December 03, 2020

Promoting Communal Amity in the times of 'Hate'

Promoting Amity in times of ‘Hate’: Arrest of Faisal Khan Ram Puniyani In the process of formation of the nation one of the major pillars is the concept of Fraternity. The words, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are flagship of French revolution, the revolution which overturned the feudal system, the kingdom and heralded the coming in of Modern Nation state, the concept of democracy. The path of these values has not been easy in India, where the process of ‘India as a nation in the making’ begins in the colonial period, running parallel to development of values of a modern state. As an aside since Fraternity, the classical part of triad, is male oriented so we should use ‘National community’, with all its inherent diversity in place. This process of formation of national community in India ran along with the anti colonial movement and came as an overarching Indian identity above the identities of religion, caste, region, ethnicity and language. The national movement integrated all these sections as Indians. History does not run in a smooth line, as National movement led by Gandhi united the people, there were communal elements, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which focussed on religion based identity. These tendencies were at the root of sectarian politics, which acted as a counter to the uniting influence of the national movement. Nearly seven decades after Independence we are facing a situation which is very close to when Gandhi made all efforts to unite the people cutting across the lines of religion. The rise of communal politics during last three decades has widened the gulf between the religious communities, particularly Hindus on one side and Muslims and Christians on the other. Those wanting to uphold the values of Freedom movement and values of Indian Constitution have been scratching their heads as to how to cultivate and restore the bonding which made India, a nation. One effort has been to try to make bridges among different communities through respecting the traditions and faith of ‘others’. These efforts have also talked in the language of religion; have attempted to follow the moral values of religion. Moral values of religion were the core of teachings of Bhakti-Sufi saints. These also formed the base of Gandhi’s practice of Hinduism, which was inclusive and attracted the people of diverse religions. In contemporary times there are activists who are endeavouring to walk this path. It may sound innocuous few decades ago, but not any longer. Now we see the case of arrest of Faisal Khan, who has tried to revive Khudai Khidmatgar, the organization floated by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Seemant Gandhi. Gaffer Khan was ardent supporter of the path of non violence. He stood for respecting all religions and was totally opposed to the partition of the country, for which he had to spend years in the jails of British rulers and later in the ‘Muslim Nation’ Pakistan. Faisal Khan, yearning for amity love and peace began his journey for communal amity with other peace workers. He decided to revive Khudai Khidmatgar to pursue the path to strengthen the spirit of Indian Community and on these lines has been trying one after the other move to bring the religious communities together. He set up Apna Ghar for people of all religious communities to share and enhance the intercommunity bandings while celebrating festivals of all religions. He is also a trustee of Sarva Dharma Sadbhava Kendra Trust located in Ram Janaki Mandir Sarju Kunj, Ayodhya. There is a plan to develop an all-faith communal harmony centre in this Temple. Faisal Khan has offered Namaz several times in this temple. People of all faith and caste including Dalits are welcome in this temple. At another level he is part of organizations for Human rights like NAPM and at global level with Hindus for Human rights in US. Recently he undertook a five day peace yatra in Brij region in UP along with four of his friends. This peace yatra was '84 Kos Parikrama' of Braj in Mathura during which they paid a visit to Nand Baba Mandir. As Faisal visited the temple he received prasad from temple priest and recited verses from Ramcharitmanas to the priest. The priest happily allowed him to offer namaz inside the premises on October 29, 2020. The petition that has been launched on Change.org, says, “When it was time for the midday namaz (Muslim prayer), Faisal was going to pray outside, but the priest invited him to pray right there in the temple. Faisal and one of his associates, Chand Mohammed, prayed in the temple compound.” He has been arrested on charges which are related to inciting intercommunity tensions and is in jail for last few weeks. When we are talking of promoting intercommunity amity such an act is what gives the signal of intercommunity harmony. The state is duty bound to promote fraternity, the sense of Indian community, which Faisal Khan and his friends were trying give a message of. Many people accuse that secular forces have failed to address the people as they have been talking in a language which is away from the language of people, people who are steeped in the religiosity. Faisal Khan is doing precisely what many sympathetic critics are alleging is the failure of secular forces. Gandhi and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan saw religion as a moral force, as a spiritual path. They succeed to a large extent. After their passing away from scene, communal forces have overshadowed the moral ethical component of religion and presented religion as pure identity, and have used it as divisive force. Today we are in a strange situation. The religious gulfs are rising and those trying to bridge it are accused precisely of things which they are fighting against. Society needs to introspect and take the path of Gandhi and Khan Saheb, to cement to gulfs which have crept in due to the divisive politics of sectarian nationalism. People like Faisal Khan need to be understood and respected for the path they are pursuing to promote the idea of inclusive India.

Vivek | Reason - a documentary film by Ananad Patwardhan (in Hindi)


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December 01, 2020

India: Hindutva moral police guns for a Netflix adaption of A Suitable Boy - So What if a Muslim Man and a Hindu Girl Willingly Lock Lips - Ruchir Joshi's Column in The Hindu


India: NRC not a solution; it is only an instrument to consolidate Assamese cultural essentialism | Suraj Gogoi (Dec 1, 2020, The Telegraph)

 The Telegraph

False pledge: NRC in Assam

It is not a solution; it is only an instrument to consolidate Assamese cultural essentialism
The elite among Assamese Muslims also supported the NRC process in this hope, as did a number of ‘miya’ poets.

Suraj Gogoi   |     |   Published 30.11.20, 12:05 AM

Many liberals and self-proclaimed Marxists in Assam held the firm belief — they still do — that the National Register of Citizens will eradicate the gaze of suspicion on ‘illegal’ people. This belief is nothing but an instance of false consciousness, a story manufactured by the caste Assamese middle class and the Assamese nationalist to invoke a spirit of acceptability among people towards the NRC. A bureaucratic exercise cannot be a solution to social malice.

The elite among Assamese Muslims also supported the NRC process in this hope, as did a number of ‘miya’ poets. But by the time the NRC list was published last year, Assamese civil society bodies started expressing their dissatisfaction with the 1.9 million people who were left out of the register. The figure was too less for them. 

The NRC is far from over. The stories of hope that were sold are fading with every passing day. The anti-foreigner rhetoric has resurfaced, once again. It has been given a new lease of life and has indoctrinated a new group of youngsters into the fold of Assamese nationalism. This has resulted in a toxic mix of jingoism and hatred towards those perceived to be outsiders. 

Other lives

The recent debate that emanated from the public rejection of the idea of a char-chapori museum by Assam’s health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, is a case in point. The proposal for a museum, which would reflect the culture and heritage of the people living in Assam’s char-chaporis, had come from the Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Education of the Assam government. The committee had proposed this idea along with another museum for the Gorkha community. The proposal was presented to the legislative house in March; 10 of the 15 committee members who gave those recommendations are from the ruling party in Assam.

Char-chaporis are heterogeneous, non-colonizing spaces that are not inhabited by Bengali Muslims only. The health minister’s resistance reflects not only the sensibilities of the Assamese but also the condition of minorities in Assam. It is evident that Assamese society suffers from ‘sociocentrism’, a condition in which the identity of a pluralist society is articulated through a dominant member of the group. For the caste Assamese, it is unimaginable that artefacts associated with the Bengali Muslim community can be a part of the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra in Guwahati. Sarma’s remark also embodies a mindset that perceives the Bengali Muslim to be a polluting element degrading Assam’s culture. Hence the need for segregation and the rejection of the idea of a shared space. The rejection reveals the extent of alienation and dehumanization of minorities, especially miyas.

Sorry picture

The elements that are integral to the iconography of the miyas being circulated on the social media — a torn lungi, barbed wire, muriittar — portray what the French writer, Albert Memmi, calls ‘heterophobia’: the fear of difference, both real and imaginary. There is proof of such fear lingering in Assam. The health minister reportedly blamed the ‘invasion’ of Covid into Assam on Muslims. The chief minister is reported to have noted in a public rally in Bodoland that the ‘Mughal’ assault on Assam continues, and that if we don’t become conscious of it, Assam’s mother tongue will become Arabic. These comments come in the backdrop of the Assam government discontinuing the funding for madrasas in the name of modernizing education. This kind of vilification has coincided with the rise of right-wing politics in Assam. But this should not take away from the fact that antipathy towards minorities has been organic to Assam’s culture.

The NRC is not a solution. It is only an instrument to consolidate Assamese cultural essentialism.

November 28, 2020

India: Bihar Elections, Political Alliances and Owaisi | Ram Puniyani

Shrinking Democratic Space and Electoral Choices

Ram Puniyani

From last three decades or so the debate comes up intermittently as to whether Congress and BJP are two sides of the same coin. Many political parties; time and over again; have been taking up this formulation as a justification for Third front, which is away from BJP and Congress both. In previous Bengal elections Congress-Left coalition did come up but could not muster a victory against Trinmool Congress. Currently such a choice is posed by many dalit parties and lately such a formulation is being proffered by AIMIM, Asaduddin Owaisi’s party.

After the Bihar Assembly elections, where the Mahagathbandhan, with RJD, Congress in the lead was defeated by a narrow margin, the analysts are trying to grapple as to how despite massive rallies of RJD and despite the horrendous suffering of average people due to the ‘four hour notice Corona lock down’, how could BJP led NDA win the elections. Most of the analysts have been pointing finger to AIMIM for the victory of NDA. Though exact analysis of seats shows that it might have directly benefitted on couple of seats for BJP, the deeper argument is that its entry into the electoral arena, polarises the Hindu votes leading to BJP’s strength. While Asaduddin Owaisi raises the issues of minority community in the language of Constitution, his younger brother and others from his party make statements, which are divisive and communal.

The infamous speech of Akbaruddin Owaisi, about the minority Muslims being able to deal with majority if the police force is removed from the scene, is one example. This speech was widely circulated through social media and RSS combine forces used it extensively to build their vote banks. This polarization supplements the polarization, which RSS combine has built up through the issues like Ram Temple, Cow Protection, Love Jihad, Corona jihad and what have you. Asaduddin Owaisi correctly laments the marginalization of Muslims in the political sphere of the country; he outlines the declining social situation of the community. In an upright manner he is able to woo over the sections of the community with these arguments supplemented by the provocative statement that even if a sword is put on his neck he will not utter ‘Bharat mata Ki Jai’. One of his MLAs refused to utter the word Hindustan.

There are three layer operations by this party. First is the significant presence in the parliament by Owassi, backed up by his media projection. He also most of the times; articulates the pain and anguish of Muslim community and his emotive responses like that on ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. His party men, who merrily make Hate speeches, are generally not so much grilled by large section of media. And third this party is in continuous attempt, from Maharashtra (With Prakash Ambedkar), In Jharkhand, and in Bihar (With Mayawati and Kushwaha), where focus is mainly on constituencies where Congress allies can be weakened by splitting of votes.

One has to concede that the Muslims’ political and social condition has massively deteriorated. At superficial level Congress can be blamed, more riots took place in their rule, Babri mosque was demolished during their rule, they have been unable to halt the juggernaut of Modi-BJP-RSS. Shahbano verdict was overturned by Congress rule, Babri mosque locks were also opened during Congress rule is the stock criticism of Congress to assert that what BJP does during the day Congress does during the night. This is as superficial as it can get. After RSS gained legitimacy by joining JP movement, and after Advani launched Ram Temple campaign, BJP got the platform which it needed to polarise and communalise. It is the communalisation by RSS combine which surely is the dominating factor of Indian politics from last few decades. It is this pressure due to which Rahul Gandhi declares himself as a janeu wearing Shiva Bahkt etc.

The other parties have also buckled by the massive communalization created by the emotive issues created through the vast network of organizations, pracharkas and swayamasevaks placed in different locations in civil, social and political spaces. Through a well knit organizational manoeuvre it has also erected and electoral machine which can pull its victory despite the massive sufferings wrought on poor people due to the policies of ruling BJP like the demonetization, Corona lockdown, selling of public sector to its favourite corporate sector among others.

A section of Muslim community does tend to support orthodox elements due to the insecurity created by communal violence. This violence has been orchestrated due to the deliberate spread of misconceptions and hate against Muslims and lately against Christians. It is in this background of deep influence of sectarian nationalism that we need to evaluate the likes of UPA. UPA did appoint Sachar Committee but could not implement it mainly due to massive opposition to it. UPA wanted to bring in Communal violence Bill but could not succeed mainly due to it being opposed in National Integration Council and then in Parliament.

So today while blaming the formations like UPA, Congress etc., what is being put under the carpet is the rising tide of religious nationalism, which has been dividing the society along religious lines. The need is to articulate the problems of religious minorities without emotive provocations. The need is that the communal utterances from the likes of Akbarudding Owaisi and Waris Pathan stop forthwith.

Just analysing matters at obvious level is not going to change the situation. We need to see the tide of communalism which cannot be shaken easily. We need to strengthen the voices which uphold pluralism and which think of Justice Sachar Committee report. The voices which think of bill against communal violence need to be strengthened. Any step which increases the electoral strength of BJP and its allies in NDA harms the interests of democracy. If BJP cannot be defeated by party A or B, an alliance based on pluralism and democracy has the potential to do so. While strengthening one’s political hold, if BJP gets strengthened it is against the interests of democracy.

November 27, 2020

Hindi Article- Bihar Elections and Role of Owaisi

चुनावों में क्या वाकई चुनने के लिए कुछ नहीं है? -राम पुनियानी पिछले लगभग तीन दशकों से समय-समय पर कहा जाता रहा है कि कांग्रेस और भाजपा एक ही सिक्के के दो पहलू हैं. इसी धारणा के चलते तीसरे मोर्चे की आवश्यकता महसूस की गई. तीसरे मोर्चा से आशय है गैर-भाजपा और गैर-कांग्रेस दलों का गठबंधन. पश्चिम बंगाल में कांग्रेस और वामपंथी दलों ने साथ मिलकर पिछला विधानसभा चुनाव लड़ा था. परन्तु मिल कर भी वे तृणमूल कांग्रेस को परास्त नहीं कर सके. इन दिनों कई दलित पार्टियाँ तीसरे मोर्चे की बात कर रहीं हैं. असादुद्दीन ओवेसी की एआईएमआईएम भी इसी दिशा में काम कर रही है. हाल के बिहार विधानसभा चुनाव में आरजेडी, कांग्रेस और वामपंथी पार्टियों के महागठबंधन की बहुत कम अंतर से हार हुई. विश्लेषक अब भी इस प्रश्न से जूझ रहे हैं कि आरजेडी की आमसभाओं में भारी भीड़ उमड़ने और चार घंटे के नोटिस पर देश को लॉक कर देने के निर्णय के कारण आम लोगों को जो गंभीर परेशानियाँ भुगतनी पडीं उनके बावजूद भाजपा के नेतृत्व वाला एनडीए गटबंधन क्यों और कैसे बिहार चुनाव जीत गया. अधिकांश विश्लेषक भाजपा की जीत के लिए एआईएमआईएम को ज़िम्मेदार ठहरा रहे हैं. वोटों के गणित की दृष्टि से देखा जाए तो निश्चित रूप से कुछ सीटों पर भाजपा को एआईएमआईएम के कारण लाभ हुआ है. यह तर्क भी दिया जा रहा है कि एआईएमआईएम के चुनाव मैदान में उतरने के कारण हिन्दू मतदाताओं का भाजपा के पक्ष में ध्रुवीकरण हो गया. यद्यपि असादुद्दीन ओवेसी संविधान और कानून की सीमाओं के अन्दर रहते हुए अल्पसंख्यकों की समस्याओं को उठाते रहे हैं परन्तु उनके भाई और उनकी पार्टी के अन्य नेताओं के वक्तव्य अक्सर सांप्रदायिक और विघटनकारी होते हैं. इस सिलसिले में अकबरुद्दीन ओवेसी का वह भाषण काबिले गौर है जिसमें उन्होंने कहा था कि अगर पुलिस को हटा लिया जाए तो बहुसंख्यक समुदाय से निपटने में मुसलमान पूरी तरह सक्षम हैं. इस भाषण के वीडियो को सोशल मीडिया पर जम कर प्रसारित किया गया और संघ परिवार ने इसका इस्तेमाल अपना वोट बैंक बढ़ाने के लिए किया. संघ परिवार पहले ही राम मंदिर, गौरक्षा, लव जिहाद, कोरोना जिहाद आदि जैसे मुद्दों को लेकर मतदाताओं का ध्रुवीकरण करता रहा है. अब ओवेसी का मुद्दा भी उसमें जुड़ गया है. भारतीय राजनीति में मुसलमानों के हाशियाकरण पर असादुद्दीन ओवेसी की चिंता जायज़ है. वे मुस्लिम समुदाय की सामाजिक बदहाली पर भी चिंता व्यक्त करते रहे हैं. वे भड़काऊ बातें कह कर भी उनके समुदाय को उनकी ओर आकर्षित करने का प्रयास करते रहे हैं. जैसे, उन्होंने कहा था कि अगर उनकी गर्दन पर तलवार भी रख दी जाए तब भी वे ‘भारत माता की जय’ नहीं बोलेंगे. उनकी पार्टी के एक विधायक ने हिंदुस्तान शब्द का उच्चारण करने से इंकार कर दिया था. ओवेसी की पार्टी तीन स्तरों पर काम कर रही है. व्यक्तिगत तौर पर ओवेसी लोकसभा में काफी सक्रिय रहते हैं और मीडिया उनकी बातों को काफी तवज्जो देती है. वे मुस्लिम समुदाय के दर्द और समस्याओं को खुल कर उठाते हैं और भारत माता की जय के नारे जैसे भावनात्मक मुद्दों पर उसी तर्ज पर प्रतिक्रिया करते हैं. दूसरे, उनकी पार्टी के अन्य नेता खुलकर नफरत फ़ैलाने वाले भाषण देते हैं. तीसरे, उनकी पार्टी लगातार अपने प्रभाव क्षेत्र का विस्तार कर रही है. वह महाराष्ट्र (प्रकाश अम्बेडकर के साथ), झारखण्ड, उत्तरप्रदेश और बिहार में अपनी उपस्थिति दर्ज करवा चुकी है. उसका फोकस उन निर्वाचन क्षेत्रों पर रहता है जहाँ वह कांग्रेस या उसके गठबंधन साथियों को नुकसान पहुंचा सके. यह मानने से कोई इंकार नहीं कर सकता कि मुसलमानों की सामाजिक-राजनैतिक-आर्थिक स्थिति में भारी गिरावट आई है. सतही तौर पर इसके लिए कांग्रेस को दोषी ठहराया जा सकता है. यह भी कहा जा सकता है कि कांग्रेस के शासनकाल में देश में ज्यादा संख्या में सांप्रदायिक दंगे हुए. बाबरी मस्जिद के ताले कांग्रेस राज में खोले गए और जब मस्जिद को गिराया गया तब भी देश में कांग्रेस सरकार थी. शाहबानो मामले में सुप्रीम कोर्ट के निर्णय को कांग्रेस सरकार ने पलटा और देश का यह सबसे पुराना दल मोदी-भाजपा-आरएसएस के रथ को थामने में नाकामयाब रहा. अक्सर कहा जाता है कि जो काम भाजपा दिन के उजाले में करती है वही काम कांग्रेस रात के अँधेरे में करती है. परन्तु यह मान्यता सतही सोच पर आधारित है. जेपी के आन्दोलन का हिस्सा बन कर आरएसएस ने स्वीकार्यता हासिल की. फिर अडवाणी ने रथयात्रा निकली और इससे भाजपा को वह मुद्दा मिल गया जिसका प्रयोग वो साम्प्रदायिकता फैलाने और ध्रुवीकरण करने के लिए कर सकती थी. पिछले कुछ दशकों से संघ परिवार द्वारा देश का साम्प्रदायिकीकरण, राजनीति में एक बड़ा मुद्दा बन कर उभरा है. इसी कारण राहुल गाँधी को यह कहना पड़ा कि वे जनेऊधारी शिवभक्त हैं. अन्य पार्टियों को भी संघ परिवार के असंख्य संगठनों और प्रचारकों और स्वयंसेवकों की विशाल सेना के सांप्रदायिक एजेंडे के अनुरूप अपनी नीतियों को बदलना पड़ा है. संघ का जाल समाज से लेकर राजनीति तक सभी क्षेत्रों में फैला हुआ है. परिवार की मशीनरी किसी भी स्थिति में चुनाव जीतने की कला में सिद्धस्त बन गयी है. यही कारण है कि नोटबंदी, लॉकडाउन और सार्वजनिक क्षेत्र के प्रतिष्ठानों को अपने प्रिय औद्योगिक घरानों को बेचने जैसे निर्णय लेने के बावजूद भाजपा चुनावों में जीत हासिल करती जा रही है. मुस्लिम समुदाय का एक तबका, सांप्रदायिक हिंसा के कारण असुरक्षा के भाव से पीड़ित हो गया है और शायद इसीलिये वह कट्टरपंथियों के जाल में फँस जाता है. देश में मुसलमानों के बारे में गलत धारणाएं और नफरत फैलाकर हिंसा भड़काई जा रही है. ईसाईयों के मामले में भी यही हो रहा है. हमें संप्रदायवादियों के बढ़ते प्रभाव की पृष्ठभूमि में ही यूपीए जैसे गठबन्धनों का आंकलन करना होगा. यूपीए ने सच्चर समिति का गठन किया परन्तु भारी विरोध के चलते वह इसकी सिफारिशों पर अमल नहीं कर सकी. यूपीए सांप्रदायिक हिंसा पर कानून बनाने के लिए प्रयासरत थी परन्तु राष्ट्रीय एकता परिषद और संसद में विरोध के कारण वह ऐसा नहीं कर सकी. आज कांग्रेस, यूपीए आदि को कठघरे में खड़ा करते समय हम भूल जाते हैं कि धार्मिक राष्ट्रवाद के आंधी ने समाज को सांप्रदायिक आधार पर विभाजित कर दिया है. आज हमें बिना भावनात्मकता और नाटकीयता के धार्मिक अल्पसंख्यकों के समस्यायों को उठाना होगा. अकबरुद्दीन ओवेसी और वारिस पठान जैसे लोगों को सांप्रदायिक विषवमन करने से रोके जाने की भी ज़रुरत है. सतही तौर पर जो दिखलाई पड़ रहा है उसे ही सच मान लेने से काम नहीं चलने वाला. हमें साम्प्रदायिकता के उमड़ते ज्वार से निपटना होगा. हमें उन आवाज़ों को मजबूती देनी होगी जो बहुवाद की हामी हैं, जो सच्चर समिति की सिफारिशों पर अमल चाहतीं हैं और जो सांप्रदायिक हिंसा रोकने के लिए कानून बनाने की हिमायती हैं. कोई भी ऐसा कदम जो भाजपा या उसे साथी दलों को मज़बूत बनता है, प्रजातंत्र को कमज़ोर करता है. भले ही यह या वह पार्टी भाजपा को न हरा सके परन्तु बहुवाद और प्रजातंत्र पर आधारित गठबंधन यह कर सकता है. यदि कोई पार्टी अपने को मज़बूत बनाने की प्रक्रिया में भाजपा को अप्रत्यक्ष रूप से लाभ पहुंचाती है तो वह प्रजातंत्र की भी क्षति करती है. (अंग्रेजी से हिन्दी रूपांतरण अमरीश हरदेनिया)