Muslim, Jewish communities lay foundations for friendship

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 25 March 2013 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Fiona Buchanan

Ottawa: In the spirit of promoting interfaith friendship and learning, members of the Ottawa Jewish and Muslim communities met Sunday for a social gathering and gift exchange.

Arriving with smiles and brightly coloured flowers, Imam Mohamed Jebara, founder of the Cordova Spiritual Education Centre, entered the lobby of the Beth Shalom Synagogue with members of the Muslim community. They offered the flowers to their new Jewish acquaintances as Cantor Daniel Benlolo welcomed the group.

“Imam Jebara and I want to make sure that we teach our young people,” said Benlolo.
“If we teach young people how to interact with, understand and appreciate each other’s communities, then we can hopefully build better communication and better understanding to live in harmony and in peace.”

Jebara, who was unable to speak due to laryngitis, nodded as Benlolo said the purpose of the gift exchange was to promote learning between the two communities.

“Today we are going to understand that we are closer than you think,” Benlolo said.

Awa Biop, a Muslim woman, said the event was a great opportunity for her to meet Jewish people. She brought her daughter to the meeting to teach her about diversity.

“We live in a mixed society, we have people from different backgrounds, race-wise and religion-wise,” she said. “We want our children to grow up with that idea of being different and accepting other people who are different too.”

Benlolo, who was born in Morocco and whose first language was Arabic, invited the Muslims into the synagogue and asked the men and boys to place a kippa on their heads.

“Girls and women, you don’t have to put it on if you don’t want to,” he said, but added that they were welcome to wear the kippa as well. Benlolo explained that the kippa represents a separation between God and man.

“It is to humble ourselves, to feel humility and to show that God is above and we are below.” He joked that the kippa could also be used as a “bald-spot cover.”

In the synagogue, Benlolo spoke about the similarities between Judaism and Islam. He referenced the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son — found both in the Qur’an and the Torah — and spoke of the significance of the ram’s horn, or shofar, to Jewish tradition.

Benlolo then presented Jebara with a shofar, which he described as a symbol of Abraham’s sacrifice to God. Jebara also received a menorah, a Kiddush cup and a book of the history of the Beth Shalom Synagogue.

In return, Jebara gave Benlolo a carved wooden Qur’an holder, a hand-sewn prayer rug from Syria, handmade calligraphy of the Muslim declaration of faith, books teaching Arabic from the Cordova Academy, three Qur’ans and a long blue string of prayer beads.

Jebara said he hopes the event at the synagogue would be the first of many between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Ottawa.

“There are many interfaith dialogues, but they don’t go any further than meeting and discussing issues,” he said. “Our intention is to go beyond that. We would like to establish friendships that are long term.”

Jebara said that building friendships with other faiths would lead to understanding, harmony and love between the different religious groups. Both Jebara and Benlolo mentioned the outreach to faith groups is not limited to Jews and Muslims; they hope to foster friendships with all religious communities in Ottawa.

(Courtesy: The Ottawa Citizen)

ایس آئی ٹی کی رپورٹ سے ہندوستانی عدلیہ کا وقار مجروح ہوگا

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 February 2012 | Posted in , , , ,

عابد انور

ہندوستان میں فرقہ پرست مشنری، عدلیہ، مقننہ، انتظامیہ اور میڈیا نیمسلمانوں کے لئے حصول انصاف اس قدر دشوار کیوں بنادیاہے۔کہیں سے ایک موہوم سی امید پیدا ہوتی ہے کہ شاید اب انصاف کاراستہ ہموار ہوجائے لیکن جیسے جیسے انصاف کا وقت قریب آتا ہے انصاف اتنا ہی دور چلاجاتا ہے ۔ 

GUJARAT 2002 RIOTS: SC directive being construed clean chit by Nrendra Modi a mistaken notion

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 17 September 2011 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: Did Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi get a clean chit from the Supreme Court regarding his so-called inaction during riots in the state in 2002 genocide of Muslims?

Narendra Modi is being seen by a large number of people as turning a blind eye to violent attacks on Muslims, but because there is no evidence, he has managed to escape court action.

The mistaken notion that Modi has won a victory has arisen from the fact that the Supreme Court has refused to hear and decide on the case. But the trial in a case is to be conducted in a lower court and not in the Supreme Court.

The apex court had ordered the special investigation and then an independent review by amicus curiae. There were charges that the findings of the SIT did not match its conclusions. The amicus curiae is considered to have brought this to the notice of the court.

Now the charges against Modi, the reports of the SIT and the amicus curiae and other testimonies about the alleged role of Modi in the riots will all be considered by the trial court. The apex court has also directed that the trial court should give a hearing to the petitioner before it decides on closure of the case.

This is the right legal procedure and the court has stuck to it. It has refrained from further monitoring of the investigation because it is no longer needed now. It has in the past stopped its monitoring of investigations in some cases after they were completed. The trial court can in any case order further investigation if it feels it is necessary.

During the last couple of years, some top cops too had openly accused the CM of inaction and even of deliberate moves against the minority community, but nothing seems to have worked.SIT's Raghavan has stated that the SIT will provide details of its investigation before the trial court. It looks like the lower court too will let Modi off.

The law will now take its regular course and both sides will have equal rights in pursuing its course. It was when the request of Ehsan Jafri’s widow for filing an FIR against Modi in the case was rejected by the Gujarat police and the state high court that she approached the Supreme Court. When the request has been more than conceded, it can not be called Modi’s victory.

This put the saffron party, plagued by internal conflicts and squabbles on leadership, on the path to recovery. And then along came Anna Hazare and his team to raise some serious question marks on the maddening complacency and contemptuous indifference with which the top cats in the Manmohan Singh government were responding to the series of monstrous scams.

Depending on which side of the saffron divide you are, you can argue that the jury is still out on Mr Modi's active or passive role in the burning and butchering of over 2,000 Muslims, something that was horrendously described by him as the natural outpouring of anger by four crore Gujaratis at the Godhra carnage.

The court order was, expectedly, received with great glee by the BJP camp, with such leaders as Mr Balbir Punj claiming this verdict would now pave the way for the BJP's poster boy to play a much bigger role in “national politics”. Other leaders, who themselves want to play this “bigger role,” were more guarded about crowning Mr Modi as their “national leader”.

Teesta Setalvad, CJP, Mumbai: It is too early to consider the Supreme Court’s decision not to pass an order against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on the complaint against him that he abetted the killing of a Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri, during the post-Godhra communal riots, as a clean chit for him.

The court has only returned to a trial court in Ahmedabad, the complaint, the evidence collected by a Special investigation Team (SIT) appointed by it and the views of an amicus curiae, again appointed by the court, on the SIT’s findings. That means Modi has not been absolved of the charges levelled against him. All the 62 accused in the case, including Modi, will have to face the trial court’s proceedings.

J.S.Bandukwala, Human Rights Activist, Baroda: The Supreme Court has followed the law by sending the entire matter back to trial court in Ahmedabad. The trial Judge will be free to act after going through the SIT and the Amicus Curie reports. This in no way implies that Modi has passed through his Agni Pareeksha. There is no limit to the propaganda deceit of the RSS / BJP.

But our complaint is on delay. We have not received any justice in these cases for almost a decade. Justice delayed is justice denied. The only two cases where we got justice were in Best Bakery and Bilkis Banu. Muslim accused have been in jail for years without bail. Just recently in the Haren Pandya case some of these accused were released as innocents by the High Court, after wasting eight years of their lives in prison. Similarly in the Sabarmati train burning case, 60 accused were released after over nine years in jail, as the Court found them innocent.

On the other hand a known history sheeter, Babu Bajrangi who had claimed on Tehelka that he had killed Kausar Banu and her unborn child has not spent a day in jail. Is this fair?

Muslims have only one demand. We want justice in all these cases. We will not rest unlil all those responsible for the horrors of 2002 are punished.

Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, Director, PRASHANT – A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace: The Supreme Court today,( with regard to the Gulberg society massacre) has directed the trial Court in Gujarat to now accept the final Reports of the SIT and of the Amicus Curie, and to continue with the process of law. This verdict might be interpreted as a setback and disappointment, for the victims of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 and for those fighting for justice.

However, this verdict in no way gives a clean chit to Modi,nor does it close the judicial process on this matter.Besides, the SC still has nine other cases to deal with, on the Carnage of 2002.

Whilst some are also claiming 'victory' of sorts...The fact is that, the struggle for justice will continue relentlessly, with full faith in the judicial system and a hope that TRUTH will ultimately triumph!

[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 09228746770]

Gujarat top cop Sanjiv Bhatt to Narendra Modi: You have completely misconstrued SC verdict

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 15 September 2011 | Posted in , , , , ,

Replying to Modi's letter, top cop Sanjiv Bhatt said that the CM has completely misconstrued the SC judgement & criticized him for misleading the 'six crore Gujaratis.'

New Delhi: Senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt says there is nothing in the Supreme Court order in the Gulbarg Society case that should give chief minister Narendra Modi reason to celebrate. Bhatt made this remark in an open letter to the chief minister on Wednesday; the open letter was in response to the open letter written by Modi on Tuesday to "six crore Gujaratis".

Sanjiv Bhatt
Terming Modi's plans for a three-day fast for peace, harmony and unity in Gujarat as "completely misleading", the suspended police officer said: "It seems you (CM) have completely misconstrued the judgement and order passed by the honourable Supreme Court of India and it is very likely that your chosen advisors have once again misled you and have in turn, made you mislead the 'six crore Gujaratis' who look up to you as their elected leader."

Bhatt had earlier accused Modi of wanting to teach Muslims a "lesson" after the Godhra train-burning incident in 2002. He had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court accusing Modi and also casting doubts about the functioning of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the riots that followed the incident. He had said that after the Godhra incident he was summoned along with other senior officers and told to lie low as emotions were running high among Hindus. Bhatt was suspended by the Modi government in August this year for not reporting to work for nearly 10 months.

Full text of Sanjiv Bhatt's open letter to Narendra Modi:

Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt
Indian Police Service

Dear Shri. Modi,

I am glad you chose to write an open letter to the 'Six crore Gujaratis'. This has not only afforded me a window to your mind but has also given me an opportunity to write to you through the same medium.

My dear brother, it seems you have completely misconstrued the judgement and order passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of India in Criminal Appeal No. 1765 of 2011 arising out of S.L.P. (CRL.) No. 1088 of 2008 viz. Jakia Nasim Ahesan & Anr. Versus State of Gujarat & Ors. It is very likely that your chosen advisors have once again misled you and have in turn, made you mislead the 'Six crore Gujaratis' who look up to you as their elected leader.

Let me as a younger brother-Gujarati, help you decipher the Judgement and Order that has led to unequivocal gloating and jubilatory celebrations among some sections of the political spectrum. It has been stated in your letter that "One thing is apparent from the Supreme Court's judgment. The unhealthy environment created by the unfounded and false allegations made against me and Government of Gujarat, after 2002 riots, has come to an end". Let me clarify that even by a long shot, the order of the Honourable Supreme Court has nowhere, even remotely, suggested that the allegations contained in the complaint filed by Mrs. Jakia Jafri were unfounded or false. The truth is that the order of the Honourable Supreme Court is in fact, a very major leap in the direction of delivering justice to the hapless victims of the Gujarat pogrom. As you are well aware, Mrs. Jafri had approached the Honorable Gujarat High Court with a prayer for registering her complaint as an FIR. The said petition was disallowed by the Honourable High Court of Gujarat. Mrs. Jafri, therefore, approached the Honourable Supreme Court of India by way of a Special Leave Petition against the order of the High Court. The Honourable Supreme Court directed the SIT to look into her complaint and subsequently also directed the learned Amicus to examine the evidence collected by the SIT. At the end of this long and arduous exercise the Honourable Supreme Court has not only allowed the Appeal of Mrs. Jafri and directed the SIT to virtually treat the complaint of Mrs. Jafrri as an FIR, but has also directed the SIT to file a report under section 173(2) of the Cr.P.C. Let me clarify for your benefit and for the benefit of your Six crore brothers and sisters of Gujarat, that this report under section 173(2) of the Cr.P.C. is colloquially known as Charge-Sheet or Final Report. The honourable Supreme Court of India has also directed the SIT to place all the evidence collected by it, including the reports of the learned Amicus before the magistrate empowered to take cognizance. I am sure you will appreciate that in order to let the law of the land take its due course, this was the best option available to the Honourable Supreme Court as per the scheme of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

What the Honourable Supreme Court of India has given to Mrs. Jafri is much more than what she had originally prayed for. The order over which some of us are gloating in feigned glee, is in fact, a very cleverly worded order that takes the perpetrators and facilitators of the 2002 carnage a few leaps closer to their day of reckoning. The false bravado comes across as a very smart attempt to mislead the gullible people of Gujarat and instil a false sense of confidence in the political rank and file. Please be assured that we will see a very different picture as the actual import of the order starts settling in and takes judicial effect.

As one of the 'Six Crore Gujaratis', I feel deeply pained and cheated when the likes of you, consciously or inadvertently, mislead the people of Gujarat for ulterior motives. The theory propounded and practised to perfection by Paul Joseph Goebbels, one of Adolf Hitler's closest associate and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, can definitely work with the majority of the populace for some time. But all of us know from historical experience that Goebbelsian Propaganda cannot fool all the people for all the time.

I fully endorse your realization that "Hate is never conquered by hate." Who would know this better than you, who has served this State for the last one decade; and I, who has served in the Indian Police Service for the last 23 years. I had the misfortune of serving with you during those days of 2002 when the dance of hatred was choreographed and perpetrated at different venues in Gujarat. Albeit this is not the appropriate forum for me to discuss and reveal the details of our respective roles, I am sure that both of us will be getting ample opportunities before appropriately empowered fora to disclose our knowledge about the dynamics of hatred in the realpolitik of Gujarat. I hope you and your cronies, within and without the Government, will not hate me more for this.

I cannot agree more with you when you say that "the credibility of those who have been spreading lies and defaming Gujarat has come to its lowest ebb. The people of this country will not trust such elements anymore". But my dear brother, you seem to have got it entirely wrong as to who are the ones spreading lies and defaming Gujarat. To my mind, Gujarat has gained infamy not because of the hapless victims who have tirelessly crusading for the cause of justice and truth, but because of the despicable actions of the people who sowed and cultivated hatred to reap political and electoral benefits. Please give it a thought. Introspection can prove to be very revealing at times.

I am deeply touched by your concern and efforts to "further strengthen Gujarat's environment of peace, unity and harmony." Thanks to you and your kinsmen, Gujarat has been free from any large scale eruption of communal violence since 2002. The reasons for this may not be very obvious to our fellow 'Six Crore Gujaratis". This is my 24th year in the IPS. I was allotted to the Gujarat cadre during a time when the State was passing through the throes of widespread and sporadic communal violence. Having been baptised by fire, I have been since trying to understand and deal with the likes of you, who deal in the divisive politics of hatred. It is my well founded observation that the polity of Gujarat has now crossed the stage where communal violence can accrue electoral benefits to any political party, as the process of communal polarisation is very nearly complete in Gujarat. The experiments in the divisive politics of hatred have been very successful in the Gujarat Laboratory. You and your likes, in the political arena, have been largely successful in creating divides in the hearts and minds of the "Six Crore Gujaratis". The need to resort to any further communal violence in Gujarat is already passe.

In a constitutional democracy like ours, it is incumbent upon the State to act in Good faith at all times and under all circumstances. Over the last nine and a half years many friends have fallen prey to the misleading campaign that the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 was a spontaneous reaction to the condemnable action at Godhra on the fateful morning of 27 February 2002. The Newtonian Law was never abused more. You had resorted to your knowledge and understanding of Newtonian physics in March 2002 and had sought to apply it to polity and governance at the peak of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002. But what you might have deliberately missed then, and what many of us seem to be inadvertently missing now; is the universally accepted principle of governance which mandates that in a constitutional democracy, an avowedly secular State cannot be allowed to be partisan. It was the bounden duty of the State to have anticipated and controlled the possible Newtonian reaction, if any; not orchestrate and facilitate systematic targeting of innocent individuals! Be that as it may, as an expression of solidarity with your stated objective of spreading Sadbhavana in the land of the Mahatma, I resolve to join you in your Sadbhavana Mission. What better way to do this than helping the truth to come out and let the spirit of justice and goodwill prevail. As all of us understand, there can be no Sadbhavna or Goodwill without truth and justice. I hereby reaffirm my resolve to contribute my might towards the restoration of Sadbhavana in the administration and polity of Gujarat.

But let me warn you that genuine heartfelt goodwill is something we cannot demand, buy or extort...we can only strive to deserve it. And it is not going to be an easy task. The land of the Mahatma is slowly but surely coming out of its hypnotic state.

As the most powerful person in Gujarat you may think that you do not need to feel accountable to the perceptions of all sections of the community. But believe me, history has proved time and again, that power without genuine goodwill is a path fraught with dangers...it is also a path of no return.

Samabhava is a condition precedent for Sadbhava. Governance by equity and goodwill should not only be the first article of your faith but should also be the last article of your creed.

The truth is more frequently than not, a little bitter and not very easy to swallow. I hope that you will take this letter in the true spirit in which it is written and you or your agents will not indulge in direct or indirect acts of retribution as is your wont.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The spirit of the hapless victims who have been struggling for justice in Gujarat may occasionally flag but it will not be supressed by any amount of false Goebbelsian propaganda. The struggle for justice is never easy anywhere in the world...it calls for everlasting patience and unfailing perseverance at all times. The spirit of the crusaders for truth and justice in Gujarat is epitomised in this poem by Bhuchung Sonam, an alumnus of M.S. University, Baroda.

I have principle and no power
You have power and no principle
You being you
And I being I
Compromise is out of the question
So let the battle begin...

I have truth and no force
You have force and no truth
You being you
And I being I
Compromise is out of the question
So let the battle begin...

You may club my skull
I will fight
You may crush my bones
I will fight
You may bury me alive
I will fight
With truth running through me
I will fight
With every ounce of my strength
I will fight
With my last dying breath
I will fight...
I will fight till the
Castle that you built with your lies
Comes tumbling down
Till the devil you worshipped with your lies
Kneels down before my angel of truth.

May the kind God give you the requisite strength to be equitable and benevolent towards one and all!

Satyamev Jayate!

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

(Sanjiv Bhatt)

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Modi theory fails, all accused in Haren Pandya case acquitted by the High Court

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

In a landmark judgment giving relief to a dozen innocent Muslim youths, Gujarat High Court remarked, “What clearly stands out from the record of the present case… has all through been botched up and blinkered and has left a lot to be desired… The investigation officers ought to be held accountable for their ineptitude resulting into injustice, huge harassment of many persons and enormous waste of public time of the court.” The court order was related to the murder of former home minister of Gujarat Haren Pandya in a Maruti car on 26 March 2003. The father of the erstwhile top BJP stalwart of Gujarat and other family members have been crying innocence of the accused long back stating that it was a political murder committed on the instance of Narendra Modi the state chief minister. We demand that the case should be investigated afresh since the real culprits are still at large. In the interest of our readers we are publishing here a full story how the family members of Haren Pandya reacted to the court order. The judgment also vindicated the scrape of POTA the forced confessions under which had been misused against the accused themselves as was in this case. IMO

Long before court verdict, family ruled not guilty

In the years between BJP leader Haren Pandya’s murder and the dropping of murder charges against the 12 arrested, his family kept maintaining that these were not the real killers.

Till he died this year, the leader’s father Vitthaldas Pandya had campaigned relentlessly against the police and CBI theory on the 2003 murder — that it was part of a reprisal by Muslims against the 2002 riots. His own theory was that it was a fallout of a deposition that Haren Pandya had made against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Pandya had fallen out with Modi in 2001 after he refused to vacate his Assembly seat of Ellisbridge for the Chief Minister. Later, Modi would hit back by ensuring Pandya was denied a poll ticket in 2002. What Vitthaldas Pandya believed actually led to the murder, however, was his son’s deposition before a Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal that Modi, following the Godhra train carnage in 2002, had ordered the police to go slow on rioting Hindu mobs.

Pandya’s wife Jagruti was equally unconvinced by the police and CBI theory. Last year, she wrote to Modi seeking a fresh probe and questioning the roles of IPS officers D G Vanzara and Abhay Chudasama.

Now, she has welcomed the judgment, saying, “We have always respected the judiciary, and have full faith in it. The ruling has reaffirmed our faith.”

Jay Narayan Vyas, Gujarat government spokesperson, suggested that the CBI challenge the High Court verdict in the Supreme Court and expressed the hope that the CBI would make sure the culprits are brought to book. Asked to comment on Jagruti Pandya’s allegations, he stressed that the matter should first be allowed to complete the judicial process.

Shaktisinh Gohil, Leader of the Opposition, demanded a special investigating team appointed by the Supreme Court and said it is “a well-known fact that Modi was behind the political assassination”. “Pandya’s father, a hardcore RSS worker, stuck to this claim till his last breath,” he said.

Vitthaldas Pandya, a retired college teacher, kept alleging that it was a political murder, that his son “had been removed by Modi”, and that this was perhaps because of the deposition — which Haren Pandya had reportedly made with a request that his name should not be divulged. Haren Pandya is said to have named all who had attended Modi’s meeting, detailed also in the court affidavits of IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt who has since been suspended.

The senior Pandya, who also targeted BJP leader L K Advani, appeared in court and a POTA review tribunal, went on a protest fast to be allowed an audience, and even contested as an Independent against Advani in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

It was during the father’s lifetime that Modi sought to put the rift with the son behind him. The 
Chief Minister shared the dais with Keshubhai Patel, whose camp Pandya had been part of in a faction-ridden BJP, and other rebels at a function where Advani unveiled Pandya’s statue. Pandya’s father and sisters were elsewhere, chanting slogans against Modi.

Jagruti Pandya, mother of two sons, broke her silence till then by writing to Modi in 2010, while the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter was being investigated. She sought a fresh probe and questioned the role of some of the encounter case’s key players in her husband’s murder. Modi has never responded to the letter, she said.

She cited the statement of Azam Khan, Sohrabuddin’s one-time aide and witness in the Pandya murder case, in questioning the roles of IPS officers Vanzara and Chudasama. She said Azam Khan had told the CBI that Chudasama had promised Sohrabuddin he would save him (Azam) in the Pandya murder case. This, she said, suggested that either Sohrabuddin knew details of the murder or Chudasama himself was involved.

She also alleged that Vanzara, then Crime Branch head, had helped Mufti Sufiyan, the main accused, to flee Gujarat, personally escorting him to the Bangladesh border. Sources said Vanzara, however, had helped the CBI track down alleged hitman Asghar Ali from Hyderabad in April 2003. Vanzara had led the investigation for three days before the CBI took over.

A POTA court sentenced nine of the 12 accused to life in 2007; they then appealed in the High Court.

Why the case fell

Not trustworthy: Court discounts sole eyewitness Anil Patel’s testimony. The snacks vendor claimed to have seen accused Asghar Ali fire on Pandya but the court finds his account inconsistent with the evidence

Bullets: Seven injuries, five bullets recovered; court says, citing discrepancies, that these might not be the same as the bullets eventually examined by the ballistic expert

Time: 7:30 am is prosecution case, court cites contrary evidence and observes that many witnesses, who could have given a different version, were not examined

Confession: Prosecution relied a lot on statements of accused, court says this raises questions of veracity and “voluntariness”

Forensics: Blood in clothes, none in car; no fingerprints lifted from car or from weapon

Calls: No effort made to track records from Pandya’s mobile

Versions: The POTA court that held the 12 guilty had relied on the investigating officer’s version rather that of experts on the aspects concerned.

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 06 May 2009 | Posted in , ,

The man Muslims love to hate By Abhay Singh Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi has won the support of billionaires, who praise his business-friendly Gujarat state government—even as Muslims complain he keeps them mired in poverty. As Narendra Modi, chief minister of the state of Gujarat, walks into a cavernous tent filled with 20,000 investors and business leaders in western India, he’s greeted like a Bollywood movie star. Conference goers surround the politician to shake hands, snap photos and touch his shoes—a show of reverence in India. After the January conference gets under way in the city of Ahmedabad, billionaire Anil Ambani, whose empire ranges from telecommunications to financial services, steps to the lectern. He praises Modi, 58, for turning Gujarat into India’s top destination for investors before paying the Hindu nationalist the ultimate compliment: He should be prime minister. v Since Modi became head of Gujarat in 2001, he’s lured investors with a rapid approval process for developments, a network of roads and ports and uninterrupted power supply—a rarity in India. “If Narendra Modi can do so much for Gujarat, imagine the possibility for India by having him as the next leader of India,” Ambani says. Some 40 kilometers from the conference, in a Muslim ghetto called Juhapura on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Modi’s name isn’t celebrated. He’s a top official in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or Indian People’s Party, which opposes special treatment from the government of any one religious group, including Muslims. For the 700,000 residents of Juhapura, the water runs only 15 minutes a day, potholed asphalt roads are lined with rubble and government-subsidized shops sell contaminated flour and rice that make people sick, says Mohammad Ishaq Sayed, a tailor who lives with his family of six in a one-room, 9.3-square-meter apartment. “We live in Gujarat and still we get nothing,” says Sayed, 53, sitting in a plastic chair outside his apartment, where naked electrical wires snake along the walls. “Why is there no development for us? What enmity do they have with us? We are Muslims, that’s why.” As India continues to tally the economic costs from the terror attacks by Islamic militants that killed 164 people in Mumbai in November, Modi stands out as a symbol of a nation that, 62 years after independence, has yet to come to grips with a sectarian divide that’s fueled decades of violent riots and the marginalization of Muslims. The 158.6 million Muslims, which account for 13.4 percent of India’s population of about 1.2 billion, are among the poorest people in the country. They are shut out of jobs and unable to get equal access to education, according to a 2006 government-sponsored report. At state-run companies such as banks and railways, Muslims make up only 4.9 percent of the workforce. Thirty-eight percent of them live in such deprivation that they consume less than 2,100 calories of food a day, the report says. By comparison, 20 percent of Hindus living in cities don’t receive proper nutrition. Alakh Sharma, director of the Institute for Human Development, a New Delhi-based group that studies labor markets, development policy and education, says India’s exclusion of Muslims from the mainstream hampers its economic growth. “If 13 percent of the population is alienated and doesn’t become part of the economic process, how will the country continue to grow?” Sharma says. “It’ll affect demand for goods and become a source of conflict and strife.” In more than two decades in the BJP, during which time he’s ascended to the position of general secretary, the third-highest rank, Modi has been in the middle of the sectarian conflict whose origins go back centuries. Modi helped organize a campaign in 1990 for the BJP leader to drum up support for building a Hindu temple at the site of a Muslim mosque in the state of Uttar Pradesh, according to his Web site, narendramodi.in. In Gujarat alone, the BJP campaign spurred 1,520 violent incidents between Hindus and Muslims from April 1990 through April 1991, according to a report by the New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. “Modi’s rise is a very scary prospect for India,” says Shabnam Hashmi, an atheist who runs Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, a group started to counter sectarian politics in India. “He polarizes people by promoting the ideology of hate.” Jagdish Thakkar, Modi’s public relations officer, didn’t respond to several requests for an interview. In February 2002, four months after Modi took control of Gujarat, Hindu mobs went on a rampage against Muslims after a fire on a train claimed 58 lives, among them Hindu pilgrims. In the riots that followed, more than 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims, while Modi allegedly instructed police to stand down and allow the violence to continue, according to an investigation by the eight-member Concerned Citizens Tribunal. The group, with no legal standing, was made up of former judges, professors and a retired police officer. “If you are a minority you are pushed to the brink and treated like dirt in this state,” says Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest who runs a human-rights center in Ahmedabad. Modi has denied the allegations from the citizens group and critics. “My future will be determined by the people of Gujarat,” Modi said at a conference sponsored by the Hindustan Times newspaper in October 2007. “In a democracy, criticism is welcome, but I am against the allegations.” The Supreme Court of India is still investigating the riots. The killings in Gujarat partly inspired Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan, to launch its holy war against India, according to a study on the Web site of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, a US Department of Defense institute in Honolulu. In November, 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked two luxury hotels, a Jewish center, a café and railway station in Mumbai, according to Indian officials. In a massacre that shook India, the terrorists killed 164 people, including 26 foreigners. Earlier in 2008, the Muslim group Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in three Indian cities. The spate of violence weighs heavily on Indians as they elect a new prime minister starting in mid-April. The BJP is attacking the ruling Indian National Congress party for being soft on terrorism. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, has delayed the hanging of a convicted Muslim terrorist sentenced to death in 2002—a fact that the BJP’s candidate, Lal Krishna Advani, 81, rails against on the campaign trail. The BJP is trying to return to power after a six-year term from 1998 to 2004, during which time it stiffened prison penalties for terrorists and lengthened the maximum detention period for suspects who hadn’t been charged to 180 days. “People lived under six years of a BJP government, but the end of terrorism was not one of its achievements,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a professor of modern Indian history at Delhi University. “The terrorism card that the BJP could cash in on is gone.” India’s economic downturn may be an even bigger election issue in a country where voters have regularly rejected incumbents, Rangarajan says. The economy grew 5.3 percent from October through December, the weakest pace since the last quarter of 2003. The recessions in the US and Europe, combined with the terrorist strikes in 2008, are taking a toll on India’s tourist industry. The number of visitors to the country plunged 12 percent in February compared with a year earlier. A February poll by an Indian affiliate of CNN showed that neither party would gain 50 percent of the vote, forcing the winner to cobble together a coalition government. The divide between Hindus, who make up 80.5 percent of the population, and Muslims runs deep. In the 16th century, the Mughals, an Islamic dynasty, took over and ruled the land until the British made the subcontinent a part of its empire three centuries later. Before Britain relinquished control of India in 1947, it partitioned the nation into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India to buffer historical conflicts. Eleven million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were uprooted, seeking refuge in one of the two countries and clashing along the way. The violence took 500,000 lives. Since the 1960s, there have been at least four major sectarian battles each decade in India, spurred by everything from a Muslim’s cow entering a Hindu’s house to conflicts over religious sites. Muslims, fearing violence, tend to live together in small clusters in places like the Byculla area in Mumbai and the neighborhood of Nizamuddin in New Delhi, according to the 2006 report sponsored by the Singh government, “Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India.” In Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, where investors have backed new malls with big grocery and electronics stores and movie multiplexes, some apartment complexes are off-limits to Muslims, according to the rules of occupancy set by building owners. Activist Hashmi says her family, because of its Muslim name, has felt unwelcome in parts of New Delhi. In 2003, her daughter, then 7 years old, came home from school after being verbally attacked. “Another girl told her that we should go live in Afghanistan, this is not our country,” Hashmi says. Muslims also face obstacles in finding employment at state-run companies, which provide 70 percent of the full-time jobs with benefits in India, the report says. At Indian Railways, one of the country’s largest employers, with 1.4 million workers, Muslims make up only 4.5 percent of the total. Among civil service officers—bureaucrats, diplomats and police—3.2 percent are Muslim. At banks such as State Bank of India, the No. 1 lender, the figure drops to just 2.2 percent. Of the 30 companies in the Bombay Stock Exchange’s benchmark Sensitive Index, only one—software services provider Wipro Ltd.—is led by a Muslim, billionaire Azim Premji. The report recommends that employers include Muslims in hiring to increase their numbers. “A very small proportion of government employees are Muslims, and on average, they are concentrated in lower-level positions,” the report says. “While no discrimination is being alleged, it may be desirable to have minority persons on relevant interview panels.” Dev Desai, an economics undergraduate student at GLS College in Ahmedabad, encountered discrimination recently when trying to get a Muslim friend and fellow student a job. “I spoke to some people and told them she was from my college and studies with me,” says Desai, a Hindu. “On hearing her name, they asked if she is Muslim. When I said yes, they told me to let it be.” The minority group lags behind in education as well, partly because of a shortage of schools that teach in Urdu, a language used by Muslims. As many as 25 percent of Muslim children ages 6 to 14 never attend school or drop out. Muslim kids in the Juhapura ghetto face another issue: Their school is in a Hindu area. “Some children are afraid and don’t go,” says Niaz Bibi, a resident and mother. “Their thinking is, we’ll never get a job so why study? Might as well learn a vocation like fixing cars.” In top colleges offering science, arts, commerce and medical courses, only 1 in 25 undergraduate students is Muslim. “This has serious long-term implications for the economic empowerment of the community and consequently for economic development of the country,” the report says. India has put aside its sectarian differences in a few areas, such as its movie industry. Muslim film celebrities Shah Rukh Khan, a romantic leading man also known as “King Khan,” and Aamir Khan often top the box office. Aamir Khan starred in Bollywood’s biggest hit of 2008, Ghajini. While Indians have never elected a Muslim prime minister, lawmakers have selected three Muslim presidents, the titular head of government, including A.P.J. Abdul Kalam from 2002 to 2007. Modi mocked the government report, which was chaired by retired judge Rajindar Sachar, at a conference sponsored by India Today magazine in March 2008. “Mr. Sachar came to see me and asked, ‘Mr. Modi, what has your government done for Muslims?’ I said, ‘I’ve done nothing,’” Modi said. “Then I said, ‘Please also note that I’ve done nothing for Hindus either. I work for the people of Gujarat.’” As head of the state, Modi has spurred a construction boom by attracting a slew of investors, including Sabeer Bhatia, cofounder of e-mail service Hotmail. Investors pledged $243 billion to Gujarat at the 2009 Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit in January, a 60-percent jump from the previous event in 2007. In a country infamous for bureaucratic red tape, Gujarat lures investors with a streamlined process requiring developers to get approval for major projects at only one agency, the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board. Tata Group, the $62.5-billion conglomerate that owns everything from salt to software companies, got permission from the state to build a plant to produce the $2,500 Nano, the cheapest car in the world, in three days. “Most of us in India have come to regard a time frame of six months or three months as an average time to get clearances,” Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Group, said from the stage at the January conference in Ahmedabad. “In this particular case, that tradition was shattered, and we had our land and most of our approvals in three days. That, in my experience, has never happened before.” After Tata’s speech, Modi walked toward the lectern and gave the executive a hug before addressing the crowd himself. “Even in a recession, companies aren’t going to stop manufacturing,” he said. “They will prefer a destination where low-cost manufacturing is possible. This is a chance for a country like India, if we can provide a low-cost manufacturing environment, to grab this opportunity.” Modi joined the burgeoning Hindu nationalist movement as a teenager after growing up in a family of modest means; his father ran a tea stall at Vadnagar railway station in Gujarat, according to a 2007 article in the Times of India. After completing his master’s degree in political science at Gujarat University in the 1970s, he became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or National Volunteers Corps, his Web site says. The RSS advocates that Hinduism is central to Indian culture and life. At the time, northern India was recovering from a famine and sectarian violence was rising: 500 people were killed in Ahmedabad in 1969. Members of the still active RSS take part in regular military-style parades, drills and exercises dressed in white shirts and khaki shorts. The RSS, which hatched political groups that would coalesce into the BJP in 1980, remains the fount of the party’s ideas. “The RSS ideology is all about cultural nationalism,” says Prakash Javadekar, spokesman for the BJP and a member of India’s upper house of parliament. “We are an ideological fraternity.” The BJP built itself into a national power starting in the late 1980s with a campaign to construct a temple where a mosque stood in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Modi, who joined the BJP in 1987, helped organize a 10,000-kilometer journey for Advani, now the BJP’s candidate for prime minister, to rally support for the temple and the party. Advani’s trip in a truck, with the bed trussed up to resemble a chariot from Hindu mythology, was scheduled to end at the site of the mosque. Hindus believe the site was the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram and that a temple once stood there until Muslim invaders destroyed it in the 16th century and built the Babri Mosque. Advani’s journey was cut short when authorities arrested him in the state of Bihar in October 1990. According to Advani’s Web site, he was arrested by political foes who opposed a resurgence of nationalism in India. Two years later, Hindu mobs tore down the mosque, fomenting riots in Mumbai that claimed more than 1,000 lives, mostly Muslims. The temple campaign catalyzed Hindu support across India for the BJP, which won its first national election in 1996 and its second in 1998. “Communal violence in the last two decades is a result of the manipulation of religious sentiments by Hindu right-wing organizations for political gains,” according to the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies report. “The politicization of the temple-mosque issue and the subsequent demolition of the mosque gave the BJP the opportunity to consolidate its vote bank.” Javadekar rejects that claim, saying the Congress Party’s sectarian politics and favoritism toward minorities poses the biggest danger to India. Javadekar says the BJP supports the equal treatment of all religious groups in India. “That means you do justice to all and appeasement of none,” he says. The 2002 riots in Gujarat began with a fire in a train coach carrying Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya. A commission set up by the Gujarat government said that Muslims set the fire after an altercation at the station between some pilgrims and Muslim vendors. The report of the citizens tribunal, which was released in October 2002 and based on about 2,000 interviews, shows the fire started within the coach and was not deliberate, says Ghanshyam Shah, a social scientist who was a member of the tribunal. As news of the fire spread through the state, Hindu mobs surrounded Muslim neighborhoods, destroyed houses with homemade bombs, raped and killed women and butchered men, according to the three-volume report of the citizens tribunal. “We escaped with just the clothes on our backs,” says Sayed, the tailor in Juhapura. “Everything was destroyed. Our house was torn down, and all our possessions were stolen.” Sayed, his wife and three sons were rescued by a Muslim police officer and taken to a camp outside Juhapura. “The Muslim officer risked himself and brought us to the camp,” Sayed says. The police didn’t respond to calls for help from many Muslims, according to the report. It details the murder of Ahsan Jafri, a former member of parliament from the Congress Party. The attack on the neighborhood where Jafri lived in Ahmedabad began on the morning of February 28, 2002. A high-ranking police official visited Jafri at 10:30 a.m. and assured him that police reinforcements were on the way to quell the riots. The police never came even after Jafri’s desperate phone calls to Modi’s office and the police. Jafri was dragged out of his home and killed in the afternoon, as were others who had taken shelter in his house, the report says. Three years later, in 2005, the US State Department denied Modi a diplomatic visa and revoked his existing one under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that bars entry of foreign officials who are complicit in severe violations of religious freedom. “The violence in Gujarat in 2002 was extremely serious; it went on for months,” says Delhi University’s Rangarajan. “If you travel in the hinterland of Gujarat, what is more serious is the absence of a healing process.” In 2008, six years after the riots, the Supreme Court of India formed a special team to investigate the violence. In February, the team arrested Deputy Superintendent of Police K.G. Erda, the officer in charge of the area where Jafri lived, for dereliction of duty and abetment of murder, according to Mitesh Amin, Erda’s lawyer. Erda has been released on bail, and the Supreme Court has halted the trial, Amin says. In March, investigators submitted their confidential report to the court, which asked the Gujarat government to file a response by April 13. The 2002 riots shouldn’t taint Modi’s reputation as a good administrator, says Ajit Gulabchand, managing director of Mumbai-based Hindustan Construction Co. The company is building an $8-billion waterfront development in Dholera, an industrial and business hub. “What happened was terrible,” Gulabchand says. “The question is, Are we moving on? Here is somebody who welcomes people and creates an atmosphere for business and other investments to thrive.” Yogesh Patel and his business partner, Hotmail’s Bhatia, are also bullish on Gujarat. They’re building university campuses in Dholera and have partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to open a graduate school there. During a meeting last year, after Patel told Modi about the potential for generating solar energy in northern Gujarat, the chief minister immediately called in a bureaucrat and asked him to get working on a plan. “It’s like dealing with a private enterprise and talking to a CEO,” Patel says. While political analysts say Modi is a possible future candidate for prime minister, he would face hostility from Muslims. “God will bring Modi down one day,” Sayed says. In states with large Muslim populations, where they comprise more than 15 percent, Modi would have to soften his anti-Muslim image. “Modi’s problem is very real,” Rangarajan says. “Modi has to evolve.” In Ahmedabad’s Juhapura ghetto, Hindus built a 10-foot-high wall with barbed wire at the top to separate themselves from Muslims. The wall is a reminder of the issues confronting Modi and his party as they vie to rule India again. (Courtesy: Businessmirror.com)

Indian Muslim News - GUJARAT RIOTS

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Visit to 2002 riot-hit Gujarat Muslim slums doesn’t figure in poll campaign agenda of political parties in ongoing elections: Report By Danish Ahmad Khan Even as India is in the midst of its historic 15th parliamentary elections, 2002 riot-hit Muslims living in Gujarat slums remain angry, tensed and dejected as ever. The reason is not far to seek, and is truly valid indeed. A BBC report recently said that the political parties have abandoned Muslims deeply affected by communal pogrom in 2002 in Gujarat. The report said that no politician campaigned for votes in the slums of Ahmedabad that now remain the abode of displaced Muslims. The riots, which raged in five districts of the state, claimed around 2,000 Muslim lives and over 140,000 people were rendered homeless. The riots broke out instantly in retaliation after train compartments carrying Hindu pilgrims in Godhra was set afire by miscreants who were alleged to be dressed up as Muslims. Some of the Muslim IDPs (internally displaced person) while talking to the BBC reporter said that even after seven years since riots took place, the mainstream parties—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress Party—have so far remained silent over the shoddy rehabilitation of the victims and the delay in bringing the culprits to justice. It may be noted that the riots happened under the state patronage of the present Chief Minister Narendra Modi who belongs to the BJP. The situation has now come to such a sorry pass that the very mention of the polls now creates revulsion in the community. Muslim IDPs unanimously rue saying that they are now resigned to their fate insofar as ongoing elections are concerned. “The BJP is an open enemy of Muslims, and the Congress is a hidden enemy. We cannot vote for the BJP and the Congress has a fixed deposit on our votes. So it’s a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea,” a Muslim IDP said. Expressing about situation which Muslim IDPs are currently forced to live in, a Muslim widow and mother of four girls pointedly asks, “How would you feel if you have to live below a mountain of litter and drink polluted water everyday?” Whatever be the fate of these IDPs, they surely don’t matter in the scheme of things of political parties, secular or otherwise. The report quotes an analyst saying that Muslims comprise only 10 percent of the Gujarati population, and that there is a general feeling in the political parties that it would not matter much to them if these helpless, insignificant Muslims are just left out and totally ignored since in any case they don’t make up a decisive votebank.

Meanwhile in a significant development, the Supreme Court of India has given a jolt to the current Chief Minister Narendra Modi by ordering a probe into the role played by him during anti-Muslim riots in 2002. This will be the first official investigation that would be conducted into his role ever since the riots broke out seven years ago. The Supreme Court has appointed a panel headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat that would probe into the allegations by Jakia Nasim Ahsan, the wife of slain former Congress party parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri, that Narendra Modi and 63 others—including politicians and police officers—abetted those responsible for indulging into the worst ever pogrom in India’s history. The panel has been asked to submit its report within three months.

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