Saturday, May 30, 2009

India's Muslim Ministers

NEW DELHI — A new government has been inducted in India this week, days after the ruling Congress party swept the country's general elections.
The 79-member government is a mix of veteran politicians, Congress stalwarts and several new faces.
Among the new cabinet lineup are five Muslim ministers. gives its readers a glimpse on the Muslim faces in the new Indian government.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister of Health
Hailing from the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, Azad, 60, is one of India's most powerful Muslim politicians. He served as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir from 2005 to 2008. He stepped down after a row over land transfer in Jammu and Kashmir to a Hindu shrine.
Azad was also the parliamentary affairs minister in the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh until October 2005.
Dubbed ' crisis manager', Azad is the chief political strategist of the ruling Congress Party. He has been credited for the party election victory in key states, especially in the southern states of Karnataka and Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir.
Azad has served as the general secretary of All-India Congress Committee for record nine times. He was also a member of the party's powerful Congress Working Committee for 18 years. He also served as parliamentary affairs and civil aviation minister in several Congress-led governments.

Salman Khurshid, Minister of Minority and Corporate Affairs

A lawyer by profession, Khurshid, 56, is a prominent Muslim face in the Congress Party.
He is the son of former Karnataka governor Khursheed Alam Khan and a grandson of India's third president, Dr. Zakir Hussain.
He has been credited for establishing various educational institutes across India.
Khurshid served as an Officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister's office under late premier Indira Gandhi. In the early 1990s, he was minister of state for external affairs.
In 2004, he was elected a member of the party's Congress Working Committee. He was also elected president of Congress Committee in Uttar Pradesh, India's most important and populous state, for two terms.

Farooq Abdullah, Minister for New and Renewable Energy

A son of a nationalist Kashmiri leader, Abdullah, 73, is a high-profile politician and the head of the ruling National Conference party in Jammu and Kashmir.
He has served as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on several occasions from 1982.
Starting his political career as 'novice' in 1981, he was named president of the National Conference in 1982.
Abdullah's remarks about Kashmir have repeatedly stirred controversies. He has openly advocated Kashmir's autonomy within the confines of Indian Constitution.
Though he was an anti-Congress politician throughout his political career, Abdullah changed hearts in 2004, going into alliance with Congress Party.
Abdullah still remains a popular politician in Kashmir even after handing over the reins of his party to his son. He has repeatedly stated that his ultimate goal is to be the President of India.
E. Ahmed, Minister of State for Railways
Ahmed, 70, is the President of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). He has served as minister of state for external affairs in the previous government.
Ahmed has been credited for increasing India's quota of Muslim pilgrims travelling for hajj in Saudi Arabia. He is also a member of parliament from newly-constituted Malappuram in Kerala.
Sultan Ahmed, Minister of State for Tourism Ministry
Hailing from the north-eastern state of West Bengal, Ahmed is a leader of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) headed by Mamta Banerjee.
Ahmed, a first-time member of parliament, swept to parliament after defeating eight-time MP and communist leader Hannan Mollah from Uluberia constituency.
He has been associated with Mohammedan Sporting Club (MSC), one of India's oldest premier football clubs.
Ahmed has vowed greater attention to checking dropouts in the minority community as well as development of rural infrastructure. May 30 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Muslims Celebrate Secular Congress Win

Congress Gets a Free Hand: Congress workers celebrate party's historic victory in New Delhi (Picture courtesy: Hindustan Times)

NEW DELHI — Many Indian Muslims are content with the victory of the Congress-led alliance in the general elections, saying it upholds the country’s secular values.

"It’s a historic moment for us," Nazia Erum, a Muslim student from the capital New Delhi, told on Sunday, May 17.
With some results still being counted, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is winning 260 seats in the 543-seat parliament.
The Congress Party, which leads the alliance, was expected to end up with 200 seats alone, its best performance since 1991.
"Muslims are extremely happy with the election result," Khurshid Ansari, of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), told IOL.
Ansari, whose party is part of the UPA, said Muslims have largely voted for the UPA, in spite of previous speculations that they would be supporting the newly-emerged regional parties.
"Initially, there was a feeling that Muslim political loyalty is compartmentalized into many zones."
In a statement mailed to IOL, the umbrella All India Muslim Majlis-E-Mushawarat (AIMMM) welcomed the results.
"The results are to a large extent due to a clear Muslim swing, especially in the north," it stressed.
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
The month-long, five-stage election was of special importance for Muslims who have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life.
Like many Muslims, Erum believes that the Congress's win was a victory for secularism.
"Despite its flaws, Congress is the only party whose pendulum swings very close to the idea of secularism."
Ansari, the NCP official, agrees.
"It has become abundantly clear that Muslims have voted for secular parties especially the UPA."
AIMMM President Zafarul-Islam Khan says that while Muslim voters have long rejected the divisive politics of Hindu nationalist parties, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the UPA secular agenda offered a much better alternative.
He noted that Muslims’ lean towards the Congress party comes for the first time since the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992.
Many of India's Muslims have voted for the Congress in the first five general elections after independence in 1947.
But the demolition of the 464-year Babri mosque in Ayodhya by militant Hindus and the Congress government’s reluctance to use force to protect the mosque was a turning point in relations between the Congress and the Muslim community.
The incident has since drained the Congress of the Muslim community's support.
Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari, a scholar, says Muslim candidates did not fare well in the election because of a double standard of secularism.
"We feel that people expect us to prove our secularism but other people are not required to prove their secularism," he told IOL.
"When there is a non-Muslim candidate, Muslims vote for him."
Apart from the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) and the Muslim League of Kerala, dozen-odd Islamic parties did not do well in the election.
Azhari asserts that any candidate should be voted on the basis of his/her agenda rather than religion.
"Proportionate representation was our right and we should have got it."
Popular Singh
Others believe secularism was not the only reason Muslims voted for the UPA.
"The UPA has won not because of the Congress but because of the charismatic personality of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," Mufti Mohammed Ismail, president of Indian Muslim Congress Party, told IOL.
The election victory means a second term for Singh, whose calm, pragmatic persona appealed to voters looking for political stability.
Ismail says the 77-year-old premier appeals to Muslims because he knows how it feels being from a religious minority in Hindu-majority India.
"The Congress understands the sentiments of minorities because Manmohan Singh comes from Sikh minority."
Singh has long called for Muslims to be given top priority within the development matrix of the country, drawing fierce criticism from Hindu nationalists.
He has appointed a high level Committee, known as the Rajinder Sachar committee, to investigate the social, economic and educational status of Muslims.
Singh has declared a 15-point welfare program to address Muslims grievances, especially in education.
Ismail maintains that although the Congress has miserably failed to implement the 2006 Sachar report, still Muslims have faith in Congress because of Singh.
"UPA has not done much to implement the recommendations of Sachar Committee report but Manmohan Singh’s 15-point program is one of the key-reasons that Muslims voted for the Congress on national level." May 17 2009

The Question of Palestine

Map of Palestine: Law of diminishing returns!

The siege will last in order to convince us that we must choose an enslavement that does no harm in fullest liberty.

(Late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish)

As Palestinians mark Nakba, the catastrophe, signifying the 61st anniversary of occupation of Palestine by the Jewish state of Israel, a question needs to be asked: Is 61 years of Palestinian suffering akin to the holocaust suffered by Jews? In the above question lies the irony of Israel; a nation carved out by the oppressed has become a nation of oppressors.

Theodore Herzel, a journalist, is the father of modern Zionism who toured the world extensively to propagate the idea of a nation for Jews. He worked hard in a mission to explore the possibility of establishing a state for Jews in Palestine. He promoted Zionism through his writings on the international stage. In June 1896, he met the Abdul Hamed II, 34th Sultan of Ottoman Empire in Istanbul, to convince him that Palestine should be handed over to Zionists. But Sultan refused to cede Palestine to Zionists and said,
“If one day the Islamic State falls apart then you can have Palestine for free, but as long as I am alive I would rather have my flesh be cut up than cut out Palestine from the Muslim land.”

In 1898, after meeting with German Kaiser Wilham II, Herzel wrote about Palestine,
“a perfect beautiful woman, fulfill all our requirements but married.”

The words of Abdul Hamid II came true when Ottoman Empire crumbled in 1918, nine years after his death. Abdul Hamid was the last Ottoman Sultan to rule with absolute power. Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 is seen by many historians as a turning point in Western Arab relations. According to one of the terms of the agreement, Arabs were promised a “national homeland” through T.E. Lawrence for their support to the British forces against the Ottoman army. British never kept their word. In fact, they negated this promise by issuing Balfour Declaration in 1917 promising “a national home for the Jewish people.” The declaration read,
“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The Arabs and Christians of Palestine together disapproved of any such move arguing that it could have serious political consequences.

The seed of Israel as planted by Theodore Herzel was watered by fervent Zionist Winston Churcill, who went on to become Prime Minister of United Kingdom in 1940. The seed took shape of a full-fledged tree on November 29, 1948 when United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish territories. Out of 56 members, 33 voted in favour, 13 against and 10 chose to abstain.

Thus was born the Jewish state of Israel in 1948; 44 years after the death of Theodore Herzel.

The tide of history turned against the Arabs and Muslims once again but Muslims all across the world should not be disheartened. Islamic concept of power can be summed up in three words: rise, fall and renewal. Muslims all across the world are undergoing the second phase of Islamic concept of power. Muslims have ruled Palestine from 630 CE to 1918 with a brief Christian rule lasting only 88 years (1099 to 1187).

With the creation of Israel in 1948, 7 lakh Palestinians became refugees. Dispossessed Palestinians were substituted with Jews who come from different parts of the world carrying knives, guns and explosives against the civilian population. A religious propaganda and allegations based on the myth and the falsification of history and heritage, to form that particular ideological falsehoods peddled by the Zionists provide energy to achieve the necessary human colonial project on the land of Palestine.

In the last 61 years Palestine-Israel conflict, Jewish state has annexed thousands of acres of cultivable land and now it almost holds 78% of Palestine.

It is in this context that Nakba must been seen. Commemorating the anniversary of Nakba, is not merely an occasion to remember those who experienced bleeding, homelessness and fear, killed, burned and jailed throughout the sixty one years, but to raise the voices of millions who refuse to accept the basis on which Israel was created as a state. It is a rejection of the project called a “Jewish state “and a determination for the right of return of the Palestinian people to their homeland.

The tragedy which started with the expulsion of 7 lakh Palestinians now affects the plight of at least 10.5 million Palestinians all across the globe. It is a catastrophe, the largest and the most heinous crime committed against a nation. It is against right and reason, human rights and freedom of people.

When Arabs took the initiative of peace in 2002 Arab Summit in Beirut, they demanded that Israel must go back to June 1967 line of control. There must be an establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem at its capital and right of return of Palestinian refugees as per United Nations Security Council resolution 194. All of this was rejected by Israel.

What more, all these years Israel has secretly continued “Judaization” of Al-Quds (Jerusalem). It is not only Palestinians Muslims who have no access to religious sites but also Palestinians Christians are not allowed to visit their holy shrines.

Everybody knows the role United States has played in Israel-Palestine conflict. Will there be a tilt in President Obama’s administration? Going by the recent news item, one thinks Obama is surely going to change US policy although it may not amount to radical change. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s first planned meeting with President Obama has been called off. Netanyahu was keen to capitalize on his attendance at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington to visit the White House but officials have ruled out any meeting because President will not be “in town.” Experts speculate that Obama would not like to continue the Bush legacy of hosting Israeli prime ministers sometimes with just a phone call’s notice!

Jews have always enjoyed special favour under Muslim rule. When Umar, second caliph of Islam entered Jerusalem on foot, he did an agreement stipulating the rights and obligations of all non-Muslims in the holy land of Palestine. Jews were permitted to return to Palestine for the first time since the 500-year ban enacted by the Romans and maintained by Byzantine rulers. The same tradition was followed by was followed by Harun al-Rashid (786-809) who established the Christian Pilgrims’ Inn in Jerusalem, fulfilling Umar’s pledge to Bishop Sophronious to allow freedom of religion and access to Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims.

Jews have forgotten the humane angle of the Muslim rule. How can a people who have witnessed holocaust in the hands of Adolf Hitler tolerate the same kind of madness being leashed by their own government on hapless Palestinians?

Sunday Inquilab, May 17, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

India Muslims Aspire for Al-Quds

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem: Third holiest site in Islam

MUMBAI — More than six decades after Israel's creation on the rubble of Palestine, Indian Muslims are remembering the predicament of Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) and Al-Aqsa Mosque under the yoke of Israeli occupation.

"How should I describe the pain of occupied Jerusalem and Palestine? It is ingrained deeply in collective Muslim sub-consciousness," S. S. Shaikh told on Thursday, May 14.
"My inner self desires to visit the holy land of Jerusalem. It is connected to my soul."
Israel captured and occupied Al-Quds in the six-day 1967 war, then annexed it in a move not recognized by the world community or UN resolutions.
The city is home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Shaikh said Al-Quds binds Muslims the world over together.
"There is a strong invisible bond. It cannot be seen by the naked eye," he said.
"Nakba runs deep in Muslim consciousness. Indian Muslims are naturally moved by the very mention of Jerusalem and Palestine."
On April 18, 1948, Palestinian Tiberius was captured by Menachem Begin's Irgun militant group, putting its 5,500 Palestinian residents in flight. On April 22, Haifa fell to the Zionist militants and 70,000 Palestinians fled.
On April 25, Irgun began bombarding civilian sectors of Jaffa, terrifying the 750,000 inhabitants into panicky flight.
On May 14, the day before the creation of Israel, Jaffa completely surrendered to the better-equipped Zionist militants and only 4,500 of its population remained.
Israel's Brutality
Indian Muslims lament that Palestinians are still unable to have their own state six decades after Israel's creation on the rubble of Palestine.
"Palestinians should be given their land. It is their birthright. It is their human right," said Burhanuddin Qasmi, editor of Eastern Crescent, a Muslim monthly magazine, and spokesman for Maharashtra United Democratic Front.
"Israeli occupation is barbaric. It is against the humanity. Israel is against United Nation's human charter."
Many Muslims grieve that brutal Israeli practices against the Palestinians have never been punished.
"There is complete a disregard for world opinion," Mustafa Khan, a retired professor, told IOL.
"Israel has got this impunity because of America. If America does not support, Israel will be most likely prosecuted in any world court."
Israeli troops killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and wounded 5,450 in 22 days of attacks in Gaza in January.
The United Nations and several human rights groups have accused Israel of committing war crimes during the Gaza war.
"The greatest need, we feel in our country, is that Palestinians should be helped. But one way of helping is legal prosecution at the international criminal court and Israel must be brought to book," said Khan.
"An international platform is the best way to promote legal prosecution. India is an ideal place to launch this movement because of its active civil society."
Many Indian Muslims regret the complete U-turn of Indian position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"Initially Indian government was pro-Palestinian and aligned with the Palestinian cause," Shameem Tariq, a Mumbai-based research scholar, said.
"Things radically changed during Narasimha Rao government," he said, referring to the country's 12th prime minister.
"Ever since then, we have a very strong Jewish lobby in India which has done much harm to the Palestinian cause."
A founder of the Non-Alignment Movement, India had been a staunch supporter to Arab issues.
But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Indian-Israeli relations have seen a U-turn.
In 1992, full diplomatic relations were set up between the two countries and since then bilateral relations have grown exceedingly.
Indian-Israeli relations have further blossomed under the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
"A new kind of situation developed in India where the right-wing parties like BJP and the RSS came to the fore," Khan, the retired professor, said.
"They believed that Israel and America are much closer to us in terms of cultural affinity."
"Therefore their help of Israel became all the more important," he said.
To put a brake on the booming Indian-Israeli rapprochement, a group of Indian parties and NGOs have formed a forum to draw support to the Palestinian cause.
"One of the primary objectives was to pressurize and thus influence the Government of India to follow a policy that clearly espouses the Palestinian cause," Feroze Mithiborewala, the head of the Awami Bharat party, told IOL.
"Our Palestine People's Solidarity Forum will campaign for a more proactive and concerted action on the part of the Indian government for solidarity with Palestine and demand an end to India's diplomatic and strategic ties with Apartheid Israel, as we did in the case of South Africa." May 15 2009

Sunday, May 03, 2009

India’s Obama Inspires Muslims

Mayawati: The Big sister

NEW DELHI— Just as the election of Barack Obama for African Americans, the rise of Mayawati, India’s star woman politician, from the lowest rung of the social hierarchy is bringing hope of change for Indian Muslims.

"This Maya is no illusion," M.J. Akbar, a veteran journalist and former lawmaker, told, referring to the nickname Mayawati is known with among Indians.
"Maya is heaving against prejudice that has congealed over many thousands of years."
Mayawati, chief minister of India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh and leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), is a daughter of "Dalits," the lowest rung of the Hindu social caste system commonly known as the "untouchables."
But the woman, whose party is now a front runner in at least 10 states across India, is an inspiration for Muslims as well as millions of India's lower-caste people.
Akbar compares Mayawati to Obama citing her once unlikely rise from the margins and her extraordinary political skills.
"The Dalits are the blacks of India…and Mayawati is their Obama."
Mayawati became a national figure in 2007 after her party won a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh state election.
"She has proved herself to be a leader of the people who she has chosen to represent," says Zohra Javed, a political activist.
The Dalits, meaning broken people, have long endured the prejudice and discrimination of India's caste system which separates people into Brahmin priests, warriors, farmers, laborers, and those beyond definition including, the Dalits.
Though caste discrimination is outlawed, many of the 180 million Dalits, who make up one-sixth of India's 1.1 billion population, insist bias against them persists.
Shafeeque Ansari, a Muslim businessman, believes Mayawati represents millions from the lower and marginalized sections of India from all religions and castes.
"The rise of a regional leader like Mayawati symbolizes the empowerment of India’s marginalized lot."
For many Muslims, Mayawati brings hopes for more inclusive politics to engage their own long-marginalized community.
In the 2007 state elections, she fielded more Muslim candidates than ever before.
"In the Uttar Pradesh elections, Maya fielded 403 BSP candidates. Of these 61 were Muslims," Seema Mustafa, editor of India’s only political fortnightly magazine Covert, told IOL.
"Thirty Muslims won."
In the ongoing, month-long parliamentary elections, Mayawati’s BSP is fielding more Muslim candidates than any other party, including the ruling Congress and the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mayawati's unique character, being a woman who knows about the plight of discrimination, and her vows to end religious divide in Hindu-majority India is also appealing to many others.
"She has been able to add a slice of the minority vote bank to her kitty too," notes Javed.
"Being a Muslim I would certainly want someone who would look sympathetically into the problems my community is facing."
Indian Muslims, who account for more than for 13 percent of the total population, have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life.
Christians make up less than three percent and minorities such as Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis account for nearly four percent.
Mayawati's spectacular rise left many predicting that she might do like Obama by rising to the top post in the country after the general polls.
"A woman and a Dalit, somebody from a doubly disadvantaged group, becoming our Prime Minister would definitely be a sign that India has matured as a democracy," Sharifa Siddiqui, a Muslim civil rights activist, told IOL.
"It means we have cocked a snook at the US in terms of choosing a leader from groups other than the traditionally elitist groups."
Mayawati’s party is part of the newly-formed Third Front, a coalition of 10 regional parties, which has 84 out of the 543 seats in parliament.
Third Front is taken seriously by many, especially those hoping for a non-Congress, non-BJP prime minister.
"The old cartelization of Indian politics, monopolized by high-caste leadership, is giving way to a new set of players from the lower strata of Indian polity," argues Ghulam Muhammed, a political analyst.
But many doubt that the Barack Obama scenario can be repeated in caste-based India.
Javed, the political activist, believes that a premier Mayawati is easier said than done.
Though he is a strong supporter of the BSP leader, Ansari, the businessman, also shrugs off the possibility of premier Mayawati as unrealistic.
"To suggest her as a prime minister is akin to daydreaming."
But Akbar, the veteran journalist and former MP, says nothing is impossible in politics.
"All options are possible. The turbulence and direction of change can never be certain." May 3 2009

Indian Democracy: Need for a radical change

Two elderly ladies going to cast their vote in Madhya Pradesh

Now that the electoral dust seems to have settled in Maharashtra with the end of phase III, it’s time we turn our attention to some serious issues plaguing politics, voting and democracy.

The average Indian still does not understand the power of voting. He thinks that a single vote is not going to make much difference because rarely does in India a single vote decide the fate of aspiring politicians. Not many Indians would have heard of Saifuddin Soz whose single vote toppled Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government in 1999. The average Indian voter interprets national politics through the narrow prism of his individual problem. He forgets that his micro problem is part and parcel of India’s macro problem. He is fed of the same old politicians making same old promises. He thinks the only way out is to skip voting. In some areas including Sonia Gandhi’s Amethi constituency, people have boycotted polls. Boycott is a legitimate tool of protest in a democracy but poll boycott is not driven by mere hopelessness alone; it is fuelled by illiteracy. The Indian voter has started believing in the saying ‘If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal’. The only way to remove this erroneous perception is by mass awareness regarding the power of just one vote.

A careful reading of history reveals that one vote has changed fate of many nations across the world. Indians have forgotten that Adolf Hitler became president of Nazi party of Germany in 1934 just because of one vote. Indian Muslims seem to have forgotten this but Jews still remember it. It was the power of just one vote that caused the execution of Charles I, King of England, in 1649. It was just because of one vote that France became a republic from monarchy in 1875. It was because of a single vote that Texas became part of United States in 1845. It was one vote that saved Andrew Johnson, 17th President of America from impeachment in 1868. One vote per precinct would have elected Richard Nixon, rather than John Kennedy, President of America in 1960. And finally it was the power of one vote that brought down Atal Bihari government in 1999. Indian Muslims must remember these historical instances because those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Given the importance of just one vote, should voting be made mandatory?

Making it mandatory may have some merits; like people would be compelled to vote out of no choice. But it has some demerits as well. Indian democracy would edge towards authoritarianism. Only on two conditions voting must be made mandatory. Firstly there must be inclusion of the concept of negative voting like negative marking in competitive exams. Secondly, there should be an option where a voter can press the button ‘none of the above’. In simple words, he can register his protest that he does not find any of the candidates suitable for the job of representation. If this option gets the maximum number of votes, there should be a reelection in the concerned constituency.

This provision will certainly empower an ordinary voter who feels let down by politicians all the time.

Now to balance our argument we must ask this question: how should we deal with political parties and politicians who go on making lengthy promises which read like a scroll of honour?
Political manifestos are inaugurated with much fanfare; but once the parties form government, it goes in the dustbin of history. Can we apply some provision of Indian Contract Act, 1872? Can political manifestos be accorded the status of a civil contract? In simple words, the contents of a manifesto should be treated like an offer; a proposal made with the intention to fulfill it. Anybody who votes for a particular party would be accepting the proposal laid down in the manifesto. Once such a ‘contract’ takes place, it should be enforceable in a court of law! Voters will have the right to implement the contents of political manifestos!

Some might term this as impractical political romanticism; but something urgently needs to be done in this regard because politicians take voters for granted. The current voting system does not encourage voters because he can’t do anything after pressing the voting button. Arundhati Roy had raised this issue in an interview once. She had said, “The stupid thing about democracy is that you go into the voting booth and push the button and you have fulfilled your duty. Now for the next five years you can sit back and allow your candidate whatever he wants.”

These matters are of serious nature and in the interests of the voters. Whoever comes to power at Centre, these issues must be raised, discussed and debated in Indian parliament because essence of democracy lies in welfare of the people.

The mood of the voter in the ongoing election can be summed up thus: Don’t vote for the best candidate, vote for the candidate who will do the least harm!

Friday, May 01, 2009

India Muslim District Votes for Attention

Kishanganj - India's largest Muslim constituency

KISHANGANJ — While religious and communal lines usually mark election battles across Hindu-majority India, development is the key word in the northernmost district of Kishanganj, India’s largest Muslim constituency.

"What we need here is an educational movement," Mohamed Mudassir Alam, one of the residents, told on Thursday, April 30.
"Education is directly linked to development," noted the 27-year-old Muslim.
Voting in the third of five stages of the India's marathon general elections got underway on Thursday in many regions, including the Muslim-dominant constituency of Kishanganj in the northern state of Bihar.
Kishanganj has about 1.2 million eligible voters, among some 144 million voters in the Asian giant nation.
here are 16 candidates contesting the polls in the constituency, with two front runners from the ruling Congress party and the National People's Party (RJD).
Many of Kishanganj residents will be giving their votes to the candidate who gives more priority to development programs.
Realizing that, competing candidates have shunned religious and ethnic rhetoric, largely employed by candidates across the country, and promised to implement social and economic projects if elected.
"Each one of the candidates is playing the development card to woo the voters," a government official told IOL.
"The people of Kishanganj are not communal. This election is fought on the issue of development."
The election results are due on May 16, and no party is expected to win a clear majority with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) going head-to-head in many areas.

Like his main contenders, Maulana Asrar ul Haque, the Congress candidate, pledges swift development reforms if elected.
"By not connecting adjoining villages to Kishanganj through roads and bridges, Public representatives have thrown Kishanganj into an abyss of darkness," he told IOL.
Lush-green Kishanganj, where Muslims constitute almost 80 percent of the population, is known as the most backward district in the country.
Many residents have migrated lately because of the lack of employment opportunities and the large scale poverty and malnutrition.
Kishanganj is also known as the region with the least female literacy in the country.
"Only 30% of the total population is literate here."
Many Muslims believe that Kishanganj has been a victim of institutionalized bias like many other Muslim-dominant areas.
"The area has its special place on the country’s map due to its closeness to international borders with Bangladesh and Nepal," notes Alam.
"But sadly, despite its important position… the area never got proper attention from the state or the central government."
He has stopped believing in politician's promises.
"Only Muslims have been elected from this constituency but still it lags behind in almost all walks of life," he fumes.
"They have connived with the government in order to continue their lavish lifestyle."
But Imran Aslam, another resident, has not lost all hope in politicians to give attention to their much ignored district.
He supports the Congress candidate and hopes this time promises would not end up as empty words.
"We need change. At least Kishanganj desperately needs change."
IslamOnline April 30 2009