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When silence is eloquent

The tortuous course of the law

05 Dec 2022

At an event organised by SAHMAT, Sabrang Trust and Social Scientist in December 6-8, 2010, journalist and author Manoj Mitta had elaborated
upon the 'legal fiction' and systemic failures at many levels, including by the Congress ruled Central Government, that mocked the rule of law and subverted justice in the Babri demolition case. He drew a parallel to the events of 1949 when locks of the Masjid were broken and ram lalla idols kept inside illegally. As a supreme court 'approved' Ram Mandir comes up at the site of the sixteenth century Babri masjid, this twelve year old excerpt from the speech, rings
chillingly prescient. 

First published on: 01 Feb 2011





I am a journalist and given the timing of this meeting, I should probably first mention a disclaimer. Though I am from the English mainstream media, I don’t figure  in the Radia tapes. You may therefore hear me with a degree of indulgence. I don’t take dictation from any corporate lobbyists. I don’t toe any government line. If I travel with anybody, it is more with activists like Teesta Setalvad and I’m very proud to say so because I see no contradiction in this. I don’t feel compromised when I speak or when I espouse public causes. And Ayodhya is one such. And if I may extend the Radia tapes metaphor, Ayodhya has been a bit like the Radia tapes of our claim to be secular. From 1949 onwards, Ayodhya has been a major challenge which showed how hollow our pretensions are, right from the way in which the establishment responded to the 1949 episode.

I am very conscious of the fact that I am the third speaker here and that I come after Anupam Gupta who gave us such a comprehensive account of the systemic response to the 1949 and 1992 episodes concerning Ayodhya. So I will try not to tread over the same ground. I will try to deal with the few gaps that have been left in an otherwise very comprehensive exposition. One that comes to mind offhand is the reference made to the 1994 judgement of the Supreme Court, given during the follow-up to the demolition, on the law (the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993) that the Narasimha Rao government came up with. What the Supreme Court gave to the nation smacked of a Hindu bias and this was underlined by the fact that it was a split verdict. The three judges who gave the majority judgement, and this is probably no coincidence, were all Hindus and the two who gave the dissenting opinion were non-Hindus, one was a Parsi and the other a Muslim.

The reason I make reference to this is because the Allahabad high court in 2010 likewise delivered a split verdict in the Ayodhya case. Much of the truth about the 1949 episode is reflected essentially in Justice Khan’s judgement even though it was absolutely central to determining who this disputed site should be given to. The whole basis for the claim arose from the illegal act that took place on December 23, 1949 and yet it was given short shrift in the two judgements delivered by the Hindu judges. And this should be a matter of great concern to us. There is a need for our judiciary to appear more assertive in displaying our secular commitment.

Another issue that has not been dealt with in great detail and which I will therefore take up concerns the criminal proceedings that followed after the 1992 episode. The manner in which the state responded to this crime was as strange as the manner in which it responded to the crime of 1949. The crime of 1949 was a turning point in the history of modern India; yet though a first information report (FIR) was formally lodged, it has never been investigated. This was an episode unlike any other in our history, an episode that has led to so many subsequent crimes; it has polarised the nation and continues to dog us even today. There has been no judicial finding on the illegality of what happened that night in 1949 or on culpability, on who was responsible for it.

Similarly, with regard to the 1992 episode, there have been FIRs – not one but as many as 49 FIRs – and the proceedings are still going on, there has still been no judicial finding on what happened on that fateful day, December 6. Of these 49 FIRs, only two really matter in the immediate context because the other 47 relate to attacks on journalists so I will dwell a little longer on these two. The first one, FIR No. 197/92, deals with the demolition per se, the run-up to it, the conspiracy that led to the demolition, the people who were involved in that demolition. The other FIR, No. 198/92, deals with the inflammatory speeches that were delivered by eight main leaders of the sangh parivar from a makeshift dais, Ram Katha Kunj Manch, erected not very far from the Babri Masjid as it stood that morning. The FIR dealing with the demolition did not name any accused persons at all. The police were probably justified in doing so because their focus was on the kar sevaks (who had been actively engaged in the demolition) and so this FIR, which was registered on the evening of December 6, names no names at all. FIR No. 198 names eight sangh parivar leaders. This is not the strange part. The strange sequence of events begins thereafter.

Much of the truth about the 1949 episode is reflected essentially in Justice Khan’s judgement of 2010 even though it was absolutely central to determining who this disputed site should be given to. The whole basis for the claim arose from the illegal act that took place on December 23, 1949 and yet it was given short shrift in the two judgements delivered by the Hindu judges

For some reason the centre, which had taken over the administration of Uttar Pradesh through president’s rule soon afterwards, chose to refer the demolition FIR, No. 197, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while the FIR dealing with the inflammatory speeches delivered by sangh parivar leaders, which is probably a more sensitive issue, more politically sensitive at least, was referred to the Crime Branch, Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), of the Uttar Pradesh police. There was really no reason for the two to be separated. Both pertained to the same crime; there was a link, an organic link, between them. These inflammatory speeches were made not very far from the scene of the crime, where the demolition was going on, and they were addressed to kar sevaks who were gathered there while the crime was taking place simultaneously. And there were witnesses to all of this. It is very logical to infer that inflamed as they were by these speeches, those kar sevaks were encouraged to indulge in that crime. The two cases were linked yet for some reason the Congress government of Narasimha Rao – I mention this because there’s this rhetoric about the Congress being a secular party and so on and so forth – did this very strange thing, of separating the two cases. They were given to two different agencies. (While FIR No. 197 was handed over to the CBI, FIR No. 198 was to be prosecuted by the state CID in a special court in Lalitpur, later moved to Rae Bareli.)

Then a few months later it wakes up to the incongruity of this duality and it clubs the two cases together and gives them to the CBI. And then it also refers the two cases to one special court (a special CBI court set up in Lucknow). The reason I mention this is because it was in this special court that the CBI in 1993 first filed a joint charge sheet related to both FIRs, wherein these leaders, Advani and company, were named, in the context of the demolition, as conspirators. They were very much a part of the conspiracy and there was ample evidence of this. After all, in the run-up to the demolition there were the two rath yatras that converged in Ayodhya, one led by Advani, the other led by Murli Manohar Joshi, inviting people to come to Ayodhya in large numbers for the alleged kar seva; and on the eve of the demolition there was a secret meeting at the residence of Vinay Katiyar, the then MP from that area – which the CBI charge sheet refers to – where the finer details of this conspiracy were probably discussed. This charge sheet was filed in October 1993, nearly a year later.

In 1997 Judge Jagdish Prasad Srivastava of the additional (special) sessions court, Lucknow, frames charges. He passes an order prima facie accepting, taking cognisance, of all the charges made by the CBI so now there is a judicial stamp on these charges. A lot of the CBI’s findings were endorsed by this judge and he was poised to call each of the accused persons before court to read them the charges. It was at this stage that this legal process was interrupted. Some of the persons named in that charge sheet (a total of 49 persons were named in the charge sheet – somehow the figure 49 keeps recurring in this context!) went to court, the Allahabad high court, and got a stay order on proceedings.

This stay order was finally lifted in 2001 by which time the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power at the centre, by which time Advani was sitting in North Block as home minister and, if I am not mistaken, was probably even deputy prime minister of India. Whether he was, whether he had acquired that designation by then or not, he was very much a powerful leader. The Allahabad high court, speaking through Justice Jagdish Bhalla, said, look, there was a flaw, a procedural flaw, in referring the political leaders’ case, the inflammatory speeches case, to the special court at Lucknow but the saving grace is that it is a defect that can be cured. Now all that the then BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Rajnath Singh, had to do in terms of the high court order was to issue a fresh notification so that the reference of that case, No. 198, was made in a proper manner.

After that, for weeks on end Rajnath Singh would keep saying, he would mystify it: “Oh, we are looking into it, we have referred this to our legal experts, they will do the needful.” And sure enough, they did nothing of the sort. That vacuum allowed the special sessions court in Lucknow, a sessions judge called Srikant Shukla, to separate the two cases completely. He said that the leaders, Advani and company, would no longer be tried for the demolition in this special court. They would be tried separately, if at all, for the lesser offence of inflammatory speeches.

The term ‘legal fiction’, so often used, has acquired a very perverse meaning in the context of Ayodhya. The legal fiction here is that we are today confronted with a situation where, even as we speak, proceedings are going on in the Lucknow special court dealing with the Ayodhya demolition while the special court in Rae Bareli deals exclusively, wearing blinkers, with the issue of inflammatory speeches. The fact that the two are linked is totally overlooked. The fact that you can’t talk about conspiracy without bringing leaders into it is overlooked. Look at the joke that is being played on us. I am not talking about the September 30, 2010 judgement of the Allahabad high court. I am talking about the related issue of criminal proceedings and the farce that is being perpetrated on us even today. There is so much hype about our being a rising power in the world and so forth but look at the manner in which more and more people are able to mock at all notions of the rule of law, of secularism.

The continuing joke is that in the Lucknow special court, accused persons whose names you have never heard of, whose faces you would not recognise, some anonymous kar sevaks, are being tried for the crime of conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid all on their own, without the knowledge or involvement or instigation of any of these sangh parivar leaders, of the VHP, the BJP, the RSS, etc. That is the implication of their being tried in isolation, of only these unknown persons being tried for the demolition. And in Rae Bareli, you have the sangh parivar leaders being tried and being tried for what? Only for delivering inflammatory speeches which, as far as the courts are concerned, have nothing to do with the demolition because they will look at the issue of inflammatory speeches in isolation. And if that were not farcical enough, we must also bear in mind that we witnessed during the NDA’s reign a glaring instance of how the judiciary often does the bidding of the executive (just as, in the context of the Radia tapes, you have heard that journalists do the bidding of corporate lobbyists). So much for the independence of the judiciary.

We have seen how in 1986, in the context of the Shah Bano case and all the flak Rajiv Gandhi was getting for what he was doing to allegedly appease Muslim fundamentalists, he came up with this brainwave of doing a balancing act and got his administration to take the necessary steps to get the locks of the Ayodhya shrine opened. The Babri Masjid, which was kept under lock and key from 1950 onwards to keep the dispute under control, was suddenly opened. We have heard about the manner in which the then district judge, KM Pandey, referred to some divine inspiration that he got from a monkey, which he even mentions in his memoirs. This was an instance of courts doing the bidding of the government.

 
Similarly, in the NDA’s time when the inflammatory speeches issue was taken up and charges were to be framed, what does the court do? The Rae Bareli court? It discharges the person who for all practical purposes was the face of the Ayodhya movement, the so-called Ayodhya movement. The 1986 incident, of the locks being broken open and Hindu devotees being allowed to have darshan of Ram Lalla inside the Babri Masjid, gave momentum to this movement. And the face of this movement – especially after the BJP’s Palampur resolution in 1989 (openly supporting the VHP’s demand for building the Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya) – was LK Advani. Minus Advani, minus his genius, his political skills, it would probably not have acquired these proportions. This leader was discharged. He was there on the dais but he was discharged while other leaders were still going to be prosecuted.

We have little evidence, documentary evidence, of the demolition. The 47 other cases that were registered by the police along with the two cases I have been talking about involved attacks on journalists. Why were these cases registered? Many of these journalists were there to do independent work and they were inconvenient to the kar sevaks, to the sangh parivar types. So while part of the telltale evidence of a conspiracy was the manner in which they stealthily removed the Ram Lalla idols before the demolition, further, very clear, evidence of it was the orchestration of events. It was not as if some people got carried away by their emotions and started attacking the Babri Masjid. On the contrary, while one section of kar sevaks was engaged in the demolition, there was another section that very systematically attacked journalists. As soon as they saw a camera, they would smash it, they would scare the journalists away, they would intimidate them, they would beat them up – there were actual instances of this nature. That is how those 47 cases of attacks on journalists arose. In spite of all the demolition, you only have little bits of evidence here and there, like the photograph of Uma Bharti hugging Murli Manohar Joshi, which have survived those attacks. This is because of the kind of crime it was, the mass crime that took place in Ayodhya, when even journalists were not spared.

Advani was discharged on the testimony of his security officer, one very upright young Indian Police Service officer called Anju Gupta. And what does her testimony say? In her testimony, and this is something that anybody who reads it will know, she is nailing his claims, his much touted claim that December 6, 1992 was the saddest day of his life. The author of this movement, the man who did whatever he could to bring things to that stage on December 6, had the gumption to say that that was the saddest day of his life. But she gave us a ringside view of what was happening on the dais, what the conversation was, how he was very much a part of the jubilation.

This lady goes on to give further evidence about how Advani was very much a part of all the jubilation and how there was a time when he was concerned about the kar sevaks who were on top of the structure, engaged in the demolition. His concern was not to stop them, his concern was not to bring them down and save the mosque. His concern, and this comes through very clearly in Anju Gupta’s testimony, was that because there were a lot of kar sevaks at the ground level who were simultaneously demolishing the structure, there was a great probability of those who were on top of the structure being hurt, of their falling down and getting hurt. That was his concern and that is why he sent Uma Bharti there to dissuade them, to tell them to come down. Those were his concerns; there was no anxiety being displayed by him to stop anything. This is what came through in her testimony.

Yet the special court in Rae Bareli, when it discharged Advani during the NDA’s reign, actually cited Anju Gupta’s testimony – the judgement was in Hindi, the judge used the expression “ati mahatvapurna (exceedingly important)” – as the crucial basis on which he was letting off Advani. So much for this rule of law that we all keep buying into.

When there was a change of regime in 2004, this farce was corrected. Advani was brought back into the case. And given the background circumstances, I dare say that this judicial correction would not have taken place but for the fortuitous circumstance of the government having changed at the centre.

In the Lucknow special court, some anonymous kar sevaks are being tried for the crime of conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid without the knowledge, involvement or instigation of any of the sangh parivar leaders. And in Rae Bareli, the sangh parivar leaders are being tried only for delivering inflammatory speeches

These events are all interconnected. The fact that the 1949 FIR has never been followed up, that there have been no convictions, is no coincidence. And it doesn’t end there.

To come back to the Supreme Court and the judgement of 1994, there is more to it than the split verdict on the then government’s proposed new law. There was another very farcical aspect that pertains to contempt of court. During the run-up to the demolition this matter was also before the Supreme Court.

As we are now aware, the intelligence reports issued prior to the demolition were very precise and any administration would have known from those reports that there was imminent danger to the structure. So there was wilful negligence on the part of the centre, on the part of the Narasimha Rao government, in this regard. Simultaneously, there was a public interest petitioner, Mohammad Aslam Bhure, and his counsel, OP Sharma, who were very valiantly fighting a battle before the Supreme Court. Their applications were based on newspaper reports that said the same thing: that what was going to happen on December 6 was very serious, that the threats cannot be taken lightly – these were issues that were brought before the court. And more importantly, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice MN Venkatachaliah had one very compelling reason to take these warnings seriously.

In July 1992 proceedings were underway before the Supreme Court, also at the instance of Bhure, on the construction of a platform near the Babri Masjid that was going on at the time. The court kept on ordering the Kalyan Singh government to stop this, to respect the status quo order, and yet the construction took place. The first contempt notice to Kalyan Singh was issued in July 1992 in this context and then, on December 6, this great crime takes place. These warnings should have been taken seriously. The undertakings given by the same Kalyan Singh who so wilfully violated and disobeyed the Supreme Court orders in July 1992 should therefore not have been taken seriously. Yet the Supreme Court in its wisdom decided to allow symbolic kar seva to take place.

How much of this was based on their commitment to the rule of law, how much of it was because they were Hindus, I don’t know. Despite the background, the Supreme Court trusted these fellows to perform a symbolic kar seva. And when this belief of theirs was belied, was completely shattered, sure enough, the Supreme Court, for national consumption, to the delight of our newspapers and TV channels, came up with some very strong observations: This is the greatest ever perfidy, there can be no greater instance of contempt of the Supreme Court, an otherwise mild judge really thundered in the courtroom, making someone like KK Venugopal, who was representing the Kalyan Singh government, say: I’m ashamed my lord, I was not privy to this conspiracy. When my clients said that they were going to observe the rule of law, that they were going to ensure that no damage would take place to the structure, I took their word for it. That was the kind of drama that took place in the court soon after the demolition. This was part of the same response.

And then, along with the 1994 judgement wherein the post-demolition measures taken by the government were examined by the Supreme Court, the court also dealt with the issue of contempt. The media and most people thought that the one-day sentence awarded to Kalyan Singh in that context was for the demolition but it was actually for the July 1992 instance of contempt, the first contempt notice. The judges wilfully kept clear of the act of contempt that was committed on December 6, 1992. To date, just as the 1949 FIR has still not resulted in a charge sheet and prosecution, this greatest ever contempt, as we were told it was subsequent to the December 6 incident, has still not been disposed of. No action has so far been taken. It is as if the judges don’t want to take chances with Lord Ram’s wrath.

Their inaction is not very different from the actions of Judge Pandey of the Uttar Pradesh judiciary who saw the hand of Hanuman, Hanuman’s benediction, in his decision to open the gates of the Babri Masjid. One cannot help seeing such significance in their eloquent silence on taking action against the December 6 act of contempt. And such silence is not an isolated instance.

We saw a similar silence in the context of the Supreme Court’s judgement on Hindutva in 1995. To make a brief reference to the Hindutva judgement… How do you talk about whether Hindutva is really liberal and in consonance with the Constitution without talking about what exactly Veer Savarkar, the man who coined that expression, had in mind: What was his definition of Hindutva, how did he propound this very pernicious theory that India belongs more to those whose birthplace and sacred land is India? This was an aspect that was totally glossed over by the Supreme Court in its Hindutva judgement as it merrily went along with the view that Hindutva is no different from Hinduism, the catholic, liberal interpretation of Hinduism.

I look at all of this as an outsider, as a representative of the media; I’m sure those of you who are from within the system can see this farce even more clearly than I do.

Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17    No.154, Section 1-Silence is Eloquent

When silence is eloquent

The tortuous course of the law

At an event organised by SAHMAT, Sabrang Trust and Social Scientist in December 6-8, 2010, journalist and author Manoj Mitta had elaborated
upon the 'legal fiction' and systemic failures at many levels, including by the Congress ruled Central Government, that mocked the rule of law and subverted justice in the Babri demolition case. He drew a parallel to the events of 1949 when locks of the Masjid were broken and ram lalla idols kept inside illegally. As a supreme court 'approved' Ram Mandir comes up at the site of the sixteenth century Babri masjid, this twelve year old excerpt from the speech, rings
chillingly prescient. 

First published on: 01 Feb 2011





I am a journalist and given the timing of this meeting, I should probably first mention a disclaimer. Though I am from the English mainstream media, I don’t figure  in the Radia tapes. You may therefore hear me with a degree of indulgence. I don’t take dictation from any corporate lobbyists. I don’t toe any government line. If I travel with anybody, it is more with activists like Teesta Setalvad and I’m very proud to say so because I see no contradiction in this. I don’t feel compromised when I speak or when I espouse public causes. And Ayodhya is one such. And if I may extend the Radia tapes metaphor, Ayodhya has been a bit like the Radia tapes of our claim to be secular. From 1949 onwards, Ayodhya has been a major challenge which showed how hollow our pretensions are, right from the way in which the establishment responded to the 1949 episode.

I am very conscious of the fact that I am the third speaker here and that I come after Anupam Gupta who gave us such a comprehensive account of the systemic response to the 1949 and 1992 episodes concerning Ayodhya. So I will try not to tread over the same ground. I will try to deal with the few gaps that have been left in an otherwise very comprehensive exposition. One that comes to mind offhand is the reference made to the 1994 judgement of the Supreme Court, given during the follow-up to the demolition, on the law (the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993) that the Narasimha Rao government came up with. What the Supreme Court gave to the nation smacked of a Hindu bias and this was underlined by the fact that it was a split verdict. The three judges who gave the majority judgement, and this is probably no coincidence, were all Hindus and the two who gave the dissenting opinion were non-Hindus, one was a Parsi and the other a Muslim.

The reason I make reference to this is because the Allahabad high court in 2010 likewise delivered a split verdict in the Ayodhya case. Much of the truth about the 1949 episode is reflected essentially in Justice Khan’s judgement even though it was absolutely central to determining who this disputed site should be given to. The whole basis for the claim arose from the illegal act that took place on December 23, 1949 and yet it was given short shrift in the two judgements delivered by the Hindu judges. And this should be a matter of great concern to us. There is a need for our judiciary to appear more assertive in displaying our secular commitment.

Another issue that has not been dealt with in great detail and which I will therefore take up concerns the criminal proceedings that followed after the 1992 episode. The manner in which the state responded to this crime was as strange as the manner in which it responded to the crime of 1949. The crime of 1949 was a turning point in the history of modern India; yet though a first information report (FIR) was formally lodged, it has never been investigated. This was an episode unlike any other in our history, an episode that has led to so many subsequent crimes; it has polarised the nation and continues to dog us even today. There has been no judicial finding on the illegality of what happened that night in 1949 or on culpability, on who was responsible for it.

Similarly, with regard to the 1992 episode, there have been FIRs – not one but as many as 49 FIRs – and the proceedings are still going on, there has still been no judicial finding on what happened on that fateful day, December 6. Of these 49 FIRs, only two really matter in the immediate context because the other 47 relate to attacks on journalists so I will dwell a little longer on these two. The first one, FIR No. 197/92, deals with the demolition per se, the run-up to it, the conspiracy that led to the demolition, the people who were involved in that demolition. The other FIR, No. 198/92, deals with the inflammatory speeches that were delivered by eight main leaders of the sangh parivar from a makeshift dais, Ram Katha Kunj Manch, erected not very far from the Babri Masjid as it stood that morning. The FIR dealing with the demolition did not name any accused persons at all. The police were probably justified in doing so because their focus was on the kar sevaks (who had been actively engaged in the demolition) and so this FIR, which was registered on the evening of December 6, names no names at all. FIR No. 198 names eight sangh parivar leaders. This is not the strange part. The strange sequence of events begins thereafter.

Much of the truth about the 1949 episode is reflected essentially in Justice Khan’s judgement of 2010 even though it was absolutely central to determining who this disputed site should be given to. The whole basis for the claim arose from the illegal act that took place on December 23, 1949 and yet it was given short shrift in the two judgements delivered by the Hindu judges

For some reason the centre, which had taken over the administration of Uttar Pradesh through president’s rule soon afterwards, chose to refer the demolition FIR, No. 197, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while the FIR dealing with the inflammatory speeches delivered by sangh parivar leaders, which is probably a more sensitive issue, more politically sensitive at least, was referred to the Crime Branch, Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), of the Uttar Pradesh police. There was really no reason for the two to be separated. Both pertained to the same crime; there was a link, an organic link, between them. These inflammatory speeches were made not very far from the scene of the crime, where the demolition was going on, and they were addressed to kar sevaks who were gathered there while the crime was taking place simultaneously. And there were witnesses to all of this. It is very logical to infer that inflamed as they were by these speeches, those kar sevaks were encouraged to indulge in that crime. The two cases were linked yet for some reason the Congress government of Narasimha Rao – I mention this because there’s this rhetoric about the Congress being a secular party and so on and so forth – did this very strange thing, of separating the two cases. They were given to two different agencies. (While FIR No. 197 was handed over to the CBI, FIR No. 198 was to be prosecuted by the state CID in a special court in Lalitpur, later moved to Rae Bareli.)

Then a few months later it wakes up to the incongruity of this duality and it clubs the two cases together and gives them to the CBI. And then it also refers the two cases to one special court (a special CBI court set up in Lucknow). The reason I mention this is because it was in this special court that the CBI in 1993 first filed a joint charge sheet related to both FIRs, wherein these leaders, Advani and company, were named, in the context of the demolition, as conspirators. They were very much a part of the conspiracy and there was ample evidence of this. After all, in the run-up to the demolition there were the two rath yatras that converged in Ayodhya, one led by Advani, the other led by Murli Manohar Joshi, inviting people to come to Ayodhya in large numbers for the alleged kar seva; and on the eve of the demolition there was a secret meeting at the residence of Vinay Katiyar, the then MP from that area – which the CBI charge sheet refers to – where the finer details of this conspiracy were probably discussed. This charge sheet was filed in October 1993, nearly a year later.

In 1997 Judge Jagdish Prasad Srivastava of the additional (special) sessions court, Lucknow, frames charges. He passes an order prima facie accepting, taking cognisance, of all the charges made by the CBI so now there is a judicial stamp on these charges. A lot of the CBI’s findings were endorsed by this judge and he was poised to call each of the accused persons before court to read them the charges. It was at this stage that this legal process was interrupted. Some of the persons named in that charge sheet (a total of 49 persons were named in the charge sheet – somehow the figure 49 keeps recurring in this context!) went to court, the Allahabad high court, and got a stay order on proceedings.

This stay order was finally lifted in 2001 by which time the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power at the centre, by which time Advani was sitting in North Block as home minister and, if I am not mistaken, was probably even deputy prime minister of India. Whether he was, whether he had acquired that designation by then or not, he was very much a powerful leader. The Allahabad high court, speaking through Justice Jagdish Bhalla, said, look, there was a flaw, a procedural flaw, in referring the political leaders’ case, the inflammatory speeches case, to the special court at Lucknow but the saving grace is that it is a defect that can be cured. Now all that the then BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Rajnath Singh, had to do in terms of the high court order was to issue a fresh notification so that the reference of that case, No. 198, was made in a proper manner.

After that, for weeks on end Rajnath Singh would keep saying, he would mystify it: “Oh, we are looking into it, we have referred this to our legal experts, they will do the needful.” And sure enough, they did nothing of the sort. That vacuum allowed the special sessions court in Lucknow, a sessions judge called Srikant Shukla, to separate the two cases completely. He said that the leaders, Advani and company, would no longer be tried for the demolition in this special court. They would be tried separately, if at all, for the lesser offence of inflammatory speeches.

The term ‘legal fiction’, so often used, has acquired a very perverse meaning in the context of Ayodhya. The legal fiction here is that we are today confronted with a situation where, even as we speak, proceedings are going on in the Lucknow special court dealing with the Ayodhya demolition while the special court in Rae Bareli deals exclusively, wearing blinkers, with the issue of inflammatory speeches. The fact that the two are linked is totally overlooked. The fact that you can’t talk about conspiracy without bringing leaders into it is overlooked. Look at the joke that is being played on us. I am not talking about the September 30, 2010 judgement of the Allahabad high court. I am talking about the related issue of criminal proceedings and the farce that is being perpetrated on us even today. There is so much hype about our being a rising power in the world and so forth but look at the manner in which more and more people are able to mock at all notions of the rule of law, of secularism.

The continuing joke is that in the Lucknow special court, accused persons whose names you have never heard of, whose faces you would not recognise, some anonymous kar sevaks, are being tried for the crime of conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid all on their own, without the knowledge or involvement or instigation of any of these sangh parivar leaders, of the VHP, the BJP, the RSS, etc. That is the implication of their being tried in isolation, of only these unknown persons being tried for the demolition. And in Rae Bareli, you have the sangh parivar leaders being tried and being tried for what? Only for delivering inflammatory speeches which, as far as the courts are concerned, have nothing to do with the demolition because they will look at the issue of inflammatory speeches in isolation. And if that were not farcical enough, we must also bear in mind that we witnessed during the NDA’s reign a glaring instance of how the judiciary often does the bidding of the executive (just as, in the context of the Radia tapes, you have heard that journalists do the bidding of corporate lobbyists). So much for the independence of the judiciary.

We have seen how in 1986, in the context of the Shah Bano case and all the flak Rajiv Gandhi was getting for what he was doing to allegedly appease Muslim fundamentalists, he came up with this brainwave of doing a balancing act and got his administration to take the necessary steps to get the locks of the Ayodhya shrine opened. The Babri Masjid, which was kept under lock and key from 1950 onwards to keep the dispute under control, was suddenly opened. We have heard about the manner in which the then district judge, KM Pandey, referred to some divine inspiration that he got from a monkey, which he even mentions in his memoirs. This was an instance of courts doing the bidding of the government.

 
Similarly, in the NDA’s time when the inflammatory speeches issue was taken up and charges were to be framed, what does the court do? The Rae Bareli court? It discharges the person who for all practical purposes was the face of the Ayodhya movement, the so-called Ayodhya movement. The 1986 incident, of the locks being broken open and Hindu devotees being allowed to have darshan of Ram Lalla inside the Babri Masjid, gave momentum to this movement. And the face of this movement – especially after the BJP’s Palampur resolution in 1989 (openly supporting the VHP’s demand for building the Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya) – was LK Advani. Minus Advani, minus his genius, his political skills, it would probably not have acquired these proportions. This leader was discharged. He was there on the dais but he was discharged while other leaders were still going to be prosecuted.

We have little evidence, documentary evidence, of the demolition. The 47 other cases that were registered by the police along with the two cases I have been talking about involved attacks on journalists. Why were these cases registered? Many of these journalists were there to do independent work and they were inconvenient to the kar sevaks, to the sangh parivar types. So while part of the telltale evidence of a conspiracy was the manner in which they stealthily removed the Ram Lalla idols before the demolition, further, very clear, evidence of it was the orchestration of events. It was not as if some people got carried away by their emotions and started attacking the Babri Masjid. On the contrary, while one section of kar sevaks was engaged in the demolition, there was another section that very systematically attacked journalists. As soon as they saw a camera, they would smash it, they would scare the journalists away, they would intimidate them, they would beat them up – there were actual instances of this nature. That is how those 47 cases of attacks on journalists arose. In spite of all the demolition, you only have little bits of evidence here and there, like the photograph of Uma Bharti hugging Murli Manohar Joshi, which have survived those attacks. This is because of the kind of crime it was, the mass crime that took place in Ayodhya, when even journalists were not spared.

Advani was discharged on the testimony of his security officer, one very upright young Indian Police Service officer called Anju Gupta. And what does her testimony say? In her testimony, and this is something that anybody who reads it will know, she is nailing his claims, his much touted claim that December 6, 1992 was the saddest day of his life. The author of this movement, the man who did whatever he could to bring things to that stage on December 6, had the gumption to say that that was the saddest day of his life. But she gave us a ringside view of what was happening on the dais, what the conversation was, how he was very much a part of the jubilation.

This lady goes on to give further evidence about how Advani was very much a part of all the jubilation and how there was a time when he was concerned about the kar sevaks who were on top of the structure, engaged in the demolition. His concern was not to stop them, his concern was not to bring them down and save the mosque. His concern, and this comes through very clearly in Anju Gupta’s testimony, was that because there were a lot of kar sevaks at the ground level who were simultaneously demolishing the structure, there was a great probability of those who were on top of the structure being hurt, of their falling down and getting hurt. That was his concern and that is why he sent Uma Bharti there to dissuade them, to tell them to come down. Those were his concerns; there was no anxiety being displayed by him to stop anything. This is what came through in her testimony.

Yet the special court in Rae Bareli, when it discharged Advani during the NDA’s reign, actually cited Anju Gupta’s testimony – the judgement was in Hindi, the judge used the expression “ati mahatvapurna (exceedingly important)” – as the crucial basis on which he was letting off Advani. So much for this rule of law that we all keep buying into.

When there was a change of regime in 2004, this farce was corrected. Advani was brought back into the case. And given the background circumstances, I dare say that this judicial correction would not have taken place but for the fortuitous circumstance of the government having changed at the centre.

In the Lucknow special court, some anonymous kar sevaks are being tried for the crime of conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid without the knowledge, involvement or instigation of any of the sangh parivar leaders. And in Rae Bareli, the sangh parivar leaders are being tried only for delivering inflammatory speeches

These events are all interconnected. The fact that the 1949 FIR has never been followed up, that there have been no convictions, is no coincidence. And it doesn’t end there.

To come back to the Supreme Court and the judgement of 1994, there is more to it than the split verdict on the then government’s proposed new law. There was another very farcical aspect that pertains to contempt of court. During the run-up to the demolition this matter was also before the Supreme Court.

As we are now aware, the intelligence reports issued prior to the demolition were very precise and any administration would have known from those reports that there was imminent danger to the structure. So there was wilful negligence on the part of the centre, on the part of the Narasimha Rao government, in this regard. Simultaneously, there was a public interest petitioner, Mohammad Aslam Bhure, and his counsel, OP Sharma, who were very valiantly fighting a battle before the Supreme Court. Their applications were based on newspaper reports that said the same thing: that what was going to happen on December 6 was very serious, that the threats cannot be taken lightly – these were issues that were brought before the court. And more importantly, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice MN Venkatachaliah had one very compelling reason to take these warnings seriously.

In July 1992 proceedings were underway before the Supreme Court, also at the instance of Bhure, on the construction of a platform near the Babri Masjid that was going on at the time. The court kept on ordering the Kalyan Singh government to stop this, to respect the status quo order, and yet the construction took place. The first contempt notice to Kalyan Singh was issued in July 1992 in this context and then, on December 6, this great crime takes place. These warnings should have been taken seriously. The undertakings given by the same Kalyan Singh who so wilfully violated and disobeyed the Supreme Court orders in July 1992 should therefore not have been taken seriously. Yet the Supreme Court in its wisdom decided to allow symbolic kar seva to take place.

How much of this was based on their commitment to the rule of law, how much of it was because they were Hindus, I don’t know. Despite the background, the Supreme Court trusted these fellows to perform a symbolic kar seva. And when this belief of theirs was belied, was completely shattered, sure enough, the Supreme Court, for national consumption, to the delight of our newspapers and TV channels, came up with some very strong observations: This is the greatest ever perfidy, there can be no greater instance of contempt of the Supreme Court, an otherwise mild judge really thundered in the courtroom, making someone like KK Venugopal, who was representing the Kalyan Singh government, say: I’m ashamed my lord, I was not privy to this conspiracy. When my clients said that they were going to observe the rule of law, that they were going to ensure that no damage would take place to the structure, I took their word for it. That was the kind of drama that took place in the court soon after the demolition. This was part of the same response.

And then, along with the 1994 judgement wherein the post-demolition measures taken by the government were examined by the Supreme Court, the court also dealt with the issue of contempt. The media and most people thought that the one-day sentence awarded to Kalyan Singh in that context was for the demolition but it was actually for the July 1992 instance of contempt, the first contempt notice. The judges wilfully kept clear of the act of contempt that was committed on December 6, 1992. To date, just as the 1949 FIR has still not resulted in a charge sheet and prosecution, this greatest ever contempt, as we were told it was subsequent to the December 6 incident, has still not been disposed of. No action has so far been taken. It is as if the judges don’t want to take chances with Lord Ram’s wrath.

Their inaction is not very different from the actions of Judge Pandey of the Uttar Pradesh judiciary who saw the hand of Hanuman, Hanuman’s benediction, in his decision to open the gates of the Babri Masjid. One cannot help seeing such significance in their eloquent silence on taking action against the December 6 act of contempt. And such silence is not an isolated instance.

We saw a similar silence in the context of the Supreme Court’s judgement on Hindutva in 1995. To make a brief reference to the Hindutva judgement… How do you talk about whether Hindutva is really liberal and in consonance with the Constitution without talking about what exactly Veer Savarkar, the man who coined that expression, had in mind: What was his definition of Hindutva, how did he propound this very pernicious theory that India belongs more to those whose birthplace and sacred land is India? This was an aspect that was totally glossed over by the Supreme Court in its Hindutva judgement as it merrily went along with the view that Hindutva is no different from Hinduism, the catholic, liberal interpretation of Hinduism.

I look at all of this as an outsider, as a representative of the media; I’m sure those of you who are from within the system can see this farce even more clearly than I do.

Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17    No.154, Section 1-Silence is Eloquent

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What's behind 'move to subvert' powerful Unity in Diversity symbol of Ahmedabad

14 Nov 2022

Ahmedabad jali

November 3, 2022, was a special day indeed! On that day, Pope Francis began a four-days historic visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, where he was given an exceptionally warm welcome! From the time he arrived in Bahrain, he set the tone of his entire visit, by asking the Government of Bahrain to guarantee human rights to all and to abolish the death penalty!

Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni monarchy which has been accused of discriminating against the country's Shiite majority. The words of Pope Francis are certainly music to the Bahraini Shiite dissidents, who are harassed and detained, subject to torture and sham trials; some of them have been stripped of their citizenship or sentenced to death for their political activities.

Pope Francis, however, kept his best for the pathbreaking address he delivered to a gathering of the Bahraini Royalty, Government authorities, the Diplomatic Corps, religious and civil authorities and other eminent citizens. Using the time-tested symbol of Bahrain’s ‘tree of life’ as a metaphor, Pope Francis struck a chord with the august audience. He said:

“Here, where the waters of the sea surround the sands of the desert, and imposing skyscrapers rise beside traditional Oriental markets, very different realities come together: ancient and modern converge; tradition and progress mix; and above all, people from various backgrounds create a distinctive mosaic of life. In preparing for my visit, I learned about one outstanding 'emblem of vitality' in this country, which is the ‘Tree of Life' (Shajarat-al-Hayat).

“ I would like to take it as my inspiration for sharing a few thoughts with you. The tree itself is a majestic acacia that has survived for centuries in a desert area with very little rainfall. It seems impossible that a tree of this age has been able to live and flourish in these conditions. According to many people, the secret is to be found in its roots, which extend for dozens of meters beneath the ground, drawing from subterranean deposits of water.”

He went on to focus on the need and importance of ‘rootedness’ saying:
“Roots, then. The Kingdom of Bahrain is committed to remembering and cherishing its past, which tells of an extremely ancient land, to which thousands of years ago peoples came, drawn by its beauty, due especially to the abundant springs of fresh water that gave it the reputation of being a paradise.

“The ancient kingdom of Dilmun was thus called ‘the land of the living’. As we ascend from those vast roots – which spread over more than 4,500 years of uninterrupted human presence – we see how Bahrain’s geographical position, the talents and commercial abilities of its people, together with historical events, have enabled it to take shape as a crossroads of mutual enrichment between peoples. One thing stands out in the history of this land: it has always been a place of encounter between different peoples”.

Pope Francis then lauded the composite, multi-ethnic, multi-religious fabric of Bahrain which has overcome the risk of isolation. He added for good measure and very emphatically:

“Let us think instead of the Tree of Life, your symbol, and to the parched deserts of human coexistence let us bring the water of fraternity. May we never allow opportunities for encounter between civilizations, religions and cultures to evaporate, or the roots of our humanity to become desiccated and lifeless! Let us work together! Let us work in the service of togetherness and hope! I am here, in this land of the Tree of Life, as a sower of peace, in order to experience these days of encounter and to take part in a Forum of dialogue between East and West for the sake of peaceful human coexistence.

“ I thank even now my travelling companions, especially the representatives of the religions. These days mark a precious stage in the journey of friendship that has intensified in recent years with various Islamic religious leaders, a fraternal journey that, beneath the gaze of heaven, seeks to foster peace on earth.”

For him then, one has to embark on that fraternal journey for sustainable peace!

One cannot help but draw a parallel with another ‘tree of life’! In the very heart of the city of Ahmedabad stands the Sidi Saiyed Mosque named after its builder. The most exquisite craftsmanship in stone carving can be seen in this mosque which was built around 1572. The distinguishing features of this mosque are the ten intricately carved stone windows (jalis), apparently done by a master stone craftsman from Abyssinia.

The 20th-century Indologist and art historian Vincent Arthur Smith described these jalis as the “most artistic stone lattice-work to be found anywhere in the world.” One of the windows depicts the ‘tree of life’ with delicate intertwining of the branches of a tree. For years, this motif was the symbol of Ahmedabad and, in fact, of Gujarat.

It symbolized and represented all that India meant and stood for: diverse cultures, faiths, languages, traditions, peoples; everything which indeed constituted a great civilization. The idea and the reality of India: very different but deeply united. A unity in diversity. A unique tapestry, inter-woven with multi-colour hues as the rays of the sun and the moon pierce the gaps of the window. A delightful experience: a marvel, simply magnificent and without parallel!
Yet on the other hand, some years ago, when the Hindu right-wing government took controls of the reins of power in Gujarat, one of their first decisions was to ensure that this replica of the stone trellis was no longer used as a symbol of Gujarat and of Ahmedabad. They quickly replaced it with the replica of a temple.

In one stroke, that move underlined the tectonic shift in the mindset and attitude of the regime that controlled Gujarat: exclusive not inclusive; myopic not visionary; petty not large-hearted! Gujarat gave to the world Mahatma Gandhi and his twin doctrine of ahimsa and satyagraha – was being throttled beyond recognition.

The pluralistic fabric, the diversity and the communal harmony which characterised Gujarat, has slowly and systematically given way to bitter division, hatred and violence. Religion used as a tool to manipulate people for petty political gains. The intricacy and the beauty of the ‘tree of life’ was being poisoned at its very roots

In another recent move that belongs to a realm of tragic irony, the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM-A) on 3 November, officially announced a change of its more than sixty-years old logo! The original logo had the famed ‘Tree of Life’ on it.

Pope Francis lauded the composite, multi-ethnic, multi-religious fabric of Bahrain which has overcome the risk of isolation


The new logo has some kind of tree, which is ‘okay’; the word ‘Ahmedabad’ has been dropped whereas the Sanskrit text ‘Vidya viniyogadvikasa' (development through the distribution or application of knowledge) has been retained! Some months ago, when the changed version of the logo was unveiled, it sparked off a controversy with 45 faculty members signing a letter to the top officials of the institute saying they were not consulted about the new design before it was approved.

Over 1,000 IIM-A alumni, at that time, also started a petition to retain the 60-year-old logo that is inspired by the “Tree of Life”. One certainly does not need to be a rocket scientist or for that matter a management guru, to understand why the IIM-A top brass, has calmly succumbed to the political rhetoric currently holding sway in the country and distanced itself from anything seemingly of the minority community! Shame!

Pope Francis has given a road-map, not only to those who listened to him in Bahrain, but to every human on this earth! He strongly said:
“Let us return to the Tree of Life. In the course of time, its many branches of varying size have produced abundant foliage, thus increasing the tree’s height and breadth. In this country, it was the contribution made by so many individuals from different peoples that enabled a remarkable increase in productivity. This was made possible by immigration.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain vaunts one of the highest levels of immigration in the world: about half of the resident population are foreigners, working in an evident way for the development of a country in which, despite leaving their native countries behind, they feel at home.

“At the same time, we must acknowledge that in our world unemployment levels remain all too high, and much labour is in fact dehumanizing. This does not only entail a grave risk of social instability, but constitutes a threat to human dignity. For labour is not only necessary for earning a livelihood: it is a right, indispensable for integral self-development and the shaping of a truly humane society”.


There can be no life on earth, if the culture of death continues to grip humanity. Pope Francis did not mince words as he calls for an end to war and to the building of peace!

“Second, the Tree of Life, whose roots that, deep in the subsoil, furnish vital water to the trunk, and from the trunk to the branches and then the leaves that give oxygen to creatures, makes me think of our human vocation, the vocation of each man and woman on earth, to make life flourish. Yet today we increasingly witness lethal actions and threats. I think especially of the monstrous and senseless reality of war, which everywhere sows destruction and crushes hope.

“War brings out the worst in man: selfishness, violence and dishonesty. For war, every war, brings in its wake the death of truth. Let us reject the logic of weapons and change course, diverting enormous military expenditures to investments in combating hunger and the lack of healthcare and education. I grieve deeply for all these situations of conflict.

“Surveying the Arab Peninsula, whose countries I greet with sincere respect, my thoughts turn in a particular and heartfelt way to Yemen, torn by a forgotten war that, like every war, issues not in victory but only in bitter defeat for everyone. I especially keep in my prayers the civilians, the children, the elderly and the sick.

“And I beg: Let there be an end to the clash of weapons! Let there be an end to the clash of weapons! Let there be an end to the clash of weapons! Let us be committed, everywhere and concretely, to building peace!”


The ‘Tree of Life’ is then, much more than an emblem or logo; it is a metaphor and a direction: a way of proceeding! It is a journey: of rootedness to the depths and of branching out, to embrace all particularly those who need to be embraced! It is life in all its fulness – in short, it is ‘synodality’ which needs to be lived today!
---
*Human rights, reconciliation & peace activist/writer

First published on: https://www.counterview.net

What's behind 'move to subvert' powerful Unity in Diversity symbol of Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad jali

November 3, 2022, was a special day indeed! On that day, Pope Francis began a four-days historic visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, where he was given an exceptionally warm welcome! From the time he arrived in Bahrain, he set the tone of his entire visit, by asking the Government of Bahrain to guarantee human rights to all and to abolish the death penalty!

Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni monarchy which has been accused of discriminating against the country's Shiite majority. The words of Pope Francis are certainly music to the Bahraini Shiite dissidents, who are harassed and detained, subject to torture and sham trials; some of them have been stripped of their citizenship or sentenced to death for their political activities.

Pope Francis, however, kept his best for the pathbreaking address he delivered to a gathering of the Bahraini Royalty, Government authorities, the Diplomatic Corps, religious and civil authorities and other eminent citizens. Using the time-tested symbol of Bahrain’s ‘tree of life’ as a metaphor, Pope Francis struck a chord with the august audience. He said:

“Here, where the waters of the sea surround the sands of the desert, and imposing skyscrapers rise beside traditional Oriental markets, very different realities come together: ancient and modern converge; tradition and progress mix; and above all, people from various backgrounds create a distinctive mosaic of life. In preparing for my visit, I learned about one outstanding 'emblem of vitality' in this country, which is the ‘Tree of Life' (Shajarat-al-Hayat).

“ I would like to take it as my inspiration for sharing a few thoughts with you. The tree itself is a majestic acacia that has survived for centuries in a desert area with very little rainfall. It seems impossible that a tree of this age has been able to live and flourish in these conditions. According to many people, the secret is to be found in its roots, which extend for dozens of meters beneath the ground, drawing from subterranean deposits of water.”

He went on to focus on the need and importance of ‘rootedness’ saying:
“Roots, then. The Kingdom of Bahrain is committed to remembering and cherishing its past, which tells of an extremely ancient land, to which thousands of years ago peoples came, drawn by its beauty, due especially to the abundant springs of fresh water that gave it the reputation of being a paradise.

“The ancient kingdom of Dilmun was thus called ‘the land of the living’. As we ascend from those vast roots – which spread over more than 4,500 years of uninterrupted human presence – we see how Bahrain’s geographical position, the talents and commercial abilities of its people, together with historical events, have enabled it to take shape as a crossroads of mutual enrichment between peoples. One thing stands out in the history of this land: it has always been a place of encounter between different peoples”.

Pope Francis then lauded the composite, multi-ethnic, multi-religious fabric of Bahrain which has overcome the risk of isolation. He added for good measure and very emphatically:

“Let us think instead of the Tree of Life, your symbol, and to the parched deserts of human coexistence let us bring the water of fraternity. May we never allow opportunities for encounter between civilizations, religions and cultures to evaporate, or the roots of our humanity to become desiccated and lifeless! Let us work together! Let us work in the service of togetherness and hope! I am here, in this land of the Tree of Life, as a sower of peace, in order to experience these days of encounter and to take part in a Forum of dialogue between East and West for the sake of peaceful human coexistence.

“ I thank even now my travelling companions, especially the representatives of the religions. These days mark a precious stage in the journey of friendship that has intensified in recent years with various Islamic religious leaders, a fraternal journey that, beneath the gaze of heaven, seeks to foster peace on earth.”

For him then, one has to embark on that fraternal journey for sustainable peace!

One cannot help but draw a parallel with another ‘tree of life’! In the very heart of the city of Ahmedabad stands the Sidi Saiyed Mosque named after its builder. The most exquisite craftsmanship in stone carving can be seen in this mosque which was built around 1572. The distinguishing features of this mosque are the ten intricately carved stone windows (jalis), apparently done by a master stone craftsman from Abyssinia.

The 20th-century Indologist and art historian Vincent Arthur Smith described these jalis as the “most artistic stone lattice-work to be found anywhere in the world.” One of the windows depicts the ‘tree of life’ with delicate intertwining of the branches of a tree. For years, this motif was the symbol of Ahmedabad and, in fact, of Gujarat.

It symbolized and represented all that India meant and stood for: diverse cultures, faiths, languages, traditions, peoples; everything which indeed constituted a great civilization. The idea and the reality of India: very different but deeply united. A unity in diversity. A unique tapestry, inter-woven with multi-colour hues as the rays of the sun and the moon pierce the gaps of the window. A delightful experience: a marvel, simply magnificent and without parallel!
Yet on the other hand, some years ago, when the Hindu right-wing government took controls of the reins of power in Gujarat, one of their first decisions was to ensure that this replica of the stone trellis was no longer used as a symbol of Gujarat and of Ahmedabad. They quickly replaced it with the replica of a temple.

In one stroke, that move underlined the tectonic shift in the mindset and attitude of the regime that controlled Gujarat: exclusive not inclusive; myopic not visionary; petty not large-hearted! Gujarat gave to the world Mahatma Gandhi and his twin doctrine of ahimsa and satyagraha – was being throttled beyond recognition.

The pluralistic fabric, the diversity and the communal harmony which characterised Gujarat, has slowly and systematically given way to bitter division, hatred and violence. Religion used as a tool to manipulate people for petty political gains. The intricacy and the beauty of the ‘tree of life’ was being poisoned at its very roots

In another recent move that belongs to a realm of tragic irony, the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM-A) on 3 November, officially announced a change of its more than sixty-years old logo! The original logo had the famed ‘Tree of Life’ on it.

Pope Francis lauded the composite, multi-ethnic, multi-religious fabric of Bahrain which has overcome the risk of isolation


The new logo has some kind of tree, which is ‘okay’; the word ‘Ahmedabad’ has been dropped whereas the Sanskrit text ‘Vidya viniyogadvikasa' (development through the distribution or application of knowledge) has been retained! Some months ago, when the changed version of the logo was unveiled, it sparked off a controversy with 45 faculty members signing a letter to the top officials of the institute saying they were not consulted about the new design before it was approved.

Over 1,000 IIM-A alumni, at that time, also started a petition to retain the 60-year-old logo that is inspired by the “Tree of Life”. One certainly does not need to be a rocket scientist or for that matter a management guru, to understand why the IIM-A top brass, has calmly succumbed to the political rhetoric currently holding sway in the country and distanced itself from anything seemingly of the minority community! Shame!

Pope Francis has given a road-map, not only to those who listened to him in Bahrain, but to every human on this earth! He strongly said:
“Let us return to the Tree of Life. In the course of time, its many branches of varying size have produced abundant foliage, thus increasing the tree’s height and breadth. In this country, it was the contribution made by so many individuals from different peoples that enabled a remarkable increase in productivity. This was made possible by immigration.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain vaunts one of the highest levels of immigration in the world: about half of the resident population are foreigners, working in an evident way for the development of a country in which, despite leaving their native countries behind, they feel at home.

“At the same time, we must acknowledge that in our world unemployment levels remain all too high, and much labour is in fact dehumanizing. This does not only entail a grave risk of social instability, but constitutes a threat to human dignity. For labour is not only necessary for earning a livelihood: it is a right, indispensable for integral self-development and the shaping of a truly humane society”.


There can be no life on earth, if the culture of death continues to grip humanity. Pope Francis did not mince words as he calls for an end to war and to the building of peace!

“Second, the Tree of Life, whose roots that, deep in the subsoil, furnish vital water to the trunk, and from the trunk to the branches and then the leaves that give oxygen to creatures, makes me think of our human vocation, the vocation of each man and woman on earth, to make life flourish. Yet today we increasingly witness lethal actions and threats. I think especially of the monstrous and senseless reality of war, which everywhere sows destruction and crushes hope.

“War brings out the worst in man: selfishness, violence and dishonesty. For war, every war, brings in its wake the death of truth. Let us reject the logic of weapons and change course, diverting enormous military expenditures to investments in combating hunger and the lack of healthcare and education. I grieve deeply for all these situations of conflict.

“Surveying the Arab Peninsula, whose countries I greet with sincere respect, my thoughts turn in a particular and heartfelt way to Yemen, torn by a forgotten war that, like every war, issues not in victory but only in bitter defeat for everyone. I especially keep in my prayers the civilians, the children, the elderly and the sick.

“And I beg: Let there be an end to the clash of weapons! Let there be an end to the clash of weapons! Let there be an end to the clash of weapons! Let us be committed, everywhere and concretely, to building peace!”


The ‘Tree of Life’ is then, much more than an emblem or logo; it is a metaphor and a direction: a way of proceeding! It is a journey: of rootedness to the depths and of branching out, to embrace all particularly those who need to be embraced! It is life in all its fulness – in short, it is ‘synodality’ which needs to be lived today!
---
*Human rights, reconciliation & peace activist/writer

First published on: https://www.counterview.net

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The Musalmans and a United Nation-India

11 Nov 2022

First published on: 11 Nov 2016

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Today, November 11 is the 128th Birth Anniversary of Maulana Azad. In 1992 he was posthumously awarded India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. He was 70 years when he passed away on February 22, 1958.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was twice elected President of the Indian National Congress, in 1923 and again in 1940. This excerpt from his historic address made at the Ramgarh Session of the grand old party are soul searching on the observations on the minorities and the syncretic fusion of religions on the sub-continent. The rest of the address may be read here.
 
“In 1923 you elected me President of this National Assembly. For the second time, after seventeen years, you have once again conferred upon me the same honour. Seventeen years is not a long period in the history of national struggles. But now the pace of events and world change is so rapid that our old standards no longer apply. During these last seventeen years we have passed through many stages, one after another. We had a long journey before us, and it was inevitable that we should pass through several stages.

“We rested at many a point no doubt, but never stopped. We surveyed and examined every prospect; but we were not ensnared by it, and passed on. We faced many ups and downs, but always our faces were turned towards the goal. The world may have doubted nur intentions and determination, but we never had a moment's doubt. Our path was full of difficulties, and at every step we were faced with great obstacles. It may be that we did not proceed as rapidly as we desired, but we did not flinch from marching forward.

“If we look back upon the period between 1923 and 1940, 1923 will appear to us a faded landmark in the distance. In 1923 we desired to reach our goal; but the goal was so distant then that even the milestones were hidden from our eyes. Raise your eyes today and look ahead. Not only do you see the milestones clearly, but the goal itself is not distant. But this is evident: that nearer we get to the goal, the more intense does our struggle become. Although the rapid march of events has taken us farther from our old landmark and brought us nearer our goal, yet it has created new troubles and difficulties for us. Today our caravan is passing a very critical stage. The essential difficulty of such a critical period lies in its conflicting possibilities. It is very probable that a correct step may bring us very near our goal; and on the other hand, a false step may land us in fresh troubles and difficulties.

“At such a critical juncture you have elected me President, and thus demonstrated the great confidence you have in one of your co-workers. It is a great honour and a great responsibility. I am grateful for the honour, and crave your support in shouldering the responsibility. I am confident that the fulness of your confidence in me will be a measure of the fulness of the support that I shall continue to receive. 
 
“I am a Musalman and am proud of that fact. Islam's splendid traditions of thirteen hundred years are my inheritance. I am unwilling to lose even the smallest part of this inheritance. The teaching and history of Islam, its arts and letters and civilisation, are my wealth and my fortune. It is my duty to protect them.

“As a Musalman I have a special interest in Islamic religion and culture, and I cannot tolerate any interference with them. But in addition to these sentiments, I have others also which the realities and conditions of my life have forced upon me. The spirit of Islam does not come in the way of these sentiments; it guides and helps me forward.

“I am proud of being an Indian. I am a part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am indispensable to this noble edifice, and without me this splendid structure of India is incomplete. I am an essential element which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim.

“It was India's historic destiny that many human races and cultures and religions should flow to her, finding a home in her hospitable soil, and that many a caravan should find rest here. Even before the dawn of history, these caravans trekked into India, and wave after wave of newcomers followed. This vast and fertile land gave welcome to all, and took them to her bosom. One of the last of these caravans, following the footsteps of its predecessors, was that of the followers of Islam. This came here and settled here for good.

“This led to a meeting of the culture-currents of two different races. Like the Ganga and Jumna, they flowed for a while through separate courses, but nature's immutable law brought them together and joined them in a sangam. This fusion was a notable event in history. Since then, destiny, in her own hidden way, began to fashion a new India in place of the old. We brought our treasures with us, and India too was full of the riches of her own precious heritage. We gave our wealth to her, and she unlocked the doors of her own treasures to us. We gave her what she needed most, the most precious of gifts from Islam's treasury, the message of democracy and human equality.

“Full eleven centuries have passed by since then. Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism. If Hinduism has been the religion of the people here for several thousands. of years, Islam also has been their religion for a thousand years. Just as a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and follows Hinduism, so also we can say with equal pride that we are Indians and follow Islam. I shall enlarge this orbit still further. The Indian Christian is equally entitled to say with pride that he is an Indian and is following a religion of India, namely Christianity.

“Full eleven centuries have passed by since then. Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism. If Hinduism has been the religion of the people here for several thousands. of years, Islam also has been their religion for a thousand years. Just as a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and follows Hinduism, so also we can say with equal pride that we are Indians and follow Islam. I shall enlarge this orbit still further. The Indian Christian is equally entitled to say with pride that he is an Indian and is following a religion of India, namely Christianity.

“Eleven hundred years of common history have enriched India with our common achievement. Our languages, our poetry, our literature, our culture, our art, our dress, our manners and customs, the innumerable happenings of our daily life, everything bears the stamp of our joint endeavour. There is indeed no aspect of our life which has escaped this stamp. Our languages were different, but we grew to use a common language; our manners and customs were dissimilar, but they acted and reacted on each other, and thus produced a new synthesis. Our old dress may be seen only in ancient pictures of bygone days; no one wears it today.

“This joint wealth is the heritage of our common nationality, and we do not want to leave it and go back to the times when this joint life had not begun. If there are any Hindus amongst us who desire to bring back the Hindu life of a thousand years ago and more, they dream, and such dreams are vain fantasies. So also if there are any Muslims who wish to revive their past civilization and culture, which they brought a thousand years ago from Iran and Central Asia, they dream also, and the sooner they wake up the better. These are unnatural fancies which cannot take root in the soil of reality. I am one of those who believe that revival may be a necessity in a religion but in social matters it is a denial of progress.

“This thousand years of our joint life has moulded us into a common nationality. This cannot be done artificially. Nature does her fashioning through her hidden processes in the course of centuries. The cast has now been moulded and destiny has set her seal upon it. Whether we like it or not, we have now become an Indian nation, united and indivisible. No fantasy or artificial scheming to separate and divide can break this unity. We must accept the logic of fact and history, and engage ourselves in the fashioning of our future destiny. 


Conclusion
“I shall not take any more of your time. My address must end now. But before I do so, permit me to remind you that our success depends upon three factors: unity, discipline, and full confidence in Mahatma Gandhi's leadership. The glorious past record of our movement was due to his great leadership, and it is only under his leadership that we can look forward to a future of successful achievement.
The time of our trial is upon us. We have already focussed the world's attention. Let us endeavour to prove ourselves worthy. “
 
(Source: Congress Presidential Addresses, Volume Five: 1940-1985, ed. by A. M. Zaidi (New Delhi: Indian Institute of Applied Political Research, 1985), pp. 17-38)

The Musalmans and a United Nation-India

First published on: 11 Nov 2016

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Today, November 11 is the 128th Birth Anniversary of Maulana Azad. In 1992 he was posthumously awarded India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. He was 70 years when he passed away on February 22, 1958.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was twice elected President of the Indian National Congress, in 1923 and again in 1940. This excerpt from his historic address made at the Ramgarh Session of the grand old party are soul searching on the observations on the minorities and the syncretic fusion of religions on the sub-continent. The rest of the address may be read here.
 
“In 1923 you elected me President of this National Assembly. For the second time, after seventeen years, you have once again conferred upon me the same honour. Seventeen years is not a long period in the history of national struggles. But now the pace of events and world change is so rapid that our old standards no longer apply. During these last seventeen years we have passed through many stages, one after another. We had a long journey before us, and it was inevitable that we should pass through several stages.

“We rested at many a point no doubt, but never stopped. We surveyed and examined every prospect; but we were not ensnared by it, and passed on. We faced many ups and downs, but always our faces were turned towards the goal. The world may have doubted nur intentions and determination, but we never had a moment's doubt. Our path was full of difficulties, and at every step we were faced with great obstacles. It may be that we did not proceed as rapidly as we desired, but we did not flinch from marching forward.

“If we look back upon the period between 1923 and 1940, 1923 will appear to us a faded landmark in the distance. In 1923 we desired to reach our goal; but the goal was so distant then that even the milestones were hidden from our eyes. Raise your eyes today and look ahead. Not only do you see the milestones clearly, but the goal itself is not distant. But this is evident: that nearer we get to the goal, the more intense does our struggle become. Although the rapid march of events has taken us farther from our old landmark and brought us nearer our goal, yet it has created new troubles and difficulties for us. Today our caravan is passing a very critical stage. The essential difficulty of such a critical period lies in its conflicting possibilities. It is very probable that a correct step may bring us very near our goal; and on the other hand, a false step may land us in fresh troubles and difficulties.

“At such a critical juncture you have elected me President, and thus demonstrated the great confidence you have in one of your co-workers. It is a great honour and a great responsibility. I am grateful for the honour, and crave your support in shouldering the responsibility. I am confident that the fulness of your confidence in me will be a measure of the fulness of the support that I shall continue to receive. 
 
“I am a Musalman and am proud of that fact. Islam's splendid traditions of thirteen hundred years are my inheritance. I am unwilling to lose even the smallest part of this inheritance. The teaching and history of Islam, its arts and letters and civilisation, are my wealth and my fortune. It is my duty to protect them.

“As a Musalman I have a special interest in Islamic religion and culture, and I cannot tolerate any interference with them. But in addition to these sentiments, I have others also which the realities and conditions of my life have forced upon me. The spirit of Islam does not come in the way of these sentiments; it guides and helps me forward.

“I am proud of being an Indian. I am a part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am indispensable to this noble edifice, and without me this splendid structure of India is incomplete. I am an essential element which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim.

“It was India's historic destiny that many human races and cultures and religions should flow to her, finding a home in her hospitable soil, and that many a caravan should find rest here. Even before the dawn of history, these caravans trekked into India, and wave after wave of newcomers followed. This vast and fertile land gave welcome to all, and took them to her bosom. One of the last of these caravans, following the footsteps of its predecessors, was that of the followers of Islam. This came here and settled here for good.

“This led to a meeting of the culture-currents of two different races. Like the Ganga and Jumna, they flowed for a while through separate courses, but nature's immutable law brought them together and joined them in a sangam. This fusion was a notable event in history. Since then, destiny, in her own hidden way, began to fashion a new India in place of the old. We brought our treasures with us, and India too was full of the riches of her own precious heritage. We gave our wealth to her, and she unlocked the doors of her own treasures to us. We gave her what she needed most, the most precious of gifts from Islam's treasury, the message of democracy and human equality.

“Full eleven centuries have passed by since then. Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism. If Hinduism has been the religion of the people here for several thousands. of years, Islam also has been their religion for a thousand years. Just as a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and follows Hinduism, so also we can say with equal pride that we are Indians and follow Islam. I shall enlarge this orbit still further. The Indian Christian is equally entitled to say with pride that he is an Indian and is following a religion of India, namely Christianity.

“Full eleven centuries have passed by since then. Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism. If Hinduism has been the religion of the people here for several thousands. of years, Islam also has been their religion for a thousand years. Just as a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and follows Hinduism, so also we can say with equal pride that we are Indians and follow Islam. I shall enlarge this orbit still further. The Indian Christian is equally entitled to say with pride that he is an Indian and is following a religion of India, namely Christianity.

“Eleven hundred years of common history have enriched India with our common achievement. Our languages, our poetry, our literature, our culture, our art, our dress, our manners and customs, the innumerable happenings of our daily life, everything bears the stamp of our joint endeavour. There is indeed no aspect of our life which has escaped this stamp. Our languages were different, but we grew to use a common language; our manners and customs were dissimilar, but they acted and reacted on each other, and thus produced a new synthesis. Our old dress may be seen only in ancient pictures of bygone days; no one wears it today.

“This joint wealth is the heritage of our common nationality, and we do not want to leave it and go back to the times when this joint life had not begun. If there are any Hindus amongst us who desire to bring back the Hindu life of a thousand years ago and more, they dream, and such dreams are vain fantasies. So also if there are any Muslims who wish to revive their past civilization and culture, which they brought a thousand years ago from Iran and Central Asia, they dream also, and the sooner they wake up the better. These are unnatural fancies which cannot take root in the soil of reality. I am one of those who believe that revival may be a necessity in a religion but in social matters it is a denial of progress.

“This thousand years of our joint life has moulded us into a common nationality. This cannot be done artificially. Nature does her fashioning through her hidden processes in the course of centuries. The cast has now been moulded and destiny has set her seal upon it. Whether we like it or not, we have now become an Indian nation, united and indivisible. No fantasy or artificial scheming to separate and divide can break this unity. We must accept the logic of fact and history, and engage ourselves in the fashioning of our future destiny. 


Conclusion
“I shall not take any more of your time. My address must end now. But before I do so, permit me to remind you that our success depends upon three factors: unity, discipline, and full confidence in Mahatma Gandhi's leadership. The glorious past record of our movement was due to his great leadership, and it is only under his leadership that we can look forward to a future of successful achievement.
The time of our trial is upon us. We have already focussed the world's attention. Let us endeavour to prove ourselves worthy. “
 
(Source: Congress Presidential Addresses, Volume Five: 1940-1985, ed. by A. M. Zaidi (New Delhi: Indian Institute of Applied Political Research, 1985), pp. 17-38)

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Kashmir's famous third gender singing sensation Abdul Rashid alias Reshma passes away

Famous third gender Kashmiri Singer Abdul Rashid popularly known as Reshma passed away early on Sunday morning

08 Nov 2022

Famous third gender Kahsmiri Singer Abdul Rashid popularly known as Reshma passed away

Rashid breathed his last at SMHS hospital, his neighbour told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), adding that he died at 12 O clock. Reshma was known for the typical and unique song "Hai Hai Wesai, Yaran hai tadepevnas" sung in various wedding functions that went viral on social media. A resident of Nawa Kadal area of Srinagar, Rashid as per his neighbours was a humble, friendly and a great human being.

According to a neighbor, neighbour Jeelani Ahmad, Rashid's funeral was held on November 7 at 10 am at Nawa Kadal. Rashid was a household name in Kashmir due to his peculiar singing style mostly at marriages and social gatherings.

Bablu Transgender's Association president expressed shock and grief over Rashid's death. "We are pained and grieved over the death of our colleage," Bablu said.

Kashmir's famous third gender singing sensation Abdul Rashid alias Reshma passes away

Famous third gender Kashmiri Singer Abdul Rashid popularly known as Reshma passed away early on Sunday morning

Famous third gender Kahsmiri Singer Abdul Rashid popularly known as Reshma passed away

Rashid breathed his last at SMHS hospital, his neighbour told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), adding that he died at 12 O clock. Reshma was known for the typical and unique song "Hai Hai Wesai, Yaran hai tadepevnas" sung in various wedding functions that went viral on social media. A resident of Nawa Kadal area of Srinagar, Rashid as per his neighbours was a humble, friendly and a great human being.

According to a neighbor, neighbour Jeelani Ahmad, Rashid's funeral was held on November 7 at 10 am at Nawa Kadal. Rashid was a household name in Kashmir due to his peculiar singing style mostly at marriages and social gatherings.

Bablu Transgender's Association president expressed shock and grief over Rashid's death. "We are pained and grieved over the death of our colleage," Bablu said.

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Everyday Love: When Diwali becomes that much more special

25 Oct 2022

Diwali

Each day, every festival, brings as many tales of everyday love, respect and camaraderie downing the shrill noise of hate. So it was this Diwali, October 24, Monday, when at 2 p.m. Facebook (FB) user Megha Joshi put up this simple post with photographs: "Two Muslim helper women go out and spend their hard-earned money on flowers and rangoli and make Laksmi feet on the door of their atheist employer, of their own volition, to remind her what a celebration truly is. Surprised and touched."

Good news is the real news and it happens around us every day.

Happy Diwali!

diwali

Image courtesy: Facebook / Megha Joshi

Related:

Hirebedanur: Non-Muslims villagers commemorate Muharram in this Karnataka village that has no Muslims

Everyday Harmony: Kashmiri Pandits welcome back Hajis with Na’at recital

Everyday Harmony: Muslim employer performs last rites of Hindu employee

Everyday Harmony: Muslim groups organise drinking water in flood ravaged Silchar

Everyday Love: When Diwali becomes that much more special

Diwali

Each day, every festival, brings as many tales of everyday love, respect and camaraderie downing the shrill noise of hate. So it was this Diwali, October 24, Monday, when at 2 p.m. Facebook (FB) user Megha Joshi put up this simple post with photographs: "Two Muslim helper women go out and spend their hard-earned money on flowers and rangoli and make Laksmi feet on the door of their atheist employer, of their own volition, to remind her what a celebration truly is. Surprised and touched."

Good news is the real news and it happens around us every day.

Happy Diwali!

diwali

Image courtesy: Facebook / Megha Joshi

Related:

Hirebedanur: Non-Muslims villagers commemorate Muharram in this Karnataka village that has no Muslims

Everyday Harmony: Kashmiri Pandits welcome back Hajis with Na’at recital

Everyday Harmony: Muslim employer performs last rites of Hindu employee

Everyday Harmony: Muslim groups organise drinking water in flood ravaged Silchar

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Fireworks and Firearms: The Festival of Lights in the Mughal Court

"With the aroma of honey and almond wafting through the heavy air of decadence, the kufuri-shama casting silhouettes of a glorious past, and Nazeer Akbarabadi’s nazms resonating with a sense of coexistence, the last Mughal Diwalis were a curious confluence of tears and laughter."

22 Oct 2022

First published on: 20 Oct 2017

Mughal Court

The Mughal court became a site of cultural production in the early modern world. It was a curious confluence of "Islamicate" and "Indic" cultures. Like any other dynasty with the desire to rule, the Mughals, contrary to the present state-sponsored communal (mis)understanding, did not rupture the existing socio-cultural fabric of the land. Besides introducing Timurid and Mongoloid traditions, they appropriated existing courtly norms and iconographies to legitimise their reign. Take, for instance, the ritual of Jharokha-darshan introduced by Akbar, which stems from the Hindu practice of beholding the deity in the sanctum sanctorum. Another instance of Mughal multiculturalism would be the presence of Jain and Brahmin intellectuals and the production of Sanskrit texts in the court. According to the historian Audrey Truschke, Sanskrit offered the Mughals "a particularly potent way to imagine power and conceptualise themselves as righteous rulers". The illustrations in a Persian translation of the Ramayana, commissioned by Abdul Rahim Khan-i Khana (completed in 1598 C.E.), now called the Freer Ramayana, depicts the characters of the great epic in settings akin to Fatehpur Sikri. In the same spirit, the Mughals celebrated festivals like Holi and Diwali with pomp and splendour, besides Naurouz and Eid. In fact, Naurouz too is a pre-Islamic festival of Persia, which was retained by the new Islamic rulers after the decline of the Sasanian Empire, with the Arab conquest in 651C.E. 

Sparklers in Words: Diwali in Literary Texts
 

…during the Dewali… the ignorant ones amongst Muslims, particularly the women, perform the ceremonies. They celebrate it like their own Id and send presents to their daughters and sisters…. They colour their pots… fill them with red rice and send them as presents. They attach much important and weight to this season…


These are the words of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi (1564-1624C.E.), a Hanafi jurist of the 16th century. This particular tract shows that Diwali was also celebrated by the common Muslim, outside the court. Jean de Thévenot, the French polyglot and traveller who visited India in the 17th century, chronicled the aristocratic celebration of Diwali. “The Gentiles being great lovers at Play of Dice, there is much Gaming, during the five Festival days… a vast deal of Money lost… and many People ruined.” According to historian R. Nath, Abu’l Fazl recorded the unique practice of lighting the aakaash diya, or the lamp of the sky using the Surajkrant, in Ain-e-Akbari:
 

At noon of the day when the sun entered the 19th degree of Aries, and the heat was the maximum, the (royal) servants exposed a round piece of shining stone (Surajkrant) to the sun’s rays. A piece of cotton was then held near it, which caught fire from the heat. This celestial fire was preserved in a vessel called Agingir (fire-pot) and committed to the care of an officer.


Besides the regular camphor candles (kufuri-shama) on candlesticks of gold and silver to illuminate the palace, the aakaash diya was lit atop a 40 yards high pole, fuelled by maunds of binaula, or cotton-seed oil.

The Divine Light


mage courtesy The Chester Beatty Library

The divine light is an integral part of the Mughal imperial ideology. In paintings depicting the emperor, the halo, borrowed from Christian iconography, surrounded the face of the sovereign from Jahangir’s time. Catherine Asher highlights the importance of the light imagery in Abu’l Fazl’s Akbarnama, in which Akbar is described as an emanation of God’s light. The canopy was believed to set apart the radiance of the legitimate, divinely-guided sovereign from that of the sun. In comparison to erstwhile Islamic rulers, who were called zill-e-ilahi, or the shadow of God on earth, Akbar was loftier — he was also the farr-i-izadi, or the light of God, and thus the perfect man, insaan-i kamil. In paintings, the sovereign’s divine effulgence is shown in contrast to the nefarious darkness of the masses. As John F. Richards points out, the light imagery is traced back to the Timurid-Mongol notions of kingship, in particular, to the myth of Aalnquwa, a Mughal (Mongol) princess "from whose forehead shone the lights of theosophy" (anwar khuda shinasi) and the "divine secrets" (asrar’ ilahi)." Legend has it that she got impregnated by a ray of light while sleeping in her tent, and the triplet born from this divine fertilisation was called nairun, or light-produced. According to Abu’l Fazl, this divine light travelled down from one generation to the next, and was manifested in the persona of Akbar. Though the divine light was not related to Diwali, it shows the imperium’s obsession with the light imagery, as a sacred source of legitimation. 

Ignitions in the Gunpowder Empire
Although the Mughal state is no longer seen as a "military patronage state", gunpowder and the artillery played a significant role in the making of the empire, which has been described as a "patchwork quilt". Stephen P. Blake writes that Dussehra and Diwali marked the beginning of the campaigning season, and a review of the horses and elephants of the imperial and noble households commenced the celebrations under Akbar and Jahangir. A similar military ritual, symbolic of the ruler’s power, was seen in the Mahanavami celebrations in the Vijayanagara Empire. Perhaps somewhere, there’s a connect between Mughal militarism and the celebration of Diwali. The gunpowder technology was invented in China, and the Mongols used it in warfare. Although Kaushik Roy opines that the Arthashastra bears reference to saltpetre, or agnichurna as the powder that creates fire, the technology got diffused to different parts of Eurasia with Mongol invasions, and the Chagatai Turks brought firearms to India. Tarikh-e-Ferishta, written in between 1606-07 C.E, mentions that the envoy of Hulegu Khan was welcomed with a pyrotechnics display on his arrival in Delhi in 1258 C.E. A blinding display of pyrotechnics or aatish bazi marked the Shab-i Barat and Diwali celebrations in Mughal India. In Calcutta, people still refer to firecrackers as "aatosh-baaji", a Bengalised version of the original Persian term.

 


In paintings like The Marriage Procession of Dara Shikoh (circa 1750 C.E.), currently in the National Museum, we see a series of firecrackers dazzling the dark sky. In another painting from the late 18th century by Hashim II, we see court ladies dressed in brocaded fineries, burning sparklers and watching fireworks from a riverside terrace-pavilion, with two gilded candelabra adding to the brightness of the celebration. The celebrations in Shahjahanabad escalated with the coming of Muhammad Shah ‘Rangile’. The gilded Rang-Mahal, with its enamelled and pietra dura artistry, became the venue for Diwali celebrations. His predecessors performed rituals borrowed from the Indic repertoire, like tula-daan or jashn-e-wazan, in which the king was weighed against materials and these materials were distributed amongst the poor. The tradition of chappan thal, which perhaps has its roots in the contemporaneous Krishna Bhakti practices of Braj, became a part of the Mughal cuisine. Sweets like ghevar, peda, jalebi, phirni, kheel and falooda were characteristic of the Diwali air. The Mughal dastarkhwan was laden with the choicest of dishes, just like in Naurouz. The Mughal Diwali or Jashn-e-Charaghan was extensively recorded in court muraqqas under the rule of Rangile. Fanoos or lanterns were released, and chiraghs or lamps illuminated the urban core of Shahjahanabad.

Diwali would begin with a ritual royal bath for which water was brought from seven holy wells, and the emperor was given an aromatic bath while pundits and maulanas chanted sacred hymns. Then the emperor, dressed in soft muslin, would visit the harem to meet his wives and concubines. In the court, his courtiers, according to their status in the administrative hierarchy, were supposed to present a symbolic tribute to the emperor, called nazrana. Though the celebrations suffered a setback during Nadir Shah’s invasion in 1739 C.E., the celebrations continued till the reign of Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’, notwithstanding the acute financial constraint and the shrinking resources of the empire. With the emergence of the regional or provincial Mughal courts, such as those in Awadh and Murshidabad,  in the 18th century, Jashn-e Charaghan became an integral part of these courts as well, in the wee days of colonialism. With the aroma of honey and almond wafting through the heavy air of decadence, the kufuri-shama casting silhouettes of a glorious past, and Nazeer Akbarabadi’s nazms resonating with a sense of coexistence, the last Mughal Diwalis were a curious confluence of tears and laughter.

 

Somok Roy studies history at Ramjas College, University of Delhi.

Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum

Fireworks and Firearms: The Festival of Lights in the Mughal Court

"With the aroma of honey and almond wafting through the heavy air of decadence, the kufuri-shama casting silhouettes of a glorious past, and Nazeer Akbarabadi’s nazms resonating with a sense of coexistence, the last Mughal Diwalis were a curious confluence of tears and laughter."

First published on: 20 Oct 2017

Mughal Court

The Mughal court became a site of cultural production in the early modern world. It was a curious confluence of "Islamicate" and "Indic" cultures. Like any other dynasty with the desire to rule, the Mughals, contrary to the present state-sponsored communal (mis)understanding, did not rupture the existing socio-cultural fabric of the land. Besides introducing Timurid and Mongoloid traditions, they appropriated existing courtly norms and iconographies to legitimise their reign. Take, for instance, the ritual of Jharokha-darshan introduced by Akbar, which stems from the Hindu practice of beholding the deity in the sanctum sanctorum. Another instance of Mughal multiculturalism would be the presence of Jain and Brahmin intellectuals and the production of Sanskrit texts in the court. According to the historian Audrey Truschke, Sanskrit offered the Mughals "a particularly potent way to imagine power and conceptualise themselves as righteous rulers". The illustrations in a Persian translation of the Ramayana, commissioned by Abdul Rahim Khan-i Khana (completed in 1598 C.E.), now called the Freer Ramayana, depicts the characters of the great epic in settings akin to Fatehpur Sikri. In the same spirit, the Mughals celebrated festivals like Holi and Diwali with pomp and splendour, besides Naurouz and Eid. In fact, Naurouz too is a pre-Islamic festival of Persia, which was retained by the new Islamic rulers after the decline of the Sasanian Empire, with the Arab conquest in 651C.E. 

Sparklers in Words: Diwali in Literary Texts
 

…during the Dewali… the ignorant ones amongst Muslims, particularly the women, perform the ceremonies. They celebrate it like their own Id and send presents to their daughters and sisters…. They colour their pots… fill them with red rice and send them as presents. They attach much important and weight to this season…


These are the words of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi (1564-1624C.E.), a Hanafi jurist of the 16th century. This particular tract shows that Diwali was also celebrated by the common Muslim, outside the court. Jean de Thévenot, the French polyglot and traveller who visited India in the 17th century, chronicled the aristocratic celebration of Diwali. “The Gentiles being great lovers at Play of Dice, there is much Gaming, during the five Festival days… a vast deal of Money lost… and many People ruined.” According to historian R. Nath, Abu’l Fazl recorded the unique practice of lighting the aakaash diya, or the lamp of the sky using the Surajkrant, in Ain-e-Akbari:
 

At noon of the day when the sun entered the 19th degree of Aries, and the heat was the maximum, the (royal) servants exposed a round piece of shining stone (Surajkrant) to the sun’s rays. A piece of cotton was then held near it, which caught fire from the heat. This celestial fire was preserved in a vessel called Agingir (fire-pot) and committed to the care of an officer.


Besides the regular camphor candles (kufuri-shama) on candlesticks of gold and silver to illuminate the palace, the aakaash diya was lit atop a 40 yards high pole, fuelled by maunds of binaula, or cotton-seed oil.

The Divine Light


mage courtesy The Chester Beatty Library

The divine light is an integral part of the Mughal imperial ideology. In paintings depicting the emperor, the halo, borrowed from Christian iconography, surrounded the face of the sovereign from Jahangir’s time. Catherine Asher highlights the importance of the light imagery in Abu’l Fazl’s Akbarnama, in which Akbar is described as an emanation of God’s light. The canopy was believed to set apart the radiance of the legitimate, divinely-guided sovereign from that of the sun. In comparison to erstwhile Islamic rulers, who were called zill-e-ilahi, or the shadow of God on earth, Akbar was loftier — he was also the farr-i-izadi, or the light of God, and thus the perfect man, insaan-i kamil. In paintings, the sovereign’s divine effulgence is shown in contrast to the nefarious darkness of the masses. As John F. Richards points out, the light imagery is traced back to the Timurid-Mongol notions of kingship, in particular, to the myth of Aalnquwa, a Mughal (Mongol) princess "from whose forehead shone the lights of theosophy" (anwar khuda shinasi) and the "divine secrets" (asrar’ ilahi)." Legend has it that she got impregnated by a ray of light while sleeping in her tent, and the triplet born from this divine fertilisation was called nairun, or light-produced. According to Abu’l Fazl, this divine light travelled down from one generation to the next, and was manifested in the persona of Akbar. Though the divine light was not related to Diwali, it shows the imperium’s obsession with the light imagery, as a sacred source of legitimation. 

Ignitions in the Gunpowder Empire
Although the Mughal state is no longer seen as a "military patronage state", gunpowder and the artillery played a significant role in the making of the empire, which has been described as a "patchwork quilt". Stephen P. Blake writes that Dussehra and Diwali marked the beginning of the campaigning season, and a review of the horses and elephants of the imperial and noble households commenced the celebrations under Akbar and Jahangir. A similar military ritual, symbolic of the ruler’s power, was seen in the Mahanavami celebrations in the Vijayanagara Empire. Perhaps somewhere, there’s a connect between Mughal militarism and the celebration of Diwali. The gunpowder technology was invented in China, and the Mongols used it in warfare. Although Kaushik Roy opines that the Arthashastra bears reference to saltpetre, or agnichurna as the powder that creates fire, the technology got diffused to different parts of Eurasia with Mongol invasions, and the Chagatai Turks brought firearms to India. Tarikh-e-Ferishta, written in between 1606-07 C.E, mentions that the envoy of Hulegu Khan was welcomed with a pyrotechnics display on his arrival in Delhi in 1258 C.E. A blinding display of pyrotechnics or aatish bazi marked the Shab-i Barat and Diwali celebrations in Mughal India. In Calcutta, people still refer to firecrackers as "aatosh-baaji", a Bengalised version of the original Persian term.

 


In paintings like The Marriage Procession of Dara Shikoh (circa 1750 C.E.), currently in the National Museum, we see a series of firecrackers dazzling the dark sky. In another painting from the late 18th century by Hashim II, we see court ladies dressed in brocaded fineries, burning sparklers and watching fireworks from a riverside terrace-pavilion, with two gilded candelabra adding to the brightness of the celebration. The celebrations in Shahjahanabad escalated with the coming of Muhammad Shah ‘Rangile’. The gilded Rang-Mahal, with its enamelled and pietra dura artistry, became the venue for Diwali celebrations. His predecessors performed rituals borrowed from the Indic repertoire, like tula-daan or jashn-e-wazan, in which the king was weighed against materials and these materials were distributed amongst the poor. The tradition of chappan thal, which perhaps has its roots in the contemporaneous Krishna Bhakti practices of Braj, became a part of the Mughal cuisine. Sweets like ghevar, peda, jalebi, phirni, kheel and falooda were characteristic of the Diwali air. The Mughal dastarkhwan was laden with the choicest of dishes, just like in Naurouz. The Mughal Diwali or Jashn-e-Charaghan was extensively recorded in court muraqqas under the rule of Rangile. Fanoos or lanterns were released, and chiraghs or lamps illuminated the urban core of Shahjahanabad.

Diwali would begin with a ritual royal bath for which water was brought from seven holy wells, and the emperor was given an aromatic bath while pundits and maulanas chanted sacred hymns. Then the emperor, dressed in soft muslin, would visit the harem to meet his wives and concubines. In the court, his courtiers, according to their status in the administrative hierarchy, were supposed to present a symbolic tribute to the emperor, called nazrana. Though the celebrations suffered a setback during Nadir Shah’s invasion in 1739 C.E., the celebrations continued till the reign of Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’, notwithstanding the acute financial constraint and the shrinking resources of the empire. With the emergence of the regional or provincial Mughal courts, such as those in Awadh and Murshidabad,  in the 18th century, Jashn-e Charaghan became an integral part of these courts as well, in the wee days of colonialism. With the aroma of honey and almond wafting through the heavy air of decadence, the kufuri-shama casting silhouettes of a glorious past, and Nazeer Akbarabadi’s nazms resonating with a sense of coexistence, the last Mughal Diwalis were a curious confluence of tears and laughter.

 

Somok Roy studies history at Ramjas College, University of Delhi.

Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum

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Diwali has been celebrated by Muslims for centuries

Syncretism of Diwali- How Mughal emperors celebrated Diwali and contemporary Muslims celebrate today

22 Oct 2022

First published on:  26 Oct 2019


Hindu Muslim Celebrating Diwali
 
There is a lot of debate about bursting firecrackers on Diwali with regards to damage to the environment. Some defenders of firecrackers have made claims that firecracker ban on Diwali is anti-Hindu. So it might surprise some people to learn that the tradition actually has it roots in how Mughal emperors celebrated Diwali.
 
It was Muhammad bin Tughlaq, who ruled Delhi from 1324 to 1351, who became the first emperor to celebrate a Hindu festival inside his court. It was celebrated modestly with bonhomie and good food, organized by Tughlaq’s Hindu wives.

This tradition continued down generations till Akbar took the Mughal throne and insisted that Diwali become a grand festival in the Mughal court. The Rang Mahal in Red Fort was the designated centre for the royal celebrations of Jashn-e-Chiraghan (festival of lights) as Diwali was called then, and the festivities were carried out under the Mughal king himself.

Akbar also began the tradition of giving sweets as Diwali greetings.Chefs from across kingdoms cooked delicacies in the Mughal court for the occasion. The ghevar, petha, kheer, peda, jalebi, phirni and shahitukda became part of the celebratory thali that welcomed guests to the palace for Diwali celebrations. On Diwali in Akbar’s court, the Ramayana was read, followed by a play depicting Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya. This tradition strengthened Akbar’s empire, (noted by his biographer Abu’lFazl in Ain-i-Akbari), as it helped the king bond better with his Hindu subjects, and encouraged many Muslim merchants to take part in the festivities.

Shah Jahan took the celebrations a step further by incorporating Muslim new year festival “Navroz” into Diwali, making it a joint biggest festival of the empire. He invited chefs from all over India and imported ingredients from Persia, for the chefs to prepare the most decadent sweets for ChhappanThal (consisting of sweets from 56 kingdoms) which became a Diwali tradition. Aurangzeb also followed the tradition of sending sweets to noblemen on Diwali.

Another ritual that marked Diwali during the Mughal empirewas the traditional lighting of the Surajkrant, the empire’s permanent source of fire and light.According to historian R Nath, the process began at noon. When the sun entered the 19th degree of Aries, the royal servants exposed a round shining stone called the Surajkant to the sun’s rays. A piece of cotton was held near the stone, which would then catch fire from the heat. This celestial fire was preserved in a vessel called Agingir (fire-pot) and later used to light up “Akash Diya” (sky lamp) which was a giant lamp on top of a 40 yard high pole, supported by sixteen ropes.

Shah Jahanapparently began the Akash Diya tradition as an ode to religious harmony when he set up the city of Shahjahanabad.The tradition of fireworks during Diwaliis also attributed to Shah Jahan who put up an elaborate fireworks display on the banks of the Yamuna every Diwali.

Even the last of the Mughal emperors, Bahadur Shah Zafar organised plays to be performed around the theme of Diwali at the Red Fort, along with Laxmi Puja, which was opento public. Fireworks would also be set off near Jama Masjid, Delhi, for the occasion. William Dalrymple’s book, ‘The Last Mughal: The Fall of Delhi, 1857’, says, “Zafar would weigh himself against seven kinds of grain, gold, coral, etc and directed their distribution among the poor.” The Hindu officers were presented gifts on the special occasion.

In contemporary India, we see these traditions live on in the form of syncretic celebrations of Diwali by Muslims. From the lighting up of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai to decorations and diyas adorning the HazratNizammudinDargah in Delhi, Muslims are very much a part of Diwali celebrations of this nation. The dargah of Baba HazratMaqbool Hussein Madani near Shanivar Wada, Pune, has been decorated with diyas on every Diwali since twenty years, when a Hindu family in the area had requested to light a diya at the Dargah. Gradually, other people started following the practice and now every year, residents of Shanivar Wada collect money to buy diyas and decorations to light up this Dargah which was constructed in the 13th century.

Kammruddin Shah’s Dargah in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, has a similar story. Hindus and Muslims celebrate Diwali at this Dargah together to honour a 250 year old story of friendship between Sufi saint Kammruddin Shah and Hindu saint Chanchalnathji who used to meet in a cave that connected the Dargah and Chanchalnathji’sAashram. The residents believe it is their moral duty to continue the tradition of Hindu-Muslim unity by lighting diyas and fireworks together at the Dargah.

While the debate about fireworks rages on, people need to keep in mind that this is not a communal issue but an environmental one. Hindus and Muslims of India do not need to be mired in another divisive issue which has no roots in logic. We have celebrated and honoured Diwali together for centuries, and we need to follow the examples of friendship and harmony to unite for causes that matter. We are all building our next generation’s future right now, wouldn’t we want them to grow up in a nurturing, harmonious, and healthy environment?

This Diwali, if you choose to celebrate, read about environmental consciousness, air and noise pollution; and celebrate Diwali with your friends and neighbours irrespective of caste and religion. May the light from the diyas penetrate all our lives with warmth and love, Happy Diwali!
 
Related articles

  1. Toxic Air To Blame For Lung Cancer; No Longer Just A Smoker’s Disease
  2. Fireworks and Firearms: The Festival of Lights in the Mughal Court
  3. The colourful history of Holi and Islam
  4. Syncretic Spiritualism Comes Alive at Baba Boudhangiri: 15 Years of KKSV
  5. Piety and Noise Pollution, The Face Off - India 2005 

Diwali has been celebrated by Muslims for centuries

Syncretism of Diwali- How Mughal emperors celebrated Diwali and contemporary Muslims celebrate today

First published on:  26 Oct 2019


Hindu Muslim Celebrating Diwali
 
There is a lot of debate about bursting firecrackers on Diwali with regards to damage to the environment. Some defenders of firecrackers have made claims that firecracker ban on Diwali is anti-Hindu. So it might surprise some people to learn that the tradition actually has it roots in how Mughal emperors celebrated Diwali.
 
It was Muhammad bin Tughlaq, who ruled Delhi from 1324 to 1351, who became the first emperor to celebrate a Hindu festival inside his court. It was celebrated modestly with bonhomie and good food, organized by Tughlaq’s Hindu wives.

This tradition continued down generations till Akbar took the Mughal throne and insisted that Diwali become a grand festival in the Mughal court. The Rang Mahal in Red Fort was the designated centre for the royal celebrations of Jashn-e-Chiraghan (festival of lights) as Diwali was called then, and the festivities were carried out under the Mughal king himself.

Akbar also began the tradition of giving sweets as Diwali greetings.Chefs from across kingdoms cooked delicacies in the Mughal court for the occasion. The ghevar, petha, kheer, peda, jalebi, phirni and shahitukda became part of the celebratory thali that welcomed guests to the palace for Diwali celebrations. On Diwali in Akbar’s court, the Ramayana was read, followed by a play depicting Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya. This tradition strengthened Akbar’s empire, (noted by his biographer Abu’lFazl in Ain-i-Akbari), as it helped the king bond better with his Hindu subjects, and encouraged many Muslim merchants to take part in the festivities.

Shah Jahan took the celebrations a step further by incorporating Muslim new year festival “Navroz” into Diwali, making it a joint biggest festival of the empire. He invited chefs from all over India and imported ingredients from Persia, for the chefs to prepare the most decadent sweets for ChhappanThal (consisting of sweets from 56 kingdoms) which became a Diwali tradition. Aurangzeb also followed the tradition of sending sweets to noblemen on Diwali.

Another ritual that marked Diwali during the Mughal empirewas the traditional lighting of the Surajkrant, the empire’s permanent source of fire and light.According to historian R Nath, the process began at noon. When the sun entered the 19th degree of Aries, the royal servants exposed a round shining stone called the Surajkant to the sun’s rays. A piece of cotton was held near the stone, which would then catch fire from the heat. This celestial fire was preserved in a vessel called Agingir (fire-pot) and later used to light up “Akash Diya” (sky lamp) which was a giant lamp on top of a 40 yard high pole, supported by sixteen ropes.

Shah Jahanapparently began the Akash Diya tradition as an ode to religious harmony when he set up the city of Shahjahanabad.The tradition of fireworks during Diwaliis also attributed to Shah Jahan who put up an elaborate fireworks display on the banks of the Yamuna every Diwali.

Even the last of the Mughal emperors, Bahadur Shah Zafar organised plays to be performed around the theme of Diwali at the Red Fort, along with Laxmi Puja, which was opento public. Fireworks would also be set off near Jama Masjid, Delhi, for the occasion. William Dalrymple’s book, ‘The Last Mughal: The Fall of Delhi, 1857’, says, “Zafar would weigh himself against seven kinds of grain, gold, coral, etc and directed their distribution among the poor.” The Hindu officers were presented gifts on the special occasion.

In contemporary India, we see these traditions live on in the form of syncretic celebrations of Diwali by Muslims. From the lighting up of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai to decorations and diyas adorning the HazratNizammudinDargah in Delhi, Muslims are very much a part of Diwali celebrations of this nation. The dargah of Baba HazratMaqbool Hussein Madani near Shanivar Wada, Pune, has been decorated with diyas on every Diwali since twenty years, when a Hindu family in the area had requested to light a diya at the Dargah. Gradually, other people started following the practice and now every year, residents of Shanivar Wada collect money to buy diyas and decorations to light up this Dargah which was constructed in the 13th century.

Kammruddin Shah’s Dargah in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, has a similar story. Hindus and Muslims celebrate Diwali at this Dargah together to honour a 250 year old story of friendship between Sufi saint Kammruddin Shah and Hindu saint Chanchalnathji who used to meet in a cave that connected the Dargah and Chanchalnathji’sAashram. The residents believe it is their moral duty to continue the tradition of Hindu-Muslim unity by lighting diyas and fireworks together at the Dargah.

While the debate about fireworks rages on, people need to keep in mind that this is not a communal issue but an environmental one. Hindus and Muslims of India do not need to be mired in another divisive issue which has no roots in logic. We have celebrated and honoured Diwali together for centuries, and we need to follow the examples of friendship and harmony to unite for causes that matter. We are all building our next generation’s future right now, wouldn’t we want them to grow up in a nurturing, harmonious, and healthy environment?

This Diwali, if you choose to celebrate, read about environmental consciousness, air and noise pollution; and celebrate Diwali with your friends and neighbours irrespective of caste and religion. May the light from the diyas penetrate all our lives with warmth and love, Happy Diwali!
 
Related articles

  1. Toxic Air To Blame For Lung Cancer; No Longer Just A Smoker’s Disease
  2. Fireworks and Firearms: The Festival of Lights in the Mughal Court
  3. The colourful history of Holi and Islam
  4. Syncretic Spiritualism Comes Alive at Baba Boudhangiri: 15 Years of KKSV
  5. Piety and Noise Pollution, The Face Off - India 2005 

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Muslim man in Ayodhya takes lead in organising Durga Puja

Mohammad Taufeeq says that he considers it a matter of good fortune to serve and pray to Maa Durga with a sincere heart.

08 Oct 2022

Ayodhya
Image courtesy: TV9

The Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh has once again trumped the politics of religion flourishing in the country. As politicians continue to rake up contentious issues of temple-mosque, in Ayodhya for the last 17 years, Mohammad Taufeeq alias Mama Ji has been handling the responsibility of the General Secretary of Nav Durga Puja Committee. 

Motiganj market is at a distance of about 40 km from the district headquarters. A Shri Nav Durga Puja Committee has been constituted here for organising the annual Durga Puja. Its General Secretary is Mohammad Tawfiq alias Mama ji. Neither the Hindus here nor the Muslims have any problem with Mohammad Taufeeq being the General Secretary of the committee. During Navratri, Mohammad Taufeeq performs all the rituals required in the service of Goddess Durga - from the ritual placing the Durga’s statue to other religious rituals lasting nine days. His involvement from worship to aarti to decoration of the pandal to the distribution of ‘prasad’ is lauded by the local people who say it is difficult to tell him apart from a Hindu devotee. 

‘Humanity is the essence of life’

Mohammad Tawfiq says that he has always been in favor of humanity. Taufeeq says ,” religion is made to inspire humans. Religion is for giving good life and happiness to the society. One should not do any such work, which troubles anyone. This is humanity and so is religion”

Muslim man in Ayodhya takes lead in organising Durga Puja

Mohammad Taufeeq says that he considers it a matter of good fortune to serve and pray to Maa Durga with a sincere heart.

Ayodhya
Image courtesy: TV9

The Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh has once again trumped the politics of religion flourishing in the country. As politicians continue to rake up contentious issues of temple-mosque, in Ayodhya for the last 17 years, Mohammad Taufeeq alias Mama Ji has been handling the responsibility of the General Secretary of Nav Durga Puja Committee. 

Motiganj market is at a distance of about 40 km from the district headquarters. A Shri Nav Durga Puja Committee has been constituted here for organising the annual Durga Puja. Its General Secretary is Mohammad Tawfiq alias Mama ji. Neither the Hindus here nor the Muslims have any problem with Mohammad Taufeeq being the General Secretary of the committee. During Navratri, Mohammad Taufeeq performs all the rituals required in the service of Goddess Durga - from the ritual placing the Durga’s statue to other religious rituals lasting nine days. His involvement from worship to aarti to decoration of the pandal to the distribution of ‘prasad’ is lauded by the local people who say it is difficult to tell him apart from a Hindu devotee. 

‘Humanity is the essence of life’

Mohammad Tawfiq says that he has always been in favor of humanity. Taufeeq says ,” religion is made to inspire humans. Religion is for giving good life and happiness to the society. One should not do any such work, which troubles anyone. This is humanity and so is religion”

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Kaushambi: Muslims welcome Ram Dal performers and priests

When a traditional procession passed through a Muslim neighbourhood, residents offered participants refreshments

06 Oct 2022

Ram dalImage courtesy: Times of India


In yet another example of India’s syncretic culture and communal tolerance, Muslims of Kaushambi enthusiastically greeted Ram Dal procession performers during Dussera this year.

Ram Dal is a traditional procession that travels through different neighbourhoods as performers dressed as Hindu deities participate in a travelling play. Thirteen episodes of the Ram Leela are staged in different locations on different days.

Episodes like Lanka Dahan and Kuppi Yuddh (the final battle between Lord Ram and Ravan) are fan favourites, though unlike elsewhere where Ravan effigies are burnt on Dussera, in Kaushambi, the ritual is carried out on Ekadashi, or a day later.

The Ram Dal procession is part of a 200-year-old tradition that is still popular in the region and has over time become a symbol of communal harmony in Kaushambi. According to a report in Times of India, when a Ram Dal passed through the streets of Syed Wada (Dara Nagar), a Muslim neighbourhood, residents displayed Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb, and welcomed them with fruit and snacks.

Adya Prasad Pandey, president of Dara Nagar Milla Committee, told the publication, “It's an old-age tradition when people of Muslim community welcome the Ram Dal procession.” He also told the publication that the Dara Nagar Ram Leela was unique as all parts were played by children under 13 years of age. “Women also watch one of the Ram Leela episodes as all 13 episodes of the Dara Nagar Ram Leela are organized during day time,” he added.

When the Ram Dal procession with children dressed as Lord Ram, his brother Laxman and wife Sita arrived at Dara Nagar, Muslims associated with the local Anjuman committee greeted them with fruits and snacks. They also offered refreshments to the priests accompanying the procession.

After the communal clashes reported during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti festivals earlier this year from different parts of India, this warm welcome extended to the Ram Dal by the Muslims of Dara Nagar, sets an example of peaceful coexistence.

Related:

Everyday Harmony: A Muslim family to be among first to get puja prasad: Assam

Everyday Harmony: Members of Ganpati Visarjan procession pay respect to mosque

Everyday Harmony: Kashmiri Pandits welcome back Hajis with Na’at recital

Kaushambi: Muslims welcome Ram Dal performers and priests

When a traditional procession passed through a Muslim neighbourhood, residents offered participants refreshments

Ram dalImage courtesy: Times of India


In yet another example of India’s syncretic culture and communal tolerance, Muslims of Kaushambi enthusiastically greeted Ram Dal procession performers during Dussera this year.

Ram Dal is a traditional procession that travels through different neighbourhoods as performers dressed as Hindu deities participate in a travelling play. Thirteen episodes of the Ram Leela are staged in different locations on different days.

Episodes like Lanka Dahan and Kuppi Yuddh (the final battle between Lord Ram and Ravan) are fan favourites, though unlike elsewhere where Ravan effigies are burnt on Dussera, in Kaushambi, the ritual is carried out on Ekadashi, or a day later.

The Ram Dal procession is part of a 200-year-old tradition that is still popular in the region and has over time become a symbol of communal harmony in Kaushambi. According to a report in Times of India, when a Ram Dal passed through the streets of Syed Wada (Dara Nagar), a Muslim neighbourhood, residents displayed Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb, and welcomed them with fruit and snacks.

Adya Prasad Pandey, president of Dara Nagar Milla Committee, told the publication, “It's an old-age tradition when people of Muslim community welcome the Ram Dal procession.” He also told the publication that the Dara Nagar Ram Leela was unique as all parts were played by children under 13 years of age. “Women also watch one of the Ram Leela episodes as all 13 episodes of the Dara Nagar Ram Leela are organized during day time,” he added.

When the Ram Dal procession with children dressed as Lord Ram, his brother Laxman and wife Sita arrived at Dara Nagar, Muslims associated with the local Anjuman committee greeted them with fruits and snacks. They also offered refreshments to the priests accompanying the procession.

After the communal clashes reported during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti festivals earlier this year from different parts of India, this warm welcome extended to the Ram Dal by the Muslims of Dara Nagar, sets an example of peaceful coexistence.

Related:

Everyday Harmony: A Muslim family to be among first to get puja prasad: Assam

Everyday Harmony: Members of Ganpati Visarjan procession pay respect to mosque

Everyday Harmony: Kashmiri Pandits welcome back Hajis with Na’at recital

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Hindus, Muslims worship Durga in ‘no man’s land’: Assam

03 Oct 2022

Durga Puja
Representation Image

A collective Durga Pooja celebration, across a thin, artificial line, a black coiled barbed wire (border) in the no- man’s land” at Gobindapur and Manikpur villages in Assam’s  Karimganj district bordering Bangladesh reports The Times of India. Thirty-eight families, 36 Hindu and two Muslim are celebrating Durga Pooja without pomp or grandeur.

Both villages fall outside the fencing and have been  isolated from the mainland. Work on the 124-kilometre long barbed wire fencing began in 1994 in the Barak Valley areas of Assam. Undeterred, villagers have been together performing Durga Puja in the over 100-year-old Shiva temple which also falls in the “no man’s land”.

“The puja in the temple is being performed long before Partition. However, it was in 1984 that the families landed up here, “no man’s land” when the fence was erected. “We were isolated from the mainland. As we cannot visit the Indian mainland every now and then because of restrictions by the BSF, we, the 38 families, including the Muslims, continue to celebrate Durga Puja in the temple. We could not celebrate the last two years because of Covid-19 restrictions,” said the Durga Puja Committee president Sajal Namasudra.
Locals told TOI that the local BSF men belonging to the 7 battalion have been cooperating in every spare, including arranging in the area which is adjacent to Natagram areas of Sylhet division of Bangladesh. North Karimganj MLA Kamalaksha Dey Purkayasthya and members of a number NGOs have also helped, Namasudra said.

Yet another Durga Puja at Manikpur village in Karimganj which also falls in “no man’s land” between India and Bangladesh, has been hosting the 153rd year of the puja this year. The temple of Durga was established by Narandra Malakar, a landlord during the British period on his own land.Strangely, in the process of erecting the barbed wire in 1994, the temple was left on the “no man’s land”. The Indian villagers living on the Bangladesh side of the barbed wire fencing were rehabilitated in the mainland and the temple was left abandoned. “People couldn’t cross the gates due to BSF’s strict security measures. However, since 2011 with full cooperation of the BSF, locals renovated the abandoned temple and revived the puja,” said a functionary of Manikpur Durga Puja Committee.

BSF sources said Indian citizens living outside the fence are allowed to cross the gates by showing identity documents from 6 am to 11 am and from 1 pm to 5 pm every day. During Durga Puja, the BSF allows Indian villagers of Manikpur to cross the gates from 5 am to 5 pm. However, there’s no relaxation for villagers of Gobindapur during puja.

This district of Assam, Karimganj, shares about 94-km border with Bangladesh. People of many areas, including Lafasail, Gobindapur, Latukandi, Jarapata, Lafasail, Lamajuwar, Mahisashan, Kourbag, Deotali and Jobainpur have been living outside the border fence for decades.
Under the mutually agreed India-Bangladesh Border Guidelines for Border Authorities, 1975, no construction of permanent nature is allowed within 150 yards (137.16 metres) on either side of the international boundary, BSF sources said.

Hindus, Muslims worship Durga in ‘no man’s land’: Assam

Durga Puja
Representation Image

A collective Durga Pooja celebration, across a thin, artificial line, a black coiled barbed wire (border) in the no- man’s land” at Gobindapur and Manikpur villages in Assam’s  Karimganj district bordering Bangladesh reports The Times of India. Thirty-eight families, 36 Hindu and two Muslim are celebrating Durga Pooja without pomp or grandeur.

Both villages fall outside the fencing and have been  isolated from the mainland. Work on the 124-kilometre long barbed wire fencing began in 1994 in the Barak Valley areas of Assam. Undeterred, villagers have been together performing Durga Puja in the over 100-year-old Shiva temple which also falls in the “no man’s land”.

“The puja in the temple is being performed long before Partition. However, it was in 1984 that the families landed up here, “no man’s land” when the fence was erected. “We were isolated from the mainland. As we cannot visit the Indian mainland every now and then because of restrictions by the BSF, we, the 38 families, including the Muslims, continue to celebrate Durga Puja in the temple. We could not celebrate the last two years because of Covid-19 restrictions,” said the Durga Puja Committee president Sajal Namasudra.
Locals told TOI that the local BSF men belonging to the 7 battalion have been cooperating in every spare, including arranging in the area which is adjacent to Natagram areas of Sylhet division of Bangladesh. North Karimganj MLA Kamalaksha Dey Purkayasthya and members of a number NGOs have also helped, Namasudra said.

Yet another Durga Puja at Manikpur village in Karimganj which also falls in “no man’s land” between India and Bangladesh, has been hosting the 153rd year of the puja this year. The temple of Durga was established by Narandra Malakar, a landlord during the British period on his own land.Strangely, in the process of erecting the barbed wire in 1994, the temple was left on the “no man’s land”. The Indian villagers living on the Bangladesh side of the barbed wire fencing were rehabilitated in the mainland and the temple was left abandoned. “People couldn’t cross the gates due to BSF’s strict security measures. However, since 2011 with full cooperation of the BSF, locals renovated the abandoned temple and revived the puja,” said a functionary of Manikpur Durga Puja Committee.

BSF sources said Indian citizens living outside the fence are allowed to cross the gates by showing identity documents from 6 am to 11 am and from 1 pm to 5 pm every day. During Durga Puja, the BSF allows Indian villagers of Manikpur to cross the gates from 5 am to 5 pm. However, there’s no relaxation for villagers of Gobindapur during puja.

This district of Assam, Karimganj, shares about 94-km border with Bangladesh. People of many areas, including Lafasail, Gobindapur, Latukandi, Jarapata, Lafasail, Lamajuwar, Mahisashan, Kourbag, Deotali and Jobainpur have been living outside the border fence for decades.
Under the mutually agreed India-Bangladesh Border Guidelines for Border Authorities, 1975, no construction of permanent nature is allowed within 150 yards (137.16 metres) on either side of the international boundary, BSF sources said.

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