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Baul Singers of Bangladesh Struggle to Survive Amid Onslaught By Muslim Hardliners

Singers of the Baul folk tradition in Bangladesh are struggling to survive after more than a decade of physical and legal attacks by Islamic hardliners who consider these artists apostates and heretics.

25 Jan 2021

Singers of the Baul folk tradition in Bangladesh are struggling to survive after more than a decade of physical and legal attacks by Islamic hardliners who consider these artists apostates and heretics.

Bauls – as these wandering minstrels are called in Bangladesh and West Bengal in India – are neither of those things, but they are nonconformists whose songs boldly showcase their syncretic mystical roots.

Rita Dewan, an acclaimed Bangladeshi Baul singer, says she was forced into hiding for most of last year after religious zealots in the Muslim-majority nation threatened to kill her. They accused her of defaming Islam “by making vulgar remarks about god” in a performance uploaded online last January.

“I am in trouble and facing death threats by Mullahs,” the singer told BenarNews. “But I will continue to sing because this is not only the source of my income, but also a part of my prayers. I feel the blessings and touch of Allah through my songs, which also teach me to hate no one.”

While the community is not entirely ascetic, most Bauls live frugally, surviving on what they earn from their itinerant performances. That means, when members of the community are killed or tied up in legal challenges for their allegedly anti-Islam performances, their already meagre earnings take a huge hit.

That is what has been happening since 2011, when a surge in Islamic extremism targeted Bauls as well as writers, bloggers, publishers, activists and intellectuals, said Baki Billah, a human rights activist in Dhaka.

“The Baul performers have been increasingly facing death threats and attacks due to the rise of hardline Islamists since then,” Billah told BenarNews.

These attacks on Bauls are also a threat to the survival in Bangladesh of the folk form, which has influenced the likes of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, American folk icon Bob Dylan, acclaimed beat poet Alan Ginsberg, and others.

In 2005, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, proclaimed the Baul artistic genre a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”

“The preservation of the Baul songs and the general context in which they are performed depend mainly on the social and economic situation of their practitioners, the Bauls, who have always been a relatively marginalized group,” UNESCO said in its 2008 inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

'A new weapon'

According to Billah, Baul artists in recent years have been tied up in cases lodged against them by religious fundamentalists under Bangladesh’s draconian Digital Security Act.

This law punishes those who produce or distribute content that “hurts religious sentiments or religious values” or “destroys communal harmony, or creates unrest or disorder” with 10 years in prison.

It also makes “propaganda” against “the liberation war, the spirit of the liberation war, the nation’s founding father, the national anthem, or national flag” punishable with a maximum of life in prison. The war being referred to is the one in what was then East Pakistan in 1971.

“Physical attacks and killings of Bauls and Sufi researchers have decreased since the government’s crackdown against militants following the Holey Artisan terror attack of July 1, 2016,” Billah said, referring to a massacre of hostages by machete-wielding militants who attacked a Dhaka cafe.

“But now the people belonging to the same ideology are filing cases against Bauls and the people of other faiths. The Digital Security Act has emerged as a new weapon to harass them.”

Dewan, the Baul singer, has four cases against her under the DSA for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Shariat Sarker, another Baul singer, languished in prison for seven months after he was arrested under the act in January last year.

“How can I stop singing? I have been practicing the Baul path since my childhood,” Sarker told BenarNews.

His wife, Mosammat Shirin Akhter, said the family of five was in desperate financial straits.

“We are in hardship along with our three children. Baul performances have almost stopped, as people now are afraid to organize such events,” Akhter told BenarNews, adding that this had begun before the outbreak of coronavirus.

Dewan’s husband said law enforcement had been ordered not to allow Baul performances.

“Once upon a time, we did not have to seek police permission to organize any event. But now it is a big problem. Police do not want to give permission to organize Baul events they want to avoid unrest,” Muhammad Ashraful Islam told BenarNews.

Md Abdul Mannan Ilias, additional secretary to the Cultural Affairs Ministry, denied Islam’s allegation.

“The government has given no instructions to restrict Baul events. Police might have imposed restrictions due to the pandemic,” Ilias told BenarNews.

In fact, government officials have been promoting various folk heritages, he said.

“We know that folk performers are in trouble as functions are restricted due to COVID 19. Personally, I feel their pain in my heart. We discussed how to promote them in a meeting even today while discussing the budget of 2021-2022 financial year,” Ilias said.

BD-RITA.jpg

Baul singer Rita Dewan performs during a concert at a shrine in Dohar. Bangladesh, Nov. 2, 2020. [AFP]

‘Such practices need to be stopped’

The Bauls are an unorthodox devotional art form, influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Sufi Islam, yet distinctly different from them, UNESCO says.

“Bauls neither identify with any organized religion nor with the caste system, special deities, temples or sacred places. Their emphasis lies on the importance of a person’s physical body as the place where god resides,” according to the U.N. agency.

This explanation cuts no ice with those who believe the Bauls are insulting the religion of Islam through their songs.

Muhammad Imrul Hasan, who filed one of the cases against Dewan, said he planned to continue his legal barrage.

“The Bauls make audacious remarks about Allah. Such practices need to be stopped once and for all. I will file more cases to stop this,” Hassan said.

He was referring to Dewan’s performance, a duet, in which she played the role of an atheist while her co-singer played the role of god. The two characters engaged in a philosophical discussion through their song.

Dewan said she was not insulting any god or religion.

“During Baul performances, we sometimes have a debate. I performed the role of an atheist to raise questions, while my opponent performed the role of god to answer the questions,” Dewan said.

“The aim is to clarify issues and ultimately submit to god. This practice has continued for centuries.”

Another case was filed against Dewan by Rasel Mia, who said he was just doing his religious duty.

“I filed the case, because I thought it my duty as a Muslim to protest the objectionable remarks about Allah,” Mia told BenarNews.

When asked whether it was alright for an actor to play the role of a villain or Satan, he declined to comment.

When playing a role – whether in a film, play or any other performance – artists often have to say unpleasant things, but that is simply a role, said Tapan Bagchi, deputy director of the Bangla Academy, a cultural institute under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

“When someone acts as a traitor, he might have to make derogatory comments against Bangladesh and its founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It’s not treason,” Bagchi said.

“An artist has the right.”

(This article was first published in benarnews.org and may be read here.)

Baul Singers of Bangladesh Struggle to Survive Amid Onslaught By Muslim Hardliners

Singers of the Baul folk tradition in Bangladesh are struggling to survive after more than a decade of physical and legal attacks by Islamic hardliners who consider these artists apostates and heretics.

Singers of the Baul folk tradition in Bangladesh are struggling to survive after more than a decade of physical and legal attacks by Islamic hardliners who consider these artists apostates and heretics.

Bauls – as these wandering minstrels are called in Bangladesh and West Bengal in India – are neither of those things, but they are nonconformists whose songs boldly showcase their syncretic mystical roots.

Rita Dewan, an acclaimed Bangladeshi Baul singer, says she was forced into hiding for most of last year after religious zealots in the Muslim-majority nation threatened to kill her. They accused her of defaming Islam “by making vulgar remarks about god” in a performance uploaded online last January.

“I am in trouble and facing death threats by Mullahs,” the singer told BenarNews. “But I will continue to sing because this is not only the source of my income, but also a part of my prayers. I feel the blessings and touch of Allah through my songs, which also teach me to hate no one.”

While the community is not entirely ascetic, most Bauls live frugally, surviving on what they earn from their itinerant performances. That means, when members of the community are killed or tied up in legal challenges for their allegedly anti-Islam performances, their already meagre earnings take a huge hit.

That is what has been happening since 2011, when a surge in Islamic extremism targeted Bauls as well as writers, bloggers, publishers, activists and intellectuals, said Baki Billah, a human rights activist in Dhaka.

“The Baul performers have been increasingly facing death threats and attacks due to the rise of hardline Islamists since then,” Billah told BenarNews.

These attacks on Bauls are also a threat to the survival in Bangladesh of the folk form, which has influenced the likes of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, American folk icon Bob Dylan, acclaimed beat poet Alan Ginsberg, and others.

In 2005, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, proclaimed the Baul artistic genre a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”

“The preservation of the Baul songs and the general context in which they are performed depend mainly on the social and economic situation of their practitioners, the Bauls, who have always been a relatively marginalized group,” UNESCO said in its 2008 inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

'A new weapon'

According to Billah, Baul artists in recent years have been tied up in cases lodged against them by religious fundamentalists under Bangladesh’s draconian Digital Security Act.

This law punishes those who produce or distribute content that “hurts religious sentiments or religious values” or “destroys communal harmony, or creates unrest or disorder” with 10 years in prison.

It also makes “propaganda” against “the liberation war, the spirit of the liberation war, the nation’s founding father, the national anthem, or national flag” punishable with a maximum of life in prison. The war being referred to is the one in what was then East Pakistan in 1971.

“Physical attacks and killings of Bauls and Sufi researchers have decreased since the government’s crackdown against militants following the Holey Artisan terror attack of July 1, 2016,” Billah said, referring to a massacre of hostages by machete-wielding militants who attacked a Dhaka cafe.

“But now the people belonging to the same ideology are filing cases against Bauls and the people of other faiths. The Digital Security Act has emerged as a new weapon to harass them.”

Dewan, the Baul singer, has four cases against her under the DSA for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Shariat Sarker, another Baul singer, languished in prison for seven months after he was arrested under the act in January last year.

“How can I stop singing? I have been practicing the Baul path since my childhood,” Sarker told BenarNews.

His wife, Mosammat Shirin Akhter, said the family of five was in desperate financial straits.

“We are in hardship along with our three children. Baul performances have almost stopped, as people now are afraid to organize such events,” Akhter told BenarNews, adding that this had begun before the outbreak of coronavirus.

Dewan’s husband said law enforcement had been ordered not to allow Baul performances.

“Once upon a time, we did not have to seek police permission to organize any event. But now it is a big problem. Police do not want to give permission to organize Baul events they want to avoid unrest,” Muhammad Ashraful Islam told BenarNews.

Md Abdul Mannan Ilias, additional secretary to the Cultural Affairs Ministry, denied Islam’s allegation.

“The government has given no instructions to restrict Baul events. Police might have imposed restrictions due to the pandemic,” Ilias told BenarNews.

In fact, government officials have been promoting various folk heritages, he said.

“We know that folk performers are in trouble as functions are restricted due to COVID 19. Personally, I feel their pain in my heart. We discussed how to promote them in a meeting even today while discussing the budget of 2021-2022 financial year,” Ilias said.

BD-RITA.jpg

Baul singer Rita Dewan performs during a concert at a shrine in Dohar. Bangladesh, Nov. 2, 2020. [AFP]

‘Such practices need to be stopped’

The Bauls are an unorthodox devotional art form, influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Sufi Islam, yet distinctly different from them, UNESCO says.

“Bauls neither identify with any organized religion nor with the caste system, special deities, temples or sacred places. Their emphasis lies on the importance of a person’s physical body as the place where god resides,” according to the U.N. agency.

This explanation cuts no ice with those who believe the Bauls are insulting the religion of Islam through their songs.

Muhammad Imrul Hasan, who filed one of the cases against Dewan, said he planned to continue his legal barrage.

“The Bauls make audacious remarks about Allah. Such practices need to be stopped once and for all. I will file more cases to stop this,” Hassan said.

He was referring to Dewan’s performance, a duet, in which she played the role of an atheist while her co-singer played the role of god. The two characters engaged in a philosophical discussion through their song.

Dewan said she was not insulting any god or religion.

“During Baul performances, we sometimes have a debate. I performed the role of an atheist to raise questions, while my opponent performed the role of god to answer the questions,” Dewan said.

“The aim is to clarify issues and ultimately submit to god. This practice has continued for centuries.”

Another case was filed against Dewan by Rasel Mia, who said he was just doing his religious duty.

“I filed the case, because I thought it my duty as a Muslim to protest the objectionable remarks about Allah,” Mia told BenarNews.

When asked whether it was alright for an actor to play the role of a villain or Satan, he declined to comment.

When playing a role – whether in a film, play or any other performance – artists often have to say unpleasant things, but that is simply a role, said Tapan Bagchi, deputy director of the Bangla Academy, a cultural institute under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

“When someone acts as a traitor, he might have to make derogatory comments against Bangladesh and its founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It’s not treason,” Bagchi said.

“An artist has the right.”

(This article was first published in benarnews.org and may be read here.)

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How the Covid-19 pandemic was communalised: Report by Bebaak Collective

Covering seven Indian states, the report said that the pandemic’s communalisation shaped and impaired Muslims' access to livelihoods, space, education, healthcare and relief.

22 Jan 2021

bebaak

While the pandemic rages and continues to take lives, the measures to control it have starkly highlighted the various inequalities existing in the country, says the Communalisation of Covid-19 report published by Bebaak Collective, an umbrella body of various women’s groups.

According to authors Hasina Khan, Khawla Zainab and Umara Zainab, the report that covers seven states of northern, western and central India documents the synchronised working of the media, police and state authorities as the primary force which allowed for the discrimination, violence and exclusion faced by Muslims during the pandemic.

During a virtual conference on January 21, Khan said the Collective felt a need for such a report following the Tablighi Jamaat incident in March 2020. Muslims were quickly equated with the ‘virus’ and the ‘disease’ itself and feared, hated and contained.

“Pandemics are used in history to target socio-economically suffering sections of society. There have been historical incidents wherein vulnerable communities were targeted for pandemics such as Nazi Germany accusing Jews or the targeting of the queer community for the rise in AIDS cases,” she said.

The community suffered several hate crimes and discriminatory incidents that further eroded their rights as citizens. Interviews of various civil society organisations, student activists, human rights lawyers, other individuals and groups working on the frontlines showed the pattern of anti-Muslim violence used against the community members.

The report markedly talked about the impact of fake news and hate speech against Muslims on social media. Khan said the manner in which the media discussed the Tablighi Jamaat incident was concerning and begged a reason for the politicisation of a pandemic, especially considering the lack of responsibility taken up by the administration.

Moreover, real-world experiences of Muslims, who survived communal slurs and palpable hate-defined interactions, reflected this vitriol against Muslims in neighbourhoods, communities and workplaces.

In fact, Umara Zainab said that pre-existing notions against Muslims amplified the idea of Muslim spreading the virus.

“The language of spreading Covid-19 and its prevention fit the Muslim stereotype of enemy of nation. This hate speech is responsible for many incidents of violence against Muslims,” she said.

She talked about a relief worker in Malegaon, Samar, whose neighbour celebrated every new coronavirus case involving a Muslim and about Lucknow relief worker Zohra whose Hindu neighbour called passing Muslims as “corona.”

In another instance, she talked about a group of labourers who hesitated to identify as Muslims fearing they would not be allowed to board the special train for migrant workers. The report also stated that people both working as relief workers and receiving relief were discriminated against. Zainab talked about a group of seemingly aloof labourers who hesitated to accept relief from Muslims due to prevailing rumours.

Similarly, the report observed a dual impact of the February pogrom in Delhi and the March lockdown on the people of north-east Delhi on the rehabilitative process that had just begun. The Eidgah camp was closed due to the lockdown forcing displaced riot victims to fend for themselves or return to their charred and burnt homes or take refuge in the homes of willing neighbours.

“A result of being blamed for the pandemic was that Muslims internalised the fear of being mistreated and mistrusted by people and the administration. They did not trust anyone to look after them and were apprehensive of seeking help,” said Zainab.

Bhopal especially seemed like two nations, she said wherein the Muslim area was contained and patrolled after every 500 metres. Every house was separated, people were not allowed outside their house while pregnant women were asked to approach hospitals at different times as they might be carriers.

Co-author Khawla further stated that Muslims took on a double brunt of performance as the most secular initiatives of the pandemics were started by Muslim groups to dispel the idea that they spread the disease.

There were also several cases of violent incidents of social boycott largely in the informal sector where more than half of the Muslim population is employed. Residential colonies barred entry of Muslim vendors.

She spoke of an incident where Muslims girls in Baroda, Gujarat tried to get admission in local schools through NGOs. However, one school told the NGO workers that admitting 10 Muslim girls “is simply too much.” Another school said that Muslim girls will spread coronavirus in the school. Workers eventually admitted the girls to a farther and less desirable school.

In light of such incidents, the report recommended:

  •  An effective overseer over media that fail to follow journalistic ethics;

  •  Intervention of the Press Council of India and NBSA;

  •  Introduction of a religion-based anti-discrimination law similar to the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act;

  •  Mental health support to Muslims who faced widespread stigma, hatred and discrimination;

  •  Implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations especially the Equal Opportunity Commission and Diversity Index;

  •  Supreme Court cognisance of this gross hate propaganda.

 

Related:

Communalisation of COVID-19: A Bebaak Collective report

A 2020 Report of 10 Worst Victims of Apathy: India’s Migrant Workers

Inequality has gotten sharpened in India: Teesta Setalvad

Migrant Diaries: The story of Zia ul Sheikh

How the Covid-19 pandemic was communalised: Report by Bebaak Collective

Covering seven Indian states, the report said that the pandemic’s communalisation shaped and impaired Muslims' access to livelihoods, space, education, healthcare and relief.

bebaak

While the pandemic rages and continues to take lives, the measures to control it have starkly highlighted the various inequalities existing in the country, says the Communalisation of Covid-19 report published by Bebaak Collective, an umbrella body of various women’s groups.

According to authors Hasina Khan, Khawla Zainab and Umara Zainab, the report that covers seven states of northern, western and central India documents the synchronised working of the media, police and state authorities as the primary force which allowed for the discrimination, violence and exclusion faced by Muslims during the pandemic.

During a virtual conference on January 21, Khan said the Collective felt a need for such a report following the Tablighi Jamaat incident in March 2020. Muslims were quickly equated with the ‘virus’ and the ‘disease’ itself and feared, hated and contained.

“Pandemics are used in history to target socio-economically suffering sections of society. There have been historical incidents wherein vulnerable communities were targeted for pandemics such as Nazi Germany accusing Jews or the targeting of the queer community for the rise in AIDS cases,” she said.

The community suffered several hate crimes and discriminatory incidents that further eroded their rights as citizens. Interviews of various civil society organisations, student activists, human rights lawyers, other individuals and groups working on the frontlines showed the pattern of anti-Muslim violence used against the community members.

The report markedly talked about the impact of fake news and hate speech against Muslims on social media. Khan said the manner in which the media discussed the Tablighi Jamaat incident was concerning and begged a reason for the politicisation of a pandemic, especially considering the lack of responsibility taken up by the administration.

Moreover, real-world experiences of Muslims, who survived communal slurs and palpable hate-defined interactions, reflected this vitriol against Muslims in neighbourhoods, communities and workplaces.

In fact, Umara Zainab said that pre-existing notions against Muslims amplified the idea of Muslim spreading the virus.

“The language of spreading Covid-19 and its prevention fit the Muslim stereotype of enemy of nation. This hate speech is responsible for many incidents of violence against Muslims,” she said.

She talked about a relief worker in Malegaon, Samar, whose neighbour celebrated every new coronavirus case involving a Muslim and about Lucknow relief worker Zohra whose Hindu neighbour called passing Muslims as “corona.”

In another instance, she talked about a group of labourers who hesitated to identify as Muslims fearing they would not be allowed to board the special train for migrant workers. The report also stated that people both working as relief workers and receiving relief were discriminated against. Zainab talked about a group of seemingly aloof labourers who hesitated to accept relief from Muslims due to prevailing rumours.

Similarly, the report observed a dual impact of the February pogrom in Delhi and the March lockdown on the people of north-east Delhi on the rehabilitative process that had just begun. The Eidgah camp was closed due to the lockdown forcing displaced riot victims to fend for themselves or return to their charred and burnt homes or take refuge in the homes of willing neighbours.

“A result of being blamed for the pandemic was that Muslims internalised the fear of being mistreated and mistrusted by people and the administration. They did not trust anyone to look after them and were apprehensive of seeking help,” said Zainab.

Bhopal especially seemed like two nations, she said wherein the Muslim area was contained and patrolled after every 500 metres. Every house was separated, people were not allowed outside their house while pregnant women were asked to approach hospitals at different times as they might be carriers.

Co-author Khawla further stated that Muslims took on a double brunt of performance as the most secular initiatives of the pandemics were started by Muslim groups to dispel the idea that they spread the disease.

There were also several cases of violent incidents of social boycott largely in the informal sector where more than half of the Muslim population is employed. Residential colonies barred entry of Muslim vendors.

She spoke of an incident where Muslims girls in Baroda, Gujarat tried to get admission in local schools through NGOs. However, one school told the NGO workers that admitting 10 Muslim girls “is simply too much.” Another school said that Muslim girls will spread coronavirus in the school. Workers eventually admitted the girls to a farther and less desirable school.

In light of such incidents, the report recommended:

  •  An effective overseer over media that fail to follow journalistic ethics;

  •  Intervention of the Press Council of India and NBSA;

  •  Introduction of a religion-based anti-discrimination law similar to the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act;

  •  Mental health support to Muslims who faced widespread stigma, hatred and discrimination;

  •  Implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations especially the Equal Opportunity Commission and Diversity Index;

  •  Supreme Court cognisance of this gross hate propaganda.

 

Related:

Communalisation of COVID-19: A Bebaak Collective report

A 2020 Report of 10 Worst Victims of Apathy: India’s Migrant Workers

Inequality has gotten sharpened in India: Teesta Setalvad

Migrant Diaries: The story of Zia ul Sheikh

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IAMC releases Human Rights Status Report, raises concerns about HRDs in India

During the webinar, UN special rapporteur said that she has been trying to engage with Indian government but the response has been bleak and disappointing

22 Jan 2021

IAMC

On January 21, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) launched its Human Rights Compendium Series and the first report in this series called Human rights in India: Status report 2021 - Crushing Dissent. The key speakers at the online launch event included Mary Lawlor (UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders), Teesta Setalvad (Human Rights Defender) and Fr. Cedric Prakash (Jesuit priest and human rights activist). Also present during the webinar were Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director, IAMC and the event was moderated was Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC.

The IAMC is an advocacy organisation of Indian American Muslims who work towards promoting pluralism, increasing interfaith understanding and building alliances sharing basic values.

Situation of HRDs

After brief introductions, Mary Lawlor who has been appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders (HRD) in May 2020 for a term of three years, expressed grave concern for the treatment of HRDs in India. She said that, in her position, she was going for a people-centric approach and is apprised with how HRDs in India are struggling against all odds. She said that her position as a special rapporteur gives her a chance to engage with governments and in pursuance to that, she has, until now written six times to the Indian government and has received response only once! 

“This is disappointing and counter-productive. Protecting Human rights Defenders is important for the mandate of human rights and I urge the Indian government to work towards the same,” said Lawlor.

On the misuse of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), she said, “Defending human rights is not terrorism and we need to get this message out over and over. UAPA is being used to target HRDs.” She also called upon the government to release Fr. Stan Swamy, 83-year-old tribal activist who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and all the other 15 activists and academics who have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case since 2018. “They should not be in jail, they are modern day heroes,” Lawlor concluded.

FR. Stan’s incarceration

Fr. Cedric Prakash spoke extensively on the incarceration of Fr. Stan Swamy. He spoke highly of Fr. Stan and the impeccable work he had done, living among Adivasis (India's indigenous people) and helping them fight for their rights. He spoke about the conditions under which Fr. Stan was interrogated for 15 hrs at a stretch at one time, and how he was hurriedly transferred to Mumbai, from Ranchi into NIA’s custody. He said that Fr. Stan has completely denied having any links with the Bhima Koregaon incident and that he was not present for the event. About UAPA, FR. Cedric said, “It is draconian, anti-constitutional, anti-people, anti-democracy and is used to target HRDs, as also the marginalised and the poor”.

“It is time to tell the government, enough is enough”, he concluded.

Misuse of power

Rasheed Ahmed then introduced Teesta Setalvad as someone who has been a human rights defender of long standing who is secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace. Setalvad began her address by commemorating India’s 71st Republic Day which falls on January 26, when the Indian Constitution was adopted.

“We are at a stage where an elected majoritarian, supremacist government is misusing its power of having been elected to pass laws that make a mockery of democracy and which do not protect human rights but do the contrary,” she said. She pointed out that apart from UAPA there are other equally problematic laws in the country such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), National Security Act (NSA), Public safety Act (PSA) and such others which have facilitated violation of human rights on a large scale.

Setalvad further pointed out that apart from the 16 activists and scholars who have been incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon there are about 23 youths who have been arrested in the aftermath of the Delhi pogrom of February 2020. In the witch-hunt that continued even during the lockdown, the Delhi Police arrested as many as 23 young activists and scholar, including women and most of whom belonged to Muslim community.

Hatred and othering

She also spoke of how hatred and othering had creeped into the society and propagated by the media driven by political agenda and pointed out the institutional memory in tackling hatred. She also blamed it on the lack of jurisprudence drawing a line between free speech and hate speech which is why hatred has persisted. She specifically mentioned the communalization of the Covid-19 pandemic wherein the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi was blamed for the spread of the pandemic in the country, driven by a malicious media propaganda as eventually courts have started finding them not guilty of any crimes alleged against them. Although, the incident that was reported at a stretch by TV news media, targeting an entire Muslim population, had serious implications on the lives and livelihoods of Muslim vendors, delivery boys and other small businesses as they were being targeted and discriminated against basis their religion.

Setalvad also spoke about the citizenship crisis in Assam which left 1.9 million Assamese people in a lurch, without citizenship, leading to what she calls a ‘civil death’ as without citizenship “you no longer exist in the eyes of the state”.

Human Rights status report: Crushing Dissent

On January 21, the IAMC launched the first of the annual compendium series and released ‘Human rights in India: Status report 2021’ the subject of which was “Crushing Dissent”. The focus of the report is on issues like the sedition law, hate speech, national security legislations, citizenship crisis in Assam and rest of the country, effect of Covid-19 pandemic on sanitation workers, migrant workers, fisherfolk and so on. Each topic is covered in a manner that gives a brief history of the issue and the laws that work in favour or against it and the jurisprudence around it, while finally concluding with a way forward for each issue. A rather comprehensive document that highlights the issues facing modern India under the governance of the current ruling government in power since 2014 and how the actions of the government have affected various strata and classes of people and communities.

The complete report may be read here

 

Related:

Communalisation of COVID-19: A Bebaak Collective report

Why The Incarceration Of Munawar Faruqui Should Worry Us

 

Gujarat HC slams police for detaining interfaith couple

IAMC releases Human Rights Status Report, raises concerns about HRDs in India

During the webinar, UN special rapporteur said that she has been trying to engage with Indian government but the response has been bleak and disappointing

IAMC

On January 21, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) launched its Human Rights Compendium Series and the first report in this series called Human rights in India: Status report 2021 - Crushing Dissent. The key speakers at the online launch event included Mary Lawlor (UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders), Teesta Setalvad (Human Rights Defender) and Fr. Cedric Prakash (Jesuit priest and human rights activist). Also present during the webinar were Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director, IAMC and the event was moderated was Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC.

The IAMC is an advocacy organisation of Indian American Muslims who work towards promoting pluralism, increasing interfaith understanding and building alliances sharing basic values.

Situation of HRDs

After brief introductions, Mary Lawlor who has been appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders (HRD) in May 2020 for a term of three years, expressed grave concern for the treatment of HRDs in India. She said that, in her position, she was going for a people-centric approach and is apprised with how HRDs in India are struggling against all odds. She said that her position as a special rapporteur gives her a chance to engage with governments and in pursuance to that, she has, until now written six times to the Indian government and has received response only once! 

“This is disappointing and counter-productive. Protecting Human rights Defenders is important for the mandate of human rights and I urge the Indian government to work towards the same,” said Lawlor.

On the misuse of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), she said, “Defending human rights is not terrorism and we need to get this message out over and over. UAPA is being used to target HRDs.” She also called upon the government to release Fr. Stan Swamy, 83-year-old tribal activist who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and all the other 15 activists and academics who have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case since 2018. “They should not be in jail, they are modern day heroes,” Lawlor concluded.

FR. Stan’s incarceration

Fr. Cedric Prakash spoke extensively on the incarceration of Fr. Stan Swamy. He spoke highly of Fr. Stan and the impeccable work he had done, living among Adivasis (India's indigenous people) and helping them fight for their rights. He spoke about the conditions under which Fr. Stan was interrogated for 15 hrs at a stretch at one time, and how he was hurriedly transferred to Mumbai, from Ranchi into NIA’s custody. He said that Fr. Stan has completely denied having any links with the Bhima Koregaon incident and that he was not present for the event. About UAPA, FR. Cedric said, “It is draconian, anti-constitutional, anti-people, anti-democracy and is used to target HRDs, as also the marginalised and the poor”.

“It is time to tell the government, enough is enough”, he concluded.

Misuse of power

Rasheed Ahmed then introduced Teesta Setalvad as someone who has been a human rights defender of long standing who is secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace. Setalvad began her address by commemorating India’s 71st Republic Day which falls on January 26, when the Indian Constitution was adopted.

“We are at a stage where an elected majoritarian, supremacist government is misusing its power of having been elected to pass laws that make a mockery of democracy and which do not protect human rights but do the contrary,” she said. She pointed out that apart from UAPA there are other equally problematic laws in the country such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), National Security Act (NSA), Public safety Act (PSA) and such others which have facilitated violation of human rights on a large scale.

Setalvad further pointed out that apart from the 16 activists and scholars who have been incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon there are about 23 youths who have been arrested in the aftermath of the Delhi pogrom of February 2020. In the witch-hunt that continued even during the lockdown, the Delhi Police arrested as many as 23 young activists and scholar, including women and most of whom belonged to Muslim community.

Hatred and othering

She also spoke of how hatred and othering had creeped into the society and propagated by the media driven by political agenda and pointed out the institutional memory in tackling hatred. She also blamed it on the lack of jurisprudence drawing a line between free speech and hate speech which is why hatred has persisted. She specifically mentioned the communalization of the Covid-19 pandemic wherein the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi was blamed for the spread of the pandemic in the country, driven by a malicious media propaganda as eventually courts have started finding them not guilty of any crimes alleged against them. Although, the incident that was reported at a stretch by TV news media, targeting an entire Muslim population, had serious implications on the lives and livelihoods of Muslim vendors, delivery boys and other small businesses as they were being targeted and discriminated against basis their religion.

Setalvad also spoke about the citizenship crisis in Assam which left 1.9 million Assamese people in a lurch, without citizenship, leading to what she calls a ‘civil death’ as without citizenship “you no longer exist in the eyes of the state”.

Human Rights status report: Crushing Dissent

On January 21, the IAMC launched the first of the annual compendium series and released ‘Human rights in India: Status report 2021’ the subject of which was “Crushing Dissent”. The focus of the report is on issues like the sedition law, hate speech, national security legislations, citizenship crisis in Assam and rest of the country, effect of Covid-19 pandemic on sanitation workers, migrant workers, fisherfolk and so on. Each topic is covered in a manner that gives a brief history of the issue and the laws that work in favour or against it and the jurisprudence around it, while finally concluding with a way forward for each issue. A rather comprehensive document that highlights the issues facing modern India under the governance of the current ruling government in power since 2014 and how the actions of the government have affected various strata and classes of people and communities.

The complete report may be read here

 

Related:

Communalisation of COVID-19: A Bebaak Collective report

Why The Incarceration Of Munawar Faruqui Should Worry Us

 

Gujarat HC slams police for detaining interfaith couple

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Communalisation of COVID-19: A Bebaak Collective report

Human rights defender Teesta Setalvad and feminist historian Uma Chakravarti applaud the initiative and discuss the rampant communalism observed during the coronavirus pandemic.

21 Jan 2021

Image Courtesy:mhi.org.in

The Bebaak Collective, an umbrella body of several women’s groups published the ‘Communalisation of Covid-19: Experiences from the Frontline’ report on January 21, 2021 during a virtual conference to highlight the rampant communalisation during the coronavirus lockdown.

The report, covering seven states from northern, central and western India, documents the discrimination and violence faced by Muslims due to communalisation of the pandemic. Authors Hasina Khan, Khawla Zainab and Umara Zainab interviewed various civil society organisations, student activists, human rights lawyers, other individuals and citizen groups working on the frontlines, and used media reportage to reveal the pattern of anti-Muslim violence during the pandemic.

Moreover, the report recommended measures such as: 

  • an effective overseer over media that fail to follow journalistic ethics
  • intervention of the Press Council of India and NBSA
  • introduction of a religion-based anti-discrimination law similar to the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act
  • mental health support to Muslims who faced widespread stigma, hatred and discrimination
  • implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations especially the Equal Opportunity Commission and Diversity Index
  • Supreme Court cognisance of this gross hate propaganda.

In response, renowned journalist, activist and SabrangIndia co-founder Teesta Setalvad congratulated the Collective for taking up the initiative. She reminded the audience that the grievances suffered by Muslims, migrant workers, adivasis and other marginalised communities were the result of growing schisms in society that amplified institutional failures.

Further, she said, “We respond to moments of crisis rather than continuums of crisis. We need to seriously think about institutional lacunae and the short memory of the administration that fails to deliver its services.”

Setalvad warned that the dangers of amplification have become much more severe in times of social media. But still these “agents” did not work before. She said that the growing misinformation and manipulation of history demands a better understanding of historical events to solidify future actions, especially in the case of young activists.

Accordingly, she referenced interviews of Arundhati Roy that talked about communalisation of the pandemic and similar documentaries for a more comprehensive perspective.

Regarding Muslim ghettoisation, she said that real estate prices have soared to keep Muslims from affording houses in specific neighbourhood. However, less mixed neighbourhoods endanger all conversations from all perspectives.

“When we get limited to silos then these problems get much worse,” she said.

Taking this idea of silos a step ahead, Setalvad talked about the Wall Street journal article that talked about the giant corporate allying with powerful governments. Such partnership restricts communication between differing groups, meaning that Facebook algorithms circulate the same message in the same group.

Referring to the Global Dissemination report by Oxford, the activist said that Facebook and other social media platforms give us a false assurance that they are open. As such she recommended that the Collective’s report include a need for supporting independent media platforms.

“How do alternate media platforms function without the support of such groups? Without that support you cannot expect voices to carry on further,” she said.

Referring to Bebaak’s report, Setalvad said that while the report talks about High Court verdicts favouring minorities, it also needs to consider speaking order.

She told the audience that 205 FIRs were filed against 2,765 foreign nationals in 11 states of the country as reported by SabrangIndia. Yet every single one of these foreign nationals was exonerated.

Setalvad argued that the most important verdict was that of the Nagpur bench on August 21, 2020 that pulled up police and media for the actions against the community. She emphasised that unless the order is speaking, there is very limited relief, and pointed out that there was a lack of judicial action against hate speech.

“Nowhere do you have constitutional courts actually questioning the dangers of hate speech. I ask you all to visit Citizens for Justice and Peace website that shows five dozen complaints against the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting against digital and institutional platforms. We need to understand the relation between hate and media,” said Setalvad.

She referred to the growing hate as state project and the journalism as genocide and called for a more severe look at the way journ is progressing especially of online news and media channels.

Setalvad gave two examples of this point by referring to local newspaper Vijaya Karnataka that continues to spread hate speech and India Today’s coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat incident that campaigned Muslims as “corona spreader and super spreader.”

“Persons in positions of power need to be penalised for hate speech. Article 19 is not touched by hate speech. If an already organised community is targeted by repeated hate by people in power then Article 19 and 20’s non-discriminatory rights are affected,” she said.

Similarly, feminist historian Uma Chakravarti built on the notion that people in power sell hatred. However, she further added that “we have to promote humanity.”

Remembering the killing of Mahatma Gandhi, she said, “We need to consider the history of who we are and as citizens what kind of society we will build. After Gandhi’s murder, everyone wanted a society where all people have rights and securities. When I went to school in the south, I never saw any disc. The hatred seen now was never seen in the public sphere,” she said.

Chakravarti argued that the reason for this stark difference is that nowadays hatred rather than love, humanity, citizenship has been normalised.

“Hatred has been made legitimate. Hate speech is almost normal. What might have been said behind closed today is said on the public podium,” she said pointing out that one only needs to look at the family WhatsApp group to understand this.

She raised concern about the growing acceptability of hatred and people’s lack of reaction to hate speech seen on social media. Chakravarti emphasised that free speech and hate speech require a balance where generating hatred against a community is understood as violence.

“Today we have labelled the hatred corona but even before that such hatred had already begun,” she said.

Chakravarti said that before the coronavirus pandemic there was a political pandemic and referred to the citizenship amendment in 2003. The amendment created a bond between her and others such as Shaheen Bagh icon Bilkis Bano who claimed that she could tell the history of seven generations of her family but could not produce a document to prove it.

She lauded the anti-CAA protests and the farmers’ struggle that recorded two great public outpourings. Similarly, she praised women student Pinjra Tod activists who understood that “pinjras” (cages) existed outside hostels as well. She also highlighted that recent protests had recorded a large number of women activists being picked up and thrown in jail.

She ended by saying that she still hoped for a better India illustrating a secular example wherein a Muslim labourer got off a truck taking him home to stay with a dying Hindu labourer. The Muslim person ensured a proper funeral for the fellow worker personifying Chakravarti’s hope that, “We can still build a better India.”

Related:

A 2020 Report of 10 Worst Victims of Apathy: India’s Migrant Workers
Inequality has gotten sharpened in India: Teesta Setalvad
Migrant Diaries: The story of Zia ul Sheikh
Activists denounce Babri Masjid demolition judgment

Communalisation of COVID-19: A Bebaak Collective report

Human rights defender Teesta Setalvad and feminist historian Uma Chakravarti applaud the initiative and discuss the rampant communalism observed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Image Courtesy:mhi.org.in

The Bebaak Collective, an umbrella body of several women’s groups published the ‘Communalisation of Covid-19: Experiences from the Frontline’ report on January 21, 2021 during a virtual conference to highlight the rampant communalisation during the coronavirus lockdown.

The report, covering seven states from northern, central and western India, documents the discrimination and violence faced by Muslims due to communalisation of the pandemic. Authors Hasina Khan, Khawla Zainab and Umara Zainab interviewed various civil society organisations, student activists, human rights lawyers, other individuals and citizen groups working on the frontlines, and used media reportage to reveal the pattern of anti-Muslim violence during the pandemic.

Moreover, the report recommended measures such as: 

  • an effective overseer over media that fail to follow journalistic ethics
  • intervention of the Press Council of India and NBSA
  • introduction of a religion-based anti-discrimination law similar to the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act
  • mental health support to Muslims who faced widespread stigma, hatred and discrimination
  • implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations especially the Equal Opportunity Commission and Diversity Index
  • Supreme Court cognisance of this gross hate propaganda.

In response, renowned journalist, activist and SabrangIndia co-founder Teesta Setalvad congratulated the Collective for taking up the initiative. She reminded the audience that the grievances suffered by Muslims, migrant workers, adivasis and other marginalised communities were the result of growing schisms in society that amplified institutional failures.

Further, she said, “We respond to moments of crisis rather than continuums of crisis. We need to seriously think about institutional lacunae and the short memory of the administration that fails to deliver its services.”

Setalvad warned that the dangers of amplification have become much more severe in times of social media. But still these “agents” did not work before. She said that the growing misinformation and manipulation of history demands a better understanding of historical events to solidify future actions, especially in the case of young activists.

Accordingly, she referenced interviews of Arundhati Roy that talked about communalisation of the pandemic and similar documentaries for a more comprehensive perspective.

Regarding Muslim ghettoisation, she said that real estate prices have soared to keep Muslims from affording houses in specific neighbourhood. However, less mixed neighbourhoods endanger all conversations from all perspectives.

“When we get limited to silos then these problems get much worse,” she said.

Taking this idea of silos a step ahead, Setalvad talked about the Wall Street journal article that talked about the giant corporate allying with powerful governments. Such partnership restricts communication between differing groups, meaning that Facebook algorithms circulate the same message in the same group.

Referring to the Global Dissemination report by Oxford, the activist said that Facebook and other social media platforms give us a false assurance that they are open. As such she recommended that the Collective’s report include a need for supporting independent media platforms.

“How do alternate media platforms function without the support of such groups? Without that support you cannot expect voices to carry on further,” she said.

Referring to Bebaak’s report, Setalvad said that while the report talks about High Court verdicts favouring minorities, it also needs to consider speaking order.

She told the audience that 205 FIRs were filed against 2,765 foreign nationals in 11 states of the country as reported by SabrangIndia. Yet every single one of these foreign nationals was exonerated.

Setalvad argued that the most important verdict was that of the Nagpur bench on August 21, 2020 that pulled up police and media for the actions against the community. She emphasised that unless the order is speaking, there is very limited relief, and pointed out that there was a lack of judicial action against hate speech.

“Nowhere do you have constitutional courts actually questioning the dangers of hate speech. I ask you all to visit Citizens for Justice and Peace website that shows five dozen complaints against the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting against digital and institutional platforms. We need to understand the relation between hate and media,” said Setalvad.

She referred to the growing hate as state project and the journalism as genocide and called for a more severe look at the way journ is progressing especially of online news and media channels.

Setalvad gave two examples of this point by referring to local newspaper Vijaya Karnataka that continues to spread hate speech and India Today’s coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat incident that campaigned Muslims as “corona spreader and super spreader.”

“Persons in positions of power need to be penalised for hate speech. Article 19 is not touched by hate speech. If an already organised community is targeted by repeated hate by people in power then Article 19 and 20’s non-discriminatory rights are affected,” she said.

Similarly, feminist historian Uma Chakravarti built on the notion that people in power sell hatred. However, she further added that “we have to promote humanity.”

Remembering the killing of Mahatma Gandhi, she said, “We need to consider the history of who we are and as citizens what kind of society we will build. After Gandhi’s murder, everyone wanted a society where all people have rights and securities. When I went to school in the south, I never saw any disc. The hatred seen now was never seen in the public sphere,” she said.

Chakravarti argued that the reason for this stark difference is that nowadays hatred rather than love, humanity, citizenship has been normalised.

“Hatred has been made legitimate. Hate speech is almost normal. What might have been said behind closed today is said on the public podium,” she said pointing out that one only needs to look at the family WhatsApp group to understand this.

She raised concern about the growing acceptability of hatred and people’s lack of reaction to hate speech seen on social media. Chakravarti emphasised that free speech and hate speech require a balance where generating hatred against a community is understood as violence.

“Today we have labelled the hatred corona but even before that such hatred had already begun,” she said.

Chakravarti said that before the coronavirus pandemic there was a political pandemic and referred to the citizenship amendment in 2003. The amendment created a bond between her and others such as Shaheen Bagh icon Bilkis Bano who claimed that she could tell the history of seven generations of her family but could not produce a document to prove it.

She lauded the anti-CAA protests and the farmers’ struggle that recorded two great public outpourings. Similarly, she praised women student Pinjra Tod activists who understood that “pinjras” (cages) existed outside hostels as well. She also highlighted that recent protests had recorded a large number of women activists being picked up and thrown in jail.

She ended by saying that she still hoped for a better India illustrating a secular example wherein a Muslim labourer got off a truck taking him home to stay with a dying Hindu labourer. The Muslim person ensured a proper funeral for the fellow worker personifying Chakravarti’s hope that, “We can still build a better India.”

Related:

A 2020 Report of 10 Worst Victims of Apathy: India’s Migrant Workers
Inequality has gotten sharpened in India: Teesta Setalvad
Migrant Diaries: The story of Zia ul Sheikh
Activists denounce Babri Masjid demolition judgment

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UP Government files plea seeking transfer of love jihad PIL from High Court to Supreme Court

The Allahabad High Court has listed the matter for final hearing after a week

19 Jan 2021

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Uttar Pradesh Government has filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking the transfer of petitions pending before the Allahabad High Court against its anti-conversion of Religion Ordinance.

Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery noted the Government’s application to transfer the instant petition and all other petitions of similar nature for adjudication by the Apex Court and said, “In view of the statement so given, we deem it appropriate to adjourn this petition for writ.”

During an earlier hearing on January 7, the Additional Advocate General Manish Goyal had requested Chief Justice Govind Mathur to adjourn the matter sine die since the Top Court had already taken cognizance of the matter and issued notice to State Government and that it may not be appropriate for the High Court to continue the hearing. But the High Court listed the matter for hearing.

The final hearing on this is set to take place on January 25 before the High Court as the Division Bench remarked, “Let this petition along with other similar petitions be listed for final hearing at this stage on 25th January, 2021.”

On January 6, the Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices V Ramasubramanian and AS Bopanna had issued notices to the State of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on the petition filed by Citizens for Justice and Peace challenging the anti-conversion laws of the said States. This matter will now be taken up in the first week of February.

The Allahabad HC order dated January 18 may be read here:

Related:

SC issues notice in CJP’s Love Jihad Petition
CJP moves SC against “Love Jihad” laws

UP Government files plea seeking transfer of love jihad PIL from High Court to Supreme Court

The Allahabad High Court has listed the matter for final hearing after a week

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Uttar Pradesh Government has filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking the transfer of petitions pending before the Allahabad High Court against its anti-conversion of Religion Ordinance.

Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery noted the Government’s application to transfer the instant petition and all other petitions of similar nature for adjudication by the Apex Court and said, “In view of the statement so given, we deem it appropriate to adjourn this petition for writ.”

During an earlier hearing on January 7, the Additional Advocate General Manish Goyal had requested Chief Justice Govind Mathur to adjourn the matter sine die since the Top Court had already taken cognizance of the matter and issued notice to State Government and that it may not be appropriate for the High Court to continue the hearing. But the High Court listed the matter for hearing.

The final hearing on this is set to take place on January 25 before the High Court as the Division Bench remarked, “Let this petition along with other similar petitions be listed for final hearing at this stage on 25th January, 2021.”

On January 6, the Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices V Ramasubramanian and AS Bopanna had issued notices to the State of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on the petition filed by Citizens for Justice and Peace challenging the anti-conversion laws of the said States. This matter will now be taken up in the first week of February.

The Allahabad HC order dated January 18 may be read here:

Related:

SC issues notice in CJP’s Love Jihad Petition
CJP moves SC against “Love Jihad” laws

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Women’s rights group intervenes in the Allahabad HC challenging "Love Jihad" Ordinance

The intervenors have alleged that the Ordinance disproportionately impacts women and denies them autonomy under the garb of protection  

19 Jan 2021

Love Jihad
Image courtesy: Getty Images

Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives, a women’s rights group has moved Allahabad High Court seeking to intervene in the ongoing proceedings against the Anti-Conversion of Religion Ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh Government. The application has been filed through Advocates Vrinda Grover, Tanmay Sadh, Soutik Banerjee and Aakarsh Kamra.

The application states that the Ordinance has a disproportionate impact on the constitutional rights of women, especially under Articles 14, 15, 19, 21 and 25 of the Constitution, as well as an egregious impact on Constitutional rights of all citizens, according to LiveLaw.

To address the issue of alleged dispute between a choice to marry and religious conversion under personal laws and rebuff the state’s claims that conversion for marriage is not out of choice but due to intervention of personal laws, the application contends that there is no conflict in law between an individual's right to choice in marriage and the right to practice a religion of one's belief. 

It reads, “The Special Marriage Act, 1954, allows for inter faith marriages in India, and there is no compulsion to convert one's religion under personal laws to exercise the choice to marry someone outside one's faith. It is only those persons who wish to practise the faith of their marital partner who choose to convert their religion for the purpose of marriage”. It is asserted that there is no systemic compulsion to convert one's religion to marry a person of another religion.

The intervenors have argued that the impugned ordinance infantilises the legitimate choice made by an adult person who voluntarily chooses to opt for a way of life by converting to the religion of their partner to marriage. The application refers to Supreme Court pronouncements like Shefin Jahan v. Asokan KM (2018) 16 SCC 368 and Shakti Vahini v. Union of India (2018) 7 SCC 192 that have emphasised on the significance of non-interference of State and non-State actors in personal decisions and choice being an inextricable part of a woman’s dignity.

The organisation has pointed out that the term Love Jihad has often been used to stir divisive sentiments and promote archaic and patriarchal notions of honour which denude the individual autonomy of women. However, there is no official data available to substantiate the rhetoric and claim that Love Jihad is a real and grave phenomenon.

Further, apart from giving a broad definition of an “aggrieved person”, the organisation has submitted that the phrase “any marriage which was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion and vice-versa” in Section 6 of the impugned Ordinance, is undefined, overbroad and vague, thus open to rampant abuse and misuse, and suffers from the vice of lacking “sufficient definiteness” for a penal provision.

It is alleged that Section 8(3) of the impugned Ordinance is vague insofar as it does not provide any statutory guideline regarding the scope of the enquiry to be conducted by the District Magistrate. The application states, “The said provision states that the District Magistrate shall get an enquiry conducted through the police with regard to the “real intention, purpose and cause” of conversion. However, the impugned Ordinance provides no guidelines as to what intention, purpose and cause is legitimate or illegitimate. It also provides no clarity as to the scope of the power of the District Magistrate to act upon the findings of such an enquiry”, the application states.

The intervenors have also submitted that various rights accrue to parties to a marriage when a marriage is solemnized. However, it is contended that the impugned Ordinance by voiding marriages under Section 6, will result in an anomaly by denial of various rights to parties to a marriage and will make women more vulnerable. The plea reads:

“The right to Maintenance is an extremely important right which accrues after marriage to a wife, and is a legal tool embedded in the Code of Criminal Procedure as well as in personal laws to protect the rights of a woman in a marriage. Under the impugned Ordinance, a woman would have no legitimate claim to Maintenance if a marriage is rendered void under Section 6, as she would no longer be a 'wife' in the eyes of law. Children born out of wedlock in marriages which are subsequently rendered void by the impugned Ordinance would also suffer social as well as legal impediments to their life, as despite being worn out of wedlock, they would be rendered illegitimate children upon the marriage being declared void.”

On freedom of conscience, the applicant reads: “The Constitution of India in Article 21 allows for religion to be practiced in solitude, silently without pubic glare, and the decision of an individual to not make a public declaration of his conversion cannot render the conversion illegal or void, as that militates against the freedom of conscience and the right to liberty of an individual.”

The application filed by the women’s rights group also questions the reverse burden of proof that places the onus on the accused to prove his innocence which is against the standard rule of criminal law where the prosecution is responsible to prove the guilt of the accused. The application has been admitted by the Allahabad High Court, as per LiveLaw reports. 

Related:

Allahabad HC to hear petitions challenging the Love Jihad law

Allahabad HC reunites interfaith couple, provides police protection

SC issues notice in CJP’s Love Jihad Petition

Women’s rights group intervenes in the Allahabad HC challenging "Love Jihad" Ordinance

The intervenors have alleged that the Ordinance disproportionately impacts women and denies them autonomy under the garb of protection  

Love Jihad
Image courtesy: Getty Images

Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives, a women’s rights group has moved Allahabad High Court seeking to intervene in the ongoing proceedings against the Anti-Conversion of Religion Ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh Government. The application has been filed through Advocates Vrinda Grover, Tanmay Sadh, Soutik Banerjee and Aakarsh Kamra.

The application states that the Ordinance has a disproportionate impact on the constitutional rights of women, especially under Articles 14, 15, 19, 21 and 25 of the Constitution, as well as an egregious impact on Constitutional rights of all citizens, according to LiveLaw.

To address the issue of alleged dispute between a choice to marry and religious conversion under personal laws and rebuff the state’s claims that conversion for marriage is not out of choice but due to intervention of personal laws, the application contends that there is no conflict in law between an individual's right to choice in marriage and the right to practice a religion of one's belief. 

It reads, “The Special Marriage Act, 1954, allows for inter faith marriages in India, and there is no compulsion to convert one's religion under personal laws to exercise the choice to marry someone outside one's faith. It is only those persons who wish to practise the faith of their marital partner who choose to convert their religion for the purpose of marriage”. It is asserted that there is no systemic compulsion to convert one's religion to marry a person of another religion.

The intervenors have argued that the impugned ordinance infantilises the legitimate choice made by an adult person who voluntarily chooses to opt for a way of life by converting to the religion of their partner to marriage. The application refers to Supreme Court pronouncements like Shefin Jahan v. Asokan KM (2018) 16 SCC 368 and Shakti Vahini v. Union of India (2018) 7 SCC 192 that have emphasised on the significance of non-interference of State and non-State actors in personal decisions and choice being an inextricable part of a woman’s dignity.

The organisation has pointed out that the term Love Jihad has often been used to stir divisive sentiments and promote archaic and patriarchal notions of honour which denude the individual autonomy of women. However, there is no official data available to substantiate the rhetoric and claim that Love Jihad is a real and grave phenomenon.

Further, apart from giving a broad definition of an “aggrieved person”, the organisation has submitted that the phrase “any marriage which was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion and vice-versa” in Section 6 of the impugned Ordinance, is undefined, overbroad and vague, thus open to rampant abuse and misuse, and suffers from the vice of lacking “sufficient definiteness” for a penal provision.

It is alleged that Section 8(3) of the impugned Ordinance is vague insofar as it does not provide any statutory guideline regarding the scope of the enquiry to be conducted by the District Magistrate. The application states, “The said provision states that the District Magistrate shall get an enquiry conducted through the police with regard to the “real intention, purpose and cause” of conversion. However, the impugned Ordinance provides no guidelines as to what intention, purpose and cause is legitimate or illegitimate. It also provides no clarity as to the scope of the power of the District Magistrate to act upon the findings of such an enquiry”, the application states.

The intervenors have also submitted that various rights accrue to parties to a marriage when a marriage is solemnized. However, it is contended that the impugned Ordinance by voiding marriages under Section 6, will result in an anomaly by denial of various rights to parties to a marriage and will make women more vulnerable. The plea reads:

“The right to Maintenance is an extremely important right which accrues after marriage to a wife, and is a legal tool embedded in the Code of Criminal Procedure as well as in personal laws to protect the rights of a woman in a marriage. Under the impugned Ordinance, a woman would have no legitimate claim to Maintenance if a marriage is rendered void under Section 6, as she would no longer be a 'wife' in the eyes of law. Children born out of wedlock in marriages which are subsequently rendered void by the impugned Ordinance would also suffer social as well as legal impediments to their life, as despite being worn out of wedlock, they would be rendered illegitimate children upon the marriage being declared void.”

On freedom of conscience, the applicant reads: “The Constitution of India in Article 21 allows for religion to be practiced in solitude, silently without pubic glare, and the decision of an individual to not make a public declaration of his conversion cannot render the conversion illegal or void, as that militates against the freedom of conscience and the right to liberty of an individual.”

The application filed by the women’s rights group also questions the reverse burden of proof that places the onus on the accused to prove his innocence which is against the standard rule of criminal law where the prosecution is responsible to prove the guilt of the accused. The application has been admitted by the Allahabad High Court, as per LiveLaw reports. 

Related:

Allahabad HC to hear petitions challenging the Love Jihad law

Allahabad HC reunites interfaith couple, provides police protection

SC issues notice in CJP’s Love Jihad Petition

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Tandav Controversy: Deepak Sharma demands 'anti-blasphemy’ law

Threatens makers of web series with "dance of destruction" by devotees of Shiva over the web series he claims has hurt religious sentiments 

19 Jan 2021

Deepak Sharma

अगर भोले के भक्त "तांडव" पे उतरे तो वो तांडव तुमसे झेला जाएगा - जिहादियों सहमत - RT”, translated this means "If devotees of Shiva start dancing the Tandav, or the dance of destruction, you jihadis (he means Muslims) will not be able to bear it,” he then asks all those who agree with his threat to amplify it with re-tweets.

This open threat got nearly four thousand retweets, and nearly ten thousand ‘likes’. More alarmingly it got nearly 500 comments, many asking for the murder of those they call ‘jihadis’.

 

 

Like many online hate mongers Deepak Sharma calls himself a “Nationalist !! Son Of Bharat Mata !! Political Thinker !!” His extra dependence on exclamation marks is typical because as the ‘Founder’ of an organisation named Rashtriya Swabhiman Dal (RSD). Perhaps he feels extra punctuation gets him closer to that aim to protect the interests of “Hindu dharma and the nation.” He also claims to be a “FreeLance Reporter !! Interior Designer By Profession”.

However, online his job is to be a full time hate monger, he joined Twitter only in February 2020 and already has nearly 1,65,000 followers, like the rest of the twitter troll army leaders. He is a popular face in the right-wing social media circuits and is based in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh according to the Police but maintains that he hails from Jaipur to allegedly mislead the police and public. 

Sharma's latest rant has been over the right-wing agenda of targeting the fictional web series ‘Tandav’, which the troll army has been targeting and accusing of hurting ‘Hindu’ sentiments in its fictional plot. The trolls have been creating noise about banning the series and punishing its makers in various ways. Perhaps this is yet another in order to distract from the government inactions over the serious allegations on Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami whose whatsapp messages have been recently exposed. Or perhaps it is to divert attention from the ongoing farmer’s movement where the political class has found itself being held accountable. Deepak Sharma is following the same trajectory of hate speech as he did when airing his controversial videos ‘exposing the truth’ about the Hathras tragedy.

He is now calling for an ‘anti-blasphemy’ law of sorts.  

 

 

Calling it a ‘dev-ninda kanoon’, or a law to punish those who criticise ‘god’. He says Hindus are just asking for a law, because if they were ‘believers’ or Muslims they would have instead created a ruckus and ‘exploded’. He is of course hinting at terror attacks by suicide bombers. Needless to add, the man is followed by Kapil Mishra, the Delhi-based Bharatiya Janata Partyman who himself faces multiple accusations of hate speech himself.

 

Tandav Controversy: Deepak Sharma demands 'anti-blasphemy’ law

Threatens makers of web series with "dance of destruction" by devotees of Shiva over the web series he claims has hurt religious sentiments 

Deepak Sharma

अगर भोले के भक्त "तांडव" पे उतरे तो वो तांडव तुमसे झेला जाएगा - जिहादियों सहमत - RT”, translated this means "If devotees of Shiva start dancing the Tandav, or the dance of destruction, you jihadis (he means Muslims) will not be able to bear it,” he then asks all those who agree with his threat to amplify it with re-tweets.

This open threat got nearly four thousand retweets, and nearly ten thousand ‘likes’. More alarmingly it got nearly 500 comments, many asking for the murder of those they call ‘jihadis’.

 

 

Like many online hate mongers Deepak Sharma calls himself a “Nationalist !! Son Of Bharat Mata !! Political Thinker !!” His extra dependence on exclamation marks is typical because as the ‘Founder’ of an organisation named Rashtriya Swabhiman Dal (RSD). Perhaps he feels extra punctuation gets him closer to that aim to protect the interests of “Hindu dharma and the nation.” He also claims to be a “FreeLance Reporter !! Interior Designer By Profession”.

However, online his job is to be a full time hate monger, he joined Twitter only in February 2020 and already has nearly 1,65,000 followers, like the rest of the twitter troll army leaders. He is a popular face in the right-wing social media circuits and is based in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh according to the Police but maintains that he hails from Jaipur to allegedly mislead the police and public. 

Sharma's latest rant has been over the right-wing agenda of targeting the fictional web series ‘Tandav’, which the troll army has been targeting and accusing of hurting ‘Hindu’ sentiments in its fictional plot. The trolls have been creating noise about banning the series and punishing its makers in various ways. Perhaps this is yet another in order to distract from the government inactions over the serious allegations on Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami whose whatsapp messages have been recently exposed. Or perhaps it is to divert attention from the ongoing farmer’s movement where the political class has found itself being held accountable. Deepak Sharma is following the same trajectory of hate speech as he did when airing his controversial videos ‘exposing the truth’ about the Hathras tragedy.

He is now calling for an ‘anti-blasphemy’ law of sorts.  

 

 

Calling it a ‘dev-ninda kanoon’, or a law to punish those who criticise ‘god’. He says Hindus are just asking for a law, because if they were ‘believers’ or Muslims they would have instead created a ruckus and ‘exploded’. He is of course hinting at terror attacks by suicide bombers. Needless to add, the man is followed by Kapil Mishra, the Delhi-based Bharatiya Janata Partyman who himself faces multiple accusations of hate speech himself.

 

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Tandav controversy: Convenient distraction from an on ground crisis?

Makers and the web streaming service have been accused of insulting Hindu gods on the series  

18 Jan 2021

Tandav

It is a typical masala sprinkled political drama web series, yet Tandav, the show now airing on Amazon Prime, is now facing major criminal action after days of trolling over ‘hurting religious sentiments. Bar and Bench reports that now the Uttar Pradesh police have filed a case against the creators of the web series, after BJP leader Kapil Mishra sent a legal notice to Amazon.  

 

 

The web series is a fictional story of political power play. According to news reports it is being alleged that makers and the web streaming service have insulted Hindu gods on the series. The police case was filed just hours after the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) sought a response from Amazon Prime on a complaint filed by Maharashtra BJP MLA Ram Kadam. The trolling of the series, its acting cast, and its makers has been going on since it first aired a few days ago. People have been calling for a ban on the series and alleged it has hurt their religious sentiments. Now official action against the filmmakers has followed. 

The show has been directed by Ali Abbas Zaffar, written by Gaurav Solanki and has a star cast of prominent film actors including Dimple Kapadia, Saif Ali Khan, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Sunil Grover, Anup Soni, Kumud Mishra, Gauahar Khan, Kritika Kamra, Sandya Mridul and many more. The director, producer and writer of the series and Amazon's head of India Original Content, have now been accused of promoting religious enmity and defiling a place of worship. According to a report in NDTV, a complaint has been filed at Lucknow's Hazratganj police station by a sub-inspector who is also posted there. 

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's media adviser Shalabh Mani Tripathi shared a copy of the FIR, warning the makers to be ready for arrest, he posted on Twitter. “There is no tolerance for playing with people's sentiments.. in yogiji’s Uttar Pradesh case has been registered under serious sections against the team of Tandav… be prepared for arrest soon." 

 

 

Soon after Tripathi’s message, scores of Bharatiya Janata Party politicians amplified that demand. According to NDTV, the policeman who filed the complaint stated he had alerted senior officers about numerous Twitter comments critical of Tandav's content, and was ordered to watch it. The complaint states that 17 minutes into the first episode, "people dressed up in a very bad manner (sic) to represent Hindu gods and goddesses and have been shown to speak in a very uncalled for language... that hurts religious sentiments". It added that in the same episode there are "conversations that lead to caste conflict, there are similar scenes in many other episodes. In the web series, the character of the person occupying the high post of India's Prime Minister has been shown in a very indecent manner... The series depicts lower and higher castes and scenes that insult women, and the intent... seems to be to hurt religious feelings of one community and to spread conflict”.

However, those who have watched Tandav, without wearing a sensitive religious lens will know that it is yet another web series which is based on politics, the biggest national obsession after cricket. 

It in fact can be panned for its superficial portrayal of politics, and of caste equations, and most of all its abysmally myopic treatment of key female characters. The series is surely deserving of a film and television critique and analysis of its formulaic treatment, trite dialogues, some hamming by even seasoned actors, no thanks to its weak writing, however it is not a political documentary. It is a merely fictional story, that is a thinly veiled take on real life social events that have taken place years apart. While it eerily foretells the ongoing farmers revolution, and notes the students movement that had united the country during the anti-CAA agitation, it fails to showcase either with any depth at all. The focus remains on dynasty politics, which too though beautifully shot, is superficial. But politicians are upset anyway.

Of course it also shows the police as politicaly controlled puppets who respond to “orders from above”, there are Muslim students are shown as protestors who are then attacked by cops, there is a hint of a farmers/workers’ protest, there is media manipulation, but all that is seen in real life everyday now. And then there is, what the trolls have been frothing about, a Muslim actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, playing a  Hindu student leader Shiva Shekhar who in turn is playing an abstract fictional adaptation of a Hindu god in a fictional college play. Perhaps trolls were triggered by memories of  student leaders such as Kanhaiya Kumar, or of the attack on JNU and Jamia students, or maybe they were upset that Tigmanshu Dhulia plays a Prime Minister who is killed by his son Samar Pratap Singh, played by Saif Ali Khan. Khan plays a villain, as do many other characters in various degrees. For the record the worst depiction in Tandav is of the women characters who are all treated as eye candy, or muses, at best, or as powerless yet scheming villains at worst. But the trolls are not upset by that filmmaking flaw at all, for now. 

Tandav is far from being a nuanced depiction of Indian politics, or of the social people powered movements now underway. However, the question to be asked is, why is the political leadership giving so much traction to a fictional web series? What is this buzz of activity against Tadav, meant to distract us from?

 

Related:

Love Jihad Ordinance criminalises interfaith unions, assault on Article 21: Petitioner 

Take action against 'Swami' for hate speech: Subhashini Ali to UP Police

Muslim man asked about "origin", beaten up in Ahmedabad

Tandav controversy: Convenient distraction from an on ground crisis?

Makers and the web streaming service have been accused of insulting Hindu gods on the series  

Tandav

It is a typical masala sprinkled political drama web series, yet Tandav, the show now airing on Amazon Prime, is now facing major criminal action after days of trolling over ‘hurting religious sentiments. Bar and Bench reports that now the Uttar Pradesh police have filed a case against the creators of the web series, after BJP leader Kapil Mishra sent a legal notice to Amazon.  

 

 

The web series is a fictional story of political power play. According to news reports it is being alleged that makers and the web streaming service have insulted Hindu gods on the series. The police case was filed just hours after the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) sought a response from Amazon Prime on a complaint filed by Maharashtra BJP MLA Ram Kadam. The trolling of the series, its acting cast, and its makers has been going on since it first aired a few days ago. People have been calling for a ban on the series and alleged it has hurt their religious sentiments. Now official action against the filmmakers has followed. 

The show has been directed by Ali Abbas Zaffar, written by Gaurav Solanki and has a star cast of prominent film actors including Dimple Kapadia, Saif Ali Khan, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Sunil Grover, Anup Soni, Kumud Mishra, Gauahar Khan, Kritika Kamra, Sandya Mridul and many more. The director, producer and writer of the series and Amazon's head of India Original Content, have now been accused of promoting religious enmity and defiling a place of worship. According to a report in NDTV, a complaint has been filed at Lucknow's Hazratganj police station by a sub-inspector who is also posted there. 

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's media adviser Shalabh Mani Tripathi shared a copy of the FIR, warning the makers to be ready for arrest, he posted on Twitter. “There is no tolerance for playing with people's sentiments.. in yogiji’s Uttar Pradesh case has been registered under serious sections against the team of Tandav… be prepared for arrest soon." 

 

 

Soon after Tripathi’s message, scores of Bharatiya Janata Party politicians amplified that demand. According to NDTV, the policeman who filed the complaint stated he had alerted senior officers about numerous Twitter comments critical of Tandav's content, and was ordered to watch it. The complaint states that 17 minutes into the first episode, "people dressed up in a very bad manner (sic) to represent Hindu gods and goddesses and have been shown to speak in a very uncalled for language... that hurts religious sentiments". It added that in the same episode there are "conversations that lead to caste conflict, there are similar scenes in many other episodes. In the web series, the character of the person occupying the high post of India's Prime Minister has been shown in a very indecent manner... The series depicts lower and higher castes and scenes that insult women, and the intent... seems to be to hurt religious feelings of one community and to spread conflict”.

However, those who have watched Tandav, without wearing a sensitive religious lens will know that it is yet another web series which is based on politics, the biggest national obsession after cricket. 

It in fact can be panned for its superficial portrayal of politics, and of caste equations, and most of all its abysmally myopic treatment of key female characters. The series is surely deserving of a film and television critique and analysis of its formulaic treatment, trite dialogues, some hamming by even seasoned actors, no thanks to its weak writing, however it is not a political documentary. It is a merely fictional story, that is a thinly veiled take on real life social events that have taken place years apart. While it eerily foretells the ongoing farmers revolution, and notes the students movement that had united the country during the anti-CAA agitation, it fails to showcase either with any depth at all. The focus remains on dynasty politics, which too though beautifully shot, is superficial. But politicians are upset anyway.

Of course it also shows the police as politicaly controlled puppets who respond to “orders from above”, there are Muslim students are shown as protestors who are then attacked by cops, there is a hint of a farmers/workers’ protest, there is media manipulation, but all that is seen in real life everyday now. And then there is, what the trolls have been frothing about, a Muslim actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, playing a  Hindu student leader Shiva Shekhar who in turn is playing an abstract fictional adaptation of a Hindu god in a fictional college play. Perhaps trolls were triggered by memories of  student leaders such as Kanhaiya Kumar, or of the attack on JNU and Jamia students, or maybe they were upset that Tigmanshu Dhulia plays a Prime Minister who is killed by his son Samar Pratap Singh, played by Saif Ali Khan. Khan plays a villain, as do many other characters in various degrees. For the record the worst depiction in Tandav is of the women characters who are all treated as eye candy, or muses, at best, or as powerless yet scheming villains at worst. But the trolls are not upset by that filmmaking flaw at all, for now. 

Tandav is far from being a nuanced depiction of Indian politics, or of the social people powered movements now underway. However, the question to be asked is, why is the political leadership giving so much traction to a fictional web series? What is this buzz of activity against Tadav, meant to distract us from?

 

Related:

Love Jihad Ordinance criminalises interfaith unions, assault on Article 21: Petitioner 

Take action against 'Swami' for hate speech: Subhashini Ali to UP Police

Muslim man asked about "origin", beaten up in Ahmedabad

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Love Jihad Ordinance criminalises interfaith unions, assault on Article 21: Petitioner to Allahabad HC

Objecting to the submissions made by the Uttar Pradesh Government, the petitioner has submitted that marriage between adults should not concern the state or social watchdogs

18 Jan 2021

Love Jihad

The petitioner challenging the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 has submitted a reply to the State Government’s defense aimed at preventing any form of unlawful conversion actuated by elements of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, by marriage, etc.

According to LiveLaw, the petitioner has submitted, “If a person exercises the freedom under Article 25 of the Constitution to marry somebody of his or her choice, and in that process, one partner chooses to change their religion immediately prior to marriage, that should not be the matter of concern for the State of any social watchdogs.”

One of the petitioners, Advocate Saurabh Kumar, represented by Advocates Devesh Saxena, Shashwat Anand and Vishesh Rajvanshi, in his rejoinder affidavit has also stated the detrimental impacts on the Article 21 protection. It states, “The impugned Ordinance is nothing but legal sanction to the criminalisation of inter-faith marriages. It is a direct assault on Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees personal liberty and the right to life.”

Referring to the Preamble of the impugned Ordinance, the petitioner said that the law equates marriage with misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement and fraudulent means. Amongst other things, it seeks to prohibit what it calls “unlawful conversion by marriage”. 

The rejoinder reads, “The state's concern about forcible conversions is understandable as it could involve several crimes, such as wrongful confinement, intimidation, kidnapping, assault, threat of divine displeasure etc. But the fact remains that there are enough laws on the statute book (Indian Penal Code) that are adequate to convict those accused of the crime or tackle coercive conversion.”

He has also objected to the proviso to Section 3 of the impugned ordinance in as much as it lays down that “reconversion” to a person's previous religion is not illegal, even if it is vitiated by fraud, force, allurement, misrepresentation and so on. “Through this peculiar provision, the law seems to contradict its own vicious theories of forceful conversions and breach of public order”, his submission reads.

The affidavit by the petitioner also comes down heavily on the Ordinance as it is anti-women. “In the framing of the love jihad narrative, Hindu women are only gullible victims, who have been made to stray away from the fold of their clan and community. They are not consenting adults free to make their own choices — good or bad. It is an idea that feeds the need of all patriarchal societies to control ‘sisters and daughters’ — never independent women — and their sexuality”, it reads.

As the Uttar Pradesh Government, in its counter affidavit to the writ petition filed in the court had declared that “community interest is on a much higher pedestal than agreement of two individuals who enter into wedlock”, the petitioner has contended that this proposition overturns the spirit of the Constitution and implies that no two individuals can make a decision regarding their marriage partners without seeking the sanction of the community they are a part of.

The Government had also placed on record that the judgment Salamat Ansari and Ors vs State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors 2020 SCC Online All 1382 is not good law. Arguing the other way round, the petitioner has disagreed and submitted that judgment passed in Salamat Ansari case lays down a good law and is backed up by various judicial precedents and pronouncement of the Supreme Court, and it will wrong and misconceived to state that the said decision requires consideration.

LiveLaw reported that the rejoinder submitted by the petitioner questioned the Rev Stanislaus judgment that upheld the anti-conversion laws of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. He has contended that the said case is different from the one at hand in as much as the two State acts were silent on inter-faith marriages and the Supreme Court too had not commented upon that.

The Uttar Pradesh Government had claimed in its affidavit that it is incorrect to label the impugned Ordinance as “Love-Jihad Ordinance” as it did not target any particular religion and was equally applicable to all forms of forced conversion, not just interfaith marriages.

The petitioner has however contended a scrutiny of the statistics submitted by the Government in court presents a different picture. Ever since the Ordinance came into effect on November 28, 86 people were booked and 79 of them are Muslims and all these 79 have been accused of similar offences — allegedly enticing a woman and forcing her to convert to Islam.

Further, he has submitted that the records show that the UP Police has registered 14 cases and made 51 arrests, of whom 49 are in jail. In all such cases, the women involved are adults.

The Allahabad High Court is set to hear the batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Ordinance today, on January 18.

Related:

Allahabad HC to hear petitions challenging the Love Jihad law

Love Jihad, Conversions and Laws curbing Freedoms

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

Love Jihad Ordinance criminalises interfaith unions, assault on Article 21: Petitioner to Allahabad HC

Objecting to the submissions made by the Uttar Pradesh Government, the petitioner has submitted that marriage between adults should not concern the state or social watchdogs

Love Jihad

The petitioner challenging the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 has submitted a reply to the State Government’s defense aimed at preventing any form of unlawful conversion actuated by elements of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, by marriage, etc.

According to LiveLaw, the petitioner has submitted, “If a person exercises the freedom under Article 25 of the Constitution to marry somebody of his or her choice, and in that process, one partner chooses to change their religion immediately prior to marriage, that should not be the matter of concern for the State of any social watchdogs.”

One of the petitioners, Advocate Saurabh Kumar, represented by Advocates Devesh Saxena, Shashwat Anand and Vishesh Rajvanshi, in his rejoinder affidavit has also stated the detrimental impacts on the Article 21 protection. It states, “The impugned Ordinance is nothing but legal sanction to the criminalisation of inter-faith marriages. It is a direct assault on Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees personal liberty and the right to life.”

Referring to the Preamble of the impugned Ordinance, the petitioner said that the law equates marriage with misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement and fraudulent means. Amongst other things, it seeks to prohibit what it calls “unlawful conversion by marriage”. 

The rejoinder reads, “The state's concern about forcible conversions is understandable as it could involve several crimes, such as wrongful confinement, intimidation, kidnapping, assault, threat of divine displeasure etc. But the fact remains that there are enough laws on the statute book (Indian Penal Code) that are adequate to convict those accused of the crime or tackle coercive conversion.”

He has also objected to the proviso to Section 3 of the impugned ordinance in as much as it lays down that “reconversion” to a person's previous religion is not illegal, even if it is vitiated by fraud, force, allurement, misrepresentation and so on. “Through this peculiar provision, the law seems to contradict its own vicious theories of forceful conversions and breach of public order”, his submission reads.

The affidavit by the petitioner also comes down heavily on the Ordinance as it is anti-women. “In the framing of the love jihad narrative, Hindu women are only gullible victims, who have been made to stray away from the fold of their clan and community. They are not consenting adults free to make their own choices — good or bad. It is an idea that feeds the need of all patriarchal societies to control ‘sisters and daughters’ — never independent women — and their sexuality”, it reads.

As the Uttar Pradesh Government, in its counter affidavit to the writ petition filed in the court had declared that “community interest is on a much higher pedestal than agreement of two individuals who enter into wedlock”, the petitioner has contended that this proposition overturns the spirit of the Constitution and implies that no two individuals can make a decision regarding their marriage partners without seeking the sanction of the community they are a part of.

The Government had also placed on record that the judgment Salamat Ansari and Ors vs State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors 2020 SCC Online All 1382 is not good law. Arguing the other way round, the petitioner has disagreed and submitted that judgment passed in Salamat Ansari case lays down a good law and is backed up by various judicial precedents and pronouncement of the Supreme Court, and it will wrong and misconceived to state that the said decision requires consideration.

LiveLaw reported that the rejoinder submitted by the petitioner questioned the Rev Stanislaus judgment that upheld the anti-conversion laws of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. He has contended that the said case is different from the one at hand in as much as the two State acts were silent on inter-faith marriages and the Supreme Court too had not commented upon that.

The Uttar Pradesh Government had claimed in its affidavit that it is incorrect to label the impugned Ordinance as “Love-Jihad Ordinance” as it did not target any particular religion and was equally applicable to all forms of forced conversion, not just interfaith marriages.

The petitioner has however contended a scrutiny of the statistics submitted by the Government in court presents a different picture. Ever since the Ordinance came into effect on November 28, 86 people were booked and 79 of them are Muslims and all these 79 have been accused of similar offences — allegedly enticing a woman and forcing her to convert to Islam.

Further, he has submitted that the records show that the UP Police has registered 14 cases and made 51 arrests, of whom 49 are in jail. In all such cases, the women involved are adults.

The Allahabad High Court is set to hear the batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Ordinance today, on January 18.

Related:

Allahabad HC to hear petitions challenging the Love Jihad law

Love Jihad, Conversions and Laws curbing Freedoms

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

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Communal violence erupts in Kutch

Members of two communities clashed during procession related to Ram Temple donations

18 Jan 2021

communal violence
Representational image


Communal clashes were reported from Kidana village in the Kutch region of Gujarat on Sunday evening. A group of people pelted stones upon a procession being taken out to collect funds to build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

According to the Times of India, the situation first turned tense in Sadau village of Mundra taluka before spreading to Kidana. Kutch range Inspector General of Police (IGP) JR Mothaliya told TOI, “A huge mob had gathered during the rath yatra and there was stone pelting. We also lobbed tear gas shells and the situation is under control now.”

The procession or ‘rath yatra’ was organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). A riot like situation followed the stone pelting. There were reports of arson, with an auto-rickshaw and two bikes being set on fire. Police resorted to tear gas shelling to control the crowd and prohibitory orders were passed under section 144.

It is noteworthy that communal clashes were also reported from Chandan Khedi village near Indore a few weeks ago during a similar procession to collect funds to build the Ram Temple. It was also reported that the civic administration bulldozed homes of alleged stone pelters in retaliation. The demolitions were purportedly carried out for a road-widening project, but Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra was quoted as saying, “Jahan se pathar aaenge, wahin se toh nikale jaaenge,” meaning stones will be extracted (demolitions) from the places where stone pelters live.


Related:

After communal clashes, more Indore village homes demolished for ‘road-widening’

Ram Mandir fundraising campaign a tool to gauge BJP’s popularity in Bengal?

Communal violence erupts in Kutch

Members of two communities clashed during procession related to Ram Temple donations

communal violence
Representational image


Communal clashes were reported from Kidana village in the Kutch region of Gujarat on Sunday evening. A group of people pelted stones upon a procession being taken out to collect funds to build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

According to the Times of India, the situation first turned tense in Sadau village of Mundra taluka before spreading to Kidana. Kutch range Inspector General of Police (IGP) JR Mothaliya told TOI, “A huge mob had gathered during the rath yatra and there was stone pelting. We also lobbed tear gas shells and the situation is under control now.”

The procession or ‘rath yatra’ was organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). A riot like situation followed the stone pelting. There were reports of arson, with an auto-rickshaw and two bikes being set on fire. Police resorted to tear gas shelling to control the crowd and prohibitory orders were passed under section 144.

It is noteworthy that communal clashes were also reported from Chandan Khedi village near Indore a few weeks ago during a similar procession to collect funds to build the Ram Temple. It was also reported that the civic administration bulldozed homes of alleged stone pelters in retaliation. The demolitions were purportedly carried out for a road-widening project, but Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra was quoted as saying, “Jahan se pathar aaenge, wahin se toh nikale jaaenge,” meaning stones will be extracted (demolitions) from the places where stone pelters live.


Related:

After communal clashes, more Indore village homes demolished for ‘road-widening’

Ram Mandir fundraising campaign a tool to gauge BJP’s popularity in Bengal?

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