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Why have India's elite institutions sounded the death knell for Dalit Adivasi-Muslim scholars ?

Vidya Bhushan Rawat 16 Nov 2019

fathima

The suicide of bright, young scholar Fathima Latheef at the IIT Madras is reflective of an ugly reality. It reveals, yet again, a brute and atrocious caste order at work within these institutions of higher learning. This order discriminates against Dalit, OBC, Adivasi and Muslim students.

This suicide is another institutional murder where both masterminds and caste supremacists who orchestrate this discrimination are well protected. The list is long. There have been several incidents in recent years that have exposed how young, dynamic scholars --particularly those hailing from Dalit Adivasi Muslim backgrounds-- are being targeted not merely by the Savarna students but the faculty. So deep-rooted is caste sentiment that it is difficult for India's savarnas, who sport a racist bias, to accept self-respecting scholars from other communities who do not agree with them.

I term these institutions as Gurukuls. Where a Droancharya is ready to cut the fingers of students from the marginalized sections. These institutions have become the hunting ground for these students who aspire to greater heights from a position of societal weakness and discrimination.

Rohith Vemula was "murdered" thus in the Hyderabad Central University Campus, Dr Payal Tadvi faced very similar pressure in her medical college in Mumbai while nineteen years old Fathima has become the latest victim of this murder series. Where is the national Outrage at her death?

Fathima was a topper in the entrance examination. She topped in her earlier exams too. Hailing from Kollam district in Kerala, Fathima had big dreams when she got into Integrated MA programme in Humanities and Social Sciences at the IIT Madras. Her parents have accused Prof Sudarshan Padmanabhan for mentally torturing her.

Fathima's story is not hers alone. Privileged, caste forces have revolted with a vengeance everywhere. Their att
ack is through targeting institutions and individuals. Look at JNU and how regressive forces and the present government have joined hands to destroy this credible institution. They are unable to break the spirit of the University, yet through the misuse of media and the peddlers of lies, we are witnessing a campaign against mandatory provisions which ensure that children of all the communities who are at the margins can both enter into a credible and privileged institution and stay and study there.


The IITs and IIMs are actually even more regressive with their caste and communal prejudices, which is why it is very difficult for girls like Fathima to survive there.

Not long ago, a Ph.D award to a scientist who happened to belong to a scheduled caste community was held up by the brahmanical faculty in IIT Kanpur, accusing the scholar of plagiarism, when everybody knew the track record of the senior scholar as brilliant. His father passed away, carrying the painful burden that his son might not get his hard earned Ph.D. Finally, after a rigorous campaign against this entrenched discrimination,  friends IIT-
 K was compelled to appoint a committee to look into the false allegations. Ultimately, the charges against him were dropped.


In universities like JNU, despite all differences, the students from the margins can enjoy freedom to challenge the might of caste and privilege. This has been hard earned. Such freedom does not exist in any other institution. In fact, the brahmanical elite are now ensuring that other institutions do not go JNU way.

I do not consider the JNU space a revolutionary one but given today's circumstances, it is a model that the government could have adopted elsewhere . Much like the Navodaya vidyalayas that have spread across the country to ensure that persons from the marginalised sections participate in our nation building and contribute.

How will students from marginalised sections contribute to the national,  intellectual endeavour when all these institutions are being put beyond their economic limit and capacity?  The fees and other expenses at the IITs, IIMs and other medical institutions are deliberately being made such so that the students who hail from economically weaker background do not reach there. The social and cultural environment in these institutions is also alienating students from Dalit-Adivasi-OBC-Muslim community who, suffering silently, become mute and totally isolated. They remain in atmospheric intimidation which I call a criminal and oppressive environment which reminds students of their discriminated against 'social background'.

Can the Ministry of HRD respond to Fathi ma's death?  What happened to the probe into Rohith Vemula's murder ? What happened in the Payal Tadvi case ? What happened to Najeeb's disappearance? And what is the progress in the investigation of murder of Fathima Latheef?  These are institutional issues and need to be seriously addressed.
 

If our institutions are becoming the killing fields for scholars from Dalit Adivasi-Muslim communities,  it is time, then,  to have a serious look into their structure. Are there teachers from these sections in these institutions ? Are there enough students from these sections ? Is there enough staff from their communities ? If not, then the students will always remain in 'alien in wonderland'.

Sad part is that there is no out cry. Political parties as usual remain silent as these are not issues for them. More criminal is the silence of those who 'represent' Dalit Bahujan-minority communities. Making one statement is simply not enough. It is time, they develop their vision for education and address this question: how are they going to strengthen and encourage India's huge Bahujan communities into these institutions?

Fathima Lateef's killing is also the story of discrimination against Muslims too who are now increasingly feeling excluded and othered at every level. Isolation, contempt and attempt to define them further.

We must speak up against such efforts. You say communities are being pampered. You blame them for not being 'educated' but what happens when the students from these very communities come into their own? 

Fathima was not even wearing 'Burqa' so by all the 'standards' of the brahmanical IITs, she was a modern Muslim girl and yet she was forced to die.

The basic question is why Fathima died or was killed or allowed to be killed ? The answers are simple and not far to seek. Read into what is happening in our campuses over the last six years. Institutionally, all of them are being restructured in such a way so that the Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi-Muslim students remain outside their domain or are unable to make an entry into them. If they somehow do qualify against all odds, and are able to make an entry inside the brahmanical club, then the atmospheres created ensures that they are isolated, depressed and compel to commit suicide. So these institutional murders will continue if we are unable to democratise our institutions and that will only be possible if they reflect diversity of India in these institutions and not merely brahmanical diversity but non brahmanical diversity too. Representation of India's diverse religious and ethnic, caste groups is important for democratisation of our institutions. Will it be possible ? I dont think those who have enjoyed privileges and fruits of power for last so many years will easily leave it. The only way is political battle and our continuous struggle for social justice and human rights when political parties have failed to take up the cause of people. That is the most worrisome part in India but there is a reality and that is a revolution happens in the most frustrating situations and I am seeing that in India, people are feeling it. Will those who are socially excluded organised themselves not merely in the University campuses but also politically and outside the urban domain, in our villages too. If they do it, I can say, we will not have to see the sad and deeply painful lives of Fathima or Rohtih Vemula or Payal Tadvi, cut short by brahmanical crookedness.

Why have India's elite institutions sounded the death knell for Dalit Adivasi-Muslim scholars ?

fathima

The suicide of bright, young scholar Fathima Latheef at the IIT Madras is reflective of an ugly reality. It reveals, yet again, a brute and atrocious caste order at work within these institutions of higher learning. This order discriminates against Dalit, OBC, Adivasi and Muslim students.

This suicide is another institutional murder where both masterminds and caste supremacists who orchestrate this discrimination are well protected. The list is long. There have been several incidents in recent years that have exposed how young, dynamic scholars --particularly those hailing from Dalit Adivasi Muslim backgrounds-- are being targeted not merely by the Savarna students but the faculty. So deep-rooted is caste sentiment that it is difficult for India's savarnas, who sport a racist bias, to accept self-respecting scholars from other communities who do not agree with them.

I term these institutions as Gurukuls. Where a Droancharya is ready to cut the fingers of students from the marginalized sections. These institutions have become the hunting ground for these students who aspire to greater heights from a position of societal weakness and discrimination.

Rohith Vemula was "murdered" thus in the Hyderabad Central University Campus, Dr Payal Tadvi faced very similar pressure in her medical college in Mumbai while nineteen years old Fathima has become the latest victim of this murder series. Where is the national Outrage at her death?

Fathima was a topper in the entrance examination. She topped in her earlier exams too. Hailing from Kollam district in Kerala, Fathima had big dreams when she got into Integrated MA programme in Humanities and Social Sciences at the IIT Madras. Her parents have accused Prof Sudarshan Padmanabhan for mentally torturing her.

Fathima's story is not hers alone. Privileged, caste forces have revolted with a vengeance everywhere. Their att
ack is through targeting institutions and individuals. Look at JNU and how regressive forces and the present government have joined hands to destroy this credible institution. They are unable to break the spirit of the University, yet through the misuse of media and the peddlers of lies, we are witnessing a campaign against mandatory provisions which ensure that children of all the communities who are at the margins can both enter into a credible and privileged institution and stay and study there.


The IITs and IIMs are actually even more regressive with their caste and communal prejudices, which is why it is very difficult for girls like Fathima to survive there.

Not long ago, a Ph.D award to a scientist who happened to belong to a scheduled caste community was held up by the brahmanical faculty in IIT Kanpur, accusing the scholar of plagiarism, when everybody knew the track record of the senior scholar as brilliant. His father passed away, carrying the painful burden that his son might not get his hard earned Ph.D. Finally, after a rigorous campaign against this entrenched discrimination,  friends IIT-
 K was compelled to appoint a committee to look into the false allegations. Ultimately, the charges against him were dropped.


In universities like JNU, despite all differences, the students from the margins can enjoy freedom to challenge the might of caste and privilege. This has been hard earned. Such freedom does not exist in any other institution. In fact, the brahmanical elite are now ensuring that other institutions do not go JNU way.

I do not consider the JNU space a revolutionary one but given today's circumstances, it is a model that the government could have adopted elsewhere . Much like the Navodaya vidyalayas that have spread across the country to ensure that persons from the marginalised sections participate in our nation building and contribute.

How will students from marginalised sections contribute to the national,  intellectual endeavour when all these institutions are being put beyond their economic limit and capacity?  The fees and other expenses at the IITs, IIMs and other medical institutions are deliberately being made such so that the students who hail from economically weaker background do not reach there. The social and cultural environment in these institutions is also alienating students from Dalit-Adivasi-OBC-Muslim community who, suffering silently, become mute and totally isolated. They remain in atmospheric intimidation which I call a criminal and oppressive environment which reminds students of their discriminated against 'social background'.

Can the Ministry of HRD respond to Fathi ma's death?  What happened to the probe into Rohith Vemula's murder ? What happened in the Payal Tadvi case ? What happened to Najeeb's disappearance? And what is the progress in the investigation of murder of Fathima Latheef?  These are institutional issues and need to be seriously addressed.
 

If our institutions are becoming the killing fields for scholars from Dalit Adivasi-Muslim communities,  it is time, then,  to have a serious look into their structure. Are there teachers from these sections in these institutions ? Are there enough students from these sections ? Is there enough staff from their communities ? If not, then the students will always remain in 'alien in wonderland'.

Sad part is that there is no out cry. Political parties as usual remain silent as these are not issues for them. More criminal is the silence of those who 'represent' Dalit Bahujan-minority communities. Making one statement is simply not enough. It is time, they develop their vision for education and address this question: how are they going to strengthen and encourage India's huge Bahujan communities into these institutions?

Fathima Lateef's killing is also the story of discrimination against Muslims too who are now increasingly feeling excluded and othered at every level. Isolation, contempt and attempt to define them further.

We must speak up against such efforts. You say communities are being pampered. You blame them for not being 'educated' but what happens when the students from these very communities come into their own? 

Fathima was not even wearing 'Burqa' so by all the 'standards' of the brahmanical IITs, she was a modern Muslim girl and yet she was forced to die.

The basic question is why Fathima died or was killed or allowed to be killed ? The answers are simple and not far to seek. Read into what is happening in our campuses over the last six years. Institutionally, all of them are being restructured in such a way so that the Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi-Muslim students remain outside their domain or are unable to make an entry into them. If they somehow do qualify against all odds, and are able to make an entry inside the brahmanical club, then the atmospheres created ensures that they are isolated, depressed and compel to commit suicide. So these institutional murders will continue if we are unable to democratise our institutions and that will only be possible if they reflect diversity of India in these institutions and not merely brahmanical diversity but non brahmanical diversity too. Representation of India's diverse religious and ethnic, caste groups is important for democratisation of our institutions. Will it be possible ? I dont think those who have enjoyed privileges and fruits of power for last so many years will easily leave it. The only way is political battle and our continuous struggle for social justice and human rights when political parties have failed to take up the cause of people. That is the most worrisome part in India but there is a reality and that is a revolution happens in the most frustrating situations and I am seeing that in India, people are feeling it. Will those who are socially excluded organised themselves not merely in the University campuses but also politically and outside the urban domain, in our villages too. If they do it, I can say, we will not have to see the sad and deeply painful lives of Fathima or Rohtih Vemula or Payal Tadvi, cut short by brahmanical crookedness.

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God Is Everywhere: A Hindu Reflects on A-Yodhya

Sunita Viswanath 16 Nov 2019
Lord ram
Painting of Lord Hanuman by M.F.Husain

As a person who cares about justice and peace, the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya was distressing. Many notable Indians have written about the verdict since it was declared five days ago, and I offer links to a small sample of well-informed and thoughtful responses below. 

What stood out to me the most were the following, perhaps obvious points:

  • In a secular democracy, how can a deity be a plaintiff in a court case? If Lord Rama (Ram Lalla) was the plaintiff, does that mean Allah was the defendant? Could Jesus be a plaintiff in another suit?

  • If the placing of the idols and the demolishing of the mosque by Hindus were both illegal acts, then why have the criminals been rewarded with a Ram temple at the site?

  • if the Hindus’s use of the mosque for prayer was determined by a “preponderance of probabilities,” then why did the Muslims have to provide evidence to prove “exclusive use” of the mosque? 

  • we are to understand that the verdict kept the peace. That is, thousands of people would have been killed if the verdict had gone the other way. It was Hindus that were violent in their destruction of the mosque, and it was Hindu violence that was averted by this decision that skews towards Hindu interests.  If Muslims are so violent then why do we seem to be more worried about the possibility of Hindu violence?

Apart from concern with the technical and legal anomalies, I was pained that the most basic tenets of Hindu faith were betrayed.

For Hindus, God is everywhere: inside Lord Hanuman’s heart when he rips it apart, inside the pillar which Hiranyakashipu breaks with his mace, in every single river, leaf and pebble. If God is at the site of the demolition of Babri Masjid, he is equally present seven feet away and seven miles away and across the seven seas. 

When we sing Eshwar Allah Tero Naam, we are saying whether it is a masjid or a mandir, it is God’s home. Lord Rama is worshipped as Maryada Purshottam -- the perfect human being who embodies love, compassion and justice. Where is the maryada (decency, integrity) in demolishing God’s home? And would Lord Rama be pleased that his temple is being built on the site of such carnage?

Our scriptures teach us that all of us, even our gods and our demons are capable of good and evil, and of transformation. I pray fervently that we see the folly of the dangerous course we are taking, where violence is rewarded and dissenting voices are silenced. If we revere Lord Rama, then our only hope is to build not just a Ram Temple but a Ram Rajya, an A-Yodhya (place of no war), a nation and a world where peace reigns and justice is the right of all.

First published in https://www.hindusforhumanrights.org/

Sunita Viswanath, cofounder, Hindus for Human Rights 

God Is Everywhere: A Hindu Reflects on A-Yodhya

Lord ram
Painting of Lord Hanuman by M.F.Husain

As a person who cares about justice and peace, the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya was distressing. Many notable Indians have written about the verdict since it was declared five days ago, and I offer links to a small sample of well-informed and thoughtful responses below. 

What stood out to me the most were the following, perhaps obvious points:

  • In a secular democracy, how can a deity be a plaintiff in a court case? If Lord Rama (Ram Lalla) was the plaintiff, does that mean Allah was the defendant? Could Jesus be a plaintiff in another suit?

  • If the placing of the idols and the demolishing of the mosque by Hindus were both illegal acts, then why have the criminals been rewarded with a Ram temple at the site?

  • if the Hindus’s use of the mosque for prayer was determined by a “preponderance of probabilities,” then why did the Muslims have to provide evidence to prove “exclusive use” of the mosque? 

  • we are to understand that the verdict kept the peace. That is, thousands of people would have been killed if the verdict had gone the other way. It was Hindus that were violent in their destruction of the mosque, and it was Hindu violence that was averted by this decision that skews towards Hindu interests.  If Muslims are so violent then why do we seem to be more worried about the possibility of Hindu violence?

Apart from concern with the technical and legal anomalies, I was pained that the most basic tenets of Hindu faith were betrayed.

For Hindus, God is everywhere: inside Lord Hanuman’s heart when he rips it apart, inside the pillar which Hiranyakashipu breaks with his mace, in every single river, leaf and pebble. If God is at the site of the demolition of Babri Masjid, he is equally present seven feet away and seven miles away and across the seven seas. 

When we sing Eshwar Allah Tero Naam, we are saying whether it is a masjid or a mandir, it is God’s home. Lord Rama is worshipped as Maryada Purshottam -- the perfect human being who embodies love, compassion and justice. Where is the maryada (decency, integrity) in demolishing God’s home? And would Lord Rama be pleased that his temple is being built on the site of such carnage?

Our scriptures teach us that all of us, even our gods and our demons are capable of good and evil, and of transformation. I pray fervently that we see the folly of the dangerous course we are taking, where violence is rewarded and dissenting voices are silenced. If we revere Lord Rama, then our only hope is to build not just a Ram Temple but a Ram Rajya, an A-Yodhya (place of no war), a nation and a world where peace reigns and justice is the right of all.

First published in https://www.hindusforhumanrights.org/

Sunita Viswanath, cofounder, Hindus for Human Rights 

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Kashmir After Abrogation of Article 370: Lies and Propaganda Galore

Ram Puniyani 16 Nov 2019
article 370
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com


It is over three months that the Article 370 has been abrogated. The procedure laid down by the law has been given a go bye and through a majority in Lok Sabha, bypassing the people of Kashmir the act has been done. While many a falsehood has been promoted, lately two such surfaced yet again. Paying tribute to Sardar Patel on 31st October, Sardar’s anniversary, Narendra Modi, dedicated the abolition of this article to him. Interestingly it was Sardar who was crucial part of the Committee which had drafted the said article. Also it was Sardar Patel who had moved the resolution of Article 370 in Constituent Assembly as Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, one dealing with the issue as External Affairs minister, was away to US at that time.

With lapse of time not only the ancient and medieval history is being doctored to suit the communal politics, even the recent history is also under mutilation by likes of Modi who are currently ruling the roost. The other point which the Prime Minster and the other top officials are harping strongly is that it was this article due to which terrorism was getting a boost! The point they want to make is that with the abrogation of this article terrorism will be controlled in the troubled state. As public memory is short it is necessary to recall that while hurling the disaster of demonetization on the country, similar claim was made that counterfeit currency is fuelling the terrorism and demonetization will wipe out the militancy in Kashmir. As the matters turned out along with other claims about merits of demonetization even this claim turned out to be totally hollow and false.

As a blockade has been put on Kashmir, normal life brought to standstill, local leaders arrested and national leaders not permitted to visit the valley, in a very clever manner a delegation of some European right wing MPs has been put together by some business person, in the name of an NGO. The invitation to the MP, Chris Davies, who said that he will like to meet the local people on his own; was withdrawn right away and the compliant MP’s did come for a the trip. Their job was to give the ‘All is well’ certificate to the Modi Governments move after the ‘conducted tour’, which they enjoyed.

During this period despite the presence of military in large numbers, despite the claims that the abolition of this article will curtail terrorism in the valley, already disturbing killings have been taking place. In one such tragic incident five migrant workers from West Bengal have been done to death, shot dead in Jammu Kashmir’s Kulgam. Prior to this there was attack on people related to fruit trade. In another shocking and painful incident one person died and fifteen injured in a grenade attack in Srinagar, in a vegetable market where vendors were targeted.

On one hand the people of J&K are feeling humiliated as their state has been demoted to a Union Territory and on the other there are boasts that this is what was the dream of Sardar Patel!

The false hood that India has eliminated one big reason behind terrorism is totally away from truth. This understanding negates the facts of history and builds the narrative to suit the politics being pursued by BJP. Why was militancy there in Kashmir? As such the story begins with Pakistan’s attack on Kashmir, in the form of Kabayalis (Tribal), who were backed by the Pakistan army. Since Kashmiri people did not want to succumb to the “Two Nation Theory” propagated by communal elements, since they were more for secular democracy, they did request Indian Government to quell the Pakistani aggression. The complex process leading the treaty of Accession and later article 370 through Indian Constituent Assembly has been dealt with extensively by serious commentators.

The efforts of likes Shyama Prasad Mukherjee to put pressure to forcibly merge Kashmir with India, the rise of communal politics in India sent the feeling of disenchantment to Sheikh Abdullah in particular, the one who as such was instrumental in accession of Kashmir to India. To cut the long story short, Sheikh’s apprehensions were answered by putting him in the prison and this is what sowed the seeds of alienation among people of Kashmir. This alienation of Kashmir people duly supported by Pakistan is what has been the root cause of terrorism in Kashmir. Article 370 was the protective cover which by giving the autonomy to the state of J&K was a big obstacle to the proliferation of terrorism as such. Of course the global situation where by America sowed the seeds of Al Qaeda to fight against Russian army added on to the problem as the Al Qaeda and its clones, after defeating the Russian army in alliance with anti Soviet Forces, made their entry into the troubled state, and communalized the militancy. Thirty years down the line now the picture is being presented in an obverse way.

What was needed was to instill more democracy in the state and involve the disgruntled elements into the process of dialogue. Of course the negative role of Pakistan, backed up thoroughly by America has been the major factor. The problems can be solved only when the correct diagnosis of the issue is made. The warped understanding of recent history by communalists, is dictating the current politics and so the blame of militancy is being put on article 370. Article 370 has also been blamed for lack of development in Kashmir.

The truth is that in social development indices Kashmir’s indices are better than many states and above the national averages. Time alone will tell how Pakistan behaves, how the cancerous Al Qaeda type elements will be tackled within the state. An all round process of dialogues on the issue is a must. Strengthening of democratic process seems to be the only way to restore peace and overcome the violence which is the tormenting the people of Kashmir!

Kashmir After Abrogation of Article 370: Lies and Propaganda Galore

article 370
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com


It is over three months that the Article 370 has been abrogated. The procedure laid down by the law has been given a go bye and through a majority in Lok Sabha, bypassing the people of Kashmir the act has been done. While many a falsehood has been promoted, lately two such surfaced yet again. Paying tribute to Sardar Patel on 31st October, Sardar’s anniversary, Narendra Modi, dedicated the abolition of this article to him. Interestingly it was Sardar who was crucial part of the Committee which had drafted the said article. Also it was Sardar Patel who had moved the resolution of Article 370 in Constituent Assembly as Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, one dealing with the issue as External Affairs minister, was away to US at that time.

With lapse of time not only the ancient and medieval history is being doctored to suit the communal politics, even the recent history is also under mutilation by likes of Modi who are currently ruling the roost. The other point which the Prime Minster and the other top officials are harping strongly is that it was this article due to which terrorism was getting a boost! The point they want to make is that with the abrogation of this article terrorism will be controlled in the troubled state. As public memory is short it is necessary to recall that while hurling the disaster of demonetization on the country, similar claim was made that counterfeit currency is fuelling the terrorism and demonetization will wipe out the militancy in Kashmir. As the matters turned out along with other claims about merits of demonetization even this claim turned out to be totally hollow and false.

As a blockade has been put on Kashmir, normal life brought to standstill, local leaders arrested and national leaders not permitted to visit the valley, in a very clever manner a delegation of some European right wing MPs has been put together by some business person, in the name of an NGO. The invitation to the MP, Chris Davies, who said that he will like to meet the local people on his own; was withdrawn right away and the compliant MP’s did come for a the trip. Their job was to give the ‘All is well’ certificate to the Modi Governments move after the ‘conducted tour’, which they enjoyed.

During this period despite the presence of military in large numbers, despite the claims that the abolition of this article will curtail terrorism in the valley, already disturbing killings have been taking place. In one such tragic incident five migrant workers from West Bengal have been done to death, shot dead in Jammu Kashmir’s Kulgam. Prior to this there was attack on people related to fruit trade. In another shocking and painful incident one person died and fifteen injured in a grenade attack in Srinagar, in a vegetable market where vendors were targeted.

On one hand the people of J&K are feeling humiliated as their state has been demoted to a Union Territory and on the other there are boasts that this is what was the dream of Sardar Patel!

The false hood that India has eliminated one big reason behind terrorism is totally away from truth. This understanding negates the facts of history and builds the narrative to suit the politics being pursued by BJP. Why was militancy there in Kashmir? As such the story begins with Pakistan’s attack on Kashmir, in the form of Kabayalis (Tribal), who were backed by the Pakistan army. Since Kashmiri people did not want to succumb to the “Two Nation Theory” propagated by communal elements, since they were more for secular democracy, they did request Indian Government to quell the Pakistani aggression. The complex process leading the treaty of Accession and later article 370 through Indian Constituent Assembly has been dealt with extensively by serious commentators.

The efforts of likes Shyama Prasad Mukherjee to put pressure to forcibly merge Kashmir with India, the rise of communal politics in India sent the feeling of disenchantment to Sheikh Abdullah in particular, the one who as such was instrumental in accession of Kashmir to India. To cut the long story short, Sheikh’s apprehensions were answered by putting him in the prison and this is what sowed the seeds of alienation among people of Kashmir. This alienation of Kashmir people duly supported by Pakistan is what has been the root cause of terrorism in Kashmir. Article 370 was the protective cover which by giving the autonomy to the state of J&K was a big obstacle to the proliferation of terrorism as such. Of course the global situation where by America sowed the seeds of Al Qaeda to fight against Russian army added on to the problem as the Al Qaeda and its clones, after defeating the Russian army in alliance with anti Soviet Forces, made their entry into the troubled state, and communalized the militancy. Thirty years down the line now the picture is being presented in an obverse way.

What was needed was to instill more democracy in the state and involve the disgruntled elements into the process of dialogue. Of course the negative role of Pakistan, backed up thoroughly by America has been the major factor. The problems can be solved only when the correct diagnosis of the issue is made. The warped understanding of recent history by communalists, is dictating the current politics and so the blame of militancy is being put on article 370. Article 370 has also been blamed for lack of development in Kashmir.

The truth is that in social development indices Kashmir’s indices are better than many states and above the national averages. Time alone will tell how Pakistan behaves, how the cancerous Al Qaeda type elements will be tackled within the state. An all round process of dialogues on the issue is a must. Strengthening of democratic process seems to be the only way to restore peace and overcome the violence which is the tormenting the people of Kashmir!

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Who are the guilty?

Teesta Setalvad 15 Nov 2019

What can one say about the wisdom of a judge who damages his own case before his verdict concerning others! After 17 long years and eight crore rupees of public money Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan has delivered to the country an over 1,000 page  report on the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition that is full of howlers. According to the Liberhan Commission report, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 31, 1948. Names of the same persons are spelt differently in different places; designations too are  mixed up on occasions. Looks like the learned judge could not be bothered with reading his own report before placing it before the nation.

Not surprisingly, those indicted, and rightly so, have latched on to the howlers to dismiss the entire report as lacking credibility. But though Justice Liberhan’s callousness is indefensible, his report remains an evidence-backed damnation of those who took the Indian Republic to the brink in December 1992. Not only was the Babri Mosque demolished in full public view on December 6, it also created the communal climate that made possible the pogrom against Mumbai’s Muslims in December 1992-January 1993 and the Muslims of Gujarat 10 years later.

Reading the report is like watching a horror film with an unfolding evil plot, step-by-step. Until 1983 when the VHP decided to jump on to the bandwagon, the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute remained a local issue that agitated some residents of Ayodhya… and Faizabad district at most. By 1989, however, a multitude of ordinary Hindus from across the country had been transformed into a frenzied mob that converged on Ayodhya again and again with a single object: construction of a Ram Mandir on the very spot where the Babri Masjid had stood for a few hundred years. Mission demolition on December 6, 1992 was the logical culmination and climax of a hate-driven agenda.

If the criminal intent of the various constituents of the sangh parivar and its ally the Shiv Sena was public knowledge the contribution of the report lies in establishing in great detail how a malevolent intent was translated into malicious action in such a short period as the institutions of State sworn to protect constitutional values and provisions – Union government, Parliament, the Supreme Court of India, the governor of Uttar Pradesh – stood as "helpless" spectators while corresponding institutions and individuals with similar obligations at the state level – chief minister Kalyan Singh, his cabinet, senior to top level civil servants and police officers – acted instead as the private army of a campaign brimming with contempt for the rule of law. If the Liberhan report provides us overwhelming evidence of the acts of commission of those guilty of the criminal act, far more damning is the evidence it marshals against those whose acts of omission made it possible.

It has been the plea of the BJP and the RSS ever since December 1992 that mosque demolition was never on their agenda. To puncture this claim, Justice Liberhan asks a simple question: why then were tens of thousands of kar sevaks mobilised to descend in Ayodhya repeatedly, indoctrinated with incendiary slogans till a very large number of individuals had turned into a hate-filled frenzied mob, straining at the leash? Justice Liberhan does not buy the innocence plea.

From the evidence gathered before the commission it was more than apparent well before December 6 that the plan for that day was anything but a "symbolic kar seva". What’s more, the report points out that much of this information was already in the public domain. By December 2, if not earlier, it was so easy to anticipate the climax of this dance of the macabre on December 6. Why then did the Union government, the Allahabad High Court, the Congress-appointed governor of UP, the Supreme Court of India not intervene?

Justice Liberhan seems over-eager to give the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao (and the Congress party?) a clean cheat. "In 1992, the central government had been blinded and handicapped by the inaction of its own agent (governor) in the state and by the unfathomable trust the Supreme Court placed in the paper declarations of the sangh parivar". But he is not so sparing with other agents of State. Here are his parting words: "the intransigent stance of the High Court of Uttar Pradesh, the obdurate attitude of the governor (of UP), the inexplicable irresponsibility of the Supreme Court’s observer (sent to Ayodhya) and the short-sightedness of the Supreme Court itself are fascinating and complex stories, the depths of which I must not plumb... (But) historians, journalists and jurists may – and should – explore these dimensions and tell these untold stories for the benefit of the current and unborn generations".

In short, the Liberhan Commission tells us that our constitutional edifice today stands on shaky pillars – legislature, executive, judiciary – of State. Unless the System addresses the rot within and secures its porous borders from pretentious infiltrators, there’s little hope of meeting the challenge from without.

We reproduce in this issue excerpts from the Liberhan Commission’s Report with a few obvious corrections and clarifications.

– EDITORS

Who are the guilty?

What can one say about the wisdom of a judge who damages his own case before his verdict concerning others! After 17 long years and eight crore rupees of public money Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan has delivered to the country an over 1,000 page  report on the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition that is full of howlers. According to the Liberhan Commission report, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 31, 1948. Names of the same persons are spelt differently in different places; designations too are  mixed up on occasions. Looks like the learned judge could not be bothered with reading his own report before placing it before the nation.

Not surprisingly, those indicted, and rightly so, have latched on to the howlers to dismiss the entire report as lacking credibility. But though Justice Liberhan’s callousness is indefensible, his report remains an evidence-backed damnation of those who took the Indian Republic to the brink in December 1992. Not only was the Babri Mosque demolished in full public view on December 6, it also created the communal climate that made possible the pogrom against Mumbai’s Muslims in December 1992-January 1993 and the Muslims of Gujarat 10 years later.

Reading the report is like watching a horror film with an unfolding evil plot, step-by-step. Until 1983 when the VHP decided to jump on to the bandwagon, the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute remained a local issue that agitated some residents of Ayodhya… and Faizabad district at most. By 1989, however, a multitude of ordinary Hindus from across the country had been transformed into a frenzied mob that converged on Ayodhya again and again with a single object: construction of a Ram Mandir on the very spot where the Babri Masjid had stood for a few hundred years. Mission demolition on December 6, 1992 was the logical culmination and climax of a hate-driven agenda.

If the criminal intent of the various constituents of the sangh parivar and its ally the Shiv Sena was public knowledge the contribution of the report lies in establishing in great detail how a malevolent intent was translated into malicious action in such a short period as the institutions of State sworn to protect constitutional values and provisions – Union government, Parliament, the Supreme Court of India, the governor of Uttar Pradesh – stood as "helpless" spectators while corresponding institutions and individuals with similar obligations at the state level – chief minister Kalyan Singh, his cabinet, senior to top level civil servants and police officers – acted instead as the private army of a campaign brimming with contempt for the rule of law. If the Liberhan report provides us overwhelming evidence of the acts of commission of those guilty of the criminal act, far more damning is the evidence it marshals against those whose acts of omission made it possible.

It has been the plea of the BJP and the RSS ever since December 1992 that mosque demolition was never on their agenda. To puncture this claim, Justice Liberhan asks a simple question: why then were tens of thousands of kar sevaks mobilised to descend in Ayodhya repeatedly, indoctrinated with incendiary slogans till a very large number of individuals had turned into a hate-filled frenzied mob, straining at the leash? Justice Liberhan does not buy the innocence plea.

From the evidence gathered before the commission it was more than apparent well before December 6 that the plan for that day was anything but a "symbolic kar seva". What’s more, the report points out that much of this information was already in the public domain. By December 2, if not earlier, it was so easy to anticipate the climax of this dance of the macabre on December 6. Why then did the Union government, the Allahabad High Court, the Congress-appointed governor of UP, the Supreme Court of India not intervene?

Justice Liberhan seems over-eager to give the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao (and the Congress party?) a clean cheat. "In 1992, the central government had been blinded and handicapped by the inaction of its own agent (governor) in the state and by the unfathomable trust the Supreme Court placed in the paper declarations of the sangh parivar". But he is not so sparing with other agents of State. Here are his parting words: "the intransigent stance of the High Court of Uttar Pradesh, the obdurate attitude of the governor (of UP), the inexplicable irresponsibility of the Supreme Court’s observer (sent to Ayodhya) and the short-sightedness of the Supreme Court itself are fascinating and complex stories, the depths of which I must not plumb... (But) historians, journalists and jurists may – and should – explore these dimensions and tell these untold stories for the benefit of the current and unborn generations".

In short, the Liberhan Commission tells us that our constitutional edifice today stands on shaky pillars – legislature, executive, judiciary – of State. Unless the System addresses the rot within and secures its porous borders from pretentious infiltrators, there’s little hope of meeting the challenge from without.

We reproduce in this issue excerpts from the Liberhan Commission’s Report with a few obvious corrections and clarifications.

– EDITORS

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Listen, Muslim Bhai

Javed Anand 15 Nov 2019

(Representational/File) 


Listen, Mister Muslim. You are rightly upset with the verdict of the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya land dispute as it puts faith above law. Not for the first time, secular India has let you down. But truth to tell, you too have let secular India down. In this zero sum game between the Indian state and you, it’s been advantage Hindutva all the way.

This is not to rub salt in your wound. But to point out that Muslims as a community are guilty of the very same thing they are accusing the Supreme Court of: Pitching Shariah law against the Indian Constitution, faith against the law of the land. The rigid, intransigent Islam that our ulema and political leadership continue to preach leaves us little space for manoeuvre or room to negotiate a respectable place for ourselves in a secular-democratic polity. Such inflexibility is bound to land us in the ditch, again and again, be it on the question of a masjid, triple talaq, Muslim Personal Law in general, or the issue of population control.

It’s time for some honest introspection. Was it not us who took to the streets in 1985, protested aggressively against the apex court’s judgment in the Shah Bano case, insisted that Shariah law took precedence over the secular law of the land?

The then Congress government under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi capitulated and the result was the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. Faith triumphed over a secular law (Section 125 of the CrPC) and Muslims were euphoric. The consequence: Secular-minded Indians were outraged, while Hindutva organisations grabbed the opportunity to up the ante. If the law can be changed in deference to Muslim religious sentiments, what about Hindu religious sentiments? In a balancing act, the Rajiv government engineered the opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Could it be, Mister Muslim, that in setting a dangerous precedent, we lost the “plot”, not on November 9, 2019 but way back in 1986?

As the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi agitation snowballed, thanks to the ulema’s myopia, what should have remained a legal dispute over land turned into a dharam yudh between faiths, a conflict between Ram and Rahim. The militant “mandir wahin banayenge” war-cry of the “Ram Bhakts” was matched by the equally belligerent “once-a-mosque-always-a-mosque” posture of the Muslim leadership. It’s a position that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) upholds even today. The leader of the All-India Majlis Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), Asaduddin Owaisi, has recently reiterated: “A mosque belongs to Allah and no Muslim has any right to give or gift it away”. In Islamic Saudi Arabia any number of mosques have been demolished or relocated for road widening and other public purposes. But in secular India, it’s a different Islam.

The escalation of communal conflict well suited the designs of the Sangh Parivar in convincing more and more Hindus that “Babar ki aulad” are preventing the building of a temple at the birth place of Lord Ram. From two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984, the BJP’s tally shot up to 85 seats in 1989 and 120 seats in 1991. This should have been a wake-up call for Muslims. But as riot after riot claimed more and more Muslim lives, the leadership remained blind to the reality that a state which failed to protect lives was unlikely to save a mosque.

Does anyone recall the statement of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee a year or two before the demolition: “The mosque is sacred to Muslims, the spot is sacred to us Hindus as the janamsthan of Bhagwan Ram. I appeal to my Muslim brothers. We Hindus will respectfully lift the Babri Masjid brick by brick and re-build it at another spot. You let us build our Ram Mandir there.” The Muslim response: A mosque does not mean four walls but the land on which it stands. In other words, it’s not a question of law but a matter of faith.

Five months before the Babri masjid was demolished (December 1992), in an article published in the now defunct weekly Sunday Observer, yours truly had argued why in the interest of the minority community and the national interest, Muslims should unilaterally hand over the Babri Masjid, either to the president of the Indian republic or the Supreme Court. Let the chief custodians of secular India decide whatever they thought to be in the best interests of national unity and communal amity. The article reminded Muslims that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, offered statutory protection against any future agitations concerning all other mosques in the country. In response, I got a mouthful from even secular Hindu friends who asserted: “The Babri Masjid is not just a property of Muslims. It is a symbol of secular India. Who are you to gift it away?”

We, Mister Muslim, lost the opportunity for winning Hindu goodwill by our gesture, arresting if not reversing the rising tide of militant Hindutva and strengthening secular forces. The outcome: For Muslims, the loss of an estimated 3,000 lives since then in the recurring communal flare-ups; for Hindu nationalists, Ayodhya proved to be the chariot to ride to power.

Fast forward to November 9, 2019. Yes, the Supreme Court’s verdict is disturbing. More disturbing is the fact that it was unanimous; not one of the five judges voiced a dissenting note. Even more disturbing, consider how it is that well before judgment day the Sangh Parivar had not the least doubt that the impending judgment would be in favour of Ram Mandir. How else does one understand their overnight switch from mandir wahin banayenge vow to an appeal to all Indians to “wholeheartedly support” the verdict, irrespective of which way it goes? Also, consider this: Most self-proclaimed secular parties are content with having expressed their respect for the verdict.

It’s time we realised, Mister Muslim, that our clinging to the ulema’s brand of Islam gives every conflict a Hindu-Muslim complexion when the ongoing battle is, in fact, between secular India and Hindu Rashtra. We mustn’t become the convenient “other” for the Hindu nationalists to hide their real agenda.

This article first appeared in the Indian Express on November 14, 2019 under the title 'Listen, Mister Muslim'. The writer is convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy and co-editor, Sabrang India online.

 

Listen, Muslim Bhai


(Representational/File) 


Listen, Mister Muslim. You are rightly upset with the verdict of the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya land dispute as it puts faith above law. Not for the first time, secular India has let you down. But truth to tell, you too have let secular India down. In this zero sum game between the Indian state and you, it’s been advantage Hindutva all the way.

This is not to rub salt in your wound. But to point out that Muslims as a community are guilty of the very same thing they are accusing the Supreme Court of: Pitching Shariah law against the Indian Constitution, faith against the law of the land. The rigid, intransigent Islam that our ulema and political leadership continue to preach leaves us little space for manoeuvre or room to negotiate a respectable place for ourselves in a secular-democratic polity. Such inflexibility is bound to land us in the ditch, again and again, be it on the question of a masjid, triple talaq, Muslim Personal Law in general, or the issue of population control.

It’s time for some honest introspection. Was it not us who took to the streets in 1985, protested aggressively against the apex court’s judgment in the Shah Bano case, insisted that Shariah law took precedence over the secular law of the land?

The then Congress government under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi capitulated and the result was the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. Faith triumphed over a secular law (Section 125 of the CrPC) and Muslims were euphoric. The consequence: Secular-minded Indians were outraged, while Hindutva organisations grabbed the opportunity to up the ante. If the law can be changed in deference to Muslim religious sentiments, what about Hindu religious sentiments? In a balancing act, the Rajiv government engineered the opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Could it be, Mister Muslim, that in setting a dangerous precedent, we lost the “plot”, not on November 9, 2019 but way back in 1986?

As the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi agitation snowballed, thanks to the ulema’s myopia, what should have remained a legal dispute over land turned into a dharam yudh between faiths, a conflict between Ram and Rahim. The militant “mandir wahin banayenge” war-cry of the “Ram Bhakts” was matched by the equally belligerent “once-a-mosque-always-a-mosque” posture of the Muslim leadership. It’s a position that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) upholds even today. The leader of the All-India Majlis Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), Asaduddin Owaisi, has recently reiterated: “A mosque belongs to Allah and no Muslim has any right to give or gift it away”. In Islamic Saudi Arabia any number of mosques have been demolished or relocated for road widening and other public purposes. But in secular India, it’s a different Islam.

The escalation of communal conflict well suited the designs of the Sangh Parivar in convincing more and more Hindus that “Babar ki aulad” are preventing the building of a temple at the birth place of Lord Ram. From two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984, the BJP’s tally shot up to 85 seats in 1989 and 120 seats in 1991. This should have been a wake-up call for Muslims. But as riot after riot claimed more and more Muslim lives, the leadership remained blind to the reality that a state which failed to protect lives was unlikely to save a mosque.

Does anyone recall the statement of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee a year or two before the demolition: “The mosque is sacred to Muslims, the spot is sacred to us Hindus as the janamsthan of Bhagwan Ram. I appeal to my Muslim brothers. We Hindus will respectfully lift the Babri Masjid brick by brick and re-build it at another spot. You let us build our Ram Mandir there.” The Muslim response: A mosque does not mean four walls but the land on which it stands. In other words, it’s not a question of law but a matter of faith.

Five months before the Babri masjid was demolished (December 1992), in an article published in the now defunct weekly Sunday Observer, yours truly had argued why in the interest of the minority community and the national interest, Muslims should unilaterally hand over the Babri Masjid, either to the president of the Indian republic or the Supreme Court. Let the chief custodians of secular India decide whatever they thought to be in the best interests of national unity and communal amity. The article reminded Muslims that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, offered statutory protection against any future agitations concerning all other mosques in the country. In response, I got a mouthful from even secular Hindu friends who asserted: “The Babri Masjid is not just a property of Muslims. It is a symbol of secular India. Who are you to gift it away?”

We, Mister Muslim, lost the opportunity for winning Hindu goodwill by our gesture, arresting if not reversing the rising tide of militant Hindutva and strengthening secular forces. The outcome: For Muslims, the loss of an estimated 3,000 lives since then in the recurring communal flare-ups; for Hindu nationalists, Ayodhya proved to be the chariot to ride to power.

Fast forward to November 9, 2019. Yes, the Supreme Court’s verdict is disturbing. More disturbing is the fact that it was unanimous; not one of the five judges voiced a dissenting note. Even more disturbing, consider how it is that well before judgment day the Sangh Parivar had not the least doubt that the impending judgment would be in favour of Ram Mandir. How else does one understand their overnight switch from mandir wahin banayenge vow to an appeal to all Indians to “wholeheartedly support” the verdict, irrespective of which way it goes? Also, consider this: Most self-proclaimed secular parties are content with having expressed their respect for the verdict.

It’s time we realised, Mister Muslim, that our clinging to the ulema’s brand of Islam gives every conflict a Hindu-Muslim complexion when the ongoing battle is, in fact, between secular India and Hindu Rashtra. We mustn’t become the convenient “other” for the Hindu nationalists to hide their real agenda.

This article first appeared in the Indian Express on November 14, 2019 under the title 'Listen, Mister Muslim'. The writer is convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy and co-editor, Sabrang India online.

 

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Death of Fathima Latheef a blatant case of discrimination and Islamophobia, say students

Daisy K 15 Nov 2019

Suicide

Just five months after Dr. Payal Tadvi, a medical student at Nair Hospital in Mumbai was driven to suicide due to harassment by her seniors, another case of Fathima Latheef has come to light.

An undergraduate student of Philosophy at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the IIT Madras, 19-year-old Fathima Latheef allegedly committed suicide on November 9, 2019, in her hostel room. In her last note, she named three Professors: Hemachandran Karah, Milind Brahme and Sudarshan Padmanabhan.

IIT Madras has had a history of student suicides, with 5 students from different departments having committed suicide in recent years. 

 An ex-student, Ravi(name changed) from the Humanities and Social Sciences department at IIT Madras recalled his experience. He said, “During my time there, I saw that all the faculty, as well as the students, were upper caste. There was not a single faculty who belonged to the SC, ST OBC or minority communities.”

Mariam, a student from IIT Bombay said it was not right to call it a case of suicide as it is a clear murder on the lines or Dr. Payal Tadvi and Rohith Vemula. “In one of the letters, Fathima has written ‘My name and my identity has become a problem for me…’ So clearly this is a case of islamophobia.”

Fahad Ahmed, a student activist from Mumbai said, “Even daily interactions for Muslims have become a problem in this majoritarian atmosphere. At a time when brilliant students are supposed to be encouraged by the faculty, all we are getting is mental torture. When a woman from the Muslim community comes up despite all the odds, and when something like this happens, I feel this is not a suicide of a person but a suicide of the aspirations of a community. Muslim community today lacks two things in my opinion: ideals and aspiration. And the rhetoric surrounding this incident will be held as a precedent for women who would want to enter higher education in future.”

Students said that lack of space and dialogue is one of the major for Muslim students on campus. Mariam added, “Although there are some redressal mechanisms like counselling, they are very insensitive towards the cultural background. You will see that many universities will not have a single Muslim organization which can take up any issue because they are just not allowed to exist. There is no space for interaction and no space for dialogue.”

A statement released by Ambedkarite Students Collective, IIT Bombay, stated that the casteist and communal behaviour of faculty and their discriminatory attitude have led to many institutional murders. There needs to be constant public pressure to make the casteist and Brahmanical academia change its course.

They have also demanded the following course of action

  • Suspend the three accused faculty name by Fathima with immediate effect pending internal and police enquiry. 
  • The Tamilnadu government and police should take cognisance of the notes related to the events that led to Fathima Latheef taking her own life. 
  • Action against Kottopuram Police Officials who were apathetic to her parent’s pleas. The TN Police should respect and hear the case from her parents. 
  • IIT Madras should call for an internal enquiry about the failures of Department and institutional mechanism to prevent reporting of this case. 
  • The Ministry of Minority Affairs should take immediate cognisance of the discrimination due to religion and demand all educational institutions to have a Minority Cell for reporting such incidences of discrimination in future. 
  • Enact Rohith Act to punish caste, religious and gender-based discrimination in Indian varsities. 

Courtesy: Two Circle

Death of Fathima Latheef a blatant case of discrimination and Islamophobia, say students

Suicide

Just five months after Dr. Payal Tadvi, a medical student at Nair Hospital in Mumbai was driven to suicide due to harassment by her seniors, another case of Fathima Latheef has come to light.

An undergraduate student of Philosophy at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the IIT Madras, 19-year-old Fathima Latheef allegedly committed suicide on November 9, 2019, in her hostel room. In her last note, she named three Professors: Hemachandran Karah, Milind Brahme and Sudarshan Padmanabhan.

IIT Madras has had a history of student suicides, with 5 students from different departments having committed suicide in recent years. 

 An ex-student, Ravi(name changed) from the Humanities and Social Sciences department at IIT Madras recalled his experience. He said, “During my time there, I saw that all the faculty, as well as the students, were upper caste. There was not a single faculty who belonged to the SC, ST OBC or minority communities.”

Mariam, a student from IIT Bombay said it was not right to call it a case of suicide as it is a clear murder on the lines or Dr. Payal Tadvi and Rohith Vemula. “In one of the letters, Fathima has written ‘My name and my identity has become a problem for me…’ So clearly this is a case of islamophobia.”

Fahad Ahmed, a student activist from Mumbai said, “Even daily interactions for Muslims have become a problem in this majoritarian atmosphere. At a time when brilliant students are supposed to be encouraged by the faculty, all we are getting is mental torture. When a woman from the Muslim community comes up despite all the odds, and when something like this happens, I feel this is not a suicide of a person but a suicide of the aspirations of a community. Muslim community today lacks two things in my opinion: ideals and aspiration. And the rhetoric surrounding this incident will be held as a precedent for women who would want to enter higher education in future.”

Students said that lack of space and dialogue is one of the major for Muslim students on campus. Mariam added, “Although there are some redressal mechanisms like counselling, they are very insensitive towards the cultural background. You will see that many universities will not have a single Muslim organization which can take up any issue because they are just not allowed to exist. There is no space for interaction and no space for dialogue.”

A statement released by Ambedkarite Students Collective, IIT Bombay, stated that the casteist and communal behaviour of faculty and their discriminatory attitude have led to many institutional murders. There needs to be constant public pressure to make the casteist and Brahmanical academia change its course.

They have also demanded the following course of action

  • Suspend the three accused faculty name by Fathima with immediate effect pending internal and police enquiry. 
  • The Tamilnadu government and police should take cognisance of the notes related to the events that led to Fathima Latheef taking her own life. 
  • Action against Kottopuram Police Officials who were apathetic to her parent’s pleas. The TN Police should respect and hear the case from her parents. 
  • IIT Madras should call for an internal enquiry about the failures of Department and institutional mechanism to prevent reporting of this case. 
  • The Ministry of Minority Affairs should take immediate cognisance of the discrimination due to religion and demand all educational institutions to have a Minority Cell for reporting such incidences of discrimination in future. 
  • Enact Rohith Act to punish caste, religious and gender-based discrimination in Indian varsities. 

Courtesy: Two Circle

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Reading SC order on Ayodhya: Condemn the Sin but Concede to Sinners

Senior journalist Biswajit Roy decodes Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya and also highlights the 'twist in the logic' of the apex court

Biswajit Roy 14 Nov 2019

Supreme Court

Babri Masjid and Supreme Court of India

The five-member constitution bench of the Supreme Court began their 1045 page verdict by aptly calling the Ayodhya dispute almost as old as the idea of India. Then the bench reminded us of our ancient civilisational values of assimilation, inclusion and harmony as well as modern constitutional principles of secular democracy that our founding fathers had followed despite the counter-currents in the stormy days of Partition. At the fag end too, the court stressed on the constitutional principle that ‘all forms of belief, worship and prayer are equal’ and those who ‘interpret the Constitution, enforce it and engage with it can ignore this only to the peril of our society and nation’.

Explaining further in the ‘conclusion of title’ of the 1500 square yards of the disputed land in Ayodhya, the bench insisted that ‘the court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence’. Nevertheless, the bench noted several times that the Muslim side did not question the Hindu faith about Lord Rama’s birth in Ayodhya. They had only contested the claim that he was born precisely under the central dome of the demolished Babri mosque and denied that the mosque came up over the ruins of an earlier temple dedicated to the deity.

The bench rigorously examined the findings of Archeological Survey of India and its earlier scrutiny by the Allahabad bench of Lucknow High Court. Though the ASI excavations (sans the area where the idol of Ramlala is ‘virajman’ since 1949) in 2003 found elaborate ruins of earlier non-Islamic structures of different periods of our history, the SC bench did not find categorical confirmation or conclusive proof of an ancient Rama temple underneath. So the purported original sin of the founder of the Mughal dynasty or his henchmen; construction of a mosque on the man-made ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to the popular icon of Hindu faith and glory, was not established.

ASI report was inconclusive

The bench rigorously examined the findings of Archeological Survey of India and its earlier scrutiny by the Allahabad bench of Lucknow High Court. Though the ASI excavations (sans the area where the idol of Ramlala is ‘virajman’ since 1949) in 2003 found elaborate ruins of earlier non-Islamic structures of different periods of our history, the SC bench did not find categorical confirmation or conclusive proof of an ancient Rama temple underneath. So the purported original sin of the founder of the Mughal dynasty or his henchmen; construction of a mosque on the man-made ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to the popular icon of Hindu faith and glory, was not established.

The contest over possession

However, the bench noted the long-drawn communal contest over the piece of land during the colonial period. “On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857.”

So, despite the lack of evidence of total and continued possession by the Muslims, the existence of a functioning mosque was accepted.

In contrast, “The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century. However, there is evidence to show that namaz was offered in the structure of the mosque and the last Friday namaz was on 16 December 1949”.

So, despite the lack of evidence of total and continued possession by the Muslims, the existence of a functioning mosque was accepted.

Violation of rule of law in between 1949-1992

Moreover, the bench noted the reasons for intermittent discontinuity. “The exclusion of the Muslims from worship and possession took place on the intervening night between 22/23 December 1949 when the mosque was desecrated by the installation of Hindu idols. The ouster of Muslims on that occasion was not through any lawful authority but through an act which was calculated to deprive them of their place of worship. ”

Commenting on more recent development, the bench noted: “During the pendency of the suits, the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship. The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago.” Observing that,’ there was no abandonment of the mosque by the Muslims’, the lordships pointed to the court’s constitutional duty. “The Court in the exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied. Justice would not prevail if the Court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law.”

The twist in logic

 However, the logical underlining of verdict took unexpected twists and turns at the remedial order. First, bench set aside the ‘three-way bifurcation’ of disputed land ordered by the High Court in 2010 as both’ legally unsustainable’ and ‘not feasible’ in terms of ‘maintaining public peace and tranquility’. As the ‘disputed site ad-measures all of 1500 square yards’, it’s division ‘ will not sub-serve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquility’, the bench argued.

So, the lack of evidences for continued and total possession, particularly before and after 1857 (year of first Hindu-Muslim joint struggle for Independence) when both Sunni Mughal power and Shia Nawabs in Oudh were powerless and the mutiny-struck colonial Raj had unfolded it’s divide and rule policy, became crucial for the denial of the land title or part of it to Muslims. Perhaps this the first time, the law on adverse possession or lack of it as well as religious texts and colonial historiography have been used to this extent to buttress majority faith-based claims.

True, hawks at both sides have succeeded in stalling an out of court consensus, thus binding the hands of the court. But the invocation of article 142 of the constitution empowered the court to find a more imaginative and equitable way of sharing based on the syncretic tradition of Ayodhya, still practiced despite marginalization by the excluvists in both communities as well as letters and spirit of the constitution.

But the claims of the majority faith were accepted because ‘on a balance of probabilities, the evidence in respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims’. So the bench decided to hand over ‘the disputed site comprising of the inner and outer courtyards’ to Ram Lala Virajman, a party to legal contest as a ‘juristic person’ or a rightful holder of the property in law.

Further, the deity is granted human agency of his ‘next friend’, or VHP-controlled Ram Janan bhoomi Nyas to represent Him and maintain his rights. The claim of Nirmohi Akhara, a much older Monk order of Ram-Sita bhakta but not controlled by the Sangh parivar for traditional sevait rights stands rejected, though it has been given a berth in a government-run trust.

The bench first condemned ‘egregious violation of rule of law’ and ‘calculated’ crimes against the Constitution by the Hindu zealots in between 1949-92. But in queer turn in their infinite acumen and wisdom, finally awarded the criminals what they had asked for; exclusive right to the disputed land, simply because the latter claimed to be the rightful representatives of the presiding deity and in turn, the majority faith. The logic only legitimises the postmodern vandals and de facto acceptance of their misdeeds.

So, the lack of evidences for continued and total possession, particularly before and after 1857 (year of first Hindu-Muslim joint struggle for Independence) when both Sunni Mughal power and Shia Nawabs in Oudh were powerless and the mutiny-struck colonial Raj had unfolded it’s divide and rule policy, became crucial for the denial of the land title or part of it to Muslims. Perhaps this the first time, the law on adverse possession or lack of it as well as religious texts and colonial historiography have been used to this extent to buttress majority faith-based claims.

What does it mean?

The bench first condemned ‘egregious violation of rule of law’ and ‘calculated’ crimes against the Constitution by the Hindu zealots in between 1949-92. But in queer turn in their infinite acumen and wisdom, finally awarded the criminals what they had asked for; exclusive right to the disputed land, simply because the latter claimed to be the rightful representatives of the presiding deity and in turn, the majority faith. The logic only legitimises the postmodern vandals and de facto acceptance of their misdeeds.

Nonetheless, the bench found it ‘ necessary to provide restitution to the Muslim community for the unlawful destruction of their place of worship’. “Having weighed the nature of the relief which should be granted to the Muslims, we direct that land admeasuring 5 acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya.” But again, it is almost in the line of what the Sangh Parivar spin-masters had been selling for long: there is only one Ram Janamsthan, so vacate it and make a mosque elsewhere.

This Devil’s bargain, now legitimised in law, may be less sinister than the Partition but still gargantuan. With the zombie’s appetite is now being whetted, it’s not likely to stop at Ayodhya but march forward to Kashi and Mathura.

Courtesy: enewsroom.in

Reading SC order on Ayodhya: Condemn the Sin but Concede to Sinners

Senior journalist Biswajit Roy decodes Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya and also highlights the 'twist in the logic' of the apex court

Supreme Court

Babri Masjid and Supreme Court of India

The five-member constitution bench of the Supreme Court began their 1045 page verdict by aptly calling the Ayodhya dispute almost as old as the idea of India. Then the bench reminded us of our ancient civilisational values of assimilation, inclusion and harmony as well as modern constitutional principles of secular democracy that our founding fathers had followed despite the counter-currents in the stormy days of Partition. At the fag end too, the court stressed on the constitutional principle that ‘all forms of belief, worship and prayer are equal’ and those who ‘interpret the Constitution, enforce it and engage with it can ignore this only to the peril of our society and nation’.

Explaining further in the ‘conclusion of title’ of the 1500 square yards of the disputed land in Ayodhya, the bench insisted that ‘the court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence’. Nevertheless, the bench noted several times that the Muslim side did not question the Hindu faith about Lord Rama’s birth in Ayodhya. They had only contested the claim that he was born precisely under the central dome of the demolished Babri mosque and denied that the mosque came up over the ruins of an earlier temple dedicated to the deity.

The bench rigorously examined the findings of Archeological Survey of India and its earlier scrutiny by the Allahabad bench of Lucknow High Court. Though the ASI excavations (sans the area where the idol of Ramlala is ‘virajman’ since 1949) in 2003 found elaborate ruins of earlier non-Islamic structures of different periods of our history, the SC bench did not find categorical confirmation or conclusive proof of an ancient Rama temple underneath. So the purported original sin of the founder of the Mughal dynasty or his henchmen; construction of a mosque on the man-made ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to the popular icon of Hindu faith and glory, was not established.

ASI report was inconclusive

The bench rigorously examined the findings of Archeological Survey of India and its earlier scrutiny by the Allahabad bench of Lucknow High Court. Though the ASI excavations (sans the area where the idol of Ramlala is ‘virajman’ since 1949) in 2003 found elaborate ruins of earlier non-Islamic structures of different periods of our history, the SC bench did not find categorical confirmation or conclusive proof of an ancient Rama temple underneath. So the purported original sin of the founder of the Mughal dynasty or his henchmen; construction of a mosque on the man-made ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to the popular icon of Hindu faith and glory, was not established.

The contest over possession

However, the bench noted the long-drawn communal contest over the piece of land during the colonial period. “On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857.”

So, despite the lack of evidence of total and continued possession by the Muslims, the existence of a functioning mosque was accepted.

In contrast, “The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century. However, there is evidence to show that namaz was offered in the structure of the mosque and the last Friday namaz was on 16 December 1949”.

So, despite the lack of evidence of total and continued possession by the Muslims, the existence of a functioning mosque was accepted.

Violation of rule of law in between 1949-1992

Moreover, the bench noted the reasons for intermittent discontinuity. “The exclusion of the Muslims from worship and possession took place on the intervening night between 22/23 December 1949 when the mosque was desecrated by the installation of Hindu idols. The ouster of Muslims on that occasion was not through any lawful authority but through an act which was calculated to deprive them of their place of worship. ”

Commenting on more recent development, the bench noted: “During the pendency of the suits, the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship. The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago.” Observing that,’ there was no abandonment of the mosque by the Muslims’, the lordships pointed to the court’s constitutional duty. “The Court in the exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied. Justice would not prevail if the Court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law.”

The twist in logic

 However, the logical underlining of verdict took unexpected twists and turns at the remedial order. First, bench set aside the ‘three-way bifurcation’ of disputed land ordered by the High Court in 2010 as both’ legally unsustainable’ and ‘not feasible’ in terms of ‘maintaining public peace and tranquility’. As the ‘disputed site ad-measures all of 1500 square yards’, it’s division ‘ will not sub-serve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquility’, the bench argued.

So, the lack of evidences for continued and total possession, particularly before and after 1857 (year of first Hindu-Muslim joint struggle for Independence) when both Sunni Mughal power and Shia Nawabs in Oudh were powerless and the mutiny-struck colonial Raj had unfolded it’s divide and rule policy, became crucial for the denial of the land title or part of it to Muslims. Perhaps this the first time, the law on adverse possession or lack of it as well as religious texts and colonial historiography have been used to this extent to buttress majority faith-based claims.

True, hawks at both sides have succeeded in stalling an out of court consensus, thus binding the hands of the court. But the invocation of article 142 of the constitution empowered the court to find a more imaginative and equitable way of sharing based on the syncretic tradition of Ayodhya, still practiced despite marginalization by the excluvists in both communities as well as letters and spirit of the constitution.

But the claims of the majority faith were accepted because ‘on a balance of probabilities, the evidence in respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims’. So the bench decided to hand over ‘the disputed site comprising of the inner and outer courtyards’ to Ram Lala Virajman, a party to legal contest as a ‘juristic person’ or a rightful holder of the property in law.

Further, the deity is granted human agency of his ‘next friend’, or VHP-controlled Ram Janan bhoomi Nyas to represent Him and maintain his rights. The claim of Nirmohi Akhara, a much older Monk order of Ram-Sita bhakta but not controlled by the Sangh parivar for traditional sevait rights stands rejected, though it has been given a berth in a government-run trust.

The bench first condemned ‘egregious violation of rule of law’ and ‘calculated’ crimes against the Constitution by the Hindu zealots in between 1949-92. But in queer turn in their infinite acumen and wisdom, finally awarded the criminals what they had asked for; exclusive right to the disputed land, simply because the latter claimed to be the rightful representatives of the presiding deity and in turn, the majority faith. The logic only legitimises the postmodern vandals and de facto acceptance of their misdeeds.

So, the lack of evidences for continued and total possession, particularly before and after 1857 (year of first Hindu-Muslim joint struggle for Independence) when both Sunni Mughal power and Shia Nawabs in Oudh were powerless and the mutiny-struck colonial Raj had unfolded it’s divide and rule policy, became crucial for the denial of the land title or part of it to Muslims. Perhaps this the first time, the law on adverse possession or lack of it as well as religious texts and colonial historiography have been used to this extent to buttress majority faith-based claims.

What does it mean?

The bench first condemned ‘egregious violation of rule of law’ and ‘calculated’ crimes against the Constitution by the Hindu zealots in between 1949-92. But in queer turn in their infinite acumen and wisdom, finally awarded the criminals what they had asked for; exclusive right to the disputed land, simply because the latter claimed to be the rightful representatives of the presiding deity and in turn, the majority faith. The logic only legitimises the postmodern vandals and de facto acceptance of their misdeeds.

Nonetheless, the bench found it ‘ necessary to provide restitution to the Muslim community for the unlawful destruction of their place of worship’. “Having weighed the nature of the relief which should be granted to the Muslims, we direct that land admeasuring 5 acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya.” But again, it is almost in the line of what the Sangh Parivar spin-masters had been selling for long: there is only one Ram Janamsthan, so vacate it and make a mosque elsewhere.

This Devil’s bargain, now legitimised in law, may be less sinister than the Partition but still gargantuan. With the zombie’s appetite is now being whetted, it’s not likely to stop at Ayodhya but march forward to Kashi and Mathura.

Courtesy: enewsroom.in

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Sabrang

There stood a Mosque, and it was Demolished

Reading 'Babri Masjid, 25 Years On'

Dr K S Sudeep 14 Nov 2019

Babri book

The preparation was accomplished with phenomenal secrecy, was technically flawless with consistency and assured results. The theme was power. It attracted clusters of young men to support the hidden agenda. Leaders know how passions are aroused and how to prevent the same; they however always see what would be beneficial to them rather than what would be good for the nation. This is what happened in Ayodhya.” (from Liberhan Commission report on demolition of Babri mosque).

 

Preface

Babri Masjid has become history. A thing of the past.

Soon we will have a Supreme Court judgment on the case regarding the mosque, but as we know, the name of the case itself is something vague -- Ram Janmabhoomi - Babri Masjid land dispute case. It is about two entities, and just like the first one, the second one is also nearly a myth by now.

Problems with things of the past is that we soon forget what it was and where it stood. And in current India, it will not be a surprise if after a few more years it does not even find a place in the history books taught in schools. If it finds, it would only appear as a symbol of Muslim aggression. Even the court dispute has become more about beliefs and people's sentiments than about historic and archaeological evidences. Rightly so. But when an 'almost' Hindu nation weighs its sentiments, sentiments of a large section of people go unnoticed. Forgotten. Ignored.

That is precisely why an alternative recording of events become important. Alternative sources of history, when the mainstream history is limited to the heroic accounts of the dominant society and its protagonists. Ram Rajya's history is about the heroics of Ram. The villainy of Ram and his disciples will have to be heard from the backyards of history. It needs to be told nevertheless. it needs to be heard nevertheless. At least by those who do not want to be run over by these cultural bulldozers.

 

A multitude of accounts

'Babri Masjid, 25 Years On' is a book that came out in 2017, a collection of essays edited by Sameena Dalwai and Ramu Ramanathan. Irfan Engineer's name is listed as 'Journal Editor'. It comes after two other important books on the same topic -- 'The Babri Masjid Question 1528-2003: A Matter of National Honour' and 'Destruction of the Babri Masjid – A National Dishonour', both by veteran lawyer and political commentator A G Noorani. What makes this book different is the multitude of accounts and angles covered in the book, as it is told by a spectrum of authors that covers many prominent artists and activists.

I know it is too late to introduce a book that came out almost two years back, so I will stick to highlighting some parts of the book that I find important, and placing it in the context of the legal and sentimental dispute as well as the 'conscience of the society' that I am a part of.

 

Countdown and a Witness account

In his essay 'Countdown to Ayodhya', senior journalist Anant Bagaitkar describes political developments centred around the Ayodhya issue close to the demolition. He recollects how he and some other journalists secretly met a senior RSS leader and the conversation they had, where the leader clearly said they were prepared to break the structure if the Government did not yield to pressure by the end of the three month deadline that they had given. This was in July 1992. Later in September, VHP leaders VH Dalmiya and Ashok Singhal declared that a temple could not be constructed without the demolition of the Babri Masjid. In October, VHP organised a meeting of the dharma sansad to consider the future course of action on the issue. In this meeting the decision was taken to resume the kar seva and the date decided was 6 December, 1992.

He also recalls that by November end RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena workers had gathered in Ayodhya as kar sevaks, and even before 6 December, the assembled mob indulged in attacking mosques and mazars (shrines) in the vicinity of Ayodhya.

What follows is a witness account of the events from 1st to 6th December 1992, in an essay by then Maharashtra Times journalist Pratab Asbe who was entrusted with reporting the events in Ayodhya. He recollects that on 5 December, during the rehearsal of the kar seva, leaders had announced that the kar seva on 6th will only be a symbolic gesture. They said, "On 6 December, two lakh kar sevaks will put a fistful of soil in the four-acre  premises of Ram Mandir and the monks will clean the Ram Chabutra with the holy water from the river Sharayu." However, we know that was not to be the case.

On 6th December afternoon, Adwani gave an inflammatory speech that went like this, “No power in the world can stop the construction of Ram Mandir. If the central government tries to obstruct, then we will not allow the government to run. Those who have come to be martyrs let them be martyrs. Let the fortunate ones be able to make it to Lord Ram’s feet. Let them be martyred.”

It is particularly interesting how they manhandled the media persons who tried to cover the incidents of that day. "Many national and international journalists were standing near Ram Chabutra. Kar sevaks and saints started misbehaving with these media persons. The so-called holy men started abusing journalists. One of the monks was hitting a journalist from Voice of America. This was followed by a Time magazine journalist getting beaten up. Even BBC’s Mark  Tully  couldn’t  escape  this. And  then  anybody  and  everybody started hitting the journalists. Just then, television cameras faced the wrath of this aggressive mob of kar sevaks. Around 60-70 television cameras were damaged.." "only the photographers with a still camera  were able to put the cameras in a leather bag and escape. They were also followed and beaten up. As a result, the photography and video shoot of kar seva came to a halt. This attack on the press was pre-planned and a well-co-ordinated strategy.."

The final acts of the drama unfolded soon. In his own words, ~as if the doors of a dam were opened, mobs of kar sevaks started jumping on the compound surrounding the Babri Masjid. In no time, they broke the compound and entered the mosque and with an unswerving determination, climbed the mosque up to its dome. They started hitting the mosque with anything that they could catch hold of. Immediately, they were being supplied with spades, shovels and ropes. This boosted the demolition process. High on the sadistic pleasure derived from the act, kar sevaks were repeatedly attacking the mosque as if it was a living human being. Unable to withstand the shocks, the mosque began disintegrating. The soil and bricks started falling apart. At this end, the voice  on  the microphone announced, “Siyawar ramchandra ki jai, mandir yahin banayenge.” Seeing the  attack on the mosque, women spectators along with their men counterparts started dancing and shouting slogans..~

~at 2.45 p.m., the first dome of Babri Masjid was demolished. The moment the dome collapsed, Uma Bharti joyously embraced Murli Manohar Joshi. Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Rithambara shouted inflammatory slogans, instigating kar sevaks. Sadhvi Rithambara announced: “ek dhakka aur do, babri masjid tod do” (Pound and thrash till it collapses). While all this was happening, the police was also seen clapping and expressing its joy. Around 4.00 p.m. in the evening, another dome  collapsed. And then the third and the last dome at 4.46 p.m. Sadhvi Rithambara congratulated the Hindu population on the microphone by saying, “The shameful structure has fallen.”~

 

Artists' accounts

The first among the six artists' acoounts is that of theater actor, director and activist Sudhanva Deshpande of Jan Natya Manch New Delhi. He weaves his narration beginning with his memories of Operation Blue Star and Indira Gandhi assassination that he witnessed as a teenager and his experiences during 1992.

In the next essay 'How it feels to be a Muslim in India', award winning playwright Shafaat Khan talks about the post-Babri Muslim life in India and in Mumbai in particular. He says, "the Mumbai riots ensued by the demolition of the Babri Masjid had brought a change in direction. Until that time I believed that violence was in the hands of a few goondas and politicians. For the first time I saw that physically and mentally, the common man was imbibed with the destructive forces all the way. A whole society was given over to violence with a strong belief that it provided all the answers." He explains how this affected his life as a playwright and director, and how his adaptation of Asghar Wajahat’s Hindi play Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya, O Jamyai Nai, was an attempt to communicate with 'the rioters, supporters of riots and those who strengthened them by standing upright on the street.'

Unfortunately, around 27 years on, that 'whole society' is still at large, making use of every opportunity to 'annihilate the other'. The hatred machines have got more and more official channels at their disposal and perpetrators of hate crimes are rewarded with election tickets, increased popularity and more and more power.

In her essay 'Why I never wish to forget the violence', Playwright and screenplay writer for popular Marathi TV serials Manaswini Lata Ravindra tells how her mother who never wore religious symbols was forced to wear a bindi to escape violence from a Hindu mob. She also recollects memories from her school days, about how the dominant ones in the class silenced those who had different opinions, or were just different, say by name / religion. "The day the episode of Shivaji Maharaj chopping off Shaista Khan’s fingers was taught in the class, all the Hindu boys assumed themselves in the role of Shivaji and the Muslim boy was obviously considered to be Shaista  Khan. I remember the Muslim boy was so petrified that he skipped school the following day." She also tells about how she realised that at no cost will she ever be able to gain experiences from someone else’s societal environment. "How much ever one tries, it is very difficult to change your context of being someone." Which is an important point in any intersectionality we talk about these days.

Joy Sengupta writes about how he woke up to a hard realization at home, that 'the well-oiled mechanism was geared towards bringing about a preconceived, elite-driven Hindu unity'. He adds that "Middle-class India, under the mask of liberal democracy, was nothing but a sheer bunch of fence-sitters belonging to the Hindu majority waiting to cross over. This demolition just helped them unmask and breathe in soft Hindutva. Indian nationalism and the modern Indian state were getting crafted out of the affirmations of Hindutva."

Veteran theatre artist and television host Dolly Thakore has contributed with a piece titled 'Joining hands, building trust'. She was also a volunteer for an NGO 'Citizens For Peace' that did relief works in a riot-struck Mumbai. Playwright, actor and women's rights campaigner Sushma Deshpande feels the 'obsessive need for communicating the ideologies of Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule to the masses' and writes about her experience of conducting a theatre workshop for Muslim girls in Hyderabad.  She notes that 'when the whole community is under attack, the scope to address the issues and the rights of the weaker sections within that community get further eroded."

 

Activists

In her account 'Where is the place for the activist', academician and activist Shama Dalwai explains how being a Muslim or having a Muslim in family in Mumbai became a frightening prospect by end of 1980s. She says that the school that her children went to, though seemed like a liberal institution, "affixed a Muslim identity to my children by singling them out as ‘strangers’ and ‘the others’." During the Mumbai riots that broke out post the demolition of the mosque, as a Hindu mother of half-Muslim children, she recounts how she became terrified for the safety of her children (Sameena is her daughter). The police violence, mayhem by Shiv Sainiks and, most shattering, she says, was the withdrawal of the Leftist comrades from the scene. She also talks about how media selectively omitted certain kinds of news, and talks about her attempts to calm down the Muslims.

Helen Bharde, a former corporator affiliated to Indian National Congress, is a christian woman married to a Muslim. Her write-up is mostly about setting up and running the relief camp at her locality Golibar. She writes about how that place, near Santacruz, became a haven for the Muslims during the riots. How Muslims, fearing for their lives, had run away from their homes and formed a community at Golibar and sought refuge there. It does not mean it was all safe there. She recalls an incident when a young boy who was playing in the vicinity was mistaken for a rioter and shot down by the police. And 'if that wasn’t tragic enough, the old man who went to retrieve the boy was also beaten up brutally', she adds.

In her essay 'Walking the tightrope: Balancing gender and community' Flavia Agnes critiques the women’s movement that failed to create a strong alternative for women of all castes and religions.

Rekha Thakur of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh in her note writes about the 'dual agenda' of Massacring the Muslims and criminalising Bahujan at the same time. One could say it is problematic to make such a reading, as the growth of Hindutva in India from late 80s to 2019 can not be understood only as a savarna ideology. It is essentially based on hatred of Muslims (and Christians, though to a lesser extent). Many of the Sangh leaders were from OBC communities. It also succeeded in containing the OBC angst post anti-Mandal uprisings of 1990s.

In 'Riots in the pink city', M Hassan narrates Jaipur of 1989 to 92. He describes it as a period of intense polarisation and violence. How the southern hilly region, being predominantly tribal, is a fairly known ‘laboratory’ of communalism due to the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad of RSS, which spread its tentacles in each tribal settlement. About how Jaipur's Musafirkhana acted as a shelter and relief camp during communal riots, and how the Musafirkhana issued guidelines to
ward off confrontation and escalation of conflict in 1989 and 1991. Hassan writes about how the 'Game of riots' that is often played to alienate one community. It is a game that continues even now, Musaffarnagar being the latest major instance.

In her essay 'A bruised nation', Shaila Satpute, who was Maharashtra State leader of Janata Dal once, confesses that she is more afraid today than what she was during the days of riots. "At that time there were sporadic incidents of violence. Today, I notice that the seeds of hatred that were planted have grown into a poisonous tree. Now, everyone is a target. At that time, the Babri Masjid incident provided a reason for violence. Now, people don’t need a reason to resort to violence", she says.

Vaze College Physics Professor Dr. Sanjeewani Jain's account of the collective action of teachers and students is the last in the section.

 

Asghar Ali Engineer's Special Essay

Noted Islamic Scholar, social reformist and peace activist late Asghar Ali Engineer in a lengthy special essay notes that the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi controversy was one of the major controversies which was exploited politically to the hilt  in  post-independence  India. He also connects it to theShah Bano controversy during 1985-86, and feels that had the controversial Muslim Women’s Bill not been passed in early 1986, the Ram Janmabhoomi controversy would not have arisen. He criticizes not only BJP and Shiv Sena, but also Congress for the cynical exploitation of Babri issue for winning 1989 elections, in an attempt to capture 'popular imagination'.

Engineer gives a summary of the history of the controversy and observes that the 'historical' accounts suggesting that Babar demolished a temple before erecting a mosque there are based on prejudices and guesswork. To quote from his essay, ~The translator of Babar’s Memoirs Mrs AF, Beveridge in a footnote suggests that Babar being a Muslim, and “impressed by the dignity and sanctity of the ancient Hindu shrine” would have displaced “at least in part” the temple to erect the mosque. She bases her inference on the fact that Babar being Muslim must have been intolerant of other faiths and thus demolished the temple which was supposedly in existence there. It is, at best, a very generalised inference..~

He adds that there is no doubt that the laying of the foundation stone of Ram Janmabhumi on 9 November, 1989 could not have been done without the connivance of the then Government led by Rajiv Gandhi, and how KK Nayar who was DM of Faizabad resisted all attempts to remove the idol when an idol first 'appeared' in those premises in 1949 and how Congress was helpless at that time. He feela that "if locking (the premises) was murder of justice and ideals of secularism, its unlocking (in 1986, opening it for Hindus to worship) was greater injustice and outright slaughter of ideals of secularism." He concludes the essay with the most sane thing to say, that we should "do every thing possible to resolve this issue through constructive dialogue in the spirit of reconciliation" and it is "highly necessary to arrange a round-table dialogue between the religious and secular leaders of the two communities."

 

Strengths, and what it lacks

The book is not by any means an apologetic one. Irfan Engineer does not mince his words when he says "Twenty-five years ago, Babri Masjid came crumbling down on 6 December 1992, amidst massive mobilisation by the Sangh Parivar -- organisations affiliated to right-wing Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.." That itself is the major strength of the book.

Sameena Dalwai and Ramu Ramanathan do not see the demolition of the Babri mosque as an isolated incident, and they place it in a context. Reading from Sangh Parivar idol Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's book Six Epochs of Indian History, they observe that "In this, Savarkar admonishes Marathas for not taking revenge on Muslims in response to the atrocities committed around the year 1757 by Abdali. It seems, Savarkar would have liked the Marathas to not merely take revenge, but to annihilate Muslim religion (Mussalmani Dharma) and exterminate the Muslim “people” and make India Muslim-free.. According to Savarkar, the Maratha army should have exterminated ordinary Muslims (i.e. not just soldiers), destroyed their mosques and raped Muslim women." This is particularly relevant in a time when BJP makes election promises of honoring Savarkar with Bharat Ratna, which can be seen as a token of gratitude for laying the foundation stones of a religious hatred on they have built their political empire.

They also take into account another major factor that has contributed heavily to the hatred against Muslims in this country, partition. They observe that "India’s partition is not documented very well. The blame can hardly be placed on the British as the main culprits, as that remains untold. So does the fact, that arson, murder and rape was done by both sides to the ‘other’. Now young authors and curators alike are trying to keep alive the history of partition through collecting stories that turn into artefacts from a dying generation into live narratives". These narratives are crafted well in order to produce hatred. Connecting to more recent times, "Khairlanji happened. Gujarat Carnage happened. Mumbai riots happened. Otherwise our next generation will only be told to remember Godhra and Mumbai Bomb Blast, but not what happened before or after."

Despite this clarity in thoughts and a good overall vision about the whole sequence of events that led to the demolition of the mosque and what happened after that, I think the book misses out on one aspect intentionally or unintentionally. It is the 'bad Muslim'. The bad Muslim does appear in a couple of articles as an element to be calmed down, but the book fails to address the so called bad Muslims or the outfits that raise the Muslim political question. Be it AIMIM, SDPI or any such groups. Dalit / Ambedkarite perspectives are also missing in the book. Also I feel there is an excess of brahmin accounts. It wouldn't do any harm even if a couple of such accounts were omitted. As Manaswini rightly points out in the book, there is a limit to the extent to which one can relate to another person's feelings, how much ever one tries. That space could have been given to more Muslim writings.

 

Times of extraordinary stress and distress have not ended

In the Foreword to the book, Professor Upendra Baxi says 'Dr Sameena Dalwai and Ramu Ramanathan collect here the reminiscences of living together in the times of some extraordinary stress and distress twenty-five years ago', but it is not only about a time frame that is twenty-five or twenty-seven year old. It is about living together in the times of extraordinary stress and distress in the current India also. It is also about how we move forward from this point.

I will end with a poem that is quoted in the book, written by Zbigniew Herbert in a poem in 1956.

 

We stand on the border
We hold out our arms
For our brothers, for our sisters
We build a great rope of hope
Yes, we stand on the border
That is called reason
We gaze back at historical fires
And we marvel at death.

 

There stood a Mosque, and it was Demolished

Reading 'Babri Masjid, 25 Years On'

Babri book

The preparation was accomplished with phenomenal secrecy, was technically flawless with consistency and assured results. The theme was power. It attracted clusters of young men to support the hidden agenda. Leaders know how passions are aroused and how to prevent the same; they however always see what would be beneficial to them rather than what would be good for the nation. This is what happened in Ayodhya.” (from Liberhan Commission report on demolition of Babri mosque).

 

Preface

Babri Masjid has become history. A thing of the past.

Soon we will have a Supreme Court judgment on the case regarding the mosque, but as we know, the name of the case itself is something vague -- Ram Janmabhoomi - Babri Masjid land dispute case. It is about two entities, and just like the first one, the second one is also nearly a myth by now.

Problems with things of the past is that we soon forget what it was and where it stood. And in current India, it will not be a surprise if after a few more years it does not even find a place in the history books taught in schools. If it finds, it would only appear as a symbol of Muslim aggression. Even the court dispute has become more about beliefs and people's sentiments than about historic and archaeological evidences. Rightly so. But when an 'almost' Hindu nation weighs its sentiments, sentiments of a large section of people go unnoticed. Forgotten. Ignored.

That is precisely why an alternative recording of events become important. Alternative sources of history, when the mainstream history is limited to the heroic accounts of the dominant society and its protagonists. Ram Rajya's history is about the heroics of Ram. The villainy of Ram and his disciples will have to be heard from the backyards of history. It needs to be told nevertheless. it needs to be heard nevertheless. At least by those who do not want to be run over by these cultural bulldozers.

 

A multitude of accounts

'Babri Masjid, 25 Years On' is a book that came out in 2017, a collection of essays edited by Sameena Dalwai and Ramu Ramanathan. Irfan Engineer's name is listed as 'Journal Editor'. It comes after two other important books on the same topic -- 'The Babri Masjid Question 1528-2003: A Matter of National Honour' and 'Destruction of the Babri Masjid – A National Dishonour', both by veteran lawyer and political commentator A G Noorani. What makes this book different is the multitude of accounts and angles covered in the book, as it is told by a spectrum of authors that covers many prominent artists and activists.

I know it is too late to introduce a book that came out almost two years back, so I will stick to highlighting some parts of the book that I find important, and placing it in the context of the legal and sentimental dispute as well as the 'conscience of the society' that I am a part of.

 

Countdown and a Witness account

In his essay 'Countdown to Ayodhya', senior journalist Anant Bagaitkar describes political developments centred around the Ayodhya issue close to the demolition. He recollects how he and some other journalists secretly met a senior RSS leader and the conversation they had, where the leader clearly said they were prepared to break the structure if the Government did not yield to pressure by the end of the three month deadline that they had given. This was in July 1992. Later in September, VHP leaders VH Dalmiya and Ashok Singhal declared that a temple could not be constructed without the demolition of the Babri Masjid. In October, VHP organised a meeting of the dharma sansad to consider the future course of action on the issue. In this meeting the decision was taken to resume the kar seva and the date decided was 6 December, 1992.

He also recalls that by November end RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena workers had gathered in Ayodhya as kar sevaks, and even before 6 December, the assembled mob indulged in attacking mosques and mazars (shrines) in the vicinity of Ayodhya.

What follows is a witness account of the events from 1st to 6th December 1992, in an essay by then Maharashtra Times journalist Pratab Asbe who was entrusted with reporting the events in Ayodhya. He recollects that on 5 December, during the rehearsal of the kar seva, leaders had announced that the kar seva on 6th will only be a symbolic gesture. They said, "On 6 December, two lakh kar sevaks will put a fistful of soil in the four-acre  premises of Ram Mandir and the monks will clean the Ram Chabutra with the holy water from the river Sharayu." However, we know that was not to be the case.

On 6th December afternoon, Adwani gave an inflammatory speech that went like this, “No power in the world can stop the construction of Ram Mandir. If the central government tries to obstruct, then we will not allow the government to run. Those who have come to be martyrs let them be martyrs. Let the fortunate ones be able to make it to Lord Ram’s feet. Let them be martyred.”

It is particularly interesting how they manhandled the media persons who tried to cover the incidents of that day. "Many national and international journalists were standing near Ram Chabutra. Kar sevaks and saints started misbehaving with these media persons. The so-called holy men started abusing journalists. One of the monks was hitting a journalist from Voice of America. This was followed by a Time magazine journalist getting beaten up. Even BBC’s Mark  Tully  couldn’t  escape  this. And  then  anybody  and  everybody started hitting the journalists. Just then, television cameras faced the wrath of this aggressive mob of kar sevaks. Around 60-70 television cameras were damaged.." "only the photographers with a still camera  were able to put the cameras in a leather bag and escape. They were also followed and beaten up. As a result, the photography and video shoot of kar seva came to a halt. This attack on the press was pre-planned and a well-co-ordinated strategy.."

The final acts of the drama unfolded soon. In his own words, ~as if the doors of a dam were opened, mobs of kar sevaks started jumping on the compound surrounding the Babri Masjid. In no time, they broke the compound and entered the mosque and with an unswerving determination, climbed the mosque up to its dome. They started hitting the mosque with anything that they could catch hold of. Immediately, they were being supplied with spades, shovels and ropes. This boosted the demolition process. High on the sadistic pleasure derived from the act, kar sevaks were repeatedly attacking the mosque as if it was a living human being. Unable to withstand the shocks, the mosque began disintegrating. The soil and bricks started falling apart. At this end, the voice  on  the microphone announced, “Siyawar ramchandra ki jai, mandir yahin banayenge.” Seeing the  attack on the mosque, women spectators along with their men counterparts started dancing and shouting slogans..~

~at 2.45 p.m., the first dome of Babri Masjid was demolished. The moment the dome collapsed, Uma Bharti joyously embraced Murli Manohar Joshi. Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Rithambara shouted inflammatory slogans, instigating kar sevaks. Sadhvi Rithambara announced: “ek dhakka aur do, babri masjid tod do” (Pound and thrash till it collapses). While all this was happening, the police was also seen clapping and expressing its joy. Around 4.00 p.m. in the evening, another dome  collapsed. And then the third and the last dome at 4.46 p.m. Sadhvi Rithambara congratulated the Hindu population on the microphone by saying, “The shameful structure has fallen.”~

 

Artists' accounts

The first among the six artists' acoounts is that of theater actor, director and activist Sudhanva Deshpande of Jan Natya Manch New Delhi. He weaves his narration beginning with his memories of Operation Blue Star and Indira Gandhi assassination that he witnessed as a teenager and his experiences during 1992.

In the next essay 'How it feels to be a Muslim in India', award winning playwright Shafaat Khan talks about the post-Babri Muslim life in India and in Mumbai in particular. He says, "the Mumbai riots ensued by the demolition of the Babri Masjid had brought a change in direction. Until that time I believed that violence was in the hands of a few goondas and politicians. For the first time I saw that physically and mentally, the common man was imbibed with the destructive forces all the way. A whole society was given over to violence with a strong belief that it provided all the answers." He explains how this affected his life as a playwright and director, and how his adaptation of Asghar Wajahat’s Hindi play Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya, O Jamyai Nai, was an attempt to communicate with 'the rioters, supporters of riots and those who strengthened them by standing upright on the street.'

Unfortunately, around 27 years on, that 'whole society' is still at large, making use of every opportunity to 'annihilate the other'. The hatred machines have got more and more official channels at their disposal and perpetrators of hate crimes are rewarded with election tickets, increased popularity and more and more power.

In her essay 'Why I never wish to forget the violence', Playwright and screenplay writer for popular Marathi TV serials Manaswini Lata Ravindra tells how her mother who never wore religious symbols was forced to wear a bindi to escape violence from a Hindu mob. She also recollects memories from her school days, about how the dominant ones in the class silenced those who had different opinions, or were just different, say by name / religion. "The day the episode of Shivaji Maharaj chopping off Shaista Khan’s fingers was taught in the class, all the Hindu boys assumed themselves in the role of Shivaji and the Muslim boy was obviously considered to be Shaista  Khan. I remember the Muslim boy was so petrified that he skipped school the following day." She also tells about how she realised that at no cost will she ever be able to gain experiences from someone else’s societal environment. "How much ever one tries, it is very difficult to change your context of being someone." Which is an important point in any intersectionality we talk about these days.

Joy Sengupta writes about how he woke up to a hard realization at home, that 'the well-oiled mechanism was geared towards bringing about a preconceived, elite-driven Hindu unity'. He adds that "Middle-class India, under the mask of liberal democracy, was nothing but a sheer bunch of fence-sitters belonging to the Hindu majority waiting to cross over. This demolition just helped them unmask and breathe in soft Hindutva. Indian nationalism and the modern Indian state were getting crafted out of the affirmations of Hindutva."

Veteran theatre artist and television host Dolly Thakore has contributed with a piece titled 'Joining hands, building trust'. She was also a volunteer for an NGO 'Citizens For Peace' that did relief works in a riot-struck Mumbai. Playwright, actor and women's rights campaigner Sushma Deshpande feels the 'obsessive need for communicating the ideologies of Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule to the masses' and writes about her experience of conducting a theatre workshop for Muslim girls in Hyderabad.  She notes that 'when the whole community is under attack, the scope to address the issues and the rights of the weaker sections within that community get further eroded."

 

Activists

In her account 'Where is the place for the activist', academician and activist Shama Dalwai explains how being a Muslim or having a Muslim in family in Mumbai became a frightening prospect by end of 1980s. She says that the school that her children went to, though seemed like a liberal institution, "affixed a Muslim identity to my children by singling them out as ‘strangers’ and ‘the others’." During the Mumbai riots that broke out post the demolition of the mosque, as a Hindu mother of half-Muslim children, she recounts how she became terrified for the safety of her children (Sameena is her daughter). The police violence, mayhem by Shiv Sainiks and, most shattering, she says, was the withdrawal of the Leftist comrades from the scene. She also talks about how media selectively omitted certain kinds of news, and talks about her attempts to calm down the Muslims.

Helen Bharde, a former corporator affiliated to Indian National Congress, is a christian woman married to a Muslim. Her write-up is mostly about setting up and running the relief camp at her locality Golibar. She writes about how that place, near Santacruz, became a haven for the Muslims during the riots. How Muslims, fearing for their lives, had run away from their homes and formed a community at Golibar and sought refuge there. It does not mean it was all safe there. She recalls an incident when a young boy who was playing in the vicinity was mistaken for a rioter and shot down by the police. And 'if that wasn’t tragic enough, the old man who went to retrieve the boy was also beaten up brutally', she adds.

In her essay 'Walking the tightrope: Balancing gender and community' Flavia Agnes critiques the women’s movement that failed to create a strong alternative for women of all castes and religions.

Rekha Thakur of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh in her note writes about the 'dual agenda' of Massacring the Muslims and criminalising Bahujan at the same time. One could say it is problematic to make such a reading, as the growth of Hindutva in India from late 80s to 2019 can not be understood only as a savarna ideology. It is essentially based on hatred of Muslims (and Christians, though to a lesser extent). Many of the Sangh leaders were from OBC communities. It also succeeded in containing the OBC angst post anti-Mandal uprisings of 1990s.

In 'Riots in the pink city', M Hassan narrates Jaipur of 1989 to 92. He describes it as a period of intense polarisation and violence. How the southern hilly region, being predominantly tribal, is a fairly known ‘laboratory’ of communalism due to the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad of RSS, which spread its tentacles in each tribal settlement. About how Jaipur's Musafirkhana acted as a shelter and relief camp during communal riots, and how the Musafirkhana issued guidelines to
ward off confrontation and escalation of conflict in 1989 and 1991. Hassan writes about how the 'Game of riots' that is often played to alienate one community. It is a game that continues even now, Musaffarnagar being the latest major instance.

In her essay 'A bruised nation', Shaila Satpute, who was Maharashtra State leader of Janata Dal once, confesses that she is more afraid today than what she was during the days of riots. "At that time there were sporadic incidents of violence. Today, I notice that the seeds of hatred that were planted have grown into a poisonous tree. Now, everyone is a target. At that time, the Babri Masjid incident provided a reason for violence. Now, people don’t need a reason to resort to violence", she says.

Vaze College Physics Professor Dr. Sanjeewani Jain's account of the collective action of teachers and students is the last in the section.

 

Asghar Ali Engineer's Special Essay

Noted Islamic Scholar, social reformist and peace activist late Asghar Ali Engineer in a lengthy special essay notes that the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi controversy was one of the major controversies which was exploited politically to the hilt  in  post-independence  India. He also connects it to theShah Bano controversy during 1985-86, and feels that had the controversial Muslim Women’s Bill not been passed in early 1986, the Ram Janmabhoomi controversy would not have arisen. He criticizes not only BJP and Shiv Sena, but also Congress for the cynical exploitation of Babri issue for winning 1989 elections, in an attempt to capture 'popular imagination'.

Engineer gives a summary of the history of the controversy and observes that the 'historical' accounts suggesting that Babar demolished a temple before erecting a mosque there are based on prejudices and guesswork. To quote from his essay, ~The translator of Babar’s Memoirs Mrs AF, Beveridge in a footnote suggests that Babar being a Muslim, and “impressed by the dignity and sanctity of the ancient Hindu shrine” would have displaced “at least in part” the temple to erect the mosque. She bases her inference on the fact that Babar being Muslim must have been intolerant of other faiths and thus demolished the temple which was supposedly in existence there. It is, at best, a very generalised inference..~

He adds that there is no doubt that the laying of the foundation stone of Ram Janmabhumi on 9 November, 1989 could not have been done without the connivance of the then Government led by Rajiv Gandhi, and how KK Nayar who was DM of Faizabad resisted all attempts to remove the idol when an idol first 'appeared' in those premises in 1949 and how Congress was helpless at that time. He feela that "if locking (the premises) was murder of justice and ideals of secularism, its unlocking (in 1986, opening it for Hindus to worship) was greater injustice and outright slaughter of ideals of secularism." He concludes the essay with the most sane thing to say, that we should "do every thing possible to resolve this issue through constructive dialogue in the spirit of reconciliation" and it is "highly necessary to arrange a round-table dialogue between the religious and secular leaders of the two communities."

 

Strengths, and what it lacks

The book is not by any means an apologetic one. Irfan Engineer does not mince his words when he says "Twenty-five years ago, Babri Masjid came crumbling down on 6 December 1992, amidst massive mobilisation by the Sangh Parivar -- organisations affiliated to right-wing Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.." That itself is the major strength of the book.

Sameena Dalwai and Ramu Ramanathan do not see the demolition of the Babri mosque as an isolated incident, and they place it in a context. Reading from Sangh Parivar idol Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's book Six Epochs of Indian History, they observe that "In this, Savarkar admonishes Marathas for not taking revenge on Muslims in response to the atrocities committed around the year 1757 by Abdali. It seems, Savarkar would have liked the Marathas to not merely take revenge, but to annihilate Muslim religion (Mussalmani Dharma) and exterminate the Muslim “people” and make India Muslim-free.. According to Savarkar, the Maratha army should have exterminated ordinary Muslims (i.e. not just soldiers), destroyed their mosques and raped Muslim women." This is particularly relevant in a time when BJP makes election promises of honoring Savarkar with Bharat Ratna, which can be seen as a token of gratitude for laying the foundation stones of a religious hatred on they have built their political empire.

They also take into account another major factor that has contributed heavily to the hatred against Muslims in this country, partition. They observe that "India’s partition is not documented very well. The blame can hardly be placed on the British as the main culprits, as that remains untold. So does the fact, that arson, murder and rape was done by both sides to the ‘other’. Now young authors and curators alike are trying to keep alive the history of partition through collecting stories that turn into artefacts from a dying generation into live narratives". These narratives are crafted well in order to produce hatred. Connecting to more recent times, "Khairlanji happened. Gujarat Carnage happened. Mumbai riots happened. Otherwise our next generation will only be told to remember Godhra and Mumbai Bomb Blast, but not what happened before or after."

Despite this clarity in thoughts and a good overall vision about the whole sequence of events that led to the demolition of the mosque and what happened after that, I think the book misses out on one aspect intentionally or unintentionally. It is the 'bad Muslim'. The bad Muslim does appear in a couple of articles as an element to be calmed down, but the book fails to address the so called bad Muslims or the outfits that raise the Muslim political question. Be it AIMIM, SDPI or any such groups. Dalit / Ambedkarite perspectives are also missing in the book. Also I feel there is an excess of brahmin accounts. It wouldn't do any harm even if a couple of such accounts were omitted. As Manaswini rightly points out in the book, there is a limit to the extent to which one can relate to another person's feelings, how much ever one tries. That space could have been given to more Muslim writings.

 

Times of extraordinary stress and distress have not ended

In the Foreword to the book, Professor Upendra Baxi says 'Dr Sameena Dalwai and Ramu Ramanathan collect here the reminiscences of living together in the times of some extraordinary stress and distress twenty-five years ago', but it is not only about a time frame that is twenty-five or twenty-seven year old. It is about living together in the times of extraordinary stress and distress in the current India also. It is also about how we move forward from this point.

I will end with a poem that is quoted in the book, written by Zbigniew Herbert in a poem in 1956.

 

We stand on the border
We hold out our arms
For our brothers, for our sisters
We build a great rope of hope
Yes, we stand on the border
That is called reason
We gaze back at historical fires
And we marvel at death.

 

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Sabrang

The Plight Of The 'Nowhere People' -- Of Pain, Labour and Humiliation

Imprisoned by barbed wire, lacking basic amenities and rights, people trapped within the enclaves along the India-Bangladesh border lead wretched lives, writes filmmaker Aparna Sen

Aparna Sen 14 Nov 2019
OPINION | The Plight Of The 'Nowhere People' -- Of Pain, Labour and Humiliation
No Land’s Men
For inhabitants of Karala 2 chhit, lives behind the barbed wire are bleak, with little hope in sight


She is in labour. Her contractions are coming faster, getting more intense! But she still has to walk the 500 yards from her home to the large black gate with barbed wire all around, and guards outside.  And when she reaches the gate and informs the guards, it will be a one to two hour wait before permission is granted for the gate to be opened, the big black gate to the outside world...and then, if she's lucky, a car to take her to the nearest hospital 15 kilometres away. Can she make it? She must make it! She must!

I am watching Sacred Games sitting in my favourite armchair. My back just hurts a little from sitting so long, which all my doctors have forbidden me to do, but I just have to finish this engrossing episode!

She has barely reached the barbed wire fencing, when her baby decides to arrive with little regard for time, space or convenience. The women accompanying her crowd around, trying to shield the intimate process of birthing from the eyes of the male inmates of their prison. The baby slips out onto the earth amidst the dirt and the muck. Someone cuts the umbilical cord with a piece of split  bamboo. A makeshift surgical knife. Ingenious! Would it be better for the new-born to die? Or live to be brought up in the same prison as its parents, in a makeshift home without electricity or potable water, behind a huge black gate, outside which is the throbbing, pulsating, land of opportunities that they know as India?

I have finished binge watching Sacred Games and have now switched on to a discussion about NRC on television. A moment of panic! I don't have a birth certificate! I was born in my grandparent's home with a highly qualified doctor in attendance, but did anyone think to register my birth?

Ah! But I do have a passport! The date of my birth is imprinted clearly there along with the place - Kolkata, India. A sigh of relief. I go back, yawning a little, to the TV debate about NRC. It doesn't really concern me. I think I'll turn in now...but before that I must turn down the air conditioner. It's a tad too chilly.

Munmun Bibi (Muslim) and Mumpy Burman (Hindu) lie awake with their husbands late into the night in enclaves known as chhit-s while their children whimper in the dark heat of their small rooms. No lights for them. No fans either. But that's a minor issue right now for their parents. They are  worried about when they will be given their citizenship cards, as promised after Constitutional Amendment no 119 was made in 2015, and the historic LBA or Land Boundary Act passed in Parliament. 

But who are these people and where did they come from, these inhabitants of the fifty-one chhitmahals that are strewn all over Cooch Bihar? I am ashamed to say that I had never heard the word chhitmahal before. I learnt about them only after I was told the shocking story of the woman giving birth by the barbed wire. So, who are they?

They are the ‘nowhere’ people. 

Their ancestors were once the subjects of the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar whose kingdom stretched from Rangpur, now in Bangladesh, to Jalpaiguri and the Himalayan foothills. It was then a part of undivided India. Back in 1947, there were still independent kingdoms that had not acceded to the Indian state. Cooch Bihar was one such.

Radcliffe, who had no idea about the geography of India except in theory,  drew the boundary line dividing our subcontinent into India and Pakistan, and left as hurriedly as possible for the more temperate climes of England. The Maharaja of Cooch Bihar acceded to the Indian state two years later, in 1949. So his subjects, who had all along thought of themselves as Indians, were now  divided between India and Pakistan and lived in little enclaves or chhit-s on either side of the boundary line, not knowing whether they were Pakistani citizens or Indian. 

We had gone to visit them recently. Bolan Gangopadhyay, Mudar Patheria and I, aided by the NGO Masum.

Why, I ask myself, did we bother to fly to Bagdogra, take a car to the New Jalpaiguri station, board a train to Cooch Bihar and then drive out the next morning to Dinhata, more than an hour's ride away, to find out about these people who were no concern of ours?  Our group Citizenspeakindia has no political affiliations. I, personally, have no political ambitions whatsoever. What drew me there? A possible subject for a film? We filmmakers are notorious for using people as ‘subjects!’ But searching deep within, I find that that is not the answer. It is the plight of that pregnant woman that haunted me, haunts me still. As a woman. As a mother myself. And I believe that image haunts Mudar and Bolan as well.

We don't find her anywhere when we get to the chhit that is known as Karala 2, even though the local women tell us that the incident actually happened.  Dinhata is the nearest town to Karala 2. It took us 20 minutes  by car to get there. But we are not allowed inside. "The area is sensitive," the BSF guards explain politely, and they  can't possibly allow us in without written permission. Fair enough. We should have thought of that. We did inform the DIG (BSF), the SP and the DM of Cooch Bihar of our visit on that particular day attaching a route map of our tour. Receiving no reply from any of them, we assumed that we were not forbidden to go. After all, there is no wartime emergency now, and we were not planning to cross over to Bangladesh, only to visit the inhabitants of the chhit to see what their living conditions are like. We were not planning on having a picnic there, or going on a shopping spree as someone from the BSF pointed out rather sarcastically! In any case, according to article 19 of the Constitution, all Indian citizens are allowed to travel freely anywhere in India. We thought we were too.

Well, we are proved wrong. No matter.  The cooperation of the BSF guards (who are after all, simply obeying orders) cannot be faulted. They allow some of the inhabitants to come out and talk to us. 

We learn a lot from them. We learn that the big black gates of their 'prison' are opened twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. 

According to the Geneva Convention of 1945, to which India was a signatory, the barbed wire fencing is supposed to be only 150 yards away from the pillars at an international border. The area between the pillar and the fencing is no man's land. But at Karala 2, the fencing is 500 yards away. So the enclave falls within the no man's land from which entry and exit are strictly regulated. If only the fencing were shifted to 150 yards from the border, the enclave would fall within Indian territory and the inhabitants would be allowed to move about freely. No barbed wire. No gate. No guards. It is a small demand to make, is it not? No rickshaws or vans are allowed inside the enclave either. Munmun bibi, a young inhabitant of Karala 2 tells me that she had to walk 500 yards to her home after her caesarean operation. 

None of the children at Karala 2 like going to school. Why?  Because they get hungry! School ends at 2 PM, but they have to sit outside on empty stomachs until the black gate re-opens at 4 PM to let them back in. Don't they get mid-day meals at school, I wonder.

There are eleven families living in this enclave, fifty-one residents in all, a negligible number in a nation of 133+ crores. But these eleven families have been intermarrying amongst themselves for years! Brides who would agree to enter the world behind the barbed wire fencing are impossible to find. No point worrying about what kind of genetic effect this kind of inbreeding is bound to have  on their future generations sooner or later... 

Children don’t like school—it gets over at 2 pm, but hungry students have to wait till 4, when the big gate opens.

This is just Karala 2, the worst of all the chhits we visited. The others are marginally better. At least they are not enclosed by barbed wire. Thanks to the Pradhan Mantri Sadak  Yojana and the efforts of the State Government, the roads in the district of Cooch Bihar are fairly smooth and well-paved. But inside the chhit called Paschim Bakhali’r Chhara, the scene is entirely different. During the monsoon season, the roads in the enclave are nothing more than a mire of knee-deep mud!  Now, even after a few weeks of strong sun, they are still difficult to traverse! We see a narrow earth road in the middle of the chhit. It is framed by two large ponds on either side. When the rains come, the ponds and the road become one - a large and treacherous body of water that is impossible to negotiate! Some children had fallen into the pond by mistake and drowned, we are told by Mumpy Barman who is married to one of the men in this chhit,

I ask them about their toilet facilities in 'Swachh Bharat' and am shown a faded pink slab, which has the Mahatma's name engraved on it in faint lettering. It is part of the Swachh Bharat campaign. “So where is the shauchalay?" I ask. The lady of the house points to a space behind the pink Mahatma slab, curtained off with a torn sari. No door to it, so I take a peek. There is an earthen platform with several haandi like vessels on it, and a sacred tulsi mount close by. I still don't get it. Where is the shauchalay then? Someone patiently explains that the haandi-s have to be removed for the shauchalay to be used. I am left wondering whether the same haandi-s are used for cooking, but refrain from asking. It seems sad enough to see the Mahatma reduced to a shauchalay in this manner

The next day we meet the representatives from the various chhits and ask them what their main problems are, so that we may try to present them to the State and Central governments. It is exhausting to write down all the details. Bolan does that. Mudar talks to one group while I start taking video shots of another as they relate their woes. They  actually believe that we will be able to help them. Their faith in us brings me close to tears, because all I can really do is listen. Reassurances ring false even to my own ears.

"Which is our Independence day?" one of them asks me in all seriousness. "Is it 15th August 1947? Or is it in 1949, when the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar joined India? Or in 1974, when Mujibur Rahman and Indira Gandhi signed a pact for exchange of land and residents? Or is it in 2015 when the Land Boundary Act was passed?" 

I have no answer. 

These people are like pawns being shifted around by pacts, which they can't even begin to understand. All of them are Barmans –  Rajbanshi-s, they tell us proudly. Is that Hindu or Muslim, I ask in my ignorance. Hindus, I am told.

"I have papers of the East India Company from my forefathers' time, and documents from the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar to prove that the land I am tilling is mine" complains an elderly resident of Phalanapur chhit, "But I don't have the right to sell any of it. I have no papers from this side of the border to prove that the land is mine!"

Phalanapur is actually more affluent  than the other enclaves and the inhabitants have a fair amount of land that they have always known as theirs, except that they don't have papers from India to prove it. There is a river called Buri Dharala that runs in the middle of their chhit with people living on either side. One of their demands is that a bridge be built over it to facilitate the movement of the inhabitants, but despite repeated pleas to concerned authorities, nothing seems to have happened. 

We hear varying reports about the amount of money that was allotted by the Centre for the development of the chhit-s after 2015 – 30,000 crores...3,000 crores...1,000 crores... Whatever the actual amount, the general complaint seems to be that a good part of it has been  spent on projects that have nothing to do with the chhits....a stadium was built somewhere...another bridge was built somewhere else...

All seem to agree that the Land Boundary Act of 2015 was a good move, but that the process was left incomplete. Land and  residents have been exchanged between India and Bangladesh, but there has been no follow up. At the time the Act was passed, they had been promised mainly three things: Citizenship. Rehabilitation. Development. None of which they have got.

They all have voter cards. That's the first thing they were given. Most have Adhaar cards as well, though many of these have been made under false names – names of Indian acquaintances, friends, relatives or in-laws who are passed off as parents or husbands. There was no other way they could go out and earn a livelihood or send their children to school. Now, after 2015, those names need to be corrected.  Up until recently, they had been assured by various agencies that their voter and Adhaar cards were proof of citizenship. It is only now that they have woken up to the fact that they will need valid citizenship cards in order to stay on in India - cards that were promised to them when they were exchanged like so many sheep by two governments. An exchange in which they had no say. 

In the one hundred and eleven 'chhitmahals' in Bangladesh, the erstwhile subjects of the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar don't have citizenship rights either.

They are the ‘nowhere’ people on both sides of an international border, with no country to call their own.

I realise that I am an Indian citizen just by an accident of birth. And because of that accident, no guard can stop me from going back to my apartment in Kolkata tomorrow and resume watching a debate about NRC on television.
 

This article by well known film artiste, Aparna Sen was penned after a visit to the Chhitmahals and was also published in the Outlook. It is being published here with permission from the author.
 

The Plight Of The 'Nowhere People' -- Of Pain, Labour and Humiliation

Imprisoned by barbed wire, lacking basic amenities and rights, people trapped within the enclaves along the India-Bangladesh border lead wretched lives, writes filmmaker Aparna Sen

OPINION | The Plight Of The 'Nowhere People' -- Of Pain, Labour and Humiliation
No Land’s Men
For inhabitants of Karala 2 chhit, lives behind the barbed wire are bleak, with little hope in sight


She is in labour. Her contractions are coming faster, getting more intense! But she still has to walk the 500 yards from her home to the large black gate with barbed wire all around, and guards outside.  And when she reaches the gate and informs the guards, it will be a one to two hour wait before permission is granted for the gate to be opened, the big black gate to the outside world...and then, if she's lucky, a car to take her to the nearest hospital 15 kilometres away. Can she make it? She must make it! She must!

I am watching Sacred Games sitting in my favourite armchair. My back just hurts a little from sitting so long, which all my doctors have forbidden me to do, but I just have to finish this engrossing episode!

She has barely reached the barbed wire fencing, when her baby decides to arrive with little regard for time, space or convenience. The women accompanying her crowd around, trying to shield the intimate process of birthing from the eyes of the male inmates of their prison. The baby slips out onto the earth amidst the dirt and the muck. Someone cuts the umbilical cord with a piece of split  bamboo. A makeshift surgical knife. Ingenious! Would it be better for the new-born to die? Or live to be brought up in the same prison as its parents, in a makeshift home without electricity or potable water, behind a huge black gate, outside which is the throbbing, pulsating, land of opportunities that they know as India?

I have finished binge watching Sacred Games and have now switched on to a discussion about NRC on television. A moment of panic! I don't have a birth certificate! I was born in my grandparent's home with a highly qualified doctor in attendance, but did anyone think to register my birth?

Ah! But I do have a passport! The date of my birth is imprinted clearly there along with the place - Kolkata, India. A sigh of relief. I go back, yawning a little, to the TV debate about NRC. It doesn't really concern me. I think I'll turn in now...but before that I must turn down the air conditioner. It's a tad too chilly.

Munmun Bibi (Muslim) and Mumpy Burman (Hindu) lie awake with their husbands late into the night in enclaves known as chhit-s while their children whimper in the dark heat of their small rooms. No lights for them. No fans either. But that's a minor issue right now for their parents. They are  worried about when they will be given their citizenship cards, as promised after Constitutional Amendment no 119 was made in 2015, and the historic LBA or Land Boundary Act passed in Parliament. 

But who are these people and where did they come from, these inhabitants of the fifty-one chhitmahals that are strewn all over Cooch Bihar? I am ashamed to say that I had never heard the word chhitmahal before. I learnt about them only after I was told the shocking story of the woman giving birth by the barbed wire. So, who are they?

They are the ‘nowhere’ people. 

Their ancestors were once the subjects of the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar whose kingdom stretched from Rangpur, now in Bangladesh, to Jalpaiguri and the Himalayan foothills. It was then a part of undivided India. Back in 1947, there were still independent kingdoms that had not acceded to the Indian state. Cooch Bihar was one such.

Radcliffe, who had no idea about the geography of India except in theory,  drew the boundary line dividing our subcontinent into India and Pakistan, and left as hurriedly as possible for the more temperate climes of England. The Maharaja of Cooch Bihar acceded to the Indian state two years later, in 1949. So his subjects, who had all along thought of themselves as Indians, were now  divided between India and Pakistan and lived in little enclaves or chhit-s on either side of the boundary line, not knowing whether they were Pakistani citizens or Indian. 

We had gone to visit them recently. Bolan Gangopadhyay, Mudar Patheria and I, aided by the NGO Masum.

Why, I ask myself, did we bother to fly to Bagdogra, take a car to the New Jalpaiguri station, board a train to Cooch Bihar and then drive out the next morning to Dinhata, more than an hour's ride away, to find out about these people who were no concern of ours?  Our group Citizenspeakindia has no political affiliations. I, personally, have no political ambitions whatsoever. What drew me there? A possible subject for a film? We filmmakers are notorious for using people as ‘subjects!’ But searching deep within, I find that that is not the answer. It is the plight of that pregnant woman that haunted me, haunts me still. As a woman. As a mother myself. And I believe that image haunts Mudar and Bolan as well.

We don't find her anywhere when we get to the chhit that is known as Karala 2, even though the local women tell us that the incident actually happened.  Dinhata is the nearest town to Karala 2. It took us 20 minutes  by car to get there. But we are not allowed inside. "The area is sensitive," the BSF guards explain politely, and they  can't possibly allow us in without written permission. Fair enough. We should have thought of that. We did inform the DIG (BSF), the SP and the DM of Cooch Bihar of our visit on that particular day attaching a route map of our tour. Receiving no reply from any of them, we assumed that we were not forbidden to go. After all, there is no wartime emergency now, and we were not planning to cross over to Bangladesh, only to visit the inhabitants of the chhit to see what their living conditions are like. We were not planning on having a picnic there, or going on a shopping spree as someone from the BSF pointed out rather sarcastically! In any case, according to article 19 of the Constitution, all Indian citizens are allowed to travel freely anywhere in India. We thought we were too.

Well, we are proved wrong. No matter.  The cooperation of the BSF guards (who are after all, simply obeying orders) cannot be faulted. They allow some of the inhabitants to come out and talk to us. 

We learn a lot from them. We learn that the big black gates of their 'prison' are opened twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. 

According to the Geneva Convention of 1945, to which India was a signatory, the barbed wire fencing is supposed to be only 150 yards away from the pillars at an international border. The area between the pillar and the fencing is no man's land. But at Karala 2, the fencing is 500 yards away. So the enclave falls within the no man's land from which entry and exit are strictly regulated. If only the fencing were shifted to 150 yards from the border, the enclave would fall within Indian territory and the inhabitants would be allowed to move about freely. No barbed wire. No gate. No guards. It is a small demand to make, is it not? No rickshaws or vans are allowed inside the enclave either. Munmun bibi, a young inhabitant of Karala 2 tells me that she had to walk 500 yards to her home after her caesarean operation. 

None of the children at Karala 2 like going to school. Why?  Because they get hungry! School ends at 2 PM, but they have to sit outside on empty stomachs until the black gate re-opens at 4 PM to let them back in. Don't they get mid-day meals at school, I wonder.

There are eleven families living in this enclave, fifty-one residents in all, a negligible number in a nation of 133+ crores. But these eleven families have been intermarrying amongst themselves for years! Brides who would agree to enter the world behind the barbed wire fencing are impossible to find. No point worrying about what kind of genetic effect this kind of inbreeding is bound to have  on their future generations sooner or later... 

Children don’t like school—it gets over at 2 pm, but hungry students have to wait till 4, when the big gate opens.

This is just Karala 2, the worst of all the chhits we visited. The others are marginally better. At least they are not enclosed by barbed wire. Thanks to the Pradhan Mantri Sadak  Yojana and the efforts of the State Government, the roads in the district of Cooch Bihar are fairly smooth and well-paved. But inside the chhit called Paschim Bakhali’r Chhara, the scene is entirely different. During the monsoon season, the roads in the enclave are nothing more than a mire of knee-deep mud!  Now, even after a few weeks of strong sun, they are still difficult to traverse! We see a narrow earth road in the middle of the chhit. It is framed by two large ponds on either side. When the rains come, the ponds and the road become one - a large and treacherous body of water that is impossible to negotiate! Some children had fallen into the pond by mistake and drowned, we are told by Mumpy Barman who is married to one of the men in this chhit,

I ask them about their toilet facilities in 'Swachh Bharat' and am shown a faded pink slab, which has the Mahatma's name engraved on it in faint lettering. It is part of the Swachh Bharat campaign. “So where is the shauchalay?" I ask. The lady of the house points to a space behind the pink Mahatma slab, curtained off with a torn sari. No door to it, so I take a peek. There is an earthen platform with several haandi like vessels on it, and a sacred tulsi mount close by. I still don't get it. Where is the shauchalay then? Someone patiently explains that the haandi-s have to be removed for the shauchalay to be used. I am left wondering whether the same haandi-s are used for cooking, but refrain from asking. It seems sad enough to see the Mahatma reduced to a shauchalay in this manner

The next day we meet the representatives from the various chhits and ask them what their main problems are, so that we may try to present them to the State and Central governments. It is exhausting to write down all the details. Bolan does that. Mudar talks to one group while I start taking video shots of another as they relate their woes. They  actually believe that we will be able to help them. Their faith in us brings me close to tears, because all I can really do is listen. Reassurances ring false even to my own ears.

"Which is our Independence day?" one of them asks me in all seriousness. "Is it 15th August 1947? Or is it in 1949, when the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar joined India? Or in 1974, when Mujibur Rahman and Indira Gandhi signed a pact for exchange of land and residents? Or is it in 2015 when the Land Boundary Act was passed?" 

I have no answer. 

These people are like pawns being shifted around by pacts, which they can't even begin to understand. All of them are Barmans –  Rajbanshi-s, they tell us proudly. Is that Hindu or Muslim, I ask in my ignorance. Hindus, I am told.

"I have papers of the East India Company from my forefathers' time, and documents from the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar to prove that the land I am tilling is mine" complains an elderly resident of Phalanapur chhit, "But I don't have the right to sell any of it. I have no papers from this side of the border to prove that the land is mine!"

Phalanapur is actually more affluent  than the other enclaves and the inhabitants have a fair amount of land that they have always known as theirs, except that they don't have papers from India to prove it. There is a river called Buri Dharala that runs in the middle of their chhit with people living on either side. One of their demands is that a bridge be built over it to facilitate the movement of the inhabitants, but despite repeated pleas to concerned authorities, nothing seems to have happened. 

We hear varying reports about the amount of money that was allotted by the Centre for the development of the chhit-s after 2015 – 30,000 crores...3,000 crores...1,000 crores... Whatever the actual amount, the general complaint seems to be that a good part of it has been  spent on projects that have nothing to do with the chhits....a stadium was built somewhere...another bridge was built somewhere else...

All seem to agree that the Land Boundary Act of 2015 was a good move, but that the process was left incomplete. Land and  residents have been exchanged between India and Bangladesh, but there has been no follow up. At the time the Act was passed, they had been promised mainly three things: Citizenship. Rehabilitation. Development. None of which they have got.

They all have voter cards. That's the first thing they were given. Most have Adhaar cards as well, though many of these have been made under false names – names of Indian acquaintances, friends, relatives or in-laws who are passed off as parents or husbands. There was no other way they could go out and earn a livelihood or send their children to school. Now, after 2015, those names need to be corrected.  Up until recently, they had been assured by various agencies that their voter and Adhaar cards were proof of citizenship. It is only now that they have woken up to the fact that they will need valid citizenship cards in order to stay on in India - cards that were promised to them when they were exchanged like so many sheep by two governments. An exchange in which they had no say. 

In the one hundred and eleven 'chhitmahals' in Bangladesh, the erstwhile subjects of the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar don't have citizenship rights either.

They are the ‘nowhere’ people on both sides of an international border, with no country to call their own.

I realise that I am an Indian citizen just by an accident of birth. And because of that accident, no guard can stop me from going back to my apartment in Kolkata tomorrow and resume watching a debate about NRC on television.
 

This article by well known film artiste, Aparna Sen was penned after a visit to the Chhitmahals and was also published in the Outlook. It is being published here with permission from the author.
 

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There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

Rajiv Shah 14 Nov 2019

Buddhist stupa

ASI excavations: Pix by Prof Supriya Varma

A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”

Noting that “there was Buddhist occupation” in Ayodhya then, Prof Varma, in an interview recently  “updated” in Huffington Post following the Supreme Court’s verdict handing over the Babri site to build a Ram Lalla temple, said, this is what even Alexander Cunningham, the first director general of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), also said after he carried out “some kind of survey” around the Ayodhya region in 1861-62.

Belonging to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and inserted as observers in the ASI team excavating the site following a Sunni Waqf Board plea in the Babri case, Prof Varma says, Cunningham mentioned three mounds, two of whom had some kind of Buddhist Stupa and one had a Vihara. Varma was recommended to the Sunni Waqf Board, along with Jaya Menon of the history department of the Shiv Nadar University.

According to Prof Varma, whose name was recommended to the Sunni Waqf Board by Prof Irfan Habib, one of the top-most Indian historians, currently professor-emeritus, Aligarh Muslim University, “Outside the Babri Masjid, there are several other archeological mounds which seem to be sites of Buddhist stupas as well as monasteries. There was clearly a Buddhist community here, in the period, roughly from the 2nd century BC to 6th century AD.”

She adds, “To us, it looks like this was then abandoned and reoccupied sometime around the 11th-12th century and possibly because there was a Muslim settlement that came up. And they had a small mosque, which was expanded as the community increased, in size and finally a much larger mosque was built by Babar in 1528.”

Insisting that “there is no evidence” of of the narrative that “Babar's general Mir Baqi knocked down a temple to build a mosque”, as suggested by ASI, Prof Varma says, there is only “oral tradition that starts coming up in the late 19th century and it is recorded in a colonial period gazetteer.” She adds, even when Alexander Cunningham recorded these oral traditions during his travel to Ayodhya around 1861-62.

How do you explain finding animal bones in a Vaishnav temple? ASI did not want that recorded. Bones were not dated. Labour they had hired were just throwing the bones away

According to Prof Varma, Cunningham “does not mention a temple being underneath the Babri Masjid”, adding, “He talks about three temples, there is oral tradition of three temples being destroyed, but these are not underneath the Babri Masjid. They are some other temples in Ayodhya.”

Taking up issue with those who claim that “this is the site of Ram Temple, which is a Vaishnav temple”, Prof Varma says, here, “generally, you would not expect to find any bones because of this vegetarianism etc., but when they started excavating, they started finding a lot of bones, animal bones.”

Wondering how “do you explain finding animal bones in a Vaishnav temple”, she says ASI, strangely “did not want that recorded”, adding, “We noticed that the labour they had hired were just throwing the bones away.”

She adds, “The other thing they were also doing, there is a certain pottery, ceramic type, which is known as glazed ware, which is generally associated with Muslim communities. They were finding a lot of this glazed ware. Those again were being thrown.”

In fact, according to her, there is an entire chapter on the trenches in the ASI report and a chapter of chronology, a chapter on different structures, on pottery, yet “what is missing is a chapter on bones and human skeletal remains. That is what they also found but they never published it.

Calling it procedural “violation of an ethical code”, Prof Varma says, worse, ASI “did not date” the bones. Pointing out that they did complain about this, she adds, also, “you would not expect glazed ware in a Vaishnav temple.”

According to her, the issue acquired so much of a political character, “As far as foreign archeologists are concerned, they would not want to get entangled in it. If they wish to do any other archeological work in India, they would not want that to be jeopardised.”

As for the ASI and its archeologists Prof Varma opines, “They really are now no longer considered to have any kind of expertise. They haven't kept up to date with the latest methods, the recent theoretical developments, and they really just see it as more as an administrative job than as an academic discipline.”

Courtesy: counterview.net

There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

Buddhist stupa

ASI excavations: Pix by Prof Supriya Varma

A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”

Noting that “there was Buddhist occupation” in Ayodhya then, Prof Varma, in an interview recently  “updated” in Huffington Post following the Supreme Court’s verdict handing over the Babri site to build a Ram Lalla temple, said, this is what even Alexander Cunningham, the first director general of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), also said after he carried out “some kind of survey” around the Ayodhya region in 1861-62.

Belonging to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and inserted as observers in the ASI team excavating the site following a Sunni Waqf Board plea in the Babri case, Prof Varma says, Cunningham mentioned three mounds, two of whom had some kind of Buddhist Stupa and one had a Vihara. Varma was recommended to the Sunni Waqf Board, along with Jaya Menon of the history department of the Shiv Nadar University.

According to Prof Varma, whose name was recommended to the Sunni Waqf Board by Prof Irfan Habib, one of the top-most Indian historians, currently professor-emeritus, Aligarh Muslim University, “Outside the Babri Masjid, there are several other archeological mounds which seem to be sites of Buddhist stupas as well as monasteries. There was clearly a Buddhist community here, in the period, roughly from the 2nd century BC to 6th century AD.”

She adds, “To us, it looks like this was then abandoned and reoccupied sometime around the 11th-12th century and possibly because there was a Muslim settlement that came up. And they had a small mosque, which was expanded as the community increased, in size and finally a much larger mosque was built by Babar in 1528.”

Insisting that “there is no evidence” of of the narrative that “Babar's general Mir Baqi knocked down a temple to build a mosque”, as suggested by ASI, Prof Varma says, there is only “oral tradition that starts coming up in the late 19th century and it is recorded in a colonial period gazetteer.” She adds, even when Alexander Cunningham recorded these oral traditions during his travel to Ayodhya around 1861-62.

How do you explain finding animal bones in a Vaishnav temple? ASI did not want that recorded. Bones were not dated. Labour they had hired were just throwing the bones away

According to Prof Varma, Cunningham “does not mention a temple being underneath the Babri Masjid”, adding, “He talks about three temples, there is oral tradition of three temples being destroyed, but these are not underneath the Babri Masjid. They are some other temples in Ayodhya.”

Taking up issue with those who claim that “this is the site of Ram Temple, which is a Vaishnav temple”, Prof Varma says, here, “generally, you would not expect to find any bones because of this vegetarianism etc., but when they started excavating, they started finding a lot of bones, animal bones.”

Wondering how “do you explain finding animal bones in a Vaishnav temple”, she says ASI, strangely “did not want that recorded”, adding, “We noticed that the labour they had hired were just throwing the bones away.”

She adds, “The other thing they were also doing, there is a certain pottery, ceramic type, which is known as glazed ware, which is generally associated with Muslim communities. They were finding a lot of this glazed ware. Those again were being thrown.”

In fact, according to her, there is an entire chapter on the trenches in the ASI report and a chapter of chronology, a chapter on different structures, on pottery, yet “what is missing is a chapter on bones and human skeletal remains. That is what they also found but they never published it.

Calling it procedural “violation of an ethical code”, Prof Varma says, worse, ASI “did not date” the bones. Pointing out that they did complain about this, she adds, also, “you would not expect glazed ware in a Vaishnav temple.”

According to her, the issue acquired so much of a political character, “As far as foreign archeologists are concerned, they would not want to get entangled in it. If they wish to do any other archeological work in India, they would not want that to be jeopardised.”

As for the ASI and its archeologists Prof Varma opines, “They really are now no longer considered to have any kind of expertise. They haven't kept up to date with the latest methods, the recent theoretical developments, and they really just see it as more as an administrative job than as an academic discipline.”

Courtesy: counterview.net

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