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’What it means to be a Muslim in India today’

Tuesday 6 October 2009, by anhad e-admin

Hard News, 6 October 2009

Communal sores in secular India

Pressure must be mounted on the Indian government become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Sadiq Naqvi Delhi Hardnews

"Muslims have to, time and again, prove their multicultural traits to be heard in India," Mahesh Bhatt, film director, said here on Monday. He was speaking at a convention, What it means to be a Muslim in India today, organised by ANHAD, an NGO, in New Delhi.


According to Bhatt, discrimination is a reality and nobody can deny it. This malaise has penetrated deep into the system and the society. He cited the recent case of his nephew and Bollywood star, Emraan Hashmi, who was denied accommodation in a residential society because of his religion.


Bhatt said, "This was his first brush with reality. Until then, he thought that discrimination does not exist." He went on to add that most of the people don’t talk openly about these issues, because there is always a fear of a backlash by the dominant Hindu groups. Worse, the whole matter was trivialised by the media. So, the problem remains intact.


Prashant Bhushan, senior Supreme Court lawyer, was worried about the communal problems that dog the country. "The dream of a secular India lies shattered," he complained. He narrated how elections are won by stoking communal frenzy and by dividing people on religious lines. He cited the case of election after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi when even the RSS backed the Congress in alienating the Sikhs. It’s a criminal offence if any party resorts to such practises. But the implementing agencies lack the will to act. He said communalisation of these agencies could be a reason for this.

Launching an attack on the media, Bhushan said that a new kind of embedded journalism has emerged today. There are journalists in almost all media houses who plant stories fed to them by the State agencies.

Zoya Hasan, professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, felt that there is a need to focus on three basic issues - deprivation, discrimination and inequalities. "Now, the Sachar Committee has shown that Muslims are extremely poor and the growth rate that India is proud of is only catering to 20 per cent of the population," she said. Successive governments including that of the Congress have failed to live up to the expectations, she added.

Hasan also reminded that there is a need for the Muslim MPs to question and mount pressure on the government, which so far they have failed to do. She said that the mandate for the UPA in the 2009 general elections is historic in the sense that Muslims have returned to the Congress party. There is no reason for the Congress party and the UPA government to desert them and not draft plans for the development of the community.

Several suggestions were put forth in the session to curb discrimination and communal violence. Bhushan felt the need of strong institutions to keep a check on the working of the State agencies. He said that if these institutions also fail and become saffronised then we should have the cover of international institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC). There is a need to pressurise the government to become a member of the ICC.

Hasan suggested a targeted intervention for Muslims. She said welfare policies adopted by the UPA government are not even a drop in the ocean. "What is needed is affirmative action for Muslims, with anti-communal violence and anti-discrimination bills," she said.

The three-day convention was attended by human rights activists from across the country who listened to the testimonies of victims of communal disharmony and the partisan attitude of State agencies.

The Hindu, October 5, 2009

Indian Muslims say "fear, despair" are "immediate concerns"

by Smriti Kak Ramachandran


[photo] PTI Muslims attending national meet on ’Status of Muslims in Contemporary India’ in New Delhi on Saturday.


Of the several fears that haunt Indian Muslims today, the worry of being “picked up” by law enforcement agencies is the most compelling. At the end of a three-day national meet in the capital on Monday on the status of Muslims in contemporary India, community representatives from across the country voiced fear and despair as their immediate concerns.


Victims who had either been accused of being involved in terror activities or have relatives behind the bars for alleged involvement in acts of terror shared their experiences before a panel of eminent people who have now come up with a set of 12 recommendations.


Referring to the feeling of “despair and fear” among the Muslims, former bureaucrat, Harsh Mander, who was also a panelist said Muslims feel let down by the police and the judiciary in particular and by the media and the political parties to some extent as well.


Mr. Mander said the ongoing war on terror has emerged as a pattern that can be seen not just in Gujarat, but in several other States as well. “Muslim youths with no criminal records are picked up illegally by policemen in plainclothes taken to farmhouse etc. and kept for days on end and tortured brutally.”


Taking note of the feeling of discrimination felt by Muslims in various spheres, the recommendations put forth by the panel suggests a high-power judicial commission headed by a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appointed to examine all cases of terror across the country. “Those that seem doubtful or fabricated should be handed over to a special investigation team. It should complete its task in a year so that prolonged detention of persons against whom there is little convincing evidence is not prolonged,” the recommendations said.


Prosecution of police officials who have tampered with evidence in cases which can result in capital punishment, compensation for victims who were detained but found innocent, concerted drive to recruit in larger number Muslims to all levels of the police, civil administration and judiciary have also been recommended.


The jury members after studying the submissions, which include complaints like discrimination in matters of renting houses in non-Muslim dominated areas, prejudices and biases of public institutions against Muslims and reinforcing stereotypes by the media also recommended the enactment of the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill with changes suggested by the civil society groups.


“Strong action should be taken under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code against organisations which indulge in hate campaigns and communal propaganda. The requirement of prior sanction of the State government before a complaint is registered under this Act should be waived,” the recommendations state.


The panel has also sought a law against communal discrimination on the lines of the SC/ST Act to recognise specific crimes of discrimination against minorities and punish these severely.


“The Prime Minister should nominate a 10-member committee to undertake a nationwide campaign against communalisation of society, akin to the literacy campaign and temple entry campaigns of the past. This committee should also study and document these social processes of structural discrimination, some of which came to light in the national meet,” said the recommendations.


The panel has also called for suitable allocation to cover the largely deprived population in a minority sub plan-like the tribal sub plan and special component plan, which is proportionate to the population of the communities. It also wants the committee to be empowered also to ensure that the Waqf properties are managed in ways that their incomes are converged with public investment to ensure further topping up of resources.


Pointing out that the India society at present is not truly secular, film maker Mahesh Bhatt, who was also on the jury, said there is an immediate need to “implement an anti-discrimination law.”

Daily News and Analysis, October 5, 2009


To be a Muslim today is to be encounterable: Experts

by Puneet Nicholas Yadav / DNA


New Delhi: To be a Muslim in India today is to be ’encounterable’ in the name of counter-terrorism exercise, feels Manisha Sethi, a Jamia Milia Islamia University lecturer. She was speaking at a national meet by NGO Anhad to discuss "what it means to be a Muslim in India today"

Sethi wondered how the National Human Rights Commission ignored glaring inconsistencies in the Delhi police’s account of the controversial Batla House encounter — in which two suspected terrorists were gunned down — "only because a ’decorated’ encounter specialist lost his life in the gunbattle."


Other speakers, among them the next of kin of several alleged terrorist masterminds, relatives of those killed in fake encounters, human rights activists and academicians, discussed in detail their experience of Muslim persecution in the name of terrorism.


Mussarat Jahan (younger sister of 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan, gunned down in a fake encounter in Gujarat in June 2004) asked if the police and courts could bring Ishrat back to life now that a probe had established that the encounter was fake and her sister not a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative.


Take the case of Khatoon Bibi, a widow from Godhra, who’s three children have been behind bars for the last eight years. "They were picked up from our home after the Sabarmati Express caught fire (in 2002). The police said ’Bade Sahib’ wants to ask them a few questions. It’s been eight years since, and my children aren’t home yet," she said. When her husband died a few months later, the police didn’t allow her sons to attend his funeral. On the 10th day, the youngest son was allowed home for rituals.


"Whenever I ask the cops what my sons have done, they abuse me. I meet my sons once in three months and they don’t know why they’ve been imprisoned," she said.


It’s the same with Saleha Khatoon, sister of Zahid Sheikh, alleged mastermind of last year’s July 26 Ahmedabad blasts. "Zahid ran a mobile shop. One day, the police came asking for him when he wasn’t home. Zahid himself drove to the Crime Branch later. He never came back and after seven days we were told he had been taken for interrogation. We were not allowed to give him food or clothes.


Finally, after five days, when we met him he couldn’t even walk and was bruised all over. After keeping him in custody for almost a month, the cops claimed he had confessed to his role in the blast. Why would he drive to the police station if he was guilty?" Saleha asks.


Abu Zafar, brother of alleged terror mastermind Mufti Abu Bashir, bore similar testimony. A freelance journalist in Azamgarh, Zafar, who was detained after his brother’s arrest and later released, said, "After my detention, I wrote to the human rights commission several times, but never got a reply. In Sabarmati jail, Muslim prisoners are barred from receiving or sending letters in Urdu. They were even denied offering namaz on Eid."

A ’jury’ comprising eminent lawyers, academicians and journalists deliberated on the issues and would soon come up with recommendations for the government to redress these concerns., 5 October 2009


Anhad :“What it means to be a Muslim in India”

On Second day of the National Muslims meet organised by NGO Anhad, discussion continue to spot pertinnent issue related to the Identity of the Muslims in India, eminent speaker, Sohail Hasmi, Javed Naqvi, Shesh Narayan and Mohammed Shoaib,put up their discourse on the image of muslims in India created by the Bollywood films and the media is such that either a Muslim would be Mafia Don or would sacrifice his life for the majority’s Hindu Hero, hardly a Muslim who is professional and educated, who does not want to live in slums is shown.


Zaedi speaking to Nksagar said it also the lack of education and poverty in the community a reason for the poor and uneducated muslims becoming sacrifical goats and to be soft target.In this discussion,beyond the hall Mr N K Sagar persisted that "Muslim girl education is of parmount importance specailly professional education. She must have assess to polytechnic, for diploma in engineering, fashion design, information technology, computer study, Civil, mechanical, electronics subjects elevate the mind and help family to grow. Girls must be encouaged to take up to work on teaching profession, along with course on hotel mangment, food catering, events organiser, secretariate, personnel management,office mangement ,nurses all of short duration with subsidised fee bring better prosperity must be available either by the Minority ministry, NGO or state initiated institituions." Mr NK Sagar further said that "Kerala is model examples Nurses as national assets for making the state of Kerala,best in India must be folowed for girls child." Indian muslims in India must not forget that Icons,tennis star Sania Mirza, the scientist to President Abdul A.P.J. Kalam,Cricketer turn MP Azharudhin, Bollywood star Aamir Khan are not only national icon but are International role models."


In seminar discussion moved on the conservative indentity of muslims, sepaker said,there is this stereotypical image of the Muslim with beard, skull cap and shorter Pyjama who is Jihadi or a terrorist. It was also said that such a situation has arisen where Muslims have to depend on secular Hindus to put forward their concerns. Its like to survive on the mercy of the majority secular voices. But along with that there is also a challenge of modernisation before the Muslims. Concern was also paid to the fact that there is biasness in the reporting of the incidents vis-à-vis Muslims and Hindus if the incidents happen to be similar. While the Muslim accused and Victims would be addressed with certain kind of derogatory connotation; the identity of Hindu the accused and victim would always be concealed. Media portrays the glamorised the image of Jehad.


There were case studies depicting that the lands of quabristan were either encroached or if the Muslim community demanded land for Quabristan then no concern was paid by the system towards that. Here were the case studies from Goa and Gujarat, that if the people demanded for the land for quabristan they were even forced to evict the place of their residence.


In the name of Cow slaughter, many Muslims were put into the jail in various parts of India like in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh to name a few. Issue of cow slaughter has been used to fan the communal fire between the Hindus and Muslims.


The process of ghetoisation has not just polarised the cities like Bhopal and Ahmedabad, but also marginalised the population of Muslims economically. Attempts have been made by the government agencies to shatter the economic ties of the Muslims, and also to keep the Muslims backward in education. The educational institutions from the Muslims majority areas are shifted to the other far away places. Due to that education of the Muslim Girls is significantly affected adversely.

An activist from Bangalore put his concern that the hate campaign is on rise the capital city. Apart from that Moral Policing is used control spaces democratic public and cultural spaces. Girls and boys from the different communities are not allowed to interact. Orders of the State human rights Commission to contain such fundamentalist forces also has been overlooked by the law enforcing agencies in the state of Karnataka. Along with that there are the attempts by Bajarang Dal and Rama Sene like organisations to replicate the successful communal story in Karnataka.

Similarly the role of the apathetic role of the law enforcing agencies and the prejudices that are existing with in the system has helped in the breeding of systemic discrimination against the Muslims. Lastly, the noted Lawyer Vrinda Grover said that there is no provision of prosecution of the police officials if they were found to be involved in perpetuating the communal violence. System provides a blanket to those officials. She also emphasised that the definition of the Communal Violence has to be broadened to include persecution in the name of terrorism and encounters. Second day ended with the declaration of release of the recommendations by the panel tomorrow in the press conference.

The Hindu, 4 October 2009

Meet discusses why it is not easy to be a Muslim in India

by Smriti Kak Ramachandran


Saleha Khatoon is convinced that her brother Zahid Sheikh, the alleged mastermind of the July 26 blasts in Ahmedabad is being framed. Her conviction stems from several “factors,” one being that Sheikh rode to the Crime Branch office on his own. “If he was a terrorist, why would he drive to the Crime Branch office on his won motorbike?” she questions.


In the Capital to share her story at the ongoing three-day national meet on “What it means to be a Muslim in India today”, being organised by ANHAD, Khatoon said her brother is among the hundreds of other Muslim men who are being held under charges as serious as terrorism.


“He owned a mobile shop and on the day of the blasts we called him and told him to get home. The next day he watched the news about the blasts with the rest of us at home. A couple of days later on July 31, he was asked to report to the Crime Branch for some inquiry on sim cards. He offered the namaz and went to the police station,” said Khatoon listing the details about her brother’s arrest.


“After several days my parents were allowed to meet him for a few minutes, he couldn’t walk and broke down. He told my parents that he was being mentally tortured. Later we were assured that he will be let off after August 15, but on August 16 he was shown as arrested along with several others,” recalled the sister, who wants justice for her brother.


Testimonies like Khatoon’s poured in from States like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, where hundreds of people have been accused of terrorist activities.


Abu Zafar, a journalist who was detained after he met his brother Abu Baker also an accused in jail, rued that even the human rights commissions in the country have failed to step in and come to the aid of the affected people. “After I was detained I wrote to the human rights commission several times, but never heard from them. This country is not secular, it is communal.


There are no checks and balances and there is rampant injustice even in prisons. In Sabarmati jail they have stopped prisoners from receiving or sending letters written in Urdu. They were not allowed to offer namaz on Eid.”

Pointing out to the apathy of the State, Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir an advocate associated with the Makka Masjid blast said that the claims made by the police about the use of violence against the people are baseless and false. Soon after the May 18, 2007 blasts in the old city area in Hyderabad, police claimed to have opened fire to quell protests. Five people were shot dead immediately after the blasts.

“They claimed that the mob had become violent and had to be controlled. They said the mob was not allowing the ambulances to rescue the injured and they were threatening to set afire a petrol pump. The DCP said there were militants inside the mosque, who were merely recognised as terrorists because they raised the slogans ‘Allah O Akbar’,” alleged Mr. Mahajir, who showed photographs and footage, shot on the day, to contest the claims of the police.

Accusing the State of not doing enough, he said: “There is a visible reluctance on the part of the State to ignore the truth. In the face of damning evidence the Government seems to be turning a blind eye… giving officials the opportunity to act with impunity. This policy can breed terrorism,” he cautioned.

A panel of distinguished members including Admiral Ramdas, Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi, Asghar Ali Engineer, Tarun Tejpal, Zoya Hasan and Mahesh Bhatt among others are scheduled to come up with recommendations during the meet.

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