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SPECIAL REPORT: Indian religious leaders strongly protest against South Korean government hounding of Shincheonji Church despite cooperation to contain COVID-19 spread

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 August 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , , , ,

By Danish Ahmad Khan

The government of South Korea is pursuing a discriminatory policy towards Shincheonji Church while accusing it of COVID-19 spread. The church authorities have alleged that this is nothing but a witch-hunt against the church despite its voluntary cooperation, including the largest blood plasma donation in the world. The government alleged that Shincheonji Church is responsible for the spread of COVID-19.

On March 26, former Seoul Metropolitan Mayor Park Won-soon revoked his permission to establish "the New Heaven and New Earth, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony", which was registered in Seoul. Furthermore, on June 22, the city of Daegu, where the largest number COVID-19 cases were confirmed, filed a civil suit worth 100 billion won against Shincheonji Church. All the steps were taken by the government holding Shincheonji Church responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea.

On February 17, after the 31st patient was found infected in Shincheonji Church in Daegu, more than 5,000 church members tested positive for COVID-19. At the request of the government, the church provided a list of Korean and overseas church members. During a press conference the church also promised to cooperate with any request from the government. As soon as the first confirmed case in the church was found, Shincheonji Church shut down all of its buildings and facilities across the country for quarantine. It also switched all of its meetings to online.

In July, most of the church members recovered from COVID-19. Despite several voluntary cooperation including the largest blood plasma donation in the world, the government's discriminatory policy towards Shincheonji Church and the social conflict of fake news in the Korean media have resulted in more than 6,000 cases of religious discrimination and human rights violations against the church in just a few months, including forced resignation, domestic violence, compulsory conversion education, and breach and leak of personal information. With the prolonged COVID-19 crisis, members of Shincheonji Church are at war against another virus called "discrimination."

A recent statement issued by the families of the deceased and victims of COVID-19 stated: "The damage and deaths of Koreans reflect the failure of initial response by the government to contain the virus." It also states that the Minister of Justice, Choo Mi-ae “allowed COVID-19 patients from China to enter Korea, leading to a widespread outbreak of the virus across the country, which resulted in the deaths of the Korean people.” It also stated that the minister is trying to cover up her responsibility for the damage by “giving direct orders to prosecutors for raid and arrests against Shincheonji Church”.

Indian religious leaders condemn South Korean govt

Religious leaders in India have also come out strongly in support of Shincheonji Church and urged that the South Korean government should not handle the current pandemic situation with prejudice just because Shincheonji Church is a minority religious group.

Dr. Homi B. Dhalla, Founder President of World Zarathushti Cultural Foundation, said, “In February 2020, the South Korean government had permitted religious organizations to conduct gatherings as well as to hold religious services. At the same time, a number of tourists from China had also entered South Korea. It is now a known fact, globally, that the COVID-19 pandemic originated in China in October 2019. Therefore, it is crystal clear that the infection was brought into South Korea by these tourists. The citizens of South Korea have rightly blamed the government for permitting these tourists to enter the country. Under these circumstances, I would sincerely urge South Korean government to stop harassing Chairman Man Hee Lee and members of the Shincheonji Church.”

Allama Syed Abdullah Tariq, President of World Organisation of Religions and Knowledge, cited a similar case that happened in India in his condemnation letter to Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea. He said, “Politicians around the world are searching for scapegoats to hide their faults. Often, they need to create an enemy to mobilize the support. More often they portray enemy is minority religion or ethnic of the country to win the support of the majority community.” 

“In India, the earliest infected people by covid-19 belonged to a Muslim religious sect called Tablighi Jamaat numbering about 80, and the social media started an organized campaign spreading rumors through morphed images and edited video clips that Muslims were intentionally spreading the disease.” he added. Surprised at knowing that discrimination to the Shincheonji Church has been imposed by the South Korea government, he urged, “Let the Democratic Party of Korea be truly democratic by taking steps to stop the persecution of religious groups and let all people enjoy religious freedom.”

Dr. Chand Kanwar Bhardwaj, General Secretary of Sawan Adhyatmic Satsang Society of India, said, “Regardless of the church's unintentional role in spreading the virus, we cannot put the blame of an entire country on a single organisation. The entire world is reeling through COVID-19 and Shincheonji Church, including its members, is also a victim of it. Treating them with contempt and charging legal proceedings against their organization and their faith, just because they are a minority religious group is a clear violation of constitutional rights.”

“Aren't the governments elected by the citizens to protect their rights? Discrimination in any form shouldn't be acceptable. This is high time for the world governments to come together and protect each individual and provide facilities on humanitarian grounds rather than blaming and targeting an individual or an organization. A Democratic Government should stand by its principal and act accordingly. If the Lawmakers don't follow the laws they made, then what shall we expect from the public?” asks Md. Irshad Ahmad, President of Minorities Forum for Deepening Democracy.

Gautam Patil, the state vice president of The Buddhist Society of India, said, “South Korea's strategy to control the coronavirus outbreak has heralded an exemplary response which the whole world has witnessed today. However, it is saddening to know that the country is exploiting human rights in regards to religious discriminations. An organization or a religious group cannot be blamed as the spreader of the virus. The use of religion in politics always leads to violation, exploitation, and discriminations among the minority which solely affects the human rights of the citizens.”

Ramchandra Das, Secretary of International Goudiya Vedanta Trust, pointed out in his letter sent on July 15th that the treatment by the government towards Shincheonji Church is clearly religious discrimination. “In terms of the peace of religion, we all believe in the same God and need to be in harmony and balance. We shouldn't be biased by looking at one side. In fact, to be honest, the church members are victims of COVID-19 and not perpetrators,” he said in his letter.

Center for Studies on New Religions and HRWF jointly hold webinar

There is also a view that a close relationship between the conservative and fundamentalist churches and the South Korean government had influence on the unusual repression of the government against Shincheonji Church. On July 20, a webinar titled “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea” was hosted by the Center for Studies on New Religions and HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers.  The new Christian movement by Shincheonji has become a target of “persecution from fundamentalist protestants” because of its successful religious expansion “from the conservative and fundamentalist protestants who see Shincheonji as competitors and want to destroy it," said Massimo Introvigne as an Italian sociologist of religion who studied Shincheonji before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and published the first account of the religious group in English.

Prior to the COVID-19 incident, two members of Shincheonji Church lost their lives by coercive conversion program operated by Christian Council of Korea. According to the Coalition for Victims of coercive conversion, the number of victims of this deprogramming is 1,507, and they have been exposed to assault, kidnapping, confinement, and forced leave from their work and schools. A voice of criticism for the coercive conversion program was also raised. Speaking about the discrimination towards Shincheonji Church by the Christian Council of Korea, Allama Syed Abdullah Tariq, President of World Organisation of Religions and Knowledge, also mentioned, “I fail to understand why the Christian Council of Korea opposes it tooth and nail when there are more than 25,000 registered denominations among the Protestants and every one of them at some point of time was a new entrant.”

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right of all people. In contrast, the act of the forced conversion of religion is the greatest violation of this right. The act of the forced conversion of religion has nothing to do with religion at all,” said Dr. Kamini Gogri, Head of Research on Ancient Scriptures, Eikam Resonance Foundation said. “We request to stop the violations of right and the atrocities committed by mainstream Christian churches to violate the same,” she added.

Recovered COVID-19 patients from Shincheonji Church donate $83 billion worth of Plasma for Vaccine development

The world should appreciate the $83 billion worth of Plasma donation for vaccine development by the 4,000 recovered COVID-19 patients from Shincheonji Church. Despite continuous discrimination, more than 4,000 members of Shincheonji Church showed their willingness for plasma donation for the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. The recovered patients voluntarily decided to donate their plasma and even refused to receive any monetary expenses including transportation charges. Starting from 17 July, 500 church members completed their donation. More members are waiting for their turn.

Dr. Avtar Singh Sethi, Advisor of The Kalgidhar Trust/Society, said, “The 4,000 infected members of Shincheonji Church voluntarily donated plasma after recovering from the virus. Their contribution to fighting the pandemic should be appreciated. At these times of crisis, let us all come together and fight the pandemic of COVID-19. I condemn the scapegoating of Shincheonji Church, and I urge the government to stop blaming any section of the society for spreading the virus, and to respect religious freedom,”

Rev Dr, C S Gabriel, the president of Christhava Nallenna Iyakkam says, “Although there is hatred towards them, I appreciate the sincere efforts made through the blood plasma donation by Shincheonji Church members, who were cured of the virus. This is alarming as it threatens other minorities in the country and globally too amid the pandemic. The infected ones are those who need to be protected, not blamed, and discriminated against.”

Religious persecution and stigmatizing must stop in the name COVID-19

The world is in a grave crisis now as it continues to battle Coronavirus pandemic. Fatalities continue to mount with several thousands having already lost their lives and many being affected by the disease. Millions of jobs have already been lost and the world economy is in dire straits. Whether it’s the United States, India or South Korea, the governments have miserably failed to effectively contain COVID-19 spread and lessen fatalities. According to reports, racism of the worst kind was on display in the USA. Black people were specifically targeted and allowed to die mercilessly due to the pandemic. In India, the largest Muslim minority group has been constantly under attack. The Coronavirus pandemic brought even more miseries for Indian Muslims as a religious sect Tablighi Jamaat was systemically targeted and its followers hounded while being accused of spreading the disease. And, the community’s stigmatization continues even today. What happened lately in South Korea by targeting Shincheonji Church is even more depressing and deplorable. Such anti-people behavior can only be expected from the governments who continue to fail to deliver. It’s high time that the world governments should stop religious persecution and stigmatization in the name of fighting COVID-19 pandemic.

[Danish Ahmad Khan is Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached on his Mobile # 9990179721 or at indianmuslimobserver@gmail.com]

Ram Temple foundation: A Jolt to Indian Culture

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

By V.K. Tripathi

On August 5, 2020, another nail was hammered on the chest of Indian culture when the Prime Minister laid the foundation of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. 

Next day (9 AM to 3 PM) I was walking through the streets of Seelampur, Jafrabad, Maujpur and Kardampuri in NE Delhi, giving fliers “Reach Out to Masses on Truth, Nonviolence and National Issues” to people and talking to them. Communal violence had taken place here on February 23-24, 2020. As I began, “Take this soul awakening flier. It says two things: Don’t fight among yourselves, fight the unjust laws/ movies of the state. Fight with truth and nonviolence,” people opened their hearts. Muslims said, “Very true. We have been living together but the government is breaking us.” They expressed their sorrow, their livelihood worries with not an iota of ill will. Their love overwhelmed me. Nitin, a motor mechanic, said, “You are speaking my heart. I don’t like hatred. Government is not doing good. By force it is building a temple and asking people to burst crackers.”  Vijay, a van driver, said, “Fliers won’t do. A year has passed, look at the conditions of people of J&K. This government will not allow people to live in peace.” This prompted me to talk in detail. I saw the real India, the India I had seen in villages. Similar was my experience on August 5 (the first day of our 11 day campaign) in Ajmeri Gate, Sitaram Bazar, Daryaganj area where in 1992 a group of six girls from Delhi University and I had met some hard headed communal traders. This time, while disbursing 1300 fliers in two days, joined by Ajay Sahay and Dr. Md. Inam, no one expressed joy over ceremony in Ayodhya. 

Indian culture has been a culture of living together. Our masses lived on honest earnings, truth, cooperation and respect for individuality/ freedom of each other. People followed different religions and practices with the same focus, Bhakti (dissolution of self). To the elite, however, religion and shrines have been an instrument of show off and assertion of superiority. They didn’t allow those who built them to enter. They turned them to propagate caste oppression and later religious hatred. 

The entire Ram temple movement has been a movement of the sectarian elite – the sections of market forces, officers, sadhus and NRIs. It has nothing to do with the masses. In fact it has been an onslaught on the culture and unity of the masses and democratic polity. It lowered the stature of Lord Ram, who is synonym to Almighty, Brahm and Allah, and reduced it to a figure of an angry archer, contrary to Lord Ram’s ‘karuna ke saagar’ image. It raised a storm of frenzy, not against Babur, but the working class masses –the weavers, farmers, artisans etc. It targeted a mosque where masses had offered namaaz of Ram for 400 years and pooja of Ram for 90 years. The shrine did not deter the multitude of Hindus and Muslims of Awadh to sacrifice their lives together in the first ‘War of Independence, 1857’ against the British imperialism. Bahadurshah Zafar, the last descendent of Babur, was the national figure of uprising, who was tortured and whose family was eliminated.

After the Supreme Court nod to build a temple over there, we urged the Prime Minister, to follow three principles. A) Shrine should inspire people to sublime their ego (a central goal of all religions and spirituality), hence must be simple, not daunting. B) It must detach itself from perpetrators of hatred and violence, the organs that built the movement. C) It must allow and welcome people of all faiths and castes to say their prayers in their own ways, commensurate with the spirit of Lord Ram (Ram sab ke hain, sab Ram ke hain). In Ram Charit Manas, Ram asks sage Valmiki to suggest a place in the forest where he could build a hut and live. The sage says. “Juinke kapat dambh nahin maaya, Tinke hraday basahu Raghuraaya” (live in the hearts of those who are free from cunningness, pride and me-others divide). Or else, the shrine would lose its inherent dignity and reinforce the imperialist polity. We did not receive any response. 

On August 5, Anuj Tripathi, Dr. Rohtash Singh, Dr. Inam, Sandeep, Dr. Rakhi Tripathi, VK Tripathi and over a hundred others (who sent their tweets) observed Fast for Unity, to awaken conscience of people to preserve secular democratic character of the state. Besides blot on Ayodhya, we were also pained by the suppression of democratic rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir that began on same date a year ago. The government fractured the unity of the nation by creating an euphoria against peace loving Kashmiri masses in the rest of India. 

Our flier brings out Gandhi’s goal of freedom movement – to change the imperialist character of the state and make it democratic, subservient to people and accountable. We talk of six issues, (1) Shutting down of economic activities of crores of people in one stroke of lockdown, (2) Democratic rights of people of J&K, (3) Citizenship Amendment Act, (4) Farmers’ woes and market, (5) Ram temple (6) Regimentation and Privatization of Educational institutions. Prof. Jagmohan Singh is preparing to distribute fliers in Ludhiana, Mr. Md. Sajjad in Muzaffarpur and Prof. Anil Sadgopal in Bhopal. Some friends have done it in New York. Many friends sent the fliers to their networks on net. 

[V.K. Tripathi is associated with Sadbhav Mission. He can be contacted on his Mobile # 9717309263 or email at tripathivipin@yahoo.co.in]

Inciting Hate: The social media powder keg

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , , ,

By Suhail Ahmad

A recent study by US think tank Pew Research Center revealed that 93 percent Muslims view Hindus favourably, but only 65 percent Hindus view Muslims positively.

The survey titled ‘Attitudes Toward Diversity in 11 Emerging Economies’ may not be conclusive and updated enough, especially as it was conducted between September and October 2018, preceding many important developments which may have a direct bearing on the study findings. However, it’s still relevant and merits an objective assessment.

The survey results beg the question- why don’t the 35 percent Hindus view Muslims in positive light and what about the seven percent Muslims holding unfavorable viewpoint of Hindus? This may be subject of a separate survey, but one can still look into the possible reasons.

One of the reasons, infact, can be discerned from another important finding of the survey about the degree or frequency of interaction. Seventy per cent of Muslims frequently or occasionally interact with Hindus in India, while only 56 per cent Hindus interact with their Muslims counterparts.
As the study points out people who interact more with other religious groups tend to have more favorable opinions of them.

Of the Hindus who said they interacted with people outside their own faith — 71 per cent had a favourable view of Muslims. As opposed to this, just 56 per cent of Hindus, who reported infrequent contact with people of other religions, viewed Muslims favourably.

Let’s now focus on the Hindus who don’t have much interaction with Muslims.  Their beliefs and perceptions are largely shaped by mainstream media and social media and there lies our possible answer about the trust deficit. Social media, in particular, has proven to be a powerful influence on public perception.

A piece by Claire Teitelman (April 19, 2019) in Journal of International Affairs of Columbia University explored the role of platforms like WhatsApp and Twitter in sparking communal hatred and subsequent violence in India.

Before social media, television was the media of the masses. Claire contends that without revenue-generating streams of traditional media like TV, social media companies have had to be more aggressive with advertising, “which includes the development of targeted ads that meets your preferences and prejudices”.

She also quotes Guillaume Chaslot, an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher. “If the AI favors engagement, like on Facebook and YouTube, it will incentivize divisive content, because divisive content is very efficient to keep people online. The longer you retain people online, the more advertisements they see and the more opportunities you have to profit, which is what matters to social media-companies, like any commercial enterprise. The aim of social media algorithms is to keep people angry, engaged, and online.”

India has emerged as the fastest-growing market for Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube so much so that for many social media has become an indispensible part of life. While the utility of these platforms cannot be denied, the prospect of their misuse remains pretty high. The speed and ease with which rumors spread on social media is frightening. There is a large gullible section of population with poor internet literacy - those who can’t differentiate between fact and rumour.

Claire refers to two incidents- the “Dadri Mob Lynching” in 2015 and the “Kathua Rape Case” in 2018. In both these incidents, protesters were riled-up by viral messages, photos, and videos on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

Many of the videos were based on alleged cow slaughter or cow meat storage and consumption by Muslims. In an interview with news portal Scroll, the sister of one of the accused Dadri perpetrators claimed that she – and possibly her brother – had been inundated with messages and videos about cow slaughter on WhatsApp. No wonder, hoax WhatsApp messages led to more than a dozen lynchings in 2018 alone.

The Kathua incident that involved the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young Muslim girl was distorted through social media, contending that the girl hadn't been raped and false claims flooded WhatsApp, including an autopsy report purporting to disprove rape as well as proof claiming the innocent had been framed.

Social media has played a role in accentuating sectarian tensions. It magnifies the communal tensions by rapidly creating national crises out of local disturbances. As Claire argues, “Both the Kathua and Dadri episodes would have remained local events, but social media amplified and polarized them.” The resulting ‘Us’ against ‘Them’ mindset serves the parties who thrive on divisive politics very well.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to the social media hatemongering. If the hate and propaganda machinery is not reined in, we may see widening of the gulf between people from different faiths and spike in communal violence. We are sitting on the social media powder keg. Unless defused, it’s just waiting to blow up. 

(Courtesy: The Rising Kashmir)

India grants thousands citizenship rights in Kashmir to dilute Muslim population

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

By Hilal Mir

Srinagar, J&K: As many as 25,000 people have been granted domicile certificates in Muslim-majority Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir since May 18, which local politicians believe is the beginning of disturbing demographic profile of the region.

The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local population.

Last year on Aug. 5, when India revoked the semi-autonomous status of the region, it also scrapped the local special citizenship law, guaranteed under Article 35 (A) of the Indian Constitution.

The law was barring outsiders including Indian nationals from settling and claiming government jobs, to maintain the demographic balance.
On Friday, a picture of the domicile certificate issued to Navin Kumar Choudhary, a bureaucrat originally from the Indian state of Bihar, went viral on social media.

In April this year, amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, the government notified domicile laws making an unspecified number of outsiders eligible for residency and jobs.

According to the new law, any person who has lived in the region for 15 years, or has studied in the region for seven years and passed his class 10 or class 12 examination is eligible for domicile certificate.

Also, children of Indian government employees who have served in the state for 10 years are eligible to settle and claim local citizenship rights. The law applies even if the children have never lived in Kashmir.

Out of 66, top bureaucrats serving in the region, 38 are outsiders belonging to other Indian states. Many other outsiders serve in various central government institutions like banks, post offices telecommunication facilities, security institutions, and universities.

Majority of new citizens in Jammu region

Kashmiri politicians across the divide have said the revocation of special citizenship rights was aimed at reversing the Muslim majority character of the region.

According to a census conducted by India in 2011, out of 12.5 million total population, Muslims comprise 68.31% and Hindus 28.43% in Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity, a government official said, since May 18, when the rules were notified, 33,000 persons had applied for the domicile certificates. Out of them, 25,000 persons have been granted citizenship rights, he said.

As many as 32,000 applications were filed in 10 districts of the Hindu majority Jammu region. The highest number of 8,500 certificates has been issued in the Doda district, which has a delicate demographic balance, with Muslims comprising 53.81% and Hindus 45.76%.

As many as 6,213 domicile certificates have been issued in Rajouri district, which has 62.71% Muslim population. Authorities have distributed 6,123 citizenship certificates in Poonch, a border district comprising 90.44% Muslim population.

In the Kashmir region, which is about 96.4% Muslim population, 435 certificates have been issued so far, out of the total 720 applications.

As of now, it is not clear how many outsiders, like Choudhary, have been issued domicile certificates. The 25,000 new citizens also include Hindu refugees, who had settled in the region at the time of partition of the sub-continent in 1947. They had migrated from territories, now part of Pakistan. But due to the state’s residency laws and special status they were not granted local citizenship rights.

Disputed territory

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Two of them have been over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

(Courtesy: The Muslim News)

Shibli Academy facing serious financial crisis

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

By Masoom Moradabadi

Vast majority of us, sadly, know very little about the great academic, literary and research institutions established by our ancestors in this great country of ours. Neither we know about the contributions and services of these institutions nor do we have any idea of the crisis they are facing. One of such prestigious institutions, of which our community can be rightly proud of, is Darul Musannefin, Azamgarh, also known as Shibli Academy.

This great institution completed its centenary only a couple of years ago. If I tell you that this esteemed academic and research academy is struggling for its survival, perhaps you will not believe me. But this is a painful truth that this institution is facing financial difficulties of such magnitude that it is unable to pay salaries to its employees. Someone has forwarded me a letter written by its Director Professor Ishtiaq Zilli. After reading this letter my immediate impression was that someone has played a trick and that he is trying to defame a prestigious institution. Several fake items with similar contents keep circulating on social media. But when I found out it to be genuine, I was deeply saddened. I am one of those who have personally benefitted from this institution. Its prestigious and authentic journal, Marif, has played an important role in my mental formation. But as someone with no power and authority, I am unable to do anything more than writing a few lines to help and support this academic institution.

Therefore, through this imperfect writing of mine, I am trying to introduce to you the extraordinary services of this institution in the fields of academics, literature and research, though you know about it more than I do.

Is there any intellectual in whole of South Asia who has succeeded in his career without benefiting from the enduring academic contribution of Darul Musannefin? There was a time when this was the only institution that deserved to be acknowledged as a ‘think thank’. How do you feel knowing that this great institution, that has provided a seminal service by compiling the magnificent history of Muslims, is not able even to pay salaries to its staff and is looking towards you with a silent question?

Let’s now turn to the open letter written, 6 June 2020, to the well-wishers of the community by Darul Musannefin’s director Dr Ishtiaq Zilli. He writes: ‘I am sorry to trouble you in these difficult times. Extreme helplessness has forced me to take this route. You are aware of the financial difficulties being faced by Darul Musanniffeen. During the last few days, due to several reasons, these difficulties have intensified. The lockdown has made the situation more serious. Half of April has passed. We have somehow managed to pay salaries to our staff. Only Allah knows what lies ahead. We need your prayers and advice in this regard.’ [Translated version not original letter]

From the letter of the Director of Darul Musannefin one can easily gauge the seriousness of the financial crisis that this institution is facing. [Bear in mind that] This is the very institution that has fostered our intellectual traditions and whose contributions have been acknowledged by several bigwigs. This is the very institution that a learned person like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad held close to his heart and that had produced a rare Perl like Allama Syed Suleman Nadvi. Why is our Milli self-respect not reawakening even when this academy is struggling for its survival?

Allama Shibli Nomani
What is it if not a communal tragedy that the community in which individuals spend crores of rupees to satisfy their false sense of self-pride and self-importance, in which wealth is wasted like water on weddings, in which money is lavishly spent to build massive houses and everything is put at stake to satisfy a false sense of ego but an institution that serves as the guardian of its cultural and academic heritage is having to beg for help for its survival?

The fact is that the manner in which our community has turned its back on its cultural and academic heritage is a glaring proof of our collective insensitivity. Darul Musannefin is our national and milli heritage that we should be rightly proud of.

Not only has this institution done a great service by compiling the history of Muslims but has also reawakened in them a sense of being immensely culturally and historically rich. No matter how many conspiracies are hatched and executed to erase their very existence and the history of their services to their motherland, the facts shall remain facts and the undeniable fact is that no community has enriched the history and culture of this country as much as has been done by the Muslims.

Ideally some altruist should have come forward and helped this institution in a manner that the left hand would not have known what the right hand had done but, sadly, things have come to such a pass that in order to be able to pay the salaries of his staff, its director had to issue a public appeal and even after ten days no feasible arrangement has yet been suggested.

Maulana Azad may be regarded as one of the founders of this institution. It was him who had first proposed, in his daily Al-Hilal, the idea for the establishment of this institution. Giving the heading to his proposal as Ikhwanussafa he had appealed to the educated and conscientious circles to help and cooperate in this project. Even after its establishment, he remained interested in its affairs. The manner in which he continued to help it after the independence may be judged from the letter he had written on 23 November 1954, four years before his death, requesting the government to continue helping this institution. He wrote:

‘My dear Dr Katju,

‘Darul Musannefin Azamgarh, also known as Shibli Academy, used to get an annual aid of Rs 2,160 from Bhopal state that continued to be paid after its integration [with the union of India] because it was recognised in the conditions of the integration that the grants being given by the state for academic and literary programmes would continue as usual, but, abruptly, this year Shibli Academy did not receive its grant. Thereupon they wrote to the government of Bhopal. From Bhopal they received a reply saying that the issue has been referred to Central government where it is being reviewed.

‘I am forwarding to you the documents related to this matter along with this letter. I would be grateful if you could enquire about further developments in this regard. Shibli Academy is country’s big academy and has been providing invaluable literary services. If the grant from Bhopal is stopped this will harm it hugely. In addition, this will also violate the agreement that we had signed at the time of Bhopal’s integration.’

Darul Musannefin was established in 1914 and was the last great achievement of Allama Shibli Nomani. Having faced several ups and downs since its birth this institution has successfully covered a long and purposeful journey spanning over a century. This is the only institution that — maintaing a distinct style, intellectual integrity and constructive point of view — has given a huge and invaluable treasure of non-fictional prose to Urdu literature and fulfilled the dream of its founders.

The selflessness of the inheritors of the legacy of Allama Shibli, their sacrifices, their dedication to research and academic work and devotion to their mission has served as necessary provisions in this long journey covered by them. After the death of Shibli Nomani, they, under the leadership of Shibli’s great pupil, Maulana Syed Sulaiman Nadvai, took up this journey, notwithstanding the lack of resources. For the formal construction and progress of this institution they did not get any help from the government or a business tycoon family. They spent their own limited and scares resources for this great task. They were fortunate to have been joined by a team of writers and scholars who had the ability to make their ends meet with very little remuneration. But we are not living in that age. In today’s world, for the survival of an institution regular and dependable income is a must so that it does not have to face such a crisis and beg for help and it does not behove to the scholars to have to make such appeals.

Therefore, this is extremely vital that the well-off people in the community sit together and brainstorm to find means for a regular income of Darul Musannefin. If our research and academic institutions fall victim to such a financial crisis this would be millat’s great loss.

[Masoom Moradabadi is a senior journalist and has authored several books.]

Send foreign Tablighi Jamaat members home, appeals Islamic Federation in Tamil Nadu

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: The Federation of Tamil Nadu Muslim organizations and political parties have vehemently appealed to the state government for release 129 foreign Tabligi Jamat (TJ) members lodged in Puzhal Central Prison complex here.

The Tamil Nadu government has designated the Juvenile prison within Puzhal jail for the detention of 129 foreign TJ members who have violated Visa regulations.

These are 53 citizens from Indonesia, 17 from Malaysia, 14 from Bangladesh, 14 from Thailand, 13 from Myanmar, 8 from Ethiopia, 5 from France, 3 from Cameroon, 1 from Congo, 1 from Belgium.

Addressing an online press conference, the Islamic Federation has asked the Tamil Nadu government to drop all cases against the foreign TJ members and set them free from the illegal dentation and send them to their respective countries. 

The online press conference was addressed by the Islamic Federation's President and Jamathul Ulama Council President, Moulana P.A Haja Moinudeen Hazrath, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi President M.H.Jawahirullah, SDPI President Nellai Mubarak, Coordinators M Manzoor Khasifi, Alhaj M Basheer Ahmed and others.

There were 129 foreign TJ members including 12 women belonging to 9 different countries who were arrested by Tamil Nadu police from the various places of the state following the discovery of coronavirus linkage with TJ members and Nizamuddin Markaz world conference in New Delhi.

The Madras High Court and its subsidiary courts granted bail to 98 TJ members arrested in 12 cases. Similarly, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court granted bail to other 31 foreign TJ members.

All these foreign TJ members who were earlier put up at Saidapet sub jail but after being given bail, were shifted to Juvenile prison within the Puzhal Central jail complex.

This included 31 foreign TJ members who were arrested from the Southern districts of Tamil Nadu and their bail plea was heard by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

While granting bail to 31 TJ members on June 12, 2020, the Madurai Bench of Madras High court stated that it is not fair to detain them in the Special Camp within Puzhal Prison complex and the government should consider keeping them in any other good place.
The court further stated that “these people have served maximum sentences for violation of Visa rules and there is no proof that these people have spread Coronavirus. In such a situation, if the petitioners execute appropriate affidavits expressing their regret for having violated the visa conditions, proceedings against them shall be concluded by filing final reports recording the same,” the court said.

The Islamic Federation Based on the judgment of the Madurai Bench of Madras High court held a online press conference where it said; “It is contempt of the Judgment given by the Madurai Bench of Madras High court to illegally keep 31 foreign TJ members in Puzhal prison, whose case have been closed and have been acquitted and absolved of all cases against them.”

“Further, those 98 people including 8 women who have got bail from court but their cases are still not disposed of and are still kept in detention even more than 60 days of their arrests are illegal.”

The Islamic federation appealed to the state government to drop all pending cases against the remaining 98 foreign nationals and stop their illegal detention in Puzhal prison complex and house them in some better place.

A member of Islamic Federation and President Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, M H Jawahirullah pointed out that the central government has given clear guidelines about these special camps as to how they should function.

Frist, such a detention center should not be located within the prison complex which is not in this case. Second, the food for such detainees should be prepared in a separate Kitchen but in this case, foreign TJ members are served food meant for the prisoners of Puzhal Jail. Third, the guidelines say the detention place should have proper ventilation for air and sunlight but that’s not there in this detention center, M H Jawahirullah said.

He added; “the Juvenile prison within Puzhal jail can accommodate only 30 to 40 persons but there are 129 TJ members cramped in an inhuman condition in such detention center that too at the times Covid crisis is huge violation of social distancing norms begs human attention.”

The MMK leader demanded that Tamil Nadu government should house these foreign TJ members in a ‘near human’ conditions and suggested keeping them at Jamia Qasmiya Arabic College in Washermanpet locality, till they are sent to their respective countries.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com] 

Tamil Nadu Muslim body TMMK involved in funeral service of Corona victims

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

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: A Muslim group in Tamil Nadu is actively involved in conducting proper funeral rites of dead bodies mostly of Corona victims belonging to different faiths.

The volunteers of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK), a Muslim non-governmental organization have performed the last rights of about 139 dead bodies belonging to different religions commencing from March 25, 2020 till this date.

The funeral rites have been conducted based on the religious beliefs of the dead and many among them are non-Muslims, said M.H. Jawahirullah  TMMK President.

Even when the loved ones of the dead are unwilling to perform their last rites, the volunteers of the TMMK are doing the funeral service based on human concerns, he added.
So far TMMK have done funeral service for 139 people from March to June 2020. Among them 58 who died due to Covid- 19, include 48 from Chennai, 2 from Villupuram, 1 from Pernambut area in Tirupattur district, 3 from Trichy, 1 from Kayalpattinam in Tuticurin District, 1 from Aaarani in Tiruvannamalai district and 2 from Erode.    

Apart from them, there were 81 orphaned people who died during the Corona curfew or lockdown.  These include 63 from Chennai, 2 from Coimbatore, 2 from Udumalaipet and one each from Trichy and Madurai. Besides, there are 12 other orphan deaths from different places of Tamil Nadu whose last rites were performed by the TMMK.

M.H. Jawahirullah said since the first curfew began on March 25, 2020 the TMMK have been actively taking part in rescue and relief operations of those who died of Coronavirus in Tami Nadu. As a part of it, its volunteers actively involve themselves in burying the bodies. They have been doing this with utmost dedication with proper precautionary measures, he added.

In many occasions, the police department has directly approached TMMK to help them in burying the dead bodies. We have readily extended the service to dispose of the dead bodies in a proper way, the TMMK President quipped.  

As of today there have been 67,468 Covid positive cases reported in Tamil Nadu, of them 37,763 have recovered. So far 866 fatalities are reported from the entire state. 

Chennai continues to be the worst-hit district with 1,380 fresh cases in the state capital taking the number of cases in the city to 44,205. Of these, 39,897 patients are males, 24,686 are females and 20 are transgender patients.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist is based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com]

Special Report: OIC reiterates peaceful settlement of Jammu & Kashmir issue

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , , ,

By Danish Ahmad Khan 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has for the second time in two months raised the issue of Jammu & Kashmir seeking a peaceful settlement of the imbroglio.

A virtual meeting was recently held by the Contact Group of the OIC on Jammu and Kashmir issue on June 22, 2020, against the backdrop of the current situation in the embattled Muslim-dominated border state. The foreign ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Niger, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Republic of Turkey participated in the meeting.

The virtual meeting was inaugurated by OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef A.  Al-Othaimeen. He stressed the OIC's resolve and commitment to finding a peaceful settlement for the Jammu and Kashmir issue as per the relevant resolutions of the Islamic Summit, the Council of Foreign Ministers, and the international legitimacy. 

Al-Othaimeen in his inaugural address said, "At the same time, I call on the international community to strengthen its efforts to assist the people of Kashmir to decisively practice their legitimate rights denied for decades."

The Contact Group has reaffirmed its continued support for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and called on the United Nations Secretary-General to use his good offices to make India abide by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and engage in dialogue to calm the situation in the region.

The Contact Group has asked India to halt security operations against the people of Jammu and Kashmir immediately, respect basic human rights, refrain from changing the demographic structure of the disputed territory, and settle the conflict under the relevant UNSC resolutions.
Meanwhile, the Contact Group also highly appreciated the efforts made by the OIC General Secretariat through its Special Envoy to Jammu and Kashmir who visited the region in March 2020.

The meeting concluded with the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir issuing a statement on the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir region in which it welcomed the efforts made by some Member States to calm the situation between India and Pakistan.

OIC Resolution passed over J&K

Earlier, the premier Muslim World body Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had expressed deep concern over Hindu right-wing Narendra Modi government's unilateral actions to change the demographic composition of Jammu & Kashmir and undermining the rights of the people. 

The OIC had on 20th May 2020 passed a resolution over the Central government's unilateral action, which has largely gone unreported in the Indian media. Without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi the OIC in its resolution stressed the importance of complying with UN Security Council Resolutions and allowing no changes to the demographic composition of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The OIC Resolution dated 20/05/2020 says:

"The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been following with deep concern the unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 and subsequent measures to alter the demographics of and undermine the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory as recognized by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The General Secretariat reaffirmed the importance of complying with international law and UN Security Council resolutions, considering the recent notification of ‘Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules 2020’ as baseless, running counter to international law and UN Security Council resolution 122.

Recalling the Islamic Summits’ and the Council of Foreign Ministers’ resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, the General Secretariat reaffirms its solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It also calls on the international community to gear up its efforts to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and as per the aspirations of the Kashmiri people."

India, China face off over Ladakh

The Kashmir situation has further worsened with direct face off between India and China. A clash took place between the armies of the two nations at Ladakh's Galwan Valley on June 15. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and over 80 injured. China claims that the Galwan Valley, which is part of the disputed Ladakh region, is located on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) - the de facto border between the two Asian rivals.

Earlier, a report authored by a senior figure at an influential Chinese think-tank was published on June 4 in a recent Chinese publication Global Times, which has linked the current tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to India’s move last year to abrogate Article 370 and change the status of Jammu and Kashmir, a decision that China had voiced opposition to.

The article, for the first time, described the move as a joint challenge to China and Pakistan, saying the move had “posed a challenge to the sovereignty of Pakistan and China”.

A press officer at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad was the first to share the report on social media.

Modi Government Indicted

The fact that the Jammu & Kashmir issue has been raised by the OIC for the second time in two months is a serious indictment of the current Hindutva government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With its unilateral action of abrogating Article 370 through a parliamentary act, Modi government has sought to internationalize the Jammu & Kashmir issue, which was so far bilateral, but has now become tripartite issue with the direct interference of China. It may be noted that Article 370, which granted Special Status to Jammu & Kashmir, was primarily considered to be a bridge between India and State of Jammu & Kashmir.

The status quo until the abrogation of Article 370 had kept the wheel going and thwarted any direct international interference. With the military face off between India and China the Jammu & Kashmir issue has become more complicated than ever threatening a war between the two countries, and probably with Pakistan too, in the near future. The OIC's and other world bodies' interference shows that India has failed on its foreign policy front as far as Jammu & Kashmir is concerned.

It would have been better that Modi government should have maintained status quo and shouldn't have moved ahead with the unilateral abrogation of Article 370. India should have instead focused on building a robust South Asian regional market and steered its economy well, which is currently tottering and in abysmally bad shape. The warning bells have started sounding for the Modi government as it is on course losing its formidable friends both in the Muslim World and its immediate neighborhood. The time has come to give a serious thought for the peaceful resolution of Jammu & Kashmir issue.    

[Danish Ahmad Khan, a Senior Journalist, is based at New Delhi. He is Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com - India's First Online Muslim Newspaper. He can be reached at indianmuslimobserver@gmail.com]

Telangana HC concerned over higher number of Muslims booked for lockdown violations

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

IMO News Service

New Delhi: The Hyderabad Police has been pulled up by Telangana High Court over the booking of disproportionately higher number of Muslims for violating lockdown rules. 

The Telangana HC had last week asked the Hyderabad police to explain the conduct of its officials over the booking of a large number of Muslims over lockdown rules violations. The HC acted on a petition filed by Sheela Sarah Mathews bringing to the court’s attention the many incidents of police excess and brutality aimed at people for violating the lockdown rules.

The petitioner, represented by Dipak Misra, had also filed an application in the case under section 151 of the CrPC seeking directions from the court to the Respondents to incur medical expenses of the injured persons as stated in the affidavit filed by the petitioner.

Hyderabad Police Commissioner also filed a counter affidavit addressing the various allegations made in the petition and informed the court about the actions taken against some officials for failure to discharge their duties responsibly.

It was submitted that a departmental enquiry has been initiated against Sub-Inspector B Lingam and SHO of Ameerpet Police station, B Mohan Kumar and ACP of Malakpet Division and the court has directed that the progress of the departmental inquiry be informed to the court.
In the counter affidavit, it is also claimed that Mr. Mohd. Asgar and Mr. Khaleem were not assaulted by the police but injured themselves while running away from the police. Reportedly, Mohd. Asgar, who went to fetch groceries, fell from the top of a building as people began to run to a nearby under construction building as police started lathi charge.

The court, in its June 17 order, observed that the injury report of either individual has not been submitted with the counter affidavit. The police, on the allegation that they had assaulted a handicapped person, stated in the counter affidavit that he was a regulator violator with many traffic challans against him, however, these challans were not submitted to the court.

Further, the court directed the police to submit the name of the police personnel, seen in a video circulating on the internet, abusing locals who had stepped out of their homes to buy groceries. The police have admitted in the Counter affidavit that this incident took place.

Responding to another incident of police excess, whereby it was alleged that the police personnel of Falakhnuma Police station damaged vehicles parked on the road, the counter affidavit said, that the police were checking the vehicles for coronavirus. The court was rather surprised and said there was no need to use lathis to check for coronavirus. The court asked for a complete report to be submitted in this regard.

Further, about the allegation that one Mr. Zaidan was attacked by K Hanumanth Kumar of Golconda Police Station, the counter affidavit stated that Zaidan was intercepted by the police as he was riding a two wheeler without a mask and helmet and in an altercation, the police lathi accidentally hit his spectacles which broke and caused injury under the right eye. The Court, however, observed, “the injury report of Zaidan has not been produced before this Court. Obviously, a single injury to right eye cannot cause an injury requiring thirty-five stitches and a hairline fracture. Thus, it is obvious that the correct facts have not been mentioned in the counter affidavit.”

The court further observed, “although it is claimed that Mr. Hanumanth Kumar was suspended by order dated April 29, and a detailed enquiry has been ordered against him, neither the copy of suspension order, nor the further development in the departmental enquiry has been submitted along with the counter-affidavit.”

In the light of the above observations, the court asked the police to file a fresh report along with requisite injury reports.

The Times of India reported that during the hearing, the court questioned why there was disproportionate charging of people belong to the Muslim community for violation lockdown rules. The bench comprising Justices Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and B Vijaysen Reddy asked, “does it mean that there are no violators from other communities?” The bench also pointed out how nationwide protests broke out in the USA when an African-American man was killed by the cops.

The court sought a fresh report from Hyderabad police by June 29 and scheduled the next date of hearing for June 30.

India warned over violations of religious freedom

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Dr Mike Ghouse

The Center for Pluralism and the supporting organizations welcome the Press Release by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and the Annual report released by the U.S. Department of the State (DOS) in June 2020.

The USCIRF made a recommendation to the DOS about the gross violations of religious freedoms in India and listed India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) and suggested penalties against India’s Home Minister Amit Shah, the man behind the violations.

The CPC designation has severe consequences for India. The major global corporations that are interested in India’s prosperity will hesitate to do business in India due to social and political unrest. Most companies in the world want to do business in a stable nation.

The biggest economic threat to India is the loss of prosperity gained by the employees and the companies in the information technology sector. The employees and employers stand to lose all the gains they have made in the last twenty years. In the end, every Indian stand to lose.
Prime Minister Modi earned the CPC title by his calculated silence. He has a record for letting the bad guys do whatever they want. He had once said at the beginning of the Gujarat Massacre to his men, “You’ve three days to finish the job.” meaning kill as many as you can. It resulted in the killing of over 1000 people in February 2002.

Modi lives on with his three days formula – An 8-year-old girl Asifa was gang-raped and butchered into pieces, Modi did not speak until the whole nation was agitated. Ansari was brutally beaten with crowbars; Modi did not talk until the entire country condemned it. There were 114 such incidents during his six-year reign. In March this year, his men placed the saffron flag on their homes to identify Muslim homes who did not have the flag – they burned several houses and killed nearly 50 people. Modi did not speak or even had the courtesy to visit.

Christians and Muslims are given an ultimatum by a few members of the ruling BJP Party, that they (230 Million) have three options. Convert to Hinduism, live as 2nd class citizens, or disappear. Mr. Modi has not said a word to allay the fears.

Prime Minister Modi needs to repeal the unnecessary Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the protests will stop at once, and the nation’s social and political stability will return. The demand for birth certificates is to separate Muslims as the Jews in the Holocaust were pinned Megan David on their sleeves. As per the provisions of the law, if one is a Hindu or of other faith, he/she gets automatic citizenship, but Muslims will go to the detention camps. The great Indian people of all religions have joined the protests, and they have realized, discrimination to one is discrimination to all. The demonstrations are identical to the George Floyd protests across the world.

The Modi government arrested a pregnant woman Safoora Zargar for protesting. She was slapped with false charges. Mr. Amit Shah has extensive experience with making up charges against the people he doesn’t like or, worse, killing them in fake encounters.

Kaleem Kawaja of Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM) adds, “We hope the Government of India heeds the reports issued by the Department of State and work on correcting the course and save India from the destruction of social structure leading the economic disaster.”

We offer the following solutions to restore sanity and democracy, take back the title of CPC, and recognize all citizens are equal under the law.

We urge the Indian government to issue the visas to the Commissioners of USCIRF to verify the truth and make the recommendations to rectify the wrongs heaped on Indian Citizens, particularly the Kashmiri citizens.

We urge the Prime Minister to speak up and tell the nation that he will not tolerate lynching, cow vigilantes, raping, and harassment of fellow Indians. The calls for Christians and Muslims to convert to Hinduism or live as second-class citizens will be pushed back, and the callers will face serious consequences.

The report in its entirety can be read Here

[Mike Ghouse is the founder and president of the Center for Pluralism. He is a speaker, thinker, author, consultant, pluralist, activist, newsmaker, and an interfaith wedding officiant. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions to the media and the policymakers. He blogs at TheGhousediary.com] 

Do all Lives Matter in India?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 22 June 2020 | Posted in , , , ,

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has evoked a sea of responses globally and shook its conscience. Americans from all walks of life irrespective of colour have come out in large protest rallies to condemn racism and police brutality in US. There were some unfortunate instances of looting and violence during these protests but by and large the protests were peaceful, sparking debate and bringing the focus on the deep entrenched systemic racism in the country. George Floyd was 47 years old Black American who died in police custody when police officer, Derek Chauvin knelt over his neck for around nine excruciating minutes even as Floyd gasped for air pleading with the officer to release pressure from his neck, repeating “I cant breathe”. The imagery of George Floyd’s humiliation and inhumane subjugation at the hands of the unrelenting Derek Chauvin in his final moments has shaken the social and moral consciousness of the individuals the world over, calling for condemnation and police reforms against police brutality and excesses. While George Floyd’s death has exposed the long historically existent fault lines based on race, this incident has triggered a discourse on police brutalities which are targeting the vulnerable communities in every country. There are parallels to “George Floyd moments” to be found worldwide. In India, George Floyd’s death unwittingly conjures the imagery of the biased police action against religious minorities especially the Muslims and the Dalits which is starkly marked by prejudice and systemic targeting of these marginalized groups. This prejudice against the Muslims partly stems from and is patronized by the supremacist ideology at helm. Here the author would like to reflect on the striking differences in the responses of Indian state as compared to United States while dealing with police action vis a vis vulnerable groups.

In response to the outrage and decry in the United States by the protestors, the state has come up with a number of proposals to address police brutality. Two most far reaching responses being discussed are, firstly to “defund” the Minneapolis and second is the drastic step to disband the police department force entirely in favor of the new community led safety model (The Tribune , 2020). Defunding of the police department would imply massive budgetary cuts to the police which the protestors believed were disproportionately used against the coloured community and reallocating them to public health, mental health, education and affordable housing for the poor. The Minneapolis City Council has vowed to go as far as disbanding the entire police force something unthinkable in countries today where the idea of security is intimately intertwined with a lethally overreaching armed police force. These sweeping changes underline the recognition of the systemic bias and discrimination that exists in the institution as of now. As against these measures seen in the United States, in India there has been a visible trend of placing the police in the position of extreme power and privilege, even in the face of compelling evidences.

The most recent example is that of Khwaja Yunus. Khwaja Yunus was a young man of 27 years who died in the police custody in 2003. He was a resident of Parbhani in Maharashtra who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the Ghatkopar blasts on December 2, 2002. He was a software engineer arrested with four other accused. While the police claimed that Yunus had escaped from custody, his then co-accused, Dr. Mohammad Matin who was the first prosecution witness before the trial court in January, had submitted that he had seen Yunus being stripped and assaulted on January 6, 2003, following which, he was never seen again. Based on the complaint of Yunus’ co-accused in 2003, an FIR was filed against the policemen (Modak, 2018). Four police officers were prima facie found guilty and suspended from services. However earlier this month they were reinstated. The High Court in 2004 had directed disciplinary enquiry against the four accused. This enquiry was never carried out and instead the four accused police officers were reinstated in contrary to the orders of the High Court.

The ill treatment and torture of the innocent Khwaja Yunus is not a stray incident. Muslim youth are perceived as “natural” suspects in terror attacks reflecting the stigma and demonization of the Muslim community in India. Many innocent Muslim youth are incarcerated under stringent acts like UAPA or POTA and remain in prison for years and released only after years when no evidence is found against them. Mohammed Saleem Ansari, a mechanical engineer was released from jail in 2016 after the Supreme Court absolved him of the terror-related charges under which he had been in prison for 23 long years. Ansari, along with three other Muslims, walked out of a Jaipur jail on May 17 after the Supreme Court on May 11 acquitted them of all charges, setting aside their life sentence and ordering their immediate release. They were among the 16 who were booked for triggering five blasts on trains on the first anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, which killed two passengers and injured eight. All of them were charged under the Terrorist and Disruptive Acts Prevention Act (Shaikh, 2016). In another incident, in 2015, Shoaib Khan, 28, from Hingoli, Maulana Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, 30, from Yavatmal and Abdul Malik, 23 from Pusad were arrested by Maharashtra Police and their cases were transferred to Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad. In June 2019, they were acquitted of all charges and walked free after a harrowing time in prison. While the media and police painted a picture of radicalization of the Muslim youth in India and alleged that the three were involved in “jihadi” terror acts, Khan narrated a harrowing tale of torture in police custody to extract false statements (Johari, 2019) A 2012 study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences found that although Muslims account for 10.6 per cent of the Maharashtra population, they comprise over 30 per cent of the prison population. The study observed that the police and intelligence agencies’ bias against Muslims led to a number of arrests under TADA and MCOC Acts, and even the Official Secrets Act.

The common thread running in all these cases is the humiliation and stigmatization that the community faces owing to its religious identity. The years lost in police or judicial custody after undergoing unbearable torture can never be redeemed and are wasted forever. The torture and stigma scars the victims for the rest of their lives. The victimization of Muslim youth in police custody is not a coincidence but one finds a well established pattern of police interface with the Muslim community. This becomes clear in the context of communal riots and mob lynching. There are numerous studies and commission reports which points towards the biased nature of police during communal riots targeting the vulnerable communities. The Srikrishna Commission report (1998) underlines the “built in bias” of the Bombay police force which manifested in the riots in Bombay in 1992 and other places in Maharashtra. The Report of Justice D.P. Madon Commission on Bhiwandi riots (1970) passed severe strictures on the role of police in Bhiwandi riots. On anti-Sikh riots, three inquiry commissions—Justice Rangnath Mishra Commission (1987), Justice Jain-D.K. Agarwal Committee (1990), and Justice R.S. Narula Panal (1994) submitted their reports and all inquiry commissions had unanimously indicted 72 police officers and clearly outline the discriminatory role of the police. Similarly, there are many reports by fact finding committees that give appalling findings on the police’s partisan role in the Gujarat riots of 20021.

In the mob lynching cases that surfaced post 2014, the police is still found wanting at multiple levels- right from protecting the victims from the bloodthirsty mob, to shoddy investigations allowing the perpetrators to walk away free without punishment and to in fact implicate the victims themselves under stringent charges. One can’t erase the image of the police in Hapur escorting the perpetrators who are seen dragging the helpless bleeding victims, Mohammad Qasim and Samiuddin in a hurry (Times of India , 2018). Rakbar Khan in Alwar lost his life due to the fatal casualness of the police who stopped to drink tea for three hours while Rakbar Khan bled to death on the way to the hospital after being lynched by the mob (Goswami & Sharma, 2018). There are many such incidents where the police have proved to be an obstacle in saving innocent lives and delivering justice.

These hair raising incidents must surely compel one to think that inspite of severity and frequency of such incidents, why doesn’t India have the “George Floyd moment” meaning large scale protests or movement on the lines of Black Lives Matter. This is answered with brilliant insight by political scientist Suhas Palshikar who explained that any such protests or voices of dissent are linked to a thriving democracy. The State has steadily delegitimized concern or voices for rights of the marginalized by posing them as threat to order or nation itself (Palshikar, 2020). This carefully constructed narrative has created a barrier for generating empathy in the larger society for the plights of the marginalized no matter how brutally they are violated. This policy is in tandem with the supremacist ideology which hinges on the central idea of constructing a community of second class citizens- the Muslims, Christians, Dalits. Thus while outrage and pain of the protestors reverberated in most of United States where police in some places took to their knee to symbolically acknowledge police excesses and it was their way to offer an apology, the Indian state has most viciously treated protestors.

The recent example was the handling of anti- Citizenship Amendment Act protests by the police. The police have used stun grenades and tear gas on innocent students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) which led to serious injuries like loss of sight and loss of limb of some students (The Wire, 2019). This is even as Portland and Seattle have temporarily restricted the use of tear gas on protesters. There was a brutal crackdown on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi for which the police came under criticism. The UP police publicly shamed the protestors by putting up their posters and names warning that their property would be attached to recover against damages to public property. The High Court took up this case and observed that the government was “impinging on privacy, respect and freedom” and called it an “illegal move” (NDTV, 2020). One can gauge how inhumanely the police in India deal with protestors going by the arrest of Safoora Zargar, a Jamia Millia Islamia student who is five months pregnant and booked by the Delhi police under the draconian UAPA where she is denied bail. She along with other students was protesting against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Register of Population (NRP) (The New Indian Express, 2020).

After George Floyd’s death, California’s governor ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching neck holds. Other governments discussed new policies for apprehending suspects to reduce the risk of deadly encounters. These steps are to minimize injuries or deaths to suspects apprehended by police and placed in police custody. Instead of such steps, encounters or extra judicial killings are being used as state policy in Uttar Pradesh. Officials have admitted to over 3,500 police encounters and nearly 80 killings of alleged criminals in a period of over two years, forcing the Supreme Court to intervene (Indian Express, 2019). These encounters have mostly targeted Muslim youth and have made the Muslim community fear for their life and freedom.

These issues highlighted above are directly linked to accountability and democratic institutions. For democratic institutions to thrive and function with fairness, on one hand there must be participatory democracy where people have the freedom to actively and fearlessly participate and on the other hand a state which builds, invests and encourages institution infrastructure. Individuals have to reclaim the public spaces as citizens to express their empathy and outrage at the violations of rights of the marginalized sections of the society. These protests or voices cant be delegitimized by the state. The state has to actively and consciously nurture and reinforce democratic institutions for accountability. While world over there is a growing trend of dismantling of monuments of oppression and slavery, in India the statues of Godse and Manu are worshipped under the present ideology and this is a matter of concern when India is hailed as the largest democracy. Hopefully, India too will take inspiration from the support to George Floyd and redeem its own state and people in favor of liberty, justice and fraternity.

(This article first appeared in Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Secular Perspective, June 16 – 30, 2020) 

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