Modiland Unveiled: The Real Story of Development in Gujarat

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 31 January 2011 | Posted in , , ,

[It seems that projecting the so-called development in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat has become a favorite pastime of the mainstream media in India. The issue of so-called development in Gujarat has one again come to the fore with the newly-elected Rector of prominent Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi virually giving a clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Incidentally, Maulana Vastanvi too hails from Gujarat and has his stakes in the state. He runs a string of institutions and is deeply involved in other welfare activities in and around Gujarat, and therefore needs patronage of some sort to keep his activities running. During his pro-Modi statement Maulana Vastanvi had reportedly said that all sections of the people, including Muslims are prospering without any discrimination. But insofar as the issue of development without discrimination is concerned, riot-hit Muslims continue to seek justice and are living in resettlement shanties in deplorable conditions [Please see the story carried by the IMO “Deoband Rector Maulana Gulam Vastanvi pleases CM Narendra Modi with his Modi-fied statement, Gujarat riots victims cry hoarse”]. Recently, the Gujarat government has said that it will not provide any financial aid to religious structures damaged in the 2002 riots in a reply to High Court [Please see the story “Gujarat not to aid rebuilding riot-damaged religious buildings”]. This attitude of the government amply indicates all that it is doing for the welfare of the people, particularly when Muslims are concerned. We are publishing yet another revealing story written by our senior colleague Abdul Hafiz Lakhani, which exposes the myth that is Swarnim Gujarat or Vibrant Gujarat. This detailed story with fact and figure of Gujarat's so called professed development should hopefully act as an eye-opener for those who have been singing peans to the Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. As I see it all is surely not hunky dory in Gujarat as the mainstream media would like everybody to believe. – Danish Ahmad Khan, Executive Editor]

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Swarnim Gujarat or vibrant Gujarat is a very exciting word but the ground situation in Modiland is very different. Some high rise buildings or mall culture in Western Ahmedabad, or some big and famous MNCs in capital city Gandhinagar are not the parameters of vibrancy. Unemployment is rife in the state making it difficult for Gujarat to become vibrant. Our senior correspondent from Ahmedabad pens the ground situation of employment position in Gujarat.

The number of jobless people in Swarnim Gujarat state has risen by 97,095 in the last two years according to a government agency. In other words, on an average the number of unemployed people has been rising by over 4,000 per month.

In 2007-08, there were 7, 92,033 jobless people in Gujarat but in 2008-09 this had increased to 8, 24,769. But according to the latest figures (for the 11-month period ended February 2010) available with the state's labour and employment department, the number of unemployed people in the state is now 8, 89,128.

The number of jobless people is now close to nine lakh. An interesting aspect of unemployment in Gujarat is that joblessness is particularly rife among the educated. The official data indicates that out of the 8, 89, 128 people officially unemployed in the state, only 71,762 had no education. The rest (8, 17,366) had received education at different levels.

A comparison of the latest data with unemployment figures of previous years indicates that the number of educated unemployed has risen much faster than the figure for the uneducated unemployed. This is contrary to the state government's claim that employment opportunities have increased in 'vibrant Gujarat'.

The official data is based on the number of jobless people registered with the state's employment exchanges till February this year.

A comparison of the latest data with unemployment figures of previous years indicates that the number of educated unemployed has risen much faster than the figure for the uneducated unemployed. This is contrary to the state government's claim that employment opportunities have increased in 'vibrant Gujarat'.

The latest data also indicates that the number of unemployed graduates is higher than that of the jobless with an SSC certificate. The total number of jobless graduates registered with the state's employment exchanges is 2, 42,344.

For SSC certificate holders, this figure is 2, 25,983. But the largest number of educated unemployed (2, 64,035 people) are from the Class 12-pass category. The number of jobless people with general postgraduate degrees has also increased - from 34,061 in 2007-08 to 47,472 in February 2010 - but the number of unemployed engineering graduates is only 56 percent. Unemployment among engineering graduates and post-graduates is very low compared to arts, commerce and science graduates.

While unemployment figures have continued to rise, the success rate of state-run employment exchanges in finding suitable jobs for them has been declining. In 2007-08, the number of people placed by the exchanges was 2, 00,562. This had come down to 1, 55,783 by February this year.

A senior government official said on condition of anonymity that graduates in general subjects find it difficult to get jobs as they are not sufficiently competitive. "But the state government has started vocational training in automobiles, call centres, and other similar employment avenues," the official said. "Also, once the projects for which commitment was made during different Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors' Summits (VGGIS) become operational, no one will have any problem finding jobs."

The official further said that unemployment figures provided by employment exchanges were not very reliable. People rarely took the trouble to report back to the exchanges when they had finally found a job. "And under the rules, we cannot delete their names for three years, from the list of the unemployed,'' the official said.

This sorry situation of unemployment in Gujarat did not allow the state to advance into a prosperous state free from poverty.

Gujarat has a high 31.8 per cent population living below poverty line, says a Planning Commission report. This is higher than several major states such as Jammu & Kashmir (13.2 per cent), Kerala (19.7 per cent), Punjab (20.9 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (22.9 per cent), Haryana (24.1 per cent), Tamil Nadu (28.9 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (29.9 per cent). The report was submitted to the Commission by a group of experts, headed by Suresh D Tendulkar late last year.

Ranked eighth among major states, the only consolation for Gujarat is, Maharashtra, its neighbour and one of the main economic competitors, has a much higher incidence of poverty, 38.1 per cent.

Poverty line for Gujarat – monthly expenditure of Rs 501.58 per person in rural and Rs 659.18 in urban areas – is based on National Sample Survey (NSS) norms fixed in 2005-06, which includes ‘nutritional, educational and health outcomes’, to quote from the report.

Senior expert Prof Indira Hirway says, “High incidence of poverty in rural Gujarat shows that the recent boost in agricultural production has failed to benefit the poorest of the poor, particularly farm labourers.”

Gujarat’s poverty levels may just have come down since 1993-94, when it was 37.8 per cent, but at that time only five states had lower poverty levels than Gujarat’s – Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab. It suggests that the hype around development notwithstanding, Gujarat has slipped in all-India ranking in alleviating the lot of the poor.

What is even more worrisome is that Gujarat has a much higher incidence of rural poverty (39.1 per cent) compared to other major states – Jammu & Kashmir (14.1 per cent), Kerala (20.2 per cent), Punjab (20.1 per cent), Haryana (24.8 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (32.2 per cent), Rajasthan (35.8 per cent), Assam (36.4 per cent), Tamil Nadu (37.8 per cent) and West Bengal (38.2 per cent). Incidence of rural poverty in Maharashtra, however, is much higher than Gujarat’s – 47.9 per cent.

As for urban poverty, things appear a little rosier. In Gujarat, 20.1 per cent people are found to be below poverty line, which is higher than five major states, Himachal Pradesh (4.6 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir (10.4 per cent), Kerala (18.4 per cent), Punjab (18.7 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (19.7 per cent). This finding runs counter to a state government report, submitted to 13th Finance Commission, which said that Gujarat’s urban poor, deprived of basic facilities, are worse off than the rural poor.

As long as the problem of unemployment is not solved as a step towards eradication of poverty Narendra Modi loses the right to call Gujarat as Vibrant Gujarat.

Just look at these figures. This will give you an idea about the gravity of the problem. In the past one and a half year, 683 kids went missing out of whom 413 were girls. Not all of them became targets of human trafficking though, as 386 of them returned homes safely, but the rest-315 kids--are still missing. And the Gujarat police are scouring all over the place to locate these children.

It is being discussed that after illegal arms running and drug trafficking comes human trafficking and it is the third major area of crime. It reveals that even a state like Gujarat too has become a target of this organized crime.

Exploited child labour

Last August, the city Ahmedabad police had raided several embroidery units in Rakhial and rescued 84 child labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The boys, aged between seven and 17 years, had come to Gujarat in search of employment.

Subsequent raids by juvenile remand home officials and cops on jewellery production units revealed that child labourers from West Bengal and Orissa were working in sub-human conditions for some money to send back home.

These indicators and some others, such as the number of women who went missing in Gujarat growing by 77 per cent in a span of five years, were highlighted at a two-day workshop on human trafficking, commercial sex exploitation, and child labour held recently.

The workshop, organised by voluntary organisations - Sneh Prayas and Prerna - saw representatives of police, government and 12 other voluntary organisations discuss strategies to counter the growing menace.

Menace of human trafficking in Gujarat

Participants at the workshop advocated the launching of an action plan to combat human trafficking in Gujarat. Ahmedabad collector said: "We first need to micro-detail human trafficking so that the real nature of problem is ascertained"

"An action plan on prevention and rehabilitation should be designed only after this is done," some of the participants said. Voluntary organisations proposed to monitor human trafficking in the state in co-ordination with department of women and child development, social defence and state police.

"There is an urgent need to establish a protocol to counter growing menace of human trafficking in Gujarat. In certain parts of south Gujarat and Saurashtra, there is heavy human trafficking with many cases of economically deprived women being pushed to prostitution," said Rajib Haldar, executive director of Prayas, an organisation working for juvenile justice.

"Much needs to be done by the state government to tackle this evil that has made Gujarat a hub for trafficking. This is an inter-state issue and needs co-ordination between police and government officials of western and eastern states," said Pravin Patkar of NGO Prerna.

In Gujarat, Ahmedabad has become the hub for trafficking. Most of the children who are brought here from Bihar and UP are engaged in different unorganised sectors such as zari units in Bapunagar, Saraspur and Rakhiyal areas. And children who are brought here from West Bengal and Orrisa are put into jewellery work in Ratanpole area.

Children are also forced into agarbatti-making, and are also engaged in odd jobs at hotels, restaurants, garage and bakery units. Citing reports of Ministry of Women and Child Development, and National Human Rights Commission, the NGO claimed there are at least 35,000 girls who are involved in the shrimp processing plants in Gujarat.

Women exploited for sex

According to the NGO, there are at least 1,46,550 commercial sex workers in Gujarat, and 70 per cent of them have been forced into the trade through trafficking.

''The Mukherjee & Mukherjee report had said that Gujarat comes under high concentration zone with thousands of women engaged in commercial sex in Surat, Sabarkantha, Rajkot, Anand, Junagarh, Vadodara, Gandhidham, Ahmedabad, Dahod and areas along NH 8. ''The same report has said that girls of Gujarat are sent to states like Andhra Pradesh, Daman and Diu, Maharashtra and Orissa. Similarly, sex workers from Maharashtra, AP, MP, UP and West Bengal pour in here through trafficking,'' Haldar said.

Ahmedabad Not Safe for Women

Ahmedabad is referred to in numerous ways - a city of pools, a city of foodies, a city of entrepreneurs. More importantly, it is known for the freedom and security it offers to women. However, this status of being a' safe city' may be slipping away from aapnu Amdavad.

An examination of data with the police commissioner's office reveals that in the past one year, crimes against women in the city have increased sharply, in some cases alarmingly. Sample this: between August 2008 and August 2009, 325 women were targeted by chain-snatchers. This figure rose to 492 during August 2009-2010.

From August 2008 to August 2009, 106 cases of women being abducted were registered at various police stations. This number, too, increased during August 2009-2010. It's not thatwomen face threats only on main city streets. The situation at their homes is equally hostile.

Tormented at their own homes

During August 2008-09, 568 women faced harassment by their husbands or in-laws, or by both. A year later, it has emerged that more than 860 women have endured torment and abuse at their spouses' homes.

The most disturbing fact arising from an examination of police records is that the number of women who lost their lives following demands of dowry went up from 1 in August 2008-09 to 8 during August 2009-10. The only fact the city can take some comfort in is that the number of cases of rape and molestation have gone down, though only marginally. Sociologist Gaurang Jani, who supports various causes of women, said that women were soft targets for criminals.

"There are many factors why crimes against women have gone up. One of the reasons is that more women are now working and studying. As their visibility has increased, criminals are increasingly targeting them," he said. "What is upsetting is that women face crimes at home and away from home."

Jani feels groups working for public welfare should create awareness in society on improving security for women. "Safety of women is an important issue, and it simply cannot be overlooked. Our society needs to protect its female members," he said.

An inspector at mahila police station in Karanj, C N Choudhary, rued the fact that cases of domestic violence were on the rise. "There are many laws for protection of women. However, most women are not aware of these laws. They do not raise their voice fearing a backlash from their family," she said. "Women should not silently suffer. They should approach us if they are being victimised. Even if they file an application, we will take action, " she emphasized.

Advocate Anil Kella said that male tendency to dominate was one of the reasons behind rising instances of harassment. "Women are better educated, and are surpassing men in every field and domain. Some men are unable to digest this fact and unnecessarily feel threatened," he said.
There are many laws for protection of women. However, most women do not raise their voices fearing a backlash from their families said C N Choudhary, an inspector at mahila police station in Karanj.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 009228746770]

Denial of permission for school upgrade violates minority rights: panel

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By J. Venkatesan

Kerala asked to upgrade a Thrissur upper primary school

NEW DELHI: Refusal of permission by a State government to a Muslim upper primary school for being upgraded as a high school is a violation of the educational rights of the minorities enshrined in Article 30 (1) of the Constitution, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions has held.

Rejecting the Kerala government's contention that the permission could not be granted in view of a policy decision, the Commission, headed by its Chairman Justice M.S.A. Siddiqui, said: “The fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 30 (1) cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the policy of the State government.”

The Commission said: “The parameters empirically evaluated by the Sachchar Committee in the areas of elementary and higher education have shown that among comparable groups, Muslims are scratching the educational barrel of the country. The Central government has also made some positive efforts to address various aspects of Muslim deprivation and also to enhance the inclusiveness of the Muslim community.”

“But the larger malice of exclusion,” it said, “has to be fought at the national and State levels. Education can be a liberating capability but often access to it is made difficult by some misguided elements in the State government. The present case is a glaring example of Muslim deprivation in … education.”

In the instant case, MIC Orphanage UP School in Thrissur district approached the Commission after it was denied permission to upgrade itself as a high school. Counsel for the school Haris Beeran submitted that the school was denied permission despite the recommendation by the Deputy Director of Education, Thrissur. But, Counsel for Kerala P.V. Dinesh submitted that permission could not be granted since the government adopted a policy not to upgrade schools except under special circumstances.

The school had all infrastructure and instructional facilities for upgradation, the Commission said, pointing out that in view of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the government was also under a constitutional obligation to provide free and compulsory elementary education to every child aged 6-14. It recommended that the State government permit the school to be upgraded as a high school. (courtesy: The Hindu)

Japanese youth in the whirlwind of joblessness

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,


TOKYO — Kenichi Horie was a promising auto engineer, exactly the sort of youthful talent Japan needs to maintain its edge over hungry Korean and Chinese rivals. As a worker in his early 30s at a major carmaker, Mr. Horie won praise for his design work on advanced biofuel systems.

The Great Deflation

But like many young Japanese, he was a so-called irregular worker, kept on a temporary staff contract with little of the job security and half the salary of the “regular” employees, most of them workers in their late 40s or older. After more than a decade of trying to gain regular status, Mr. Horie finally quit — not just the temporary jobs, but Japan altogether.

He moved to Taiwan two years ago to study Chinese.

“Japanese companies are wasting the young generations to protect older workers,” said Mr. Horie, now 36. “In Japan, they closed the doors on me. In Taiwan, they tell me I have a perfect résumé.”

As this fading economic superpower rapidly grays, it desperately needs to increase productivity and unleash the entrepreneurial energies of its shrinking number of younger people. But Japan seems to be doing just the opposite. This has contributed to weak growth and mounting pension obligations, major reasons Standard & Poor’s downgraded Japan’s sovereign debt rating on Thursday.

“There is a feeling among young generations that no matter how hard we try, we can’t get ahead,” said Shigeyuki Jo, 36, co-author of “The Truth of Generational Inequalities.” “Every avenue seems to be blocked, like we’re butting our heads against a wall.”

An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

A nation that produced Sony, Toyota and Honda has failed in recent decades to nurture young entrepreneurs, and the game-changing companies that they can create, like Google or Apple — each started by entrepreneurs in their 20s.

Employment figures underscore the second-class status of many younger Japanese. While Japan’s decades of stagnation have increased the number of irregular jobs across all age groups, the young have been hit the hardest.

Last year, 45 percent of those ages 15 to 24 in the work force held irregular jobs, up from 17.2 percent in 1988 and as much as twice the rate among workers in older age groups, who cling tenaciously to the old ways. Japan’s news media are now filled with grim accounts of how university seniors face a second “ice age” in the job market, with just 56.7 percent receiving job offers before graduation as of October 2010 — an all-time low.

“Japan has the worst generational inequality in the world,” said Manabu Shimasawa, a professor of social policy at Akita University who has written extensively on such inequalities. “Japan has lost its vitality because the older generations don’t step aside, allowing the young generations a chance to take new challenges and grow.”

Disparities and Dangers

While many nations have aging populations, Japan’s demographic crisis is truly dire, with forecasts showing that 40 percent of the population will be 65 and over by 2055. Some of the consequences have been long foreseen, like deflation: as more Japanese retire and live off their savings, they spend less, further depressing Japan’s anemic levels of domestic consumption. But a less anticipated outcome has been the appearance of generational inequalities.

These disparities manifest themselves in many ways. As Mr. Horie discovered, there are corporations that hire all too many young people for low-paying, dead-end jobs — in effect, forcing them to shoulder the costs of preserving cushier jobs for older employees. Others point to an underfinanced pension system so skewed in favor of older Japanese that many younger workers simply refuse to pay; a “silver democracy” that spends far more on the elderly than on education and child care — an issue that is familiar to Americans; and outdated hiring practices that have created a new “lost generation” of disenfranchised youth.

Nagisa Inoue, a senior at Tokyo’s Meiji University, said she was considering paying for a fifth year at her university rather than graduating without a job, an outcome that in Japan’s rigid job market might permanently taint her chances of ever getting a higher-paying corporate job. That is because Japanese companies, even when they do offer stable, regular jobs, prefer to give them only to new graduates, who are seen as the more malleable candidates for molding into Japan’s corporate culture.

And the irony, Ms. Inoue said, is that she does not even want to work at a big corporation. She would rather join a nonprofit environmental group, but that would also exclude her from getting a so-called regular job.

“I’d rather have the freedom to try different things,” said Ms. Inoue, 22. “But in Japan, the costs of doing something different are just too high.”

Many social experts say a grim economy has added to the pressures to conform to Japan’s outdated, one-size-fits-all employment system. An online survey by students at Meiji University of people across Japan ages 18 to 22 found that two-thirds felt that youths did not take risks or new challenges, and that they instead had become a generation of “introverts” who were content or at least resigned to living a life without ambition.

“There is a mismatch between the old system and the young generations,” said Yuki Honda, a professor of education at the University of Tokyo. “Many young Japanese don’t want the same work-dominated lifestyles of their parents’ generation, but they have no choices.”

Facing a rising public uproar, the Welfare Ministry responded late last year by advising employers to recognize someone as a new graduate for up to three years after graduation. It also offers subsidies of up to 1.8 million yen, or about $22,000 per person, to large companies that offer so-called regular jobs to new graduates.

But perhaps nowhere are the roadblocks to youthful enterprise so evident, and the consequences to the Japanese economy so dire, as in the failure of entrepreneurship.

The nation had just 19 initial public offerings in 2009, according to Tokyo-based Next Company, compared with 66 in the United States. More telling is that even Japan’s entrepreneurs are predominantly from older generations: according to the Trade Ministry, just 9.1 percent of Japanese entrepreneurs in 2002 were in their 20s, compared with 25 percent in the United States.

“Japan has become a zero-sum game,” said Yuichiro Itakura, a failed Internet entrepreneur who wrote a book about his experience. “Established interests are afraid a young newcomer will steal what they have, so they won’t do business with him.”

Many Japanese economists and policy makers have long talked of fostering entrepreneurship as the best remedy for Japan’s economic ills. And it is an idea that has a historical precedent here: as the nation rose from the ashes of World War II, young Japanese entrepreneurs produced a host of daring start-ups that overturned entire global industries.

Entrepreneur’s Rise and Fall

But many here say that Japan’s economy has ossified since its glory days, and that the nation now produces few if any such innovative companies. To understand why, many here point to the fate of one of the nation’s best-known Internet tycoons, Takafumi Horie.

When he burst onto the national scene early in the last decade, he was the most un-Japanese of business figures: an impish young man in his early 30s who wore T-shirts into boardrooms, brazenly flouted the rules by starting hostile takeovers and captured an era when a rejuvenated Japanese economy seemed to finally be rebounding. He was arrested five years ago and accused of securities fraud in what seemed a classic case of comeuppance, with the news media demonizing him as a symbol of an unsavory, freewheeling American-style capitalism.

In 2007, a court found him guilty of falsifying company records, a ruling that he is appealing. But in dozens of interviews, young Japanese brought him up again and again as a way of explaining their generation’s malaise. To them, he symbolized something very different: a youthful challenger who was crushed by a reactionary status quo. His arrest, they said, was a warning to all of them not to rock the boat.

“It was a message that it is better to quietly and obediently follow the established conservative order,” Mr. Horie, now 37, wrote in an e-mail.

He remains for many a popular, if almost subversive figure in Japan, where he is once again making waves by unrepentantly battling the charges in court, instead of meekly accepting the judgment, as do most of those arrested. He now has more than a half-million followers on Twitter, more than the prime minister, and publicly urges people to challenge the system.

“Horie has been the closest thing we had to a role model,” said Noritoshi Furuichi, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Tokyo who wrote a book about how young Japanese were able to remain happy while losing hope. “He represents a struggle between old Japan and new Japan.”

The Great Deflation

Mr. Furuichi and many other young Japanese say that young people here do not react with anger or protest, instead blaming themselves and dropping out, or with an almost cheerful resignation, trying to find contentment with horizons that are far more limited than their parents’.

In such an atmosphere, young politicians say it is hard to mobilize their generation to get interested in politics.

Ryohei Takahashi was a young city council member in the Tokyo suburb of Ichikawa who joined a group of other young politicians and activists in issuing a “Youth Manifesto,” which urged younger Japanese to stand up for their interests.

In late 2009, he made a bid to become the city’s mayor on a platform of shifting more spending toward young families and education. However, few younger people showed an interest in voting, and he ended up trying to cater to the city’s most powerful voting blocs: retirees and local industries like construction, all dominated by leaders in their 50s and 60s.

“Aging just further empowers older generations,” said Mr. Takahashi, 33. “In sheer numbers, they win hands down.”

He lost the election, which he called a painful lesson that Japan was becoming a “silver democracy,” where most budgets and spending heavily favored older generations.

Social experts say the need to cut soaring budget deficits means that younger Japanese will never receive the level of benefits enjoyed by retirees today. Calculations show that a child born today can expect to receive up to $1.2 million less in pensions, health care and other government spending over the course of his life than someone retired today; in the national pension system alone, this gap reaches into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Abandoning the System

The result is that young Japanese are fleeing the program in droves: half of workers below the age of 35 now fail to make their legally mandated payments, even though that means they must face the future with no pension at all. “In France, the young people take to the streets,” Mr. Takahashi said. “In Japan, they just don’t pay.”

Or they drop out, as did many in Japan’s first “lost generation” a decade ago.

One was Kyoko, who was afraid to give her last name for fear it would further damage her job prospects. Almost a decade ago, when she was a junior at Waseda University here, she was expected to follow postwar Japan’s well-trodden path to success by finding a job at a top corporation. She said she started off on the right foot, trying to appear enthusiastic at interviews without being strongly opinionated — the balance that appeals to Japanese employers, who seek hard-working conformists.

But after interviewing at 10 companies, she said she suffered a minor nervous breakdown, and stopped. She said she realized that she did not want to become an overworked corporate warrior like her father.

By failing to get such a job before graduating, Kyoko was forced to join the ranks of the “freeters” — an underclass of young people who hold transient, lower-paying irregular jobs. Since graduating in 2004 she has held six jobs, none of them paying unemployment insurance, pension or a monthly salary of more than 150,000 yen, or about $1,800.

“I realized that wasn’t who I wanted to be,” recalled Kyoko, now 29. “But why has being myself cost me so dearly?”

Assamese Muslims seek due representation

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

GUWAHATI, Dec 27 – The Khilonjia Musalman Jatiya Mahasabha, the largest organisation of the Assamese speaking Muslims, expressed concern at the gradual deprivation of the Assamese Muslims in respect of the various constitutional benefits, including legislative representation, educational and employment opportunities and urged upon the larger Assamese community not to ignore the legitimate claims of their weaker brethren in their common struggle, a press release said. The Mahasabha which held a largely attended function at Hatigaon on December 25 last to pay homage in memory of Al Haj Professor Bazlur Rahman Barua, a founder member of the Khilonjia Musalman Jatiya Mahasabha, urged upon the Government to provide proper representation to the Assamese speaking Muslims both in the Assembly and in the Parliament.

Addressing the meeting as the chief guest, D N Chakravarty, senior journalist, referred to the great contributions of the Assamese Muslims towards the growth and development of the great Assamese culture and literature. He also dwelt at length on the contributions of Prof BR Barua as a teacher, planner and social activities.

Prof Barua was known for his Catholicity of views, profound knowledge about Assamese Culture and as valiant fighter for the cause of the poor and the downtrodden.

The meeting held under the presidentship of Md Muhiuddin Ahmed was addressed by Prof Hiren Dutta, Md Azizur Rahman, Aminuddin Ahmed, Advocate Akdas Ali Mir, eminent writer Eli Ahmed and Abdul Zelil.

The eldest son of Prof Barua Sadikur Rahman Barua offered the vote of thanks. Rafiul Hussain Barua and Dr P Ahmed also spoke.

Christian outfits denounce the report of Somasekhara Commission

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IMO News Service

There is a growing number of Christian organizations which reject the report of Justice B.K Somasekhara on atrocities against the Christian community of Karnataka, mainly on the ground that it absolves the police and the BJP government in the state from any responsibility.

The state government requested Justice Somasekhara to set an inquiry on the communal attacks of September 2008 when some 113 violent incidents were recorded in 29 districts of Karnataka. In Bangalore, vandals attacked the Holy Name of Jesus Church, threw stones at a statue of Our Lady, badly damaging it. Also in Bangalore, thugs looted St James Church, desecrating the Eucharist and smashing up furniture and benches.

The commission appointed by the state government began its inquiry in October 2008. It held hearings in Mangalore, Bangalore, Davangere and Udupi, accepting about 1,500 petitions and 34 lawyers who pleaded for various groups.

While slamming the findings of the Somasekhara Commission constituted for investigating incidents of attacks on churches in the State, Karnataka Chraista Ranga-India (KCR-India) urged the State Government to reject the report and provide relief to the Christian institutions that had suffered.

Addressing media at Banglore, KCR-India president Benedict Balu felt that the saddest part of the report was the “clean chit” given by the commission to the police, who allegedly colluded with the attackers, the district administrations of the costal districts, and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh parivar.

He reminded that in its interim report of February 2010, the commission has stated that a strong impression was afloat that members Hindutva setups such as Bajrang Dal, Sri Rama Sene and VHP were responsible and the interim was giving clear indication that some police officers, the district administrations and heads of panchayats in some districts colluded with the attackers. His contention was that the commission has submitted a “tailor-made” report “as wanted by the Government.”

Earlier the Global Council of Indian Christians have slammed the report on 2008 hooligan against the Christians stating it be a biased report and an example of the double standards applied to Christians and Hindus involved in the unrest.

Stating that the report of the commission would divide the society, the KCR-India members urged the State Government to provide protection to the Christian community in the State and initiate action against police officers, who allegedly colluded with the attackers.

The Story of the Accession of the Princely State of Junagarh

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 January 2011 | Posted in , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The story of the integration of the Princely States of India continues to fascinate the researchers and authors who diligently wade though the piles of manuscripts and record books kept in the archives to reconstruct a picture of the bygone era.

The latest addition to such literature is a booklet on the Princely State of Junagarh by SM Pasha, an academic and journalist based in Chennai. The author is engaged in a self assigned project to write afresh the story of the controversial Princely States of India that had problem with signing the instrument of accession. This is the second in the series, the first being on the Princely State of Hyderabad.

The author feels that the present generation is unaware of some hard facts of the contemporary and they should be fed with correct information so that can develop their perspective on such issue and help them make their own judgment.

SM Pasha has named his booklet “The Princely State of Junagarh Dead or Alive.” This is because the princely state which is geographically dead in India, is politically alive in Karachi, Pakistan, where at “Junagarh House” the Junagarh state flag flies on its mast.

The Pakistan government still recognizes Nawab Mohmmad Jahngir Khanji, the grandson of the last Nawab Mohmmad Mahabat Khanji as the present Nawab of Junagarh and installed him with all pomp as the eleventh Nawab of a State in exile on October 9, 1991. It has an official website http://www.junagadhstate.org/home.html

Junagarh State was located at the foot of the Girnar hills, 355 km south west of Ahmedabad and is currently, the district headquarters of Gujarat state. It had an area of about 3,336 sq. miles and was bounded on the south by the Arabian sea and had sixteen ports of which the main one was Veraval. It had a population was about five lakhs and forty five thousand, of them 80% being Hindus.

The ninth and the last Nawab Mohmmad Mahabat Khanji III ascended the throne as a minor on the January, 22, 1911. He was educated at Mayo College, and ruled under regency until his formal accession on 31 March 1920. He was at the helm of affair till 1947, when the drama of the instrument of accession unfolded at Junagarh.

Nawab Mohmmad Mahabat Khanji was known for his extreme love of animals, particularly dogs. At one point, the Nawab possessed over 300 canines. His love for animals extended to the regional wildlife, particularly the Asiatic lion, and is credited for preserving vast tracts of the Gir forest to provide the lions with a stable habitat. He was also interested in animal husbandry, and made efforts to improve the breeding stock of the local Kathiawadi stallions and of the Gir cows. The Nawab also saw the opening of the Willingdon Dam, the construction of the Bahadur Khanji library and the Mahabat Khan College. During his reign, not a single Hindu-Muslim clash occurred in Junagarh.

When the letter of instrument of accession was sent to the Nawab with choices to opt between India and Pakistan, he on August 15, 1947, announced the accession of Junagarh state to the newly created country Pakistan.

The rulers of the adjoining States particularly the Hindu Rajah of Dharanggadhra protested against Junagarh state’s decision to the accession to Pakistan as serious threat to its security. The Government of India also described the accession as a threatening cloud over the western horizon of India.

Rabidly communal Hindus went about delivering lectures and writing articles that it was a unpardonable act and called upon their co-religionists to beware of the “modern-day Mahmood Ghaznvis and to save Somnath”.

To all such criticism, the Nawab curtly replied: “The Indian Independence Act did not and does not require a Ruler to consult his people before deciding on Accession. I think we are making unnecessary fetish of the argument of geographical contiguity. Even then, this is sufficiently provided by Junagarh sea with several ports, which can keep connection with Pakistan.”

Pasha writes that for diplomatic and strategic reasons, Indian forces did not entered Junagarh State and chalked out a different plan to action to avoid criticism of naked aggression.

Under such plan, on September, 17, 1947, V.P. Menon, the then Secretary of States rushed to Junagarh with a special message from the Government of India that advised the Nawab to withdraw his accession to Pakistan. However, Menon could not meet the Nawab as he was indisposed, but construed this ruse to avoid him and expressed his displeasure to the Dewan of the State of Junagarh, Shah Nawaz Bhutto.

Bhitto explained to Menon that since the Instrument of Accession was duly signed, and the accession was complete and cannot be withdrawn, the proper course could be to talk to the Government of Pakistan on this issue.

Menon left Junagarh fuming and warned the Dewan of dire consequences. He went to Bombay from there and called for a press conference to announce the formation of Provisional Government of Junagarh that was formally formed on September, 25 1947 with Saamar Das Gandhi, a relative of Mahathma Gandhi, as its president.

Meanwhile, the Government of India made preparations for the annexation of Junagarh asking the army of the States in Kathaiwar to be suitably dispersed around Junagarh. On the 4th of October, the Chiefs of Staff were directed to instruct the Commander of the Kathiawar Defence Forces to prepare a plan for the occupation of Babariawad and Mangrol, the two pockets inside Junagarh state but outside its suzerainty and had acceded to the Indian Union.

As a part of the preparation for the annexation of Junagarh, the Government of India constituted a “Kathiwar Division” of the Indian Army with Brigadier Gurdial Singh as the Chief with Rajkot as Headquarters. Besides, three War Ships were anchored at the port of Porbunder and eight Tempest War planes were stationed at the Rajkot Airport.

Babariawad and Mangrol were first to be reclaimed on November 1, 1947 and the civil administration was quick to march to occupy the ‘Junagarh House,’ at Rajkot.

While all this was going on, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, wrote to the Government of India, on November 8, 1947 to avoid bloodshed, hardship, loss of life and property and to preserve the dynasty seeking assistance to maintain law and order before a settlement of the Junagarh’s accession to Pakistan was reached.

The Government of India did not cared about such request and took over ‘Sardargarh,’ a neighboring town of ‘Bantava’ first and then ‘Bantva’ on November 9, 1947, before completing the occupation of Junagarh state on the same date. Many Muslims by then had fled to Pakistan and that included the Nawab of Junagarh, his dogs, and his Dewan.

A plebiscite was organized by the Government of India on February 29, 1949 where out of 2, 01,457 registered voters, 1,90,870 exercised their franchise, of which only 90 cast their votes in favor of Pakistan.

Pasha writes that two things are little known to the public of this high voltage drama, one, the Government of India at that time was strongly in favor of a plebiscite to be held in Junagarh, so that it can lay its legal claim over the state, second, the case between Pakistan and India, a prop of the accession of Junagarh to Pakistan, is still pending before the United Nations for disposal and is not formally withdrawn as in the case of Hyderabad state.

Pasha further writes that India’s move to annex Junagarh was just and fair, however he rues that India’s decision to hold on “Kashmir” is morally wrong and legally unjust. He cites a cable note by the American Embassy, New Delhi on October, 28, 1947, to its State Department that says: “the obvious solution before the governments of India and Pakistan is to agree to the accession of Hyderabad and Junagarh to India and of Kashmir to Pakistan.”

Pasha says had the then government of India headed to such an advice, the “Kashmir problem” that fangs with its entire vicissitudes today may have long been put to rest. He prophases that carrying the baggage of history too far may momentarily halt the process, it no way can stop the ‘inevitable.’

Any quires regarding the booklet “The Princely State of Junagarh Dead or Alive” can be obtained by directly writing to SM Pasha to his E mail ID syedmuhammadpasha@yahoo.com

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Memorandum submitted to Madhya Pradesh Governor to protest demolition of Indore Masjid

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: Adv. Haji Mohammad Haroon, president Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind, Madhya Pradesh unit, has submitted a memorandum to the state Governor Rameshwar Thakur urging him to use his good offices to prevail over the concerned authorities and agencies engaged in widening of roads to restrain them from demolishing Masjids that are coming in the way. The memorandum has also been sent to Government of India and chairman of the state Waqf Board.

Adv. Haroon, who is also president of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee’s Minority Department, in the memorandum said that there should be an immediate ban on demolishing Masjids in the state in the name of widening of roads. Alternative methods and means must be applied in the widening of roads or constructing new ones to keep alive the historical traditions of communal harmony. Then only restlessness in minorities, especially Muslims, can be done away with and confidence can be instilled in them.

He warned the Central Government, Madhya Pradesh Government, Indore District administration and the state Waqf Board on the proposed plan to demolish Bilal Masjid in Chhoti Khajrani locality of Indore for widening of a road. He said the Masjid is registered in the Waqf Board and is listed in the 1989 Gazette Notification. Before independence of the country “Namaz” is being offered in the Masjid regularly. Ignoring such facts if the demolition is carried out then it would be travesty of justice and Muslims can never reconcile to this act of high-handedness of the concerned authorities.

Adv. Haroon reminded that history is replete with the fact that for religious places roads have been constructed and there has been no tradition to demolish these for widening of roads. If anyone indulges in acts against these traditions then it is the democratic right of Muslims to register their protest over illegal actions, he added.

[Pervez Bari is a Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

Islam and the concept of equality in India

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Kancha Ilaiah

The social role of Islam in the Indian subcontinent has become a topic of global debate. The liberal world is looking at Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh as “bad states” and as uncritical and undemocratic societies because of the issues they grapple with.

There is a view that Islam has not gone through any reform, while other religious and civil societies have passed through reform after reform. There is a strong view that the Islamic civil societies are resisting reform, even while a religion like Hinduism, which practices caste and untouchability, is willing to change.

This view is now acquiring global acceptability with the recent developments in Pakistan — particularly in relation to the blasphemy laws.

Before examining this view, we must understand the social role of Islam in the subcontinent.
Before Islam came to India, there were two notions of God in India. One was that of Vaidic Brahminism, which believed that God (Brahma) created Indians into unequal varnas (or castes); The other was the Buddhist view of God, which was essentially agnostic. Though the Christian notion of God was also prevalent, it was confined to a small region, that of Kerala.
Once the Islamic traders came along, the notion of Allah, who created all human beings as equal (irrespective of caste, tribe and race), spread across the Indian subcontinent.

Though this was followed by the invasion of Muslim rulers, the Sufi movement began and started acquiring a pan-India character by the end of the 11th century itself. It was mainly from the Muslims and the Sufi movement that the Hindu notion of spiritual exclusion, which was based on caste, tribe and race, got challenged. Perhaps this caused enormous exodus of lower castes into Islam and the plural but unequal castes began to be homogenised within Indian Islam. At that stage, in the land of caste (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and so on), Islam became a massive agent of inclusiveness and oneness.

This new practice of homogenising hierarchal and unequal castes was seen as a blasphemous act by the native Hindu spiritual pundits. This must have resulted in enormous violence and counter violence in the subcontinent.

Islam in the process achieved what was difficult for even the Buddhists. As we know, by 1947 about 31 per cent of Indians (mostly lower castes) embraced Islam and thus the present Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh emerged as Muslim nations. This happened merely because of the inclusive spiritual policy of Islam in general and of the Sufi saints in particular.

Let us not forget that the inclusive Muslim trade even in the villages played a key role in expanding Islam. In fact, it seems to have broken what Karl Marx called “the self-sufficient (but under developed) village economy”.

Today the practice of untouchability exists in Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism because of their notions of “blasphemy”.

The Christian world, which is attacking the Islamic blasphemy laws as medieval, should know that the Indian church — particularly the Catholic Church — still practices untouchability and casteism through a different mode of blasphemy laws that are borrowed from the Hindu system. 
We do not have any statistical data on how many dalits and lower castes were punished or even killed in places such as Kerala by Syrians and Marthomas for engaging in social intercourse with upper castes — the character Velutha in Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things is a good example.

Now one central argument around “Islam as a global religion” is that it homogenises its civil societal order so much so that it does not allow any contending pluralities to exist.

Such a trend from within stagnates its civil societal transformation, for transformation requires pluralities to operate at least vertically. Blasphemy laws work as instruments against change and transformation.

Islam seems to have worked out the theory of blasphemy that makes it tightly inclusive. But this very tightly inclusive spiritual policy evolved through the Islamic history also made the expansion of Islam into caste society possible.

The caste culture worked out a theory and practice of blasphemy to establish strictly exclusivist social units. God in that society is not seen as a social unifier but as a divider. The strength of Islam and also the language of Urdu — perhaps after the decline of Pali — was unification through a spiritual discourse of inclusion and oneness of soul, body and the social organism.
What the Christian West has not noticed is that Indian Islam succeeded in abolishing untouchability from its social fold totally, though caste exists in some form.

Pakistan came into existence as an aggressive Islamic state. The Christian world has to understand its trauma and it must also ponder why it has failed to abolish untouchability within the fold of Indian Christianity.

Thus, the notion of blasphemy should not only be understood in terms of attack on one particular belief of God or a Prophet, but should also be understood as abusing a human being’s rights against the other in relation to God. This is where the discourse around God and the multiple forms of blasphemies must expand.

(Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle)

OPINION: Our Thoughts are Incoherent & Disorganized

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Dr. Wasim Ahmad

We are not able to reach to conclusions on many issues of importance because our thoughts are incoherent and disorganized. It is like having a road in front of us and the road is broken and has gaps after every few feet. But we assume that the road is smooth and continuous. 

Resultantly, we keep falling in those gaps. We mix up a lot many issues in a flood of confusion.
We will say that Islam is a complete way of life and then divide the affairs of life into ‘secular’ and ‘religious’. Isn’t Islam a religion and it is complete? Then why this division? We will, however, not prepare a list of ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ matters despite being earnestly requested to do so – repeatedly.

I come across people once in a while who say that that they have ‘made’ hijrah from the West. (We made a hijrah in the Indian Subcontinent and should only read the headlines of one newspaper – everyday.) I am wonderstruck at this huge gap. They will believe that Islam is the best way of life and it is for the entire humanity. But practically they will exclude a significant part of the world from the ‘entire’ humanity and the ‘whole’ world. And they will not see the self-contradiction.

When we emphasize on the need for a huge component of rote learning and memorization in our curriculum then we give an impression that “We have actually tried hard with critical and scientific thinking. But it proved to be disastrous, you know. It did not produce the desired results (???). The students are not hard-working anymore, you see. They want it easy. You know how the new generation is. Our times were different. And you know they don’t send bright students to madrasaahs.”

An eminent speaker I met the other day. He started lamenting that the people do not send ‘bright’ children to madrasaahs. (I haven’t seen any students who aren’t bright – in their own way. Just as I haven’t seen any ‘ordinary’ and ‘common’ human beings in my life.) On the other hand, he was complaining that the syllabi of these institutions are extremely old. He did not realize why the people should send their ‘bright’ children to madrasaahs if the syllabi are so outdated.

I could not understand why the ‘bright’ students should be sent to these institutions if the curriculum is not up-to-date. How could or will an up-to-date teacher teach an outdated curriculum is beside the point. As if it was not enough, the respectable speaker started complaining about the graduates of madrasaahs. This wasn’t enough either. He was of the view that the madrasaahs should completely teach the Tafseer of the whole Qur’an and a student must necessarily go over the entire Qur’an – at least in translation.

I could not get a definite answer to my question about what was the real problem; the curriculum, the methodology, the students not being ‘bright’ or the Qur’an not being taught in full. We face a difficulty in staying focused on one subject while communicating with the ‘traditionally’ educated. With much difficulty I drew the attention of the gentleman to the core issue as he frequently stepped into sideways.

The ‘modern’ educated are very much appreciable in this regard. As a people, however, we need to develop a habit of staying with the problems longer. It will require that we stop repeating those sentences which we have heard a thousand times. The situations demand that we start ‘chewing the cud’.

We will talk about the need for more engagement with the fellow countrymen of other Faiths but will establish and perpetuate those educational institutions which are the antithesis of cohesion and engagement. Without noticing the self-contradiction. We will talk about Haqq-O-Baatil and will advise, too, for adhering to the former. We will, however, not call a spade a spade. We will still beat about the bush and stay away from the crux of it.

We read a lot of articles from many writers from all over the world. This is very important. But there is one apprehension. We might think that the journalists from across the globe will provide a solution to the problems. If we do so we may be mistaken. How could those who do not have the whole picture (who aren’t sure where the man has come from, what is he expected to do on earth and where is he going to) provide a solution to the vexed (???) problems of the world? If they still do that, it will be rare and, of course, admirable.

We are extremely concerned about educating every Muslim child but we do not know why we should do that. So we don’t know the reasons of this concern for Muslims which has become a kind of fashion now. It gives an instant impression that “I am in a much better situation, thank God.” No, we are not “in a much better situation”.

We ALL are poor (muflis). But there is something that does not allow us to concede that we are poor. We go about the idea of reform in circles and circles. I wonder if so many among us are trying to make things better – and for so long – then why don’t we see the results? The incoherence and disorganization in our thoughts is the diehard enemy of results.

Please don’t ever get impressed by quotations from Qur’an or Hadeeth or from history etc. It is most likely that the quotations will be out of context – ignoring the broader picture. It is most likely that we belong to a situation like Makkan and the quotation is of a Madeenan context, for example. There is also a slight chance that we may not be belonging to either of the two periods.

There is a possibility that the quotation is from a person who is sure about everything and has never been slightly confused about even a few things. May be the quotation is a result of deep conditioning. May be the sermon is from someone who has never tried to put all the ideas (or pieces of a jigsaw puzzle) in order and organize them. So we shouldn’t take chances.

The incoherence and disorganization in our thoughts (which naturally leads to incoherent and disorganized actions – and there is no force that can stop it from happening) is eating into our vitals. What to do now? We need to be watchful in our conversations. We have to very carefully and critically listen to every speech or read every piece of writing (including this one). We have to be many times more cautious than we have ever been.

We shouldn’t do so only when we are in the gathering of ‘others’. We need to do this even more when we are in ‘our own’ gatherings. If we do not do so, the discourse will not change which is precisely what we need to change. We will not be moving to the second stage which is long overdue. This is the price that we as a people have to pay for a CHANGE which we all are yearning to see.

[Dr. Wasim Ahmad is Department Head of Islamic Studies, Preston University, Ajman, UAE. He can be contacted at malikwasimahmad@gmail.com or +971505363235]

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