Monday, December 31, 2007

Indian Muslims Review Unjust 2007

Praying for Justice: A Year of Unfulfilled Promises

New Delhi: For Muslims in Asian heavyweight India, 2007 will be remembered as a year of injustice, both politically and economically.

"Unfortunately in 2007, the pace of judiciary was slow," Javed Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD) said.

He cited the complete ignorance of the recommendations put forward by the Sri Krishna Commission, set up to probe the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.

Anand said although the report blamed "trigger-happy" Hindu police officials for the violence nothing has happened.

"There has not been any progress at all," fumed the Mumbai-based activist.

Mustafa Khan, a university professor, also complained of lame justice.

"The year 2007 will go down as a dark year for the Muslims of India," he said.

He cited the August ruling in the 1993 Mumbai blasts where the court slapped death sentences against 12 Muslims accused in the bombings that followed violent anti-Muslim riots.

"In a sharp contrast, Hindus involved in the massacre of the Muslim prior to bomb blasts have not been even tried in the court of law."

The blasts were seen as the direct effect of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodha and the anti-Muslim riots that followed in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India.

Another example of injustices in 2007 was the manifested in the Muslim-majority rural area of Nandigram in West Bengal state.

A project by the local government to establish Special Economic Zones (SEZs) became a nightmare for Muslim residents who were forcibly evicted from their land and murdered in order to welcome multi-national companies.

"The state of West Bengal saw a communist government supporters raping and killing people of whom the overwhelming majority is Muslim and virtually taking over their land and property with impunity," professor Khan charges.


The election in the religiously-divided southern state of Gujarat was also bad news for Muslims in 2007.

"Renewed political life of Narendra Modi is not a healthy sign for Muslims," maintains Anand.

Munawwar Pheerbhoy, the chairman of Mohammed Azam Education Trust (Pune), agrees.

"It shows that communal forces are raising their ugly heads once again. Polarization is not good for Gandhi’s India."

Hindu nationalist leader Modi has been re-elected as chief minister of Gujarat.

Modi and his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have been blamed for stoking anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
He was censured by India's Supreme Court as "a modern Nero".

In October, a weekly magazine released a series of videotaped confessions of Hindu activists bragging about Modi support for the carnage that claimed the lives of up to 2,500 people, mostly Muslims.

"Gujarat saw the rapists and murderers of Muslims…appearing on television and confessing how they raped and killed Muslims, burnt and looted their houses and shops," noted professor Khan.

"After their boasting of the crimes of genocide, they still move around freely.

"It’s so disturbing."

Economic Paradise

M.J. Akbar, editor-in-chief of The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle, complains that Muslims are suffering from economic discrimination.

"[The] Government has been high on promises and short on delivery," he said.

"It is as if because they have been permitted to survive and vote, they do not deserve anything more."

Akbar, an ex-lawmaker who was spokesman of late premier Rajiv Gandhi, notes that 2007 was the year of booming economy for India.

Although Muslims played a key role in achieving this "economic miracle," he add, they lived in absolute poverty and struggled to make ends meet.

"The young Muslims of Bengal…are feeling totally alienated from economic growth," Akbar cites as a case in point.

India's some 160 million Muslims have suffered decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.

They are under-represented in public sector jobs, register lower educational levels and, as a consequence, higher unemployment rates than the majority Hindus and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.

Akbar regrets that a Muslim child of 1992 has grown up watching India turn into turning someone else’s paradise.

"No one has sent him an entry ticket to that paradise. He has not even been allowed to smell the flavor of the gate."

"He has been told, implicitly, to content himself with squalor while others on the same level as him have begun to take tentative steps towards new horizons."

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Hajj Aspirant's Dream Comes True

A Dream Comes True: Siraj Abdul Hameed in his tiny shop

Malegaon: Siraj Abdul Hameed patiently deals with a flurry of potential customers in his Itehaad Cut-Piece Centre, a tiny 10×10 shop specializing in suiting and shirting.

He welcomes visitors adjusting his traditional skullcap. Growing stubble is in sight. "Symbols of Faith" – as he put it – have never been closer to this man of small-means and big ambitions.

"Every day I deal with plenty of customers in my shop but this year Allah has decided to deal with me in His House," he said.

Hameed is part of the last Indian hajj flight leaving Mumbai on Friday, December 14.

Hajj had been on his cards for quite sometime but could not happen because of the "continuous economic crises".

"It was only in July 2007 that my sons convinced me that hajj is not that expensive," recalls Hameed.

"Earlier I used to think that it costs a lot ranging from Rs. 200,000 to 300,000."

He has registered with the Indian Hajj Committee, a government-owned body which subsidizes pilgrims from India.

"It will cost me only Rs. 80,000."

A total of 157,000 Indian Muslims will be performing hajj this year.

"Out of which 110,000 will be going through the Hajj Committee and the remaining 47,000 will go through private tours," said Maulana Hussain Ahmad Milli, who has been conducting hajj training classes for 28 years.

India is home to 160 million Muslims, second largest Muslim population after Indonesia.

Hameed, who stays in a dingy chawl overlooking densely-populated Islampura, a Muslim locality, sees himself as lucky since not all human dreams come true.

"In August 2007, my name did not appear in the first round of Qura Andaazi (random selection) of the Hajj Committee," he recalls.

"Even they returned my first demand draft of Rs. 21,400."

Hameed was disappointed but not defeated. He tried it in the subsequent rounds of Qura Andaazi but could not succeed.

But good things come late. Hameed couldn’t believe himself when his name figured in the final round of the Qura Andaazi.
"I was on cloud nine when I came to know about it," he said cheerfully. "Out of the 178 hajj aspirants, only 55 were selected in the final round and I was one of them."

The good news didn’t end Hameed’s woes because he was asked to deposit the rest of the money within two days.

Hameed had to arrange for marriage ceremony of one of his relatives on November 5.

There was a deliberation in the household whether he should go for the hajj since impending marriage demanded money.

"Economic cyclones keep coming", he said, "but one must learn how to deal with them."
Finally good sense prevailed.

"It all depends upon your intention", he said, "since both marriage and hajj are important in Islam."

"We gave importance to the both. A little saving here, a little thrift there can do the unthinkable," Siraj said.

He intends to quench his spiritual thirst on his forthcoming hajj journey.

"My restless soul can’t wait to see the sacred Ka`bah."

Hameed is desperately counting his days up to December 14.

His desperation grows every moment.

"Have you ever felt like a caged bird waiting to fly?"

Sunday, November 25, 2007

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) - Leads a Scientific Renaissance

KAUST's Vision: View of Engineering & Science Building (Computer Rendering)
At a time when intellectually-agile tradition of the Muslim world seems to be forgotten, a pioneering project in a “desert country” is set to revive the past glory of the golden Islamic era. A “country of Bedouins” sometimes accused of breeding fanaticism is doing something fantastic. Welcome to the Saudi Arabia of King Abdullah who is determined to breed future Ibn Sinas and Muhammad al-Khorezmis in order to create innovative ideas in the field of science and technology.

The proposed King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a dream of the King Abdullah, custodian of the two holy mosques. The proposed 20 billion Saudi Riyal project site lies in the west coast of Thuwal, 80 kilometers north of Jeddah.

Speaking on the occasion of groundbreaking ceremony held on October 21, King Abdullah said that the university will be a place to share “minds and the ideas of enlightened men and women” without “discrimination”. He harked back to Islam's first “House of Wisdom” and said that the forum dedicated to science and research will be a “ beacon of knowledge for future generations.”

Saudi Aramco, the state-owned world's largest oil company, has been commissioned to design and build the university's campus. The campus is stretched over nearly 9000 acres of coastal land. It is expected to be completed by September 2009.

The KAUST will be a graduate university where learning will be substantiated by the research. Aspirants from across the globe will be selected strictly on the basis of merit. KAUST will have research centers and research institutes. The first-four planned research institute will be:

1. Resources, Energy and Environment,
2. Biosciences and Bioengineering,
3. Materials Science and Engineering,
4. Applied Mathematics and Computational Science

Dr. Charles M. Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering and President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) highlighted the importance of Research University in the 21 st Century in his keynote address.

“Research universities”, he said, “create opportunities for industries, cities, nations, and regions by preparing educated citizens and by direct application of the new knowledge, new understandings, and new technologies that flow from their research and scholarship .”

Dr. Vest spoke at length about the evolution, migration and globalization of research universities. “There are many lessons to be learned from this evolution”, he said. He listed down six important lessons to be learnt from the research university experience of the 20 th Century.
KAUST is based on Dr. Vest's first lesson: Teaching and research must be intimately intertwined.

“Teaching and research are inseparable”, he said.

“And it is their synergy”, he emphasized “that defines the essence of a research university.”

One of the most important lessons that Dr. Vest offered at the inaugural session of KAUST is that “ fundamental scholarship and research must exist on an equal plane with applied research and innovation.”

Elaborating on this lesson he very subtly hinted at the business community. “ We are very aware that research universities create opportunity for nations and regions through the transfer of technology and innovation to the marketplace.”

He also spoke about relevance of education to entrepreneurship. “Industrially relevant work is increasingly important”, he said, and “an environment that is entrepreneurial also gives relevance to education.”

Dr. Vest also spoke on open environment in a research university where people across the globe study and challenge one's hypothesis so as to arrive at the results of scientific experiments.
“Science”, he said, “cannot be done in isolation.”

“And, of course, interactions among scholars, scientists, and engineers who have diverse perspectives and varied experiences lead to creativity and innovation.”

His mantra for the success of Research University is this: compete as well as cooperate. “It is a paradox of this age that we all must cooperate as well as compete”, he said.

KAUST has already tied with many internationally renowned institutes like Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Indian Institute of Technology, National University of Singapore to name a few.

Dr. Vest cautioned on the two “opposing trends” of today's age: integration and fragmentation. He said that KAUST is all about integration. “We are linked by the knowledge and understanding developed by many people in many places”, he said.

KAUST has two bodies as of now. First is International Advisory Council (IAC) which meets twice a year to review plans and provide guidance and feedback to Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia and man-in-charge of the KAUST. Second body is Presidential Search Committee (PSC) which is still on a hunt for the right candidate.

Plenty of universities are launched worldwide so why this brouhaha about KAUST?

KAUST reminds us of madrasas of Samarkand , Bukhara and Khiva in Central Asia . They were not merely religious seminaries but also great universities where mathematics, medicine and astronomy and all sciences were taught. Khiva is the birthplace of Muhammad al-Khorezmi, the father of algebra. The algebra has evolved from his technique of solving quadratic equations. Ibn Sina (Avicenna in the West) was among the foremost medical authorities of his time. He studied and taught at the madrasas at Bukhara and Khiva.

KAUST can once again play that historic role in shaping innovative ideas, in sharpening the rough edges of young and restless minds. If KAUST can transform an innovative spark into a full-fledged fire, then that will not be simply the gain of business community but it will be the gain of the community as well.

In the world of pharmaceuticals, the word research is the mother of all inventions. Who knows that a research university like KAUST will produce future scientists for major pharmaceutical players such as Hikma, Cipla, or Hamdard?

If King Abdullah's dream becomes a reality, we are sure; it will produce a lot of scientific dreamers.

Copyright Material:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Goodbye Grandpa

Alvida Dadajaan: May you rest in peace
My 95-year old grandfather passed away on Tuesday November 13. At the moment, words fail me... so I pay tribute to him by posting a heart-wrenching Urdu poem by Nida Fazli (He wrote the following poem at the death of his father whose burial he could not attend).

Tumhaarii qabr per

Tumhaarii qabr par maiN
Faatehaa paRhne nahiiN aayaa,

Mujhe m’aaluum thaa, tum mar nahiiN sakte.
Tumhaare maut kii sachchii Khabar
Jisne uRaa’ii thii, wo jhuuTaa thaa,
Wo tum kab the?
Koiii suukhaa huaa pattaa, havaa meN gir ke TuuTaa thaa.

Merii aaNkheN
Tumhaare manzaroN meN qaid hai ab tak
Main jo bhii dekhtaa huN, sochtaa huN
Vo, vohii hai
Jo tumhaarii nek-naamii aur bad-naamii ki duniyaa thii.

Kahiin kuch bhi nahiiN badlaa

Tumhaare haath, merii uNgliyoN meN saaNs lete haiN
Main likhne ke liye jab bhii, qalam kaaGaz uThaataa huN
Tumhe baiThaa huvaa maiN
Apnii hi kursii meN paataa huN,

Badan meN mere, jitnaa bhi lahuu hai,
Wo tumhaarii
Lagzishon, naa-kaamiyoN ke saath bahtaa hai,
Merii aavaaz meN chhup kar, tumhaaraa zehn rehtaa hai,

Meri biimaariyoN meN tum,
Meri laa-chaariyoN meN tum

Tumhaari qabr par jis ne tumhaaraa naam likhkhaa hai
Wo jhuTaa hai,
Tumhaari qabr meN, maiN dafn huN,
Tum zindaa ho !
Tum zindaa ho !

Mile fursat kabhii, tau faatehaa paRhne chale aanaa.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

In Malegaon, 6 years after Riots: No Lessons are Learnt

In the Line of Fire: Diamond textile factory on fire during Malegaon riots of 2001

Malegaon: In Malegaon and elsewhere, riots have always followed a pattern: a minor incident, a lit matchstick, and a conflagration follows. Hooligans hold sway, rumours travel faster than truth.

The story was the same on a chilly Friday afternoon here on October 26, 2001. A few Muslims were distributing an Urdu pamphlet which was titled “Be Indian, Buy Indian” outside Malegaon’s Jama Masjid after the namaz. It listed the names of a few American and British companies and called for a boycott of their products in order to ensure a “free economic future.”

A jawan of the SRP, who was perhaps unaware about what it said, snatched some copies and tore them up. People coming out of the mosque at that point became enraged at this act of high-handedness and a fight broke out with the police. When a stone thrown accidentally hit someone involved in Dussehra preparations nearby, the clash took on a communal colour.

The 20-day madness that followed claimed 14 lives — 12 Muslims, a Hindu and one person who could not be identified. Of the 12 Muslims, nine died in police firing while the other three were stabbed to death by mobs. The lone Hindu was burnt alive by a Muslim mob.

The 2001 riots were not restricted to Malegaon alone, they spread to at least 138 villages nearby, where Muslims were targeted following the spreading of false rumours — including that Hindu women had been raped in Malegaon. A total of 135 mosques and dargahs were razed or partially demolished.

Justice K.N. Patil, a retired judge of the Bombay high court, was asked to inquire into the Malegaon riots. After a year and a half of painstaking digging, he submitted a report to the state government in June 2003, but more than four years later this report is yet to be tabled in the Maharashtra Assembly.

“It has been more than four years, but not a single word has been uttered by Vilasrao Deshmukh on the report,” Prof. Mustafa Khan, who has followed the case closely, said.

“Commissions have become our destiny. Other communities benefit from government action, while we only get commission reports,” he said.

“Our case is worse than (even) that of the 1992-93 Mumbai riot (victims) because we don’t even know what the commission’s findings are,” Prof. Khan added.

S.S. Shaikh, a lawyer, says he believes that the judge’s report has severely criticised the police and the administration, and the role played by some police stations in particular, and is almost certain that it will never see the light of day. “Forget implementation, it will not even be tabled in the Assembly — for the simple reason that it will be a major embarrassment for the Congress.”

It remains a fact that only Muslims were killed in the police firing. “Both communities indulged in arson and looting but only Muslims fell to police bullets,” said Nihal Ahmad, a former state minister and senior Janata Dal (S) leader.

The “police bias,” he says, was evident. “All Muslims were shot above the waist.”

The police has also been accused of indiscriminate firing on innocents. A 50-year-old woman who was drying clothes on her balcony was shot dead in the Mohammed Ali Road area. “A bullet pierced through Bilqees Bano’s stomach. Is drying clothes in one’s own balcony a crime?” asked Prof. Khan.

What actually caused the outbreak? Naseen Ahmed, founder of Malegaon’s first news channel, offers an explanation which finds many takers. “It was an outburst of Muslim anger against the establishment, (resulting from) everyday discrimination that Muslims face — from government offices to financial institutions,” he said.

“The Jama Masjid incident provided an outlet.”

Mr Ahmed says the Hindu reaction was the result of a collapse of leadership.

“During the riots, some Hindu leaders belonging to different political parties wanted to prove that they were the true champions of Hindus,” he says, without naming anybody.

Lawyer Shishir Hiray, who was the government’s special public prosecutor in the Malegaon riots case, terms frustration and unemployment as the root causes.

“Empty hands can only throw stones,” he says.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eid with Indian Orphans

5-year old Fatima at Darul Yatama, girls' orphanage

Malegaon: As Indian Muslims celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr, the festival that crowns the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, with usual euphoria and fervor, a strange calm envelopes Darul Yatama, a Muslim girls’ orphanage located at a stone’s throw from Mumbai-Agra national highway.

"Till last year, `Eid signified darkness but at Darul Yatama `Eid is all about light," Fahmeeda Mohammed Yusuf, a 13-year-old-blind girl said.

Fahmeeda has memorized eight parts of the Holy Qur’an.

Darul Yatama is Maharashtra state’s only Muslim girls’ orphanage with state of the art facilities where religious as well as the modern education is being imparted.

Orphan girls have been provided with new clothes and sandals on the occasion of `Eid.

"Since `Eid means day of happiness, I have played the entire day with other girls in the sprawling garden of the orphanage," said Fatima Hakeemuddin, 5.

An adorable Fatima, originally from the north-eastern state of Assam, wore new bright dress with a pink scarf.

She does not remember her father who died in an accident.

"Today we have been pampered so much that I could not think of my family."

"Since we have girls from all across the country, we had made enough arrangement for `Eid," said Maulana Abdul Khalique Faarkaleet, the head of Darul Yatama.

"We prepared a variety of delicacies keeping in mind the different traditional tastes," he said.

"Celebrating `Eid with orphans gives you a sense of joy which cannot be descried in words," he said with a smile.

"All 103 girls in the orphanage are part of my extended family."

For some of the orphaned girls `Eid Al-Fitr is a chance of family reunions.

"On this holy day of `Eid, I am waiting for my mother," said Rukhshana Aslam, 10, sobbing uncontrollably.

Her long wait for her mother has been quite painful because she is the only one who visits her on `Eid.

Rukshana stays at the orphanage with her 5-year old younger sister who is mentally-challenged.

"I am really happy that my mother has come to meet me on `Eid day from my hometown in the state of Madhya Pradesh," said a jubilant Nida Mirza, 12.

"We had a fantastic time since morning. My mother made amazing sheer khorma (a popular Indian sweet dish Muslims make for `Eid) for all of us on the occasion of `Eid."

"It’s the reunion time for our family," her mother said.

Nida's father was a mechanic who passed away in an accident when she was barely six year old.

Earlier her uncles used to support her mother but now that the family has been partitioned there is no one to look after her mother.

"There are times that I really can’t sleep thinking about my mother. She works as a maid to support herself," said a concerned Nida.

Nida’s empty eyes moisten when asked about how people generally treat her. She tried to contain her tears before breaking down.

"People think that orphans are helpless. The other day somebody wrote in a newspaper that I came to this orphanage because I was helpless," she said with her trembling voice.

"I deeply resent that. Orphans are not helpless," her voice choked off.

Nida wants to become an Aalima (Islamic scholar).

Friends Qurratulain, 7, and Shabana, 5, celebrated `Eid with a commitment.

They have both decided to permanently give up their old "profession" of begging.

"We together used to beg in streets for days. Now that we have found this orphanage which supports us, there is no need to beg," they said.

"Begging was such an abhorring practice," Qurratulain said.

For 6-year old Noor Jahan Abdus Sattar, who lost her mother in Malegaon bomb blasts on September 8, 2006, while she was begging outside India’s largest Muslim cemetery, `Eid is all about coping up with reality.

"I don’t have anybody in this world apart from this orphanage," she said with a stream of tears tickling down her face.

"`Eid conveys that we must accept reality as it is and live with it," she added wisely.

"Don’t judge me by these tears. They are natural. I am really happy this `Eid."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Iftar Party?

A Political Iftar Party in Mumbai

Come Ramadan and every political party – be it right-wing, left-wing or middle-wing – float a new (political!) party with a limited life: Iftar party. Its life expectancy is that of a month! As soon as the Eid-moon appears over the horizon, Iftar party packs off and goes into hibernation mode for the next eleven months! Unlike other political parties (whose target audiences are broad), their main target audiences are those Muslim dullards who confuse personal welfare to that of the community’s welfare! It thrives on Jinnah’s Muslim League agenda: divide, sympathize, rule and attain personal clout!

Did you say Iftar party? Are you still confused that the holy word Iftar has been joined with that of an unholy entity called Party? Don’t be. The marriage between the two is a unique union of strange bedfellows. What emerges from this union is an unholy alliance for an unholy purpose: to woo Muslim masses on every count! The moment anybody utters the term Iftar party, the image that conjures up in mind is that of a political party which has come into existence just to exploit religious observation of the Muslims. There is no other Party in the world whose sole motto is so narrow and totally based on negativity. In Iftar Party’s manifesto everything else dominates over the true spirit of Iftar. But how can Iftar, a sacred act of the Believers, be connected with politics or vice-versa? Iftar is an Arabic word which is derived from the root word fatrann. It signifies breaking of the fast. What a political party has to do with the breaking of the fast? Political parties have their own system of interpretation. Let’s try to unlock their interpretative code!

Perhaps a politician’s limited brain with unlimited mischief thinks that the Iftar Party gives him an opportunity for future capitalization among the Muslim masses. It gives him the ultimate advantage of mixing with the Muslims where he can flex his political muscles without any opponent present in the ring! It provides him a pleasant platform to talk about the confluence of Ganga-Jamni tehzeeb (existence of pluralistic society) although his main aim is to garner Muslim votes. It is an attempt to showcase who is who of the politics. It is a race to boost public image of the politician where parameter of power is measured on the basis of cash flow. It is a public relation exercise where each and every object of presentation (read flashbulbs, chairs, tables, plates, delicacies etc.) is chosen carefully after close scrutiny. It acts as an ointment to pacify old wounds of the Muslims! Iftar Party is like a fisherman’s net whose sole function is entrapment!

An Iftar Party is a place where Jinnah comes alive: untouchable Jinnah caps suddenly become touchable. A politician’s favourite Nehru cap is replaced by the Jinnah cap!

Unfortunately some of the self-appointed messiahs of the Muslims who grace Iftar Party happen to be Muslim Ulemas. It is altogether a different matter that most of them are hired. Beware, we are living in an age of hire and fire!

Muslims, beware! Don’t be seduced by the aroma of the political food because it contains ingredients which can impair one’s independent way of thinking! Those who visit political Iftar Party tend to confine themselves to pigeon-holes!

As Ramadan readies to depart, there is a sudden surge in political Iftar parties. It would be worth recalling what Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani has recently written on political Iftars in the form of a beautiful poem:

Count all the known ‘BEARDS’ with utmost care,

Seduce them all into our Party’s voting share.

Give them the title of ‘ULEMA’ of high esteem,

When they come, like a beeline, it must seem.

Manage to make them sit in separate rows,

To send a strong message to our foes.

For us, all of them are a great asset,

Their every motion must be recorded in cassette.

The ‘LONGER BEARDS’ must occupy central places,

From all sides, the media must cover their faces.

On this gullible community is resting our hope,

To blunt its mind, these ‘IFTARS’ are a dope.

With round caps on, like them, you must look,

To trap these ‘FOOLS’, it is the best hook.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ramadan: Economic Blessings for Mumbai

Iftar Time: Shopkeepers break their fasts on Mumbai's Mohammed Ali Road

Mumbai: For Indian Muslims, the holy fasting month of Ramadan is not only about piety but about economic blessings as well.

“Ramadan is a month when Allah’s bounty showers in abundance. Be it the reward of prayers or reward of trade”, Ismail Khan, a trader says. “Show me just any other Islamic month in which Muslims are much more economically empowered than in Ramadan.”

Many traders and eatery owners in India’s economic capital feel that Ramadan is a month of balance where “giving” charity and Zakat (Alms-giving) always match up by “receiving” the proceeds of booming business.

“Thanks to Allah, Ramadan is a month in which even we earn decent amount of money”, says a jubilant Fayyaz Shaikh, a small-time labourer in a bakery. “There are plenty of dishes on my dastarkhawan (dining carpet) at the time of iftar. That rarely happens for rest of the year.”

Muslims constitute at least 18 percent of Mumbai’s 140 million strong population.

Many see such Ramadan prosperity as a reward of piousness from Allah.

“If Muslims start following the spirit of Ramadan in the rest of the eleven months, their economic woes will disappear,” said one preacher, requesting anonymity. “Allah has promised it in the Holy Qur’an.”

Every Ramadan, eatery shops come up with new delicacies. The moment one delicacy becomes famous, experimental cooking comes into the picture. “Each chef will follow his own ingredients to make the same delicacy. So we have the ultimate advantage of different tastes. Where on earth will you get so much variety in a limited geography?” asks Shariq Ejaz, a resident of Mohammed Ali Road, a long narrow artery which connects south Mumbai to the north. It is named after freedom fighters Maulana Mohammed Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali who had joined hands with Mahatma Gandhi to launch Khilafat (Caliphate) movement in 1921 against the dismissal of Turkish Caliph by the British.

The historical Khilafat House – from where the movement was launched – is still intact on Mohammed Ali Road.
It was the first major instance of Hindu-Muslim unity after the 1857 war.

Thousands of Muslims from the northern states of UP and Bihar visit Mumbai, the financial capital of India, to do brisk and timely business in the holy month of Ramadan. “Every Ramadan, I come all the way from Agra (in UP) just to sell skullcaps here,” says Sufiyan Ansari, a trader who has camped in a makeshift shop on the famed Mohammed Ali Road. “Travelling to make halal-earning is not forbidden in Islam. And when you do the same in Ramadan, the reward from Allah is manifold,” he notes. “When politicians can come all the way from Delhi to Mumbai just to attend iftar parties, why can’t a Muslim trader camp here to eke out a living?”
Mohammed Ali Road Ramadan greatly contributes to Mumbai’s booming economy. “The scene on Mohammed Ali Road is an economy in motion. There is no other religious observation apart from Ramadan which contributes greatly to Mumbai’s buoyant economy”, boasts Danish Ahmad, a student of economics.

“Although Muslims eat only one full-meal but still there is so much revenue generation for the economy.”

The mood on the bustling Mohammed Ali Road resembles that of a carnival. Even curious non-Muslims make a point to visit it in Ramadan. “Mohammed Ali Road has so much to offer in terms of variety,” Naresh Shah, a businessman, says. “I come here to fulfill my culinary cravings for delicacies specially prepared for Ramadan.”

As day turns into dusk and iftar time draws closer, the faithful disperse quietly to break their fast. Life comes to a standstill on the otherwise bustling street as the sonorous voice of the muezzin calls for prayer from the tall and symbolic minarets of Minara Masjid.

The aura of festivities rekindles once Tarawih (Special night prayer) prayers are over. It continues till the loudspeakers of Minara Masjid buzz again for Fajr (morning) prayer.

“Ramadan spirit inculcates unity and it can be used to narrow communal protocol”, says a Mumbai-based Hindu journalist. “There is no better place than Mohammed Ali Road to witness this phenomenon.”

Sunday, September 09, 2007

'It's been a Black Year for Me'

Shakeela Bano: Malegaon Blast Victim's Widow

Malegaon: A strange calm greets you as one enters lane number two in centrally located Nayapura, a Muslim mohalla consisting of sixteen lanes. A knock on the door of Shakeela Bano – widow of the blast victim Rafique Ahmad – is answered with pure curiosity. “Who are you? And why are you here?” inquiries her 12 year old son. Before I could reply, his intuition recognizes me. “Come inside”, he says with utmost respect. A neat mat is laid out in one kitchen-cum-bedroom house.

A grief-stricken Shakeela Bano (36) prefers to sit on naked floor. Her life, it seems, has been as disorganized as her scattered kitchenware.

Without any formality Shakeela Bano pours her heart out, “As Malegaon readies to observe first anniversary of the deadly bomb blasts as Black Day, the year gone by has been a black year for me.”

Her empty eye sockets moisten. She tries to withhold her emotions but as they say eyes can never lie. A stream of tears tickles down her face as she recalls September 8, 2006.

“Every Friday, we used to eat lunch together after the namaaz. On September 8, 2006, when the news of the bomb blasts reached me, I was shocked because my husband had gone to the Bada Qabristan mosque”, she says.

“It was only in the evening”, says Shakeela Bano, “that Maulana Javid Milli, Imam of Noorani Masjid, informed us that my husband is dead.”

“My world died on that day”, she sobs uncontrollably.

Her husband might be dead but he is still alive in her memory.

“I remember my husband each moment. It seems it was only yesterday that we ate together”, says a heart-broken Shakeela Bano.

Rafique Ahmed was a small-time tailor, sole earner of the family. Shakeela Bano has four kids, eldest is in class 10.

Nine Muslims have been arrested by Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) so far accused of masterminding the September 8, 2006 blasts that killed 31 people and injured more than 300. Almost all victims were Muslims. Interestingly, the case was handed over to CBI on the day when ATS had filed the chargesheet.

Shakeela Bano believes that all accused are innocent and “real culprits” have not been caught.

“Ek Mussalman doosre Mussalman ko kyon Qatal Karega? Kya Hum Pakistan mein rah rahein hain?” Why would a Muslim kill a fellow-Muslim? Are we living in Pakistan? She questions.

She sympathizes with the wives of the accused, “In both cases it is women who are suffering although for different reasons. I deeply share their grief.”

Shakeela Bano terms one lakh compensation from state government as “meagre.”

“At other places, the amount of compensation was much higher so it’s natural for us to feel discriminated”, she complains. She has bought powerlooms worth rupees one lakh and has given them on lease.

“It is my sole source of income”, she says.

“Life has been a vale of tears for us ever since my son passed away on that fateful day”, says Shakeela Bano’s elderly mother-in-law, despair writ large on her wrinkled face.

Shakeela Bano’s youngest daughter Saima has just enrolled in Kindergarten (KG). She plays cheerfully in the house. “My Papa”, says a tender Saima hinting at the door curtain, “will come back. He has gone just to fetch some sweets.”

A quite descends on Saima’s innocent utterance. Shakeela Bano wears a disgruntled look. “How would I tell her the truth?” asks a confused Shakeela Bano.

That’s the dilemma of a young Indian mother.

Monday, August 20, 2007

India at 60: Muslims Feel Left Behind

A Kashmiri girl participates in a programme to commemorate the 60th Independence Day at Srinagar’s Baskhi stadium on Wednesday

New Delhi: As the Indian tricolour unfurls on the historic 17th-century Mughal-built Red Fort in New Delhi marking the 60th anniversary of independence, many Muslims believe Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream of ending “inequality of opportunity” remains a dream.

“Nothing has changed in the last 60 years in the sense that in 1947 my grandfather was a powerloom laborer. Sixty years have elapsed we are still the same,” Sajid Khan said on Thursday, August 15.

At the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947, Nehru delivered his famous speech Tryst with Destiny.

“It is a fateful moment for us in India,” he said eloquently, speaking of an “unending quest” and future.

“The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.”

While India has since became a heavyweight political, military and economic power, some sections of its society remain lagging behind.

“I don’t understand what you are saying,” Khan said when asked about India’s nine percent economic growth rate.

“I measure growth in terms of equity. Where is equity? We are not even paid the minimum wages fixed by the government,” he lamented. “Independence means nothing to me.”

In a speech from the ramparts of Red Fort to mark the independence anniversary, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh listed poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and agrarian strife among the challenges ahead.

“We need at least a decade of hard work and of sustained growth to realize our dreams. We have to bridge the many divides in our society and work with a unity of purpose.”
Aftab Ansari, a hawker selling plastic Indian flags in the streets on the eve of Independence Day, is no less disgruntled.

“What Freedom and what Independence? I only sell patriotism once a year to my fellow countrymen,” the 17-year-old said.


Many Indian Muslims feel insecure in their home country. “Indian Muslims are going through a terrible phase,” Javed Anand, the co-editor of Communalism Combat, said. “Fifteen percent of India’s population still feels insecure. The findings of Sachar Committee report have been really shocking.”

The Sachar Committee looked into the socio-economic and educational backwardness of Muslims in the country and suggested various remedial measures. The recommendations included setting up educational facilities, modernization of madrasahs, creation of job opportunities and steps to increase the community's representation in public services.

Anand is skeptical the findings would be implemented.

“Unfortunately, track record of the ruling government has not been very reassuring,” he recalled. “It is behaving like any other previous government. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

Mufti Mohammad Ismail, the chief of a newly floated political party called Indian Muslim Congress, regretted what Indian Muslims have come to. “Muslims ruled India for almost 1000 years. It was our culture and heritage,” he said.

“There was a time when we were rulers and used to sit on thrones. Today things have come to such a pass that jail is the only place where we outnumber other communities,” Mufti lamented.

“We fare poor economically. Eighty percent of Muslims are living below the poverty line. There was a time when we were the leaders in academics but now we are being led by others.”

There are some 160 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world’s second-largest Muslim population after Indonesia.

Muslims complain of decades of social and economic neglect and oppression. Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs. They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India’s 1.3 million-strong military.

Mufti Ismail said Muslims were the true champions of India’s struggle for independence. “When British came here, it was the beginning of the age of slavery. We had been fighting for the independence of India since 17th century,” he said.

“Hindus joined us only in the 20th century.”

He complained that Muslims are not being given their respective rights.

“The descendents of the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar are begging on the streets of Kolkata. The family members of the martyred Tipu Sultan are rickshaw-pullers today. “The widow of Abdul Hameed, who sacrificed his life in defence of the country, is on the brink of committing suicide. These are the people whose families have fought for the Independence of India. Government’s indifference is a class apart.”


But Anand, the co-editor of Communalism Combat, also reserved harsh words for Muslim politicians. “Muslim legislators are busy wasting their time in raking up fastidious issues which don’t have anything to do with the progress of Indian Muslims,” he said. He cited the recent attack on Bengali writer Taslima Nasreen, infamous for her anti-Islam writings, at a press conference last week in Hyderabad.

Television footage showed Muslim state lawmakers and activists hitting Nasreen with flowers and threatening to lob chairs.

“At a time when institutional bias has crept in our system, Muslim legislators are making a mockery of themselves,” said Anand.

Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen leader-cum-legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi has been accused of “intimidation” after suggesting Nasreen could be killed if she returned to Hyderabad, a claim which he has denied.

“Muslims have become victims of the promises made by professional mullahs acting as agents of political parties,” an angry Shamim Tariq, a researcher and columnist, said. “Muslims should be aware of the enemies within. Right-wing Hindu parties and ideologues pale in comparison to the enemies within,” he argued.

Tariq spoke of two sects of enemies within.

“One is religious and acts as the mediator of political class and other is irreligious lot which takes pride in attacking Islam.”

Confused Youth

Navaid Hamid, a member of the National Integration Council of the central government, said young Indian Muslims were looking for direction. “Young Muslim generation feels excited due to the pace of development,” Hamid said. “At the same time, they strongly feel that they are being sidelined in governance; so there is a sense of confusion: what to do now?”

Hamid said young Indian Muslims have a strong desire to be part of the nation to serve this country.

“They feel that there should be equal share of opportunity in every walk of life. More than 55 percent of India’s population consists of youths and they are the big asset for the country.”

“The Muslim community should be utilized for a strong, vibrant nation and a pluralistic society.”

Hamid warned that young Muslims are being targeted for no fault of their own. “Whenever some terrorist activity happens in the country, fingers are pointed towards them. There is an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. This is very harmful for any harmonious and pluralistic society.”


Ilyas Siddiqui, a historian, believes that self-help is the best help.

“Sixty years ago, our own struggle and striving was beneficial for us,” he said. “Even today we should follow the path of self-help by way of the concept of civil society. This is the biggest principle. There is no need to be dependent on anybody not even government.”

Mufti Ismail has his hopes in secular-minded Hindus.

“In India, the world’s largest democracy, there are a number of secular Hindus who genuinely strive for the welfare of the Muslim community,” he said. “They believe that India cannot progress as long as its largest minority is lagging behind. They know that such progress will be a lop-sided progress and not a real progress,” added the Muslim politician.

“We must strengthen their hands.”

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Freedom is Not Free

Taslima Nasreen: Symbol of Secularism Extremism

A nobody has been made into a somebody. Political Muslim passivity suddenly got an active voice thanks to the emotive goons of the MIM (Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen). I want to congratulate Akbaruddin Owaisi, the chief mentor of the MIM, for defending his men of muscle after causing mayhem. Muslim honour has finally been preserved!

A C-grade writer has been given an A-class status!

What's Taslima Nasreen's claim to fame? It's Shame (Lajja means Shame). Taslima Nasreen is a Bangladeshi writer whose controversial novel Lajja appeared in February 1993 soon after the demolition of Babri Masjid. The theme of the novel was 'persecution of Hindus' in Bangladesh. It was banned five months later by the Bangladesh government for 'disturbing the communal peace' of the country.

Much ink has already been spilt on Lajja for different reasons. The issue which I intend to raise here has not been touched by our so-called secular-liberals. Lajja is a "novel", writes Taslima in the Preface, "and all the characters in the narrative are the product of my own imagination, and any resemblance they bear to actual people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental." Then she goes on to say that "I have also included in the text numerous incidents, actual historical events, facts and statistics." (Emphasis added).

Can facts be presented in the guise of fiction? It has been the tradition of anti-Islam writers to depict actual history in the guise of fictionalised fantasy. It gives them a real sense of 'freedom' to mix-match facts with fiction at their own convenience. You raise a slogan of 'communal bias', they will raise an eerie wail of fiction! It is the safest route to historical distortion and literary escapism. It is an act of literary cowardice.

At the backdrop of the post-Babri riots in Bangladesh, she mentions the Holy Qur'an in Lajja in such a subtle way that it can be inferred that Islam is essentially an intolerant religion and permits killing of innocents. In recent years, she has poured her venom against Islam in general and Muslims in particular in the form of articles. Her last such article appeared in Outlook (January 22, 2007) provocatively titled 'Let's Burn the Burqa'. Interestingly, after the protests that freedom can never be absolute, the title was later changed to 'Let's Think Again About The Burqa'!

Lajja is the best example of Taslima's hypocritical approach. In Lajja, she claims to continue her battle against "religious persecution, genocide and communalism" because "religious fundamentalism is not restricted to Bangladesh alone and it must be fought at every turn." (Emphasis added).

But alas, she has never ever spoken a single word on Muslim genocide of 1992-93 in Mumbai and State-sponsored pogrom of 2002 in Gujarat. All these years she has carefully chosen the 'freedom' of silence.

MIM legislators' attack on Taslima is an advertisement of political fanaticism. Akbaruddin Owaisi's justification of the attack smacks of political conspiracy keeping in mind that MIM is an ally of the ruling UPA (United Progressive Alliance) at the centre. Was it to 'appease' Muslims of Hyderabad since the image of the ruling class is at stake after the Mecca Masjid Blasts?

Also, one interesting aspect of the entire episode has been missed by the mainstream media. Hyderabad Press Club is just two kilometres from the police control headquarters. The organisers of the book release function did not make adequate security arrangement knowing well the Muslim sensitivity towards the writer.

As senior journalist Syed Ali Mujtaba questions, "Why didn't the organisers make enough security arrangement to check unwanted people coming to their function? Why such people were allowed to enter their premises in the first place itself? It makes me to speculate that this could be part of a set piece devised by the author and the organisers of the function to gain publicity and mileage. They must have anticipated this may snowball in this way and once that happens and actually that happened, Taslima would be in the limelight again…the author has scored in maligning Islam and its followers once again."

Taslima Nasreen calls herself as a 'reformer' although her attitude has been that of an anti-Islam writer. She wants Muslims to stop reading Qur'an since she thinks that it's a flawed book and a 'revision' is a must!

When Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, an English convert to Islam, translated the Holy Qur’an, he said in the introduction that the Qur’an was that “great symphony which moved men to tears and ecstacy.” No wonder Encyclopedia Britannica observes that the Qur’an is “the most frequently read book in the world.” The Qur’an makes an irresistible appeal to all, irrespective of caste, creed or colour to produce the guidance it has produced in the Qur’an.

Taslima has been churning out cheap 'pedestrian literature' all these years. A cursory look at some of her book titles will suffice: Nimontron (Invitation), Bhromor Koio Gia (Tell Him The Secret), Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood), Utal Hawa (Wild Wind), Forashi Premik (French Lover).

Taslima Nasreen is a continuation of the Salman Rushdie syndrome. The present-day sufferers of the Rushdie syndrome include Ayan Ali, Irshad Manji, Waraq and a few others who have made a habit of writing on Islam without understanding its true essence. Hurting the religious sentiments of the Muslims is their full-time profession. Muslims worldwide must not fall prey to the Rushdie syndrome. There were enough Rushdies at the time of the Prophet Muhammad as well. His patient behaviour and compassion had compelled many bete noires to 'revert' to Islam in the end.

A book must be fought by book and not by bouquet: It has been an Islamic tradition of books fighting books. The most celebrated example is that of Imam Al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd in the early 11th century. Al-Ghazali fired the first salvo with his monumental book The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Ibn Rushd, belonging to rationalists' philosophers, replied with The Incoherence of the Incoherence. The battle went on for centuries leading to 'The Incoherence of the Incoherence of the Incoherence' to the 'nth degree' — ending when the victory was finally conceded to Al-Ghazali on the basis of his arguments.

MIM attack was a clash between political and literary extremism making its subject a mute sufferer. 'When two elephants fight', goes the Malay proverb, 'it is the grass that gets trampled.' The voice of a common Muslim was subdued in this clash. Freedom of speech, thus, belongs to the powerful. "Freedom of expression", writes Ziauddin Sardar "belongs to those with secular power, or access and opportunity within the secular structures of power. That's the problem with secularism. As the preeminent truth and doctrine of the West, it renders insignificant and makes invisible all that is outside its purview, all the possibilities and the potentials outside its framework of power. Secularism masks the will to power; and like all authoritarian ideologies, it nurtures homicidal tendencies."

Islam is not a religion of ridicule but a religion of reason. "Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord" says the Holy Qur'an "with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance." (16: 125)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mumbai Case Not Closed: Muslims

Members of Memon Family outside TADA Court

New Delhi: Although India’s special TADA court has completed sentencing in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, which killed 257 people and left 800 injured, prominent Muslims and human rights activists believe the case is not yet closed and that “real” justice is not been served.
“There is a widespread feeling that there are two standards of justice operating in India,” Javed Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy said.
“Perpetrators of the bomb blasts have been effectively addressed while 31 police officials found guilty of overt communalism towards Muslims are still enjoying freedom. Some of them have even been promoted.”
The Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) court finished this week delivering judgments in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in a year-long judgment delivery process that saw at least 100 accused being convicted.
The court has slapped death sentences against 12 culprits, including Yaqub Memon, the brother of the alleged main plotter and fugitive Tiger Memon.
“The court gave death sentence to Yaqub for distributing funds and assisting acts of terror,” chief public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said.
An accountant by profession, Yakub is the most educated member of Memons, a prosperous Muslim family.
Twenty other defendants have received life terms, including his brothers Essa and Yusuf and sister-in-law Rubina.
Rubina, the first woman to be sentenced to life in the case, is accused of allowing her car “be used to carry explosives.”
They can appeal their punishments and India’s Supreme Court stipulates that the death penalty be used only in the “rarest of rare cases.”
Death sentences are regularly delayed indefinitely or commuted by the President.
Eight members of the Memon family stood trial. Four were held guilty while three were acquitted. Abdur Razzak Memon, the father who was out on bail, died in the year 2001.
Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don, and Mustaq Memon, better known as Tiger Memon, are believed to be the masterminds of the serial blasts. Both have been on the run since 1993.
The serial blasts were seen as the direct effect of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodha on December 6, 1992 and the anti-Muslim riots that followed in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India.
The Memons had surrendered in 1994 amid leaks of a deal with the government that female members would only be questioned but not arrested and males would be arrested and helped to get bail.
None of the Memon family members is known to be part of the underworld except for Tiger.
Interestingly, Sanjay Dutt, a leading Bollywood actor, has been sentenced to six years of rigorous imprisonment for illegal possession of an automatic AK-56 rifle in 1993, two months before the serial blasts.
Blind Justice
Muslim leaders and rights advocates insist the 13-year trial is not the end of the problem, pressing for the implementation of Sri Krishna Commission report.
“The Congress government has been in power for eight years in the state of Maharashtra and there has not been a word on this subject,” said M.J. Akbar, a senior editor and follower lawmaker.
Sri Krishna Commission was set up in 1993 to probe the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.
Official figures indicate 1100 people were killed in Mumbai alone, although independent sources put the figure at more than 2000.
Justice B.N. Krishna, a sitting Mumbai High Court judge, was appointed to head the commission after many judges had turned down the offer.
The commission submitted its report on February 18, 1998, after examining a total of 502 witnesses and 9500 pages of evidence.
It indicted 31 “extremely communal” and “trigger-happy” police officials. The government of Shiv Sena a right-wing Hindu party, rejected the commission report claiming it was “politically motivated.”
When Congress government came to power, it set up a special task force to implement the report.
No appropriate action has been taken against the police officials named in the report. R.D. Tyagi, a senior police official accused of shooting nine innocent Muslims, was later promoted police commissioner of Mumbai.
Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy says Mumbai stands as an example of double-standard justice.
“Sri Krishna Commission report talks about cause (Babri Masjid demolition and the riots that followed) and effect (Mumbai serial blasts of 1993) theory.”
He said no action has been taken against people like Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and former member of the legislative assembly Madukar Sarpotdar who openly advocated violence against Muslims in the 1992-93 riots.
“In Mumbai riots, there is no indication of serious effort on the part of the judiciary as well as the executive.”
Same Terror
Teesta Setalvad, a prominent social rights activist and co-editor of Communalism Combat, believes there can be “no peace without justice.”
“The bomb terror of March 12, 1993, must be recalled with the same horror as the mob terror of December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives all over the country,” she said.
“The soul of Mumbai was forever scarred with the brute mob violence that held us to ransom from December 8 to January 20, 1993,” Setalvad said.
“Mobs stalked streets that were likened to Nazi Germany (by jurist NA Palkhiwala and Justice Bakhtawar Lentin of the Mumbai High Court). The Mumbai police connived with mobsters in mass arson, murder and even rape. Worse still, our political leaders watched as Mumbai burned.”
The prominent social rights activist quotes Justice B.N. Krishna who said the bomb blasts “were a reaction to the totality of events at Ayodhya and Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993.”
Ms. Setalvad had recently sought information from government regarding the status of the cases against the “guilty” police officials under the Right to Information Act (RTI). She terms the revelations as “shocking and disturbing,” noting that not a single police officer has been properly charged.
In all her RTI findings, only one guilty police constable was dismissed from the service. Others have been exonerated in departmental enquiry.
The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday, August 1, sought a comprehensive affidavit on the alleged lapses by the Maharashtra government in taking action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai riots.
It asked the petitioner, the action committee for implementation of Sri Krishna Commission, and others to file the affidavit within six weeks.
“If there is complete failure of justice, it will certainly be looked into,” said a division bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.
Navaid Hamid, secretary of the South Asian Council for Minorities, commended the move.
“The Supreme Court has done a commendable job,” he said, believing that justice for the Muslim victims of the Mumbai riots can still be served.

Monday, July 30, 2007

'Whose Law and Whose Order?'

Bombay 1992: "Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood"

Now that 'judicial justice' has finally been delivered after 15 years of persistent pregnancy in the infamous Bombay serial blasts, it must be termed as post-mature judicial delivery! Judicial potency to convict accused on the basis of 'prima facie evidence' is unquestionable, but its potency gets punctured when it comes to analyse 'cause' and 'effect' theory (as explained in Justice Sri Krishna Commission report) on a mass scale.

The cause was callous and chaotic. The effect was conceited consciousness.

And its aftermath — a chartered accountant's belief in India's judicial system being shaken. Shaken after 13 years of incarceration.

Why did it took so long to decide whether the surrendered Memons — Yakub, Abdul Razak, Hanifa, Suleiman, Rubina, Essa and Yusuf — were guilty or not? The Memons surrendered believing in the government 'deal' that the female members will only be 'questioned but not arrested' and the male members would be 'arrested and helped to get bail' since 'none of the Memon family members was part of the underworld except for Tiger Memon'. Yakub and his other family members had no 'clue that Tiger was planning the serial blasts'.

The demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots that followed was the 'cause'. Bombay serial bomb blasts were its 'effect'. This is not to glorify the gory incident that left 257 people dead. This beginning of the serial bomb blast culture has done more harm to the Indian Muslim than anybody else. He has become a permanent suspect in the eyes of the security agencies. He is still reeling under its aftermath. In Malegaon and Hyderabad, it has made him a 'victim' as well as a 'suspect'. The Indian Muslim is perhaps going through the identity-crisis phase!

Justice is not a word but a complete sentence. The Indian Muslim has only heard the word 'justice' and yet to see the completion of the sentence. Time and again, he has been promised by the so-called 'secular' Congress party that the sentence will be completed by implementation of the Sri Krishna Commission report.

But alas, the report and the commission have become his fate. In each and every election, he has been put on an oxygen mask of implementation by the 'secular' souls. The oxygen mask has always been removed before he could breathe the air of implementation.
Perhaps, he should realise that oxygen masks are made for temporary use!

Deliberate State neglect and the Muslim politician's indifference towards the implementation of the Sri Krishna Commission report has made him to split the word 'justice'. Justice means just ice. Justice is like the ice that melts before he could quench his thirst.
The 'outbursts' witnessed in the TADA court are a true reflection of his anger against the establishment which believes that justice is a one-way street. (Zakir Hussein Shaikh on his death sentence: "Musalmano ko aisi hi phaasi ki sazaa milegi. Hamare ghar dukaan, loote gaye, phir bhi humko phaasi mili. Yeh kaunsa insaaf hai?" This is wrong. Muslims will always be hanged. Our houses and shops were looted but we are still being given the maximum punishment. What kind of justice is this?)

The police practised state genocide under the watchful eyes of the establishment and let other politicians indulge in the naked dance of communalism that included riots after riots. And there is nothing unique about it because it has been going on since 1961. "For all my adult life," wrote M.J. Akbar in 1990, "across two decades of reading, observing, trying to understand, trying to write, it has been one long sequence of riot after riot after riot: of the single dreams of young women charred by the brutality of an irresponsible destiny: of mothers punished with the death of their children: of fathers broken, battered because they bowed their heads to Allah".

Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, recently offered the oxygen mask of implementation once again: "I will take action".

Against whom? Against himself? That will be some cleansing of the political conscience!

Yakub Memon, an educated Indian Muslim (a practising chartered accountant) did not blame Justice Kode. "I forgive him," he said. That must be a good news for the judiciary. An Indian Muslim might have forgiven the Justice; but justice is still a far cry for Hajirabi Qureishi whose husband and eldest son was dragged by Shiv Sainiks and are still missing since January 10, 1993.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

‘Not Many Academics in the U.S. Believe in the Clash of Civilization Theory’

American journalist Amar Bakshi is a man with a mission. After spending a month in UK, he is in India for his project ‘How the World Sees America’ ( Here are some excerpts from the interview. Posing Lensman: Amar Bakshi trying to show his 'shooting' skills!

Q: Tell me about yourself and your project briefly.

A: I have been working as the editor of PostGlobal for the past year which basically connects editors around the world to answer questions twice a week hold by David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria. I have just graduated from Harvard University, majored in social theory and documentary video. I did features on Zimbabwe looking at media propaganda. And as I was there I became interested in the way Mugabe regime consolidates its power. As soon as I graduated, I started working for the Washington Post. It was an interesting theme to explore; how America is perceived and why different pockets of the world harbours so much resentment and so much hope for the United States at the same time. I think this love-hate relationship is very complex one. I came up with the idea when I was in Zimbabwe.

Q: It’s almost been two weeks that you are in India. Can you share your experiences?

A: I think, India so far, has been very personal experience for me. First couple of days I interacted with my grandmother and really looked at her for the first time. I explored what America meant to her and done to her, having her family migrated there, the opportunities that opened up for me and the loss in some way that it caused to my family rooted in India. So far as I have been to Delhi, Gurgaon, Chennai, Mumbai and I am trying to get away from big cities to get a sense of what it feels to be in less urban parts of India. I think the sense I had is America here has great ideas and stands for things that many Indians hold dear to both the cultures. But certain actions rubbed against that idea come across as critical…I think that there is a lack of citizenship and communications from Americans and Indians. And I do think that the second and third generation of Indian Americans can play an important role in bridging that divide.

Q: How do you perceive Indian Muslims as compared to Muslims in the United States & elsewhere?

A: I have interacted with Muslims in England. And this is the first time that I am interacting with Indian Muslims. But I should say that among American Muslims that I interacted with [In Coney Island,New York], there was a real sense of fear that they couldn't necessarily trust their own government. I think the same sense is very much in Britain [in Blackburn and parts of London]. And I am not sure yet what the sense is here. In terms of the views of the America, I think in UK there was more open hostility to United States than I saw here. And in terms of American Muslims there is a real sense of wanting to belong properly and I think its sad as to what happened post 9/11; deep concerns of pure alienation.

Q: What kind of reactions do you come across as an American on your visit to UK and India as far as Anti-American feeling is concerned.

A: I don't think I have experienced Anti-American feelings yet. I think the real way I experienced being American is the source of pride people have that I don't speak Hindi and I am not rooted in India and yet I am brown and look like that I could be an Indian. I am confused about my identity. I think the way my family tried to Americanize me; it had some unfortunate consequences so there is a desire to reconnect. I want to retain my Indianness and I want to be a 'global American'!

Q: Do you think that Indian Muslims living in a secular country like India could be an ideal example for rest of the Muslim world, leaving aside isolated incidents as to what happened in Glasgow recently?

A: I really don’t know since my interaction with Indian Muslims has been minimal so far.

Q: What do you think of American foreign policy towards the Muslim world?

A: I understand those perceptions outside America that it is conspiring to target the Muslim world. If you were in America, say Washington DC, people and policy makers would say that this is an attack on terrorists and no one would say that this is an attack on the Muslim world. And, you know, the goal of American policy should be to go after few extremists and do whatever to capture them and the fact that U.S. is perceived as fighting is Islam is very unfortunate.

Q: Don’t you think that America might be winning war on the battlefield but losing battle for hearts and minds?

A: I wouldn't say losing battle on the battlefields. I would say that it is unnecessarily extending on the battlefield. There is a very much perception outside America that America is doing this to dominate the Muslim world. There is resentment in America as well. And you must remember that there is right now a fundamental difference between American government policy and what American people want. American government does not necessarily stand for what majority of Americans want.

Q: In Iraq war, there have been many civilian deaths. As per one study published in The Lancent, at least 6, 50,000 innocent civilians have been killed since the invasion of Iraq.

A: Nobody is pleased about that in America. In no way Americans approve of as to what happened in Iraq. There are many many people who abhor it, I would say a tremendous number of Americans hate it. Now the question is what we are going to do about it now that it has happened. And that’s what Americans are grappling with, and it’s very tragic. Majority of people believe that we should not have entered Iraq in the first place. Now that we have, what will be the complications if we pull out? These are some of the questions being raised by the Americans.

Q: What do you think of American mainstream media as far as the Iraq invasion is concerned? I mean almost the entire American media was gung-ho about the invasion. You had columnists like Thomas Friedman hell-bent on attacking Iraq. Isn’t it a classic case of Yes-Man-Journalism?

A: Although I am not a media expert but I agree. It was a big think in the US. How media lied down. And this project is trying to bring together viewpoints from people all across the world. It will be great to find out how America is perceived outside. It will give Americans an insight as to what people think of them and their government. There was so much turmoil in the U.S. media. But now the media is moving very quickly especially this project. We want more voices articulated on world views and people who don’t find an avenue to express their feelings; this project is a good platform to share their ideas.

Q: Will your project have some kind of imapct on the U.S. foreign policy?

A: U.S. government is a very complicated thing. I mean who will have effect and how… but as far as Americans are concerned, they will get to know what people think of their government . It gives a little bit of sense to the reader & viewer what other person is like. For example, once they see people working in BPO industry (call centres), they probably would understand them better and might not shout at them.

Q: How is Samuel Huntington’s theory ‘clash of civilizations’ viewed in the U.S.?

A: I don't think people take it too seriously, especially At Harvard University, many professors and academics don't believe in it at all. I mean there are bunch of interests not known and is not considered but in terms of fundamentals I don't really agree with the theory.

Q: Can media play an important role in bridging the gap between the U.S. and the Muslim world?

A: Media definitely plays an important role in bridging this gap. I think the media should encourage human interactions as well, dialogues. This project is all about creating dialogues.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Malegaon Municipal Elections: The Stalemate Continues

Stalemate Continues: Malegaon Municipal Corporation Building
The prolonged curiosity as to who will head Malegaon Municipal Corporation continues. IMC (Indian Muslim Congress) popularly known as the Third Front – the single largest party with 26 seats poised to form the government with the help of once ‘untouchable’ Shiv Sena – has developed cold feet after the intense pressure from the ‘high-command’. The alliance of ‘bitter arch-rivals’ (Congress-Janata Dal) is observing silence for the time-being after initial attempts to the sharing of the posts did not succeed.

A 37-seat majority is required to rule the 72-seat civic body.

Third Front being the largest party had staked the claim that it will form the government with the help of the Shiv Sena. With the support of 7 seats of Shiv Sena and 2 seats of NCP and 2 independent candidates, IMC easily reached the magic figure of 37. But with the pressure from the ‘higher-command’ and the NCP’s refusal to sit with the Shiv Sena, this ‘developmental’ alliance hangs in limbo.

The success of Third Front did not go well with the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular). To keep IMC away from the throne, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) had done the unthinkable: to form an alliance!

Dismayed by the wave of the Third Front, Janata Dal (Secular) – the largest party in the last election – has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court alleging that the election was won by provoking ‘religious sensiblities’!

And now comes the twist in the tale: If an IMC-office bearer is to be believed, Third Front has been ‘forced’ to be in touch with the Congress ‘high-command’ to ‘pressurize’ local Congress leaders to behave in a ‘democratic way’. An IMC-Congress ‘secular’ alliance is what the ‘higher-command’ from both the sides (read Jamiatul Ulama Hind) seems to be dictating thus carefully avoiding the prevailing ground realities in Malegaon.

One more option being put forward is a tri-party alliance involving Third Front, Janata Dal (Secular) and the NCP to ‘isolate’ Congress.

The message of the voter from Malegaon is loud and clear: change. So every single political party wants to go with the wave of ‘change’. In that scenario it has added to the woes of the Third Front in choosing its political partners.

One source reveals that if the politics of ‘pressurizing’ continues, then the Third Front might opt to sit in the Opposition. And that will be the least ‘controversial’ thing to do.

The success of the Third Front brought an end to the Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress rule of almost 50 years.

The execution of the ‘Assam formula’ in Malegaon began just three months prior to the elections but yet it created a stir among the masses. Assam formula signifies the politics of inclusiveness; people from all faiths come together to work for the betterment of society. Development and not ideology is its subject-matter.

The replication of ‘Assam formula’ in Malegaon reflects the mood of the masses. People wanted change because they were fed up of the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) rule. Third Front born on the slogan of ‘reformative politics’ capitalized this urge for change.

Meanwhile the heightened suspense as to the plump post of mayorship continues. Politics is the art of the impossible. Who masters this ‘art’ will be revealed on June 15, the day elected candidates choose their mayor.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hyderabad Blasts: Malegaon Syndrome Travels South

Holy Terror: People gather outside Mecca Masjid after the blasts
It was a blast from the recent past. The past was replicated with pure precision and exemplary execution. Past-precision is a lesson for those who are in the security business. It demands the attentive attention of capricious crooks (read not so-intelligent intelligence-wallas) to study the intricacies of the operation. Venerable vigilantes are taught not to allow history to repeat itself.

Sadly, history was (deliberately?) allowed to repeat itself in Hyderabad.

Malegaon syndrome travelled to South for the very first time.

RAW (Research Analysis Wing) proved to be really raw. Our ‘expert’ interceptors (now singing Aladdin’s magic phrase ‘Khul Ja SIM SIM’), did not behave like seasoned seismologists in predicting the unpredictable, so the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes (elimination by encounters) was not employed this time!

ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad) was too busy proving in Supreme Court that it does not stand for Acquired Teasing Syndrome for the Muslim community!

So we were left with only R.K. Laxman’s common man to protect us!

Security agencies that have just come out of their hibernation mode are sniffing out the same old and ‘standard pattern’ once again. Our always hyper National Security Advisor (who recently panicked that terrorists are investing heavily in the stock markets without any substantiation) must introduce a new and broad pattern of investigation instead of selective intimidation.

The theorists of the old and standard pattern suggest that whatever happens in India (Prime Minister’s sneeze included!) is the ultimate outcome of the designs made on the other side of the border. And designs are implemented by the educated Muslim youths of the country. Isn’t it a unique case of remote-control governance? What more, deadly designs direct these youths to kill their co-religionists in mosques!

Believers are being killed by the believers. So is it safe to assume that the devotees at Akshardam temple were gunned down by their co-religionists? Or should we conclude that the 7/11 train blasts were the handiwork of Hindus? What would be the reaction of the Hindu mass, if we extend believers versus believers theory in the Varanasi temple blast?

Investigators who are relying heavily on SIM card registration must know that today’s hi-tech terrorists are smart enough not to leave any thick trail of evidence. And fabricating documents is not a big deal these days as has been shown by many investigative reports by various newspapers. So why would terrorists register SIM cards in their real names? Therefore, SIM card registration in a Muslim name may be an attempt to disguise the investigators.

Time is ripe for India to come out of its conditioned mentality. Investigators must break their mental blocks. Indian law enforcement agencies suffer from the fatal disease of prejudice. India is once again going through the ‘siege within’ phase. Today’s India is reminiscent of the 1980s when it was being torn apart by sectarian violence. ULFA and Maoists are threatening the entire North-East. Naxalite movement and Peoples’ War Group (PWG) have become a household name in South India. The North-West shudders at the mention of police encounters. In the North, Kashmir narrates an all together different story.

So, internal vigilance is more important than the external outlook. India’s lop-sided policy is obsessed with the external element only. As M.J. Akbar wrote, “Vigilance needs three eyes, only one of which looks across the border. Two must look within.”