July 24, 2014

A.G. Noorani on Roots of Indian secularism

Frontline, August 8, 2014

Roots of Indian secularism
The battle between Indian nationalism and Hindu nationalism must continue to be fought, and not by politicians alone. The roots of Indian secularism lie in the 19th century, as an inseparable part of Indian nationalism. By A.G. NOORANI

India: How Bal Thackeray and his Shiv Sena changed Mumbai forever

How Bal Thackeray and his Shiv Sena changed Mumbai forever
In this moving extract from Samrat, the author describes the emotional toll that the nativist party's violence takes on both the perpetrators and their victims.
Sujata Anandan

I met Manoj Surve (name changed) in the mid-1990s soon after the Shiv Sena–BJP government came to power and he began to frequent the Mantralaya in search of rewards for having participated in the riots of 1992-93. He had been part of a lynch mob that murdered an elderly Muslim during the conflagration.

Surve hailed from Goregaon, a suburb close to Jogeshwari, where the worst kind of killings had taken place at the Radhabai chawl during the second spell of violence in January 1993. He belonged to a family that had grown up worshipping Bal Thackeray: the Sena chief’s every word was treated as gospel truth, his every wish a command.

Saamna was the staple read in the family though they never had the good fortune to meet Thackeray in person. When they read the paper each morning and digested Thackeray’s incendiary articles, they were convinced that Muslims in the city had grown too arrogant by far and deserved all that was coming to them.

In his younger days, Surve used to be sent by his mother to the baker’s stall down the street every morning for pau (bread) and eggs. Some evenings, when families in the building had substantial orders, the man Surve called ‘chacha’ would come around, riding his bicycle with his box of kharas (fluffy crackers), buns, biscuits and other goodies to deliver at their doorsteps.

Chacha, who was a permanent fixture in Surve’s life, felt so safe among his regular customers that he decided to deliver supplies to their homes even during the riots, knowing that shops were shut and his regular customers might have to go without bread or milk for days on end. It is a testimony to the level of indoctrination among children belonging to Maharashtrian families supporting the Shiv Sena at the time that Surve soon found himself in a gang of youngsters actively rioting on the streets.

When Chacha, whom they had all known since their childhood, came around to deliver eggs and pau to their homes, they knocked him off his bicycle and set him on fire. Surve was on the fringes of that crowd but he did little to save the harmless old man, who had done nothing but good to them over the years.

Five years later, Surve was still unable to get over the fact that he had never seen a human being burn before that incident. He had not been able to sleep ever since, he said. But when the Shiv Sena came to power in alliance with the BJP three years later in 1995, hope rose in Surve’s heart along with that of other boys. They believed it was they who had brought about the Sena’s ascension to power by frightening Muslims into not voting for the Congress and they were sure their party, now in power, would duly recognise their contribution to that victory.

But though Surve and his friends had been doing the rounds of Mantralaya for weeks, they did not get even a look-in at Chief Minister Manohar Joshi’s office. Every time they tried to approach the chief minister, he would pack them off to Matoshree for a letter from Bal Thackeray. "I will not act upon any request until I have sanction from my leader to do so," he would say.

Matoshree, however, was almost like a fortress and more out of reach than even Mantralaya. No one there recognised Surve or his friends; they were sent to the localshakha pramukh, or branch head, for a recommendation, but the local leader neither knew them nor had the time for any of the boys who thought they had made a major contribution to the Sena’s fortunes by acting on Thackeray’s directives.

Surve noticed that I was frequenting Matoshree those days for a series of interviews with the Sena leader and got into a conversation with me. After a little prodding and probing, he spilled out his story and then said: "Madam, you seem to have pretty easy access to Balasaheb. Next time you are at Matoshree, will you do me a favour?" I was startled.

"What can I possibly do?" I asked. "The mext time you see him, will you please give him my name and tell him that I asked if it was all worth it." "What do you mean?" I asked, even more flummoxed by now. "Will you please ask him if it was worth killing all those innocent people? What had the pauwala chacha done to me or my family except supply us with bread and eggs ever since I was a child? He was trying to make it easy for us even during the riots. Did he have to be killed only because he was a Muslim? I do not sleep easy at nights. Does Balasaheb?"

I could never have put that question to Bal Thackeray and said as much. "You come along with me the next time I have been given time for an interview. Ask him yourself." Surve was not amused. As far as I know, he never met Thackeray and stopped haunting the corridors of Mantralaya soon after that request. I lost touch with him over the years but before that, he did tell me that he had worked out his own means of assuaging his conscience and redeeming his soul.

Full of regret at not even having had the courage to testify against those he saw physically attacking the unfortunate baker and burning him alive, he launched a personal hunt for the man’s family who had vanished for a time from the vicinity. When they did return after the riots to salvage whatever they could from their home, which had been thoroughly looted and destroyed, Surve approached the local shakha pramukhfor help in starting a roadside grocery stall of his own.

He then set up the teenage son of the man he had seen killed by fellow Shiv Sainiks in that stall and planted a huge flagstaff beside the stall with a Sena standard flying from the top. A blackboard was put up just outside, listing the ‘swastha’ (fair or cheap) prices of goods available at the stall and the blackboard carried his own name as owner and proprietor.

"But this business is all yours. You can sell your bread and eggs, milk and biscuits from here. You do not need to pay me any rent. If anyone asks, tell him you are just an employee. But the shop and the profits from it belong to you. I do not want a single paisa from it." It was his way of making peace with God – and humanity.

Mansoor Ali Khan, though, was not as lucky as the family of Surve’s victim. Or perhaps he and his family were luckier, for they escaped with their lives even if they lost all their property to loot and arson indulged in by their own friends in the comparatively upmarket area of Tardeo, where they were living at the time of the riots.

Mansoor’s family ran a hardware store a few yards from their home and Mansoor was at the time a student at a prestigious college in Churchgate. He was also the captain of his cricket team – the only Muslim in the team – many of whom were ardent fans of Bal Thackeray. They played against other clubs – the Shiv Sena, in fact, had a large following among the youth of Bombay through its sponsorship of these clubs.

Before these boys began to miss cricket practice for the maha-aartis at nearby temples (the Sena had evolved this ritual between the two spells of riots as a means of countering the Friday namaz by Muslims), Mansoor, whose family had been living in a mixed society for years without any trouble, had no idea what a slender thread his friendships with the other boys hung from.

Not all the boys were wholly brainwashed by the maha-aartis and one member of his cricket team warned Mansoor that his family had been identified and would soon be targeted. "You must leave. Tonight. I’ll hold the attackers back for a few hours. But if you are still there tomorrow morning, I won’t be able to do anything. They will kill me if they ever suspect I was trying to save your lives," his saviour told Mansoor.

"We left past midnight, leaving most of our possessions behind," says Mansoor, sitting in his living room in his new home off Duncan Road, which is exclusively a Muslim residential area, where he and his family now feel safe and protected. His mother, Nanni Begum, though, still remembers all that they lost during the riots: "I had collected the trousseaus of my daughters stitch by stitch over the years. They were all stored in boxes which we could not carry without being noticed. Each one of my daughters was of marriageable age at the time. Only I know how I put those trousseaus back together again. They looted everything before burning down the house. I was never able to recover anything – not even a pillow. We have not been compensated for anything as yet."

Mansoor is still in a state of shock at the betrayal by his friends. "We had grown up together; we went to the same schools and college. We played cricket together. But when it came to 1993, all boiled down to religion. They were Hindus and I was Muslim. Friendship was of no consequence."

He has never seen those friends-turned-foes again and has not even dared seek a meeting with the sole friend who tipped him off about the planned attack, lest he be identified as a traitor. But Mansoor thanks him at least five times a day for saving his and his family’s lives with that timely warning.

Like many other victims of the riots, he, too, appeared before the Srikrishna Commission with his story, but the family has received little for what they lost during the riots. "I grew up almost overnight. I was just a regular college guy with the usual dreams in 1992, when they brought down the mosque in Ayodhya. I had to give up everything, including my education. I had wanted to be a pilot in the Indian Air Force. I am not even a graduate today. My sisters have been settled. My brothers went to the Gulf to find work. But life has never been the same for me again."

Mansoor’s friendships are now among only those of his kind. Trust will not be easy to regain but his home is warm and welcoming so long as people come bearing goodwill and friendship. The family both thanks their luck and curses their bad fortune every day.

(This is an excerpt from chapter 16, 'Reaping the Whirlwind', from Samrat, by Sujata Anandan, published by HarperCollins India and released earlier this month.)

July 22, 2014

chhattisgarh: attacks on christians

Outlook Magazine, July 28, 2014

chhattisgarh: attacks on christians
Streak Of Violence: The few Christians in Bastar and Surguja face sporadic Hindu ire
Yashwant Dhote

Chhattisgarh doesn’t have religious minorities to speak of—they are a mere two per cent of its population. That should make it an oasis of communal harmony. Right? Well, not quite, as several admittedly small but significant incidents this year expose how fragile the social fabric really is in parts of the state, notably in Bastar and Surguja.

If it was a church that was destroyed this March by people, allegedly with the help of the police, the next month it was a funeral service that was attacked and the grave filled up. In June, Christians at Sirisguda were refused rations from the pds outlets after they refused to give donations for a Hindu temple. This month, when a food inspector arrived to register complaints, the complainants were attacked and beaten up. Nine of them had to be hospitalised.

Things are no better in the adjacent areas of Madhya Pradesh, where according to Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), mobs searched the belongings of passengers and those found in possession of the Bible were beaten up.

There’s more. As many as 50 village councils in Bastar are said to have adopted resolutions banning the entry of “non-Hindu missionaries”. Bastar district magistrate Ankit Anand admits to only three villages adopting such resolutions, which he says are unconstitutional and illegal. But that is of small consolation to church leaders, who complain of increasing instances of persecution by the majority community. “Unless legal and deterrent action is taken against the mischief-makers, there is no guarantee that such incidents will not recur,” says a parish priest at Raipur.

The sporadic violence has surprised observers, who say that the state has long been a bastion of the VHP-RSS, and with 98 per cent of the population being Hindu, there really is no reason for the majority community to feel threatened. Not even in Bastar, where Christians constitute barely 0.7 per cent of the population, and the tribal population remains a robust 30.63 per cent.

Prodigal’s Return A ghar wapasi in progress. (Photograph by Prabhat Mishra)

The results of the Vidhan Sabha election last year could hold a pointer to what is happening in Bastar and Surguja, according to observers. Both districts had overwhelmingly favoured the BJP in the previous two elections. In 2013, however, it was the Congress which won eight out of the 12 seats in Bastar, and seven out of the eight seats in Surguja. The Sangh parivar seems to have singled out the Christian missionaries for a turnaround in electoral fortunes, though religion could not have played much of a role in the outcome, since the Christian community is minuscule.

It doesn’t appease VHP leader Suresh Yadav. “Christian missionary activity is going on unabated, but the state government is not bothered,” he told Outlook. Yadav alleges that 59 Christian families in Sirisguda had first attacked the Hindus and instigated unrest by refusing to give donations for the annual ‘puja’. “We are no longer Hindus and we no longer visit the temple,” they reportedly argued and said they were not obliged to pay for Hindu rites.

“Judeo would wash the feet of three or four tribals and get himself photographed.”Kawasi Lakhma, Congress MLA

Yadav, however, has no answer when asked why tribals in Bastar are still opting to get converted despite the strong RSS-VHP presence. Both Bastar and Surguja have a large network of Saraswati Shishu Mandirs and Ekal Vidyalayas, schools manned by solitary teachers and promoted by the RSS. But while BJP leaders privately concede that RSS volunteers are not committed as they used to be, Yadav continues to blame Christian missionaries for instigating tribals, misleading them and luring them to change their religion. Remarkably, while Chhattisgarh has had a stringent anti-conversion law since 2004 when the BJP formed the government here, its provisions are yet to be invoked in the state.

Congress MLA Deepak Baij accuses the Sangh parivar of fomenting trouble for political reasons. “They are desperately searching for a scapegoat to explain their poll debacle in these areas and have zeroed in on this bogus claim of forcible conversion,” he tells Outlook. Christian missionaries, he held, have been around in the area for a long time and he was yet to come across cases of forcible conversion. Significantly, former MLA Beduram Kashyap, who lost to Baij, also conceded that conversions had been taking place for a long time and it would be incorrect to say that they increased after the BJP was defeated. “We try to persuade tribals to remain in the Hindu fold, but if they still opt for conversion, what can be done?” says Kashyap.

Congress MLA Kawasi Lakhma says the conversions have happened because of the complete lack of government agency in matters of health, education and food, gaps which the Christian missionaries are filling. There have been such conversions even in the Jagdalpur urban area, which has been electing a BJP MLA for the past three elections, Lakhma claims. He doesn’t think much of the Ghar Wapasi reconversion programme the late Dilip Singh Judeo of Jashpur had initiated. “Judeo would wash the feet of three or four tribals and get himself photographed doing so,” he says sarcastically. Judeo’s nephew and BJP Rajya Sabha member Ranvijay Singh Judeo says he will resume the reconversion campaign soon.

Meanwhile, Dwarkapeeth Shankara­charya Swaroopanand Saraswati also chose to fish in the troubled waters. “Why would people change their religion if the government fulfils their needs?” he asks. He supports the ban on the entry of Christian missionaries, declaring that foreign funds sent to the church should not be used for converting people. The government, he claims, exercises far greater control over Hindu temples, which is unfair, he feels.

The minister in charge of Bastar, Prem Prakash Pandey, questions the very reports of forcible conversions. “We have not received a single such complaint since 2004,” he asserts. Pandey, say sources in the government, was alarmed enough to give VHP activists in Bastar a dressing down. Any communal disturbance in Bastar would reflect poorly on the BJP government in the state, he told a VHP delegation.

He, however, failed to assuage church leaders in the state. How can the state government fail to react to ban orders, they ask. “Nobody can be forced to change his faith,” quips Father Sebastian of the Catholic Church at Raipur. “If he does, he does so of his own free will.”

By Yashwant Dhote in Raipur

USA: 150 million dollar Akshardham temple coming up in New Jersey -- Whats going on is there an Akshardham inc. that is setting branches?

162-acre Akshardham coming up in New Jersey
Bharat Yagnik,TNN | Jul 22, 2014, 06.48 AM IST

India: Mandal 2.0 versus the new Hindutva? | Varghese K. George

The Hindu, July 22, 2014

Mandal 2.0 versus the new Hindutva?

Varghese K. George

The revival of Mandal politics has been suggested as a counter to Hindutva 2.0. However, it is doubtful whether Nitish Kumar’s alliance with Lalu Prasad will strengthen his electoral prospects against the BJP in Bihar

“Mandal is the need of the hour. It is in response to Kamandal, to protect social justice,” Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad declared recently, wooing Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar for a full-fledged alliance. “Mandal” is the code for backward caste consolidation and “Kamandal” implies Hindutva politics. The suggestion also is that the primary fault line of politics in the State now is backward castes versus upper castes. Mr. Prasad and Mr. Kumar — companions in the early phase of backward caste politics, but bitter rivals in the last two decades — have already sketched the prelude to an alliance that they both hope will push back the Modi wave in Bihar before the Assembly elections in 2015. A preliminary test of this new alliance will be the by-elections in 10 Assembly seats in the State on August 21.

Aftermath of mandate

Political parties and leaders are still in the process of reconciling with the outcome of the recent parliamentary elections. Parties that faced humiliating defeats at the hands of Narendra Modi have yet to overcome the shock. The future course of the Congress party appears unclear and uncertain while the Left remains in complete disarray. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party’s leaders are struggling to comprehend the Maximum Prime Minister and foresee the future of the party under him. In that sense, the call for a revival of Mandal politics — which had slowed down the march of Hindutva in the 1990s — is the only alternative offered by anyone since the Lok Sabha results. Will this work?

Mr. Kumar and Mr. Prasad ran bitter campaigns against each other in the Lok Sabha election. Mr. Kumar’s campaign had three components — one, he advertised the series of development initiatives under his rule since 2005; two, he explained his breaking-up with the BJP in 2013 after 17 years of alliance as a matter of principle, and three, he repeatedly reminded people of what he described as jungle raj or lawlessness — the dispensation that Mr. Prasad led or controlled for 15 years prior to his tenure.

Mr. Prasad on the other hand, promised the “return of Lalu Raj” — which, in his narrative, was an era of backward caste empowerment. Mr. Yadav sought to draw people’s attention to the twin dangers of the BJP, which he said was communal, and Mr. Kumar, who he alleged had betrayed the backward castes to appease the upper castes. Mr. Prasad tried to stir up the dissonance among the backward caste voters who thought — for good reasons — that upper caste bureaucrats controlled Mr. Kumar’s administration. The results of the election showed that people did not accept either of the two and voted overwhelmingly for the BJP that won 31 of the 40 seats.

If his opponents are smart and issues are framed imaginatively, the Bihar Assembly elections next year could be the first test of the sustainability for Mr. Modi’s politics.

The RJD-Congress alliance won just seven seats while Mr. Kumar won only two, making the defeat excruciating and humiliating for both. In an impetuous response to the possible political extinction that stared them in the face, Mr. Kumar and Mr. Prasad have quickly embraced each other.

Nepotism, corruption

Bihar will indeed be the first real opportunity for the opponents of Mr. Modi to challenge him. State Assembly elections before Bihar’s — Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Maharashtra and Haryana — will not cause any serious discomfiture to Mr. Modi. If his opponents are smart and issues are framed imaginatively, the Bihar Assembly elections in 2015 could be the first test of the sustainability for Mr. Modi’s politics.

But whether a rerun of Mandal politics can challenge Hinduvta 2.0, the repackaged version of Sangh Parivar politics — which in its current avatar combines material aspirations with majoritarian identity politics and in the process subsumes caste politics — is doubtful. The success of Hindutva 2.0 has been to a great extent aided by the extreme failure of many of its opponents as administrators and leaders, and their brazen corruption and disregard for public good. Mr. Yadav is prominent among them.

The ideals of social justice and secularism were hollowed out of their essence. In Mr. Prasad’s case, he reduced secularism into a negative concept — the absence of riots on the one hand, and patronisation of a self-styled and often regressive section of Muslim leadership on the other. As for social justice, it was reduced to demanding, promising and occasionally declaring quotas for various groups. Mr. Prasad’s politics not only sucked the soul out of these values, but he also used it as a shield and an excuse for nepotism, corruption and worst of all, the brazen promotion of his immediate family in politics. When he was forced to give up the post of Bihar Chief Minister in 1997, he ensured that his wife, Rabri Devi was in the seat; two of his brothers-in-law were elected to Parliament. His wife and daughter, Misa Bharti contested the Lok Sabha election in May and lost. His son, Tejaswi Pratap is being groomed as a successor. After fielding Ms. Bharti from Pataliputra, overlooking the claims of veteran Ramkripal Yadav, Mr. Prasad said that it was an act of empowering women.

Rise and fall

One significant subtext of the 2014 election results in May has also been the rejection of dynastic politics, as the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the RJD and the Samajwadi Party faced the wrath of voters. Parallel to this, and common to some of the big winners is that they do not even have families to promote; Ms. Jayalalithaa, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Ms. Mamata Banerjee and Mr. Modi are examples. Therefore, Mr. Prasad, who once inspired confidence among the backward classes, Dalits, the poor in general and Muslims, has now come to represent a spectrum of unacceptable practices in Indian politics. Being a convict in a corruption case does not help either.

Mr. Kumar, whose politics has been built on his opposition to “Lalu Raj,” on the other hand, has attributes that are winning elections for leaders in other parts of the country. He has been a focussed administrator who was successful in repairing the broken structures of the State and kick-starting development in Bihar. He has also been mindful of expanding the scope of empowerment politics through various government interventions. In fact, a majority of voters in Bihar still look up to him though they did not vote for him.

The question then is why did he fail so miserably in May? He made two serious miscalculations while parting with the BJP. One, he thought he could make a winning social alliance of Muslims and the Extremely Backward Castes that he had cultivated as a constituency. But both were caught in ‘the Prisoner’s Dilemma’ of guessing what the other would do, and he ended up getting none. The second was in underestimating the crucial role that upper castes had played in catapulting and sustaining him in power. When they preferred the BJP to him, Mr. Kumar was left with no reliable bloc. His politics — which combines development with social justice and secularism — was trounced by Mr. Modi’s offer of development with Hindutva and its own version of social justice. As the BJP mopped up large numbers from all castes, and Muslims and the Yadavs consolidated behind Mr. Prasad, Bihar became the peculiar case where the most liked leader finished a miserable last.

By aligning with Mr. Prasad, Mr. Kumar may be committing the third mistake in the sequence — and this one could be fatal and unlikely to give him another chance. Parting with the BJP had made him vulnerable to the criticism that he is an opportunist, but that had not completely ruined his reputation in governance. Aligning with Mr. Prasad will not only blunt his claim of good governance, as there will be the looming threat of the return of Lalu Raj by proxy, but will also reinforce and prove true the suspicion that he is a political opportunist. In any case, there is diminishing returns for antagonistic caste politics devoid of an economic agenda — the hallmark of Mr. Prasad.

If Mr. Kumar wants to cash in on the goodwill that he still has among Bihar’s voters, there have to be more imaginative ways of going about it. Trying to revive Mandal politics in alliance with Mr. Prasad to counter Hindutva 2.0 may be an easy route, but unlikely to be a successful one.


India: Faith and fatwa | Upendra Baxi

The Indian Express - July 22, 2014

Faith and fatwa

Upendra Baxi

The Supreme Court injunction is welcome, but limited.

Nothing prepared us for the pleasant constitutional surprise, an incredibly brief order by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court that “the decisions of Dar-ul-Qaza or the fatwa” are neither “created nor sanctioned by any law made by the competent legislature”. The fatwa issued by Dar-ul-Qazas (a sharia court) or “for that matter anybody, is not adjudication of dispute by an authority under a judicial system sanctioned by law”. In our constitutional legal system, a “qazi or mufti has no authority” nor any legal powers to impose “his opinion and enforce his fatwa on anyone by any coercive method”.

However, any decision affecting 65 million Indian Muslim women must be read closely. First, the decision is not a judgment at all; it is merely an advisory. The court does not overtly declare the law; it merely dismisses the petition with an observation “that no Dar-ul-Qazas or for that matter, anybody or institution by any name, shall give verdict or issue fatwa touching upon the rights, status and obligation of an individual unless such an individual has asked for it”. Fatwas that do not do so are constitutionally valid. And a non-citizen may still fall under the sway of a fatwa.

The court’s observations deserve to be given great weight, but in so far as the sharia is a matter of faith and that faith is interpreted by its custodians, only rebelling women may take recourse to civil courts. And even they must bear the intolerable ambiguities of constitutional as well as pious Islamic interpretation of the Quran. For example, the 2005 “model nikahnama” issued by the Muslim Personal Law Board (MPLB) says, in its last clause, that the “Ulema would take the decision and whatever judgement he gives would be binding on us”. As sociologist Sabiha Hussain points out, this “clause apparently closes the option for women to approach the secular courts”.

Second, the court does not make prior fatwas invalid. Victims may file for proceedings with the police or approach the courts. But whether a crime has been committed by the issuance of a fatwa remains a matter for the police and courts to decide, eventually.

Third, only the fatwas “touching upon the rights of an individual at the instance of rank strangers”, which “may cause irreparable damage” and so are “absolutely uncalled for”, would “be in violation of basic human rights” and “cannot be used to punish innocent”, as no “religion, including Islam, punishes the innocent”. Religion, moreover, cannot be “allowed to be merciless to the victim. Faith cannot be used as dehumanising force”. These great words do not, for example, help Muslim women forced to marry their fathers-in-law under some strained interpretation of the Quran. Women are dragged to so-called sharia courts not by “strangers” but by near relations. Is it any relief if the fatwa were asked for “by the person interested”?

Fourth, although a fatwa can be asked for on behalf of a person in “case of incapacity”, what constitutes that incapacity and who is best suited to represent physical or mental disability or impairment is a vexed question. Would the judicial injunction on the “stranger” seeking a fatwa deter pious Muslims from taking genuine care of the incapacitated? The question is not fully answered by the clarification that “any person interested in the welfare of such [a] person may be permitted to represent the cause of [the] concerned individual”.

Fifth, what does the very last judicial observation signify? It says that, in “any event, the decision or the fatwa issued by whatever body being not emanating from any judicial system recognised by law is not binding on anyone including the person who had asked for it”. Does the word “binding” refer to law or religion or both?

The MPLB had already argued for the “necessity of establishment of a network of judicial system throughout the country” through which “Muslims should be made aware that they should get their disputes decided by the qazis”. True, “this establishment may not have the police powers but [it] shall have the book of Allah in hand and sunnat of the Rasool and all decisions should be according to the Book and the Sunnat”. But according to the MPLB, “this will bring the Muslims to the Muslim Courts. They will get justice”. The judicial position that while fatwas may be enforced as religion, they cannot be coercively implemented by the religious community, does not address the problem of pious Muslims being asked to believe, often to the point of harm and even death, that the decisions of the Islamic tribunals are always “just”.

According to Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband, which admitted issuing the fatwa in the Imrana case “as per Fiqah-e-Hanafi, which is based on Quran and Hadith” it is “not running [a] parallel judiciary”. It contended that it “has no agency or powers to enforce its fatwas” and it is up to “the discretion of the persons or the parties who obtain fatwas to abide by it or not”. It can, however, do nothing if “God fearing Muslims being answerable to the Almighty, obey the fatwas”. But such coercive implementation of community decisions on deeply religious matters is not new. Hindus succeeded in maintaining untouchability for nearly 5,000 years and some are doing so even today, despite it being constitutionally and legally outlawed. Even now, caste biradari panchayats deliver patently unconstitutional decisions violating the equal rights of women as persons and as citizens. This does not, however, justify the hurtful, and even wounding, Muslim apartheid against Islamic women, if only because several wrongs never make a right.

Overall, the court is discharging its duty under Article 44 of the Constitution to “endeavour” towards a uniform civil code. But nowhere does it say so, and wisely. Wisely because the code raises complex issues of the politics of cruelty, survival and identity, which the representative institutions find unfeasible to answer. The court rightly asserts that, in the meantime, the Constitution normatively forbids barbaric treatment of Islamic women citizens of India. Although the Hindu law lacks the institutional piety of fatwas, its viciousness towards women seems impliedly addressed.

The writer is professor of law, University of Warwick, and former vice chancellor of Universities of South Gujarat and Delhi.


India: Muslims can easily quit their ghettos | Jawed Naqvi

Dawn - 22 July 2014

Muslims can easily quit their ghettos
By Jawed Naqvi

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

IT is axiomatic, yes. Muslims in India form a substantial chunk of the population — over 15pc of one billion. That they are in a bad way is confirmed by official reports and by the findings of commissions set up to investigate their plight. Their known tormentors, chiefly the votaries of Hindutva, will not deny that India’s Muslims are sliding steadily to the bottom of the nation’s social heap.

There is, however, a nefarious feature stalking the community though it gets less discussed, if at all. It is their remarkable selfishness in projecting grief, an apparent obsession exclusively with their own victimhood, as though their horror is the only horror inflicted on any vulnerable community by a brutally self-serving Indian state and its growing number of armed vigilantes.

Yes, you may be able to detect a tiny crop within the community that shows promise of a cultivated if not spontaneous sense of kinship with other underclass communities. But the leaders, a majority of them religious pontiffs to whom the state has shrewdly surrendered the responsibility and, therefore, the future of 150 million plus people, have rarely shown interest in, much less offered sympathy for, the other wretched and browbeaten countrymen.

I phoned my friend John Dayal, fellow journalist and a prominent member of the Catholic community in Delhi. He is always ready to lend his strong shoulders when Muslims are in need, be it in Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar or to celebrate the release of the over-quoted Sachar Committee report that etched out the factors responsible for the backwardness of Muslims.
Lamenting their own victimhood, India’s Muslims have rarely shown an interest in the wretched lot of other communities.

I asked John if he would canvass wide support for the victims of last week’s underreported Hindutva assault on members of the evangelical Nazerene Church in western Uttar Pradesh. This is usually a theatre of Hindu-Muslim stand-off, not far from Muzaffarnagar where a killing frenzy erupted against Muslims during the recent elections. Attacks on Christians in western Uttar Pradesh are not a common occurrence though they are not entirely unknown. The latest attack, therefore, quite possibly represents a new swagger the ruling Hindutva ideologues have found.

John Dayal says while he is always there for Muslim victims of injustice it is not necessarily a two-way street in terms of the Muslim leadership’s sympathy quotient towards other troubled communities. His lament was instructive. There is indeed almost always a spontaneous outpouring of fellowship and solidarity among groups ranging from Sikhs to Dalits, from representatives of the north-eastern tribes to intellectuals among Kashmiri Pandits, who rally support and solidarity for the Muslim underclass.

Middle of the road Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, pagans, communists, all form a protective ring around Muslims when they are under attack. But I am scratching my memory in vain I think to remember when a Muslim body last intervened on behalf of Sikhs or Dalits, or Christians, let alone remote tribespeople in their hour of need.

The media has for its own purposes indulged and cultivated the Hindu-Muslim paradigm to express the running story of wider social strife in India. It was difficult, naturally, to miss the air of self-congratulation about the newspaper headlines the other day when three top cops admitted unequivocally that India’s Muslims distrusted the police, an admission which, the newspapers implied, might lead to corrective measures.

“In what is perhaps the first admission of its kind, the police have concluded that there is a trust deficit among Muslims,” said the Indian Express, quoting from Strategy for making police forces more sensitive towards minority sections, a report prepared by three directors general of police — Sanjeev Dayal of Maharashtra, Devraj Nagar of Uttar Pradesh, and K. Ramanujam of Tamil Nadu.

Muslims see the police as “communal, biased and insensitive … ill-informed, corrupt and lacking professionalism”, the report says.

“Poor representation of the minorities in the police forces has contributed to this distrust and suspicion. It has to be admitted that the conduct of some members of the police forces in various states during communal riots had only served to strengthen and heighten these suspicions and distrust in the minority communities,” it says.

Muslims form the largest minority, constituting “a vocal and large section of the population” in most states, says the report and calls for urgent correction of the perception in the community about the police as it “impinges on the communal situation of the country and thus its internal security”.

Are Muslims alone in mistrusting the police? Are the Dalits of small towns and villages or even in a city like Delhi heartened to see a policeman approaching them? Or do they run for cover at the sight of one?

Have the Sikhs regained their faith in Delhi Police after the keepers of law and order abetted the pogroms of the proud community in 1984? And where were the Muslims, what was their stand, if they had one, when the lynching and looting of Sikhs was in full cry in Delhi and elsewhere? I have heard of some outrageous things that Muslim gangs did in 1984 in cahoots with frenzied Hindutva mobs.

Nandita Das made a disturbing movie on anti-Muslim communal violence in Gujarat; Firaaq it was called, but Gulzar’s Maachis gave us an even more traumatic view of the pervasive mistrust between the police and the ordinary Sikh people in the 1980s. Yet, the media stays riveted to the Muslims-who-distrust-the-police narrative.

A police station official in India’s Jharkhand state this month reviled Christians who sought protection after Hindu extremists beat and threatened to kill them for refusing to convert to Hinduism. Does the story touch Muslim hearts? For, when it does begin to matter, India’s Muslims will not find themselves in their ghettos any longer. They will be leading a minorities’ collective, in which women and people of different sexual orientation will have a strong voice too.

The choice is squarely with India’s largest minority community whether they wish to crawl out of the ditch, which they have dug for no good reason or remain tethered to the mullah’s sectarian agenda.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.