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

Indian Muslims, a forward community: 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 than 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.


READ: 'You don't look like a Muslim': The oft-repeated line reveals prejudice, generalization, biases

READ: Stop generalizing, calling Indian Muslims 'backward': Talk on facts, social indicators

READ: Muslims ahead on nutrition, health indicators: Status of women, dietary discrimination in other communities

READ: Myths about Indian Muslims' backwardness: Muslims moving forward, striving to achieve despite discrimination and lack of government jobs

READ: Vilification of Muslims as a political strategy: Majoritarian tendencies and obsession with minority in Indian society

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.