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SC dismisses Syed Waseem Rizvi’s PIL that sought deletion of certain verses from the Holy Quran

Former chairperson of Shia Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, Rizvi had asked that certain verses of the holy book that he alleged “promote extremism” be deleted

12 Apr 2021

Image Courtesy:indianexpress.com

The Supreme Court of India has dismissed the controversial public interest litigation (PIL) which sought deletion of certain verses from the Holy Quran which the petitioner Syaed Wseem, former chairperson of the Shia Waqf Board, alleged “violate the law of the land and promote extremism”. According to a report in the Bar and Bench, the case: Syed Waseem Rizvi v. Union of India, was heard by a Bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy which not only dismissed the PIL but also imposed costs of Rs. 50,000 on the petitioner Rizvi.

A former chairperson of Shia Central Board of Waqf, Uttar Pradesh, Rizvi, had alleged that certain verses in the Quran promote violence and are “a threat” to the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the country. He sought “a declaration from the court to hold those verses unconstitutional, non-effective and non-functional” stated the report. His plea also sought directions from the SC to appoint a committee of religious experts to get an opinion on the subject matter of the petition.

On March 11, Waseem Rizvi, the former Chairman of the Shia Waqf Board, filed this petition in the Supreme Court seeking that “26 verses of the Quran be removed”. Rizvi in his petition, has stated that the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, has “some verses that are used to promote terrorism, violence, jihad”. In an interview with Aaj Tak, Rizvi claimed that these verses were added to the Quran later. Rizvi, who is known to be close to the right wing politicians, told the news channel that these “verses were added to the Quran, by the first three Caliphs, to aid the expansion of Islam by war.” 

Rizvi, had reportedly alleged that few of the messages written in Holy Quran, are negative and promote violence and hatred. According to the plea, “Verse 9 Surah 5, is negative and promotes violence and hatred.” The B&B reported that verse read: “But once the Sacred Months have passed, kill the polytheists ˹who violated their treaties˺ wherever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them on every way. But if they repent, perform prayers, and pay alms-tax, then set them free. Indeed, Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” And Rizvi submitted that the message written in (a) to (e) of number 42(1) makes it clear that Allah is giving a message to every human being not to fight among themselves, not to quarrel with each other, not to kill anyone and not to disagree with followers of other religions, as preached in the 109.1 Holy Quran which mentions “LakumDeenakumWaliyaDeen” or “To you , your religion, to me mine” as the basic tenet of Islam based on the concept of tolerance and brotherhood among people coming from different religions.

According to news reports the plea stated that the matter involves the “entire Muslim community at large, which is subject to ridicule worldwide on account of the interpretation of the said verses, which have no basis or nexus with the objects which the holy book aims to achieve.”

Waseem Rizvi does not enjoy support within the Muslim community. He was in fact disowned and boycotted by both the Shia Clergy and laity in the past. In 2018, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, a top Shia cleric had said that Rizvi, who was then the Chairman of UP Shia Waqf Board had been “excommunicated” for not heeding to a fatwa issued by Iraq’s top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. News18 had quoted Maulana Jawwad as saying “Shias all around the world are facing embarrassment because of the statements made by Waseem Rizvi. People like Rizvi are working against Islam either under pressure or just to please their masters.” Rizvi had been put in the dock making ‘Ramjanmbhoomi’, a deeply provocative and communally polarising film in 2018. 

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) had sought an unconditional apology from the former Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi for his derogatory comments against the Quran. The Commission has issued a notice to Rizvi telling him to withdraw his comments and tender an “unconditional apology” within 21 days. The NCM stated, "The comments given in the media by you about deletion of certain verses from the Quran are highly provocative, objectionable and malicious, prejudicial to maintenance of peace and harmony, with intent to outrage the religious feelings of a particular community and to insult the particular religion." The NCM observed that Rizvi’s remarks appear to be a well-thought conspiracy to disturb the communal harmony of the country.

Related:

Koran, Madrassas and Terrorism
Waseem Rizvi’s Challenge an Opportunity for Ulema 
Withdraw comments against Quran, apologise: National Commission for 
What will Waseem Rizvi gain by antagonising the Muslim community?
Modi Yogi’s UP Shia Waqf Board Chief in the dock for Controversial Ayodhya Film
Jamiat slaps Rs 20 crore defamation suit against UP Shia Waqf Board Chairman 

SC dismisses Syed Waseem Rizvi’s PIL that sought deletion of certain verses from the Holy Quran

Former chairperson of Shia Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, Rizvi had asked that certain verses of the holy book that he alleged “promote extremism” be deleted

Image Courtesy:indianexpress.com

The Supreme Court of India has dismissed the controversial public interest litigation (PIL) which sought deletion of certain verses from the Holy Quran which the petitioner Syaed Wseem, former chairperson of the Shia Waqf Board, alleged “violate the law of the land and promote extremism”. According to a report in the Bar and Bench, the case: Syed Waseem Rizvi v. Union of India, was heard by a Bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy which not only dismissed the PIL but also imposed costs of Rs. 50,000 on the petitioner Rizvi.

A former chairperson of Shia Central Board of Waqf, Uttar Pradesh, Rizvi, had alleged that certain verses in the Quran promote violence and are “a threat” to the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the country. He sought “a declaration from the court to hold those verses unconstitutional, non-effective and non-functional” stated the report. His plea also sought directions from the SC to appoint a committee of religious experts to get an opinion on the subject matter of the petition.

On March 11, Waseem Rizvi, the former Chairman of the Shia Waqf Board, filed this petition in the Supreme Court seeking that “26 verses of the Quran be removed”. Rizvi in his petition, has stated that the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, has “some verses that are used to promote terrorism, violence, jihad”. In an interview with Aaj Tak, Rizvi claimed that these verses were added to the Quran later. Rizvi, who is known to be close to the right wing politicians, told the news channel that these “verses were added to the Quran, by the first three Caliphs, to aid the expansion of Islam by war.” 

Rizvi, had reportedly alleged that few of the messages written in Holy Quran, are negative and promote violence and hatred. According to the plea, “Verse 9 Surah 5, is negative and promotes violence and hatred.” The B&B reported that verse read: “But once the Sacred Months have passed, kill the polytheists ˹who violated their treaties˺ wherever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them on every way. But if they repent, perform prayers, and pay alms-tax, then set them free. Indeed, Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” And Rizvi submitted that the message written in (a) to (e) of number 42(1) makes it clear that Allah is giving a message to every human being not to fight among themselves, not to quarrel with each other, not to kill anyone and not to disagree with followers of other religions, as preached in the 109.1 Holy Quran which mentions “LakumDeenakumWaliyaDeen” or “To you , your religion, to me mine” as the basic tenet of Islam based on the concept of tolerance and brotherhood among people coming from different religions.

According to news reports the plea stated that the matter involves the “entire Muslim community at large, which is subject to ridicule worldwide on account of the interpretation of the said verses, which have no basis or nexus with the objects which the holy book aims to achieve.”

Waseem Rizvi does not enjoy support within the Muslim community. He was in fact disowned and boycotted by both the Shia Clergy and laity in the past. In 2018, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, a top Shia cleric had said that Rizvi, who was then the Chairman of UP Shia Waqf Board had been “excommunicated” for not heeding to a fatwa issued by Iraq’s top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. News18 had quoted Maulana Jawwad as saying “Shias all around the world are facing embarrassment because of the statements made by Waseem Rizvi. People like Rizvi are working against Islam either under pressure or just to please their masters.” Rizvi had been put in the dock making ‘Ramjanmbhoomi’, a deeply provocative and communally polarising film in 2018. 

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) had sought an unconditional apology from the former Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi for his derogatory comments against the Quran. The Commission has issued a notice to Rizvi telling him to withdraw his comments and tender an “unconditional apology” within 21 days. The NCM stated, "The comments given in the media by you about deletion of certain verses from the Quran are highly provocative, objectionable and malicious, prejudicial to maintenance of peace and harmony, with intent to outrage the religious feelings of a particular community and to insult the particular religion." The NCM observed that Rizvi’s remarks appear to be a well-thought conspiracy to disturb the communal harmony of the country.

Related:

Koran, Madrassas and Terrorism
Waseem Rizvi’s Challenge an Opportunity for Ulema 
Withdraw comments against Quran, apologise: National Commission for 
What will Waseem Rizvi gain by antagonising the Muslim community?
Modi Yogi’s UP Shia Waqf Board Chief in the dock for Controversial Ayodhya Film
Jamiat slaps Rs 20 crore defamation suit against UP Shia Waqf Board Chairman 

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Not surprised about ASI being asked to survey Gyanvapi complex: SM Yaseen

In an exclusive interview to senior research scholar Dr. Muniza Khan, SM Yaseen responds to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Kashi Vishwanath temple - Gyanvapi mosque compound in Varanasi

10 Apr 2021

Maulana Yasin

“We weren’t surprised by this order at all. In fact, we were expecting it,” says SM Yaseen responding to an order by a Varanasi court directing the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to survey the complex where two religious structures stand: The Gyanvapi mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath temple. SM Yaseen is the general secretary of the Anjuman Intizamiya Masjid committee.

The order to conduct a survey stems from a plea filed in 2019 by local advocate VS Rastogi, who demanded that the land upon which the mosque was constructed be returned to Hindus.

“The Allahabad High Court had given a stay order, meaning a hearing could not be conducted in the case. But the lower court still conducted hearings in the case. The judge also shot down our request for the case to be presented before the Waqf tribunal,” says SM Yaseen referring to the decision of the Civil Judge, Fast Track Court.

“Between January 18 and March 12 arguments were on in the High Court in connection with the stay order case by all parties including the Sunni Central Board and the Anjuman Intazamia Masazid. The judgment was reserved and was expected After April 5, but there was a lockdown due to Covid,” he explains. “On April 6, we moved another application before the High Court requesting that the lower court be restrained from delivering any order in the case while the High Court judgement remained reserved and this application was to be heard on April 9. But the hearing could not take place, perhaps due to Covid. Meanwhile, the lower court went ahead and passed its order,” he says.

Misinformation being spread

He is also disturbed by the misinformation being spread about the matter. “The well inside the mosque complex is different from the ‘kup’ on the temple side. The mosque well is used to provide water for performing wazu (ritual cleaning before offering prayers). The Gyanvapi ‘kup’ is a separate well located near the Nandi statue,” explains SM Yaseen adding, “We do not use its water. I don’t even know if it has water. The mosque water does not go there, the ‘kup’ water does not come here, they are both separate.”

This map shows the temple-mosque complex including plot 9130 that according to SM Yaseen, is the mosque plot.

Gyanvapi

He now fears communal conflagration. “There will be tension, the law and order situation could deteriorate,” he says.

Multiple petitions admitted by courts

It is noteworthy that years ago the ASI had conducted a similar survey at the site of the Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid complex in Ayodhya.

It is also noteworthy that the chorus to “return the land to Hindus” grew louder in connection with the Gyanvapi complex after the Supreme Court passed its judgment in the Ayodhya case. Multiple petitions have been filed making demands ranging from restoration of the temple and worship activities to outright return of the land upon which the mosque stands.

“We had accepted the court’s judgement in the Ayodhya case hoping for peace in future. But now several new petitions have been filed over the last few weeks including one by Sudhir Singh,” says SM Yaseen.

Sudhir Singh is a politician from Uttar Pradesh who had famously proclaimed last year that he would have “liberated Gyanvapi had the lockdown not played spoilsport.” He had made the announcement at Assi Ghat on Mahashivratri in 2020 and was also arrested and sent to jail briefly for the same. He had stirred controversy earlier too when he announced a Dandavat Yatra from Sankatmochan temple to Gyanvyapi mosque, the procession was to pass through several Muslim neighbourhoods.

SM Yaseen asks, “What’s the point in filing all these petitions? When provisions of the Places of Worship Act are in effect, why would we give away the land?” He further asks, “If we can respect the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya judgment, then why can’t they accept the same court’s directions with respect to the Places of Worship Act?”

According to Section 3 of the Places of Worship Act, “No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.”

He wonders aloud, “If they want to challenge the Places of Worship Act, should we also challenge the Babri judgement?” It is noteworthy that when it comes to the criminal case related to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a Revision Application has been filed before the Allahabad High Court against the CBI special court's decision to acquit all accused in the case. The appeal has been filed against the September 30, 2020 judgment passed by Special CBI court, Lucknow.

Meanwhile, the Gyanvapi mosque authorities are planning to move High Court against the Varanasi Court’s order for an ASI survey.

Related:

Years after Ramjanmabhoomi, ASI to survey Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath complex

"Temple restoration" suits on the rise; what about the Places of Worship Act?

CBI court's Babri Masjid demolition judgment challenged 

Are Kashi-Mathura mosques in the crosshairs of hardliners again?

 

Not surprised about ASI being asked to survey Gyanvapi complex: SM Yaseen

In an exclusive interview to senior research scholar Dr. Muniza Khan, SM Yaseen responds to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Kashi Vishwanath temple - Gyanvapi mosque compound in Varanasi

Maulana Yasin

“We weren’t surprised by this order at all. In fact, we were expecting it,” says SM Yaseen responding to an order by a Varanasi court directing the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to survey the complex where two religious structures stand: The Gyanvapi mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath temple. SM Yaseen is the general secretary of the Anjuman Intizamiya Masjid committee.

The order to conduct a survey stems from a plea filed in 2019 by local advocate VS Rastogi, who demanded that the land upon which the mosque was constructed be returned to Hindus.

“The Allahabad High Court had given a stay order, meaning a hearing could not be conducted in the case. But the lower court still conducted hearings in the case. The judge also shot down our request for the case to be presented before the Waqf tribunal,” says SM Yaseen referring to the decision of the Civil Judge, Fast Track Court.

“Between January 18 and March 12 arguments were on in the High Court in connection with the stay order case by all parties including the Sunni Central Board and the Anjuman Intazamia Masazid. The judgment was reserved and was expected After April 5, but there was a lockdown due to Covid,” he explains. “On April 6, we moved another application before the High Court requesting that the lower court be restrained from delivering any order in the case while the High Court judgement remained reserved and this application was to be heard on April 9. But the hearing could not take place, perhaps due to Covid. Meanwhile, the lower court went ahead and passed its order,” he says.

Misinformation being spread

He is also disturbed by the misinformation being spread about the matter. “The well inside the mosque complex is different from the ‘kup’ on the temple side. The mosque well is used to provide water for performing wazu (ritual cleaning before offering prayers). The Gyanvapi ‘kup’ is a separate well located near the Nandi statue,” explains SM Yaseen adding, “We do not use its water. I don’t even know if it has water. The mosque water does not go there, the ‘kup’ water does not come here, they are both separate.”

This map shows the temple-mosque complex including plot 9130 that according to SM Yaseen, is the mosque plot.

Gyanvapi

He now fears communal conflagration. “There will be tension, the law and order situation could deteriorate,” he says.

Multiple petitions admitted by courts

It is noteworthy that years ago the ASI had conducted a similar survey at the site of the Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid complex in Ayodhya.

It is also noteworthy that the chorus to “return the land to Hindus” grew louder in connection with the Gyanvapi complex after the Supreme Court passed its judgment in the Ayodhya case. Multiple petitions have been filed making demands ranging from restoration of the temple and worship activities to outright return of the land upon which the mosque stands.

“We had accepted the court’s judgement in the Ayodhya case hoping for peace in future. But now several new petitions have been filed over the last few weeks including one by Sudhir Singh,” says SM Yaseen.

Sudhir Singh is a politician from Uttar Pradesh who had famously proclaimed last year that he would have “liberated Gyanvapi had the lockdown not played spoilsport.” He had made the announcement at Assi Ghat on Mahashivratri in 2020 and was also arrested and sent to jail briefly for the same. He had stirred controversy earlier too when he announced a Dandavat Yatra from Sankatmochan temple to Gyanvyapi mosque, the procession was to pass through several Muslim neighbourhoods.

SM Yaseen asks, “What’s the point in filing all these petitions? When provisions of the Places of Worship Act are in effect, why would we give away the land?” He further asks, “If we can respect the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya judgment, then why can’t they accept the same court’s directions with respect to the Places of Worship Act?”

According to Section 3 of the Places of Worship Act, “No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.”

He wonders aloud, “If they want to challenge the Places of Worship Act, should we also challenge the Babri judgement?” It is noteworthy that when it comes to the criminal case related to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a Revision Application has been filed before the Allahabad High Court against the CBI special court's decision to acquit all accused in the case. The appeal has been filed against the September 30, 2020 judgment passed by Special CBI court, Lucknow.

Meanwhile, the Gyanvapi mosque authorities are planning to move High Court against the Varanasi Court’s order for an ASI survey.

Related:

Years after Ramjanmabhoomi, ASI to survey Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath complex

"Temple restoration" suits on the rise; what about the Places of Worship Act?

CBI court's Babri Masjid demolition judgment challenged 

Are Kashi-Mathura mosques in the crosshairs of hardliners again?

 

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Years after Ramjanmabhoomi, ASI to survey Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath complex

Court was hearing plea demanding return of said premises to Hindus, orders UP government to bear cost of survey

08 Apr 2021

Gyanvapi

A Varanasi court has greenlighted a survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque – Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will conduct the survey and the Uttar Pradesh government will bear costs of the same.

The order was passed in connection with a plea filed by local lawyer VS Rastogi, who demanded that the land upon which the mosque was constructed be returned to Hindus. Developments have picked up pace in the temple-mosque land dispute case in the recent months.

Brief background

For decades, the land dispute between the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque has been fodder for controversy and hate mongering by right wing supremacist groups, not very unlike the Ayodhya dispute.

It is alleged that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had razed the temple in 1664 and the mosque was built on its ruins using the temple’s debris. Hostilities simmered over time and the dispute went to court when the title suit was filed in 1991. The two parties in this case were Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust (KVMT) and the Anjuman Intazamia Masjid (AIM). But back then, the Allahabad High Court had imposed a temporary stay on hearings in the case via an order dated October 13, 1998.

However, on February 4, 2020, a local court decided to commence hearings in the case stating that the HC’s order had not been extended within six months with a separate order, and that therefore the stay was deemed to have been vacated. In March 2020, the Allahabad High Court had stayed the Varanasi court’s order to commence hearing and ordered that the stay be maintained.

Petitions in the courts in 2021

It may be recalled that on February 18, a suit seeking “restoration of performance of rituals at the principal seat of an Ancient Temple at the Gyanvapi mosque area” was filed before a district court. The suit stated that every citizen has a fundamental right to perform pooja, worship and rituals according to the tenets of his religion within the ambit of Article 25 and any obstacle created before January 26, 1950 has become null and void by virtue of Article 13(1). Therefore, the plea states, “An idol worshipper cannot complete his pooja and gain spiritual advantages without having objects of worship. Any hindrance/ obstacle created in performance of pooja, is denial of right to religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India”. This suit has been filed by ten individuals acting as next friends of deities claimed to be existing in the mosque precincts including Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh and Lord Shiva.

It is also noteworthy that on March 11, the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Kumud Lata Tripathi had issued notice to Central government, UP government, Varanasi District Magistrate, Senior Superintendent of Police, Varanasi, UP Muslim Personal Law Board, mosque management- Anjuman Intazamia and Board of trustees of Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The court had also fixed April 2 as the date for filing written statements and April 9 for framing of issues.

Meanwhile, on March 13, BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 as it bars remedies against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimages prior to August 15, 1947. The petition asserts that the law has created an arbitrary, irrational retrospective cut-off date and in the process has legalised the illegal acts of invaders who encroached upon religious institutions back in the day. The plea submits that the provisions of the law, particularly, section 2,3 and 4 take away rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to reclaim their places of worship through Courts. A bench of CJI SA Bode and Justice AS Bopanna issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Culture.

Then on March 18, the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Mahendra Kumar Singh has admitted a new petition related to the case. The new plea demands that an area of the Adi Vishweshwar temple, that is currently deemed ‘occupied’ by the petitioner, be freed, and that the portion of the temple that was demolished on the instructions of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, be rebuilt. The court has now issued notice to the Union of India, Uttar Pradesh Government, the district administration, Varanasi SSP, UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee and Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust making them respondents in the case.

Related:

Gyan Vapi case: New petition admitted, notice issued

Gyanvapi well becomes part of Kashi-Vishwanath temple

Gyanvyapi mosque case: Suit filed in Varanasi court for restoration of temple

Years after Ramjanmabhoomi, ASI to survey Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath complex

Court was hearing plea demanding return of said premises to Hindus, orders UP government to bear cost of survey

Gyanvapi

A Varanasi court has greenlighted a survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque – Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will conduct the survey and the Uttar Pradesh government will bear costs of the same.

The order was passed in connection with a plea filed by local lawyer VS Rastogi, who demanded that the land upon which the mosque was constructed be returned to Hindus. Developments have picked up pace in the temple-mosque land dispute case in the recent months.

Brief background

For decades, the land dispute between the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque has been fodder for controversy and hate mongering by right wing supremacist groups, not very unlike the Ayodhya dispute.

It is alleged that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had razed the temple in 1664 and the mosque was built on its ruins using the temple’s debris. Hostilities simmered over time and the dispute went to court when the title suit was filed in 1991. The two parties in this case were Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust (KVMT) and the Anjuman Intazamia Masjid (AIM). But back then, the Allahabad High Court had imposed a temporary stay on hearings in the case via an order dated October 13, 1998.

However, on February 4, 2020, a local court decided to commence hearings in the case stating that the HC’s order had not been extended within six months with a separate order, and that therefore the stay was deemed to have been vacated. In March 2020, the Allahabad High Court had stayed the Varanasi court’s order to commence hearing and ordered that the stay be maintained.

Petitions in the courts in 2021

It may be recalled that on February 18, a suit seeking “restoration of performance of rituals at the principal seat of an Ancient Temple at the Gyanvapi mosque area” was filed before a district court. The suit stated that every citizen has a fundamental right to perform pooja, worship and rituals according to the tenets of his religion within the ambit of Article 25 and any obstacle created before January 26, 1950 has become null and void by virtue of Article 13(1). Therefore, the plea states, “An idol worshipper cannot complete his pooja and gain spiritual advantages without having objects of worship. Any hindrance/ obstacle created in performance of pooja, is denial of right to religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India”. This suit has been filed by ten individuals acting as next friends of deities claimed to be existing in the mosque precincts including Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh and Lord Shiva.

It is also noteworthy that on March 11, the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Kumud Lata Tripathi had issued notice to Central government, UP government, Varanasi District Magistrate, Senior Superintendent of Police, Varanasi, UP Muslim Personal Law Board, mosque management- Anjuman Intazamia and Board of trustees of Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The court had also fixed April 2 as the date for filing written statements and April 9 for framing of issues.

Meanwhile, on March 13, BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 as it bars remedies against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimages prior to August 15, 1947. The petition asserts that the law has created an arbitrary, irrational retrospective cut-off date and in the process has legalised the illegal acts of invaders who encroached upon religious institutions back in the day. The plea submits that the provisions of the law, particularly, section 2,3 and 4 take away rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to reclaim their places of worship through Courts. A bench of CJI SA Bode and Justice AS Bopanna issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Culture.

Then on March 18, the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Mahendra Kumar Singh has admitted a new petition related to the case. The new plea demands that an area of the Adi Vishweshwar temple, that is currently deemed ‘occupied’ by the petitioner, be freed, and that the portion of the temple that was demolished on the instructions of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, be rebuilt. The court has now issued notice to the Union of India, Uttar Pradesh Government, the district administration, Varanasi SSP, UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee and Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust making them respondents in the case.

Related:

Gyan Vapi case: New petition admitted, notice issued

Gyanvapi well becomes part of Kashi-Vishwanath temple

Gyanvyapi mosque case: Suit filed in Varanasi court for restoration of temple

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UP police file 5,000-page chargesheet against Siddique Kappan

The police have alleged that Kappan and others received about Rs. 80 lakhs from financial institutions in Doha and Muscat to create unrest in the state

06 Apr 2021

Siddique Kappan

The Uttar Pradesh Police have filed a charge sheet against Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan and others, including Popular Front of India’s (PFI) students’ wing leader K A Rauf Sherif, reported LiveLaw.

Campus Front of India’s (CFI) National General Secretary, Sherif, CFI National Treasurer Atikur Rahman, Delhi CFI General Secretary Masud Ahmed, Kappan and Mohammed Alam, who is a member of the CFI and the PFI, were all reportedly present in the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Anil Kumar Pandey.

Special Task Force official Vinod Sirohi told the Scroll.in, “The documents contain details of our investigation and our findings against the persons who were arrested while on their way to Hathras and others.”

According to an Indian Express report, the chargesheet lists more than 50 witnesses to support the police charges. The UP police alleged that Kappan and others received funds totalling almost Rs. 80 lakhs from financial institutions in Doha and Muscat to create unrest in the state, as per The Hindu. They claimed that incriminating evidence was recovered from the laptops and mobile phones of the accused persons.

As per some media sources, Defence counsel Madhuban Dutt said that the 5000-page charge-sheet has been filed against the eight accused and they will consider moving the High Court after going through it.

All accused have been charge sheeted under sections 153 (A) (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), 124(A) (sedition), 295 (A) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 17 (punishing for raising funds for terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.  

Siddique Kappan, along with Atikur Rahman, Masud and Alam were arrested on October 5 last year, while they were on their way to Hathras to cover the alleged rape of the 19 year old Dalit girl.  

The police claimed that they were all PFI activists and their student wing (Campus Front of India) leaders were going to Hathras under the garb of journalism with a very “determined design to create a caste divide and disturb law and order situation.” In February, 2021, Siddique Kappan was granted interim bail for five days to meet his ailing 90-year-old mother in the hospital by the Supreme Court.

Related:

SC grants 5 days interim bail for Siddique Kappan to meet his ailing mother

Siddique Kappan used “journalist cover” to disrupt law & order: UP Gov’t to SC

Muslim journalist, 3 others arrested near Hathras, booked under sedition law

UP police file 5,000-page chargesheet against Siddique Kappan

The police have alleged that Kappan and others received about Rs. 80 lakhs from financial institutions in Doha and Muscat to create unrest in the state

Siddique Kappan

The Uttar Pradesh Police have filed a charge sheet against Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan and others, including Popular Front of India’s (PFI) students’ wing leader K A Rauf Sherif, reported LiveLaw.

Campus Front of India’s (CFI) National General Secretary, Sherif, CFI National Treasurer Atikur Rahman, Delhi CFI General Secretary Masud Ahmed, Kappan and Mohammed Alam, who is a member of the CFI and the PFI, were all reportedly present in the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Anil Kumar Pandey.

Special Task Force official Vinod Sirohi told the Scroll.in, “The documents contain details of our investigation and our findings against the persons who were arrested while on their way to Hathras and others.”

According to an Indian Express report, the chargesheet lists more than 50 witnesses to support the police charges. The UP police alleged that Kappan and others received funds totalling almost Rs. 80 lakhs from financial institutions in Doha and Muscat to create unrest in the state, as per The Hindu. They claimed that incriminating evidence was recovered from the laptops and mobile phones of the accused persons.

As per some media sources, Defence counsel Madhuban Dutt said that the 5000-page charge-sheet has been filed against the eight accused and they will consider moving the High Court after going through it.

All accused have been charge sheeted under sections 153 (A) (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), 124(A) (sedition), 295 (A) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 17 (punishing for raising funds for terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.  

Siddique Kappan, along with Atikur Rahman, Masud and Alam were arrested on October 5 last year, while they were on their way to Hathras to cover the alleged rape of the 19 year old Dalit girl.  

The police claimed that they were all PFI activists and their student wing (Campus Front of India) leaders were going to Hathras under the garb of journalism with a very “determined design to create a caste divide and disturb law and order situation.” In February, 2021, Siddique Kappan was granted interim bail for five days to meet his ailing 90-year-old mother in the hospital by the Supreme Court.

Related:

SC grants 5 days interim bail for Siddique Kappan to meet his ailing mother

Siddique Kappan used “journalist cover” to disrupt law & order: UP Gov’t to SC

Muslim journalist, 3 others arrested near Hathras, booked under sedition law

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Nun harassment: Two Sangh Parivar members arrested, main accused still at large

Four ABVP members who had falsely accused the nuns of conducting forced conversions, and harassed them in a train at Jhansi station, are yet to be booked 

03 Apr 2021

Nun harassment

Weeks after two Catholic nuns, and two young women who want to study to be nuns, were harassed, intimidated at Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, marched to a police station on false accusations by a big Hindutva mob, the police have arrested two men in connection with the crime. According to a report in the Telegraph, the two men arrested are both members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Bajrang Dal, groups that fall under the broader Sangh Parivar, and were a part of the massive mob that was seen on a video clip harassing the four women in the train, and at the Jhansi station.

According to the report, the GRP “hurriedly registered a case against Jhansi district VHP general secretary Anchal Adjaria and district Bajrang Dal vice-president Purukesh Amarya and arrested them.” Adjaria and Amarya had rushed to Jhansi Junction after receiving calls from the ABVP youths and allegedly “told the GRP they had confirmed information that the women were involved in conversions,” stated news reports.

The Hindutva mob was said to have consisted of men, reportedly from the Bajrang Dal forced their way into a train and harassed the nuns and the young women passengers travelling together. The senior nuns were in their ‘habit’ or traditional nun’s uniform that identified them as members of a  congregation, the young women, who were soon to join a convent were in regular salwar kameez. The mob harassed the women, accused the nuns of conversion and demanded that the police remove them from the train. The police complied. The nuns were marched to a police station, even as the mob continued heckling them. They were later released when they ‘proved their innocence’ as it were and showed the relevant papers that were sent from their headquarters in Delhi. 

However, the March 19 crime was widely reported and became a talking point in poll-bound Kerala. The video clip went viral and the message reached the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) loud and clear. At an election rally in Kerala Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured “strong action” soon after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to him and raised the issue. He had said, “I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest”.  Shah had been alerted on the matter BJP’s Kanjirappally Assembly candidate K J Alphonse who had submitted a memorandum addressed to Shah stating, “Such incidents perpetrated by fringe elements and groups create a sense of insecurity in our minority community.” According to a report in the Indian Express, Kerala BJP general secretary George Kurian had written to UP CM Yogi Adityanath on the issue. 

In a speech, Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi, had said the harassment of the nuns was due to “the vicious propaganda run by the Sangh Parivar to pitch one community against another and trample the minorities”. 

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party politician, the Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had “dismissed” the allegations that the nuns and the postulants had been attacked in the train journey when it had halted at Jhansi, recently and alleged that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was “making false statements” on the issue. Goyal told a press conference in Kochi, Kerala that “There was no attack on any nun whatsoever…the Chief Minister of the state (Kerala) is completely lying and making false statements when he says that.” Goyal told the media that the local police acted after receiving a complaint against the nuns, “There was an allegation. Some people made a complaint (against the nuns). It is the duty of the police to find out whether the complaint is correct or wrong. Police made enquiries. Checked all their documents, made enquiries (to ensure) that they are genuine passengers going for the correct purpose and then immediately let them go.” He had also dismissed the allegations that the accused were student activists associated with the Sangh Parivar, saying, “That is absolutely wrong.”

Now, according to news reports only two persons have been arrested so far and the main accused — four ABVP members have not even been booked yet. The Telegraph reported that the Government Railway Police (GRP) force “eventually acted on Thursday night after a prod from Shah’s ministry to the state government.”

It was reported that the GRP had forced the four women off the Utkal Express and detained them for four hours at Jhansi Junction on March 19 on the false complaint from the four ABVP members, who were travelling on the same coach as the women. However the GRP are yet to explain why the four ABVP members who had allegedly bullied the women on the train, levelled the false allegation of conversions, and got the GRP to detain the quartet have not been arrested yet. 

According to Telegraph, senior officials on conditions of anonymity have admitted that the ABVP youths should “be booked for promoting hatred between religious groups — punishable by up to three years in jail” and added that the GRP officers who had acted “in haste” on their false complaint should face departmental action.

 

Related: 

Freedom of Religion and Christian minorities in India

Nuns’ matter, no small matter: an open letter to Amit Shah

Harassment of nuns in train at Jhansi  can become a major poll issue in Kerala 

Nuns harassment case: Catholic Union demands action against vigilantes, cops

UP's Hindutva goons harass Catholic nuns, teens on Delhi-Orissa train

Nun harassment: Two Sangh Parivar members arrested, main accused still at large

Four ABVP members who had falsely accused the nuns of conducting forced conversions, and harassed them in a train at Jhansi station, are yet to be booked 

Nun harassment

Weeks after two Catholic nuns, and two young women who want to study to be nuns, were harassed, intimidated at Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, marched to a police station on false accusations by a big Hindutva mob, the police have arrested two men in connection with the crime. According to a report in the Telegraph, the two men arrested are both members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Bajrang Dal, groups that fall under the broader Sangh Parivar, and were a part of the massive mob that was seen on a video clip harassing the four women in the train, and at the Jhansi station.

According to the report, the GRP “hurriedly registered a case against Jhansi district VHP general secretary Anchal Adjaria and district Bajrang Dal vice-president Purukesh Amarya and arrested them.” Adjaria and Amarya had rushed to Jhansi Junction after receiving calls from the ABVP youths and allegedly “told the GRP they had confirmed information that the women were involved in conversions,” stated news reports.

The Hindutva mob was said to have consisted of men, reportedly from the Bajrang Dal forced their way into a train and harassed the nuns and the young women passengers travelling together. The senior nuns were in their ‘habit’ or traditional nun’s uniform that identified them as members of a  congregation, the young women, who were soon to join a convent were in regular salwar kameez. The mob harassed the women, accused the nuns of conversion and demanded that the police remove them from the train. The police complied. The nuns were marched to a police station, even as the mob continued heckling them. They were later released when they ‘proved their innocence’ as it were and showed the relevant papers that were sent from their headquarters in Delhi. 

However, the March 19 crime was widely reported and became a talking point in poll-bound Kerala. The video clip went viral and the message reached the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) loud and clear. At an election rally in Kerala Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured “strong action” soon after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to him and raised the issue. He had said, “I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest”.  Shah had been alerted on the matter BJP’s Kanjirappally Assembly candidate K J Alphonse who had submitted a memorandum addressed to Shah stating, “Such incidents perpetrated by fringe elements and groups create a sense of insecurity in our minority community.” According to a report in the Indian Express, Kerala BJP general secretary George Kurian had written to UP CM Yogi Adityanath on the issue. 

In a speech, Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi, had said the harassment of the nuns was due to “the vicious propaganda run by the Sangh Parivar to pitch one community against another and trample the minorities”. 

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party politician, the Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had “dismissed” the allegations that the nuns and the postulants had been attacked in the train journey when it had halted at Jhansi, recently and alleged that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was “making false statements” on the issue. Goyal told a press conference in Kochi, Kerala that “There was no attack on any nun whatsoever…the Chief Minister of the state (Kerala) is completely lying and making false statements when he says that.” Goyal told the media that the local police acted after receiving a complaint against the nuns, “There was an allegation. Some people made a complaint (against the nuns). It is the duty of the police to find out whether the complaint is correct or wrong. Police made enquiries. Checked all their documents, made enquiries (to ensure) that they are genuine passengers going for the correct purpose and then immediately let them go.” He had also dismissed the allegations that the accused were student activists associated with the Sangh Parivar, saying, “That is absolutely wrong.”

Now, according to news reports only two persons have been arrested so far and the main accused — four ABVP members have not even been booked yet. The Telegraph reported that the Government Railway Police (GRP) force “eventually acted on Thursday night after a prod from Shah’s ministry to the state government.”

It was reported that the GRP had forced the four women off the Utkal Express and detained them for four hours at Jhansi Junction on March 19 on the false complaint from the four ABVP members, who were travelling on the same coach as the women. However the GRP are yet to explain why the four ABVP members who had allegedly bullied the women on the train, levelled the false allegation of conversions, and got the GRP to detain the quartet have not been arrested yet. 

According to Telegraph, senior officials on conditions of anonymity have admitted that the ABVP youths should “be booked for promoting hatred between religious groups — punishable by up to three years in jail” and added that the GRP officers who had acted “in haste” on their false complaint should face departmental action.

 

Related: 

Freedom of Religion and Christian minorities in India

Nuns’ matter, no small matter: an open letter to Amit Shah

Harassment of nuns in train at Jhansi  can become a major poll issue in Kerala 

Nuns harassment case: Catholic Union demands action against vigilantes, cops

UP's Hindutva goons harass Catholic nuns, teens on Delhi-Orissa train

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Why Islamic Exceptionalism Does not Serve the Muslim Cause

Soon after Samuel Paty incident in France, something similar is happening in the UK

31 Mar 2021

Image courtesy:dailymail.co.uk

Soon after Samuel Paty incident in France, something similar is happening in the UK. A school teacher, in a Religious Education class, decided to show the cartoons of prophet Muhammad. The incident has led to protests from Muslim parents, who mobilized other Muslims, gheraoed the school and are now demanding the dismissal of the teacher. In the wake of these protests, the Batley Grammar School has suspended the teacher, instituted an enquiry and even apologized to Muslim parents. While such Muslim outrage and mobilization led to the murder of Samuel Paty; in this case fortunately it has not come to such a pass. The teacher is currently in hiding and in police protection. But just like in France, Muslims in the UK are accusing schools of deliberate Islamophobia and being insensitive to their religious feelings. The underlying issues therefore, in both France and UK are the same: the Muslim community seems to be arguing from the position of being the victim but at the same time demanding a special and privileged treatment of their religion. In both places, there is a renewed focus about the place of Islam in modern democracies. And there is a wider concern about liberal democracy and how Islamic exceptionalism is in the process of whittling that away.

If the Muslim (or any other) mob gets the power to define what is taught in schools and how teachers should conduct themselves in class, then it is perhaps time to write the epitaph of liberal schooling itself. Muslims have argued against the use of such materials in class. But then, if one is teaching about blasphemy and free speech, one of the most important materials to do so would be the cartoons which have generated so much debate and violence worldwide. And in that sense, the use of such cartoons is legitimate and there is nothing wrong in what the concerned teacher did. Teachers often use challenging materials in lessons to explore ideas and provoke discussion amongst students. The freedom to use certain materials should always be with the teacher and should never be dictated from outside. But then, some Muslims, who might not even know the basics of the craft of teaching, become super charged and think it is within their domain to tell schools and teachers what should be taught and what should be avoided. 

If such things cannot be discussed in a classroom, then where else can they be discussed? The boundaries of free speech cannot be circumscribed by the normative demands of a particular religion, in this case the Islamic blasphemy taboo. Moreover, if there is such reverence for one religion, then why should the sensitivities of other religions not be taken into account? And if there is an agreement that religious sensitivities should not be hurt at all, then what happens to the promise of liberal education? Because surely, even teaching evolution and heliocentrism is against the tenets of most religions.

One can certainly argue that the whole issue should have been handled sensitively. Those students who do not want to see such cartoons must be given the option of not being part of such a pedagogical exercise. But it goes without saying that teachers must have the freedom to explore hot button issues and enable students to think critically about them. Not doing so would amount to a religious veto over children’s mind. If this religious veto continues, then centuries of intellectual progress will be negated. There was a time when Christianity had this veto and now it is increasingly looking like Islam is exercising that veto even though it is no where as powerful as the Church once was. Muslims need to think if, in the name of ‘protecting’ their religion, they want their children to become unfit in negotiating the structures of modernity.

Parents can certainly protest about the content of education but then there are appropriate forums to do so. They cannot march on the school and force the school to suspend a teacher, which is what happened in this case. The response of the school in this case has been timid, to say the least. Instead of fronting this as an attack of the freedom of a teacher, it has miserably succumbed to the Islamist mob. Similar incidents have taught us that appeasing the fanatics only emboldens them. The only way to fight such tendencies is to call out this act of religious bullying and confront them. If the primary concern of the school is the feeling of the protestors, then certainly its priorities are misplaced. The real issue should have been the intimidation of the teacher rather than posing super sensitive to fanatical Muslims in order to be politically correct. If the school has withdrawn the lesson altogether, as appears to be the case, then it has already lost the right to be called as a center of learning.

Those who are siding with the protestors in the name of combating Islamophobia and showing sensitiveness towards such Muslims are making a grave error of judgment. Such actions will only fuel a climate of censorship and exceptionalism around Islam which certainly does not do any favour to ordinary Muslims. It is rather patronizing to assume that all Muslims will take offense over the use of cartoons, no matter how insensitive they might be. It is gross to assume that such protestors are the representatives of Muslim community. And playing along any such assumption would only amount to strengthening the unhealthy stereotypes about Muslims. Mollycoddling to such protestors is nothing but trying to appease the most fanatical section within the Muslim community. The incident is perhaps the clearest example of how the school and the left-wing eco-system is privileging orthodox Muslims over the moderate ones. 

It is heartening to note that some Muslimshave protested against this caricaturing of their community by the school. They have condemned the protestors who are demanding the sacking of the school teacher and have argued that as Muslims, they have nothing against the particular teacher. The school will do itself and others a favour if it listens to such saner voices within the community.

Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com

This article was first published in New Age Islam and may be read here

Why Islamic Exceptionalism Does not Serve the Muslim Cause

Soon after Samuel Paty incident in France, something similar is happening in the UK

Image courtesy:dailymail.co.uk

Soon after Samuel Paty incident in France, something similar is happening in the UK. A school teacher, in a Religious Education class, decided to show the cartoons of prophet Muhammad. The incident has led to protests from Muslim parents, who mobilized other Muslims, gheraoed the school and are now demanding the dismissal of the teacher. In the wake of these protests, the Batley Grammar School has suspended the teacher, instituted an enquiry and even apologized to Muslim parents. While such Muslim outrage and mobilization led to the murder of Samuel Paty; in this case fortunately it has not come to such a pass. The teacher is currently in hiding and in police protection. But just like in France, Muslims in the UK are accusing schools of deliberate Islamophobia and being insensitive to their religious feelings. The underlying issues therefore, in both France and UK are the same: the Muslim community seems to be arguing from the position of being the victim but at the same time demanding a special and privileged treatment of their religion. In both places, there is a renewed focus about the place of Islam in modern democracies. And there is a wider concern about liberal democracy and how Islamic exceptionalism is in the process of whittling that away.

If the Muslim (or any other) mob gets the power to define what is taught in schools and how teachers should conduct themselves in class, then it is perhaps time to write the epitaph of liberal schooling itself. Muslims have argued against the use of such materials in class. But then, if one is teaching about blasphemy and free speech, one of the most important materials to do so would be the cartoons which have generated so much debate and violence worldwide. And in that sense, the use of such cartoons is legitimate and there is nothing wrong in what the concerned teacher did. Teachers often use challenging materials in lessons to explore ideas and provoke discussion amongst students. The freedom to use certain materials should always be with the teacher and should never be dictated from outside. But then, some Muslims, who might not even know the basics of the craft of teaching, become super charged and think it is within their domain to tell schools and teachers what should be taught and what should be avoided. 

If such things cannot be discussed in a classroom, then where else can they be discussed? The boundaries of free speech cannot be circumscribed by the normative demands of a particular religion, in this case the Islamic blasphemy taboo. Moreover, if there is such reverence for one religion, then why should the sensitivities of other religions not be taken into account? And if there is an agreement that religious sensitivities should not be hurt at all, then what happens to the promise of liberal education? Because surely, even teaching evolution and heliocentrism is against the tenets of most religions.

One can certainly argue that the whole issue should have been handled sensitively. Those students who do not want to see such cartoons must be given the option of not being part of such a pedagogical exercise. But it goes without saying that teachers must have the freedom to explore hot button issues and enable students to think critically about them. Not doing so would amount to a religious veto over children’s mind. If this religious veto continues, then centuries of intellectual progress will be negated. There was a time when Christianity had this veto and now it is increasingly looking like Islam is exercising that veto even though it is no where as powerful as the Church once was. Muslims need to think if, in the name of ‘protecting’ their religion, they want their children to become unfit in negotiating the structures of modernity.

Parents can certainly protest about the content of education but then there are appropriate forums to do so. They cannot march on the school and force the school to suspend a teacher, which is what happened in this case. The response of the school in this case has been timid, to say the least. Instead of fronting this as an attack of the freedom of a teacher, it has miserably succumbed to the Islamist mob. Similar incidents have taught us that appeasing the fanatics only emboldens them. The only way to fight such tendencies is to call out this act of religious bullying and confront them. If the primary concern of the school is the feeling of the protestors, then certainly its priorities are misplaced. The real issue should have been the intimidation of the teacher rather than posing super sensitive to fanatical Muslims in order to be politically correct. If the school has withdrawn the lesson altogether, as appears to be the case, then it has already lost the right to be called as a center of learning.

Those who are siding with the protestors in the name of combating Islamophobia and showing sensitiveness towards such Muslims are making a grave error of judgment. Such actions will only fuel a climate of censorship and exceptionalism around Islam which certainly does not do any favour to ordinary Muslims. It is rather patronizing to assume that all Muslims will take offense over the use of cartoons, no matter how insensitive they might be. It is gross to assume that such protestors are the representatives of Muslim community. And playing along any such assumption would only amount to strengthening the unhealthy stereotypes about Muslims. Mollycoddling to such protestors is nothing but trying to appease the most fanatical section within the Muslim community. The incident is perhaps the clearest example of how the school and the left-wing eco-system is privileging orthodox Muslims over the moderate ones. 

It is heartening to note that some Muslimshave protested against this caricaturing of their community by the school. They have condemned the protestors who are demanding the sacking of the school teacher and have argued that as Muslims, they have nothing against the particular teacher. The school will do itself and others a favour if it listens to such saner voices within the community.

Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com

This article was first published in New Age Islam and may be read here

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Freedom of Religion and Christian minorities in India

The events of March 19, where nuns were forcibly deboarded from a train at Jhansi station reflect an atmosphere of intolerance    

30 Mar 2021

nuns

In the recently released report, Freedom House downgraded India from free to partly free due to the atmosphere of intolerance, treatment of journalists, protestors and religious minorities. The events of March 19, at Jhansi station more than reflect this fact. On March 19, two nuns belonging to Sacred Heart congregation, who were travelling from Delhi to Odisha with two postulants, were forced to de-board the train. Some Bajrang Dal/ABVP types alleged that the nuns, who were in their usual habit (nun's uniform), were taking the girls for conversion. These vigilantes asked for Identity cards and religion of the teenaged postulants and the circulating video shows they were aggressive in their tone all through.

The postulants said that they are Christians and intend to become nuns. The police were brought in and four of these women were taken away by police, they were forced to de-board the train. They were permitted to travel again the next day after the intervention from the Bishop's House. The frightening incident where the women had to face the male vigilantes and the male police personnel has sent the shock wave all around. A statement issued by Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) stated that nuns were taken into custody without any reason and humiliated. The KCBC also demanded suitable action against those who harassed the women. As the nuns are from his state, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to the Home Minister Amit Shah demanding intervention from him. Shah, who is incidentally facing elections in Kerala, has promised to look into the matter.

The ABVP/Bajrang Dal activists were quoting the UP anti conversion law and intimidating the women. Instances of 'activists' indulging in such actions have been increasing over the last few years. The sense of impunity is seeping in deep into these groups as they have seen that those indulging in such crimes are not only treated with kid gloves but often catch the eye of top leaders and are duly rewarded. While this incident has come to light; many priests have been facing similar problems for quite some time. ‘Persecution Relief’ report (2019) points out “The frequency of attacks on Christian’s gatherings is escalating to heights especially during Sunday morning worship service and house prayer meetings. Pastors and congregation members are beaten, sometimes so badly that they break their legs, vandalise the churches and the Hindu fundamentalists make reports to the police that these Christians are converting the people to Christ. Hundreds of Christians are being imprisoned on false charges of converting Hindus to Christianity.”

The ‘Freedom House’ report mentions the attacks on Muslims prominently, as the attacks on Muslims are very glaring, while those on Christians are generally sub-radar and reported less often. The very nature of anti-Christian violence in India beginning in the decades of 1990s has been a bit different. The first major act of anti Christian violence was the brutal burning of Pastor Graham Stewart Staines in 1999. Bajrang Dal’s Dara Singh (Rajendra Pal) who is currently in jail was the one who mobilised people saying Pastor Staines was a threat to Hinduism as he was allegedly converting the people on the pretext of treating Leprosy patients.

That time it was the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Lal Krishna Advani as Home Minister. Initially Advani stated that it can’t be the work of a Bajrang Dal worker as he knows them well. The incident was so horrific that the President of India K.R. Narayanan lamented that the "Killings belong to World’s inventory of Black deeds." Shaken by this, the NDA Government sent a top level ministerial team with Murli Manohar Joshi, George Fernandez and Navin Patnaik. The team opined that the killings were part of the International conspiracy to destabilise the NDA Government. At the same time Advani appointed Wadhava Commission to investigate the incident. Wadhava Commission concluded that Bajrang Dal Activist Dara Sing, who was also participating in other Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Vishwa Hindu Parishad type activities, was the culprit and that there is no statistical increase in the number of Christians in the area where Pastor Staines was working.

Later, we witnessed the regular occurrence of anti Christian violence in Adivasi areas of Dangs (Gujarat), Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh) and Odisha. Every year around Christmas time the anti Christian violence used to take place and the peak of this was the August 2008 Kandhamal Violence in which nearly hundred Christian lost their lives, hundreds of Churches were damaged or burnt and thousands of Christians were displaced. National People’s Tribunal headed by retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A.P. Shah opined that “What happened in Kandhamal was a national shame, a complete defacement of humanity. ...Survivors continue to be intimidated, denied protection and access to justice” .

The anti Christian violence has been preceded by a ceaseless propaganda that Christian Missionaries are getting huge foreign funding, and is doing the conversion work through fraud and allurement. All Christian denominations don’t operate on similar ground. There may be few who proclaim conversion to be their goal, but majority of the denominations are not out for canvassing for conversion or allurement. Indian Christianity is very old. One version telling us its beginning from AD 52, when St. Thomas arrived on Malabar Coast  and set up churches. Since then many missions are working in remote areas and also cities. Their primary work being in the sectors of health and education. Incidentally many leading lights of Hindutva nationalists like Advani and Jaitley have been products of Christian mission schools.

The major reason for this propaganda is to pose obstacles to the activities of missionaries in Adivasi areas in particular, where these activities are giving succor to the sick on one hand and empowering Adivasis through the work of education on the other. From the decades of 1980s the VHP/Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram has been focusing on the Adivasi belt where Swamis belonging to these organisations have been active, Aseemanand in Dangs, Gujarat, Laxmananand in Orissa, followers of Asaram Bapu in Jhabua, MP.

In these areas Shabri and Hanuman are also being promoted as icons of Adivasis and religiosity is being promoted along with anti-Christian propaganda. It is this propaganda which forms the root of violence and it is the electoral power at Center from last few years which encourages the vigilantes to do such acts as witnessed in Jhansi.

* The writer is a human rights defender and a former professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT Bombay). 


Other pieces by Dr. Puniyani:

Bid Curb Inter-faith marriages: Ruse to Restrict Women’s Freedom

Charlie Hebdo Cartoons and Blasphemy Laws in Contemporary Times

Was Mughal Rule the period of India’s Slavery?

Kashi- Mathura: Will temple politics be revived?

Freedom of Religion and Christian minorities in India

The events of March 19, where nuns were forcibly deboarded from a train at Jhansi station reflect an atmosphere of intolerance    

nuns

In the recently released report, Freedom House downgraded India from free to partly free due to the atmosphere of intolerance, treatment of journalists, protestors and religious minorities. The events of March 19, at Jhansi station more than reflect this fact. On March 19, two nuns belonging to Sacred Heart congregation, who were travelling from Delhi to Odisha with two postulants, were forced to de-board the train. Some Bajrang Dal/ABVP types alleged that the nuns, who were in their usual habit (nun's uniform), were taking the girls for conversion. These vigilantes asked for Identity cards and religion of the teenaged postulants and the circulating video shows they were aggressive in their tone all through.

The postulants said that they are Christians and intend to become nuns. The police were brought in and four of these women were taken away by police, they were forced to de-board the train. They were permitted to travel again the next day after the intervention from the Bishop's House. The frightening incident where the women had to face the male vigilantes and the male police personnel has sent the shock wave all around. A statement issued by Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) stated that nuns were taken into custody without any reason and humiliated. The KCBC also demanded suitable action against those who harassed the women. As the nuns are from his state, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to the Home Minister Amit Shah demanding intervention from him. Shah, who is incidentally facing elections in Kerala, has promised to look into the matter.

The ABVP/Bajrang Dal activists were quoting the UP anti conversion law and intimidating the women. Instances of 'activists' indulging in such actions have been increasing over the last few years. The sense of impunity is seeping in deep into these groups as they have seen that those indulging in such crimes are not only treated with kid gloves but often catch the eye of top leaders and are duly rewarded. While this incident has come to light; many priests have been facing similar problems for quite some time. ‘Persecution Relief’ report (2019) points out “The frequency of attacks on Christian’s gatherings is escalating to heights especially during Sunday morning worship service and house prayer meetings. Pastors and congregation members are beaten, sometimes so badly that they break their legs, vandalise the churches and the Hindu fundamentalists make reports to the police that these Christians are converting the people to Christ. Hundreds of Christians are being imprisoned on false charges of converting Hindus to Christianity.”

The ‘Freedom House’ report mentions the attacks on Muslims prominently, as the attacks on Muslims are very glaring, while those on Christians are generally sub-radar and reported less often. The very nature of anti-Christian violence in India beginning in the decades of 1990s has been a bit different. The first major act of anti Christian violence was the brutal burning of Pastor Graham Stewart Staines in 1999. Bajrang Dal’s Dara Singh (Rajendra Pal) who is currently in jail was the one who mobilised people saying Pastor Staines was a threat to Hinduism as he was allegedly converting the people on the pretext of treating Leprosy patients.

That time it was the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Lal Krishna Advani as Home Minister. Initially Advani stated that it can’t be the work of a Bajrang Dal worker as he knows them well. The incident was so horrific that the President of India K.R. Narayanan lamented that the "Killings belong to World’s inventory of Black deeds." Shaken by this, the NDA Government sent a top level ministerial team with Murli Manohar Joshi, George Fernandez and Navin Patnaik. The team opined that the killings were part of the International conspiracy to destabilise the NDA Government. At the same time Advani appointed Wadhava Commission to investigate the incident. Wadhava Commission concluded that Bajrang Dal Activist Dara Sing, who was also participating in other Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Vishwa Hindu Parishad type activities, was the culprit and that there is no statistical increase in the number of Christians in the area where Pastor Staines was working.

Later, we witnessed the regular occurrence of anti Christian violence in Adivasi areas of Dangs (Gujarat), Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh) and Odisha. Every year around Christmas time the anti Christian violence used to take place and the peak of this was the August 2008 Kandhamal Violence in which nearly hundred Christian lost their lives, hundreds of Churches were damaged or burnt and thousands of Christians were displaced. National People’s Tribunal headed by retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A.P. Shah opined that “What happened in Kandhamal was a national shame, a complete defacement of humanity. ...Survivors continue to be intimidated, denied protection and access to justice” .

The anti Christian violence has been preceded by a ceaseless propaganda that Christian Missionaries are getting huge foreign funding, and is doing the conversion work through fraud and allurement. All Christian denominations don’t operate on similar ground. There may be few who proclaim conversion to be their goal, but majority of the denominations are not out for canvassing for conversion or allurement. Indian Christianity is very old. One version telling us its beginning from AD 52, when St. Thomas arrived on Malabar Coast  and set up churches. Since then many missions are working in remote areas and also cities. Their primary work being in the sectors of health and education. Incidentally many leading lights of Hindutva nationalists like Advani and Jaitley have been products of Christian mission schools.

The major reason for this propaganda is to pose obstacles to the activities of missionaries in Adivasi areas in particular, where these activities are giving succor to the sick on one hand and empowering Adivasis through the work of education on the other. From the decades of 1980s the VHP/Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram has been focusing on the Adivasi belt where Swamis belonging to these organisations have been active, Aseemanand in Dangs, Gujarat, Laxmananand in Orissa, followers of Asaram Bapu in Jhabua, MP.

In these areas Shabri and Hanuman are also being promoted as icons of Adivasis and religiosity is being promoted along with anti-Christian propaganda. It is this propaganda which forms the root of violence and it is the electoral power at Center from last few years which encourages the vigilantes to do such acts as witnessed in Jhansi.

* The writer is a human rights defender and a former professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT Bombay). 


Other pieces by Dr. Puniyani:

Bid Curb Inter-faith marriages: Ruse to Restrict Women’s Freedom

Charlie Hebdo Cartoons and Blasphemy Laws in Contemporary Times

Was Mughal Rule the period of India’s Slavery?

Kashi- Mathura: Will temple politics be revived?

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Nuns’ matter, no small matter: an open letter to Amit Shah

Senior journalist AJ Philip reminds Home Minister Amit Shah to do his job and ensure that every law-abiding person is protected

29 Mar 2021

nun
 

Senior Journalist AJ Philip has written to Home Minister Amit Shah to draw his attention to the continued inaction from the authorities who are yet to share what action has been taken against the group of men, reportedly belonging to Hindutva groups who had forced their way into a train, harassed two Catholic nuns and two other young women travelling together, near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The nuns were in their ‘habit’ or tradition nun’s dress with a headgear that identifies them as members of a congregation, the young women, who were going to join a convent were in regular salwar kameez. However at the sight of the Nuns, one of whom hails from Kerala, a group of men started hurling rude questions at them. The men alleged that this was a case of “forcible conversion” even though the young women said they were already Chritian, they and the nuns were all forced to deboard the train and the police took them to the police station for questioning. All the allegations made by the Hindutva mom were proven false and the nuns produced the paperwork and identifications they were asked to. 

This harassment and inaction has been condemned strongly by Christian rights’ and human rights’ activists, and by civil society at large.  The All India Catholic Union (AICU), 101 year old Laity movement in the country, called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to take exemplary action against the vigilante group and the police personnel involved in the incident. The Chief minister of Kerala has also written to the Central government on the issue. The issue has also been raised in poll bound Kerala where Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, during his campaign said the criminals, “will be brought to justice.”

However, it has not been shared what action has been taken against the accused so far. No arrests have been reported yet. “As Union Home Minister, your job is also to ensure that every law-abiding person and his property is protected,” wrote Phitlip in his open letter to the HM. He explained who the two young passengers were: “Postulancy and Novitiates are periods of training and preparation that a prospective monastic, apostolic  or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to a vowed religious life. The nuns wanted the two postulants to be dropped at their homes in Odisha.”

He told the HM: “Since you do not travel by train, you may not be able to understand the agony they had when they were forced to break the journey. Come to think of it, the incident happened in a state ruled by a person who wears his religious dress. And it is his policemen who harassed the nuns for wearing their habit. Perhaps, they would not have earned the attention of your young cadres, if they had not worn their religious garb. Does it imply that Catholic nuns and priests should not, hereafter, wear their cassocks and habits when they are in public?”

He also called out BJP MP, KJ Alphons, “meekly submitting a memorandum to you to demand action when you visited his constituency to campaign for him” and asked if “the situation come to such a pass that a BJP MP has to ask the Union Home Minister to take action against the miscreants involved in the attack on the nuns.”

 

The letter which was first posted on the author’s Facebook page may be read here:

Dear Shri Amit Shah Ji, 

You are arguably, the busiest person in the country. 

With elections happening in states like Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, every minute of yours is invaluable. 

I read recently a graphic account of journalist Manoj Menon’s travel with you, while you were on your campaign trail. I was amazed by the meticulousness with which your journeys are planned and executed.

Two days ago, I went to Jhajjar in Haryana and returned to the Capital the same day. I know how tired I felt after the journey. I do not know how you keep yourself fit while hopping from one constituency in one state to another constituency in another state.

Now, imagine for a moment a group of people intercepting you and disrupting your schedule by forcibly taking you to a place you had not planned to visit. Let me use a simpler word. Assume that you are kidnapped.

My readers will laugh at me for even suggesting that you could be intercepted or kidnapped. You are easily the most well-protected person in the country. There are millions of policemen, paramilitary forces, and armed forces to ensure that no harm is ever done to you. 

Yes, that is how you should always be, the most protected person in the country. However, as Union Home Minister, your job is also to ensure that every law-abiding person and his property is protected. Just as you have your busy schedule, every person has also her own schedule.

This week, two Catholic nuns in their habits were accompanying two girls from Odisha, who are being trained to become nuns in a three-tier air-conditioned compartment. They were postulants. 

Postulancy and Novitiates are periods of training and preparation that a prospective monastic, apostolic  or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to a vowed religious life. The nuns wanted the two postulants to be dropped at their homes in Odisha.

Alas, a group of the saffron brigade, who were travelling by the same train, created a hue and cry when the train reached Jhansi. Yes, it was the same place where a queen unleashed her sword against the British in what is known as the First War of Independence.

Of course, she died fighting but the wounds the Rani of Jhansi inflicted on the British were never healed. Her memory continued to haunt them, until they left packing when the Union Jack was lowered and the tricolour hoisted at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947. 

I do not claim that the two incidents are similar. What happened is that the hoodlums accused the Sister's of forcibly converting the postulants. I have seen the videos of the police also turning into their tormentors. They were forced to accompany the policemen to the police station, where they were questioned for hours. 

They were released only after they received the documents from the congregation showing that the two postulants were born in Christian families and had received baptism as infants. They were advised not to wear their habit while continuing their journey, first to Odisha and then back to Delhi. 

Since you do not travel by train, you may not be able to understand the agony they had when they were forced to break the journey. Come to think of it, the incident happened in a state ruled by a person who wears his religious dress.

And it is his policemen who harassed the nuns for wearing their habit. Perhaps, they would not have earned the attention of your young cadres, if they had not worn their religious garb. Does it imply that Catholic nuns and priests should not, hereafter, wear their cassocks and habits when they are in public.

I am sure that as Home Minister you are aware of the freedom Indians enjoy to travel anywhere in the country, wear any dress and even preach their religion. We are so liberal that even *Digambar Jains are allowed to travel without any piece of cloth on them.* As a Jain yourself, how will you feel if a Jain Muni is forced to cover his genitals.

I can’t even think of such an incident happening in the country when one such monk was invited to the Haryana Assembly and asked to address the MLAs, soon after your party came to power in the state. It was, perhaps, the first time that a naked person ever addressed a legislative House anywhere in the world. 

I saw the video of your party MP, Shri KJ Alphons, meekly submitting a memorandum to you to demand action when you visited his constituency to campaign for him. Has the situation come to such a pass that a BJP MP has to ask the Union Home Minister to take action against the miscreants involved in the attack on the nuns

Is not Shri Alphons’ memorandum clear proof that he does not have faith in the UP Police

If anyone takes the law into his own hands, the police have the power to arrest him and subject himself to the laws of the land. The MP knows this as he wielded the law against the encroachers on DDA land in Delhi in the nineties. 

Alas, what we saw in Jhansi are the policemen dancing to the whimsical tunes of your young party workers. They are a bigger threat to the rule of law than the bigots who claim to be the defenders of the Hindu faith. If you have the guts, you should ensure that they are punished for harassing the nuns when their job should have been to fight the criminals. 

Of course, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and your party have empowered them to harass anyone of their choice like the innocent nuns by enacting notorious laws like the anti-conversion law and the anti-love jihad law. 

 

Recently, a friend sent me a video that showed a group of hoodlums attacking a poor Christian pastor. He was ruthlessly handled. When he fell down as he could no longer withstand the kicking on his groins, I saw one of them jumping on his chest from a distance. They left him groaning.

 

I am sure his ribs would have broken and pierced vital organs like the liver and the lungs. I was in tears seeing this. No, it was not just because he was a pastor. 

 

When a Muslim boy was beaten up for entering a temple to drink water, I felt the same emotion. Which Hindu God will be unhappy if a poor Muslim boy quenches his thirst from the temple well or hydrant?  Have you punished that RSScal.

The greatness of a Home Minister is not when he travels in style but when he ensures that even the weakest of the nation feels safe. His job is to ensure that nobody is harassed. Yes, I know that you have promised action against the harassers in Jhansi.

You desperately need Christian votes to win a few seats in Kerala. So you may do something in this particular case, but the fact of the matter is that Christians are scared of worshipping their God in many villages in the country. 

I used the word “scared”. Actually, who are scared of the Christians?

They constitute less than 3 per cent of the population. They are the most law-abiding in the country. If you have any doubt, please check the census figures. It is in fear of them that you enact laws like the anti-conversion law in state after state. Why is Yogi scared of Christians?

I can tell you a story I heard from the horse’s mouth. Soon after Yogi became Chief Minister, a group of Christian clergy led by a Saffron-wearing Christian scholar and former IAF officer called on him at his official residence. They had a cold reception there. To break the ice, one of them said that peace was the need of the hour.

Immediately, the CM retorted: “You should teach Christians and Muslims about peace and co-existence. We Hindus believe in Vasudaiva Kudumbakam (the world is one family). You can do whatever but if you convert even one person, I will break your legs”. Crudeness could not have been bolder. It is the same mindset that you have created which is responsible for what happened at Jhansi.

Are nuns treated like this everywhere? Once while travelling in Jharkhand, I visited a house of nuns. There was a nun who had just returned from war-torn Baghdad. I did not know that the Missionaries of Charity of Saint Teresa of Kolkata fame had a functioning nunnery at Baghdad when war was raging there.

She told me about the life there. Their job was to take care of infants, orphaned by the war. The Iraq Government did not have a facility to handle children below three. Such children were given to the nuns, who looked after them till they reached the age of three when they would be shifted to a government facility.

No, they did not get any government support. Instead, the common Iraqis would visit the centre with clothes, food, toiletries etc. On Fridays, a larger number of people visited the centre. The nuns did not have to buy anything. The people provided them with everything they wanted. 

What’s more, they respected the nuns, though they professed a faith different from theirs.

But in secular India, turning fast into a Hindu Rashtra, nuns are advised to hide their identity to save themselves. If you can spare a few minutes to understand the kind of work that nuns do, I would advise you to visit a Catholic facility near Bijnor in UP where the nuns take care of children born with deformities and are, therefore, abandoned by their parents.

Most of those children are unlikely to live long but they are given a dignified life till God calls them back. Taking care of such children is easier said than done. 

You have lakhs of policemen under your command but they will not be able to look after such children even for a day, forget day after day.

Once I visited the Principal of St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru. It is a Catholic institution where some seats are reserved for nuns, not priests. I asked the principal whether it was proper to reserve seats for them.

Then he drew my attention to a large map of India on his office wall. He showed me the markings on the map. Those marks denoted the places where the nuns who did their MBBS from St. John’s worked. They were working in remote villages where no doctor likes to work.

Next time you visit Kashmir, which you have converted into a Union Territory, please visit the Catholic hospital at Baramulla. When I visited the hospital a decade ago, I found a large crowd at the Gynaecology department. It was headed by a nun, who has helped in the birth of thousands of babies. She was like a mother for the local people.

The nuns are persons who find solace in comforting the needy, feeding the hungry, treating the injured and helping those who need support to stand up. I asked a nun in Bijnor how she was able to do the seemingly dirty job of cleaning nearly 150 children who can’t get up from their beds. She said that even she would not be able to do the job if it was for money.

She saw in each child the little baby in the manger that the world saw nearly two thousand years ago. That is why she was able to keep them clean and adorable day after day. You and your ilk will see the service as an attempt to convert.

If you also believe so, you are totally mistaken. You should consider the nuns as a blessing to this nation. They are about a lakh and they serve millions of people as teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers and even lawyers. Theirs is a service in silence. 

Even if you and your party are not gracious enough to admire their service, at least don’t harass them when they travel. They do not crave for any public recognition of their service. At least let them enjoy the freedom the Constitution grants to every citizen. That is the minimum you should do. Lest you should invite the wrath of God, as had happened at the Kaurava court when Draupadi was disrobed‼

 

Yours etc... 


 

Related

Harassment of nuns in train at Jhansi  can become a major poll issue in Kerala 

Nuns harassment case: Catholic Union demands action against vigilantes, cops

UP's Hindutva goons harass Catholic nuns, teens on Delhi-Orissa train

Nuns’ matter, no small matter: an open letter to Amit Shah

Senior journalist AJ Philip reminds Home Minister Amit Shah to do his job and ensure that every law-abiding person is protected

nun
 

Senior Journalist AJ Philip has written to Home Minister Amit Shah to draw his attention to the continued inaction from the authorities who are yet to share what action has been taken against the group of men, reportedly belonging to Hindutva groups who had forced their way into a train, harassed two Catholic nuns and two other young women travelling together, near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The nuns were in their ‘habit’ or tradition nun’s dress with a headgear that identifies them as members of a congregation, the young women, who were going to join a convent were in regular salwar kameez. However at the sight of the Nuns, one of whom hails from Kerala, a group of men started hurling rude questions at them. The men alleged that this was a case of “forcible conversion” even though the young women said they were already Chritian, they and the nuns were all forced to deboard the train and the police took them to the police station for questioning. All the allegations made by the Hindutva mom were proven false and the nuns produced the paperwork and identifications they were asked to. 

This harassment and inaction has been condemned strongly by Christian rights’ and human rights’ activists, and by civil society at large.  The All India Catholic Union (AICU), 101 year old Laity movement in the country, called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to take exemplary action against the vigilante group and the police personnel involved in the incident. The Chief minister of Kerala has also written to the Central government on the issue. The issue has also been raised in poll bound Kerala where Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, during his campaign said the criminals, “will be brought to justice.”

However, it has not been shared what action has been taken against the accused so far. No arrests have been reported yet. “As Union Home Minister, your job is also to ensure that every law-abiding person and his property is protected,” wrote Phitlip in his open letter to the HM. He explained who the two young passengers were: “Postulancy and Novitiates are periods of training and preparation that a prospective monastic, apostolic  or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to a vowed religious life. The nuns wanted the two postulants to be dropped at their homes in Odisha.”

He told the HM: “Since you do not travel by train, you may not be able to understand the agony they had when they were forced to break the journey. Come to think of it, the incident happened in a state ruled by a person who wears his religious dress. And it is his policemen who harassed the nuns for wearing their habit. Perhaps, they would not have earned the attention of your young cadres, if they had not worn their religious garb. Does it imply that Catholic nuns and priests should not, hereafter, wear their cassocks and habits when they are in public?”

He also called out BJP MP, KJ Alphons, “meekly submitting a memorandum to you to demand action when you visited his constituency to campaign for him” and asked if “the situation come to such a pass that a BJP MP has to ask the Union Home Minister to take action against the miscreants involved in the attack on the nuns.”

 

The letter which was first posted on the author’s Facebook page may be read here:

Dear Shri Amit Shah Ji, 

You are arguably, the busiest person in the country. 

With elections happening in states like Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, every minute of yours is invaluable. 

I read recently a graphic account of journalist Manoj Menon’s travel with you, while you were on your campaign trail. I was amazed by the meticulousness with which your journeys are planned and executed.

Two days ago, I went to Jhajjar in Haryana and returned to the Capital the same day. I know how tired I felt after the journey. I do not know how you keep yourself fit while hopping from one constituency in one state to another constituency in another state.

Now, imagine for a moment a group of people intercepting you and disrupting your schedule by forcibly taking you to a place you had not planned to visit. Let me use a simpler word. Assume that you are kidnapped.

My readers will laugh at me for even suggesting that you could be intercepted or kidnapped. You are easily the most well-protected person in the country. There are millions of policemen, paramilitary forces, and armed forces to ensure that no harm is ever done to you. 

Yes, that is how you should always be, the most protected person in the country. However, as Union Home Minister, your job is also to ensure that every law-abiding person and his property is protected. Just as you have your busy schedule, every person has also her own schedule.

This week, two Catholic nuns in their habits were accompanying two girls from Odisha, who are being trained to become nuns in a three-tier air-conditioned compartment. They were postulants. 

Postulancy and Novitiates are periods of training and preparation that a prospective monastic, apostolic  or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to a vowed religious life. The nuns wanted the two postulants to be dropped at their homes in Odisha.

Alas, a group of the saffron brigade, who were travelling by the same train, created a hue and cry when the train reached Jhansi. Yes, it was the same place where a queen unleashed her sword against the British in what is known as the First War of Independence.

Of course, she died fighting but the wounds the Rani of Jhansi inflicted on the British were never healed. Her memory continued to haunt them, until they left packing when the Union Jack was lowered and the tricolour hoisted at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947. 

I do not claim that the two incidents are similar. What happened is that the hoodlums accused the Sister's of forcibly converting the postulants. I have seen the videos of the police also turning into their tormentors. They were forced to accompany the policemen to the police station, where they were questioned for hours. 

They were released only after they received the documents from the congregation showing that the two postulants were born in Christian families and had received baptism as infants. They were advised not to wear their habit while continuing their journey, first to Odisha and then back to Delhi. 

Since you do not travel by train, you may not be able to understand the agony they had when they were forced to break the journey. Come to think of it, the incident happened in a state ruled by a person who wears his religious dress.

And it is his policemen who harassed the nuns for wearing their habit. Perhaps, they would not have earned the attention of your young cadres, if they had not worn their religious garb. Does it imply that Catholic nuns and priests should not, hereafter, wear their cassocks and habits when they are in public.

I am sure that as Home Minister you are aware of the freedom Indians enjoy to travel anywhere in the country, wear any dress and even preach their religion. We are so liberal that even *Digambar Jains are allowed to travel without any piece of cloth on them.* As a Jain yourself, how will you feel if a Jain Muni is forced to cover his genitals.

I can’t even think of such an incident happening in the country when one such monk was invited to the Haryana Assembly and asked to address the MLAs, soon after your party came to power in the state. It was, perhaps, the first time that a naked person ever addressed a legislative House anywhere in the world. 

I saw the video of your party MP, Shri KJ Alphons, meekly submitting a memorandum to you to demand action when you visited his constituency to campaign for him. Has the situation come to such a pass that a BJP MP has to ask the Union Home Minister to take action against the miscreants involved in the attack on the nuns

Is not Shri Alphons’ memorandum clear proof that he does not have faith in the UP Police

If anyone takes the law into his own hands, the police have the power to arrest him and subject himself to the laws of the land. The MP knows this as he wielded the law against the encroachers on DDA land in Delhi in the nineties. 

Alas, what we saw in Jhansi are the policemen dancing to the whimsical tunes of your young party workers. They are a bigger threat to the rule of law than the bigots who claim to be the defenders of the Hindu faith. If you have the guts, you should ensure that they are punished for harassing the nuns when their job should have been to fight the criminals. 

Of course, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and your party have empowered them to harass anyone of their choice like the innocent nuns by enacting notorious laws like the anti-conversion law and the anti-love jihad law. 

 

Recently, a friend sent me a video that showed a group of hoodlums attacking a poor Christian pastor. He was ruthlessly handled. When he fell down as he could no longer withstand the kicking on his groins, I saw one of them jumping on his chest from a distance. They left him groaning.

 

I am sure his ribs would have broken and pierced vital organs like the liver and the lungs. I was in tears seeing this. No, it was not just because he was a pastor. 

 

When a Muslim boy was beaten up for entering a temple to drink water, I felt the same emotion. Which Hindu God will be unhappy if a poor Muslim boy quenches his thirst from the temple well or hydrant?  Have you punished that RSScal.

The greatness of a Home Minister is not when he travels in style but when he ensures that even the weakest of the nation feels safe. His job is to ensure that nobody is harassed. Yes, I know that you have promised action against the harassers in Jhansi.

You desperately need Christian votes to win a few seats in Kerala. So you may do something in this particular case, but the fact of the matter is that Christians are scared of worshipping their God in many villages in the country. 

I used the word “scared”. Actually, who are scared of the Christians?

They constitute less than 3 per cent of the population. They are the most law-abiding in the country. If you have any doubt, please check the census figures. It is in fear of them that you enact laws like the anti-conversion law in state after state. Why is Yogi scared of Christians?

I can tell you a story I heard from the horse’s mouth. Soon after Yogi became Chief Minister, a group of Christian clergy led by a Saffron-wearing Christian scholar and former IAF officer called on him at his official residence. They had a cold reception there. To break the ice, one of them said that peace was the need of the hour.

Immediately, the CM retorted: “You should teach Christians and Muslims about peace and co-existence. We Hindus believe in Vasudaiva Kudumbakam (the world is one family). You can do whatever but if you convert even one person, I will break your legs”. Crudeness could not have been bolder. It is the same mindset that you have created which is responsible for what happened at Jhansi.

Are nuns treated like this everywhere? Once while travelling in Jharkhand, I visited a house of nuns. There was a nun who had just returned from war-torn Baghdad. I did not know that the Missionaries of Charity of Saint Teresa of Kolkata fame had a functioning nunnery at Baghdad when war was raging there.

She told me about the life there. Their job was to take care of infants, orphaned by the war. The Iraq Government did not have a facility to handle children below three. Such children were given to the nuns, who looked after them till they reached the age of three when they would be shifted to a government facility.

No, they did not get any government support. Instead, the common Iraqis would visit the centre with clothes, food, toiletries etc. On Fridays, a larger number of people visited the centre. The nuns did not have to buy anything. The people provided them with everything they wanted. 

What’s more, they respected the nuns, though they professed a faith different from theirs.

But in secular India, turning fast into a Hindu Rashtra, nuns are advised to hide their identity to save themselves. If you can spare a few minutes to understand the kind of work that nuns do, I would advise you to visit a Catholic facility near Bijnor in UP where the nuns take care of children born with deformities and are, therefore, abandoned by their parents.

Most of those children are unlikely to live long but they are given a dignified life till God calls them back. Taking care of such children is easier said than done. 

You have lakhs of policemen under your command but they will not be able to look after such children even for a day, forget day after day.

Once I visited the Principal of St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru. It is a Catholic institution where some seats are reserved for nuns, not priests. I asked the principal whether it was proper to reserve seats for them.

Then he drew my attention to a large map of India on his office wall. He showed me the markings on the map. Those marks denoted the places where the nuns who did their MBBS from St. John’s worked. They were working in remote villages where no doctor likes to work.

Next time you visit Kashmir, which you have converted into a Union Territory, please visit the Catholic hospital at Baramulla. When I visited the hospital a decade ago, I found a large crowd at the Gynaecology department. It was headed by a nun, who has helped in the birth of thousands of babies. She was like a mother for the local people.

The nuns are persons who find solace in comforting the needy, feeding the hungry, treating the injured and helping those who need support to stand up. I asked a nun in Bijnor how she was able to do the seemingly dirty job of cleaning nearly 150 children who can’t get up from their beds. She said that even she would not be able to do the job if it was for money.

She saw in each child the little baby in the manger that the world saw nearly two thousand years ago. That is why she was able to keep them clean and adorable day after day. You and your ilk will see the service as an attempt to convert.

If you also believe so, you are totally mistaken. You should consider the nuns as a blessing to this nation. They are about a lakh and they serve millions of people as teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers and even lawyers. Theirs is a service in silence. 

Even if you and your party are not gracious enough to admire their service, at least don’t harass them when they travel. They do not crave for any public recognition of their service. At least let them enjoy the freedom the Constitution grants to every citizen. That is the minimum you should do. Lest you should invite the wrath of God, as had happened at the Kaurava court when Draupadi was disrobed‼

 

Yours etc... 


 

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Sabrang

Delhi Court questions improper maintenance of case files in Madina Masjid probe

The court has called for a status report and has also asked the SHO, Karawal Nagar police station and the IO of the case to be present at the next hearing

27 Mar 2021

delhi violence

A Delhi Court has questioned Delhi Police about the improper maintenance of investigation file in the case of alleged burning of Madina Masjid during the North East Delhi violence of February 2020.

“I have gone through the said file as well as the case diaries. I have today signed all the case diaries. The case diaries have not been maintained in terms of section 172 Cr.PC. The bound volume, as mandated by Cr.PC has not been maintained,” the Additional Sessions Judge (Karkardooma court) Vinod Yadav observed.

The court further noted that statements of witnesses, “probably been recorded after 17.03.2021, i.e. the last date of hearing” were recorded in digital form and did not bear digital signatures of the IO but only physical signatures. The court stated that, as a result, it was not possible to ascertain as to whether the same were recorded on the date mentioned against the signatures of IO.

The court said it would refrain from commenting on the investigation at this stage but asked SHO, PS Karawal Nagar and IO of the case to be present for the next hearing, on April 7 and also directed that original record of FIR nos.55/20 and 72/20, PS Karawal Nagar as well as the original daily diary entries be produced in court.

Background

The court had, in February, directed Delhi police to file FIR in the alleged incident of burning and desecreation of Madina mosque in Shiv Vihar during the Delhi riots of February 2020 after an application was filed by Advocate MR Shamshad under section 156(3) of CrPC.

According to the complaint, around 20 to 25 people had gathered on February 25, 2020 at about 6 PM in the Madina Masjid Gali armed with sticks, acid, rods and petrol bottles. Thereafter, the accused persons started breaking the mosque and destroyed the premises by setting it on fire, by causing an explosion of two LPG cylinders. It was further stated that on February 26, 2020, one fo the accused had climbed on top of the Masjid and chanted Jai Shree Ram and hoisted a saffron flag over the mosque, reported LiveLaw.

At the previous hearing, the court had also pulled up Delhi Police for clubbing a complaint about alleged burning of a man’s house during the riots with another complaint which was against the complainant; thus arresting him in the same matter making him both a complainant and an accused.

The complete order may be read here: 

 

Related:

Delhi Court rejects plea by Mehmood Pracha against raids at his office

Delhi violence accused thrashes Muslim man, forces him to chant anti Pakistan slogans

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CCTV was not working: Delhi Police to HC in Faizan death case

Delhi Court questions improper maintenance of case files in Madina Masjid probe

The court has called for a status report and has also asked the SHO, Karawal Nagar police station and the IO of the case to be present at the next hearing

delhi violence

A Delhi Court has questioned Delhi Police about the improper maintenance of investigation file in the case of alleged burning of Madina Masjid during the North East Delhi violence of February 2020.

“I have gone through the said file as well as the case diaries. I have today signed all the case diaries. The case diaries have not been maintained in terms of section 172 Cr.PC. The bound volume, as mandated by Cr.PC has not been maintained,” the Additional Sessions Judge (Karkardooma court) Vinod Yadav observed.

The court further noted that statements of witnesses, “probably been recorded after 17.03.2021, i.e. the last date of hearing” were recorded in digital form and did not bear digital signatures of the IO but only physical signatures. The court stated that, as a result, it was not possible to ascertain as to whether the same were recorded on the date mentioned against the signatures of IO.

The court said it would refrain from commenting on the investigation at this stage but asked SHO, PS Karawal Nagar and IO of the case to be present for the next hearing, on April 7 and also directed that original record of FIR nos.55/20 and 72/20, PS Karawal Nagar as well as the original daily diary entries be produced in court.

Background

The court had, in February, directed Delhi police to file FIR in the alleged incident of burning and desecreation of Madina mosque in Shiv Vihar during the Delhi riots of February 2020 after an application was filed by Advocate MR Shamshad under section 156(3) of CrPC.

According to the complaint, around 20 to 25 people had gathered on February 25, 2020 at about 6 PM in the Madina Masjid Gali armed with sticks, acid, rods and petrol bottles. Thereafter, the accused persons started breaking the mosque and destroyed the premises by setting it on fire, by causing an explosion of two LPG cylinders. It was further stated that on February 26, 2020, one fo the accused had climbed on top of the Masjid and chanted Jai Shree Ram and hoisted a saffron flag over the mosque, reported LiveLaw.

At the previous hearing, the court had also pulled up Delhi Police for clubbing a complaint about alleged burning of a man’s house during the riots with another complaint which was against the complainant; thus arresting him in the same matter making him both a complainant and an accused.

The complete order may be read here: 

 

Related:

Delhi Court rejects plea by Mehmood Pracha against raids at his office

Delhi violence accused thrashes Muslim man, forces him to chant anti Pakistan slogans

Delhi HC vacates stay on trial of Delhi violence conspiracy case

CCTV was not working: Delhi Police to HC in Faizan death case

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40 mosques to be covered in plastic sheets ahead of Holi to ‘maintain peace’

Mosques along a Holi procession route are being covered so people do not hurl any objectionable projectiles at them, and disturb communal amity, says gov't

26 Mar 2021

mosque

While Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country, and many states have banned all public celebrations and large gatherings as Holi, Shab E Barat, and Easter in the coming days, Shahjahanpur, a town in Uttar Pradesh is busy covering its mosques in plastic sheets. 

It may sound bizarre to some and progressive to some, as the local administration had said this is being done to ‘maintain peace’ ahead of Holi. According to news reports nearly 40 mosques in the town are being covered with plastic sheets “to prevent miscreants from throwing colour on the structures and disturb communal harmony,” Indian Express quoted a senior official. Holi revelry, in Shahjahanpur is said to begin with re enacting an 18th century tradition, where people hurl footwear at a ‘Laat Saab’ procession featuring a buffalo cart and a hapless man personifying a Britisher, reported IE.

However, all the mosques located along the route of the procession, will come under “a thick security blanket” and it is reported that the law and order will be under the charge of 225 magistrates. Around 40 mosques along the procession route are being covered with plastic sheets to ensure people do not throw colour or any objectionable things at the structures and disturb communal amity. According to Shahjahanpur City SP, Sanjay Kumar told the media that the “mosques will be covered before Holika Dahan (March 28). Some of them have already been covered. Some of the roads, which fall on the route of the procession, have been barricaded and will be closed a day in advance.”

However, some have commented that this reflected the fact that the situation on the ground was fragile.
 

 

According to news reports the Uttar Pradesh government had also issued guidelines for celebrations in wake of the rising Covid-19 cases in the state. According to the guidelines issued by chief secretary RK Tiwari, certain permissions must be taken for any public function or procession on Holi. According to news reports, even after permission is granted for functions it is compulsory to “ensure that social distancing is maintained and other Covid-19 protocols are followed even after obtaining permission” according to the government directives which also advised people above 60 years, children below 10 years and those having comorbidities to remain indoors during the festival. It was reported that persons coming to UP from states that have a high virus load will have to undergo Covid-19 tests.

Incidentally, governments of states including Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, besides a few other states have banned Holi celebrations as Covid-19 cases rise. Many states have asked that celebrations for Holi, Shab-e-Barat, Ugadi, Good Friday and other festivals take place indoors.

 

Related:

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Gyan Vapi case: New petition admitted, notice issued

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Waseem Rizvi’s Challenge an Opportunity for Ulema To Proclaim the Inapplicability of 

40 mosques to be covered in plastic sheets ahead of Holi to ‘maintain peace’

Mosques along a Holi procession route are being covered so people do not hurl any objectionable projectiles at them, and disturb communal amity, says gov't

mosque

While Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country, and many states have banned all public celebrations and large gatherings as Holi, Shab E Barat, and Easter in the coming days, Shahjahanpur, a town in Uttar Pradesh is busy covering its mosques in plastic sheets. 

It may sound bizarre to some and progressive to some, as the local administration had said this is being done to ‘maintain peace’ ahead of Holi. According to news reports nearly 40 mosques in the town are being covered with plastic sheets “to prevent miscreants from throwing colour on the structures and disturb communal harmony,” Indian Express quoted a senior official. Holi revelry, in Shahjahanpur is said to begin with re enacting an 18th century tradition, where people hurl footwear at a ‘Laat Saab’ procession featuring a buffalo cart and a hapless man personifying a Britisher, reported IE.

However, all the mosques located along the route of the procession, will come under “a thick security blanket” and it is reported that the law and order will be under the charge of 225 magistrates. Around 40 mosques along the procession route are being covered with plastic sheets to ensure people do not throw colour or any objectionable things at the structures and disturb communal amity. According to Shahjahanpur City SP, Sanjay Kumar told the media that the “mosques will be covered before Holika Dahan (March 28). Some of them have already been covered. Some of the roads, which fall on the route of the procession, have been barricaded and will be closed a day in advance.”

However, some have commented that this reflected the fact that the situation on the ground was fragile.
 

 

According to news reports the Uttar Pradesh government had also issued guidelines for celebrations in wake of the rising Covid-19 cases in the state. According to the guidelines issued by chief secretary RK Tiwari, certain permissions must be taken for any public function or procession on Holi. According to news reports, even after permission is granted for functions it is compulsory to “ensure that social distancing is maintained and other Covid-19 protocols are followed even after obtaining permission” according to the government directives which also advised people above 60 years, children below 10 years and those having comorbidities to remain indoors during the festival. It was reported that persons coming to UP from states that have a high virus load will have to undergo Covid-19 tests.

Incidentally, governments of states including Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, besides a few other states have banned Holi celebrations as Covid-19 cases rise. Many states have asked that celebrations for Holi, Shab-e-Barat, Ugadi, Good Friday and other festivals take place indoors.

 

Related:

Mosque loudspeaker impedes yoga, puja, govt duties: UP Minister

Gyan Vapi case: New petition admitted, notice issued

Allahabad Univ VC can sleep better, Mosque reduces Azaan volume

Waseem Rizvi’s Challenge an Opportunity for Ulema To Proclaim the Inapplicability of 

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