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Remembering Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer

May 14 is the seventh death anniversary of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, one of the most vociferous defenders of secularism and an inspiring member of Indian civil society. Here are some of his key contributions to protecting India’s composite culture in the words of his son Irfan

14 May 2020

Death AnniversaryImage Courtesy: pennews.net

Amidst Islamophobia which was increasingly gripping the world after September 11, 2001, Dr. Engineer wrote extensively defending Islam as a religion of peace and harmony. He wrote several books on Islam and his books were translated in Bhasha Indonesia, French, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi.  His approach to religion in general and Islam in particular was that of an empathetic rationalist, studying and examining the Holy Quran, Hadith, history of Muslim rulers and present state of affairs of Muslims. He developed theology of peace and social justice. He was a voice of gender justice and Muslim women’s rights.

He never hesitated to critically examine the role of Muslim civil society and religious leadership and did not spare them if he found them on the wrong side. He had the courage of conviction to speak out the truth and for which he suffered several attacks on himself and his family. Nevertheless, he never wavered from the truth he believed in.

He not only wrote extensively (78 books and several articles), he worked to bring about social change – reforms within Bohra Community; communal harmony and peaceful co-existence between all religious communities and training Muslim women to be alimas and Muslim scholars within their own rights.

He was also a humble human being, accessible to all, sharing his knowledge and convictions with all, even polite to his worst opponent and those who abused him, a wonderful father (more of a friend with whom we could freely discuss and differ), father-in-law, family person, a friend who was always concerned about the well being of his friends. A person without any ego or vanity and truly social human being. He practiced the equality that he preached in his own day-to-day dealings.

I consider myself very lucky that he was my father and I learnt a lot from him. Pray and resolve to carry his forward his legacy. We in Centre for Study of Society and Secularism are striving to do so.  

Remembering Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer

May 14 is the seventh death anniversary of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, one of the most vociferous defenders of secularism and an inspiring member of Indian civil society. Here are some of his key contributions to protecting India’s composite culture in the words of his son Irfan

Death AnniversaryImage Courtesy: pennews.net

Amidst Islamophobia which was increasingly gripping the world after September 11, 2001, Dr. Engineer wrote extensively defending Islam as a religion of peace and harmony. He wrote several books on Islam and his books were translated in Bhasha Indonesia, French, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi.  His approach to religion in general and Islam in particular was that of an empathetic rationalist, studying and examining the Holy Quran, Hadith, history of Muslim rulers and present state of affairs of Muslims. He developed theology of peace and social justice. He was a voice of gender justice and Muslim women’s rights.

He never hesitated to critically examine the role of Muslim civil society and religious leadership and did not spare them if he found them on the wrong side. He had the courage of conviction to speak out the truth and for which he suffered several attacks on himself and his family. Nevertheless, he never wavered from the truth he believed in.

He not only wrote extensively (78 books and several articles), he worked to bring about social change – reforms within Bohra Community; communal harmony and peaceful co-existence between all religious communities and training Muslim women to be alimas and Muslim scholars within their own rights.

He was also a humble human being, accessible to all, sharing his knowledge and convictions with all, even polite to his worst opponent and those who abused him, a wonderful father (more of a friend with whom we could freely discuss and differ), father-in-law, family person, a friend who was always concerned about the well being of his friends. A person without any ego or vanity and truly social human being. He practiced the equality that he preached in his own day-to-day dealings.

I consider myself very lucky that he was my father and I learnt a lot from him. Pray and resolve to carry his forward his legacy. We in Centre for Study of Society and Secularism are striving to do so.  

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Muslim community comes together to perform last rites of Hindu neighbour

Pandurang Ubale’s relatives couldn’t come to Mumbai due to the coronavirus lockdown

13 May 2020

hindu muslim unity

While some forces of communal hatred keep spewing venom to create a religious divide in the hearts and minds of people, some others with nothing but only love for their fellow humans, set heartening examples of humanity and communal harmony.

Members of the Muslim community in Sewri, Mumbai helped in performing the last rites of their 72-year-old Hindu neighbour, Pandurang Ubale, after the deceased’s relatives could not reach for his funeral due to the lockdown, reported The New Indian Express.

Ubale, who was paralyzed since the last few months, died at his residence in Zakaria Bunder area of Sewri on Monday. He had been staying in the Muslim-dominated locality along with his wife and son for the past few decades.

After his death on Monday, his relatives staying in suburban Mulund, Belapur in adjoining Navi Mumbai and Alibaug in neighbouring Raigad district could not come over to his place in the wake of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

As Ubale's wife and son were unable to make all arrangements for the funeral, they informed their neighbours, who came forward to help and even prepared the bier.

A neighbour, Asif Sheikh, who attended the funeral, said, "We knew Ubale uncle since a long time. He always participated in our festivals and we used to be a part of their festivities. We all came forward to bid him a farewell and helped in performing his last rites."

Last month too, some Muslim men carried the body of a Hindu neighbour in suburban Bandra on their shoulders to the cremation ground after the deceased's relatives were unable to attend the last rites due to the lockdown.

In Rajasthan too, when a Hindu man passed away in Jaipur, his Muslim neighbours stepped in and cremated him with full Hindu rituals as no male members in his immediate family and none of his relatives could travel to the city for the last rites due to the lockdown.

In Bangalore, when a Hindu woman’s father passed away, 10 Muslim neighbours stepped up to help the widow conduct the last rights.

 

 

Examples of such brotherhood are galore but they’re never mentioned by mainstream media which only works to create a fear psychosis about the minorities in the eyes of the public. However, as they say, acts of kindness never go unnoticed and whether or not the media brings it out to the public, harmony will continue to prevail due to the efforts of some.

Related:

Setting an example: Muslim devotee donates sprayer for Tirupati temple sanitization

Muslim community comes together to perform last rites of Hindu neighbour

Pandurang Ubale’s relatives couldn’t come to Mumbai due to the coronavirus lockdown

hindu muslim unity

While some forces of communal hatred keep spewing venom to create a religious divide in the hearts and minds of people, some others with nothing but only love for their fellow humans, set heartening examples of humanity and communal harmony.

Members of the Muslim community in Sewri, Mumbai helped in performing the last rites of their 72-year-old Hindu neighbour, Pandurang Ubale, after the deceased’s relatives could not reach for his funeral due to the lockdown, reported The New Indian Express.

Ubale, who was paralyzed since the last few months, died at his residence in Zakaria Bunder area of Sewri on Monday. He had been staying in the Muslim-dominated locality along with his wife and son for the past few decades.

After his death on Monday, his relatives staying in suburban Mulund, Belapur in adjoining Navi Mumbai and Alibaug in neighbouring Raigad district could not come over to his place in the wake of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

As Ubale's wife and son were unable to make all arrangements for the funeral, they informed their neighbours, who came forward to help and even prepared the bier.

A neighbour, Asif Sheikh, who attended the funeral, said, "We knew Ubale uncle since a long time. He always participated in our festivals and we used to be a part of their festivities. We all came forward to bid him a farewell and helped in performing his last rites."

Last month too, some Muslim men carried the body of a Hindu neighbour in suburban Bandra on their shoulders to the cremation ground after the deceased's relatives were unable to attend the last rites due to the lockdown.

In Rajasthan too, when a Hindu man passed away in Jaipur, his Muslim neighbours stepped in and cremated him with full Hindu rituals as no male members in his immediate family and none of his relatives could travel to the city for the last rites due to the lockdown.

In Bangalore, when a Hindu woman’s father passed away, 10 Muslim neighbours stepped up to help the widow conduct the last rights.

 

 

Examples of such brotherhood are galore but they’re never mentioned by mainstream media which only works to create a fear psychosis about the minorities in the eyes of the public. However, as they say, acts of kindness never go unnoticed and whether or not the media brings it out to the public, harmony will continue to prevail due to the efforts of some.

Related:

Setting an example: Muslim devotee donates sprayer for Tirupati temple sanitization

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Kolkata Imam offers mosque as quarantine centre facility

The 6,000 sq ft space will be offered to locals in the area

08 May 2020

Mosque
Representation Image
 

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation that was desperately looking for spaces to set up quarantine centers received a shot in the arm when the Imam of the Jamia Masjid Gausia, popularly known as the Bangali Bazar Masjid, proposed to give the entire third floor of the mosque on Iron Gate Road for quarantine purpose, reported The Times of India.

The move came about after locals in the Garden Reach cluster came up with the proposal.

Maulana Qari Md Muslim Razwi, the Imam of the mosque said, “It is a 6,000sqft space that we are offering for both locals and those from adjoining areas. But if more space is needed, we are ready to make arrangements. The options include opening up two other floors and schools in our area. KMC may use this space for quarantine purposes. We have readied it to the best of our efforts.” He added that the decision of using the mosque as quarantine centre was taken after both, the police and the KMC officials approached them.

“I was aware there was some opposition to setting up such centres elsewhere and I decided to discuss it with residents of Bangali Bazar, Iron Gate Road and Bichali Ghat Road. These are the people who offer their prayers here. The mosque is temporarily shut and it took a little bit of time to talk to everyone while maintaining social distance. However, we agreed on the plan and communicated it to the administration, including the Port division police,” said Razwi.

Ward 134 Councillor Shams Iqbal who took up the initiative on behalf of the KMC, said that his family had been associated with the development of the mosque for a long time. He said, “Since most of us are praying from home now, I took this initiative on behalf of the KMC. I am happy that the locals and Imam Razwi welcomed the idea.”

The area of wards 134 and 135 has multiple containment zones. “There are containment zones at Paharpur, Shyamlal Lane, Kasai Moholla, Bengali Bazar, Iron Gate Road and Bichali Ghat Road in Ward 135 and Ramnagar Lane, Fatehpur village and Maher Manzil in Ward 134,” said a KMC official.

Many residents of this area pray at the Bangali Bazar Mosque and Imam Razwi and Iqbal said that the original purpose of setting up a quarantine centre in the mosque was to make the residents feel at home. “It was a collective decision that everyone should feel there is a home open for them so they do not shy away from going to the quarantine centre if advised by KMC or health department officials,” Razwi said.

KMC officials are to inspect the facility soon. A KMC official said, “We are overwhelmed by the development. We hope others, too, come forward, especially since we suffered some setbacks in a few areas like Tiljala and Parnasree due to resistance from locals. We will ascertain that the mosque is not located in a crowded area and then accordingly communicate our decision.”

Currently, the number of total coronavirus in West Bengal stand at 1,548 with 1,101 active cases. The death toll for coronavirus patients stands at 79 and if death where co-morbidities are considered, the death toll stands at 151. The state currently has one of the highest mortality rates in the country at 9.75 percent.

The state has 10 red zones and 516 containment zones with most infections coming in from Kolkata, Howrah and North 24 Parganas.

Related:

Dalit group offers ‘zakat’ to help underprivileged during Ramzan

 Muslims will follow all lockdown protocol during Ramzan: Mufti of Varanasi

 

Kolkata Imam offers mosque as quarantine centre facility

The 6,000 sq ft space will be offered to locals in the area

Mosque
Representation Image
 

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation that was desperately looking for spaces to set up quarantine centers received a shot in the arm when the Imam of the Jamia Masjid Gausia, popularly known as the Bangali Bazar Masjid, proposed to give the entire third floor of the mosque on Iron Gate Road for quarantine purpose, reported The Times of India.

The move came about after locals in the Garden Reach cluster came up with the proposal.

Maulana Qari Md Muslim Razwi, the Imam of the mosque said, “It is a 6,000sqft space that we are offering for both locals and those from adjoining areas. But if more space is needed, we are ready to make arrangements. The options include opening up two other floors and schools in our area. KMC may use this space for quarantine purposes. We have readied it to the best of our efforts.” He added that the decision of using the mosque as quarantine centre was taken after both, the police and the KMC officials approached them.

“I was aware there was some opposition to setting up such centres elsewhere and I decided to discuss it with residents of Bangali Bazar, Iron Gate Road and Bichali Ghat Road. These are the people who offer their prayers here. The mosque is temporarily shut and it took a little bit of time to talk to everyone while maintaining social distance. However, we agreed on the plan and communicated it to the administration, including the Port division police,” said Razwi.

Ward 134 Councillor Shams Iqbal who took up the initiative on behalf of the KMC, said that his family had been associated with the development of the mosque for a long time. He said, “Since most of us are praying from home now, I took this initiative on behalf of the KMC. I am happy that the locals and Imam Razwi welcomed the idea.”

The area of wards 134 and 135 has multiple containment zones. “There are containment zones at Paharpur, Shyamlal Lane, Kasai Moholla, Bengali Bazar, Iron Gate Road and Bichali Ghat Road in Ward 135 and Ramnagar Lane, Fatehpur village and Maher Manzil in Ward 134,” said a KMC official.

Many residents of this area pray at the Bangali Bazar Mosque and Imam Razwi and Iqbal said that the original purpose of setting up a quarantine centre in the mosque was to make the residents feel at home. “It was a collective decision that everyone should feel there is a home open for them so they do not shy away from going to the quarantine centre if advised by KMC or health department officials,” Razwi said.

KMC officials are to inspect the facility soon. A KMC official said, “We are overwhelmed by the development. We hope others, too, come forward, especially since we suffered some setbacks in a few areas like Tiljala and Parnasree due to resistance from locals. We will ascertain that the mosque is not located in a crowded area and then accordingly communicate our decision.”

Currently, the number of total coronavirus in West Bengal stand at 1,548 with 1,101 active cases. The death toll for coronavirus patients stands at 79 and if death where co-morbidities are considered, the death toll stands at 151. The state currently has one of the highest mortality rates in the country at 9.75 percent.

The state has 10 red zones and 516 containment zones with most infections coming in from Kolkata, Howrah and North 24 Parganas.

Related:

Dalit group offers ‘zakat’ to help underprivileged during Ramzan

 Muslims will follow all lockdown protocol during Ramzan: Mufti of Varanasi

 

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Driver names auto ‘Khidmat’, offers free rides to those in need during the lockdown

55-year-old Ayaz Faquih and others like him come forth to ferry passengers in need to their destinations

30 Apr 2020

rickshaw driver

Grim news from all corners of the country has been coming in all through the lockdown. Apart from Covid-19, there have been communal tensions rising in the country, pushing minorities on the sidelines and over the edge. There have been reports of the needy being denied help and not having enough in their power to help themselves. However, for each gloomy report, there is always one positive story that reinstates our faith in humanity. And one such is that of Ayaz Faquih, a 55-year-old autorickshaw driver who has proved that all heroes don’t wear capes.

An auto driver from the Uran Taluka, Faquih came up with an innovative idea to help the needy during the coronavirus induced lockdown, reported The Times of India. He named his three-wheeler ‘Khidmat’, meaning service (to the people) and till date has provided over 150 free rides to those who were in need at Uran. Faquih doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. At the start of the lockdown at the behest of a charitable trust, Faquih, who lives with his wife, a teacher and his daughter, a student in the ninth grade, got the permission to ferry essential items, like food to various places at Uran.

Speaking to TOI he said, “I stay at Uran city, where there are many hospitals and clinics. When the lockdown began last month, I used to see several persons stranded on the roads trying to reach their destinations somehow. Many were patients, senior citizens, medical staff who found it rather tough to walk long distances in the hot weather. That is why I decided to call my auto as 'Khidmat' and start giving free rides to stranded people.”

A known face in Uran, Faquih also started dropping his mobile number to local hospitals and dispensaries and requesting the administration to call them if they needed his services.

"It was heartrending to see old people, pregnant ladies, even those recovering from appendix surgery walking on empty roads as there was no public transport available; and even private vehicle owners were scared to offer lift to them due to the fear of coronavirus. Hence, me and 'Khidmat' would try to assist the locals," he added.

He said, “Once a woman called me to take her to another hospital in Panvel taluka and later return back. I took her as it was rather urgent for her. She offered to pay at least for the CNG refill, but I simply told her that 'Khidmat' and I are happy doing this free of charge.”

When asked if there is any health risk involved in doing this social service work, Ayaz commented, "I strictly follow social distancing and ensure that my passengers are wearing masks, and not seated very close to each other."

It isn’t just Faquih who’s playing good Samaritan. P Jayaprakash (51) who has been an auto-driver for the past 25 years, has been providing free rides to pregnant women, ferrying them to and fro between hospitals amid the lockdown. He told The New Indian Express, “I have posted my contact number on all social media platforms along with a message asking people to inform others about the free ride I offer to those in need. I will offer rides to those who are in a 25-km radius in Gudalur.”

In Mumbai’s Ghatkopar, a Shital Sarode, a rickshaw driver, too is doing her bit by offering free ride the distressed. Speaking to ANI, Shital said, “I am driving auto-rickshaw in lockdown so that I can help the people in this difficult time. I feel happy. I am not doing this work for money. Prior to lockdown, I was driving rickshaw and earned money for my family. But now I am driving auto-rickshaw for social service and to help the people in need.”

 

 

It is heartening to note that autorickshaw drivers are daily wage earners and due to the stoppage of transportation, they have been robbed of their income. To see some of them come ahead and help those in need and thinking of their fellow citizens before themselves shows the true spirit of humanity.

Related:

It took influential Arab anger to make India notice hate speech

FCI official talks to Sabrang India about the nuances of the food distribution process in the city

Driver names auto ‘Khidmat’, offers free rides to those in need during the lockdown

55-year-old Ayaz Faquih and others like him come forth to ferry passengers in need to their destinations

rickshaw driver

Grim news from all corners of the country has been coming in all through the lockdown. Apart from Covid-19, there have been communal tensions rising in the country, pushing minorities on the sidelines and over the edge. There have been reports of the needy being denied help and not having enough in their power to help themselves. However, for each gloomy report, there is always one positive story that reinstates our faith in humanity. And one such is that of Ayaz Faquih, a 55-year-old autorickshaw driver who has proved that all heroes don’t wear capes.

An auto driver from the Uran Taluka, Faquih came up with an innovative idea to help the needy during the coronavirus induced lockdown, reported The Times of India. He named his three-wheeler ‘Khidmat’, meaning service (to the people) and till date has provided over 150 free rides to those who were in need at Uran. Faquih doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. At the start of the lockdown at the behest of a charitable trust, Faquih, who lives with his wife, a teacher and his daughter, a student in the ninth grade, got the permission to ferry essential items, like food to various places at Uran.

Speaking to TOI he said, “I stay at Uran city, where there are many hospitals and clinics. When the lockdown began last month, I used to see several persons stranded on the roads trying to reach their destinations somehow. Many were patients, senior citizens, medical staff who found it rather tough to walk long distances in the hot weather. That is why I decided to call my auto as 'Khidmat' and start giving free rides to stranded people.”

A known face in Uran, Faquih also started dropping his mobile number to local hospitals and dispensaries and requesting the administration to call them if they needed his services.

"It was heartrending to see old people, pregnant ladies, even those recovering from appendix surgery walking on empty roads as there was no public transport available; and even private vehicle owners were scared to offer lift to them due to the fear of coronavirus. Hence, me and 'Khidmat' would try to assist the locals," he added.

He said, “Once a woman called me to take her to another hospital in Panvel taluka and later return back. I took her as it was rather urgent for her. She offered to pay at least for the CNG refill, but I simply told her that 'Khidmat' and I are happy doing this free of charge.”

When asked if there is any health risk involved in doing this social service work, Ayaz commented, "I strictly follow social distancing and ensure that my passengers are wearing masks, and not seated very close to each other."

It isn’t just Faquih who’s playing good Samaritan. P Jayaprakash (51) who has been an auto-driver for the past 25 years, has been providing free rides to pregnant women, ferrying them to and fro between hospitals amid the lockdown. He told The New Indian Express, “I have posted my contact number on all social media platforms along with a message asking people to inform others about the free ride I offer to those in need. I will offer rides to those who are in a 25-km radius in Gudalur.”

In Mumbai’s Ghatkopar, a Shital Sarode, a rickshaw driver, too is doing her bit by offering free ride the distressed. Speaking to ANI, Shital said, “I am driving auto-rickshaw in lockdown so that I can help the people in this difficult time. I feel happy. I am not doing this work for money. Prior to lockdown, I was driving rickshaw and earned money for my family. But now I am driving auto-rickshaw for social service and to help the people in need.”

 

 

It is heartening to note that autorickshaw drivers are daily wage earners and due to the stoppage of transportation, they have been robbed of their income. To see some of them come ahead and help those in need and thinking of their fellow citizens before themselves shows the true spirit of humanity.

Related:

It took influential Arab anger to make India notice hate speech

FCI official talks to Sabrang India about the nuances of the food distribution process in the city

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Watch: How rural Bengal was inspired by the Sufis

Sabrangindia 29 Apr 2020

The traditions and literatures of Bengal narrate several events to show how Islam had flourished in Bengal delta. In this video, Writer, Musician and Researcher on Sufism, Avishek Ghosh gives us an overview of the popularity of Sufis in rural Bengal and how the Sufis took part ininfluencing common people, residing in rural Bengal, through agricultural, religious and political activities.

Watch: How rural Bengal was inspired by the Sufis

The traditions and literatures of Bengal narrate several events to show how Islam had flourished in Bengal delta. In this video, Writer, Musician and Researcher on Sufism, Avishek Ghosh gives us an overview of the popularity of Sufis in rural Bengal and how the Sufis took part ininfluencing common people, residing in rural Bengal, through agricultural, religious and political activities.

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Right to dissent is at the core of democracy

Do not isolate and target students, unite as a nation: Civil society condemns Delhi Police for falsely implicating students and activists in Delhi riot cases

23 Apr 2020

Umar KhalidImage Courtesy: jagranjosh.com

Scores of activists, academics, journalists, teachers, scholars and eminent citizens of India have spoken in one voice to condemn the use of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against those who use their Constitutional right to dissent peacefully. 

Civil rights activists have said that the Delhi Police is falsely implicating “innocent student activists in Delhi riot cases, and booking them under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)”. In a joint statement issued on April 22, eminent activists called this police action a “suppression of civil rights and liberties” and said that targeting these young democratic voices was reprehensible. 

“We find it utterly shameful that Delhi police is using the COVID-19 lockdown, and the enormous humanitarian crisis of hunger confronting our country, as an opportunity to trample on the democratic rights of innocents”. They have called on the people of India to “unite as a nation, not to isolate and target students.” 

They say the Delhi Police has abused its powers, and filed  concocted cases against former JNU scholar, Dr. Umar Khalid, and Jamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar. The activists reject Delhi Police’s allegations that the communal violence in North East Delhi “was a premeditated conspiracy” hatched by the scholars and students. The activists have called the Delhi Police's narrative “absurd”, and said that “citizens of this country will see through these lies being peddled by the police.”

The civil rights activists have asked why the real culprits, who actually incited or took part in the violence, have not been taken to task by the law keepers, and continue to “enjoy impunity despite ample evidence available against them, including on social media?”

They ask, “If Delhi, India’s capital city, whose police force comes directly under the Union Home Ministry, is rapidly becoming a police state, giving the police powers that are unfettered, even by the law of the land?”

The activists have implored all citizens of the country, political parties, the judicial system and media to stand united against this injustice. They have asked people to raise their voices to “oppose this brazen abuse of State power to stifle democratic voices; to pressurize the BJP government to stop this targeting and vilification; demand that these charges be immediately dropped; demand that those arrested under cover of the COVID-19 lockdown be immediately released.”

The statement was signed by Prof. Rampuyani, Writer & Activist, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairman,Delhi Minority Commission, Ravi Nair, Convener, Alliance against CAA, NRC and NPR, Eng. Syed Sadatullah Hussaini, President JIH, Prof Apoorvanand, Delhi Univ, Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist,Harsh Mandar, Ex IAS, Activist, Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, Gen. Sec., AIMC, S. R. Darapuri, IPS(Retd), Spokesperson, AIPF, Syeda Hameed, Ex Member, Planning Commission, Dr. John Dyal, Writer and Activist,Labeed Shafi, President SIO, Tapan Bose, Human Rights Activist, Kavita Srivastava, Human Rights Activist,Prof Ghazala Jameel, JNU, Aishe Ghosh, President JNUSU, Mujtaba Farooq, Asst Convener Alliance Against CAA, NRC, NPR, Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, Dr. S.Q.R. Ilyas, President WPI, Manisha Sethi,Writer,Activist, Nadeem Khan, United Against Hate, Raghvan Srinivasan, President Lokraj Sangathan, Ajit Yadav, Political Activist, Javed Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Mohd Sulaiman, President INL, and others.

Hum Bharat Ke Log, a platform of more than 100 civil society organisations at the forefront of national-wide protests against the Union Govt.’s illegal efforts to implement NPR, NRC and CAA has also denounced and strongly condemned the Union Govt’s move to charge the student and youth leaders who led and participated in the peaceful protests and civil disobedience movements across the country, including Delhi. 

“We must remember that the protesters against NPR, NRC and CAA acted in accordance with their fundamental rights as conferred by the Constitution of India and hence the invocation of UAPA and the colonial Sedition laws are inherently illegal. This amounts to wrongful exercise of authority against lawful acts of citizens,” they said in a statement issued as soon as the news that the student-leaders had been charged under the UAPA.

They say this is an attempt by the Govt. to “intimidate the leading Anti-NPR/NRC/CAA protestors in an attempt to crush the movement,” and added that doing so when the nation was under a lockdown and dealing with a national health emergency showed, the “the anti-democratic character of the Union Govt” . 

“It is shocking to see that while the whole nation has come together to deal with the the health emergency caused by Covid-19 and the consequent nation-wide Lockdown, the Govt., instead of focusing on saving lives and livelihoods of citizens, is conspiring to crush peoples movements by incarcerating activists” they added.

As there is some confusion around the the exact nature of the charges against the activist, especially Dr Umar Khalid, the coalition has demanded that: 

1. Delhi Police clarify whether and on what grounds have these activists been charged under UAPA. 

2. If so, such ridiculous and draconian charges be immediately removed 

3. Those who were actually responsible for issuing communally charged statements, leading to violence and huge loss of human lives must be held accountable and punished as per law.  

The Hindu had reported that  “Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused ‘yet’ and had not been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.”  According to the new report the former former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) scholar was named in an FIR registered by the Delhi police, but “it was not yet clear whether he has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).”

The report quoted a senior police officer as saying that ‘Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused “yet” and had not been charged under the UAPA.’

According to a report by India Today the FIR was registered based on a  complaint filed by “one Arvind Kumar, a member of the Delhi Police crime branch” who claimed that “one of his sources informed him that the communal riots that broke out in Delhi on February 23, 24 and 25 were "pre-planned".”

Investigations into the February 2020 communal violence which exploded in various areas of Northeast Delhi are being carried out by the Delhi Police Special Cell. According to The Hindu’s report the special cell is investigating a “‘conspiracy’ behind the communal violence”.  Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar have already been charged under the UAPA. The report quoted Haider’s lawyer  Akram Khan, saying that “they withdrew his bail application on Monday after police informed the court that Mr. Haider has been charged under IPC Section 302 (murder).”

Haider (35) is a PhD student and the president of RJD youth wing’s Delhi unit, while Zargar is an MPhil student of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university and  the media coordinator of Jamia Coordination Committee.

Related:

Journalists are not terrorists, journalism is not a crime
Gauhati HC denies default bail to Akhil Gogoi

Right to dissent is at the core of democracy

Do not isolate and target students, unite as a nation: Civil society condemns Delhi Police for falsely implicating students and activists in Delhi riot cases

Umar KhalidImage Courtesy: jagranjosh.com

Scores of activists, academics, journalists, teachers, scholars and eminent citizens of India have spoken in one voice to condemn the use of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against those who use their Constitutional right to dissent peacefully. 

Civil rights activists have said that the Delhi Police is falsely implicating “innocent student activists in Delhi riot cases, and booking them under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)”. In a joint statement issued on April 22, eminent activists called this police action a “suppression of civil rights and liberties” and said that targeting these young democratic voices was reprehensible. 

“We find it utterly shameful that Delhi police is using the COVID-19 lockdown, and the enormous humanitarian crisis of hunger confronting our country, as an opportunity to trample on the democratic rights of innocents”. They have called on the people of India to “unite as a nation, not to isolate and target students.” 

They say the Delhi Police has abused its powers, and filed  concocted cases against former JNU scholar, Dr. Umar Khalid, and Jamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar. The activists reject Delhi Police’s allegations that the communal violence in North East Delhi “was a premeditated conspiracy” hatched by the scholars and students. The activists have called the Delhi Police's narrative “absurd”, and said that “citizens of this country will see through these lies being peddled by the police.”

The civil rights activists have asked why the real culprits, who actually incited or took part in the violence, have not been taken to task by the law keepers, and continue to “enjoy impunity despite ample evidence available against them, including on social media?”

They ask, “If Delhi, India’s capital city, whose police force comes directly under the Union Home Ministry, is rapidly becoming a police state, giving the police powers that are unfettered, even by the law of the land?”

The activists have implored all citizens of the country, political parties, the judicial system and media to stand united against this injustice. They have asked people to raise their voices to “oppose this brazen abuse of State power to stifle democratic voices; to pressurize the BJP government to stop this targeting and vilification; demand that these charges be immediately dropped; demand that those arrested under cover of the COVID-19 lockdown be immediately released.”

The statement was signed by Prof. Rampuyani, Writer & Activist, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairman,Delhi Minority Commission, Ravi Nair, Convener, Alliance against CAA, NRC and NPR, Eng. Syed Sadatullah Hussaini, President JIH, Prof Apoorvanand, Delhi Univ, Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist,Harsh Mandar, Ex IAS, Activist, Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, Gen. Sec., AIMC, S. R. Darapuri, IPS(Retd), Spokesperson, AIPF, Syeda Hameed, Ex Member, Planning Commission, Dr. John Dyal, Writer and Activist,Labeed Shafi, President SIO, Tapan Bose, Human Rights Activist, Kavita Srivastava, Human Rights Activist,Prof Ghazala Jameel, JNU, Aishe Ghosh, President JNUSU, Mujtaba Farooq, Asst Convener Alliance Against CAA, NRC, NPR, Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, Dr. S.Q.R. Ilyas, President WPI, Manisha Sethi,Writer,Activist, Nadeem Khan, United Against Hate, Raghvan Srinivasan, President Lokraj Sangathan, Ajit Yadav, Political Activist, Javed Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Mohd Sulaiman, President INL, and others.

Hum Bharat Ke Log, a platform of more than 100 civil society organisations at the forefront of national-wide protests against the Union Govt.’s illegal efforts to implement NPR, NRC and CAA has also denounced and strongly condemned the Union Govt’s move to charge the student and youth leaders who led and participated in the peaceful protests and civil disobedience movements across the country, including Delhi. 

“We must remember that the protesters against NPR, NRC and CAA acted in accordance with their fundamental rights as conferred by the Constitution of India and hence the invocation of UAPA and the colonial Sedition laws are inherently illegal. This amounts to wrongful exercise of authority against lawful acts of citizens,” they said in a statement issued as soon as the news that the student-leaders had been charged under the UAPA.

They say this is an attempt by the Govt. to “intimidate the leading Anti-NPR/NRC/CAA protestors in an attempt to crush the movement,” and added that doing so when the nation was under a lockdown and dealing with a national health emergency showed, the “the anti-democratic character of the Union Govt” . 

“It is shocking to see that while the whole nation has come together to deal with the the health emergency caused by Covid-19 and the consequent nation-wide Lockdown, the Govt., instead of focusing on saving lives and livelihoods of citizens, is conspiring to crush peoples movements by incarcerating activists” they added.

As there is some confusion around the the exact nature of the charges against the activist, especially Dr Umar Khalid, the coalition has demanded that: 

1. Delhi Police clarify whether and on what grounds have these activists been charged under UAPA. 

2. If so, such ridiculous and draconian charges be immediately removed 

3. Those who were actually responsible for issuing communally charged statements, leading to violence and huge loss of human lives must be held accountable and punished as per law.  

The Hindu had reported that  “Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused ‘yet’ and had not been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.”  According to the new report the former former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) scholar was named in an FIR registered by the Delhi police, but “it was not yet clear whether he has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).”

The report quoted a senior police officer as saying that ‘Khalid’s name was in the text of the FIR but he was not an accused “yet” and had not been charged under the UAPA.’

According to a report by India Today the FIR was registered based on a  complaint filed by “one Arvind Kumar, a member of the Delhi Police crime branch” who claimed that “one of his sources informed him that the communal riots that broke out in Delhi on February 23, 24 and 25 were "pre-planned".”

Investigations into the February 2020 communal violence which exploded in various areas of Northeast Delhi are being carried out by the Delhi Police Special Cell. According to The Hindu’s report the special cell is investigating a “‘conspiracy’ behind the communal violence”.  Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar have already been charged under the UAPA. The report quoted Haider’s lawyer  Akram Khan, saying that “they withdrew his bail application on Monday after police informed the court that Mr. Haider has been charged under IPC Section 302 (murder).”

Haider (35) is a PhD student and the president of RJD youth wing’s Delhi unit, while Zargar is an MPhil student of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university and  the media coordinator of Jamia Coordination Committee.

Related:

Journalists are not terrorists, journalism is not a crime
Gauhati HC denies default bail to Akhil Gogoi

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Journalists are not terrorists, journalism is not a crime

Muslim journalists, students and activists, booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), under which an individual 'labelled' a terrorist can jailed for up to seven years

22 Apr 2020

JournalistImage Courtesy:aljazeera.com

Twenty-six-year old Masrat Zahra took to twitter and decided to let her friends and family, and perhaps hundreds of others following her case know that she was doing fine and following procedures. She had been called in, perhaps for the second time, yesterday to the Cyber Cell for questioning. To everyone’s relief she confirmed that she had not been arrested “I met the concerned police officials of the case and answered their questions regarding the investigation, I have not been arrested and the investigation is going. Thanks all for the support.”

Her social media update on being safe is a tad ironic when one recalls that Zahra had been booked for allegedly “uploading anti-national posts with criminal intention to induce the youth and to promote offences against public tranquility.” The Cyber Police, Srinagar, has charged Zahra under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

According to the press release, issued by the Cyber Police Station Kashmir Zone, Srinagar, the FIR was filed against a ‘Facebook user’ on April 18, under Section 13 of the UAPA and Section 505 of the IPC. Investigations are on, the press release stated and alleged: ‘The Facebook user, identified by the name Masrat Zahra, is uploading photographs that can provoke the public to disturb law and order and glorify anti-national activities.’ 

Tahir Ashraf, SP, Incharge Cyber Police Kashmir himself posted: “Cyber Police Station Kashmir registered FIR against a social media user for posting incriminating material which attracts the provisions of UA(P)A and IPC. Investigation has been set into motion. One of the glimpses”

Author and journalist Gowhar Geelani, too was booked for using social media platforms for allegedly “indulging in unlawful activities.” reports the KashmirWallah. According to the report the police claimed that Geelani’s posts and writings were “prejudicial to national integrity, sovereignty and security of India.”

In a statement, the police said: “The unlawful activities include glorifying terrorism in Kashmir Valley, causing disaffection against the country and causing fear or alarm in the minds of public that may lead to commission of offences against public tranquility and the security of State.”

In the last two days, the same law has been used to book Muslim activists, students and journalists. They are journalists Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq, Gowhar Geelani; Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider, and Safoora Zargar, and well known student leader Dr Umar Khalid, from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The journalists, who hail from and work in Jammu & Kashmir have found words of solidarity being voiced by many in the fraternity. The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement expressing “shock and concern the high-handed manner in which the law enforcement agencies in Jammu & Kashmir have used the prevailing laws to deal with two Srinagar-based journalists, Masrat Zahra, a young freelance photographer, and Peerzada Ashiq, a reporter working for The Hindu.”  

Using such a law was a “gross misuse of power” said the Guild, adding that the purpose was to “strike terror” into journalists working in Kashmir, and also indirectly intimidate the  journalists working in the rest of the country as well.

“The journalists should be put to no harm or further harassment. If the government has any grievance against their reporting, there are other ways of dealing with such issues in the normal course. Mere social media posts of factual pictures can’t attract the toughest anti-terror laws passed for hardened terrorists” stated the Guild.

They said if the authorities had any objection to The Hindu reporter Peerzada Ashi’s report the matter should have been raised with the newspaper’s editor. The Guild has demanded that the “Union Territory administration of Jammu & Kashmir withdraw the charges forthwith”.

The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) too expressed its shock at how the  law-enforcement authorities in Jammu & Kashmir, “invoked laws to clamp down on freedom of speech and expression that violate fundamental rights laid down in the Constitution.”

The IWPC said that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) used against freelance photographer Masarat Zahra, a fellow woman journalist, is an Act meant to deal with hardened terrorists. While FIRs have been lodged against Peerzada Ashiq, a reporter with The Hindu newspaper based in Srinagar and Gowhar Geelani, a freelance journalist.

The IWPC noted that the intentions of the authorities in J&K was to “strike fear in the hearts of journalists who are simply doing their job. This is a clear message that the Union Territory will not tolerate dissent.”

The women’s press corps reiterate that, "Masarat Zahra had only posted some pictures on social media. Peerzada Ashiq had just filed a report, while Gowhar Geelani’s commentary attracted the displeasure of the government. They too hoped that “these structures are withdrawn at the earliest.”

Earlier the Network of Women in Media India (NWMI) has issued a strong statement expressing  shock at the charges made against its Kashmir-based member, award-winning photojournalist, Masrat Zahra saying. A member of the Kashmir chapter of NWMI had written an impassioned letter seeking support for Masrat, and for all journalists, especially women writers and photographers working in Kashmir saying, “Journalism, after all, is not a crime. We are less than 15 female journalists actively working in Kashmir though there may be many others. We cover stories in shoulder to shoulder with men under very difficult and critical circumstances. We don’t even comprise one percent in the field which is dominated by men. Please do not fail us.”

Masarat Zahra has been freelancing for organisations like Getty Images, The Sun, The Washington Post, Al-Arabiya (UK) , Rising Kashmir and The Quint. She has shared many of her previously published photographs on Facebook.

The NWMI has said that it believes that the “charges are preposterous in the extreme and amount to rank intimidation of a journalist, and one who has won acclaim for her work, which documents the lived experiences of the people of Kashmir. Her special sensitivity towards the plight of women living under conflict in one of the most highly militarised zones in the world has been featured in both national and international publications of repute.”

The NWMI has demanded that the FIR lodged against Masrat Zahra be dropped, and that the police and security forces in Kashmir, and across the country stop the intimidation and harassment of  journalists.  

The Delhi Union of Journalists is appalled at the arbitrary FIR against Kashmir’s only woman photojournalist Masarat Zahra, under the draconian UAPA which permits indefinite detention.  The police have also filed an FIR and interrogated senior journalist Ashiq Peerzada of The Hindu for a story he recently published. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for an end to harassment of Zahra and Peerzada.

In fact, in what will now sound ironical as she faces ‘sedition’ charges, Masrat Zahra was once trolled and vilified online and called “army informer”. This, according to the NWMI was in connection with her photograph entitled ‘Gun vs Camera’, posted on 15 May, 2018, which shows her at work, covering an encounter between the Indian Army and a group of militants in Kachdoora, Shopian. At that time also the network had issued a statement and said, “such vicious and irresponsible labelling of a journalist in an already polarised political climate is dangerous and must be unequivocally condemned”. A member of the NWMI’s Kashmir chapter had earlier shared a detailed note seeking solidarity from the media fraternity. 

This is the second time in the recent past that the UAPA has been deployed against journalists in Kashmir. Journalist Aasif Sultan, who was arrested in August 2018 under the UAPA for an article on the slain militant leader Burhan Wani, published in the ‘Kashmir Narrator', is still in jail. 

Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India also issued a statement and called the police action against journalists the “the authorities’ attempt to curb the right to freedom of expression.” He added that such “harassment and intimidation of journalists through draconian laws such as UAPA threatens the efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and creates an atmosphere of fear and reprisal.”

According to Amnesty international the situation in Kashmir, is “compounded through the general lockdown, prolonged restrictions on internet speed and arbitrary detentions often without any kind of documentation, access to lawyers and recourse to justice. This severely undermines the human rights guarantees of the people of Kashmir and denies the people in India and around the world’s right to know.”

Related:

No democracy fighting the pandemic is gagging its media
Why is the government targeting journalists?
Defend freedom of expression
Anand Teltumbde's letter to people of India
Gautam Navlakha's call for freedom
It took influential Arab anger for India to notice hate speech

Journalists are not terrorists, journalism is not a crime

Muslim journalists, students and activists, booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), under which an individual 'labelled' a terrorist can jailed for up to seven years

JournalistImage Courtesy:aljazeera.com

Twenty-six-year old Masrat Zahra took to twitter and decided to let her friends and family, and perhaps hundreds of others following her case know that she was doing fine and following procedures. She had been called in, perhaps for the second time, yesterday to the Cyber Cell for questioning. To everyone’s relief she confirmed that she had not been arrested “I met the concerned police officials of the case and answered their questions regarding the investigation, I have not been arrested and the investigation is going. Thanks all for the support.”

Her social media update on being safe is a tad ironic when one recalls that Zahra had been booked for allegedly “uploading anti-national posts with criminal intention to induce the youth and to promote offences against public tranquility.” The Cyber Police, Srinagar, has charged Zahra under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

According to the press release, issued by the Cyber Police Station Kashmir Zone, Srinagar, the FIR was filed against a ‘Facebook user’ on April 18, under Section 13 of the UAPA and Section 505 of the IPC. Investigations are on, the press release stated and alleged: ‘The Facebook user, identified by the name Masrat Zahra, is uploading photographs that can provoke the public to disturb law and order and glorify anti-national activities.’ 

Tahir Ashraf, SP, Incharge Cyber Police Kashmir himself posted: “Cyber Police Station Kashmir registered FIR against a social media user for posting incriminating material which attracts the provisions of UA(P)A and IPC. Investigation has been set into motion. One of the glimpses”

Author and journalist Gowhar Geelani, too was booked for using social media platforms for allegedly “indulging in unlawful activities.” reports the KashmirWallah. According to the report the police claimed that Geelani’s posts and writings were “prejudicial to national integrity, sovereignty and security of India.”

In a statement, the police said: “The unlawful activities include glorifying terrorism in Kashmir Valley, causing disaffection against the country and causing fear or alarm in the minds of public that may lead to commission of offences against public tranquility and the security of State.”

In the last two days, the same law has been used to book Muslim activists, students and journalists. They are journalists Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq, Gowhar Geelani; Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider, and Safoora Zargar, and well known student leader Dr Umar Khalid, from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The journalists, who hail from and work in Jammu & Kashmir have found words of solidarity being voiced by many in the fraternity. The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement expressing “shock and concern the high-handed manner in which the law enforcement agencies in Jammu & Kashmir have used the prevailing laws to deal with two Srinagar-based journalists, Masrat Zahra, a young freelance photographer, and Peerzada Ashiq, a reporter working for The Hindu.”  

Using such a law was a “gross misuse of power” said the Guild, adding that the purpose was to “strike terror” into journalists working in Kashmir, and also indirectly intimidate the  journalists working in the rest of the country as well.

“The journalists should be put to no harm or further harassment. If the government has any grievance against their reporting, there are other ways of dealing with such issues in the normal course. Mere social media posts of factual pictures can’t attract the toughest anti-terror laws passed for hardened terrorists” stated the Guild.

They said if the authorities had any objection to The Hindu reporter Peerzada Ashi’s report the matter should have been raised with the newspaper’s editor. The Guild has demanded that the “Union Territory administration of Jammu & Kashmir withdraw the charges forthwith”.

The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) too expressed its shock at how the  law-enforcement authorities in Jammu & Kashmir, “invoked laws to clamp down on freedom of speech and expression that violate fundamental rights laid down in the Constitution.”

The IWPC said that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) used against freelance photographer Masarat Zahra, a fellow woman journalist, is an Act meant to deal with hardened terrorists. While FIRs have been lodged against Peerzada Ashiq, a reporter with The Hindu newspaper based in Srinagar and Gowhar Geelani, a freelance journalist.

The IWPC noted that the intentions of the authorities in J&K was to “strike fear in the hearts of journalists who are simply doing their job. This is a clear message that the Union Territory will not tolerate dissent.”

The women’s press corps reiterate that, "Masarat Zahra had only posted some pictures on social media. Peerzada Ashiq had just filed a report, while Gowhar Geelani’s commentary attracted the displeasure of the government. They too hoped that “these structures are withdrawn at the earliest.”

Earlier the Network of Women in Media India (NWMI) has issued a strong statement expressing  shock at the charges made against its Kashmir-based member, award-winning photojournalist, Masrat Zahra saying. A member of the Kashmir chapter of NWMI had written an impassioned letter seeking support for Masrat, and for all journalists, especially women writers and photographers working in Kashmir saying, “Journalism, after all, is not a crime. We are less than 15 female journalists actively working in Kashmir though there may be many others. We cover stories in shoulder to shoulder with men under very difficult and critical circumstances. We don’t even comprise one percent in the field which is dominated by men. Please do not fail us.”

Masarat Zahra has been freelancing for organisations like Getty Images, The Sun, The Washington Post, Al-Arabiya (UK) , Rising Kashmir and The Quint. She has shared many of her previously published photographs on Facebook.

The NWMI has said that it believes that the “charges are preposterous in the extreme and amount to rank intimidation of a journalist, and one who has won acclaim for her work, which documents the lived experiences of the people of Kashmir. Her special sensitivity towards the plight of women living under conflict in one of the most highly militarised zones in the world has been featured in both national and international publications of repute.”

The NWMI has demanded that the FIR lodged against Masrat Zahra be dropped, and that the police and security forces in Kashmir, and across the country stop the intimidation and harassment of  journalists.  

The Delhi Union of Journalists is appalled at the arbitrary FIR against Kashmir’s only woman photojournalist Masarat Zahra, under the draconian UAPA which permits indefinite detention.  The police have also filed an FIR and interrogated senior journalist Ashiq Peerzada of The Hindu for a story he recently published. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for an end to harassment of Zahra and Peerzada.

In fact, in what will now sound ironical as she faces ‘sedition’ charges, Masrat Zahra was once trolled and vilified online and called “army informer”. This, according to the NWMI was in connection with her photograph entitled ‘Gun vs Camera’, posted on 15 May, 2018, which shows her at work, covering an encounter between the Indian Army and a group of militants in Kachdoora, Shopian. At that time also the network had issued a statement and said, “such vicious and irresponsible labelling of a journalist in an already polarised political climate is dangerous and must be unequivocally condemned”. A member of the NWMI’s Kashmir chapter had earlier shared a detailed note seeking solidarity from the media fraternity. 

This is the second time in the recent past that the UAPA has been deployed against journalists in Kashmir. Journalist Aasif Sultan, who was arrested in August 2018 under the UAPA for an article on the slain militant leader Burhan Wani, published in the ‘Kashmir Narrator', is still in jail. 

Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India also issued a statement and called the police action against journalists the “the authorities’ attempt to curb the right to freedom of expression.” He added that such “harassment and intimidation of journalists through draconian laws such as UAPA threatens the efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and creates an atmosphere of fear and reprisal.”

According to Amnesty international the situation in Kashmir, is “compounded through the general lockdown, prolonged restrictions on internet speed and arbitrary detentions often without any kind of documentation, access to lawyers and recourse to justice. This severely undermines the human rights guarantees of the people of Kashmir and denies the people in India and around the world’s right to know.”

Related:

No democracy fighting the pandemic is gagging its media
Why is the government targeting journalists?
Defend freedom of expression
Anand Teltumbde's letter to people of India
Gautam Navlakha's call for freedom
It took influential Arab anger for India to notice hate speech

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Sikh NGO provides aid to the marginalized in NE

United Sikhs are serving two meals and breakfast and tea to the impoverished in Guwahati and Shillong

11 Apr 2020

Sikh

The 21-day lockdown in India due to the coronavirus outbreak, that is now set to be extended for another fifteen days seeing the prevailing conditions and spike in cases, has left many bereft of basic necessities for sustenance. Agricultural labourers, daily wagers, construction workers, scrap pickers, vegetable vendors apart from scores of people who live in low-income and impoverished neighbourhoods over the length and breadth of the country are finding it hard to survive without food and money.

Though the government has put measures in place to help the underprivileged, help is yet to reach all of them. In this time, volunteer organizations like the United Sikhs have come forward to help the last person in need.

Yesterday, The Sentinel, Assam reported how the United Sikhs are not only providing two meals but also dishing out breakfast and tea to the needy in Shillong. Surendra Pal Singh Sahota, the North-East in-charge of the United Sikhs says that the organization, as part of their Emergency Relief Mission – Feed the Hungry, has visited the areas of Polo, Pynthobah, Nongrah, Happy Valley and Nongmensong to feed the hungry.

He said, “Due to the lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many people who are hungry. We wanted to help such needy people so we are distributing food to them.”

He also informed that while some localities are asking for raw materials, the organization has found it impossible to provide for the same due to the ongoing lockdown. “We therefore came today evening to serve dinner to the people in Jhalupara locality,” the in-charge of United Sikhs in northeast added.

 

 

 

The organization also provided food to the needy in Jagiroad in Guwahati, Assam where they provided 200 meals and mineral water to the people.

SIkh1
 

SIkh2
 

Sikh3


Sikh 4

United Sikhs has been active in the field of aid. In August, 2019, after the abrogation of article 370 and the subsequent lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir, they had helped Kashmiri girls stranded in Maharashtra get back home. Today, the organisation continues to serve people around the world as they battle this pandemic.

Related:

Covid-19: Assam FT members donate to relief efforts, but stipulate funds not be used for ‘jehadis’

Sisters of Missionaries of Charity provide aid in Ranchi; build community kitchen for marginalized

We don’t want anyone to suffer like we did in 1984: Harminder Singh Ahluwalia

Sikh NGO provides aid to the marginalized in NE

United Sikhs are serving two meals and breakfast and tea to the impoverished in Guwahati and Shillong

Sikh

The 21-day lockdown in India due to the coronavirus outbreak, that is now set to be extended for another fifteen days seeing the prevailing conditions and spike in cases, has left many bereft of basic necessities for sustenance. Agricultural labourers, daily wagers, construction workers, scrap pickers, vegetable vendors apart from scores of people who live in low-income and impoverished neighbourhoods over the length and breadth of the country are finding it hard to survive without food and money.

Though the government has put measures in place to help the underprivileged, help is yet to reach all of them. In this time, volunteer organizations like the United Sikhs have come forward to help the last person in need.

Yesterday, The Sentinel, Assam reported how the United Sikhs are not only providing two meals but also dishing out breakfast and tea to the needy in Shillong. Surendra Pal Singh Sahota, the North-East in-charge of the United Sikhs says that the organization, as part of their Emergency Relief Mission – Feed the Hungry, has visited the areas of Polo, Pynthobah, Nongrah, Happy Valley and Nongmensong to feed the hungry.

He said, “Due to the lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many people who are hungry. We wanted to help such needy people so we are distributing food to them.”

He also informed that while some localities are asking for raw materials, the organization has found it impossible to provide for the same due to the ongoing lockdown. “We therefore came today evening to serve dinner to the people in Jhalupara locality,” the in-charge of United Sikhs in northeast added.

 

 

 

The organization also provided food to the needy in Jagiroad in Guwahati, Assam where they provided 200 meals and mineral water to the people.

SIkh1
 

SIkh2
 

Sikh3


Sikh 4

United Sikhs has been active in the field of aid. In August, 2019, after the abrogation of article 370 and the subsequent lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir, they had helped Kashmiri girls stranded in Maharashtra get back home. Today, the organisation continues to serve people around the world as they battle this pandemic.

Related:

Covid-19: Assam FT members donate to relief efforts, but stipulate funds not be used for ‘jehadis’

Sisters of Missionaries of Charity provide aid in Ranchi; build community kitchen for marginalized

We don’t want anyone to suffer like we did in 1984: Harminder Singh Ahluwalia

Related Articles


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Unlocking hope in the face of a lockdown

Service to humanity is the only motivation for Aasif Mujtaba 

30 Mar 2020

unloacking HOPE

Thirty-one-year-old Aasif Mujtaba is often mistaken for a lawyer, and sometimes a doctor. Word gets around as soon as  he arrives at Babu Nagar in Mustafabad, scores throng to him and follows him as if he was a shepherd, and they his flock. He has never met anyone of them before. But he knows they are in pain, injured and scarred, both physically and emotionally and he is here to help. Aasif’s mere presence seems to sooth nerves in this crowded residential colony of Mustafabad. 

Scores come everyday to see Aasif, and his team of volunteers who call themselves the Miles2Smile team, in the hope that they will get rations, medicine or even a loan to pay rent. His phone rings non stop till the battery discharges.

“Sorry I could not return your call. I had gone to drop baby Rayyan’s and his mother to their place. ” Aasif sounds excited, almost like a proud uncle and then recalls the day when they heard about a pregnant woman survivor who was close to her due date  Mussarat and was feeling unwell. 

The rioters had looted and burnt her house down, but she managed to flee her house with her three children, two daughters and a son, her husband had died a few months ago. She ran to her mother’s house but realised they themselves were going through hardships. 

The stress added to her complications. “We put her case on priority,” recalled Aasif. “Musrat was in iddat (a period of waiting that Muslim women observe after the death of her husband or a divorce). She hadn’t had her regular checkup done in a while and it took a lot of persuasion for us to take her to the doctor.”

Medical investigations revealed that she had inadequate amniotic fluid and could have a premature delivery. She went into labour the next day and the volunteers took her away to a bigger hospital in a safer neighbourhood. The baby was born in a few hours and was shifted to the NICU for the next eight days. A month after the riots began, they returned to their new home. The mother asked Aasif to name her new baby, who perhaps would not have survived if they had not reached team Miles2Smile in time.

“From ashes of carnage was born a new hope, we have named the baby boy Rayyan, it's one of the doors of paradise),” Aasif sounds like a proud uncle. He and his team have also ‘adopted’ the baby and pledged to take care of the family’s long-term needs. “It truly was  a new hope for all of us,” he added.

This set of volunteers led by Aasif, a research scholar at IIT Delhi, comprises a devoted core group of university students, researchers, lawyers, doctors, while some come part time. But what keeps such diverse personalities together in such tough times?

“The Shaheen Bagh protest acted as a catalyst. We were all together there  and we came across a lot of people with a lot of capacities, capabilities. When the pogrom happened, we were all of the view that we should help the people in distress, bring relief and rehabilitation measures. Service to humanity was the only motivation we are ready to cover thousands of miles to restore a single smile,” said Aasif, who spoke to Karuna John, even as he continues to evolve the team’s future plan of action, as ground realities keep throwing up new challenges as the Covid-19 lockdown intensifies.

Excerpts from an interview edited for clarity.

 

When did you come to offer help in North east Delhi after the riots? 

Every riot has three stages: The pre-riot state when the atmosphere of a riot is created, riot stage when the violence is on, and the post riot stage. We were there during the riots, and reached in two days trying to safeguard families who were stranded, troubled, and surrounded by fanatic Hindutva mobs. We were the first volunteers who reached them and people had a lot of faith in us, they saw that we came to help them during the hour of crisis. 

Were you familiar with the riot-hit areas in Northeast Delhi?

Not at all, most of my team and I had never been to Northeast Delhi, we went because of the pogrom. And now these areas feel like a second home to us.

How did you plan your work, what has your focus been on in these areas?  

The items and services that we brought in were all based on demand. The first need was to save them. The second demand was immediate medical attention. There was scarcity of gynaecologists  and pediatricians, so we talked to doctors. Then people needed legal aid as their houses burnt, family members grievously injured or killed, we roped in legal teams. There was a shortage of food, we roped in local NGOs and also bought plenty of food to supply. Next need was clothes, we set up a ‘smile laundry’, we washed and ironed (donated) clothes and distributed them.  

Then I needed to settle them into new houses. We did that. Then help them restart business. We did that too. 

How did you raise funds? How have you allocated funds?

Initially we combined our personal money, my family and friends also sent money. The  seed fund was created like this, through my close contacts. We used the funds to address the needs as they rose.

What is a typical day on site here like?

A typical day is chaotic. A lot of people queue up for rations. Another set comes to discuss the business they have lost. Families come for medical attention, rehabilitation and legal aid. We try to restore smiles, in whatever way possible. That is our objective.

What errors did you make, especially in the early days? What lessons have you learnt so far?

It was chaotic but the work the team did was marvelous. Some individuals did come and take funds and we found out later that they had taken help from other groups too. But still, what they had lost cannot be restored just by money. There is trauma, stress and pain. There is not enough money for [fixing] that. Even if some individual took money from other groups, that does not cater to what they have been through. They have been through hell. So I won't count that as an error. 

Our learning is simple: for restoring a smile you don't need millions. Just by a small deed, by talking to a family, by sharing their concerns and sitting with them we can bring happiness. Our volunteers are our assets and we multitask.

What is the exit plan, do you have a timeline?

There is no exit plan as such. Rehabilitation is a long drawn process. Once we settle their business, rebuild their houses and their life is back on track we will try to have a follow up each month. We are also planning to educate 50 children. There is a school that got destroyed and the owner has offered us one classroom for 30 kids [once it is restored]. We will make it a smartclass.

Once the dust settles we have an impact assessment and a baseline study pre-pogrom, and another a baseline study post pogrom. Only then we can see what changes were brought in their lives. We will have follow ups for the next year. To see what is lagging, and what we need to do, and we shall do that inshallah. 


****************************************

A month has passed by since Aasif and his team has been working to restore smiles, and rekindle hope in the area. Now, in the middle of the nationwide lockdown to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic the team has entrusted the local volunteers to help where needed. They have already stocked enough ration with the families they have rehabilitated in new homes. 

The residents of Northeast Delhi have survived the days when manic armed mobs looted, killed, and burned their way through the Muslim dominated clusters of North East Delhi, and hunted down Muslim residents even in the Hindu dominated colonies there. And now they look for help as the Covid-19 lockdown keeps them indoors. First they feared rioters, now they fear disease. Prayers, and faith in humanity have kept them going so far.

And they celebrate the rare moment or two that shines bright even during these gloomy days. Baby Rayyan’s arrival back ‘home’ in Mustafabad was one such moment to smile. 

 

Unlocking hope in the face of a lockdown

Service to humanity is the only motivation for Aasif Mujtaba 

unloacking HOPE

Thirty-one-year-old Aasif Mujtaba is often mistaken for a lawyer, and sometimes a doctor. Word gets around as soon as  he arrives at Babu Nagar in Mustafabad, scores throng to him and follows him as if he was a shepherd, and they his flock. He has never met anyone of them before. But he knows they are in pain, injured and scarred, both physically and emotionally and he is here to help. Aasif’s mere presence seems to sooth nerves in this crowded residential colony of Mustafabad. 

Scores come everyday to see Aasif, and his team of volunteers who call themselves the Miles2Smile team, in the hope that they will get rations, medicine or even a loan to pay rent. His phone rings non stop till the battery discharges.

“Sorry I could not return your call. I had gone to drop baby Rayyan’s and his mother to their place. ” Aasif sounds excited, almost like a proud uncle and then recalls the day when they heard about a pregnant woman survivor who was close to her due date  Mussarat and was feeling unwell. 

The rioters had looted and burnt her house down, but she managed to flee her house with her three children, two daughters and a son, her husband had died a few months ago. She ran to her mother’s house but realised they themselves were going through hardships. 

The stress added to her complications. “We put her case on priority,” recalled Aasif. “Musrat was in iddat (a period of waiting that Muslim women observe after the death of her husband or a divorce). She hadn’t had her regular checkup done in a while and it took a lot of persuasion for us to take her to the doctor.”

Medical investigations revealed that she had inadequate amniotic fluid and could have a premature delivery. She went into labour the next day and the volunteers took her away to a bigger hospital in a safer neighbourhood. The baby was born in a few hours and was shifted to the NICU for the next eight days. A month after the riots began, they returned to their new home. The mother asked Aasif to name her new baby, who perhaps would not have survived if they had not reached team Miles2Smile in time.

“From ashes of carnage was born a new hope, we have named the baby boy Rayyan, it's one of the doors of paradise),” Aasif sounds like a proud uncle. He and his team have also ‘adopted’ the baby and pledged to take care of the family’s long-term needs. “It truly was  a new hope for all of us,” he added.

This set of volunteers led by Aasif, a research scholar at IIT Delhi, comprises a devoted core group of university students, researchers, lawyers, doctors, while some come part time. But what keeps such diverse personalities together in such tough times?

“The Shaheen Bagh protest acted as a catalyst. We were all together there  and we came across a lot of people with a lot of capacities, capabilities. When the pogrom happened, we were all of the view that we should help the people in distress, bring relief and rehabilitation measures. Service to humanity was the only motivation we are ready to cover thousands of miles to restore a single smile,” said Aasif, who spoke to Karuna John, even as he continues to evolve the team’s future plan of action, as ground realities keep throwing up new challenges as the Covid-19 lockdown intensifies.

Excerpts from an interview edited for clarity.

 

When did you come to offer help in North east Delhi after the riots? 

Every riot has three stages: The pre-riot state when the atmosphere of a riot is created, riot stage when the violence is on, and the post riot stage. We were there during the riots, and reached in two days trying to safeguard families who were stranded, troubled, and surrounded by fanatic Hindutva mobs. We were the first volunteers who reached them and people had a lot of faith in us, they saw that we came to help them during the hour of crisis. 

Were you familiar with the riot-hit areas in Northeast Delhi?

Not at all, most of my team and I had never been to Northeast Delhi, we went because of the pogrom. And now these areas feel like a second home to us.

How did you plan your work, what has your focus been on in these areas?  

The items and services that we brought in were all based on demand. The first need was to save them. The second demand was immediate medical attention. There was scarcity of gynaecologists  and pediatricians, so we talked to doctors. Then people needed legal aid as their houses burnt, family members grievously injured or killed, we roped in legal teams. There was a shortage of food, we roped in local NGOs and also bought plenty of food to supply. Next need was clothes, we set up a ‘smile laundry’, we washed and ironed (donated) clothes and distributed them.  

Then I needed to settle them into new houses. We did that. Then help them restart business. We did that too. 

How did you raise funds? How have you allocated funds?

Initially we combined our personal money, my family and friends also sent money. The  seed fund was created like this, through my close contacts. We used the funds to address the needs as they rose.

What is a typical day on site here like?

A typical day is chaotic. A lot of people queue up for rations. Another set comes to discuss the business they have lost. Families come for medical attention, rehabilitation and legal aid. We try to restore smiles, in whatever way possible. That is our objective.

What errors did you make, especially in the early days? What lessons have you learnt so far?

It was chaotic but the work the team did was marvelous. Some individuals did come and take funds and we found out later that they had taken help from other groups too. But still, what they had lost cannot be restored just by money. There is trauma, stress and pain. There is not enough money for [fixing] that. Even if some individual took money from other groups, that does not cater to what they have been through. They have been through hell. So I won't count that as an error. 

Our learning is simple: for restoring a smile you don't need millions. Just by a small deed, by talking to a family, by sharing their concerns and sitting with them we can bring happiness. Our volunteers are our assets and we multitask.

What is the exit plan, do you have a timeline?

There is no exit plan as such. Rehabilitation is a long drawn process. Once we settle their business, rebuild their houses and their life is back on track we will try to have a follow up each month. We are also planning to educate 50 children. There is a school that got destroyed and the owner has offered us one classroom for 30 kids [once it is restored]. We will make it a smartclass.

Once the dust settles we have an impact assessment and a baseline study pre-pogrom, and another a baseline study post pogrom. Only then we can see what changes were brought in their lives. We will have follow ups for the next year. To see what is lagging, and what we need to do, and we shall do that inshallah. 


****************************************

A month has passed by since Aasif and his team has been working to restore smiles, and rekindle hope in the area. Now, in the middle of the nationwide lockdown to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic the team has entrusted the local volunteers to help where needed. They have already stocked enough ration with the families they have rehabilitated in new homes. 

The residents of Northeast Delhi have survived the days when manic armed mobs looted, killed, and burned their way through the Muslim dominated clusters of North East Delhi, and hunted down Muslim residents even in the Hindu dominated colonies there. And now they look for help as the Covid-19 lockdown keeps them indoors. First they feared rioters, now they fear disease. Prayers, and faith in humanity have kept them going so far.

And they celebrate the rare moment or two that shines bright even during these gloomy days. Baby Rayyan’s arrival back ‘home’ in Mustafabad was one such moment to smile. 

 

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Sabrang

Setting an example: Muslim devotee donates sprayer for Tirupati temple sanitization

Abdul Ghani, 45, is an ardent disciple of Lord Venketeswara and has made several donations for public service there in the past

20 Mar 2020

Tirupati

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc all over the world, it has also done one good thing. Even through social distancing, it has brought from all religions together in this trying time.

One example of this is Abdul Ghani, a Muslim devotee of the Tirupatii deity who donated a multi-dimensional vehicle mounted sprayer to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) for the sanitization of the temple premises amid the Covid-19 outbreak, reported Deccan Herald.

The Rs. 2.6 lakh tractor mounted system provided by Ghani, an ardent follower of Lord Venkateswara, is now breaking religious barriers as it moves through the streets of Mada in the aid of humanity. Ghani is known to have offered such donations for the benefits of lakhs of mostly Hindu devotees in the past too.

Four years ago, Ghani had donated an air-conditioned truck for the transportation of vegetables for the free meals canteen facility, the Nitya Annadana Prasadam, run by the TTD near the temple.

Ghani told DH, “I make my insignificant contribution when such need in the temple comes to my notice. I do not seek publicity for God's service.”

Politely refusing to reveal his other donations made in the past, he said, “Venkateswara, Allah or Jesus … I believe that god is one. The ultimate challenge we are facing now is people not understanding this simple equation.” He also said, “If I find out what the temple needs, I will give it. I don’t want propaganda for the service of God.”

He also described Covid-19 as “unfortunate” and said that “such manmade disasters occur as we fail to understand our humble role in this world.”

The TTD has announced the shutdown of the temple for a week beginning Friday, March 20. TTD executive officer, Anil Kumar Singhal announced that though the temple would be shut for devotees, the rituals inside the temple would be conducted as usual. Stating that the last time the temple was shut was in 1892 for two days, he said, “A decision to reopen would be taken based on daily review of the Covid-19 situation in the state and the country. Those who are on the hill would be provided darshan but no new entries from Alipiri, etc. access points. Last time the temple was closed was in 1892 for two days.”

Through this time when some are still raking up communal issues targeting minorities, it is humbling to see a man like Ghani silently promote communal harmony and brotherhood. We must remember to take a cue from Ghani to shun religious and communal biases and come together as a whole to save each other from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related:

Lives of the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the times of Corona

Kashi Vikas Samiti miffed with actress Sara Ali Khan for visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple

 

Setting an example: Muslim devotee donates sprayer for Tirupati temple sanitization

Abdul Ghani, 45, is an ardent disciple of Lord Venketeswara and has made several donations for public service there in the past

Tirupati

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc all over the world, it has also done one good thing. Even through social distancing, it has brought from all religions together in this trying time.

One example of this is Abdul Ghani, a Muslim devotee of the Tirupatii deity who donated a multi-dimensional vehicle mounted sprayer to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) for the sanitization of the temple premises amid the Covid-19 outbreak, reported Deccan Herald.

The Rs. 2.6 lakh tractor mounted system provided by Ghani, an ardent follower of Lord Venkateswara, is now breaking religious barriers as it moves through the streets of Mada in the aid of humanity. Ghani is known to have offered such donations for the benefits of lakhs of mostly Hindu devotees in the past too.

Four years ago, Ghani had donated an air-conditioned truck for the transportation of vegetables for the free meals canteen facility, the Nitya Annadana Prasadam, run by the TTD near the temple.

Ghani told DH, “I make my insignificant contribution when such need in the temple comes to my notice. I do not seek publicity for God's service.”

Politely refusing to reveal his other donations made in the past, he said, “Venkateswara, Allah or Jesus … I believe that god is one. The ultimate challenge we are facing now is people not understanding this simple equation.” He also said, “If I find out what the temple needs, I will give it. I don’t want propaganda for the service of God.”

He also described Covid-19 as “unfortunate” and said that “such manmade disasters occur as we fail to understand our humble role in this world.”

The TTD has announced the shutdown of the temple for a week beginning Friday, March 20. TTD executive officer, Anil Kumar Singhal announced that though the temple would be shut for devotees, the rituals inside the temple would be conducted as usual. Stating that the last time the temple was shut was in 1892 for two days, he said, “A decision to reopen would be taken based on daily review of the Covid-19 situation in the state and the country. Those who are on the hill would be provided darshan but no new entries from Alipiri, etc. access points. Last time the temple was closed was in 1892 for two days.”

Through this time when some are still raking up communal issues targeting minorities, it is humbling to see a man like Ghani silently promote communal harmony and brotherhood. We must remember to take a cue from Ghani to shun religious and communal biases and come together as a whole to save each other from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related:

Lives of the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the times of Corona

Kashi Vikas Samiti miffed with actress Sara Ali Khan for visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple

 

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