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Is it feasible for Indian Muslims to have a separate political identity?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 28 July 2013 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Kaleem Kawaja

Recently, Asad Owaisi and Majlis Ittihad Muslimeen (MIM) gave a call to Indian Muslims to develop their separate political identity. Let us examine if this is feasible. Indeed Asad Owaisi and MIM seem to be trying the same strategy as the erstwhile Muslim League did in the Pakistan movement in the 1940s.

We know that in 1947 when the rulers were British (not Hindus) this policy ran into very rough weather. At that time Muslims were one-third of India and had definite population majorities in the West and East (what became Pakistan) and the British were keen to leave India in the aftermath of WWII. Also Muslims' strength in the economy and military was very substantial.

Still, with the threat of sectarian civil war, which if it happened, Muslims could hurt Hindus some, the land that Pakistan received was, "a moth eaten Pakistan". Both Punjab and Bengal that should have gone entirely to Pakistan, using the British criteria for partition based on population majority, did not. Both states were partitioned and India was given about a quarter of the land from both states. Kashmir that should have gone to Pakistan using the same criteria, was simply denied to Pakistan in violation of the criteria.

So today with Muslims spread thinly in the country and only a few pockets of concentration, where is the feasibility of Muslims forming a religion based political identity? Such identity is immidiately perceived as separatist. In socio-economic and educational terms Muslims are at the very bottom of Indian society. Even the erstwhile Dalits are moving ahead of them.

And remember that today BJP and its influence in Hindu society (including in Congress party and other secular parties) is loud and clear and is there to stay. Scratch the surface and it comes out. If Indian Muslims build a religion based political identity that will give instantaneous prominence to BJP's Hindu Rashtra claim, with a lot of Congress Hindus embracing it quickly. In that environment it will not take much for the constitution of India to be revised to drop the creed of secularism. And the game will be over before half time. BJP had already attempted this during their sojourn as the government at the Center, ten years ago.

In contrast the two significant Muslim controlled paries (AIUDF and IUML) have downplayed Muslim political identity per se and have instead embraced all minorities and depressed segments of society including Dalits, and are able to gain some justice and opportunities for Muslims in the name of the hallowed secular constitution of India. IUML despite its name is distinctly non-religious.

There are a significant number of Muslims in India who support the Owaisi/MIM type unrealistic thinking. In my opinion these are remnants of the etstwhile Muslim League supporters in North India and Razakar supporters in Andhra Pradesh, who could not migrate to Pakistan in 1947. But the Muslim League flame and dream is still there in their consciousness and comes to surface from time to time.

But today the facts of India are very different. Babri Mosque was demolished 20 years ago with much oppression of the Muslims; have we gotten any justice? Gujarat genocide of Muslims occurred 10 years ago; have we gotten any justice? The horrendous Bombay communal riots happened 20 years ago; have we received any justice? Batla House false encounter and oppression of many Muslim youth from Azamgarh occurred five years ago and is continuing; have we received any justice? Sachar Committee report on gross Muslim deprivations was released six years ago; have we received any justice? All we have received in 65 years is a few bread crumbs thrown at us and we have been told to keep quiet.

Ignoring the facts of the many deep weaknesses of the Muslim community in India in terms of the thinly spread population demographics, economy, education, armed services etc, a some Muslims fantacise that Muslim India can show its muscle to Hindu India. Or that Indian Muslims can separate their community's image from a composite Indian image into a separate Muslim supremacist image. This is a dangerous and damaging fantasy for 150 million Muslims of India who live surrounded by 750 million Hindus.

That is what we saw in Akbar Owaisi's inflammatory speech in Nirmal, Andhra Pradesh in 2012. That is what we saw in the manmoth Muslim rally in Azad Maidan, Mumbai laced with vilence for Rohingya Muslims in 2012. That is what we see often in rallies in Kashmir. It is time for the Indian Muslims to be realistic about the situation in the country, form alliances with the many secular Hindus and use our vote power in tactical voting, and there is a possibility that we can receive justice and with hard work improve our socio-economic situation and live in dignity.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based at Washington DC. He can be contacted at kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

Modi remarks: Dr. Sen has spoken like a true statesman

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

By Mike Ghouse

It was exciting to read a part of the interview of Dr. Sen about 10:30 PM tonight, Friday the 26th of July 2013. The rest of the interview will be published by Times of India on Sunday.

Most people appreciate when some one speaks out against the atrocities of the majorities, powerful dictators, monarchs and bullies. The politically motivated Hindu, Muslim and Christian men and women in particular appreciate it, if it favors them.

My Hindus friends have rejoiced every time I have routinely stood up for them, but won't appreciate if a Hindu Dr. Amartya Sen does the same.

Let me assure you this, the good people outnumber all others 95:5, eventually some one or the other from the majority, be it in India, America, Bolivia or South Africa, and even from Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Buddhist speaks up for the rights of the deprived, disadvantaged, women, minorities and the weak. God of all creation makes sure his creation has boundaries and has enough peace makers to prevent the world from total annihilation. Bhagvad Gita is clear, "Whenever there is adharma, God will bring about some one to restore Dharma" and Quran beefs it up, "To every tribe, every community and every nation God sends his peace makers to keep peace."

Indeed the work of all religious masters and great statesmen was to build cohesive societies, where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. India is going through big controversy now about the kind of leadership it wants. Nobel Laureate Dr. Amratya Sen is under attack. Narendra Modi is the contentious Chief Minister (Like Governor) of Gujarat in India.

Dr. Sen has spoken like a true statesman, an India that belongs to all Indians, I found the expressions of a similar language in my writings. Indeed whether it was Zarthustra, Moses, Krishna, Buddha and the others - the message was same - how to live without fear of the other.

The more people speak up, the better the world would be. So, please do your part.

This morning I defended Dr. Sen’s action with a few friends (appended below) and now, when I read the partial interview, it caused me to go searching on my blog of the similar thoughts I have struggled with.

Dr. Amartya Sen with Mike Ghouse
I have consistently advocated that the peace is the responsibility of the majority; indeed, the civility of a nation is determined by how it treats its women, children, disadvantage, the weak and the minorities. It is in the interest of the nation, particularly the responsible men and women from the political, civic or religious majorities to speak up. It is in everyone's interest for every one to walk well together and not limp.Two of the statements, I wrote resonate with Dr. Amartya Sen’s words

On March 15, 2013, a press release was sent and was published in Bangladeshi News papers and at www.WorldMuslimCongress.com, this was also a part of my speech at Bangladesh Human rights organization in Dallas.

“The success of a nation depends when her citizens feel secure; in this case, it is the duty of the state to ensure the safety of Hindus, Buddhist, Shia, Ahmadiyya, Christian and other minorities.

It is also the obligation of the Bangladeshi majority to continue to speak up against the brutal treatment of fellow Bangladeshis who are Hindu. Indeed, the safety of a community is the responsibility of the majority.”

The Daily Times of Pakistan published my piece on Imran Khan, and I wrote, “Humanity in general and Muslims in particular are guided to stand up for justice. Only the civility of majority can change things. Minorities do not have a voice in Pakistan and they live on with apprehensions. The Hindu parents worry when their daughter will be abducted and forced to convert or when the Ahmadiyya girl student will be kicked out of school or their graves are desecrated, Shias ordered out of the bus and shot point blank and Christians will be framed with blasphemy charges. Societies are judged by how they treat their minorities, women and children. Good Pakistanis are letting bad things happen in their names.”

A note came from a friend, “What irked me was his (Dr. Sen) comment on Modi not doing enough for the minorities.” And, “Sen does not address those issue but more interested in bad mouthing Modi on minority issues because it is a very popular and sophisticated issue.”

My response was, “I must add that collectively different Indians have to speak on different topics - including far and against to bring different angles to the fore - Dr. Sen has picked one that he probably feels has not been given enough attention. Each one of us has to focus on many strands of democracy.”

Glad to see a positive response about democracy from my friend later.

If there were to be an apology, the apology is owed to the families of people who were burnt alive in the train, families of the people who were raped, families of children who were burnt alive on every street corner, family of the MP who was tortured to death, and all the families who were uprooted for improper management of the law and order in the state. And that apology must come from the Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

[Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Foreign Editor. He can be contacted at MikeGhouse@aol.com]

Ramblings on Batla House Fake Encounter Judgement

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

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The judgement on the controversial Batla House encounter in New Delhi in 2008 raises some fundamental questions. The judge has convicted one person who is claimed to have fled from the L-18 flat in Batla House area. If the hon'ble judge had visited the building he could have found that the building has only one exit which was manned by police and there was no possibility to escape by jumping. In such case the accused either had to be caught or had to be shot. The escape theory put up by the police does not hold any ground.

The judge should have taken the cops and may have asked them to escape before believing them. Unfortunately, it did not happen, and the judgement was based on what was told by the police. It’s really a travesty of justice.

The second point in this case that requires consideration is that the input to do the Batla House encounter came from the same infamous IB special director Ravider Kumar who has provided the fake inputs that were used for 17 fake encounters in Gujarat and that are now being probed.

If the judge could have considered probing the source of the encounter and had related them to the on-going probe the judgement may have been different.

Interestingly Mr Chidambram who was the home minister at that time has found the encounter as genuine. He says that he has gone through the sequence of events and has probed into the matter and those killed were terrorists and the one who “fled” their accomplice.

The popular theory is that those believed to be the terrorists were actually students who had come for admission in Jamia College. It was wrong information on which police swooped on them and killed them in clod blooded manner. They had no weapons to retaliate and it was fabricated by the police after the encounter. The police officer killed in the encounter may have been due to cross firing by the police weapons or he may have been shot by his colleague to settle some old rivalry.

In the aftermath of the Batla house judgement, I am reminded of the words of the death convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee who was hanged on August 14, 2004 at Alipore Jail in Calcutta for rape and murder of the 14-year-old, while working as security guard in that building. While being taken to the gallows Dhananjoy told the hangman that he has not committed the crime. This was the biggest travesty of justice in recent times.

The most recent one was hanging of Afzal Guru that’s still fresh in our memories. Afzal in an interview had said that he has not committed the crime and the entire charges against him are fabricated. He was a fruit seller who was picked up from Srinagar for hatching conspiracy to attack Indian parliament. He was convicted to death but his hanging was differed for some reasons. The Congress in order to save its skin from the BJP’s attack to punish the perpetrators of Parliament attackers finally decided to execute Afzal Guru.

It’s a very sad commentary on the developments in India and the only way a common man can express his feeling is to take recourse to some poetic lines and in this case it could be very aptly summed up as ; banna ke bhes faqiron kab, tamasha e alhe kram dekte hain….

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

Schools built by Association of Indian Muslims of America for Muslims in India

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

IMO News Service

Washington DC: The Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM), Washington DC, has released information on schools built by them in India in recent years as part of their program to develop education in the Muslim community in India.

The schools are: (1.) AIM-FD Industrial Technical Training Center, Jamalpur, Ahmedabad, built in 2007; (2.) Saima Mansoor Higher Secondary School, Parsara, District Hathras, UP, built in 2009; (3.) AIM Junior High School, Kopepur, District Faizabad, UP, built in 2011 ; (4.) AIM Junior High School, Tewra, District Muzaffarnagar, UP, built in 2013.

These non-profit schools are new schools built by AIM in low income Muslim majority districts and are being operated by local charitable Muslim organizations to promote education in the needy segments of the community. The schools charge nominal tuition fees from the students; the differences between income from tuition fees and operating expenses are borne by AIM. These schools follow the Indian Government approved Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculam.

AIM's Education Program plan comprises of building one school every two years in a different city. The next school AIM is planning to build will be a Junir High School in Gujarat. In addition to building schools, AIM provides financial assistance to needy students from the community and relief & rehabilitation assistance to victims of natural disasters and sectarian violence. AIM also operates an active program to develop friendly relation between Muslims and others in India.

AIM, established in 1985 and located in Washington DC, is a non-profit, Non Governmental Organization (NGO) of Indian-American Muslims who live in North America. It is dedicated to assisting the development of the socioeconomically and educationally backward Muslim community in India. More information on AIM's activities can be obtained from its website, http://www.AimAmerica.org.

Sex ratio sees sharp decline among Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Chetan Chauhan

New Delhi: Compared to other religious groups, the Muslim community has witnessed the sharpest decline in sex ratio — dropping from 968 women for 1,000 Muslim men in 2004-05 to 922 in 2009-10.

A report by National Sample Survey Office shows that the Muslim sex ratio suffered due to a huge fall in the number of females in rural India.

In 2004-05, there were 968 women for 1,000 Muslim men in rural areas which dropped to 921 in 2009-10. The drop is more drastic considering there were 990 women for 1,000 rural Muslim men in 1999-2000.

Sex ratio in Hindus also fell. In rural areas, there were 961 women for 1,000 Hindu men in 2004-05 which dropped to 949 in 2009-10.

However, the sex ratio in rural Christian community rose from 994 in 2004-05 to 1,012 in 2009-10.

The overall sex ratio for India in 2009-10 was 947 women for 1,000 men whereas for Muslims it was 922.

In urban area, the drop was less with 932 women for 1,000 Muslim men in 2004-05 which declined to 923 in 2009-10. In 1999-2000, the sex ratio was 912.

In the urban Hindu community, the sex ratio dropped to 902 women for 1,000 Hindu men in 2009-10 as compared to 912 in 2004-05.

Once again the Christian community came out on top with 1,012 urban women for 1,000 men in 2009-10, up from 1,000 in 2004-05.

India’s sex ratio as per 2011 Census was 940 females for 1,000 men, but data categorised along religious lines has not been released yet.

(Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

Jill Biden at Muslim Girls’ School

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

By Khushita Vasant

The second lady of the United States, Jill Biden, showed up at a Muslim girls’ school in Mumbai Thursday morning to praise their focus on education, urging them to draw inspiration from the courage of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for her outreach on education.

“I know you just saw Malala’s remarkable speech in front of the UN. And wasn’t she so brave?” Ms. Biden said. “We all want the opportunity to pursue our dreams and be treated with respect, regardless of our gender. We want to be able to take care of our families… The thing that makes that all possible is education,” she added.

This is Ms. Biden’s maiden visit to India, where she finished up a four-day tour of India with her husband, Vice President Joe Biden. They left Thursday for Singapore after visiting New Delhi and Mumbai for a strategic visit with policymakers and business executives to discuss trade, regional security and maritime cooperation.

Their daughter, Ashley, accompanied Ms. Biden to the school. She and the Bidens’ son-in-law, Howard Krein, toured India with them.

At the Anjuman-I-Islam school on Thursday, Ms. Biden, an educator herself, teaching English at a community college, first stopped by a couple of classrooms, where she chatted with students, shaking hands with each one in the room of about 60.

She then proceeded to address a hall packed with about 400 students in eleventh and twelfth grades.

“I’m very lucky because I get to travel around the world with my husband, the vice president of the United States and we were very fortunate that my daughter and I could come on this trip to India,” Ms. Biden said in a speech.

She said one of her favorite things to do while travelling is to visit schools and meet young women.

“You know the world can be a tough place for young women, but you are doing exactly what needs to happen… you all are putting your education first,” Ms. Biden said.

The second lady spoke about Ms. Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani student targeted by the Taliban for her activism on education.

Quoting from Ms. Yousafzai’s speech on free compulsory education earlier this month at the United Nations, Ms. Biden said education is the only solution for a better world.

Ms. Yousafzai’s passion is ensuring women around the world have access to educational opportunities, just like yours, Ms. Biden said.

“As Malala said, ‘Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first,’” Ms. Biden said.

“You know there is a tendency to think about how big the world is but as I travel around and as I hear speeches like Malala’s, you realize how small the world is and how similar we all are,” she said.

Zufishan Zafar, a 16-year old science student, was the emcee at the school function. Ms. Biden spontaneously gave Ms. Zafar a long hug on the dais, which drew thunderous applause from the students.

When Ms. Biden finished her speech, she stepped down to mingle with the students, drawing them, one by one, into her arms, as they stood up from their seats to greet her.

At that, a reporter whispered to a U.S. consulate press attaché, asking, “Do we also get hugs?” To which he said, “Of course not! I know you just want to ask her a question.”

(Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal)

Aspiring Muslim medical students get a boost in Indian state

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

A landmark Supreme Court decision allows thousands of Maharashtra students to take medical entrance tests in their native language -- Urdu.

By Altaf Ahmad

New Delhi: Thanks to the courage of a few, thousands of Muslim students now have a greater chance of pursuing their dreams of getting into medical colleges, after the Supreme Court mandated that eligibility exams be offered in Urdu.

On May 2nd, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir required the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) to conduct the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in Urdu medium in Maharashtra within eight weeks, which is the native language of most Indian Muslims.

The verdict follows when Ansari Mahin Fatima and 20 other students from Milliya Junior College (MJC) in Beed, Maharashtra filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking inclusion of Urdu as a medium of language in the test.

"The decision has boosted my morale and I am hopeful of faring well in the test," Fatima, 18, told Khabar South Asia. "Ever since my childhood I have aspired to become a doctor. The Urdu medium will come handy in realising my dream," she said. "I can prove my talent through the medium of Urdu."

Boosting morale and opportunity

As many as 7,800 aspirants from 227 junior colleges were likely to take the Urdu-language NEET this year in Maharashtra alone, petitioners said.

Nineteen-year old Delhi Mater Dei School student Abeer Hassan said she looked forward to earning her spot on the medical college selection list.

"Earlier I could not apply for MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) courses due to the exclusion of the Urdu language from [the] question papers," Hassan said. "This historic decision will enable me to write the answers in my native tounge."

Muhammad Najam-u-din, 52, lecturer at MJC, and co-ordinator for Urdu language instruction, told Khabar, "The landmark judgment will bring Urdu medium students on par with the English medium students."

Many Urdu-speaking students "will be encouraged to pursue their career in prestigious medical courses including MBBS and BDS (Bachelor of Dentistry and Surgery)," Najam-u-din said. "Through the decision, the court has addressed the aspirations of minority Muslims in the country."

Legal experts say the court addressed the discrimination experienced by Muslim aspirants.

"The decision to conduct entrance test in English, Hindi and six other regional languages, excluding Urdu, was highly arbitrary, discriminatory and in clear violation of Article 14 and 21 of the constitution," Shakil Ahmad Syed, counsel for the petitioners, told Khabar.

"Now [Urdu-speaking] students will get an equal opportunity to compete in the entrance test for admission to the coveted profession," he added. "Significantly, the court has set a precedent for Urdu medium students across the country to take part in the entrance test with authority."

Opportunity for madrassa students

Madrassa students and instructors were satisfied with the decision, but demanded the verdict be made final and extended to all other states.

Moulana Azeemullah Siddiqi, 35, a spokesman for Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), an association advocating for the rights of Muslims and one of the petitioners in the case, told Khabar, "The decision will stimulate interest among thousands of Urdu medium students, including those studying in madrassas, to choose prestigious medical courses as their careers."

Siddiqi said the decision partially addresses the organisation's long-held demand that Urdu gain status as an official language in India.

"It is a welcome decision especially for Muslims, who prefer Urdu as a medium of language in competitive entrance tests," Muhammad Zakwan Nadwi 37, editor at Centre for Peace and Spirituality in New Delhi, told Khabar.

(Courtesy: Khabar South Asia)

Class X, XII Urdu books riddled with 800 errors

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Shreya Bhandary

Mumbai: At a time when the education department is contemplating to file sedition charges against the members of the Board of Studies for printing a wrong Indian map in Class X Geography book, a group of teachers has pointed out 251 errors in Class X Urdu book and 537 in that of Class XII.

This in not the first time that errors have cropped up in Urdu texts. Earlier this year, a string of mistakes were found in the Class IX book.

This has happened at a time when the state education department is contemplating filing sedition charges over the Board of Studies (BOS) members who printed a map of India in the class X Geography textbook which showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of China's territory.

"I have spent the last few weeks checking every page of Class X and XII Urdu textbooks. I found 251 errors in the Class X book, and 537 mistakes in the Class XII book, which has only 128 pages," said Shafi Shaikh, ex-head, Arabic department, Mumbai University.

According to Shaikh, the books, which were released after the syllabi were upgraded this year, have grammatical and factual errors. Besides, names of writers have been printed wrong and erroneous meanings have been given to several Urdu terms. For example, nawaah has been referred to as dehaati hissah or 'rural portion', while its correct meaning is 'suburban area'. "Some of the content is also offensive to Muslims. Every time we take the name of the Prophet, it has to be followed by 'Peace be upon Him', but this bit is missing in parts of the books," said Shaikh. , who has compiled a list of errors and their corrections.

"Board of Studies members, who compiled the books, have mutilated them."

These mistakes have cropped up despite a group of Urdu teachers, principals and experts visiting the education department early this year to highlight mistakes in the Class IX book. "We handed over a list of errors in the Class IX book to ministers. Only those have been changed," This shows that the department has not made any effort to check for any more errors," said Najma Kazi, principal of Anjuman-I-Islam's Saif Tyabji Girls' School. Many principals have received complaints about this same issue from their teachers and are now feeling helpless.

As the education department has not offered any help so far, the Urdu Headmasters' Association is preparing an index of all the Class X and XII errors and corrections, which will be circulated to all Urdu schools. "We can't have children studying such material before appearing for their board exams," said Kazi.

Board secretary Sarjerao Jadhav told TOI the errors would be rectified when the new edition of the books would be sent for print for the next session. He said, "Those who write the books are experts. If they make errors, how can the board be blamed?" We hope that teachers will notice the errors and only teach the correct content in class," said Jadhav.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Sharia courts for Muslim women soon

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

By Rageshri Ganguly

Bhopal: Unhappy with the judgments given by qazis, muftis and maulvis, 'women shariat courts' along the lines of Darul Qaza (Islamic courts) will be set up in the state by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) in the next six months.

In the first phase, the courts' ”Auraton ki Shariah Adalat” were set up in Dindigul (TN), Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad on July 6. In the second phase, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, UP, Bihar, Karnataka and Jharkhand will be taken up in six months' time, said a BMMA office-bearer.

The courts will handle cases relating to Muslim women, especially talaq, and dispense speedy justice. The BMMA is a secular organization led by Muslim women fighting for the citizenship rights of Muslims.

The all-women courts will function as per the injunctions of the Quran and dispense speedy justice to women. Initially, the BMMA will train 20 women on the rights of women as per the Quran.

"The BMMA received a lot of complaints from women from all over the country about unilateral divorce ('triple talaq') and refusal by husbands to give any maintenance or support," BMMA state convener Safia Akhtar told TOI. "There is practice of unilateral divorce, which is often communicated through a postcard, an SMS, a letter via relatives or just communication on the phone. All these go against the tenets of the Quran where there a time-bound process for divorce is laid down. The fact that husbands go to Darul Qaza (Islamic courts) and get fatwa (decree) from the qazi regarding talaq is unacceptable."

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

NMC to provide comp, job training to Muslim women

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

Nagpur: The Nagpur Municipal Corporation will start a Dr Abdul Kalam Computer Training and Employment Guarantee programme for women from Muslim community. The programme will be started from International Women's Day on March 8, 2014, announced chairperson of women and child welfare committee and BJP corporator Ashwini Jichkar.

Jichkar on Thursday convened a meeting to review various NMC programmes and projects for empowering women. She also reviewed the functioning of family counselling centres started at zone levels. The civic administration, which is acting on Central Government directives, and these centres provides information to women about their rights, address cases of domestic violence and other social issues. Experts from non-government organisations provide counselling to women to solve civil cases including family disputes, land disputes and disputes with government departments and organizations.

Besides, the civic body also provides training programme for women self-help groups in each zone. Social welfare officer (NMC) Sudha Iraskar informed Jichkar about UPSC and MPSC exam centres being run by the civic body for women hailing from weaker section of the society. The NMC also provides insurance cover for fairer sex between 10 and 75 years.

NMC health officer Dr Savita Meshram also informed that the NMC provided free ambulance through phone No 102 for women going into labour. After the meeting, Jichkar directed Iraskar to create awareness about these schemes among the woman citizens.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Whither India and Pakistan?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Kamal Wadhwa

With the modernization of their armed forces, both India and Pakistan are again locked into a military lockjaw that may ultimately lead to that fatal embrace - given the new developments on the sub-continent such as the setting up of an Indian Air Force base in Tajikistan. Except that now there is no turning away from good neighborliness and the unpleasant realities of forever having to stare at each other - be it from field binoculars or the look-down facility offered by reconnaissance airplanes and spy satellites.

Not too long ago, the deposed former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, sought to unlock his nation from the permanent hostility of the Indo-Pakistani embrace after his dream of a secular and democratic Pakistan had been resoundingly rejected by everyone of note in that ill-starred country. He now turned the eyes of the Pakistani nation towards the Muslim world where Pakistan was respected and looked up to as a natural leader of great energy and vision.

Pakistan thereafter became an Islamic republic with Islam enshrined as the State religion in its very Constitution. Bhutto now focused his eyes on creating the only platform that could yet enable Pakistan to secure a place on the world map - on the fragile Pakistani economy- that could not yet free itself from American largesse and the resultant interference in Pakistani foreign policy.

Pakistan may well have become a great Islamic nation because the entire Muslim world was a ready receptacle for Bhutto's grand vision - even willing to pay for it without recompense- unlike those hated Americans whose influence in Pakistani affairs was finally to lead Bhutto to his grave.

Had Pakistan finally managed to separate itself from its permanent engagement with India, it may well have become a stable and prosperous country. Bhutto was even ready to put the Kashmir issue on the backburner to attain that end. Indeed, India too could have benefited immensely from Bhutto's vision and secured its own development budget against the periodic imbalances caused by unpredictable military expenditures. Alas, that dispensation was not to be and the deadlock between the two neighbors continues to this day.

Perhaps, India too could have resiled and retreated from its cousin across the border. Surely, India has more in common with the Buddhist countries of Thailand, the Koreas, Vietnam and Cambodia than an Islamic Pakistan that openly emphasizes its religious and cultural differences with India! Even in lowly neighboring Bangladesh, there are periodic outbursts of anti-Indian sentiment voiced vociferously and zealously by large sections of the populace who threaten to march to New Delhi to do justice to their Islamic forebears and heritage.

Then, too, most Muslims outside India believe Hindus to be idolatrous and regard Hinduism to be an unworthy religion. This is the mindset in much of the Islamic world and it is reflected in the refusal of Saudi Arabia to allot jobs to Hindus even when they are well-qualified. Yet no Indian government has taken up serious issue with this valid concern because it has a large, established and vociferous Muslim minority within its own borders. This is the permanent and surreal tragedy of the Indian republic from which there seems to be no real escape!

However, it is the bonhomie and conviviality of Indo-Pakistani diplomacy that tell a different tale, no less sordid in other aspects. After the periodic bloodletting on their borders, both India and Pakistan send their seasoned and topmost diplomats for parleys, negotiations and Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Hospitality is shared, pleasantries exchanged and a flurry of diplomatic memos is passed between peers who have illustrious lineages, expensive foreign education and sartorial elegance that would put British royalty to shame. And, what's more, they like each other's company!

Yet, curiously enough, nothing concrete or substantial has emerged from this decades-long diplomatic endeavor between India and Pakistan though both sides express full satisfaction at the pace and seriousness of the dialogue undertaken by their diplomats. Diplomatic parleys are buttressed by Indo-Pakistani cricket tours where the very decency and civility of the game create feelings of camaraderie and brotherhood so that all loose talk of Kashmir is drowned out in the resounding din of adulating crowds who by now can judge each bowler or batsman on his own merits - be he Indian or Pakistani! In brief, Indo-Pakistani diplomacy and cricket have survived the British Raj on the sub-continent!

However, it is the occasional and unexpected act of resentment by some lowly official in India or Pakistan that shows the hardening of attitudes on both sides of the border. When a former Prime Minister of Pakistan is snubbed by his generals who refuse to meet a visiting Indian premier, or indeed when an Indian ex-Prime Minister is not given deferential treatment worthy of his status by officials at the Wagah border checkpoint, the state of Indo-Pakistani relations begins to be seen in its true perspective.

For most Indians and Pakistanis, there can be no half-war, half-peace daily bombarded as they are by images of violence perpetrated by the other side - on TV, radio and the print media. Yet most maintain a complacent, even indifferent, attitude to the reality of Indo-Pakistani confrontation as they are caught in the daily toil of earning a livelihood. Until the demagogue and politician again take center stage at public meetings and exhort the crowds to commit greater acts of desperation and frenzy - and violence! That is the saga of Indo-Pakistani affairs as they stand now!

[Kamal Wadhwa has studied economics and political science at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. He is now a freelance writer and journalist based in Mumbai. He can be reached at wadhwa.kamal@ymailcom]

(Courtesy: Pravda)

Islam in India and Sri Lanka

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

Arabs in Indian oceans : One thousand years of peace and Harmony

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

During the 9th Century, what's we call the "Medieval era" the Arab Islamic dynasties have reached their peaks.They expanded their voyages eastwards, towards India and China, in search of trade. In the 9th and 10th centuries, an assortment of Persians, Arabs, Abyssinians, all Muslims, speaking Arabic and therefore conveniently called 'Arabs' dominated the overseas trade from Baghdad/Basra/Hadramout to China. The Muslims of Sri Lanka and Kerala (a South Indian state) were a part of this trade operation.

According to Historians Elliot and Dowson in their book The History of India as told by its own Historians, the first ship bearing Muslim travellers was seen on the Indian subcontinent coast as early as 630 AD. There is evidence that there were Muslim merchant settlements in Sri Lanka as early as the 7th century. M. A. M. Shukri has used the Arabic (Kufi) inscriptions in Sri Lanka to throw light on the origins of Sri Lanka's Muslims. He says that the Sri Lanka Moors originally came from Aleppo, a city in Syria. ('Sri Lanka and the Silk Road of the Sea' p181)

Apparently there is an Arabic document in the possession of one of the oldest Moor families in Beruwela. It said that in 604 AD two sons of the Royal family of Yemen came to Lanka, one settled in Mannar the other in Beruwela (Daily News 25.9. 98. p 16).

Marakkalayar/Sonahar (Tamil) or Marikkala/ Yon (Sinhala) is a name given to the Moors of Sri Lanka and in Kerala they are known as the Mappilas or Marakkar which can be translated as (Marakkalam is a wooden boat) ‘boatmen’. the word Marakkar is usually derived from the Arabic ‘Markab’, a boat. The story goes that, when the first Arabic Yemenis landed on the shores of Sri Lanka, they were naturally asked by the natives, who they were, and where they came from. In answer they pointed to their boats, and pronounced the word Markab, and they became in consequence "Marakkalaya", or the people of Markab.

In the latter half of the 13th century, with the decline of the Caliphate of Baghdad, Arab commercial activity in the Indian Ocean decreased. This trade was taken over by the Indian Muslims of Gujarat and other Indian centres. Hindu merchants did not travel. They were based in India. They exported their marchandise in Muslim owned vessels. Thus colonies of Islamised Indians came up in the ports in India's south western (Malabar) and south eastern (Coromandel) coasts right up to Bengal. Thus thriving centres of Muslim commercial activity studded the Indian coastline. Subsequently, colonies of such Indo-Arabs emerged along the coasts of Sri Lanka. These settlements were described by the Dutch and British as 'Coast Moors'.

When the Portuguese first appeared off the shores of Sri Lanka, the Muslims warned the king, sangha, nobles and the people of the potential threat to the country's soveriegnty. When the Portuguese tried to gain a foothold in Colombo, the Muslims provided firearms, fought side by side with the Sinhalese and even used their influence from with the Malabar Zamorin South Indian powers to get military asistance to Sinhalese rulers. Through the intervention of the Muslims, the Zamorin of Calicut (Kozhikode) sent three distinguished Moors of Cochin with forces to help Mayadunne.

When the Dutch appeared and persecuted the Muslims in their coastal settlements, the Muslims ran to the Kandyan Kingdom. Senerat (1604-1635) and Rajasimha II (1635-1687) settled these Muslims in the Eastern coast. King Senerath appointed nearly 4000 Moorish Arab warriors in his army against dutch, these warriors were the ancestors of the large concentration of Muslims in the populous areas like Kathankudy in the Eastern Province. In Sri Lanka, as everywhere they went, the Portuguese made a special point of persecuting the Muslims. As a consequence, many fled the western littoral which had passed under Portuguese control, and settled in the north and east of the island where their descendants live to the present day. during the 15th century AD, 10,000 Arab soldiers and their families were slaughtered in Weligama (Arabic: as-Salawat, a city further to the south of Berberyn sinhala Beruwala) mercilessly by the Portuguese who were renowned for their barbarity towards those who oppose them. The family names of the current Muslims in the region affirm the early ancestry.

Arabs also functioned as physicians in Sri Lanka and Kerala, and presumably they practised Unani medicine. at this time, Unani had been practised in its pure form in towns like Calicut (India), Cochin (India), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Galle (Sri Lanka) and Beruwela (Sri Lanka).

The Dutch also appointed two Arabs as local physicians in their hospitals, and one of them, Mira Lebbe Mestriar was thereafter appointed as Native Superintendent of the Medical Department in 1806 by the British.

Another important function of he Muslims in the Kandyan Court, was that they acted as envoys to the King. One Arab Muslim envoy had been sent to the Nawab of Carnatic. Another had been sent to Pondicherry soliciting French assistance against the Dutch, in 1765. The King also made use of his Muslim subjects to keep abreast of developments outside his kingdom. The Arab Muslims were useful in this respect because of their trade links and knowledge of languages.

There have been Arabs in Sri Lanka for well over a thousand years. Trading dhows plied the waters between the Middle East and the island known to Arab sailors - like the legendary Sinbad - as Serendib even in pre-Islamic times. The first Arab merchants and sailors may have landed on its shores during the Prophrt Muhammad (PBUH)'s life time. By the 10th century this predominantly Arab community had grown influential enough to control the trade of the south-western ports, whilst the Sinhalese kings generally employed Muslim ministers to direct the state's commercial affairs.

(Courtesy: Mareeg.com)

Restoring the global image of Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Islam did not spread because of the sword, but because general people of these regions felt that being a Muslim would lead to a better life

By Chowdhury Abd-Allah Quaseed

There are millions of Muslims all over the world, who rant about the lost glory of Muslims and the fall of the Islamic empire. They lament about how the dominion of Muslims – stretching from Spain from the West to the islands of Indonesia in the East, covering the whole of Central Asia, including former southern Soviet states, the Middle East, the whole northern African belt and the Indian subcontinent – was a glowing beacon of progress and advancement, through the middle ages when Europe was plunged in darkness and anarchy.

And then how it suddenly collapsed, allowing Europe and America to usurp the throne of global power, sending the Muslims back to the rear, where they have been languishing ever since.

The clerics in all the mosques pray for the re-emergence of Muslims as a united global power. Many wish for the day when Muslims can again hold a leading position of prestige and power in the world: where they won’t be viewed as suspicious violence-seekers or terrorists, or a backward regressive people, obsessed with suppression of women and the divesting of oneself from all the enjoyments of modern life.

But some of the Muslims, specially the clerics and the preachers, and even many of the members of the present young generation – who have recently become profoundly inspired by the teachings of leading Islamic scholars, at home and abroad and on the many TV channels dedicated to the preaching of Islam – feel that this status of importance can be attained through conversion of all the people of all the countries into Muslims.

They believe it should happen not only through zealous philosophising and teaching, but also through eventual establishment of a Khalifate empire across the world, governed according to strict religious laws, and administered by a central leader or governing body. In fact, there are many enthusiasts who are actively working towards what they feel is that end.

As a Muslim, I feel that it would indeed be wonderful if we could have a world where all the people could become Muslims, or at least a few billion more people could be converted to Islam. However, I would maintain that this should only be done through inspiration and not by force or compulsion, fear or the stimulation of feelings of guilt, and intimidation through constant vivid depictions of the horrors of hell, and most certainly not through violence.

We must not forget that at present, despite all the tireless efforts of such agents of the spread of the religion, there are only 1.5 out of 7 billion people of this world who call themselves Muslims. Among these people, more than half would be moderate Muslims, enjoying a significant blending of western cultures into their lives, while a quarter could be the more stauncher breed, and another quarter who, though allow themselves to be classified as Muslims, do not comply with almost any of the religious practices nor even the rituals.

Though I personally feel that it would be fascinating to enlist an additional quarter of the global population to our faith, I don’t think it is something that can be attained very easily, or in as short a time as many expect. And I hope that the delay does not frustrate those on the mission to spread Islam through preaching, into losing patience and adopting more radical means of expansion, such as political or military takeover.

I want Islam to spread, but gradually. I would prefer the spread to be of the more moderate kind of Islam that is practiced in most countries, so that the remaining people of the world would understand us better, be better able to identify with us, and find lesser reasons to fear us. That would draw people towards us and our ways even more.

Perhaps there should be more emphasis towards encouraging the Muslims who are so just by name, to take up more practices of the religion rather than trying to bring in new members to the faith.

And while I would love to have all the Muslim nations have peace between themselves and internally within them, which so many of them at present do not have, and to work with unity among themselves on many global issues, I do not feel the need to try and bring them all under any single leadership, as that does not seem to be a practical nor a necessary objective at this point in time.

In fact, I am very skeptical about the desire for creation of a single empire, for efforts towards that or propaganda related to that. It may be interpreted by the rest of the world as a camouflaged political desire for world domination rather than the spread of religion.

The more the zealous preachers speak of such Khalifate empires, I apprehend that we will only invoke more resistance and fear against ourselves – which we can well do without, and which will only retard our growth and progress as a race.

I as a moderate Muslim earnestly feel that the preachers should emphasise on the people willingly taking up the Islamic practices, from their own “awakening” rather than enforcing through governmental legislation. Only then would the multitudes embrace Islam wholeheartedly. Then the need for such legal or political coercion would not even arise.

The way to make Islam thrive again in the world is, according to me, to re-establish the reasons for which the Muslims were respected and to add to that list. So, what is really needed is for Muslims to flourish in every field of profession and rise to global fame and excellence.

If we examine history, we would find that Muslims from the 600s to the mid 1600s were among the most educated and enlightened people of the time. They were the ones who made the greatest advancements in science, astronomy, engineering, architecture, trade and commerce, in medicine, in surgery and much more.

They were great orators, poets, artists, builders and in their personal lives, they appeared to be relatively more peaceful, decent, honest, averse to negative elements such as corruption, fraud and rampant debauchery.

In general Muslims, even among non-Muslims were respected for all of these reasons and for being upright and just, and so were mostly sought out as leaders and arbitrators. Muslims had the biggest libraries and universities where knowledge seekers from around the world would come to study. Indeed back in those times, it was a matter of pride and fashion to be a Muslim.

Islam at that time was perceived as a religion that promoted open-mindedness, curiosity and thought and introspection as well as intellectual discourse. But tragically, with the dawn of the 1700s, came the emergence of the more fundamentalist form of Islam preached by people who were not endowed with the former wisdom, and one that discouraged all quest for knowledge beyond religious teachings.

From that point onwards came the downfall of the Muslims, which we deplore today.

If tens of thousands of Muslims could earn global recognition and fame, even if it be in fields that are traditionally not considered Islamic such as sports and entertainment, these thousands of individual achievements by Muslims all over the world will be what will raise the social and global perception about Muslims and draw more people towards the religion.

They will see that Islam offers them a good disciplined life and also allows them to materialise their dreams instead of only stifling them with religion most of the time, which is an unfortunate impression the world has about the religion because of the way it is preached at present.

Imagine if only, there were Muslims who could win at least two to three dozen Nobel Prizes in various arenas, over the next few decades, a few hundred Olympic medals (being clinched even by female Muslim athletes); if there were dozens of global prize winning authors writing about science, and all subjects; and even if there were a few dozen actors and actresses winning Oscars and other international arts and film awards, all of whom members of the faith; if there were great entrepreneurs (beyond Arab sheikhs) who climbed onto the list of global billionaires through intelligent and ethical enterprise; if there were a hundred top international pop stars, musicians, journalists, global TV presenters, etc of both genders who could proudly call themselves Muslims, and practice at least some of the principal rituals of the religion, at the very least in their personal and family lives. Indeed, then Islam would truly get a boost in its global reputation.

If Muslims never indulged in acts of violence, if Muslims were active members of the communities where they lived, if Muslims helped non-Muslims around the world, and did not just pray about people of their own religion only, as is done in many mosques (specially in Bangladesh), but for the world, Islam would regain its glory in the modern times.

We need to realise that in over 300 years, Muslims cannot claim to have contributed anything of significance to the advancement of human civilisation in the realm of science, medicine, industrialisation, engineering or any of the limbs on which humanity has walked up to here. They did not make any electricity, any machines, no electronic devices, not even transportation means. Muslims have not created any of the things that they are using all the time.

However, they often are using the technologies to malign or criticise people of other races that in fact invented these with their hard work and properly applied intelligence. And to intensify the despair of the moderate Muslims, there are some Muslims who have only served to make the followers of Islam appear to be the kind that rejects the existence of other races and religions, undermines them, and views them condescendingly.

This polarisation, further precipitated through occasional acts of violence and promises of violence by terrorist organisations has brought Muslims to their present plight of being considered synonymous for trouble. And that is the image we need to change for the Muslims to regain their glory.

Muslims also have to embrace people of all religions. Be more open to befriend others, and adapt more to people of other beliefs as well, without hampering their (the Muslim’s) own core values.

Muslims across the world should not seclude themselves from the communities they live in, in countries where they are a minority, fearing the others to be evil contaminants, but engage with them socially.

Muslims need to globalise and popularise the Islamic festivals, such as the two Eids, and involve people of all religions in celebrating these occasions through the hosting of feasts, special cultural programmes and perhaps even carnivals, fairs etc.

These occasions have to become like Christmas is all over the world, and how some pujas and Diwali are rapidly becoming in all places where Indians live. Islam must welcome everyone warmly to enjoy its festive spirit.

It has to appear to be a religion that can be fun too, and not reminiscent of the strict Puritans or the Amish sects of Christianity in the previous century, who were avoided by most for their rejection of modern advancements and all forms of enjoyment and entertainment.

Islam should promote decency and sobriety and the benefit of setting certain limits maybe, but should not brand itself as a complete reversal to the way of life people have become used to.

I understand that those who propagate the idea of the establishment of a Khalifate empire as the best and the quickest way to re-assert the glory of Muslims, may tend to disagree. But we need to understand that the so-called Islamic empire, which they would like to revive, was never one single empire. It comprised a large number of separate empires or kingdoms, many of whom were in fact embroiled in territorial battles with each other, and all of it did not also exist at the same time either.

For instance, the political control of Spain and many parts of North Africa were long gone by the 1400s and 1500s, which was when Muslim rulers gained control of the Indian subcontinent and regions further East. Also, it needs to be noted that the spreading of Islam was never the core objective of these imperialist expansions of territories but were in actuality, politically motivated.

The spread of Islam was a fortunate by-product catalysed and facilitated by the presence of Muslim rulers in those realms. It also needs to be pointed out that legal coercion or legislation never succeeded in spreading Islam.

The rulers who tried it were the ones defeated and ousted, or their policies led to the collapse of those empires, such as Emperor Aurungzeb bringing the collapse of Mughal rule. It was only emperors and kings who not only encouraged Islam through incentives and financial benefits, but also adopted an otherwise secular and tolerant approach to all other religions. They were the most successful in establishing Islam in those regions. Most of the earlier Mughal emperors are the best examples of that.

Indeed, Islam did not spread because of the sword, but because general people of these regions felt that being a Muslim would lead to a better life, not just spiritually, but in a worldly sense as well.

Muslims manifested certain traits that inspired people into wanting to emulate them and embrace the reason they felt was the cause for them being the way they were. Islam was a religion that spread harmony and unity among faiths, manifested by the crowds of non-Muslims thronging to the shrines and mausoleums of the Sufi saints all across India.

This is how we Muslims can truly re-emerge as a race that can be respected all over the world. We should all try to become ambassadors of the faith, become living proof that the religion gives us the inner strength to move on and achieve great things in all aspects of life.

If we can live in a way that inspires others to grow the spiritual faith inside their souls and carry the essence of the religion in their hearts at all times, the more literal believers will be discouraged from decrying such persons of excellence in their respective fields – who may not follow the version of Islam as preached by the more fundamental preachers – as being poor examples of what a proper Muslim ought to be; when Muslims can be the harbingers of peace across the world, and when the sheer charisma of Muslims inspires others to follow and emulate them.

I, as a moderate Muslim, also look forward to that day when being a Muslim is synonymous with being disciplined, law abiding, upright, courageous, generous, protective of the weak, chivalrous, wise, talented – the kind of person who would be given a privileged welcome in all the immigration desks around the world in every airport!

(Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune)

Media service for MSME Knowledge & News Network launched

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 27 July 2013 | Posted in , ,

IMO News Service

New Delhi: Knowledge and News Network (KNN), India’s first online media platform with a focus on the micro, small and medium enterprises,  was launched by MSME Minister K H Muniyappa, with a promise to espouse the cause of the vibrant and dynamic sector which contributes 40 per cent to the country’s industrial production and exports.

Promoted by the Federation of Indian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (FISME) in partnership with GIZ- German Agency for International Cooperation, KNN is a multi-media platform equipped to disseminate news, views and analysis of the topical issues through texts, graphics and videos.

Launching the service here last evening (July 26, 2013), Mr Muniyappa said, “MSMEs work silently but they have been the engine of growth for the Indian economy. More importantly, their contribution to equity is unparalleled. Almost half of the MSMEs are owned by the deprived d section of the society.”

However, as they are largely unorganised and scattered over a vast geography, it becomes difficult for both the policy makers and the MSMEs to reach out to each other. “Emergence of KNN is a very timely development and will fill up this gap,” the minister said.

With the active participation of 158 industry associations and 110 institutions, including the prestigious Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI),the Banaras Hindu University, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) and the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) KNN newsroom will connect millions of MSMEs to the policy makers both at the Centre and the states. Thus, the KNN newsroom has 268 nodes on the ground with coverage extending to 24 states and 41 major sectors.

The promoters have a clear vision for the KNN and they would like to see it grow as an independent media company. “While FISME has incubated KNN with the support of GIZ and will continue to support from outside, it is to grow out as an independent media entity in a couple of years and serve the MSME sector without fear or favour”, FISME President D Gandhikumar said.

GIZ Director, Private Sector Development, Manfred Haebig, while underscoring the importance of institutions to balance cooperation and competition said, “We support KNN because we believe in their vision of inclusive growth…we believe there will not be any inclusive growth without strong MSME growth. KNN is India’s first attempt to put news on MSME on centre stage.”

Assuring support to the MSME sector, CEO Prasar Bharti, Jawhar Sircar said, they could pick up some good stories and circulate them in the public service broadcasting network.

The professional team of journalists at the KNN also has the guidance available from a high level Advisory Board, comprising eminent economists and media personalities.

An impressive launch function of the KNN was also attended by Secretary in the Ministry of MSME, Madhav Lal, Additional Secretary and Development Commissioner and Amrendra Sinha.

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