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Baba Deep Singh Ji, Golden Temple, and COVID-19

Sikh History reveres the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh Ji who fought to avenge the desecration of Golden Temple, Amritsar, in 1757. Legend says he fought while supporting his severed head and refused to die until he reached Golden Temple.

22 Mar 2020

Baba deep singh ji

As a Sikh, going to Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Saheb, is a pilgrimage most of us make at least once or twice in our lives, if not yearly. With the COVID-19 prevention measures being taken-be it the sanitization of the pathways and the shrine itself, or the group of doctors stationed for screening the devotees for symptoms, or making announcements to direct people to maintain distance from one another- there is no directive to completely shut down entry. COVID-19 is still being studied and we have yet to gain complete understanding of community spread, hence scaling down operations should now progress to only essential functioning and closing entry for devotees. The Gurbani has been telecasted live from the Golden Temple for many years now, and maybe that would have to suffice for now, rather than allowing devotees inside. Closing down places of worship that attract large crowds is a necessary measure we need to take in these trying times. Once life goes back to normal, though we do not know when that will be, we know that we can seamlessly rebuild the community centred around shrines like Golden Temple which has been a symbol of resilience throughout history. Many of us remember the re-construction and restoration of the holy shrine after Operation Blue Star in 1984. Yet, this was not the first time the temple had been damaged and rebuilt.

The original Sarovar (holy pool of water) was constructed by the fourth Sikh Guru- Guru Ram Das Ji- and the temple itself was then planned to be built around this Sarovar by the fifth Guru- Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Arjan Dev Ji enlisted Mian Mir who was a Sufi saint and spiritual advisor to Dara Shikoh, to lay the foundation of Harmandir Saheb in in 1589.

In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev Ji placed the compiled religious text of Sikhs, the Guru Granth Saheb, at Harmandir Saheb. He established Harmandir Saheb as the shrine of AthSath Tirath, saying that one dip in the holy Sarovar here would be equal to going on 68 pilgrimages.

Peace was short-lived, as invaders all over the world had started annexing more and more territories in a bloodthirsty bid for power. In 1755, Ahmad Shah Abdali launched his armies towards the cities in and around Delhi, accumulating a vast haul of precious jewels and artefacts, in addition to abducting a great number of women and girls intended to be held as slaves. When the Sikhs learned that this army was to pass through Punjab on their way back to Afghanistan, they hatched a plan to free the kidnapped girls.

Baba Deep Singh Ji had become one of the most revered Sikhs at this time, due to his considerable scholarly talent in addition to his athleticism and bravery. He had been the lead Sikh scholar to transcribe and write down the entire Guru Granth Saheb as dictated by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- and even made copies of the extensive text in his own handwriting. He had fought in numerous battles alongside the tenth Guru and even at the age of 73, he was a formidable fighter. He led the Sikh army that attacked Ahmad Shah Abdali’s troops in 1755-56 and successfully freed the prisoners and recovered the looted goods.

The defeated Abdali escaped to Lahore and vowed revenge against the Sikhs. He ordered his general- Jahan Khan- to destroy the Golden Temple, which he successfully accomplished in 1757. To add to the destruction, the holy Sarovar was also desecrated by filling it up with animal carcasses. As soon as Baba Deep Singh Ji heard the news of this horrific event, he vowed to fight back and not return until he had defeated his enemies and paid obeisance at the Sarovar.

As he started rallying the support of Sikh soldiers on his way to the Golden Temple, more and more people joined in swelling their numbers from a few hundreds to five thousand by the time they reached Tarn Taran 10 miles away from Amritsar. At this juncture, Baba Deep Singh Ji drew a line on the ground with his Khanda (double sided sword) and said, “Only those who are willing to fight and die, should cross this line.” All Sikhs present crossed the line immediately.

At the other end of the city, Jahan Khan learned that Sikhs were mobilising their forces, so he dispatched an army of 20,000 troops to intercept them on their way to the Golden Temple. During the clash, Baba Deep Singh Ji was attacked by commander Jamal Khan and it is said that both swung their swords at the same time severing each other’s head.

One version of the legend says that Baba Deep Singh Ji’s head was completely severed and he carried it in his left hand and continued fighting until he fulfilled his vow to reach Golden Temple. It is said that the armies cleared the way in awe when they saw Baba Deep Singh Ji riding towards Golden Temple with his own head in his hand.

Another version of the legend says that his head was partially severed but by sheer force of will he supported his head against his neck and continued to fight with one hand until he reached the Sarovar and finally laid his head down.

The Sikh armies, fuelled by inspiration from Baba Deep Singh Ji, successfully pushed back forcing the Afghan forces to retreat. Reconstruction and rebuilding of Golden Temple took many years as there were further skirmishes in the years to come.

 

(Painting depicting Baba Deep Singh Ji fighting with his severed head in his left hand, installed at the shrine dedicated to him at Golden Temple)

Baba Deep Singh Ji truly earned the title of Shaheed (Martyr) and inspires all Sikhs to never give up fighting for what is right. The Golden Temple has such spiritual significance for Sikhs not just because of the holy Sarovar and the site where the original Guru Granth Saheb was installed, but also because of the stories of dedication and sacrifice that surround our tumultuous history of defending our faith. Hence the closure of such a holy place may seem emotionally and logistically daunting, but it needs to be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As I sit in Mumbai on Day 13 of self-isolation, I think about the day I will visit the Golden Temple again, and that day, even if it is months or years from now, I will remember to pay obeisance at the shrine paying homage to Baba Deep Singh Ji. I will recall his courage, as I do now, and know that this is where Sikhs get their resilience from. We fight, we build, and we re-build, and just like Baba Deep Singh Ji, we never give up.

 

Related Articles:

  1. 'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020
  2. Draped in yellow, Malerkotla rises against the CAA-NPR-NRC
  3. Sikh-Muslim friendships started with Guru Nanak Dev Ji

 

Baba Deep Singh Ji, Golden Temple, and COVID-19

Sikh History reveres the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh Ji who fought to avenge the desecration of Golden Temple, Amritsar, in 1757. Legend says he fought while supporting his severed head and refused to die until he reached Golden Temple.

Baba deep singh ji

As a Sikh, going to Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Saheb, is a pilgrimage most of us make at least once or twice in our lives, if not yearly. With the COVID-19 prevention measures being taken-be it the sanitization of the pathways and the shrine itself, or the group of doctors stationed for screening the devotees for symptoms, or making announcements to direct people to maintain distance from one another- there is no directive to completely shut down entry. COVID-19 is still being studied and we have yet to gain complete understanding of community spread, hence scaling down operations should now progress to only essential functioning and closing entry for devotees. The Gurbani has been telecasted live from the Golden Temple for many years now, and maybe that would have to suffice for now, rather than allowing devotees inside. Closing down places of worship that attract large crowds is a necessary measure we need to take in these trying times. Once life goes back to normal, though we do not know when that will be, we know that we can seamlessly rebuild the community centred around shrines like Golden Temple which has been a symbol of resilience throughout history. Many of us remember the re-construction and restoration of the holy shrine after Operation Blue Star in 1984. Yet, this was not the first time the temple had been damaged and rebuilt.

The original Sarovar (holy pool of water) was constructed by the fourth Sikh Guru- Guru Ram Das Ji- and the temple itself was then planned to be built around this Sarovar by the fifth Guru- Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Arjan Dev Ji enlisted Mian Mir who was a Sufi saint and spiritual advisor to Dara Shikoh, to lay the foundation of Harmandir Saheb in in 1589.

In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev Ji placed the compiled religious text of Sikhs, the Guru Granth Saheb, at Harmandir Saheb. He established Harmandir Saheb as the shrine of AthSath Tirath, saying that one dip in the holy Sarovar here would be equal to going on 68 pilgrimages.

Peace was short-lived, as invaders all over the world had started annexing more and more territories in a bloodthirsty bid for power. In 1755, Ahmad Shah Abdali launched his armies towards the cities in and around Delhi, accumulating a vast haul of precious jewels and artefacts, in addition to abducting a great number of women and girls intended to be held as slaves. When the Sikhs learned that this army was to pass through Punjab on their way back to Afghanistan, they hatched a plan to free the kidnapped girls.

Baba Deep Singh Ji had become one of the most revered Sikhs at this time, due to his considerable scholarly talent in addition to his athleticism and bravery. He had been the lead Sikh scholar to transcribe and write down the entire Guru Granth Saheb as dictated by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- and even made copies of the extensive text in his own handwriting. He had fought in numerous battles alongside the tenth Guru and even at the age of 73, he was a formidable fighter. He led the Sikh army that attacked Ahmad Shah Abdali’s troops in 1755-56 and successfully freed the prisoners and recovered the looted goods.

The defeated Abdali escaped to Lahore and vowed revenge against the Sikhs. He ordered his general- Jahan Khan- to destroy the Golden Temple, which he successfully accomplished in 1757. To add to the destruction, the holy Sarovar was also desecrated by filling it up with animal carcasses. As soon as Baba Deep Singh Ji heard the news of this horrific event, he vowed to fight back and not return until he had defeated his enemies and paid obeisance at the Sarovar.

As he started rallying the support of Sikh soldiers on his way to the Golden Temple, more and more people joined in swelling their numbers from a few hundreds to five thousand by the time they reached Tarn Taran 10 miles away from Amritsar. At this juncture, Baba Deep Singh Ji drew a line on the ground with his Khanda (double sided sword) and said, “Only those who are willing to fight and die, should cross this line.” All Sikhs present crossed the line immediately.

At the other end of the city, Jahan Khan learned that Sikhs were mobilising their forces, so he dispatched an army of 20,000 troops to intercept them on their way to the Golden Temple. During the clash, Baba Deep Singh Ji was attacked by commander Jamal Khan and it is said that both swung their swords at the same time severing each other’s head.

One version of the legend says that Baba Deep Singh Ji’s head was completely severed and he carried it in his left hand and continued fighting until he fulfilled his vow to reach Golden Temple. It is said that the armies cleared the way in awe when they saw Baba Deep Singh Ji riding towards Golden Temple with his own head in his hand.

Another version of the legend says that his head was partially severed but by sheer force of will he supported his head against his neck and continued to fight with one hand until he reached the Sarovar and finally laid his head down.

The Sikh armies, fuelled by inspiration from Baba Deep Singh Ji, successfully pushed back forcing the Afghan forces to retreat. Reconstruction and rebuilding of Golden Temple took many years as there were further skirmishes in the years to come.

 

(Painting depicting Baba Deep Singh Ji fighting with his severed head in his left hand, installed at the shrine dedicated to him at Golden Temple)

Baba Deep Singh Ji truly earned the title of Shaheed (Martyr) and inspires all Sikhs to never give up fighting for what is right. The Golden Temple has such spiritual significance for Sikhs not just because of the holy Sarovar and the site where the original Guru Granth Saheb was installed, but also because of the stories of dedication and sacrifice that surround our tumultuous history of defending our faith. Hence the closure of such a holy place may seem emotionally and logistically daunting, but it needs to be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As I sit in Mumbai on Day 13 of self-isolation, I think about the day I will visit the Golden Temple again, and that day, even if it is months or years from now, I will remember to pay obeisance at the shrine paying homage to Baba Deep Singh Ji. I will recall his courage, as I do now, and know that this is where Sikhs get their resilience from. We fight, we build, and we re-build, and just like Baba Deep Singh Ji, we never give up.

 

Related Articles:

  1. 'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020
  2. Draped in yellow, Malerkotla rises against the CAA-NPR-NRC
  3. Sikh-Muslim friendships started with Guru Nanak Dev Ji

 

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Khan Saheb in Kashi

Ustad Bismillah Khan, 1916–2006. In the Ustad’s shehnai lies the note of reason

21 Mar 2020

Khan Sahab

There are moments when I love my job or rather, my business of journalism – even I, a hard-nosed cynical hack of nearly three decades. It is because you love and cherish these moments that you are so grateful you are in this business. How else would I, a hopeless, hopeless philistine, hope to find myself on a rain-drenched terrace in old Varanasi with Ustad Bismillah Khan? As it happens, it was almost exactly the same time last year.

I can fill the rest of this space just describing the beauty of his face, his spirit, his talent, his madness, even his commercialism. To date, he is the only guest who demanded, and was paid – though only a very reasonable tribute – for appearing on Walk the Talk. He said he had a large family to support, even at 91, and could do with whatever money came his way. And when I reminded him, while leaving, that he had to come and perform at my children’s weddings, he said yes immediately. And then quoted the price: five lakh, plus air tickets and stay for seven people. You could touch his innocence with bare hands in the heavy monsoon air.

Khan Saheb let me down on this one though. He will not come and perform at my children’s weddings, whatever the price. But he left me with memories – and lines – that will never go away. What was the difference between Hindu and Muslim, he asked. What, indeed, when he sang to Allah in raga Bhairav (composed for Shiva) and brought to tears the Iraqi maulana who had just told him music was blasphemy, "evil, a trap of the devil". Khan Saheb said, "I told him, Maulana, I will sing to Allah. All I ask you is to be fair. And when I finished I asked him if it is blasphemy. He was speechless." And then Khan Saheb told me with that trademark mischievous glint: "But I did not tell him it was in raga Bhairav."

Why did Khan Saheb not migrate to Pakistan with partition? "Arre, will I ever leave my Benares?" he asked. "I went to Pakistan for a few hours," he said, "just to be able to say I’ve been there. I knew I would never last there." And what is so special about Benares, his glorified slum of a haveli in a grandly named Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan Street that had more potholes than footholds and more heaps of chicken entrails from nearby meat shops than garbage heaps from homes? "My temples are here," he said, "Balaji and Mangala Gauri." Without them, he asked, how would he make any music? As a Muslim he could not go inside the temples. But so what? "I would just go behind the temples and touch the wall from outside. You bring gangajal, you can go inside to offer it, but I can just as well touch the stone from outside. It’s the same. I just have to put my hand to them."

How is that devotion in a week when our parliament was rocked by issues like the forcible, and criminal, chopping of a Sikh boy’s hair in Jaipur and the controversy over state-mandated singing of Vande Mataram in schools to launch the 150th anniversary of 1857? Or when we were all so outraged by the paranoia that caused the Mumbai bound KLM-Northwest flight to return to Amsterdam, the racial profiling of Muslims, particularly Asian-Arab Muslims and so on?

Khan Saheb’s was a talent worthy of a Bharat Ratna and immortality. But he also personified, so strikingly, the fact of how the Muslims of India defy the stereotypes building up in today’s rapidly dividing world. They may be poorer than the majority, or even other, smaller minorities, they may still live in ghettos of sorts, but they are a part of the mainstream, nationally as well as regionally and ethnically, more than Muslim populations are in most parts of the world. A Tamil Muslim, for example, is as much an ethnic Tamil as a Hindu or a Christian and certainly has more in common with his ethnic cousins than with fellow Muslims in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. India’s Muslims work in mainstream businesses where their interests are meshed inextricably with the rest, particularly the majority Hindus, even if they happen to spar occasionally.

That is why, unlike Bush’s America or the western world in general, India cannot even think of the diabolical idea of "Islamic" fascism or terrorism. No country can survive if it starts looking at nearly 15 per cent of its population as a fifth column. That is why India’s view of the war against terror has to be entirely different from the western world’s, more nuanced, more realistic and, most importantly, entirely indigenous.

It is a difficult argument to make in times when it is so tempting to tell America and Europe that see, the people who are terrorising you are the same as the people who have been terrorising us. So far you never believed us. Now with every other terror suspect being traced back to Pakistan and, more precisely, Jaish or Lashkar, accept and acknowledge that we have been in the forefront of the global war against terror for a decade before it hit you. The danger in that approach is, the Americans and the Europeans can choose that approach – though it is not working for them as well – because for them these Muslims are outsiders, different, and therefore candidates for racial profiling. You can racially profile a million people in a universe of 27 crore. Can you profile 14 crore in a universe of a hundred crore? Particularly when most of them, in their own big and small ways, are as integrated in the mainstream, as zealously proud and possessive of their multiple (ethnic, linguistic and professional) identities as of their faith?

That is why the key to fighting, okay, this wave of terror emanating from Muslim anger is to absolutely avoid the "global war on terror" trap.

The terrorists know it. That is why attacks in India, even by angry Indian Muslims, are not directed against some evil global power or its symbols. Nor are they meant to support some pan-Islamic cause, Palestine, or even, for that matter, Kashmir. Their objective, always, is to strike at our secular nationalism. Every single attack has had the same purpose, starting with the first round of Bombay bombings in 1993.

Sharad Pawar made a bold confession to me earlier this month that he parachuted from Delhi into a riot-torn Bombay then figured immediately that the terrorist plot was to kill a large number of people in Hindu localities to trigger large-scale mob attacks on Muslim areas where automatic weapons and grenades had been stored with their agents. Once the mobs were stopped with these automatic weapons it would lead to a carnage that would be uncontrollable. It is for that reason that, he says, he lied on Doordarshan that there had been 12 blasts (where there had been 11) and added the name of a Muslim locality as the 12th. Today we can all rue the fact that judgement in the case of those blasts is still awaited, 13 years later (this article was written in 2006). But we should also cherish the fact that in eschewing any rioting and actually returning to work the very next morning, Bombay had defeated the larger design of the terrorists.

Every attack since then, the temples at Ayodhya, Akshardham and Varanasi, Raghunath temple in Jammu, even the bombs at Delhi’s Jama Masjid, had the same purpose: widening that divide. But it is tougher in India where any notion of ‘Them versus Us’ is an impossibility given how closely communities live, work and do business together. It is one thing to say that we have learnt to live with diversity for a thousand years. It is equally important that we internalise the idea of diversity, equality and fairness that is in our Constitution and in the process of nation building make the very idea of a global war against ‘Islamic fascism’ totally alien and ridiculous for India.

There is a war on for us and there is no getting away from the fact that some of those on the wrong side today are fellow, angry Indians, and we have to deal with them firmly and effectively. But we will need to evolve an idiom and a strategy entirely our own, in tune with a society which loves equally Ustad Bismillah Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar, who both sing and pray to Allah and Shiva, Krishna in ragas composed for either. Today India enjoys great respect in the world because of its unfolding economic miracle. If India can get this nuance right, it could be the toast of the world tomorrow for an even greater socio-political miracle, a secular but deeply religious nation that defeated terrorism while taking its 14 crore Muslims along.

Courtesy: The Indian Express

Archived from Communalism Combat, August-September 2007, Anniversary Issue (14th), Year 14    No.125, India at 60 Free Spaces, Music

Khan Saheb in Kashi

Ustad Bismillah Khan, 1916–2006. In the Ustad’s shehnai lies the note of reason

Khan Sahab

There are moments when I love my job or rather, my business of journalism – even I, a hard-nosed cynical hack of nearly three decades. It is because you love and cherish these moments that you are so grateful you are in this business. How else would I, a hopeless, hopeless philistine, hope to find myself on a rain-drenched terrace in old Varanasi with Ustad Bismillah Khan? As it happens, it was almost exactly the same time last year.

I can fill the rest of this space just describing the beauty of his face, his spirit, his talent, his madness, even his commercialism. To date, he is the only guest who demanded, and was paid – though only a very reasonable tribute – for appearing on Walk the Talk. He said he had a large family to support, even at 91, and could do with whatever money came his way. And when I reminded him, while leaving, that he had to come and perform at my children’s weddings, he said yes immediately. And then quoted the price: five lakh, plus air tickets and stay for seven people. You could touch his innocence with bare hands in the heavy monsoon air.

Khan Saheb let me down on this one though. He will not come and perform at my children’s weddings, whatever the price. But he left me with memories – and lines – that will never go away. What was the difference between Hindu and Muslim, he asked. What, indeed, when he sang to Allah in raga Bhairav (composed for Shiva) and brought to tears the Iraqi maulana who had just told him music was blasphemy, "evil, a trap of the devil". Khan Saheb said, "I told him, Maulana, I will sing to Allah. All I ask you is to be fair. And when I finished I asked him if it is blasphemy. He was speechless." And then Khan Saheb told me with that trademark mischievous glint: "But I did not tell him it was in raga Bhairav."

Why did Khan Saheb not migrate to Pakistan with partition? "Arre, will I ever leave my Benares?" he asked. "I went to Pakistan for a few hours," he said, "just to be able to say I’ve been there. I knew I would never last there." And what is so special about Benares, his glorified slum of a haveli in a grandly named Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan Street that had more potholes than footholds and more heaps of chicken entrails from nearby meat shops than garbage heaps from homes? "My temples are here," he said, "Balaji and Mangala Gauri." Without them, he asked, how would he make any music? As a Muslim he could not go inside the temples. But so what? "I would just go behind the temples and touch the wall from outside. You bring gangajal, you can go inside to offer it, but I can just as well touch the stone from outside. It’s the same. I just have to put my hand to them."

How is that devotion in a week when our parliament was rocked by issues like the forcible, and criminal, chopping of a Sikh boy’s hair in Jaipur and the controversy over state-mandated singing of Vande Mataram in schools to launch the 150th anniversary of 1857? Or when we were all so outraged by the paranoia that caused the Mumbai bound KLM-Northwest flight to return to Amsterdam, the racial profiling of Muslims, particularly Asian-Arab Muslims and so on?

Khan Saheb’s was a talent worthy of a Bharat Ratna and immortality. But he also personified, so strikingly, the fact of how the Muslims of India defy the stereotypes building up in today’s rapidly dividing world. They may be poorer than the majority, or even other, smaller minorities, they may still live in ghettos of sorts, but they are a part of the mainstream, nationally as well as regionally and ethnically, more than Muslim populations are in most parts of the world. A Tamil Muslim, for example, is as much an ethnic Tamil as a Hindu or a Christian and certainly has more in common with his ethnic cousins than with fellow Muslims in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. India’s Muslims work in mainstream businesses where their interests are meshed inextricably with the rest, particularly the majority Hindus, even if they happen to spar occasionally.

That is why, unlike Bush’s America or the western world in general, India cannot even think of the diabolical idea of "Islamic" fascism or terrorism. No country can survive if it starts looking at nearly 15 per cent of its population as a fifth column. That is why India’s view of the war against terror has to be entirely different from the western world’s, more nuanced, more realistic and, most importantly, entirely indigenous.

It is a difficult argument to make in times when it is so tempting to tell America and Europe that see, the people who are terrorising you are the same as the people who have been terrorising us. So far you never believed us. Now with every other terror suspect being traced back to Pakistan and, more precisely, Jaish or Lashkar, accept and acknowledge that we have been in the forefront of the global war against terror for a decade before it hit you. The danger in that approach is, the Americans and the Europeans can choose that approach – though it is not working for them as well – because for them these Muslims are outsiders, different, and therefore candidates for racial profiling. You can racially profile a million people in a universe of 27 crore. Can you profile 14 crore in a universe of a hundred crore? Particularly when most of them, in their own big and small ways, are as integrated in the mainstream, as zealously proud and possessive of their multiple (ethnic, linguistic and professional) identities as of their faith?

That is why the key to fighting, okay, this wave of terror emanating from Muslim anger is to absolutely avoid the "global war on terror" trap.

The terrorists know it. That is why attacks in India, even by angry Indian Muslims, are not directed against some evil global power or its symbols. Nor are they meant to support some pan-Islamic cause, Palestine, or even, for that matter, Kashmir. Their objective, always, is to strike at our secular nationalism. Every single attack has had the same purpose, starting with the first round of Bombay bombings in 1993.

Sharad Pawar made a bold confession to me earlier this month that he parachuted from Delhi into a riot-torn Bombay then figured immediately that the terrorist plot was to kill a large number of people in Hindu localities to trigger large-scale mob attacks on Muslim areas where automatic weapons and grenades had been stored with their agents. Once the mobs were stopped with these automatic weapons it would lead to a carnage that would be uncontrollable. It is for that reason that, he says, he lied on Doordarshan that there had been 12 blasts (where there had been 11) and added the name of a Muslim locality as the 12th. Today we can all rue the fact that judgement in the case of those blasts is still awaited, 13 years later (this article was written in 2006). But we should also cherish the fact that in eschewing any rioting and actually returning to work the very next morning, Bombay had defeated the larger design of the terrorists.

Every attack since then, the temples at Ayodhya, Akshardham and Varanasi, Raghunath temple in Jammu, even the bombs at Delhi’s Jama Masjid, had the same purpose: widening that divide. But it is tougher in India where any notion of ‘Them versus Us’ is an impossibility given how closely communities live, work and do business together. It is one thing to say that we have learnt to live with diversity for a thousand years. It is equally important that we internalise the idea of diversity, equality and fairness that is in our Constitution and in the process of nation building make the very idea of a global war against ‘Islamic fascism’ totally alien and ridiculous for India.

There is a war on for us and there is no getting away from the fact that some of those on the wrong side today are fellow, angry Indians, and we have to deal with them firmly and effectively. But we will need to evolve an idiom and a strategy entirely our own, in tune with a society which loves equally Ustad Bismillah Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar, who both sing and pray to Allah and Shiva, Krishna in ragas composed for either. Today India enjoys great respect in the world because of its unfolding economic miracle. If India can get this nuance right, it could be the toast of the world tomorrow for an even greater socio-political miracle, a secular but deeply religious nation that defeated terrorism while taking its 14 crore Muslims along.

Courtesy: The Indian Express

Archived from Communalism Combat, August-September 2007, Anniversary Issue (14th), Year 14    No.125, India at 60 Free Spaces, Music

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History repeats itself, first time as evil, second time as evil: UP, Nazi Germany

Is there some similarity between what is happening in Uttar Pradesh (UP) 2020 and what unfolded, under Hitler, in Nazi Germany?

14 Mar 2020

nazi

Undeterred by the Allahabad High Court’s sharp reprimand on its politics of intimidation, naming and shaming, today’s reports indicate that now an ‘Ordinance’ will be brought in to legalise the UP state’s unlawful acts! Two days back, on March 12, in the matter of the hoardings put up by the Uttar Pradesh government of the alleged anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors demanding compensation for damage to property, the Supreme Court said there was no law to support that the government could put up such hoardings with the names, photographs and addresses of such persons. Instead of then dismissing the matter or endorsing the stay by the Allahabad HC, the SC referred the matter to a larger bench!

What transpired under Hitler and Goebells with the Jews in Germany

Anti-Jewish riots had convulse the German Reich (Kristallnacht) in 1938. In an organised act of nationwide violence, Nazis and collaborators burned synagogues, looted Jewish businesses, and killed dozens of Jewish people.

On November 9-10, 1938, violence against Jews broke out across the Reich. It appeared to be unplanned, set off by Germans' anger over the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official in Paris at the hands of Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish teenager. In fact, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis carefully organized the pogroms. Regional Party leaders issued instructions to their local offices, and during the following two days, Nazis and their collaborators burned over 250 synagogues, trashed and looted over 7,000 Jewish businesses, killed dozens of Jewish people, and looted Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes while police and fire brigades stood by.

As the violence spread, units of the SS and Gestapo arrested 30,000 German Jewish men and transferred most of them from local prisons to Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and other concentration camps, where hundreds died from the brutal treatment they endured.

The German government pronounced that “the Jews” themselves were to blame for the pogrom and on November 12, 1938, imposed a punitive fine of one billion Reichsmark (some 400 million US dollars at 1938 rates) on the German Jewish community. The Reich government confiscated all insurance payouts to Jews whose businesses and homes were looted or destroyed, leaving the Jewish owners personally responsible for the cost of all repairs.

In the weeks that followed, the German government promulgated dozens of laws and decrees designed to deprive Jews of their property and of their means of livelihood even as the intensification of government persecution sought to force Jews from public life and out of the country. Indeed, the effects of Kristallnacht spurred mass emigration of Jews from Germany in the months that followed.

The pogroms became known as Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," for the shattered glass from store windows that littered the streets.

UP 2020

Fast forward to Uttar Pradesh, India to 2020. In a bizarre twist of law and the Constitution, while appearing for the UP government, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta actually said that the hoardings bearing the names of 57 people who were alleged rioters were put up after following processes of law and especially put up as a deterrent. He also argued that once a person had been videographed to be indulging in violent activities in public places, he cannot claim protection of right to privacy! This turns on its head established and settled jurisprudence of due process, law of evidence etc.

Appearing for former IPS officer SR Darapuri whose name was published on the hoardings said that the action of the government amounted to an “appeal for lynching”, pointing out that the names of rapists or serious criminals were never published publicly by the government. “We don’t have an anarchy in the state that the government will start doing this,” he said.

Allahabad HC

The Allahabad HC had then taken suo motu cognizance of the matter on March 9 while ordering the government to take them down and calling the government’s action a “shameless and unwarranted interference in privacy.” The HC had also said that the government’s move was in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The HC judgement read, “In the present case, the cause is not about personal injury caused to the persons whose personal details are given in the banner but the injury caused to the precious constitutional value and its shameless depiction by the administration. The cause as such is undemocratic functioning of government agencies which are supposed to treat all members of public with respect and courtesy and at all times should behave in manner that upholds constitutional and democratic values.”

In response to the arbitrary and undemocratic actions of UP state government, the Allahabad High Court was compelled to take suo moto cognizance and hold hearings on Sunday, March 8. The Lucknow administration put up banners with photographs and personal details of more than 50 persons who were accused vandalism during the anti-CAA protests of December 2019. The poster is seeking compensation from the accused persons and further to confiscate their property, if they failed to pay compensation.

Noticing injury to the right of privacy, the Chief Justice of this Court directed the Registry to register a petition for writ in public interest. The Commissioner of Police, Lucknow and District Magistrate, Lucknow were called upon to explain the provisions under which the banners were placed on road side that also causes interference in movement of traffic in crowded areas.

While defending the state of UP, Advocate General even challenged the territorial jurisdiction of the court and termed the state’s action to be bona fide. The Court said that this PIL resulting from its suo moto cognizance is justified given that the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the constitution are subjected to injuries. The Bench, led by the Chief Justice held that this incident amounted to gross negligence on part of public authorities and government and as a constitutional court it can take notice of it on its own.

The Court further held thus, “The Court in such matters is not required to wait necessarily for a person to come before it to ring the bell of justice. The Courts are meant to impart justice and no court can shut its eyes if a public unjust is happening just before it.”

The Court while emphasizing on right to privacy, stated, “In the case in hand, a valid apprehension of causing serious injury to the rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India exists which demands adequate treatment by the Court at its own. The economic status of the persons directly affected in such matters is not material. The prime consideration before the Court is to prevent the assault on fundamental rights, especially the rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The Court, while establishing its jurisdiction, deemed the “cause” in this case to be, “not about personal injury caused to the persons whose personal details are given in the banner but the injury caused to the precious constitutional value and its shameless depiction by the administration. The cause as such is undemocratic functioning of government agencies which are supposed to treat all members of public with respect and courtesy and at all time should behave in manner that upholds constitutional and democratic values.”


Related Articles:

No law to back your actions: SC to UP govt. defending ‘name and shame’ posters

UP govt caused “unwarranted interference in privacy”, says HC

UP govt caused “unwarranted interference in privacy”, says HC

UP police go door-to-door; puts up hoardings of alleged anti-CAA protesters in town

UP police go door-to-door; puts up hoardings of alleged anti-CAA protesters in town

UP admin sends third recovery notice for damage to property in anti-CAA protest

 

 

 

History repeats itself, first time as evil, second time as evil: UP, Nazi Germany

Is there some similarity between what is happening in Uttar Pradesh (UP) 2020 and what unfolded, under Hitler, in Nazi Germany?

nazi

Undeterred by the Allahabad High Court’s sharp reprimand on its politics of intimidation, naming and shaming, today’s reports indicate that now an ‘Ordinance’ will be brought in to legalise the UP state’s unlawful acts! Two days back, on March 12, in the matter of the hoardings put up by the Uttar Pradesh government of the alleged anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors demanding compensation for damage to property, the Supreme Court said there was no law to support that the government could put up such hoardings with the names, photographs and addresses of such persons. Instead of then dismissing the matter or endorsing the stay by the Allahabad HC, the SC referred the matter to a larger bench!

What transpired under Hitler and Goebells with the Jews in Germany

Anti-Jewish riots had convulse the German Reich (Kristallnacht) in 1938. In an organised act of nationwide violence, Nazis and collaborators burned synagogues, looted Jewish businesses, and killed dozens of Jewish people.

On November 9-10, 1938, violence against Jews broke out across the Reich. It appeared to be unplanned, set off by Germans' anger over the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official in Paris at the hands of Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish teenager. In fact, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis carefully organized the pogroms. Regional Party leaders issued instructions to their local offices, and during the following two days, Nazis and their collaborators burned over 250 synagogues, trashed and looted over 7,000 Jewish businesses, killed dozens of Jewish people, and looted Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes while police and fire brigades stood by.

As the violence spread, units of the SS and Gestapo arrested 30,000 German Jewish men and transferred most of them from local prisons to Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and other concentration camps, where hundreds died from the brutal treatment they endured.

The German government pronounced that “the Jews” themselves were to blame for the pogrom and on November 12, 1938, imposed a punitive fine of one billion Reichsmark (some 400 million US dollars at 1938 rates) on the German Jewish community. The Reich government confiscated all insurance payouts to Jews whose businesses and homes were looted or destroyed, leaving the Jewish owners personally responsible for the cost of all repairs.

In the weeks that followed, the German government promulgated dozens of laws and decrees designed to deprive Jews of their property and of their means of livelihood even as the intensification of government persecution sought to force Jews from public life and out of the country. Indeed, the effects of Kristallnacht spurred mass emigration of Jews from Germany in the months that followed.

The pogroms became known as Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," for the shattered glass from store windows that littered the streets.

UP 2020

Fast forward to Uttar Pradesh, India to 2020. In a bizarre twist of law and the Constitution, while appearing for the UP government, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta actually said that the hoardings bearing the names of 57 people who were alleged rioters were put up after following processes of law and especially put up as a deterrent. He also argued that once a person had been videographed to be indulging in violent activities in public places, he cannot claim protection of right to privacy! This turns on its head established and settled jurisprudence of due process, law of evidence etc.

Appearing for former IPS officer SR Darapuri whose name was published on the hoardings said that the action of the government amounted to an “appeal for lynching”, pointing out that the names of rapists or serious criminals were never published publicly by the government. “We don’t have an anarchy in the state that the government will start doing this,” he said.

Allahabad HC

The Allahabad HC had then taken suo motu cognizance of the matter on March 9 while ordering the government to take them down and calling the government’s action a “shameless and unwarranted interference in privacy.” The HC had also said that the government’s move was in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The HC judgement read, “In the present case, the cause is not about personal injury caused to the persons whose personal details are given in the banner but the injury caused to the precious constitutional value and its shameless depiction by the administration. The cause as such is undemocratic functioning of government agencies which are supposed to treat all members of public with respect and courtesy and at all times should behave in manner that upholds constitutional and democratic values.”

In response to the arbitrary and undemocratic actions of UP state government, the Allahabad High Court was compelled to take suo moto cognizance and hold hearings on Sunday, March 8. The Lucknow administration put up banners with photographs and personal details of more than 50 persons who were accused vandalism during the anti-CAA protests of December 2019. The poster is seeking compensation from the accused persons and further to confiscate their property, if they failed to pay compensation.

Noticing injury to the right of privacy, the Chief Justice of this Court directed the Registry to register a petition for writ in public interest. The Commissioner of Police, Lucknow and District Magistrate, Lucknow were called upon to explain the provisions under which the banners were placed on road side that also causes interference in movement of traffic in crowded areas.

While defending the state of UP, Advocate General even challenged the territorial jurisdiction of the court and termed the state’s action to be bona fide. The Court said that this PIL resulting from its suo moto cognizance is justified given that the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the constitution are subjected to injuries. The Bench, led by the Chief Justice held that this incident amounted to gross negligence on part of public authorities and government and as a constitutional court it can take notice of it on its own.

The Court further held thus, “The Court in such matters is not required to wait necessarily for a person to come before it to ring the bell of justice. The Courts are meant to impart justice and no court can shut its eyes if a public unjust is happening just before it.”

The Court while emphasizing on right to privacy, stated, “In the case in hand, a valid apprehension of causing serious injury to the rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India exists which demands adequate treatment by the Court at its own. The economic status of the persons directly affected in such matters is not material. The prime consideration before the Court is to prevent the assault on fundamental rights, especially the rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The Court, while establishing its jurisdiction, deemed the “cause” in this case to be, “not about personal injury caused to the persons whose personal details are given in the banner but the injury caused to the precious constitutional value and its shameless depiction by the administration. The cause as such is undemocratic functioning of government agencies which are supposed to treat all members of public with respect and courtesy and at all time should behave in manner that upholds constitutional and democratic values.”


Related Articles:

No law to back your actions: SC to UP govt. defending ‘name and shame’ posters

UP govt caused “unwarranted interference in privacy”, says HC

UP govt caused “unwarranted interference in privacy”, says HC

UP police go door-to-door; puts up hoardings of alleged anti-CAA protesters in town

UP police go door-to-door; puts up hoardings of alleged anti-CAA protesters in town

UP admin sends third recovery notice for damage to property in anti-CAA protest

 

 

 

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Summer Culture

Our first summer culture bouquet features fiction from Syria and Iraq and poetry and art from Palestine. Annie Weaver translates "Oh Damascus,"  a short story by the undertranslated Syrian writer Ghada Al-Samman. Andrew Leber and Elisabeth Jacquette translate excerpts from "Memoirs of an Iraqi Dog," a novel by the Iraqi writer Abdul Hadi Sadoun. Sinan Antoon translates eight poems by the Palestinian poet Zakaria Mohammed. John Halaka reviews "Eltifaf-Bypass," a series by the Palestinian artist Rafat Asad.

Sabrang

How did we get here?

A brief journey through modern India's history to understand the evolution of Hindu-Muslim relations in the country

09 Mar 2020
Hindu Muslim

 

Post India's independence, our society has gone major transformation vis-a-vis Hindu - Muslim relations, and in this journey there have been several stages:

  • Green revolution resultant emerging strong farmer community and emergence of their leadership specially from OBC's

  • Nationalisation and India's decisive victory over Pakistan and resultant Bangladesh

  • Emergency, JP movement and resultant decisive defeat of Congress with RSS and Lohiates combining together

  • India winning cricket World Cup and emergence of Amitabh Bachchan as angry young man and resultant  Shahanshah of Bollywood

  • Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi's assassination

  • Rise of BJP, Ram Mandir movement,and resultant Babri Masjid demolition

  • Neo-liberalisation, resultant huge emerging Hindu middle class, rise of OBC and Dalit leadership

  • First BJP govt at the Centre under Atal's leadership 

  • Gujarat riots and emergence of Modi as face of Hindu chauvinism

  • Khan troika ruling the Bollywood

  • India's hegemony in World cricket and Sachin Tendulkar as Emperor of World cricket

  • Return of Congress and Manmohanomics and resultant more buoyant Hindu middle class

  • Modi winning big and Congress losing badly with Gandhi-Nehru family aura completly wiped out

  • Emergence of new regional faces of Akhilesh, Kejriwal, Mamta, Jagan and Stalin

  • Modi-Shah in control, with divisive CAA pushing Muslims back to the wall politically and making them fight for their survival and amidst that, India facing it's biggest economic slowdown in the last 50 years.

Amidst all these stages Hindu society, by and large, was also reshaping into distinctive social classes as per their belief in Indian Constitution and Hindu thought and they can be categorised as follows: 

First, who believe in the essence of the Vedas, the ‘Puranic’ and religious texts and it’s approach to the oneness of Man with the divine  i.e. the eternal ‘Atman’ (the soul) and its eventual merger with the Paramatman (the supreme) in the ‘divine karmic’ order. All the while, upholding the egalitarian and non violent spirit of Hindu theism and it’s well propounded philosophies.

The first kind is further divided into two sub categories:

1. That has acceptance of all religions in conformity with the traditional Hindu vedantic thought of ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ (world is a family) and perhaps, is a bit in the atheistic mould. Yet, believes in a higher power and life cycles of cause and effect and thinks of the other as his own.

2. Is more adjunct to his religious and ritualistic duties: in his devotion and prayers to the chosen one in the pantheon of Hindu gods, a believer in the holy texts and the essence thereof, as also in the play of karmic cycle in the destiny of man etc. But deep down, still believes that all paths lead to one god and therefore, is tolerant of other religions and dogmas if they don’t infringe on his faith and religious practices.

Second is the one who is having this fear of the ‘other’, that is Muslims in this context, apprehensive of his country being subsumed overtime by the radical wave of Islamization that is currently sweeping across some parts of the world, including Europe, and so is willing to fraternise with the Hindutva philosophy as his shield, despite government demographic statistics stating otherwise and thus serving to Sangh's political agenda.

Third is left liberal who thinks Hindu ethos can be kept on the back-burner to push their agenda of liberalism which cannot be compromised for anything.

Similarly, the Muslim society reshaped exactly the same  with greater influence of Gulf money a clergy led society came with large influence of Wahabi Islam.This Islamic school of thought believed in purtitanism and ridiculed those who practiced Islam with Indian traditions and that is Sufi Islam or Barelvi school of thought.

Then, of course, there was the emerging middle class among Muslims which because of modern education came in contact with left liberal ideology on the one side which believed in the equality and liberalism with women being given equal opportunities whereas within that middle class there was those who where in the influence of Wahabi Islam and puritanism.

The Hindu-Muslim relations in India are decided by this middle class, of both the communities, and it is a contradiction that their aspirations do not match their actions. Both aspire to a luxurious life  with economic betterment but ongoing struggle leads to social disorder thus economic slowdown. Whether they are left liberal Hindus and Muslims they have to bear the brunt of clash of Wahabi Islam and Hindutva and resultant social disharmony.

The immense harm that this can cause to the ‘philosophy of (Sanatan Dharma) Hinduism and Islam which teaches equality and brotherhood and the nation cannot be overstated, since it is bound to lead to further fissures and distrust in society, shredding the social fabric of India. This is a matter of grave concern for all of us, residing here in India, and also for our future generations, as it is our responsibility and duty to keep the country united, safe and strong; free of sectarian strife, to prevent foreign investment from shying away from Indian shores. Growth of a nation is commensurate with its social stability and unity. Let us not disrupt it to irreconcilable and irredeemable levels, it is perhaps time for us who believe in Indianess only to barricade this onslaught of hate and insecurity.

* The author is Director, Centre for Objective Research and Development (CORD), Lucknow.

How did we get here?

A brief journey through modern India's history to understand the evolution of Hindu-Muslim relations in the country

Hindu Muslim

 

Post India's independence, our society has gone major transformation vis-a-vis Hindu - Muslim relations, and in this journey there have been several stages:

  • Green revolution resultant emerging strong farmer community and emergence of their leadership specially from OBC's

  • Nationalisation and India's decisive victory over Pakistan and resultant Bangladesh

  • Emergency, JP movement and resultant decisive defeat of Congress with RSS and Lohiates combining together

  • India winning cricket World Cup and emergence of Amitabh Bachchan as angry young man and resultant  Shahanshah of Bollywood

  • Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi's assassination

  • Rise of BJP, Ram Mandir movement,and resultant Babri Masjid demolition

  • Neo-liberalisation, resultant huge emerging Hindu middle class, rise of OBC and Dalit leadership

  • First BJP govt at the Centre under Atal's leadership 

  • Gujarat riots and emergence of Modi as face of Hindu chauvinism

  • Khan troika ruling the Bollywood

  • India's hegemony in World cricket and Sachin Tendulkar as Emperor of World cricket

  • Return of Congress and Manmohanomics and resultant more buoyant Hindu middle class

  • Modi winning big and Congress losing badly with Gandhi-Nehru family aura completly wiped out

  • Emergence of new regional faces of Akhilesh, Kejriwal, Mamta, Jagan and Stalin

  • Modi-Shah in control, with divisive CAA pushing Muslims back to the wall politically and making them fight for their survival and amidst that, India facing it's biggest economic slowdown in the last 50 years.

Amidst all these stages Hindu society, by and large, was also reshaping into distinctive social classes as per their belief in Indian Constitution and Hindu thought and they can be categorised as follows: 

First, who believe in the essence of the Vedas, the ‘Puranic’ and religious texts and it’s approach to the oneness of Man with the divine  i.e. the eternal ‘Atman’ (the soul) and its eventual merger with the Paramatman (the supreme) in the ‘divine karmic’ order. All the while, upholding the egalitarian and non violent spirit of Hindu theism and it’s well propounded philosophies.

The first kind is further divided into two sub categories:

1. That has acceptance of all religions in conformity with the traditional Hindu vedantic thought of ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ (world is a family) and perhaps, is a bit in the atheistic mould. Yet, believes in a higher power and life cycles of cause and effect and thinks of the other as his own.

2. Is more adjunct to his religious and ritualistic duties: in his devotion and prayers to the chosen one in the pantheon of Hindu gods, a believer in the holy texts and the essence thereof, as also in the play of karmic cycle in the destiny of man etc. But deep down, still believes that all paths lead to one god and therefore, is tolerant of other religions and dogmas if they don’t infringe on his faith and religious practices.

Second is the one who is having this fear of the ‘other’, that is Muslims in this context, apprehensive of his country being subsumed overtime by the radical wave of Islamization that is currently sweeping across some parts of the world, including Europe, and so is willing to fraternise with the Hindutva philosophy as his shield, despite government demographic statistics stating otherwise and thus serving to Sangh's political agenda.

Third is left liberal who thinks Hindu ethos can be kept on the back-burner to push their agenda of liberalism which cannot be compromised for anything.

Similarly, the Muslim society reshaped exactly the same  with greater influence of Gulf money a clergy led society came with large influence of Wahabi Islam.This Islamic school of thought believed in purtitanism and ridiculed those who practiced Islam with Indian traditions and that is Sufi Islam or Barelvi school of thought.

Then, of course, there was the emerging middle class among Muslims which because of modern education came in contact with left liberal ideology on the one side which believed in the equality and liberalism with women being given equal opportunities whereas within that middle class there was those who where in the influence of Wahabi Islam and puritanism.

The Hindu-Muslim relations in India are decided by this middle class, of both the communities, and it is a contradiction that their aspirations do not match their actions. Both aspire to a luxurious life  with economic betterment but ongoing struggle leads to social disorder thus economic slowdown. Whether they are left liberal Hindus and Muslims they have to bear the brunt of clash of Wahabi Islam and Hindutva and resultant social disharmony.

The immense harm that this can cause to the ‘philosophy of (Sanatan Dharma) Hinduism and Islam which teaches equality and brotherhood and the nation cannot be overstated, since it is bound to lead to further fissures and distrust in society, shredding the social fabric of India. This is a matter of grave concern for all of us, residing here in India, and also for our future generations, as it is our responsibility and duty to keep the country united, safe and strong; free of sectarian strife, to prevent foreign investment from shying away from Indian shores. Growth of a nation is commensurate with its social stability and unity. Let us not disrupt it to irreconcilable and irredeemable levels, it is perhaps time for us who believe in Indianess only to barricade this onslaught of hate and insecurity.

* The author is Director, Centre for Objective Research and Development (CORD), Lucknow.

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Witness the human consequences of forced migration through the Chakmas

How the fault lines of partition and nationhood in South Asia accompanied by the callous and apathetic attitudes of the ‘modern’ nation-states have proved unbridgeable, leading to the unending saga of despair and dejection among the displaced populace.

15 Feb 2020

Chakma refugees

As a consequence of partition of the subcontinent, (according to the 1951 Census of displaces persons), an estimated 72.49 lakh (7.24 million) Hindus and Sikhs had moved from western Punjab (Pakistan) to the Indian side and 72.26 lakh (7.26 million) Muslims had similarly moved from eastern Punjab (India) to the Pakistani. A new dimension was further added to this some 24 years later when an outburst of ethno-cultural contradictions in East Pakistan led to its dismemberment from Pakistan and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh in 1971. An estimated 10 million (10 lakh) Bengalis had crossed over to India as refugees to escape Pakistani repression during 1970–71.

In addition to these, several streams of refugees including Tibetans, the Chakmas from East Pakistan and later Bangladesh, Afghans, Mayanmarese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Bhutanese, Chinese, etc., have sought and been granted refuge in India at different points of time.

 

The case of the Chakmas:

In the 1960s, over one lakh Chakmas and Hajong refugees, Buddhists and Hindus, fled to India from the Chittagong Hill Tract area in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), facing religious persecution. The areas where the Chakma-Hajongs lived was submerged following the construction of the Kaptai Dam. They were made to settle in the Tirap division of Arunachal Pradesh, then known as the North East Frontier Agency, administered by the Ministry of External Affairs through the Governor of Assam. Arunachal Pradesh became a Union Territory in 1972, which coincided with the formation of Bangladesh, and soon local political parties began protesting against the settlement of outsiders in the State. The agitation gained momentum in 1987 when Arunachal Pradesh became a State. (The Hindu, September 23, 2017)

While the above continues to be the dominant perspective, it is only half the truth. The persecution of Chakmas from erstwhile East Pakistan was more political than developmental. After India-Pakistan partition and the formation of East Pakistan, the Chakmas were subdued and disempowered progressively. Their ‘special status’ as a ‘Totally Excluded Area’ was lifted first, following it was an intentional settling of Muslims in the CHT carried out by the Pakistani Regime, they accomplished their aim of converting the majorly Hindu area, into an overwhelmingly Muslim dominated area. There were often violent religious conflicts for control over resources, with the toll taken by the indigenous Chakmas always. The Bengali speaking Muslims enjoyed the support of the Pakistani Government.

“I can now boldly say that I am also one of the freedom fighters. When Gandhiji visited CHT in 1947, I was a national volunteer of Indian National Congress. At that time I was a student of Class IX. Gandhiji and other leaders like Prafulla Ghose and J.P. [Jaiprakash Narayan] assured us that the CHT would be included in India in case it was partitioned. On 14 August 1947 we convened a meeting at Anand Vihar regarding the hoisting of the Indian national flag, which we actually did on 15th August 1947, assuming that we have been included in India. Within a week however, the Pakistani forces came to Rangamati and captured our area by declaring us to be Pakistani nationals instead. We did express our displeasure over this to Nehru and other leaders during several visits to Delhi. Suspecting our loyalty, the newly formed East Pakistan government started torturing us in order to drive us away from our land. We were forewarned that if we wished to stay on in CHT, we would have to embrace Islam or else there was no place for us there. Being Buddhists for generations together, how could we do that? On refusing to give up our religion, they forcibly started abducting and physically abusing our women and converted several of them into Islam. We were frankly told that they were not interested in us, but our land. Our problems got further aggravated with the completion of Karnafuli multipurpose power-project, which inundated a massive chunk of our arable land leaving us with no option, but to seek refuge in India. Even after more than fifty years of the partition, we belong to nowhere. We have become forgotten people.”

Sumoti Ranjan Talukdar

(Chakma Rufugee)

 

The facilities provided to the Chakmas for basic sustenance under the NEFA gave them hope of a better future. They were all issued valid identity certificates as well. However, When NEFA was made into Arunachal Pradesh, the State government insidiously started withdrawing these amenities and procurement of even essential services through PDS, public employment, land rights etc became extremely problematic. What is also revealed by their accounts is that they suspect it to be a multi-pronged strategy of the State Government since even procuring Birth Certificates is a problem for their community. This will adversely affect their claims to citizenship in the future.

It becomes clear thus, that the issue may have more facets than just their legal status. After Arunachal Pradesh was given its Assembly, the financial onus of wellbeing of the citizens shifted to the State Government from the Centre (as was under NEFA). The majority in the region did not want the scarce resources being shared amongst an increasing number of people. This helps explain how the Chakmas were gradually being out-casted from the public benefits they have entitlement to.

The Chakmas have been in Arunachal Pradesh for over 6 decades now, however, they continue to face hostility from the State Government and the locals. Looking at the situation from the perspective of the Chakmas (Deepak Singh, 2010), they do not regard themselves as refugees, firmly believing themselves to be Indians. The reasons for the same are twofold: the older generation insists upon the fact that they were issued valid migration documents, while the younger asserts its Indianness by the fact of their birth in India.  The Supreme Court had in its 2015 ruling asked the Government of India to grant them citizenship, since their claim to it was completely valid and legitimate.

However, their struggle continues as the order gained some traction in 2017, but was never complied with. The Narendra-Modi lead governments agenda to favour Non-Muslim Migrants was prevented by the State Government, which categorically refused to comply with the directive. The concerns sighted were natural, limited resources and a danger to ethnic orientation of the sparsely populated Hilly State.

“Will anybody tell us how much more suffering and humiliation do we need to undergo before we are made Indian citizens? We do not want to go to Bangladesh, for we would continue to be called refugees there as well, as we were born here in India. Moreover, we never feel attached to Bangladesh, as we have grown up here.”

Maya Shanti Chakma

(A Chakma Youth)

[Deepak Singh, 2010]

Stuck between hostilities at the local level, and lip service favours at the national level, the Chakma community’s plight seems never ending.

This points to an observation that the immigrants and refugees continue to live in fear and insecurity regardless of how long they have been in the country, or how socially and ethnically similar they are to its locals.

 

Formulating a National Refugee Law

As per generally accepted international norms, refugees are people who leave their country of origin to take shelter in any other country because of persecution against them on religious, ethnic, political, or other grounds. Leaving a country for economic reasons, as in the case of most Bangladeshis in India, does not qualify under this definition of a refugee. Hence this category of people needs to be treated differently. That is one reason the problem of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh requires the adoption and implementation of national legislation on refugees.


To assist South Asian countries in the development of domestic refugee laws, the UNHCR set up a five-member Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in 1994, headed by P. N. Bhagwati, a former chief justice of India, and comprising Justice Dorab Patel of Pakistan; Kamal Hossain of Bangladesh, a jurist and former minister of law; Rishikesh Shah of Nepal, a human rights activist; and Bradman Weerakoon of Sri Lanka, a senior bureaucrat. The EPG proposed model refugee laws in 1997 and subsequently came out with the South Asia Declaration on Refugees, which also incorporated the model refugee laws, at its meeting in Islamabad on January 24, 2004. In addition, in India the Asylum Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2015, as a private member bill by Shashi Tharoor, who had earlier also worked in the UNHCR office in Geneva.


The model refugee laws suggested by the EPG, together with the asylum bill proposed in India’s parliament, could form the basis for the enactment of a national refugee law. A moot point, though, is that these draft laws seem to have been formulated from an activist’s point of view, where the focus is more on the rights and privileges of refugees and asylum seekers than on a country’s national security or the interests of local populations. Care needs to be also taken to ensure that concerns about these ‘illegal economic immigrants’ and their overall rights are balanced with domestic concerns. Identity cards and temporary work  permits are methods that have been devised by western countries. Furthermore, some reasonable restrictions should be placed on immigrants’ movement in sensitive areas, which the government may designate. Jammu and Kashmir, north-eastern states, and areas close to India’s border may, for instance, be declared out of bounds for refugees at least until they are fully integrated.


When domestic refugee laws are in place it will be easier to distinguish between genuine refugees and illegal immigrants. The two categories could, thereafter, be dealt with by separate sets of rules and procedures. In the case of refugees, there could be three possibilities: temporary work permits and identity cards if not voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, the granting of Indian citizenship, or resettlement in a third country. Illegal immigrants—a category that would include asylum seekers whose request for refugee status is rejected after due consideration—would then fall under the provisions of the 1946 Foreigners Act, which will need to be suitably amended to meet the new requirements.[1]

 

[1] Illegal Immigration From Bangladesh to India: Toward a Comprehensive Solution, Carnegie India (2016)

Witness the human consequences of forced migration through the Chakmas

How the fault lines of partition and nationhood in South Asia accompanied by the callous and apathetic attitudes of the ‘modern’ nation-states have proved unbridgeable, leading to the unending saga of despair and dejection among the displaced populace.

Chakma refugees

As a consequence of partition of the subcontinent, (according to the 1951 Census of displaces persons), an estimated 72.49 lakh (7.24 million) Hindus and Sikhs had moved from western Punjab (Pakistan) to the Indian side and 72.26 lakh (7.26 million) Muslims had similarly moved from eastern Punjab (India) to the Pakistani. A new dimension was further added to this some 24 years later when an outburst of ethno-cultural contradictions in East Pakistan led to its dismemberment from Pakistan and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh in 1971. An estimated 10 million (10 lakh) Bengalis had crossed over to India as refugees to escape Pakistani repression during 1970–71.

In addition to these, several streams of refugees including Tibetans, the Chakmas from East Pakistan and later Bangladesh, Afghans, Mayanmarese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Bhutanese, Chinese, etc., have sought and been granted refuge in India at different points of time.

 

The case of the Chakmas:

In the 1960s, over one lakh Chakmas and Hajong refugees, Buddhists and Hindus, fled to India from the Chittagong Hill Tract area in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), facing religious persecution. The areas where the Chakma-Hajongs lived was submerged following the construction of the Kaptai Dam. They were made to settle in the Tirap division of Arunachal Pradesh, then known as the North East Frontier Agency, administered by the Ministry of External Affairs through the Governor of Assam. Arunachal Pradesh became a Union Territory in 1972, which coincided with the formation of Bangladesh, and soon local political parties began protesting against the settlement of outsiders in the State. The agitation gained momentum in 1987 when Arunachal Pradesh became a State. (The Hindu, September 23, 2017)

While the above continues to be the dominant perspective, it is only half the truth. The persecution of Chakmas from erstwhile East Pakistan was more political than developmental. After India-Pakistan partition and the formation of East Pakistan, the Chakmas were subdued and disempowered progressively. Their ‘special status’ as a ‘Totally Excluded Area’ was lifted first, following it was an intentional settling of Muslims in the CHT carried out by the Pakistani Regime, they accomplished their aim of converting the majorly Hindu area, into an overwhelmingly Muslim dominated area. There were often violent religious conflicts for control over resources, with the toll taken by the indigenous Chakmas always. The Bengali speaking Muslims enjoyed the support of the Pakistani Government.

“I can now boldly say that I am also one of the freedom fighters. When Gandhiji visited CHT in 1947, I was a national volunteer of Indian National Congress. At that time I was a student of Class IX. Gandhiji and other leaders like Prafulla Ghose and J.P. [Jaiprakash Narayan] assured us that the CHT would be included in India in case it was partitioned. On 14 August 1947 we convened a meeting at Anand Vihar regarding the hoisting of the Indian national flag, which we actually did on 15th August 1947, assuming that we have been included in India. Within a week however, the Pakistani forces came to Rangamati and captured our area by declaring us to be Pakistani nationals instead. We did express our displeasure over this to Nehru and other leaders during several visits to Delhi. Suspecting our loyalty, the newly formed East Pakistan government started torturing us in order to drive us away from our land. We were forewarned that if we wished to stay on in CHT, we would have to embrace Islam or else there was no place for us there. Being Buddhists for generations together, how could we do that? On refusing to give up our religion, they forcibly started abducting and physically abusing our women and converted several of them into Islam. We were frankly told that they were not interested in us, but our land. Our problems got further aggravated with the completion of Karnafuli multipurpose power-project, which inundated a massive chunk of our arable land leaving us with no option, but to seek refuge in India. Even after more than fifty years of the partition, we belong to nowhere. We have become forgotten people.”

Sumoti Ranjan Talukdar

(Chakma Rufugee)

 

The facilities provided to the Chakmas for basic sustenance under the NEFA gave them hope of a better future. They were all issued valid identity certificates as well. However, When NEFA was made into Arunachal Pradesh, the State government insidiously started withdrawing these amenities and procurement of even essential services through PDS, public employment, land rights etc became extremely problematic. What is also revealed by their accounts is that they suspect it to be a multi-pronged strategy of the State Government since even procuring Birth Certificates is a problem for their community. This will adversely affect their claims to citizenship in the future.

It becomes clear thus, that the issue may have more facets than just their legal status. After Arunachal Pradesh was given its Assembly, the financial onus of wellbeing of the citizens shifted to the State Government from the Centre (as was under NEFA). The majority in the region did not want the scarce resources being shared amongst an increasing number of people. This helps explain how the Chakmas were gradually being out-casted from the public benefits they have entitlement to.

The Chakmas have been in Arunachal Pradesh for over 6 decades now, however, they continue to face hostility from the State Government and the locals. Looking at the situation from the perspective of the Chakmas (Deepak Singh, 2010), they do not regard themselves as refugees, firmly believing themselves to be Indians. The reasons for the same are twofold: the older generation insists upon the fact that they were issued valid migration documents, while the younger asserts its Indianness by the fact of their birth in India.  The Supreme Court had in its 2015 ruling asked the Government of India to grant them citizenship, since their claim to it was completely valid and legitimate.

However, their struggle continues as the order gained some traction in 2017, but was never complied with. The Narendra-Modi lead governments agenda to favour Non-Muslim Migrants was prevented by the State Government, which categorically refused to comply with the directive. The concerns sighted were natural, limited resources and a danger to ethnic orientation of the sparsely populated Hilly State.

“Will anybody tell us how much more suffering and humiliation do we need to undergo before we are made Indian citizens? We do not want to go to Bangladesh, for we would continue to be called refugees there as well, as we were born here in India. Moreover, we never feel attached to Bangladesh, as we have grown up here.”

Maya Shanti Chakma

(A Chakma Youth)

[Deepak Singh, 2010]

Stuck between hostilities at the local level, and lip service favours at the national level, the Chakma community’s plight seems never ending.

This points to an observation that the immigrants and refugees continue to live in fear and insecurity regardless of how long they have been in the country, or how socially and ethnically similar they are to its locals.

 

Formulating a National Refugee Law

As per generally accepted international norms, refugees are people who leave their country of origin to take shelter in any other country because of persecution against them on religious, ethnic, political, or other grounds. Leaving a country for economic reasons, as in the case of most Bangladeshis in India, does not qualify under this definition of a refugee. Hence this category of people needs to be treated differently. That is one reason the problem of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh requires the adoption and implementation of national legislation on refugees.


To assist South Asian countries in the development of domestic refugee laws, the UNHCR set up a five-member Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in 1994, headed by P. N. Bhagwati, a former chief justice of India, and comprising Justice Dorab Patel of Pakistan; Kamal Hossain of Bangladesh, a jurist and former minister of law; Rishikesh Shah of Nepal, a human rights activist; and Bradman Weerakoon of Sri Lanka, a senior bureaucrat. The EPG proposed model refugee laws in 1997 and subsequently came out with the South Asia Declaration on Refugees, which also incorporated the model refugee laws, at its meeting in Islamabad on January 24, 2004. In addition, in India the Asylum Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2015, as a private member bill by Shashi Tharoor, who had earlier also worked in the UNHCR office in Geneva.


The model refugee laws suggested by the EPG, together with the asylum bill proposed in India’s parliament, could form the basis for the enactment of a national refugee law. A moot point, though, is that these draft laws seem to have been formulated from an activist’s point of view, where the focus is more on the rights and privileges of refugees and asylum seekers than on a country’s national security or the interests of local populations. Care needs to be also taken to ensure that concerns about these ‘illegal economic immigrants’ and their overall rights are balanced with domestic concerns. Identity cards and temporary work  permits are methods that have been devised by western countries. Furthermore, some reasonable restrictions should be placed on immigrants’ movement in sensitive areas, which the government may designate. Jammu and Kashmir, north-eastern states, and areas close to India’s border may, for instance, be declared out of bounds for refugees at least until they are fully integrated.


When domestic refugee laws are in place it will be easier to distinguish between genuine refugees and illegal immigrants. The two categories could, thereafter, be dealt with by separate sets of rules and procedures. In the case of refugees, there could be three possibilities: temporary work permits and identity cards if not voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, the granting of Indian citizenship, or resettlement in a third country. Illegal immigrants—a category that would include asylum seekers whose request for refugee status is rejected after due consideration—would then fall under the provisions of the 1946 Foreigners Act, which will need to be suitably amended to meet the new requirements.[1]

 

[1] Illegal Immigration From Bangladesh to India: Toward a Comprehensive Solution, Carnegie India (2016)

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Rein'state'ed - The case of the 'exchanged' women at Partition

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community

13 Feb 2020

India pakistan partition

At the time of India-Pakistan partition, both the newly formed States were yearning for legitimacy and the moral support from its citizens. Trapped between the clashing egos of these countries, abducted women of different communities) became the biggest sufferers.

Three weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence as separate states, representatives of both dominions met on September 3, 1947, and agreed that steps should be taken to ‘recover’ and ‘restore’ abducted persons. Both sides pronounced themselves against the recognition of forced marriages.

The partition of the sub-continent was an immensely harrowing tragedy for people on both sides of the border. During this process, thousands of women were abducted, sexually violated, raped, and in many cases married to their abductors. This fact did not go down easy down the throat of the patriarchal leaders of the States. Therefore, in a bid to regain some of their legitimacy lost during the loss of life and dignity during partition, India and Pakistan entered into an agreement to mutually ‘restore’ their daughters to their home countries. The Hindu and Sikh women and girls from Pakistan and their Muslim counterparts in India, would be literally exchanged.

The approach taken led to, on the Indian side the ‘Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Act, 1949’ that was passed by the Indian Government. The act would treat all mixed marital unions between Hindus and Muslims as forced unions in which abducted women were married off against their wishes. A method was prescribed for the rescue of such women and their subsequent restoration to their homes in India or Pakistan. The aim was to locate all the “abducted persons” in the territory of India, and detain them in temporary camps. For this, police officers designated by the government were empowered to locate and capture such persons which he believed or had the suspicion, were abducted. No warrant was required and complete immunity was offered by the law, to such officers in searching premises, conducting inquiries and detaining such persons. The job was assigned to the local police, assisted by one AIG, two DSPS, 5 inspectors, 10 SIs, 6 ASIS and social workers.

Under the act, "abducted person" meant a male child under the age of sixteen years or a female of whatever age who is, or immediately before the day, March 1, 1947, was, a Muslim and who, on or after that day and before the day, January 1, 1949, has become separated from his or her family and is found to be living with or under the control of any other individual or family, and in the latter case included a child born to any such female after the said date.

In their article “An exchange of Women”, Scholars Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin discuss that tracing such women was a near impossible task, and to accomplish it, Ads were placed in papers, giving details of missing women. These were then taken up by social workers on both sides of the border in Punjab, and verifications made. Social workers used all sorts of ruses to find out where the abducted women were, sometimes disguising themselves as bangle-sellers, or fruit-vendors. No captor was willing to give up his claims: they heard that women were spirited away, hidden in tandoors, disguised as sisters and mothers--but never voluntarily given up. One liaison officer, who worked in Lyallpur for nine months before formal treaties were drawn up by India and Pakistan, told them: "I would slap the women and tell them I'd shoot them if they didn't tell me whether there was a Hindu woman in the neighbourhood. They would tell me because they were helpless their men were not around at the time." He claimed to have 'recovered' 800-900 women from Lyallpur alone this way.

These arrangements not only denied women any agency in determining where they chose to live, or who they chose to marry, but also ignored the contingent nature of individual predicaments and the diverse and complex tapestries of human relationships. Thus, there were cases where women had married their “abductors,” had children, and preferred to live with these men instead of being sent back to their families. There were Hindu families who were reluctant to accept women who had had ‘sex with’, or ‘been impregnated’ or worse still had children by, men of the other religion. Chastity and purity were considerations that surfaced frequently, so pregnant women were more likely to be shunned, while women who had children would be taken back only on condition that they gave up these children of mixed unions to orphanages. Older women were vulnerable in other ways. If they owned property, younger men would force these women to “adopt” them, in order to inherit their property. (Niraj-Gopal-Jayal, ‘Citizenship and its Discontents’)

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community.

Women’s citizenship was thus produced by three concentric circles: first, the citizenship of her father or husband, second, religious identity, and—on the basis of both of these—her imputed national identity. This mapping of religious difference onto citizenship of the nation meant that not only could abducted women not choose their citizenship, as men theoretically could, the assumption was that India was the natural home for Hindu and Sikh women, while Muslim women were naturally Pakistani.

By the time the Abducted Persons Act was repealed in 1957, approximately 20,000 women had been so “recovered” and “restored” to the biological citizenship of their respective “natural” nations.

The above analyses leads to a number of observations. First, the aspect of the State claiming a ‘lien’ over these women in a patriarchal backdrop. This is in a way, an imposition of nationality and by itself, an act of claiming dominion over these women, regardless of their preference or choice. The State in this case became an abductor itself. Comparing this, to the situation of various migrants or refugee groups which ‘seek’ and beg the State for inclusion and citizenship, asserting their nationality and belonging towards it, and yet are denied the privilege of citizenship.

Secondly, the aspect of a ‘natural citizen’ is expanded and includes into its folds the ‘natural’ characteristics of persons which become the deal makers (or breakers) when it comes to deciding their citizenship. In this case, even though India had proclaimed itself to be secular, it was deemed natural that the Hindu and Sikh women were to belong to India and the Muslim women were to be sent to Pakistan. This kind of an approach blatantly violates secularism as well as logic. The ties to the ‘nation’ were deemed as stronger and superior even to the marital ties and individual agency in hierarchy of the various markers of citizenship an individual possesses.

Thirdly, there is an important provision in the Abducted Persons Act – the provision which decides that the children out of these marriages should be considered as citizens of the country their mother has been held a citizen of.

The Constituent Assembly discussed the following question: If only one parent was entitled in these cases to transmit filiation as a basis for establishing citizenship, was the relationship with the mother or with the father to be considered relevant for creating the necessary credentials for citizenship?

It was argued by Shrimati Durgabai in the Constituent Assembly, that it was not the joint labour of the man and the woman but the plunder by men of women’s bodies that had created these children. Hence, ‘‘What right has the abductor to keep the child? The child has to go with the mother.’’

This is in itself a new paradigm approach. Consider the question of the legality of the children born to the union of an illegal immigrant and a citizen. As per the India’s Citizenship Act, such a child is not to be given citizenship regardless of which of the parent is a citizen, and the fact that the child was born in India. It proves thus, that a marker of citizenship is not the alleged illegality of one of the parents, but the colour in which the State looks at the child thus born, based on the ‘natural’ characteristic of that child which may or may not be sufficient in establishing the child’s claim over citizenship. A child which is more ‘Indian’ is thus one which pleases the political State’s agenda. This kind of an approach is necessarily a departure from the Jus Soli approach and an embracing of a Jus Sanguinis approach, which itself suffers from moral defects and arbitrariness as a preeminent marker of citizenship.

 

Related:

Why the CAA+NPR+NRC is a toxic cocktail for everyone 

Census v/s NPR 

CJP spreads awareness on NPR-NRC in Maharashtra 

Rein'state'ed - The case of the 'exchanged' women at Partition

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community

India pakistan partition

At the time of India-Pakistan partition, both the newly formed States were yearning for legitimacy and the moral support from its citizens. Trapped between the clashing egos of these countries, abducted women of different communities) became the biggest sufferers.

Three weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence as separate states, representatives of both dominions met on September 3, 1947, and agreed that steps should be taken to ‘recover’ and ‘restore’ abducted persons. Both sides pronounced themselves against the recognition of forced marriages.

The partition of the sub-continent was an immensely harrowing tragedy for people on both sides of the border. During this process, thousands of women were abducted, sexually violated, raped, and in many cases married to their abductors. This fact did not go down easy down the throat of the patriarchal leaders of the States. Therefore, in a bid to regain some of their legitimacy lost during the loss of life and dignity during partition, India and Pakistan entered into an agreement to mutually ‘restore’ their daughters to their home countries. The Hindu and Sikh women and girls from Pakistan and their Muslim counterparts in India, would be literally exchanged.

The approach taken led to, on the Indian side the ‘Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Act, 1949’ that was passed by the Indian Government. The act would treat all mixed marital unions between Hindus and Muslims as forced unions in which abducted women were married off against their wishes. A method was prescribed for the rescue of such women and their subsequent restoration to their homes in India or Pakistan. The aim was to locate all the “abducted persons” in the territory of India, and detain them in temporary camps. For this, police officers designated by the government were empowered to locate and capture such persons which he believed or had the suspicion, were abducted. No warrant was required and complete immunity was offered by the law, to such officers in searching premises, conducting inquiries and detaining such persons. The job was assigned to the local police, assisted by one AIG, two DSPS, 5 inspectors, 10 SIs, 6 ASIS and social workers.

Under the act, "abducted person" meant a male child under the age of sixteen years or a female of whatever age who is, or immediately before the day, March 1, 1947, was, a Muslim and who, on or after that day and before the day, January 1, 1949, has become separated from his or her family and is found to be living with or under the control of any other individual or family, and in the latter case included a child born to any such female after the said date.

In their article “An exchange of Women”, Scholars Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin discuss that tracing such women was a near impossible task, and to accomplish it, Ads were placed in papers, giving details of missing women. These were then taken up by social workers on both sides of the border in Punjab, and verifications made. Social workers used all sorts of ruses to find out where the abducted women were, sometimes disguising themselves as bangle-sellers, or fruit-vendors. No captor was willing to give up his claims: they heard that women were spirited away, hidden in tandoors, disguised as sisters and mothers--but never voluntarily given up. One liaison officer, who worked in Lyallpur for nine months before formal treaties were drawn up by India and Pakistan, told them: "I would slap the women and tell them I'd shoot them if they didn't tell me whether there was a Hindu woman in the neighbourhood. They would tell me because they were helpless their men were not around at the time." He claimed to have 'recovered' 800-900 women from Lyallpur alone this way.

These arrangements not only denied women any agency in determining where they chose to live, or who they chose to marry, but also ignored the contingent nature of individual predicaments and the diverse and complex tapestries of human relationships. Thus, there were cases where women had married their “abductors,” had children, and preferred to live with these men instead of being sent back to their families. There were Hindu families who were reluctant to accept women who had had ‘sex with’, or ‘been impregnated’ or worse still had children by, men of the other religion. Chastity and purity were considerations that surfaced frequently, so pregnant women were more likely to be shunned, while women who had children would be taken back only on condition that they gave up these children of mixed unions to orphanages. Older women were vulnerable in other ways. If they owned property, younger men would force these women to “adopt” them, in order to inherit their property. (Niraj-Gopal-Jayal, ‘Citizenship and its Discontents’)

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community.

Women’s citizenship was thus produced by three concentric circles: first, the citizenship of her father or husband, second, religious identity, and—on the basis of both of these—her imputed national identity. This mapping of religious difference onto citizenship of the nation meant that not only could abducted women not choose their citizenship, as men theoretically could, the assumption was that India was the natural home for Hindu and Sikh women, while Muslim women were naturally Pakistani.

By the time the Abducted Persons Act was repealed in 1957, approximately 20,000 women had been so “recovered” and “restored” to the biological citizenship of their respective “natural” nations.

The above analyses leads to a number of observations. First, the aspect of the State claiming a ‘lien’ over these women in a patriarchal backdrop. This is in a way, an imposition of nationality and by itself, an act of claiming dominion over these women, regardless of their preference or choice. The State in this case became an abductor itself. Comparing this, to the situation of various migrants or refugee groups which ‘seek’ and beg the State for inclusion and citizenship, asserting their nationality and belonging towards it, and yet are denied the privilege of citizenship.

Secondly, the aspect of a ‘natural citizen’ is expanded and includes into its folds the ‘natural’ characteristics of persons which become the deal makers (or breakers) when it comes to deciding their citizenship. In this case, even though India had proclaimed itself to be secular, it was deemed natural that the Hindu and Sikh women were to belong to India and the Muslim women were to be sent to Pakistan. This kind of an approach blatantly violates secularism as well as logic. The ties to the ‘nation’ were deemed as stronger and superior even to the marital ties and individual agency in hierarchy of the various markers of citizenship an individual possesses.

Thirdly, there is an important provision in the Abducted Persons Act – the provision which decides that the children out of these marriages should be considered as citizens of the country their mother has been held a citizen of.

The Constituent Assembly discussed the following question: If only one parent was entitled in these cases to transmit filiation as a basis for establishing citizenship, was the relationship with the mother or with the father to be considered relevant for creating the necessary credentials for citizenship?

It was argued by Shrimati Durgabai in the Constituent Assembly, that it was not the joint labour of the man and the woman but the plunder by men of women’s bodies that had created these children. Hence, ‘‘What right has the abductor to keep the child? The child has to go with the mother.’’

This is in itself a new paradigm approach. Consider the question of the legality of the children born to the union of an illegal immigrant and a citizen. As per the India’s Citizenship Act, such a child is not to be given citizenship regardless of which of the parent is a citizen, and the fact that the child was born in India. It proves thus, that a marker of citizenship is not the alleged illegality of one of the parents, but the colour in which the State looks at the child thus born, based on the ‘natural’ characteristic of that child which may or may not be sufficient in establishing the child’s claim over citizenship. A child which is more ‘Indian’ is thus one which pleases the political State’s agenda. This kind of an approach is necessarily a departure from the Jus Soli approach and an embracing of a Jus Sanguinis approach, which itself suffers from moral defects and arbitrariness as a preeminent marker of citizenship.

 

Related:

Why the CAA+NPR+NRC is a toxic cocktail for everyone 

Census v/s NPR 

CJP spreads awareness on NPR-NRC in Maharashtra 

Related Articles


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Guru Ravidas Jayanti- The dream of Be-Gham-Pura

On the occasion of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on February 9, 2020, we remember the patron saint of the Dalit community, the man who inspired love, grace, Bhakti, and revolution.

09 Feb 2020

ravidas

Guru Ravidas ji was one of the most prominent poets of the Bhakti Movement in 15th century. Born into an Untouchable Chamar caste family, he retained his caste occupation as a cobbler and inspired social reform through his Bhakti poetry, using it as a middle path of social protest against caste-based exclusion and oppression. His protest was novel, understated, yet dangerous, as he challenged upper caste Hindus even in the way he dressed- wearing dhoti, janeu, and tilak- which were forbidden for the Untouchables.

According to the Hindu Calendar, Guru Ravidas ji was born in Govardhanpur near Varanasi, on the full moon (Purnima) of the month of Magh in the late 14th century. There is no consensus on the exact year of his birth. Even as a child, he was inclined towards Bhakti and spiritualism, but at the same time he was a firm believer in dignity of labour. As dictated by social and caste norms, the Chamar caste would work with leather and animal hide. This was considered “dirty work” as the Chamar caste would work with animal carcasses. Unfazed, Guru Ravidas ji maintained a small shop making and repairing shoes, and is said to have built an idol out of leather to pray to. 

It was this knack for subverting caste norms that placed him in a position where he was revered by people of all castes and religions, and made the upper caste enforcers of caste oppression decidedly uncomfortable and jealous.

He challenged Brahminical hegemony with his poetry and one of his most popular dohas states- 

रैदास बांभन मत पूजिए जो होवे गुन हीन.

पूजिए चरन चंडाल के जो हो ज्ञान प्रवीन.

Loosely translated, it appeals to the people to stop worshipping Brahmins who have no enlightenment/knowledge, but rather worship a Chandaal who is enlightened. In these two simple lines he questioned the entire logic of caste system and how people were treated by the virtue of the coincidence of birth rather than their intellectual abilities. 

His doha- 'रैदास जन्म के कारने होत कोई नीच, नर कूं नीच कर डारि है, ओछे करम की नीच', was a direct attack on the caste system as he expounded that no one could be born “low”, what makes anyone a lowly person are their lowly deeds. 

Guru Ravidas’s devotional songs and poems were included Guru Granth Saheb (Sikhism) and PanchVani (Dadupanthi tradition- Hinduism). In addition, hagiographers over the centuries following his death have contributed to connecting the dots of his poetry and protest, his life and legacy. 

Modern-day followers of Guru Ravidas ji are known as Ravidasias (est. 21st century) and have made a distinct cultural and religious identity with their own temples and practices. Though they revere the Guru Granth Saheb of Sikhs as it contains 40 poems by Guru Ravidas ji, Ravidasias do not consider themselves as Sikhs or Hindus, but rather a separate religion. Most of them are residents of Punjab or have migrated to countries like Canada and USA. Even today, in Punjab, the word “Ravidasi” has caste undertones and discrimination is rampant, perpetrated by both Hindus and Sikhs. The caste system is so ingrained in our history that neither logic, nor modernization, seem to shake the centuries of suppression. 

With political and communal turmoil reaching a boiling point in present day India, Guru Ravidas’s vision of an equal and just land called Be-Gham-Pura (the city without sorrows) seems like a point on the horizon- visible, yet just out of reach-

“Where there is no affliction or suffering

Neither anxiety nor fear, taxes nor capital

No menace, no terror, no humiliation…

Says Ravidas the emancipated Chamar:

One who shares with me that city is my friend.” *

 

*(This unpublished translation by Joel Lee appears in Arundhati Roy’s “The Doctor and The Saint”)

Guru Ravidas ji pictured a world free of caste oppression, of divisions, of communal hatred. This is the world we want to leave behind for our future generations. Whatever steps we take in this life, they must all lead to Be-Gham-Pura, in honour of Guru Ravidas, for the sake of humanity.

**Note: The use of the words “Chamar”, “Untouchables”, and “Untouchability” in this article is in a historical context of the self-identified terminology pertaining to the time when these events took place. 

Guru Ravidas Jayanti- The dream of Be-Gham-Pura

On the occasion of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on February 9, 2020, we remember the patron saint of the Dalit community, the man who inspired love, grace, Bhakti, and revolution.

ravidas

Guru Ravidas ji was one of the most prominent poets of the Bhakti Movement in 15th century. Born into an Untouchable Chamar caste family, he retained his caste occupation as a cobbler and inspired social reform through his Bhakti poetry, using it as a middle path of social protest against caste-based exclusion and oppression. His protest was novel, understated, yet dangerous, as he challenged upper caste Hindus even in the way he dressed- wearing dhoti, janeu, and tilak- which were forbidden for the Untouchables.

According to the Hindu Calendar, Guru Ravidas ji was born in Govardhanpur near Varanasi, on the full moon (Purnima) of the month of Magh in the late 14th century. There is no consensus on the exact year of his birth. Even as a child, he was inclined towards Bhakti and spiritualism, but at the same time he was a firm believer in dignity of labour. As dictated by social and caste norms, the Chamar caste would work with leather and animal hide. This was considered “dirty work” as the Chamar caste would work with animal carcasses. Unfazed, Guru Ravidas ji maintained a small shop making and repairing shoes, and is said to have built an idol out of leather to pray to. 

It was this knack for subverting caste norms that placed him in a position where he was revered by people of all castes and religions, and made the upper caste enforcers of caste oppression decidedly uncomfortable and jealous.

He challenged Brahminical hegemony with his poetry and one of his most popular dohas states- 

रैदास बांभन मत पूजिए जो होवे गुन हीन.

पूजिए चरन चंडाल के जो हो ज्ञान प्रवीन.

Loosely translated, it appeals to the people to stop worshipping Brahmins who have no enlightenment/knowledge, but rather worship a Chandaal who is enlightened. In these two simple lines he questioned the entire logic of caste system and how people were treated by the virtue of the coincidence of birth rather than their intellectual abilities. 

His doha- 'रैदास जन्म के कारने होत कोई नीच, नर कूं नीच कर डारि है, ओछे करम की नीच', was a direct attack on the caste system as he expounded that no one could be born “low”, what makes anyone a lowly person are their lowly deeds. 

Guru Ravidas’s devotional songs and poems were included Guru Granth Saheb (Sikhism) and PanchVani (Dadupanthi tradition- Hinduism). In addition, hagiographers over the centuries following his death have contributed to connecting the dots of his poetry and protest, his life and legacy. 

Modern-day followers of Guru Ravidas ji are known as Ravidasias (est. 21st century) and have made a distinct cultural and religious identity with their own temples and practices. Though they revere the Guru Granth Saheb of Sikhs as it contains 40 poems by Guru Ravidas ji, Ravidasias do not consider themselves as Sikhs or Hindus, but rather a separate religion. Most of them are residents of Punjab or have migrated to countries like Canada and USA. Even today, in Punjab, the word “Ravidasi” has caste undertones and discrimination is rampant, perpetrated by both Hindus and Sikhs. The caste system is so ingrained in our history that neither logic, nor modernization, seem to shake the centuries of suppression. 

With political and communal turmoil reaching a boiling point in present day India, Guru Ravidas’s vision of an equal and just land called Be-Gham-Pura (the city without sorrows) seems like a point on the horizon- visible, yet just out of reach-

“Where there is no affliction or suffering

Neither anxiety nor fear, taxes nor capital

No menace, no terror, no humiliation…

Says Ravidas the emancipated Chamar:

One who shares with me that city is my friend.” *

 

*(This unpublished translation by Joel Lee appears in Arundhati Roy’s “The Doctor and The Saint”)

Guru Ravidas ji pictured a world free of caste oppression, of divisions, of communal hatred. This is the world we want to leave behind for our future generations. Whatever steps we take in this life, they must all lead to Be-Gham-Pura, in honour of Guru Ravidas, for the sake of humanity.

**Note: The use of the words “Chamar”, “Untouchables”, and “Untouchability” in this article is in a historical context of the self-identified terminology pertaining to the time when these events took place. 

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Modi misrepresenting historical facts: Debabrata Saikia

Assam Congress leaders condemns PM’s statement in Parliament distorting facts about Jawaharlal Nehru

08 Feb 2020

Narendra ModiImage Courtesy: sentinelassam.com

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi, allegedly distorted facts about the Nehru-Liyaqat agreement in Parliament, Debabrata Saikia, who serves as the leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly has issued a statement not only condemning the PM’s remarks, but also setting the record of history straight.

Saikia says, “Leaders of the BJP, led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah, are continuing their effort to lead people astray by misrepresenting historical facts. The latest manifestation of this campaign was seen in the Lok Sabha yesterday, when Mr. Modi dragged in the name of former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a bid to justify the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA).”

He further said, “Mr. Modi has referred to the agreement for safety of minorities and protection of their rights in both countries, which was signed in 1950 between Pandit Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, and raised a question as to why the former Prime Minister of India had used the term ‘religious minorities’ in the pact. The answer is very simple. Barely three years had elapsed then since Partition of the country, and antagonism and violence along religious lines prevailed both in India and undivided Pakistan. It was precisely for the reason of ensuring safety of common people in either country that both Prime Ministers felt the need for the pact in question.”

Saikia added, “Anyone who has even minimal knowledge of undivided Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh knows that the concept of ‘linguistic minority’ is not relevant when it comes to these countries. For instance, in the western part of Pakistan Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc. spoke then, and still speak today, chiefly in Punjabi. The conflict between these communities was based on religion, and not language. Similarly, Hindus and Muslims in erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh shared/share the same mother tongue, i.e. Bengali. Consequently, it is irrelevant to use terms like ‘linguistic minority’ in the context of these countries.”

Referring to Modi’s remarks on the letter written by Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Saikai sheds further light on the context saying, “Mr. Modi has referred to a letter written by Pandit Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi, as also certain comments made by Pandit Nehru in Parliament in 1950, and asserted that the former Prime Minister was in favour of granting Indian citizenship to refugees from undivided Pakistan. It is true that being the great humanitarian that he was, Pandit Nehru spearheaded the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Rules, 1955 and created a category of East Pakistan Displaced Persons and re-settled them in what is now known as the C.R. Park area of New Delhi. On top of that, a ‘Dandakaranya Project’ was launched to rehabilitate them in undivided Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, undivided Andhra Pradesh and the Andaman Islands. However, this project was not successful mainly because the refugees were reluctant to leave states like West Bengal and Tripura, where they found linguistic affinity.”

He further clarifies, “It is to be noted that the policy of rehabilitating religious minorities in India was pursued by Pandit Nehru with reference to the situation created during Partition of the country and its immediate aftermath. This was not a perpetual policy.” He added, “Pandit Nehru and other leaders had adopted a short-term policy regarding refugees in view of the unique situation created by Partition. However, the situation in Pakistan or Bangladesh is not such today that hordes of religious minorities are fleeing en masse to India as refugees after facing atrocities.”

The entire statement may be read here:

 

Modi misrepresenting historical facts: Debabrata Saikia

Assam Congress leaders condemns PM’s statement in Parliament distorting facts about Jawaharlal Nehru

Narendra ModiImage Courtesy: sentinelassam.com

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi, allegedly distorted facts about the Nehru-Liyaqat agreement in Parliament, Debabrata Saikia, who serves as the leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly has issued a statement not only condemning the PM’s remarks, but also setting the record of history straight.

Saikia says, “Leaders of the BJP, led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah, are continuing their effort to lead people astray by misrepresenting historical facts. The latest manifestation of this campaign was seen in the Lok Sabha yesterday, when Mr. Modi dragged in the name of former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a bid to justify the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA).”

He further said, “Mr. Modi has referred to the agreement for safety of minorities and protection of their rights in both countries, which was signed in 1950 between Pandit Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, and raised a question as to why the former Prime Minister of India had used the term ‘religious minorities’ in the pact. The answer is very simple. Barely three years had elapsed then since Partition of the country, and antagonism and violence along religious lines prevailed both in India and undivided Pakistan. It was precisely for the reason of ensuring safety of common people in either country that both Prime Ministers felt the need for the pact in question.”

Saikia added, “Anyone who has even minimal knowledge of undivided Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh knows that the concept of ‘linguistic minority’ is not relevant when it comes to these countries. For instance, in the western part of Pakistan Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc. spoke then, and still speak today, chiefly in Punjabi. The conflict between these communities was based on religion, and not language. Similarly, Hindus and Muslims in erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh shared/share the same mother tongue, i.e. Bengali. Consequently, it is irrelevant to use terms like ‘linguistic minority’ in the context of these countries.”

Referring to Modi’s remarks on the letter written by Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Saikai sheds further light on the context saying, “Mr. Modi has referred to a letter written by Pandit Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi, as also certain comments made by Pandit Nehru in Parliament in 1950, and asserted that the former Prime Minister was in favour of granting Indian citizenship to refugees from undivided Pakistan. It is true that being the great humanitarian that he was, Pandit Nehru spearheaded the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Rules, 1955 and created a category of East Pakistan Displaced Persons and re-settled them in what is now known as the C.R. Park area of New Delhi. On top of that, a ‘Dandakaranya Project’ was launched to rehabilitate them in undivided Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, undivided Andhra Pradesh and the Andaman Islands. However, this project was not successful mainly because the refugees were reluctant to leave states like West Bengal and Tripura, where they found linguistic affinity.”

He further clarifies, “It is to be noted that the policy of rehabilitating religious minorities in India was pursued by Pandit Nehru with reference to the situation created during Partition of the country and its immediate aftermath. This was not a perpetual policy.” He added, “Pandit Nehru and other leaders had adopted a short-term policy regarding refugees in view of the unique situation created by Partition. However, the situation in Pakistan or Bangladesh is not such today that hordes of religious minorities are fleeing en masse to India as refugees after facing atrocities.”

The entire statement may be read here:

 

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Century ago, Mook-Nayak beckons a new Ambedkarite movement today

Foster young and new Ambedkarites to lead the new age of knowledge and information for an enlightened media

01 Feb 2020

Ambedkar

Today marks the centenary of the publication of 'Mook-Nayak', founded by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Exactly on January 31, 1920, Baba Saheb Ambedkar launched this fortnightly to give voice to the voiceless as reflected in its name. I won’t go into many details of the newspaper as many scholarly articles have already appeared on it commemorating its century run. What is more important is to reflect on the influence Baba Saheb Ambedkar had on the media in India. What emerged out of Baba Saheb’s influence was what we can safely call was the Ambedkarite media. People may differ but I write based on my experiences and interactions with whole lot of Ambedkarites and those who were part of Baba Saheb's mission. I feel extremely proud that I could interact and learn a lot from intellectual giants Bhagwan Das ji, NG Uke Saheb, L R Balley, V T Rajshekar, J V Pawar, Raja Dhale, Vijay Surwade and many more who had been regularly writing and contributing in different forms to strengthen mission Ambedkarism and its intellectual ethos. There are hundreds other unknown soldiers of the movement who in different nooks and corners of the country started various journals and periodicals to spread it in their impact domains and areas.

Photographs and quotes of Baba Saheb Ambekar today are visible in every protest and dharna everywhere. His bitter opponents, both the Congress and BJP quote him. The Left forces which portrayed him 'constitutionalist' and too narrow 'caste' focused are quoting him now too, but things were not the same when Dr. Ambedkar started his journey. We were a country in awe of Gandhi as he represented the Savarna power of India even when he played patron saint for Muslims. No 'Manustream' media would focus on Ambedkar's work and thought. All his life, Baba Saheb fought not with Gandhi or Gandhians but the dishonest brahminical intellectual class too which felt threatened and had no keen interest that his thought and vision reach to the people of India. But his  mission of Ambedkarism was carried forward by his dedicated followers who started publishing periodicals and magazines everywhere and it is because of their work and dedication that Ambedkarites today are one of the most enlightened and intellectual class. It is these dedicated icons who took immense pain to make this literature available to us.

Today, we have a hugely powerful Ambedkarite opinion making class, a majority of who, would not like to get legitimised or justified by the brahminical intellectual of media yet many of those who are active and visible on social media and have made their way into the ‘Manustream’ media. The difference is that in the yesteryears, no brahminical intellectual had the capacity to publish the roar of an L R Balley or Bhagwan Das or V T Rajshekar or Raja Dhale. Today, they have started publishing the new young which is a good sign but for me, I would still appreciate and respect those more who don’t care for the brahminical mainstream media and continue to do their work of spreading Ambedkarite enlightenment through their own network. It is a fact that Ambedkarism is the most potent weapon against brahminism and it has survived despite India's power elite never wanting it to. Such was the power of the movement, which never got any good 'press' or review by the 'nationalists' and who always blamed Ambedkarites as Casteists.

Today, in the one hundred years of Mook Nayak, it is important to continue with autonomous publications. Let more flowers bloom and young Ambedkarites take charge of new media, use social media and engage in constructive debates. Dr Ambedkar was an intellectual giant who responded to various issues confronting the nation. We need to use his basic tools to respond to the current crises that we face today. Reach more and more groups diverse from your own and make alliances with common minimum programmes without undermining the basic identity of Ambedkarism. The real fight against the brahminical caste hegemonists or fascists in India can only come through an inclusive and diverse coalition of Ambedkarite Bahujans with Ambedkarism playing the lead role of coordinating these diverse groups, but in a collective leadership.

It is essential to understand that Baba Saheb Ambedkar paid great emphasis on interacting with his people and through his media. He could also have written in the Manuwadi media of his time but he preferred his own publications so that his view remained undiluted and unadulterated. Also important is that he changed his strategies from time to time - from Mook Nayak to Bahishkrit Bharat, and ultimately to 'Prabuddh Bharat' which was his vision for an enlightened India as he knew well that without providing an alternative to brahminism you cannot really liberate people; and hence it was essential to continue with the intellectual dialogue.

Today's leadership actually don’t want an intellectual debate. Most of them hate the idea and never felt that a professional media was required which could give its professional guidance by inviting community intellectuals, silent activists, grassroots workers to write and not merely report or produce all the garbage of party reporting or neta bhakti. Intellectuals need to come beyond the bhakti as Baba Saheb said categorically why 'bhakti' in politics was a way towards disaster. Through the media, leaders give their vision and people interact with them. More than that they listen to their own critique but today criticism is not liked and brahminical media will not critique Bahujan leadership for the point of the community interest but its own interest and therefore such media was needed which could warn leaders of their faults and not become their propaganda tool as it would never help in the long run. Media can also be used in creating new young leaders but for that one needs a long term strategy.

While we salute all those known and unknow Ambedkarites who carried forwarded the legacy of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's journalism, it must continue its work unmindful of whether others appreciate it or not. The real power does not lie in brahminical acknowledgement but in awakening the masses and making their issues public. The ‘Manustream’ media today is distorting facts, hiding them and vilifying dissenters. It is important therefore, we support and participate with all such forces who have stood with people for their human rights, social justice and raised their issues and provided space for all kind of discussions.

In the 21st century, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's philosophy will play the real 'liberation theology' for all the oppressed people and if we want that this philosophy is not distorted then it is essential we keep safe the legacy of all those who dedicated their life to spread Baba Saheb's 'Prabuddha Bharat' mission. Ambedkarite media is not reporting cut and paste from the manuwadi media but essentially a constructive ideological alternative of the hierarchical varna system, a complete annihilation of caste which is necessary for a stronger and democratic India. No Manuwadi media would be interested in annihilation of caste as it is only possible through Ambedkarite media but for that we all will have to learn to listen to even disagreements and try forge a coalition with all. Ambedkarite media can be an individual enterprise but will have to work in close association with the community and should not only raise their issues but work towards creating new young writers, photographers, cartoonists, reporters and editors. The task is tough but nothing is impossible and will ultimately benefit the nation enormously where media is the 'exclusive' domain of two or three jaatis.

In the 100 years of the celebration of Mook-Nayak, our main goal should be to break the hegemony of these exploiting castes and classes in our knowledge and information system so that brahminical exploitation is exposed, people get justice and rule of law is restored. We have seen the dirt and filth that ‘Manustream’ media has unleashed on us and to counter this we need an enlightened media and better analysis of the current situation. Ambedkarites can do that, and if they do so, it will be the best tribute to Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

 

Century ago, Mook-Nayak beckons a new Ambedkarite movement today

Foster young and new Ambedkarites to lead the new age of knowledge and information for an enlightened media

Ambedkar

Today marks the centenary of the publication of 'Mook-Nayak', founded by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Exactly on January 31, 1920, Baba Saheb Ambedkar launched this fortnightly to give voice to the voiceless as reflected in its name. I won’t go into many details of the newspaper as many scholarly articles have already appeared on it commemorating its century run. What is more important is to reflect on the influence Baba Saheb Ambedkar had on the media in India. What emerged out of Baba Saheb’s influence was what we can safely call was the Ambedkarite media. People may differ but I write based on my experiences and interactions with whole lot of Ambedkarites and those who were part of Baba Saheb's mission. I feel extremely proud that I could interact and learn a lot from intellectual giants Bhagwan Das ji, NG Uke Saheb, L R Balley, V T Rajshekar, J V Pawar, Raja Dhale, Vijay Surwade and many more who had been regularly writing and contributing in different forms to strengthen mission Ambedkarism and its intellectual ethos. There are hundreds other unknown soldiers of the movement who in different nooks and corners of the country started various journals and periodicals to spread it in their impact domains and areas.

Photographs and quotes of Baba Saheb Ambekar today are visible in every protest and dharna everywhere. His bitter opponents, both the Congress and BJP quote him. The Left forces which portrayed him 'constitutionalist' and too narrow 'caste' focused are quoting him now too, but things were not the same when Dr. Ambedkar started his journey. We were a country in awe of Gandhi as he represented the Savarna power of India even when he played patron saint for Muslims. No 'Manustream' media would focus on Ambedkar's work and thought. All his life, Baba Saheb fought not with Gandhi or Gandhians but the dishonest brahminical intellectual class too which felt threatened and had no keen interest that his thought and vision reach to the people of India. But his  mission of Ambedkarism was carried forward by his dedicated followers who started publishing periodicals and magazines everywhere and it is because of their work and dedication that Ambedkarites today are one of the most enlightened and intellectual class. It is these dedicated icons who took immense pain to make this literature available to us.

Today, we have a hugely powerful Ambedkarite opinion making class, a majority of who, would not like to get legitimised or justified by the brahminical intellectual of media yet many of those who are active and visible on social media and have made their way into the ‘Manustream’ media. The difference is that in the yesteryears, no brahminical intellectual had the capacity to publish the roar of an L R Balley or Bhagwan Das or V T Rajshekar or Raja Dhale. Today, they have started publishing the new young which is a good sign but for me, I would still appreciate and respect those more who don’t care for the brahminical mainstream media and continue to do their work of spreading Ambedkarite enlightenment through their own network. It is a fact that Ambedkarism is the most potent weapon against brahminism and it has survived despite India's power elite never wanting it to. Such was the power of the movement, which never got any good 'press' or review by the 'nationalists' and who always blamed Ambedkarites as Casteists.

Today, in the one hundred years of Mook Nayak, it is important to continue with autonomous publications. Let more flowers bloom and young Ambedkarites take charge of new media, use social media and engage in constructive debates. Dr Ambedkar was an intellectual giant who responded to various issues confronting the nation. We need to use his basic tools to respond to the current crises that we face today. Reach more and more groups diverse from your own and make alliances with common minimum programmes without undermining the basic identity of Ambedkarism. The real fight against the brahminical caste hegemonists or fascists in India can only come through an inclusive and diverse coalition of Ambedkarite Bahujans with Ambedkarism playing the lead role of coordinating these diverse groups, but in a collective leadership.

It is essential to understand that Baba Saheb Ambedkar paid great emphasis on interacting with his people and through his media. He could also have written in the Manuwadi media of his time but he preferred his own publications so that his view remained undiluted and unadulterated. Also important is that he changed his strategies from time to time - from Mook Nayak to Bahishkrit Bharat, and ultimately to 'Prabuddh Bharat' which was his vision for an enlightened India as he knew well that without providing an alternative to brahminism you cannot really liberate people; and hence it was essential to continue with the intellectual dialogue.

Today's leadership actually don’t want an intellectual debate. Most of them hate the idea and never felt that a professional media was required which could give its professional guidance by inviting community intellectuals, silent activists, grassroots workers to write and not merely report or produce all the garbage of party reporting or neta bhakti. Intellectuals need to come beyond the bhakti as Baba Saheb said categorically why 'bhakti' in politics was a way towards disaster. Through the media, leaders give their vision and people interact with them. More than that they listen to their own critique but today criticism is not liked and brahminical media will not critique Bahujan leadership for the point of the community interest but its own interest and therefore such media was needed which could warn leaders of their faults and not become their propaganda tool as it would never help in the long run. Media can also be used in creating new young leaders but for that one needs a long term strategy.

While we salute all those known and unknow Ambedkarites who carried forwarded the legacy of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's journalism, it must continue its work unmindful of whether others appreciate it or not. The real power does not lie in brahminical acknowledgement but in awakening the masses and making their issues public. The ‘Manustream’ media today is distorting facts, hiding them and vilifying dissenters. It is important therefore, we support and participate with all such forces who have stood with people for their human rights, social justice and raised their issues and provided space for all kind of discussions.

In the 21st century, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's philosophy will play the real 'liberation theology' for all the oppressed people and if we want that this philosophy is not distorted then it is essential we keep safe the legacy of all those who dedicated their life to spread Baba Saheb's 'Prabuddha Bharat' mission. Ambedkarite media is not reporting cut and paste from the manuwadi media but essentially a constructive ideological alternative of the hierarchical varna system, a complete annihilation of caste which is necessary for a stronger and democratic India. No Manuwadi media would be interested in annihilation of caste as it is only possible through Ambedkarite media but for that we all will have to learn to listen to even disagreements and try forge a coalition with all. Ambedkarite media can be an individual enterprise but will have to work in close association with the community and should not only raise their issues but work towards creating new young writers, photographers, cartoonists, reporters and editors. The task is tough but nothing is impossible and will ultimately benefit the nation enormously where media is the 'exclusive' domain of two or three jaatis.

In the 100 years of the celebration of Mook-Nayak, our main goal should be to break the hegemony of these exploiting castes and classes in our knowledge and information system so that brahminical exploitation is exposed, people get justice and rule of law is restored. We have seen the dirt and filth that ‘Manustream’ media has unleashed on us and to counter this we need an enlightened media and better analysis of the current situation. Ambedkarites can do that, and if they do so, it will be the best tribute to Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

 

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