Friday, March 4, 2011


March, 2011 calendar


March 4th, 2011 i

CartoonSpeaks:Unrest in the Middles East

Breaking the Muslim stereotype


Yet there is something about the current mohtamim (Vice-Chancellor) that has got the country talking — that has got the country's Muslims talking. The VC's troubled presence at the Islamic seminary has triggered a “tradition versus modern” debate that some have audaciously compared to the exploding Arab unrest.Wittingly or unwittingly, Vastanvi has become a metaphor for change.

Less than four per cent Indian Muslim children go to madrasas. So logically, it should make no difference whether Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi stays on at Darul Uloom Deoband or is sacked. Yet there is something about the current mohtamim (Vice-Chancellor) that has got the country talking — that has got the country's Muslims talking. 

The VC's troubled presence at the Islamic seminary has triggered a “tradition versus modern” debate that some have audaciously compared to the exploding Arab unrest. The suggestion is that Indian Muslim society is in aspirational churn and Mr. Vastanvi is a surface symptom.Consider the questions: Why has the Maulana become a hate figure for some in his community and a sign of hope and uplift for countless others? Why has a Facebook fan club, “Fans of Mo. Ghulam Vastanvi,” sprung up for this cleric, when going by his recent record, he ought to have no Muslim supporters, much less an entire fan club? Indeed, what explains the Muslim crowds that gathered to receive this alleged Narendra Modi supporter when he touched down at the Ahmedabad airport recently?Up until two months ago, not many knew or recognised the Maulana from Gujarat who ran colleges and institutions in the border areas between Maharashtra and Gujarat.

 Mr. Vastanvi was certainly not among the who's who in New Delhi. In the Capital's theatre of competitive Muslim politics, where a leader's worth was measured by the VIP attendance at his iftaars, the rousing statements he issued, the photo-ops he managed and the crowds he mustered at his rallies, Mr. Vastanvi simply did not count.Yet the Maulana hit the national stage like a storm. Barely did one digest the information that the new Vice-Chancellor at possibly the world's most influential Islamic seminary was a forward-looking educator and MBA degree-holder, when he turned into a veritable disaster, chased by controversies, hounded by opponents, and forced into a situation where the end seemed imminent. On January 10, 2011, Mr. Vastanvi won the post of rector defeating his nearest rival Arshad Madani, theologist, leader of one faction of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, and a member of the powerful Madani clan whose history of association with the Darul Uloom Deoband was part of folklore. The import of the election was not lost on observers: Mr. Vastanvi had, in effect, challenged the entrenched forces at the seminary. Would he survive the backlash?Less than two months later, on February 23, the same Majlis-e-Shura (the seminary's governing council), which had declared Mr. Vastanvi elected, reconvened to decide his fate.

 Would the wise men of the council judge him guilty as charged? Or would the embattled VC convince them that the institution stood damaged — not by anything he was perceived to have done but by the wily machinations and politics of his opponents? The Shura put him on hold — the verdict would come from a three-member committee appointed to probe the disturbances that had followed his appointment.
Vicious commentaries

Many sins had been laid at the door of the Maulana, among them his perceived tilt towards Mr. Modi. For the head priest of the uber-orthodox Darul Uloom Deoband to take the wildly unpopular position that Gujarat's Muslims were not badly off, was incredible in itself. If nothing else, Mr. Vastanvi ought to have known that the wounds of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom ran deep. 

The VC subsequently clarified that he could never have condoned the pogrom; he also issued an unconditional apology in the event the perception remained.But important sections of the Urdu press were not so easily cajoled. They skewered him: stinging editorials, vicious commentaries and full-page advertisements filled up the newspaper pages even as reporters dug up more dirt: At an October 2010 Eid Milan function in Beed in Maharashtra, Mr. Vastanvi had presented a Radha-Krishna figure to a Hindu Minister.
 Idolatory was sacrilege in Islam and the papers called for statements and fatwas to be issued against the rector. Chain e-mails transmitted the Radha-Krishna image to millions of Muslims across the world.Just as the drum beats reached a crescendo, Mr. Vastanvi, quite unexpectedly, began to get support — three Urdu newspapers, Hindustan ExpressJadid Khabar and Nai Duniya dissented. The Hindustan Express systematically uncovered the plot against the Maulana. News Editor Shahidul Islam argued that Islam did not permit flogging a controversy when an apology had been offered. He also showed that the alleged Radha-Krishna image was a small, insignificant picture. In the hands of Mr. Vastanvi's opponents, it had morphed into a life-size deity. The English newspapers picked up the cue, and the theme slowly changed from the indiscretions of Mr. Vastanvi to the gang-up against him
Support for Vastanvi
But the bigger surprise was still to come. 
At a gathering at Delhi's Ghalib Academy on February 21, some 300 Muslim clerics, skull cap, flowing beards and all, lined up behind Mr. Vastanvi. They were mainly from western Uttar Pradesh, some among them from Deoband, the cradle of conservative Muslim thought. But here they were, defying the stereotype of the obscurantist Mullah and raising their collective voice against rudiwadi soch (regressive thinking).Nai Duniya editor Shahid Siddiqui used the occasion for some inspired oratory: “This is a revolution not unlike what is happening on the Arab streets,” he thundered to background chants of Allah-ho-Akbar. 

Mr. Vastanvi derived his significance from being able to bridge the gap between “deen” (religion) and “duniya” (worldly affairs), Mr. Siddiqui said, adding, “Let not people say, there goes the Maulvi who is a terrorist. Let them say, there goes the Maulvi, who is a doctor, who is heart-surgeon.” Later, Maqsood ul Hasan Qasmi, president of the Imam Council of India and the organiser of the meet, would tell me: “As a graduate from Darul Uloom Deoband, I know that students there are thirsting for democracy, reform and modern education. Vastanvi is their hope, and if he is removed, it will send out a bad signal.” None of the speakers gave any credence to the Modi controversy.

This was puzzling. A few years ago, no Muslim, much less a Maulana schooled in Deoband or an Imam offering prayers at a masjid, could have and would have dared publicly defend a person seen as Mr. Modi's friend — whether or not the charge was true, whether or not an apology had been offered. Mr. Vastanvi himself would have been summarily sacked. 

Obviously, some of the clues for this change were to be found in Deoband.On the day of the February 23 Shura meet at Darul Uloom, all eyes were on the Mehman Khana (guest house), where Mr. Vastanvi was being grilled. But away from the glare, and in a packed room in a nearby building, a group of Muslim citizens, among them politicians, Deoband scholars, and a sprinkling of Muslim reporters, were in a heated discussion over the place of education in Islam.When expelled Samajwadi Party leader Naseem Usmani argued that modern education had no place in Darul Uloom, he was roundly rebuffed by the rest: “Do you even know that ilm [knowledge] is the third most recurring word in the Koran? Find us the passage in the holy book that tells Muslims not to broaden their horizon.” I raised the Modi issue and was instantly put down: “We are not saying that Muslims should forgive Modi or forget 2002. 
But all of you in the secular media want the Gujarati Muslim never to get out of his grieving. Hindu or Muslim, the Gujarati is a businessperson, and that is what Vastanvi was trying to say.”The words stung but they were true. The Congress and the secular media wanted the Gujarati Muslim forever to fight Mr. Modi but neither was there to protect him.
 In any case, unbeknown to most of us, the debate seemed to have progressed beyond the rights and wrongs of supporting Mr. Modi. I had a long chat with young Shahnawaz, a student at the Deoband seminary.Mr. Shahnawaz worshipped the new mohtamim, who even without announcing major reforms, had shown that some things could easily be done, such as building a dining room for the talaba (students). Plate in hand, and waiting in serpentine lines, they currently made a pathetic picture. 

A brand new filtering system would provide clean drinking water. In time, and given the space he needs, Mr. Vastanvi would also introduce vocational courses.There are some student firebrands who make a lot of noise, but “most of us have tired of the jalsa-jaloos [procession-protest] politics of the Muslim leadership,” Mr. Shahnawaz said. He was awfully proud of his cousin Saba Karim, who was training to be a pilot in Patna — the first to do so in two decades. “There is no disputing that deeni taleem [religious education] is the foundation of Darul Uloom. But being computer illiterate or not knowing English is not the solution. Right now we cannot even fill up a form,” said the young man, who made a stunning parting remark: “Do you know the Islamic revelation started with the word, iqra, which means to read?”Muslims have long given up on government. 

On the plus side, the terrorism label has started to come off, and the sense of siege over identity and security has given way to aspirational hopes and dreams. Naturally there is anger with the old Muslim leadership and its crass opportunistic politics. Time will tell whether Mr. Vastanvi is just another political player or a reformer. 
For now, an unlikely mohtamim seems to have become a metaphor for change.Keywords: Muslim stereotypeVice-ChancellorMaulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvicontroversy

Courtesy:The Hindu:Chennai 

CEO justifies election schedule

A number of factors such as requirement of paramilitary forces considered”
Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar on Thursday sought to justify the Election Commission's decision on the election schedule for the Assembly elections.
Addressing a crowded press conference at Fort St. George here, the CEO said the Commission, while drawing up the election schedule, had taken into account a number of factors such as the requirement of paramilitary forces. Besides, the Commission saw four States and the Union Territory of Puducherry as one block so that the principle of apparent impact did not operate anywhere. This was why the date of announcement of elections in Tamil Nadu or Kerala had been determined only after the poll process was completed in West Bengal.

Pointing out that the Assembly election in Assam would be over (April 11) ahead of Tamil Nadu, he said Kerala would face the elections on the same day (April 13) Tamil Nadu would be having. So, it was not unique to Tamil Nadu that it had to wait for a month to know the results.
In 2006, Tamil Nadu was covered in the last leg of the polls while, now, it would see the elections in the middle.

To a question whether the elections in Tamil Nadu would be postponed, the CEO replied, “I cannot answer it.” He hastened to add that “normally” it was not done once the schedule was announced.
The views of political parties in Tamil Nadu about the date of the Assembly election, including the remarks of DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, have been conveyed to the Election Commission, Mr. Praveen Kumar said. Asked by reporters whether the concerns of Mr. Karunanidhi, who had wondered what the EC's compulsions were in fixing April 13 as the date of polling, and other parties would be conveyed to the Commission, Mr. Kumar responded, “For your information, we convey [to the EC] every day [as to what is happening in the State].”

On the rate of conviction of those who were found to have indulged in electoral malpractices since 2006, the CEO said that so far, three convictions had taken place. Several other cases were pending before courts.

On the strength of paramilitary forces to be requisitioned, he replied that the decision had not yet been taken.

Apart from the requirement of the State, the needs of other States, which would be going to the polls, and the position of the Union Home Affairs Ministry had to be considered.
On the transmission of bulk messages sent through mobile phones, the CEO said this would be treated like an advertisement insertion.

As regards his directive on the distribution of free colour television sets, he explained that this was done as a pre-emptive move.

He reiterated that no new beneficiaries could be identified and given any assistance. No tenders should be invited hereafter. If tenders had been invited before the model code of conduct had come into force, no contracts should be awarded.

In case contracts had been awarded, no work orders could be issued now. If work orders had been given, the work should not be allowed to be taken up. He also clarified that there was no bar if the execution of works was under way.

Courtesy:The Hindu/Chennai

DMK-Congress to sign seat sharing deal: DMK sources

NDTV Correspondent, Updated: March 03, 2011 21:24 IST


Chennai:  DMK sources have told NDTV that they have finalised a seat-sharing deal with the Congress. Under the new deal that has been thrashed out, the Congress will get 60 seats. 

In the last state election, the Congress was given 48 seats. 

This deal comes after high-level negotiations through the day. A third round of talks held late last night had failed and Ghulam Nabi Azad - the Congressman in charge of Tamil Nadu - skipped a scheduled meeting this morning with DMK chief Karunanidhi. 

Currently the Congress supports the DMK government in the state. If the alliance wins the election, the Congress wants to be included in the government.

Minority tag would damage Jamia Millia Islamia

  UPDATED  3/3/2011 11:07:11 AM

Vivek Shukla                                    

New Delhi :The case and controversy and debate over the minority character of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), a university established by Muslim leaders, are refusing to die down.

In an important development, education activist Firoz Bakht Ahmed has decided to challenge in Delhi HC, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions` order to declare Jamia Millia Islamia as a minority institution. Added Bakht, the way local Muslim community around Jamia distributed sweets on the decision of JMI being declared as an institution with a minority tag, was only to be lamented.

Talking to News 24, Mr. Ahmed confirmed thisdevelopment, expressing his opposition to the grounds on which Jamia was declared a minority institution, which he is going to challenge legally in the court.

Commenting on the history of JMI, Bakht said, “In fact the institution was to give a concrete shape to cosmopolitan culture and the Hindu-Muslim unity that the Khilafat movement had brought about.”
Ahmed said that if we, as a nation, have to grow, we have to free ourselves from the petty hold of the traps like “minority”, “majority”, “quotas” etc and have to forge ahead with a combined effort to eradicate illiteracy, poverty and obscurantism amongst India’s masses irrespective of religion, region, language, caste, creed or clan of the disadvantaged. Any impudent move to dilute the secular credentials of thiscentral university would foster the revival of communalism that can’t be afforded at any cost now.

In his petition, Firoz Bakht Ahmed said that the card of “minority Character” has sent the message going out that the ethos of the composite culture of the institution has changed and is bound to hurt the reputation of the Jamia Millia Islamia.

Bakht was upset that truth is that this tag of JMI being a “minority institution” will further alienate Muslims. There is a potential threat that the historic Jamia might fall into the clutches of fundamentalists after this. Not only this, merit will take a back seat as well. Inclusive growth is only possible with an eclectic diversity of teachers and the taught.

In fact Mr Ahmed will base his argument on what the founding fathers say about reservations. The petition states, “Interestingly, Sardar Patel did vehemently support the charter of providing political safeguards to the minorities according to articles 292 and 294 of the Draft Constitution in 1949 but five leaders out of seven, namely Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifzur Rehman, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Hussainbhoy Laljee and Tajammul Hussain opposed.”

Bakht also added that during his constituent assembly meeting on May 26, 1949 Nehru said, “If you seek to give safeguards to a minority, you isolate it… May be, you protect it to a slight extent but at what cost? At the cost of isolating and keeping it away from the main current.”

One of the main arguments of Firoz Bakht Ahmed will be to challenge all kinds of reservations including the SC/ST, OBC, Dalit, Kashmiri migrants, the army personnel and the latest one in Jamia that have actually pushed the general category to the wall and they suffer the most. He will say that there are cases where reservations have resulted in the SCs/Sts amassing wealth where the poor general category people are pining for basic necessities.

In fact Mr. Ahmed is going to argue that JMI was never governed by Muslims even before the implementation of the Act. Instead it was a society named as Jamia Millia Islamia Society (1939) which used to run and administer the institute before the enactment of the Act.

Mr. Ahmed is of the view that the minority tag associated with Jamia will isolate the students and youths from the community and thereby will lead to educational ghettoization, some thing which stands contrary to the purpose of the establishment of Jamia. JMI was established to bring Muslims into the national mainstream, he argues.

Firoz Bakht Ahmed, also a grandnephew of Maulana Azad believes that the offering of minority status to JMI reminds him of the two nation theory of Jinnah that had been opposed by Maulana Azad throughout. He has traditionally opposed the case of Jamia’s minority status, even before the NCMEI where he was one of the intervener in this case which was pending before the commission since 2006.

Bakht was concerned that the NCMEI delivered this judgment in violation of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case, “Azeez Basha vs Union of India, AIR-1968 Supreme Court 662”. The case is subjudice and the minority tag has been given to JMI rather hastily and illegally. 

Courtesy :news24online

No plan to set up madrassa board: Sibal


The human resources development (HRD) minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, today said the government has no proposal to set up a madrassa board as the Muslim community is against the formation of such a regulatory board for them.
Clarifying that the UPA government has never proposed to set up such a board, Mr Sibal said the board is a suggestion of the Sachar Committee that felt that the functioning and modernisation of the madrassas should be supervised by a body which has more academics than theologians. “There is no proposal, because unless the community wants it, why should we intervene unless the community comes forward we will not discuss it,” the minister said at a book release function.

Mr Sibal, however, said he had discussed the issue with members of Parliament after a proposal in this direction was made by the National Commission for minority education. “But the MPs opposed it,” he said.

A delegation of Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind had recently met the minister seeking the setting up of a board for madrassas modelled on the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination. Sns

CVC PJ Thomas steps down

Prabhakar Mishra

New Delhi After Supreme Court verdict Chief Vigilance Commissioner P J Tthomas has decided to quit his post.Earlier, the Supreme court strikes down the appointment of CVC P J Thomas. Pronouncing the judgement here on Thursday, argues that there is no merit in government argument.It may be recalled that  former bureaucrat PJ Thomas was  facing a corruption case in Kerala, as Central Vigilance Commissioner.

 "We declare that the recommendation made by the high-powered committee is non-est in law. Which means that the recommendations made on September 3, 2010 does not exist in law. Consequently, the appointment of Thomas goes," a bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swantatntra Kumar said.

The bench severely criticised the committee for not considering the relevant material including the pending criminal case against Thomas in the Palmolein import case and the recommendations of the DoPT between 2000-04 for initiating disciplinary proceedings against him.

Earlier, a bench of Chief Justice SH Kapadia and JusticesKS Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar had reserved its judgment on February 10.

The PIL filed by an NGO, Center for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and retired bureacrats and police officials, including former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh, had challenged Thomas` appointment to the post in view of a pending criminal case against him in a Kerala court.

Thomas was appointed CVC on September 7 last year.

Thomas has contested the PIL contending that he was appointed to the post in view of the vigilance clearance given to him before his appointment as Secretary in the union government.

Further, the embattled CVC had said the corruption case pending against him in the Kerala Court was a result of political rivalry between former chief minister K Karunakaran and present chief minister VS Achuthanandan.

The petitioners have contended Thomas cannot be considered as a person of "impeccable integrity" as a chargesheet was filed against him in palmolein import scam when he was a secretary in the Keralaministry of food and civil supplies. He had secured bail from a local court.

The petitioners have also alleged he was appointed despite strong objections from Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj who was a member of the 3-member panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The other member of the panel is Home Minister P Chidambaram.

The petitioners also said he could not be appointed CVC on account of "conflict of interest" as till recently he was serving as telecom secretary and that there was the allegation that he was involved in an alleged "cover-up" of 2G spectrum scam.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had in its report said the loss to the exchequer as a result of sale of spectrum licences to certain companies at undervalued prices was to the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh.


Seat sharing first hurdle for rival fronts in Kerala



Thiruvananthapuram, March 2 : With Kerala's ruling and opposition coalitions gearing up for the April 13 elections, state leaders Wednesday admitted that seat sharing issues needed to be sorted out first.

"Sacrifices will have to be made by all concerned because there are going to be more parties but the number of seats remains the same. We are quite certain that we will be able to solve the seat sharing process quickly and will hit the campaign trail," leader of opposition Oomen Chandy said.

The opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is led by Congress with 24 members in the 140-seat house.

Other constituents are the Kerala Congress (Mani) with 11 seats, Indian Union Muslim League with 7, Socialist Janata Democratic (Virendra Kumar) with 3, and Kerala Congress-B, JSS and Indian National League with one seat each.

UDF is also supported by one independent.

                                                    Ooman Chanday
The ruling Left Democratic Front's (LDF) major constituent is the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) with 61 seats, followed by the Communist Party of India (17), Revolutionary Socialist Party (3), the Nationalist Congress Party (2), Janata Dal-Secular (2), Kerala Congress (Thomas) (1) and Congress-S (1).

The LDF also includes three Left-supported independents.

One seat in the assembly is vacant.

For the CPI-M, another issue to decide is whether Chief Minister V.S. Achuthandan, 87, will lead the front in this election.

The first support for Achuthanandan came Wednesday when RSP chief V.P. Ramakrishna Pillai said the chief minister's image will help the LDF.

"Finally, the decision on who is to lead the LDF will be decided by the CPI-M. In all, we want seven seats this time to contest," said Pillai.

1.81 cr State voters to exercise franchise

Staff Reporter

 GUWAHATI, March 2 (Assam)

                                            Tarun Kumar Gogai

Over 1.81 crore voters will exercise their franchise in the Assembly polls in the State scheduled to be held in two phases on April 4 and 11.

The first phase, involving 62 constituencies, will have 84,88,386 electorates, the break-up being 43,78,456 males and 41,09,930 females. The figure for the second phase,involving 64 constituencies is 96,57,528, the break-up being 49,95,064 males and 46,62464 females.
The first phase will have 11,254 polling stations at 7,743 locations while the secondphase will have 12,559 polling stations at 7,910 locations.

The first phase will have 50, 9, and 3 constituencies for general, ST and SC respectively,while for the second phase the number is 52, 7 and 5, respectively.

Briefing media on the polls, Hemanta Narzary, Chief Electoral Officer, Assam, today said that the Election Commission (EC) was taking a number of measures in addition to those taken earlier to ensure that candidates comply with the expenditure norms.

“We are very strict this time and have put in place a detailed, stringent institutionalized monitoring mechanism. For the first time candidates will have to declare the assets of their dependents as well besides those of their wives, which would be examined by the Income Tax Department. There will be expenditure observers and video surveillance of every poll expenditure-related activity of the candidates. All material facts will then go to the accounting team against each candidate, while the Income Tax Department will monitor illegal flow of money,” Narzary revealed.
Narzary said that each candidate would have to open a separate account at a nationalized bank where his poll expenditures will be monitored. “There will be an expenditure monitoring room-cum-call centre in each district for entertaining complaints and making necessary inquiry. A flying squad comprising magistrates, police and paramilitary forces will also be there,” he said.
Stating that instructions had been issued to the administration and police for seizing all illegal arms, Narzary said that in the past month over 5,000 non-bailable warrants had been executed, bringing down the figure from 16,000-odd to 11,233.

“Police has been asked to send daily reports, and last week alone has witnessed the execution of 687 non-bailable warrants,” he added.

Narzary said that the EC would take serious note of any ‘paid news’ during the poll process, and candidates would be show-caused in such eventualities while the matter would also be taken up with the Press Council of India. “Exist polls will also not be allowed,” he said.
On the difficulties of the disabled to cast their votes, Narzary said that every polling station must have the necessary arrangement – even if temporary ones – to enable the disabled to exercise their franchise in a dignified manner in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines.
On security arrangements, Narzary said that additional companies were being sought and the “arrangements will be three times more than the last parliamentary polls”.
Additional CEO Mukesh Sahoo also addressed the press meet.

Courtesy: The Assam Tribune