personalities. Where is politician, where is leader?Join any party but get in politics, there's space, don't let the void remain. Take it as a profession or along side your main job, but get into active role.

Contest, lose, but at least be in politics, there should have been many leaders for such a big population, visible real netas in many parties What you do best is labelling or being minor party activists, fighting for one party and running down the 'other'.

There are people who never won LS or VS elections in their lives but are seen as big leaders. In fact, people generally don't even realise that the guy has never won a election. So, you are basically, not even able to present yourself as a neta. That's the saddest part of the story. One can't leave the field wide open.

READ: Indian Muslims need to seriously take up politics, reasons for failure in the field

Thursday, August 12, 2021

INJUSTICE: Innocents arrested and jailed, hate preachers remain free due to policemen's power to apply harsh laws selectively


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In India, world’s biggest democracy, a huge debate is going on over incarceration of people who committed no crime and were framed.

A journalist who was going to cover a crime, was booked, arrested and languishes in jail. 

A doctor who saved lives of ailing children, was jailed for a speech and was much later given a ‘clean-chit’ by court, however, he had spent months in jail by then. A comedian was arrested even before 'cracking a joke'.

These are just three names from different fields. Apart from them, numerous activists are in prisons just because they were booked under harsh laws — one of them is Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or UAPA. It’s really strange, almost unbelievable that this can happen. 

That a man who came armed with pistol in front of university students, gets bail, another who makes inflammatory and threatening speeches day after day in Western UP is never arrested, yet another man who organised maha-panchayats and issued threats to minority community, was not detained.

In so many cases, such people were not even booked. It’s because the first step is an authority taking action and police doesn’t take ‘cognisance’. Or, even there is a person who is not high up in the rank and can be termed ‘fringe’ and arrested, then he gets booked under such sections that are ‘bail-able’.

Those who led a rally where slogans against Muslims were openly raised in Delhi recently and pamphlets containing extremely offensive content were distributed, [even minors brought in that demonstration], had it easy.

Such people, even when they are booked, are charged under such provisions that they get bail, within 24 hrs. This is because no UAPA  applied. No sedition charges either. The harsh National Security Act or NSA was not invoked and the officials prepared a soft case.

So it in a way creates a system where one person without committing an offence may rot in prison while other who is involved in issuing open threats, making genocidal comments, spreading hate, can breathe easy because no one is going to book them under a harsh law.

And, this is just a part of the story. People who have given inflammatory speeches in different states and that caused mob violence or communal riots, were saved because even after a case is registered, the State has power to withdraw charges.

Who will be booked or not booked under the harsh law, is a decision made by police officials. Laws can be applied selectively by an official who knows that depending on a person’s leaning or background or other factors, he will take ‘cognizance’ of his actions and act accordingly — case under a bail-able law or harsh law.

Even the video of a speech gets cleverly edited and a false complaint made, on the basis of which a person can be booked under harsh law, and will remain in detention and he, his family will suffer for months, year or even more, before it’s known that he committed no crime.

Worse, a standup comedian was arrested on the basis of a complaint. He hadn’t even performed in the city till then. But, a senior officer who arrested him, was quoted as saying that he hadn’t performed but he may have cracked a joke later’.

The names of a doctor, a comedian and a journalist mentioned to give an idea about the situation. The difference is clear when you see treatment meted out to Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Shahrukh on one hand or Rambhakt Gopal, Kapil Gurjar, Suraj Pal Amu and many more on the other hand.

Imagine, the seriousness of the situation. How do you resolve it when there is such disproportionate power — the power of ‘taking cognisance’, the power to book anyone and destroy their life, while let a hate-preacher get away without even detention!

Cops can add a section or just not add it. This causes sufferings for the person and his family. It’s an example of ‘show me the man, I'll show you the rule’. The officials know well depending on regime and political climate, how to act — very soft on one group, extremely tough on other. 

So that’s injustice at the first and critical stage. It can’t change until people realise how it impacts everybody. When there is public opinion. When top courts finally take a call on this power of police and administration.

Besides, does media even inform citizens about the double standards in implementation of law and actions, taking place! No. There are such twists, just listen how the TV anchors speak, that it confuses the ordinary viewer.

What would you do when one of the largest circulated dailies or the most viewed TV channels repeat a false claim and present in a way that it gives a totally wrong impression — that something happened though it didn’t happen at all!

But, as a result locally officials get under pressure or due to this reason, take unfair action. It can’t change until there is huge awareness and also action against those officials whose actions lead to false cases, undue harassment, unjust incarceration and such extreme injustice.

The freedom to consider an incident ‘cognizable’ or ‘non-cognizable offence’ just because of political line, affiliations or community link, and then adding harsh sections is nothing but a symbol of unfair action, tyranny, prejudice and clear double standards.

Recently, a movie and TV star’s video clip went viral. He was speaking in front of right-wing leaders and rued, “The issue is that people belonging to minority, are able to speak to us, look at us in our eye, talk as equals”.

If you want to subdue or harass minority or turn them second class citizens, will you bring a harsh law like UAPA, amend it to make it more tough, and then misuse it, so that discrimination becomes legal — through a law!

Another version of this piece is available on Medium.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

How Indian Media interprets data: Journalists' conditioning that never let's them go beyond 'Muslim backwardness'

 

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It’s painful to write this piece. But just read these few points to understand how even statistics are interpreted in a particular way due to ‘conditioning’ and biases.

1.How many times you see headlines that say, ‘Muslim women literacy rate set to beat Hindu women in rural India now’*, ‘Percentage of illiterates among Hindus 2–1/2 times times the percent among Jains’ or ‘Sikhs, Christians ahead in literacy in particular regions, X community still lag’ or ‘Buddhists performing better than Y community in this state’.

This is a fact that Muslim women now have higher literacy rate in rural parts of the country that Hindu women. But have you seen anywhere this reported or big headlines that show this upward trend!

Also, the statistics now clearly indicate that overall [rural plus urban] literacy among women above five years is— Hindu women (69%) and Muslim women (68.1%). Quite close. Isn’t it. The Ministry of Statistics, NSS, PLFS, all reports, you can check and find it yourself.

2. Unfortunately, despite this data that is available in public space, it is the only Hindu-Muslim binary and ‘Muslims as backward’ headline appearing in papers despite so many other figures and different points.

Now, even if Muslims were behind — moving fast or slow, the journalists rarely mention overall figure of illiterates, as it will reveal something else — almost 250 million or nearly 25 crore Hindus are illiterates.

3. In India, every data is analysed in newspapers and reported in a way that it must not show majority community in poor light or backward. When there are figures, they are picked in a way to ‘reveal less, hide more’, and also presented in a particular manner — that’s the status quo of reporting.

Perhaps, it’s due to conditioning that just this aspect or on these lines, the story on social indicators is believed to be written and rarely people try to look deep into the reports and see the changes.

4. So extrapolation, NFHS surveys & reports like PLFS or others give us a picture. Even if we tilt towards positive side and believe that figure will reduce dramatically by next Census, still around25 crore or 250 million [illiteracy] are illiterate in India. Imagine extent of the problem.

5. If a community is small, then it’s comparatively easy to catch up. Small groups have shown way. Bigger the group, the tougher it is. As per 2011, illiteracy figures were 25.8 cr and 5.42 cr for Hindu & Muslim. 2021 are estimates.

6. If you imagine a rosy picture & say 25 crore, even this is bigger than population of 190 countries, only less than China, US and India. Still, we focus on nonsense, every day discuss those issues. Politicians, Anchors want not just illiteracy but probably want to snatch our brains too.

7. Now coming to second part of the article. I didn’t want to write it but such is conditioning of journalists that I have to write and I must remind — remember, as per statistics, Hindus still have the lowest level of educational attainment of any major religious group according to international studies. Jews are at the top but Christians and Muslims are also much ahead.

8. Globally, the average is 5.6 years of schooling, and 41% of Hindus have no formal education of any kind. On average, Hindu men have 2.7 more years of schooling than Hindu women, and just over half of Hindu women (53%) have no formal schooling, compared with 29% of Hindu men.

9. Whoever owns media can make you believe anything and such is power of ‘mainstream media’, its narrative that you blindly start believing them. If someone says something, talk on statistics and look at the complete picture. 

Ideally, educational backwardness or anything should not be linked with religion. In a huge country, there are regional differences, also state support, many factors, and any ‘issue’ should be seen as just an ‘issue’, not on communal lines.

But in India, media and channels’ job is apparently just to communalise and show entire Muslim community permanently as ‘backward’, hence, when it is linked to religion all the time, we too need to explain it with statistics.

10. As a citizen in world’s biggest democracy, we must know our real situation — it shouldn’t be that we are either too self-critic, gullible and believing that ‘we are bad, we don’t want to study, our community is really against education’ or even turn over-optimist. 

11. Opportunity and state support can make a community prosper fast and taking away support can have negative affect. We must know reality, neither turn pessimist, nor self-hating, but be aware and always make efforts to move ahead. 

12. Communities that are so big that they number hundreds of million, are so easily termed ‘backward’. This sort of crass generalization, ignoring the regional differences [the regions too are huge, states that have population over 100 million and even 200 million — ranging from Maharashtra to UP and are 175 most countries of the world] and without evidence and bringing focus on all indicators, is not just careless but dangerous.

One last point — never believe media’s narrative blindly, as the social conditioning and training of most journos in news rooms [or just because they feel it is the model or style going for generations] is to present news in a fashion by cherry picking data, so that Muslims feel they are indeed ‘poorest, backward, and behind everyone else’.

*It's true now, as per latest government survey results.

NOTE: The photo of child with skullcap is deliberately used as Indian Media has made this photo as symbol of backwardness. Though it shows how presence of maktab and madarsa ensures that even without availability of schools, Muslims do far better and get basic literacy with ease due to these institutions.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Death of Journalism: How Indian media remains soft on right-wing hate speeches and extremism, even refuses to report


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The headline may seem harsh but it’s true. In fact, it was unimaginable till a few years ago that we would be witness to the situation where hate speeches that have the potential to disrupt the social fabric would be delivered on a regular basis and media organizations would not be willing to report.

Imagine, a politician in central India gives speech in front of public and he openly gives a call to stock arms and indulge in attack and arson, yet, no major news channel or paper mentions it, though the video is available and complaint was made to authorities in this regard.

Within a couple of days, another youth delivers a speech in a public event, around 700 kms away [in Haryana], threatening to shoot the ‘Nawab of Pataudi’. The video is available, it was shared, but there was ‘pin drop silence’ from mainstream media.

The same media that talks about ‘Nawab of Pataudi’ day in and day out, covers his family like Paparazzi. But despite users on social media, expressing outrage, not a single TV channel or paper wrote a word on this ‘hate speech’.

Sometimes out of 50–100 major publications, barely one reports that too in a way that it dilutes the speech or avoids mentioning the worst part. Oh yes, there is another incident recently. Down South, a third case of extreme hate speech took place. 

A legislator created a song ahead of a Muslim festival and the song spreads hate against the community, in fact, in the song he gives a clear message — threatens to ‘bury them alive’ (sic) and in this case too, no one has reported it — not a single newspaper or channel.

It’s indeed phenomenal. So how this 'code of silence' has come into being? The cover-up and more than this, the ‘understanding’, that no one will write about it, lest the world gets to know about the level of hate speech and radicalization in our society.

That’s the same media which casually publishes unverified content, does stories based on mere claims, churns out reports after reports on the basis of hearsay by putting an exclamation or question mark in the headline and it even reports things that were never said.

How media covers up right-wing extremism, hate speeches and ignores growing radicalization in society

When ‘maha panchayats’— grand gatherings are held and such hate is spewed, and media doesn’t even focus on these speeches or tends to ignore or just write a bit in a passing mention, it raises serious questions on Indian media setup.

How can such a big cover-up take place? That, major news organisations avoid reporting when hate speeches lead to panic, fear and even violence. Due to failure of media, there is not adequate pressure and neither cases are registered, nor culprits brought to books.

In case after case, officials say, ‘we don’t get information’ or ‘no one has complained to us yet’. It is, of course, because the participants at such conclaves are aligned to the right-wing and the party sympathetic to them, rules many of the states.

But inaction of administration or silence of politicians aside, the issue is that how media has developed this system of not focusing on such extremism and the decision to not report these incidents. It’s clear that the right-wing doesn’t want the incidents to be known. 

That media outlets considered left-liberal or centrist too avoid, shows that there is a clear feeling that it will show us in poor light and hence it must not be reported. Worse, many of the leading journalists who avoid these cases, don’t even want others to write. 

The moment there is a video or a social media post, the veteran journos appear with the advice — ‘don’t give publicity to the chap’. This is weird because when things don’t get reported, there is even less chance of any official taking cognizance. 

And, if it is not reported, it’s easy to deny in future and say that, ‘nothing happened, who said it, bring proof’. Do they want these hate preachers to continue their work without any hindrance? Why else, they don’t write and stop others too from writing about such horrific speeches that are becoming a regular feature!

Quite consistent with the line that documentation of hate crimes and hate speeches is not liked. Hindustan Times had suddenly stopped its tracker and the editor had left the group. There are few outlets other than ‘mainstream media’. On social media, ‘reporting groups’ get active and accounts that document have been targeted and suspended.

Is media aim to allow fanatics to continue activities on one hand & on the other hand ensure that this doesn’t get reported or documented. Sharp management. It’s not new. Just that the speeches are now more common. In fact, it was the same earlier also. Almost twelve years ago, a leader gave an inflammatory and divisive, hate speech in UP.

He said a lot — from open threat and allegedly inciting violence. The journalists didn’t mention the horrific part. When asked, why you didn’t write, the reply was like, ‘oh I missed’ or ‘which part?’ Even after forwarding the video or the part, there was no change in story. 

So this issue has been there in ‘mainstream media’ in India for long. Just that there was no social media and it was difficult to keep track, then. The composition of newsrooms, the people who don’t want ‘own society to be blamed’ or seen as radical, try to hush up and remain in denial, even at the cost of objectivity and fairness in journalism.

It’s a majoritarian society and this is reflected in media, more in newsroom composition. It doesn’t want others to know that such things happen and that there is such level of ‘hate’ in the society, hence it zealously tries to conceal and hush up, even if it’s immoral and unjust.

Clearly, it is a complicity of epic proportion. Apparently, there is a strong belief that ‘our people can’t be fanatic like ‘others’, and if they are as we see them turning into monsters, it’s better to not write about them because this will affect our image’.

In fact, reality is opposite. By telling the truth, you won’t be defaming own society or nation, rather, it will be a self-correcting path, it will ensure that fanatics are pushed to boundary, exposed and brought to books. However, if you feel that reporting about their acts, would affect your own image, then it’s a huge mistake. 

Because, this will have far-reaching consequences for the society, faith and the nation. You can also read this report at the Medium. It's titled, 'If media stops reporting hate speeches and ignores growing radicalization in society, it shuns its duty, becomes complicit'. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

How a family of 5 can be seen as 'draining resources of nation' while a family of 153 praised for 'joint family tradition': Indian Journalism



First see the newspaper clipping on the left and then you will realise howmedia has the huge power to create perception.

1. A family with 5-6 children or photo can be used to portray them as 'threat to nation, overpopulating and draining resources of the nation' but another family with 153 members is termed as 'great example of joint family, carrying Indian tradition forward'. 
And, reader won't even notice, how cleverly it happens. That's the power of 'journalism', as it creates perception. How things can be presented or misrepresented, depending on who has the power in newsrooms. How the agenda gets pushed and everyone starts believing it. 

2. This is Surja Ram's family. Report was carried as 'Special' on Family Day in a positive way. All praise for the family with so many members. The report lauded Surja Ram's family with the line, 'even in these times, they stay together'. Pride, 'values'.

3. The reader is so glad to know about the family. But another report about a different family of mere five kids, or caption with a photo [remember the Open cover story] is so negative and reader would accept that too--Bad people. That's how once brain works in accordance with media reports. No questions.

4. Any thing can be cleverly presented in a totally different way. If the person is biased, he can do it. That's the power of journalism. In fact, misuse of the power of 'wielding the pen'. Not as tool to inform, but as a weapon to damage, defame and destroy. 

5. Basically, a journalist or writer must be objective. It means that he should be fair, just and neither pursuing particular agenda, nor going overboard. But this is probably impossible to expect in present times. So just remember this, how any aspect can be presented differently.

The clipping is old, but this is just an example. In fact, images of a man with his children, on a bike have been used to spread hate. A well-known news magazine had even photo-shopped an image to create a false perception, and linked it with 'over-population' in a cover story.

Nothing is wrong in writing positively about a family, but then standards should be same. Fascism must not come wrapped in the attractive label of 'news' or under the garb of 'journalism'. Besides, the victims must know the reality and should be able to identify and distinguish--what's news, what's propaganda. and what's the real agenda.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Leader of Mewat: Chaudhary Tayyab Husain who was elected to Assemblies in three different states and became minister as well


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Chaudhary Tayyab Husain is known for his leadership of the Meo community and for representing the region in Assemblies as well as parliament. 

A prominent politician, he not only voiced aspirations of the people of the region and raised the demands of Meo community, but also took up the leadership role and led from the front, setting up schools, health facilities as well his role in the Meo College.

His father, Chaudhary Yasin Khan, was born in a farming family in Rehna village but with his hard work and determination, reached St Stephen's College and Aligarh Muslim University, then went on to practice law in Lahore before independence.

As leader of Meos, he became their voice. The Brayne* Meo school was set up. His drive to set up 'School every two miles' was an important step. He was a member of Unionist Party and legislator in undivided Punjab's Assembly for a long period, and was a unanimous leader of the Meos. 

After independence, when there was violence and fear, he had brought Gandhi to Mewat and the latter gave a call to Meos to stay. Yasin Khan had joined Congress and was elected as MLA in Punjab in early 1950s.

Carrying the legacy of his illustrious father, Chaudhary Yasin Khan, the son--Tayyab Husain made his foray in politics in post-independent India. First, he was elected as MLA in Punjab Assembly. It was greater Punjab then and this also included Haryana.

Later, he was elected to Rajasthan and Haryana Assemblies. In fact, he was minister in all the three states, a unique record. Meos live in the region that is spread across Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and up to the Delhi's border-viz. Gurgaon. 

Apart from being member of three State Assemblies, a unique feat, he was also elected to Parliament twice. He remained with Congress, though for a while, he was associated with Vishal Haryana Party. He had a long political career.

Tayyab Husain was barely 26 when he was made a deputy minister for health and PWD in Pratap Singh Kairon's government in Punjab. He became Chairman of Punjab Waqf Board in 1965. In 1966, he became member of Haryana Assembly, as the state was carved out of Punjab.

In 1970, his father passed away. After Yasin Khan's death, Tayyab Husain was bestowed the title of Chaudhry of 36 'biradiris' and the 'pugri', this honour came to him. A worthy successor to his father, he continued to guide the community in social, educational and political fields.

In 1971, he was elected to Lok Sabha from Gurgaon seat on Congress ticket. Then, in 1980, he was again elected to Lok Sabha from Faridabad. Besides, he represented the Tavdu seat later. In 1993, he was once again elected from another state--Rajasthan. 

In Rajasthan too, he was made a minister and had portfolio of Agriculture, Health and Rural Development. Yasin Meo College is located in Nuh, Mewat. It was due to his efforts that became a major institution. He passed away in 2008. After Tayyab Husain, his next generation carries the legacy.

READLeader of Mewat: Rare Indian politician who was elected to Assemblies of 3 states

*It was initially named after FL Brayne, the then Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Persian in India: Once language of court and administration, Farsi survives in the country in a unique way

 

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In mid-1980s, there used to be a column in children’s magazine, Paraag, where the editor replied to readers’ queries in detail, but also tried to bring a little humour.

I remember, once a boy had asked, ‘Uncle, why an intelligent person is called ‘aql-mand’ when ‘mand’ means slow in Hindi?. The editor, Kanhaiya Lal Nandan replied, ‘My dear son, it’s Farsi suffix ‘mand’ and by not realising it, you are proving yourself ‘aqal’-‘band’ [mind closed, shut].

The boy was curious, rightly so, because nobody tells that this is Persian, which was for centuries the language of courts and administration in India. In fact, there is so much Farsi in vocabulary in Indian languages that it is an intrinsic part of lingua franca but people don’t even realise it.

From words as small as ‘daar’ [keep, hold], or ‘khaana’ [house] or ‘mand’ [having], each forming hundreds of words — dukaandaar [shopkeeper], dawakhaana [dispensary or medical shop], ehsaanmand [indebted], it is so much present in our speech — even if a person is speaking Urdu, Bangla, Hindi or Marathi, that it is not even noticed.

In 1980s, when I was a young boy, I was expected to learn Farsi, in order to improve my Urdu. I wasn’t too interested but elders would always insist that without Farsi, you can never have good command over Urdu.

My mother felt that if I learnt a bit, I could be able to relate to ‘tough Urdu’ that was written in the past and also understand the poetry of Maulana Rom [Rumi], Urfi, Nazeeri and Hafiz, that her elders often quoted.

For me, the idea that one had to take out time in the summer holidays and spend time on yet another subject, was strange. After all, one barely got two months of summer holidays, and the thought that you have to spend an hour or two out every day from the schedule, was not delightful. Still, I had no choice.

Some of my uncles suggested that I should start with ‘aamad-nama’. However, one of my elder cousin brother, Ahmad Yahya bhai, gifted me Tasir-ul-Mubtadi.

But, when I started, it was the traditional way — rote learning, repeating the ‘sabaq’ in Gulzar-i-Dabsitaa.n that for centuries has been the standard basic text for beginners in the sub-continent.

Many of my friends and young friends in UP, Bihar or other states who had the option to study Persian as third language in certain schools, had ‘the first, second, third book of Persian for each class’.

However, I had to repeat terms ‘Aab-e-Zar’ — Soney Ka Paani, Aawaz-e-Dilkash — Dil ko kheenchne wali aawaaz, Peer-e-Kham-Kamar — Tirchhi kamar wala boodha, initially.

It was a system of training the mind, so that you directly learnt the language — entire sentences and could make out the meaning, without getting lost into the complex maze of tenses and the rules of grammar.

I must say that Hafiz Shah Taqi Anwer, the renowned scholar, gave me ample attention and taught well. In addition to reading and repeating, I had to write it on ‘takhti’ with the reed ‘qalam’.

This routine continued for a few years. Must be around 40–50 classes every year in the summer holidays when I visited Lucknow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go past all the ‘hikaayaats’ [moral stories in prose form] in Gulzar-i-Dabistaa.n.

Today as I look back, I feel I should have an opportunity to study it in school as well. However, I got a basic understanding, which indeed helped me in Urdu. The Gulistaa.n and Bostaa.n were read more as a tradition, later on.

India has produced huge literature in Persian. Almost every library in old parts of a prominent Indian city or town has racks filled with Persian books. There is also so much religious literature in the form of classical texts.

And above all, the appeal of poets like Hafez and Rumi, that is unparalleled. Urdu ghazal is an extension of the tradition of Persian poetry. Mirza Ghalib was immensely proud of his Persian poetry. He wrote:

Farsi ba-ee.n ta-ba-beeni-naqsh-haai-rang rang
Baguzar az majmua-e-Urdu ke be-rang man-ast

He felt there was an immensely beautiful world in his Persian poetry, compared to his Urdu works that he found ‘colourless’. Unfortunately, he is loved and known more for his Urdu poetry that he didn’t take too seriously.

One of the greatest Persian poets, Bedil, is buried in Delhi and Sheikh Ali Hazee.n in Benares. Till just over a decade ago, veteran poets like Saraswati Saran Kaif in Bhopal and Qasim Niyazi were actively penning Farsi poetry.

In Bhopal, the city I grew up, there were many Persian scholars. It was once a princely state and Persian was the state language till 1858, until it was replaced by Urdu. Nawab Shahjahan Begum was an accomplished poet who has a collection of poetry in Persian too. 

Three hundred and fifty miles away, Lucknow too remains a major centre of Persian. Wali-ul-Haq Ansari continued to write poetry in Lucknow till the last decade. 

People learn the language in households or from elders. Besides, Persian is taught in madarsas and Darul Ulooms and there are Persian departments in umpteen Colleges and Universities. It is also taught in Islamic centres, Sufi darsgaahs and Khanqaahs. 

Lot of people learn it as it considered part of culture, along with Arabic and Urdu or those who appreciate the Farsi shaa’eri [poetry].One of the challenges faced in learning Persian is that we still learn classical Persian in India and there is a disconnect with modern Persian. 

There is need for better books and smarter ways. Especially, the use of audio-visual medium to teach so that students learn the correct pronunciation, because even otherwise there is a tendency to shun ‘eraab’ i.e. ‘zer-zabar-pesh’ [maatras] in printing Urdu, Persian books. 

READ: Once language of court and administration, Farsi survives in the country in a unique way

Saturday, June 12, 2021

How race to 'break stories', create sensation destroys lives: False cases, stern sections, framing youths and implicating due to irresponsible journalism


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Most of us often read, how youths were jailed and after a decade or more, released.

The need is to understand that how it happens. It's extremely necessary that people must know.

It happens because of overzealous and careless media, more than any other 'bias'. 

Now read this: 

Some youth get booked in a case. Papers sensationalize. 'Are they linked to X group'. Cops naturally say 'we're questioning, will probe'. 

But they write, 'links with shady group'. Sometimes, not even '?' or '!' mark, but headline is enough to create anger in city. 

Tough sections are applied against them. Now race for follow-up. The thought that other paper may publish something 'big', so similar such 'question framed', again asked, standard reply 'we're probing this angle too'.

More big headlines, 'they were planning THIS or THAT, had links HERE and THERE', with may be an exclamation mark, but it doesn't matter. Impact is devastating. Certain cops too love this attention, holding press conferences, cameras in front of them, their photos on front pages, local channels.

They get calls from friends, neighbours, 'Aap to chhaye hain' [wow, you are all over on the screens'. And 'cracking a big case' helps in projecting self as a strong cop, also in career. Follow-ups over a week, result in this situation. 

As you see, it may be a simple case but extremely tough sections used because of the pressure created in media. Then, politicians too enjoy, to show 'tough action'. 'Local pressure' and mahaul due to all papers' front pages in regions, is such that anything can be passed off. 20 years of lives. 

Old news but serves as an example. Once people are framed, entire families are destroyed financially, emotionally, physically. Cases may not be perfect, might have loopholes but once registered, the treatment to people, expenses, mental torture, kin rushing to courts and prisons. 

How that's a serious failure on part of journalists, lack of empathy and sensitivity in newsrooms

People in newsrooms don't think of these aspects that it's a crime to create an environment in which people get unfair treatment or get framed, implicated and slapped with cases they don't deserve.

That's more a bad journalism problem. For them, 'it's just a story', a 'big story', that will get them feel 'special', story that will be in their file, claim that we 'covered such things or broke these stories too'. It's not about justice. Minds just act this way.

However, this is is not the main point. The main point is failure of people to see and understand this even after decades and decades. There are cities that don't have a single, small, basic paper that can even go against the 'mahaul' & report objectively. You blame 'system'. No.

It's a unique phenomenon. Just a few people in a newsroom who because of their presence in that space, and their lack of empathy or training, cause huge injustice. When there is nonstop coverage for days, there is pressure everywhere. On lawyers, bars, courts. It has gone on..

But you must marvel at the victims, the society, the people who suffer in state after state, that they fail to even take the most basic steps in dealing with this issue. It's less of a 'biased state' or 'biased police' but more of dirty and cheap, biased or careless journalism.

If you know it, you suffer but your leaders, your leadership in the cities, districts couldn't frame strategy, dealing with such a basic thing all these years. You can't get liars and sensationalists shamed or make them behave or even talk to them over their acts. Then!

Of course, if there is suspicion and evidence take due action, book and deliver prompt justice. But don't let the media misreport, create hysteria. This 'influence' is disastrous. When papers do it, just competing among themselves, it has horrible affect on society. On every institution, everyone.

So 15-20 years later, you publish that the court did not consider them guilty, acquitted, ordered their release, but media houses must introspect that it causes such suffering to people and it's role in abetting injustice due to inherent biases, disproportionate power and newsrooms that have little representation. 

A news in Dainik Jagran: How newspapers give twist, spread fake news and fuel Islamophobia


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Yet another example of bad journalism.

The headline is misleading, totally giving a different angle.

It was not vaccine hesitancy among Muslims. They have given a twist.

Rather, they needed Covishield, as they work in Gulf and in order to return to their jobs they need it, as Covaxin not approved in other countries and they won't get entry. But see the misleading headline. Copy too is pathetic but as you read, you realise the issue.

Each and every day such papers create misconceptions, give twists. So much harm to society through this sort of 'journalism'. Any civilized society or democracy must not tolerate such falsehoods. What's the agenda, after all? 

This goes on for years and years. A person sitting in a district headquarters or a city, a capital or a tehsil, doing this for his entire life.This mindset, that 'come what may', the twist will be given to divide society, pit people, demonize a section, misusing power of print.

Over 8 lakh Indians returned to Kerala from overseas between May 2020 and January 2021. So many lost jobs. Many have to go back to eke out living, for family. Kerala leaders like KC Venugopal had urged Union minister to ensure Covishield dose so that they dont lose livelihood.

At least, think of how damaging it is for own people, lakhs of Indians, and for prestige of country, if not for other reasons. Spreading misconceptions, all the time. And, they are called 'number one or number 2 papers'! Big papers have huge responsibility but they act carelessly and spread such narrative that leads to division in society and anger towards other communities.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Bad economy can't make people see reason, turn them 'humane': Can't checkmate communalism with this bogus theory


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In wake of Haryana 'maha panchayat'--a huge gathering in support of those arrested for lynching a youth, I must say that the belief that recession, unemployment and failing economy will change people for good and make them see reason, is  wrong. 

Ideological turn is not easy despite financial hardships. There were hate speeches openly given at this conclave, and also the threats. 

This shocking episode was followed by silence of top leaders, politicians and lack of coverage in TV channels and 'mainstream' newspapers. Let's talk about it, point wise.

 1. Who propounded this 'theory' that when people are suffering or they are in a financially bad situation, they will become wise and humane and stop reacting to propaganda? It's a bogus and false theory that has no basis.

2. What history tells us? Where was it seen or learnt?  Is is that you just don't want to accept the level of radicalisation in society and hence make it up! Spare us the gyan that 'economic crises' or unemployment will change situation.

3. False. It's not about poor or rich. People can be manipulated by the constant false narrative that they are superior to others. Or through circulation of dangerous ideas like 'certain groups are encroaching, gaining strength, our misery due to them'. 

4. Daily dose of hate & bigotry, poison spread by their men on the ground and through many other mediums like WhatsApp, is an addiction. Pitting people against another section been witnessed, so many times! 

5. Polls or no polls, this never stops. Just because you don't want to see the mirror, don't want to accept the reality, the level, you try to give yourself and others a false hope that, 'people would get tired of this communalism one day, that when they don't have jobs they will realise'. Then, even more easy to sway!

6. Despite restrictions, tens of thousands gather in support of those who lynched a man, and listened to such hateful speeches. After Asif was lynched, tens of thousands gathered, defying Coronavirus restrictions, in support of the lynching accused. How many editorials were written on the situation Haryana? 

7. Most of the TV channels, newspapers avoid reporting, but to ignore this level of right-wing support on ground, hate speeches shows the horrific situation in the media. Clearly, this is because they are part of it, do not accept the rot. Cunningly conceal, give spin. Accomplice!

8. It's now understood well. To say that these are 'diversions' or 'eye on elections' is nothing but an attempt to hide, your inability to speak on it. That's not diversion because elections or no elections, lynchings and forcing youth to raise certain slogans, beating them or targeting Muslims, continues.

9. It's cowardice--politicians, intellectuals, journalists who are all silent on this. As if they don't know the extent of the real project and its aims. As far as many centrist and liberal journalists in India. How they whitewash, it's last point.

10. Many of them always divert by saying, 'ah, fringe'. When it's not possible as too many fanatics seen, they keep mum or act like 'sages', giving advice--ignore.  Or write by balancing, bringing others. Not more expected. No question of 'acceptance', that a major problem exists. 

Without hard work on ground or real movement, society can't change on its own. Once there is ideological shift to such an extent due to propaganda for decades, it can't be 'humanized' on its own. Either a big leader is needed or a revolution. 

A comedian did not utter a joke but was arrested and jailed because cops felt he 'might crack a joke'. However, those who deliver extremely inflammatory speeches, threaten and lynch, don't face prompt or harsh action.

So it all depends on the side of the fence--whether action will be taken or not. Those who spread false info and rumours social media or share fake info that has potential to damage harmony are not touched due to their links in the ecosystem.

It has reached the stage where 'system' is compromised. A slogan that was never made can send youths to jails under harsh sections. But hate speeches that are recorded in gatherings and aired, don't lead to action. Cops later say,  'we are verifying'. 

READ: Failing economy doesn't turn society rational or make people shed bigotry

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Mulla Jan Mohammad: Prominent Muslim leader who played important role in post-independent era

 

Mulla Jan Mohammad Bengal Muslim leader


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi


Mulla Jan Mohammad was among the leaders who played a vital role in post-partition era in India.

He was a known personality earlier too. But post-independence, it was a critical period.

Muslim masses who were looking for leaders, as top brass had left them and migrated across the border, found in him a man who was able to pick up pieces, help community pass through the troubled times. 

Calcutta was not just the former capital of British Empire in India, but also, it was a prominent centre of Muslims. Though the top leaders had migrated, shifted to Dhaka, millions of Muslims remained in West Bengal.

The city had been rocked by riots before partition. After partition too, there were riots and killings. In this situation, leadership was needed. There was communalism apart from anxiety, apprehensions, institutions were facing several serious issues. 

Among prominent leaders, Badrudduja Sb decided to remain in India. It was only until 1955 that the situation improved, well. So either the 1950 situation, that had once again heightened fears of Muslims in Kolkata, or the later disturbances in 1960s, Calcutta had the figure of Mulla Jan Mohammad, who became a symbol of hope and reassurance for Muslims. 

Mulla Jan Mohammad had seen Ali brothers, the rise of Muslim politics and its fall, the consequences. He was a strong man, known for principles, steadfast, honest and self-less. Hence, he was termed Khadim-e-Qaum.

In 1961, Jabalpur riots shook the nation. The series of riots in cities in Eastern India, Kolkata, Rourkela, Jamshedpur, again hit the region. In these circumstances, just like in 1950, he remained active and also  oversaw relief and rehab measures.

Either the 1963 and 1965 riots in Kolkata or the Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Rourkela incidents, that were clearly planned riots, horrific killings and large-scale destruction took place. He was instrumental in taking the politicians head on over the riots.

Calcutta Khilafat Committee (CKC) is one the most well-known institutions of Muslims. Mulla Jan Mohammad was its president. Also, his association with Islamia Hospital and serving the institution must be written with golden letters. 

Following any riot in Kolkata, he would hit the street, take the lead, go out in the city, meet authorities, would also ensure rehab and relief. Disturbed by the series of major communal riots, Syed Mahmud took the lead and meetings of Muslim leaders, scholars, clerics were held.

Once again Mulla Jan Mohammad played a key role in formation of the All India Muslim Majlis Mashawrat. Apart from Syed Mahmud, Maulana Abulhasan Nadvi alias Ali Miyan, Mufti Atiqur Rahman Usmani, Ebrahim Suleiman Sait, Maulana Manzoor Nomani and veteran leaders were present.

The need for social, intellectual, community leadership is always needed. More so, in desperate times. Later too,Mulla Jan Mohammad mooted idea that there must be tours to riot-affected cities and areas.This was accepted and hence leading Ulema planned the tour. 

The visit to Ranchi was a major success. Individuals who can unite, bring others on one platform, have community's trust, show way, keep others motivated and can act, are required in every society. Interestingly, the Peshawar-born Mulla Jan Muhammad, became 'Mulla' because Maulana Azad a regular visitor used to call him 'Mulla' lovingly.

"Ever since I can remember, from the time I was a student, I saw Mulla Jan Mohammad was always involved in community issues, redressing them and doing social leadership. He dedicated himself to serving the community", writes Abdul Aziz, in a column in Halaat-E-Bengal. 

"The relationship was mutual, as top Muslim leaders of the country too kept him close. Despite his relations, he never let politics and politicians enter the institutions and damage them, and this is true for all these institutions viz. Islamia Hospital, Calcutta Khilafat Committee and Mohammedan Sporting Club", he further writes. 

"The Calcutta Khilafat Committee came into existence around 1919. The Islamia Hospital was built a few years later. All his life, he remained attached to the hospital and rendered yeoman's service", writes Maulana Talha Bin Abu Salma Nadwi, in an article. 

"In 1967, Mulla Jan Mohammed went for Haj. When he returned and came to know that hospital authorities had fixed 'aath annah' fee for outdoor patients, he was so angry, sat at the gate of the hospital, with this stick and returned the amount to each person who had come to the hospital and paid it", he mentions in the article. 

[There was another person Khan Bahadur Sheikh Mohammad Jan, who was a different person though he also lived in the same period. He was a businessman, Congress leader and owned two newspapers. Some people get confused and a separate post would be written about him, later]

Saturday, June 05, 2021

How Communist party vote declined in India: Political parties, opposition and CPI, CPM strength

 


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Communist party was once the rising party in Indian politics. 

That's long ago. But after independence, there was a time, when there were apprehensions among establishment that Communist movement may sweep across the country. 

Huge rallies were taken out in several cities. The sentiment was there and hence, Congress was worried about it. 

From parts of Bihar to UP, Andhra Pradesh to cities with mills and workers, there was Communist affect.

Today it's difficult to imagine how Homi Daji could win from Indore. Or that Sher-e-Bhopal, Khan Shakir Ali Khan, kept winning and getting elected from Bhopal seat to Madhya Pradesh Assembly till 1970s.

So, from Bhopal to Indore, Kanpur to Allahabad, cities in Maharashtra and regions in several other states had the influence of Communist parties or their leaders who were regionally strong. Earlier, there was a period when the party got split. Its vote share was affected.

But it remained an important player because it was getting vote in certain states. Under Jyoti Basu, West Bengal went on to become a Communist citadel. In Kerala, CPI became strong. Besides, in other states, there were pockets that had Communist influence.

In the 1951-52, the first Parliamentary election, Communist Party of India (CPI) got 3.3% of popular vote and managed to win 16 seats. It hadn't contested on too many seats then. But the party was gaining strength throughout the decade.

The next election witnessed, a surge in its popularity. It got 8.9% vote. CPI won 27 seats. This was emergence as an important block in the House. However, the best performance was yet to come. The party did even better in next election.

In 1962, the CPI got almost 10% vote. [9.9% to be precise]. This was an achievement. However, the party suffered a setback, as there was the split. Either it was purely ideological or the China Vs USSR, the party was divided in India. 

CPI(M) and CPI, the two parties emerged. Later on, the former became strong in Bengal under Jyoti Basu. The latter found a foothold in Southern India, Kerala. At national level, their consolidated vote share declined.

The Communist movement too lost its pace. Still, due to strength in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, the coalition with other parties in several states, the Communists had a hold in Indian politics. In fact, Harkishan Singh Surjeet played a key role in formation of governments at the Centre.

In the late 1980s, the formation of National Front, then the 1990s when United Front was at the helm, Communists' support was important for these governments' formation. Again, when there was Congress' resurgence led by Sonia Gandhi, Communists' strength was important for UPA. 

In 2004, CPI (M) contested just 69 seats but got a nation wide 5.66% vote and won 43 seats. It's vote share was third, after Congress' 26.5% and BJP's 22.16%. CPI (Marxist) had got more votes than SP and BSP. CPI had 1.4% vote in this election. 

In 2009, it was 5.33% and 1.43% for CPIM and CPI respectively. But 2014 was the year of disaster. CPI(M) got barely 3.25% votes. CPI could fetch merely 0.78% votes. And, in 2019, BJP came to power on it's own. CPI (M) performance was at its worst, just 1.75% vote. CPI got 0.58% vote.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Lessons from Indian Politics: Drastic decline in Indira, Rajiv Gandhi's popularity in different eras after huge mandate in 1970s, 1980s

 


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Indira Gandhi was at peak of popularity after 1971, who could have imagined situation changing so much in few years that she'd have to impose Emergency. 

Rajiv Gandhi had got a huge mandate in 1985. In year or so, at pan shops, one could hear jokes on his language and the oft-repeated, 'hamne dekha hai, dekhenge, kara hai karenge' & 'zimmew(d)ari' jokes. How?

Remember, there were no channels to keep an eye round the clock, that could oppose or criticise. 

Just one DD and its evening bulletin that was more of a mouthpiece and was airing just those positive things and Rajiv was doing things smartly, yet, his image was crashing. 

No IT cell. There was no such concept, no channels. But long list of top Opposition leaders at national level who were constantly in attacking mode.

1. Ayodhya movement, things VHP did, Hindi press aggressive reports to 'prove' that indeed there was mandir, VP Singh, all. But, even earlier, barely a year & when the smartly dressed Rajiv was giving speeches, touring world, people had grown bored, wary. That was real mystery

In seventies, there were not just JP, Raj Narain, Morarji, Charan Singh, Fernandes, but in Rajiv's era too, such a long list. Like it or not, two top leaders of UP parties, are not active-vocal despite their cadre always waiting for their leaders to show. No consistency.

Fact-based, real and strong vocal opposition? Leaders who speak on important issues, on regular basis, it's missing. Some of the top leaders in Oppn limit themselves to issuing statements on days & anniversaries. Then, their Twitter accounts handled by 'professionals'!

Consistency is the key. In 70s-80s, regional satraps were vocal, even if they spoke in English or regional languages. N India too had many leaders. Many voices. That's how momentum built. Not that Tejashwi lose Bihar & wait 3-4 years. Agle election se pahle bolenge. 

Consistency!

2. Now, coming back to how this counter-narrative is constructed. Journalist Shyam Meera Singh, who openly says that he was once a 'bhakt' and later realised how was cheated, spoke at length about this journey in 'Spaces' on Twitter.

He gave example that whenever he speaks to elderly relative but latter comes with strange points on any issue, almost all of them coming from Dainik Jagran. Yes, the same paper that tried to debunk stories about bodies near bank of Ganges and that also published one story 'particular slogan raised' to defame or break a movement--farmers' or students. anyone.

So he gave example of Jagran that has a huge readership, and it's there since eighties. It's a 'mainstream paper' in North India, and it is not considered a mouthpiece. But it does the job more than a mouthpiece, an active supporter. Socialists, other parties, SP, RJD or BSP they were never serious about media. 

3. Congress story we know. BJP understands power of media. Organiser or Panchjanya were there. Dailies like Swadesh & Tarun Bharat in different states. Even when they got in a position to manage most TV channels & national papers, they strengthened own existing ones never shut them down. 

Jagran & others were influential in 80s and they remain so even today. In one state, one paper on a given day, can deflect all with one story. In MP, Jagran was already there. They bought Nai Dunia too. It's not that they have huge circulation. 

But on a given day when in newsrooms, all papers kept on table, if a 'different' story is published even in small paper, it has affect, others forced to follow. You have none. When there are mainstream papers affecting mind, terming any other party's rule as 'Jungle Raj' and the other as 'Sushasan', it works. 

Those leaders of Opposition parties who today rue that media is no longer talking for days and weeks about 'jungle raj' in a state or region, forget that they never invested in creating or running own media. Had there been other channels or big papers as rivals, won't be one sided.

4. 'Socialists' remained in power in UP-Bihar for decades but were happy with media houses like Jagran groups. Who had stopped them to set up own media houses? In Southern states, parties have channels & newspapers aligned to opposition too, hence, possibility of criticism. 

By giving directions to go slow and by stopping 'follow up stories' from the next day, it can be ensured that the issue doesn't become big. The potential for a story to become a symbol of state failure and leading to anger or movement, is brought down by a few phone calls. 

You can't control people's mind to such an extent if there is other side too shown in TV, papers etc. Actually, Temple movement in 80s, division in society won't have been possible had 5 major papers in entire N India, not actively become part of movement. 

This part of India--the North, has huge political power due to number of MPs. Hence, the role of Hindi newspapers is important. They ensured that Indian public shifted from centre towards right, through consistent reporting in a manner that people came towards BJP on all issues--Bangladeshi infiltration, Artcile 370, Temple.

5. It's basic for any movement or party to have their own supported groups in media. Every party needs to reach to people. Since 1800, every reformer or leader tried to start a paper, either Raja Ram Mohan Roy or Maulana Azad, Gandhi or Maulana Mohammad Ali.

READ: How Congress' failure to understand 'media power' caused its decline

The right-wing understands power of communication, importance of media, how to reach people. It takes even a weekly of 2,000 or 5,000 seriously, doesn't shut it down. It ensures the weekly reaches each panchayat or main reading room of town or places where people can take it forward.

Even a daily paper that has a circulation of less than 10,000 but published from capital, one counter-narrative story, forces other papers too to think over that aspect. But if you don't have trusts, not even most basic investment to support your own people and run papers, it's a tragedy.

READ: How fake news is planted in newspapers, role of vernacular media in misinformation