Friday, February 8, 2013

My Name is Khan and…

Pain of a celebrity being an Indian Muslim

Ram Puniyani

Shah Rukh Khan is no ordinary celebrity. Being the lead actor with a very vibrant presence on big and small screen makes him to be very much on the top. Recently the communal elements asked him to produce his patriotism certificate. Khan in one of his articles in The New York Times-Outlook Turning Points ((January 2013) suggested that India has a bias against Muslims and goes on to say that “Political leaders have made me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India.” He also writes “There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighboring country-this even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return (to Pakistan) when they refer to my original home land.”

In response to this the Pakistan foreign minister Rahman Malik was quick to ask the Indian Government to provide security to Khan. Hafiz Sayeed went to the extent of inviting Khan to Pakistan with a promise to provide him with security. Both these are sort of pinpricks which are usually dished out by the neighbors to each other. When Hindu minorities suffer in Pakistan the immediate chorus comes up here in India is to ask to take steps for security of Hindus in Pakistan. Malik and Sayeed were just trying to put some salt in to the wounds of Indian psyche, not that they are concerned about Indian Muslims as such. They belong to a country where large section of Muslims themselves is struggling to live the life of dignity. A section of Muslims is being called Mohajirs and is denied most of the privileges of citizens. In Pakistan currently the Shia Muslims and Ahmadiyas are an object of wrath. So lesser said about Rahman Malik and Hafiz Sayeed Company the better.

The criticism directed against Khan was that he is giving ammunition to the elements across the border to criticize India. But can we keep the wounds of Indian Muslims under wraps, with no smell polluting the air? As far as Khan’s statement that there are biases against Indian Muslims is concerned, it is a painful reality. Muslims have been demonized; the strong streak of Islamophobia persists all over. The myths, stereotypes and biases against Indian Muslims were heightened with the partition tragedy, when the communal forces propagated that it is due to Muslims that India had to be partitioned. This is a total misreading of recent history as majority of Indian Muslims neither supported the idea of Partition nor were behind the Muslims League. Muslim League cut a sorry figure in 1937 assembly elections as majority of Indian Muslims did not vote for Jinnah party. And after the Jinnah’s resolution demanding Paksitan in 1940, majority of Indian Muslims took out processions opposing the demand of Pakistan.
The other biases against Muslim community started intensifying through the propaganda by the communal forces, the biases about the Muslims related to the atrocities committed by Muslim kings, the biases related to polygamy, number of children, beef eating and their loyalty to Pakistan. The parallel process of communal violence started marginalizing them from social scene, the violence against them (Muslims are 13.4% as per 2001 census; Muslims are close to 90% amongst the riot victims). These stereotypes against Muslims are currently at peak and hatred resulting from these biases is leading to repeated communal violence and polarization.

While the average Muslim has been living with these biases pasted on his/her forehead, after 9/11, ‘All terrorists are Muslims’ has also been popularized through various mechanisms, section of media, words of mouth, SMS chains through mobile phones and the social media. While in the regular channels Muslims are too few, in the offbeat channels of social life, they do excel as in sports, music and films. At the same time the Muslims, who by mistake reach the top slots in position of authority have to be more careful for obvious reasons. Here the communal parties and outfits pick up some pro-Pakistan label against Muslim celebrities. Dilip Kumar, Yusuf Khan, was initially given the same abuse of being for Pakistan and he had to face lot of music when he was awarded the highest civilian honor by the government of Pakistan, Nishan-e-Pakistan. Lot of demonstrations was held in front of his house by these outfits to humiliate him. That may be one of the reasons for him not being awarded the highest civilian honor, which he deserves many times over. Mohammad Azaruddin, the outstanding cricketing talent and ex-Indian cricket Captain was mocked that he plays poorly when playing against Pakistan, to enable Pakistan to win!.

Shah Rukh Khan is another such celebrity. He had to face the double flak. Being a Khan, twice he was detained and stripped at the US entry points. Interestingly when he was detained many of his fans were approaching him for his autographs right there. In India the Shiv Sena, claiming to be a patriotic organization, holding on to Hindu Nationalism not Indian nationalism, has meted similar treatment to Shah Rukh Khan. Khan is from Peshawar and it is an enlightening point to know that his father was the follower of Khan Abdul Gaffer Khan, Frontier Gandhi, and participated in freedom struggle.

Shah Rukh Khan knows he is too secure; he is not talking as a victim, it is not from the angle of victimhood. He is expressing the anguish of being a Muslim at a time when in India the anti Muslim sentiments are at a peak and these get a boost from global Islamophobia created by American propaganda. Imagine the pain of an Indian when he is looked down to be owing allegiance to the neighboring country? Only those seeped in the values of Indian freedom struggle and those respecting the values of Indian Constitution can feel the anguish of Shah Rukh Khan and many more Muslims, celebrity or not, who have to keep producing loyalty and patriotism certicates time and over again, and that too to those belonging to the politics based on the ideology, which was not a part of freedom movement and has little respect for values of Indian Constitution.

In popular psyche the identification of Indian Muslims with Pakistan has been cultivated with vehemence by communal forces. Muslims are more loyal to Pakistan is a standard propaganda. How can we judge patriotism of an individual? By cheering for the cricket teams or by allegiance to Indian Constitution? The matter of fact is that some disgruntled Muslims may be showing their anguish by cheering for Pakistan, in cricket matches, but that’s where the matters rest. A lot has been made of this deliberately and this falsehood has become part of social common sense. Shah Rukh Khan has been made a deliberate target by the communal forces and it is a part of their game of manufacturing biases against Muslim community as a whole. His expression in the said article is expression of what many Muslims suffer in India, celebrities included. 

The contents of the article rest on the its author.

2002 riots were unfortunate, Narendra Modi told EU envoys

Friday, February 08, 2013

New Delhi: European Union, which has ended over a decade-old boycott of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has been told by him that the 2002 riots in the state were unfortunate.

Modi took the unusual step of driving to Germany embassy here to a luncheon meeting with envoys and representatives of several European Union member countries that was hosted by German Ambassador Michael Steiner. The meeting remained undisclosed for one month till EU Ambassador Joao Cravinho went public yesterday.

Steiner told reporters today that he had always maintained that Germany had no intention of interfering in Gujarat Assembly elections and that it will take a "fresh look" after the election results.

"That is exactly what we were doing and part of it is to talk directly to Chief Minister Modi. India is a democracy. We respect democratic institutions. We respect election results in India and we have full trust in its judicial system. Because of this respect and trust, we are now in a new phase," the German Ambassador said.

However, he refused to give further details of the meeting but other sources in the know said, during the January 7 meeting with EU delegation, Modi said he will abide by the judicial verdict and that these events were unfortunate.

Modi is also understood to have said that everything should be done to avoid such events.

Asked if the EU, which has boycotted Modi for over 10 years after the riots, was softening up, Cravinho said, "The accountability of what happened in 2002, I think is the matter that is of interest to Indians and is of interest for people around the world."

He said that in India, there is a certain amount of emotion attached to what happened in 2002.

"And it is a matter that we will follow with great interest...," he said.

Referring to last year's verdict by a Gujarat court convicting BJP legislator Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi along with 30 others for their role in the Naroda Patia riots, the Ambassador said, Indian justice might be slow but delivers.

"Some months ago, there was end of one part of judicial process which shows that justice in India may be slow but it produces results. And that has helped to look towards closure of what everybody agrees is very very terrible set of events," he told a select group of journalists.

According to the sources, EU countries feel this is the right time to engage with Modi, who has been elected third time and has no judicial verdict against him. There is also a feeling among these countries that he is a player at the national level.

Last October, Britain, a member of the EU, had ended its decade-long boycott of Gujarat when its High Commissioner to India James Bevan met Modi to mark a "cordial beginning" to fresh ties, with the two discussing opportunities for greater economic cooperation.

In the first engagement with Gujarat in 10 years after it snapped all ties with the state in the aftermath of the 2002 communal riots, the British High Commissioner met Modi for about 50 minutes, discussing a range of issues, including climate change and investments.


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Recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee: 10-point cheat-sheet

Edited by Prasad Sanyal | Updated: January 24, 2013 18:21 IST 

New Delhi:  A three-member commission assigned to review laws for sexual crimes submitted its report to the government on Wednesday. The commission, headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Verma, has identified "failure of governance" as the root cause for sexual crime. It has criticised the government, the police and even the public for its apathy, and has recommended dramatic changes.
Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet on the major recommendations made by the panel:

1.      Punishment for Rape: The panel has not recommended the death penalty for rapists. It suggests that the punishment for rape should be rigorous imprisonment or RI for seven years to life. It recommends that punishment for causing death or a "persistent vegetative state" should be RI for a term not be less than 20 years, but may be for life also, which shall mean the rest of the person's life. Gang-rape, it suggests should entail punishment of not less than 20 years, which may also extend to life and gang-rape followed by death, should be punished with life imprisonment.

2.      Punishment for other sexual offences:  The panel recognised the need to curb all forms of sexual offences and recommended  - Voyeurism be punished with upto seven years in jail; stalking or attempts to contact a person repeatedly through any means by  up to three years. Acid attacks would be punished by up to seven years if imprisonment; trafficking will be punished with RI for seven  to ten years.

3.      Registering complaints and medical examination: Every complaint of rape must be registered by the police and civil society should perform its duty to report any case of rape coming to its knowledge. "Any officer, who fails to register a case of rape reported to him, or attempts to abort its investigation, commits an offence which shall be punishable as prescribed," the report says. The protocols for medical examination of victims of sexual assault have also been suggested. The panel said, "Such protocol based, professional medical examination is imperative for uniform practice and implementation."

4.      Marriages to be registered: As a primary recommendation, all marriages in India (irrespective of the personal laws under which such marriages are solemnised) should mandatorily be registered in the presence of a magistrate,. The magistrate will ensure that the marriage has been solemnised without any demand for dowry having been made and that it has taken place with the full and free consent of both partners.

5.      Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure: The panel observed, "The manner in which the rights of women can be recognised can only be manifested when they have full access to justice and when the rule of law can be upheld in their favour." The proposed Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2012, should be modified, suggests the panel. "Since the possibility of sexual assault on men, as well as homosexual, transgender and transsexual rape, is a reality the provisions have to be cognizant of the same," it says. A special procedure for protecting persons with disabilities from rape, and requisite procedures for access to justice for such persons, the panel said was an "urgent need."

6.      Bill of Rights for women: A separate Bill of Rights for women that entitles a woman a life of dignity and security and will ensure that a woman shall have the right to have complete sexual autonomy including with respect to her relationships.

7.      Review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act: The panel has observed that the "impunity of systematic sexual violence is being legitimised by the armed forces special powers act." It has said there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA in areas as soon as possible. It has also recommended posting special commissioners for women's safety in conflict areas.

8.      Police reforms: To inspire public confidence, the panel said, "police officers with reputations of outstanding ability and character must be placed at the higher levels of the police force." All existing appointments need to be reviewed to ensure that the police force has the requisite moral vision. The panel strongly recommended that "law enforcement agencies do not become tools at the hands of political masters." It said, "Every member of the police force must understand their accountability is only to the law and to none else in the discharge of their duty."

9.      Role of the judiciary: The judiciary has the primary responsibility of enforcing fundamental rights, through constitutional remedies. The judiciary can take suo motu cognizance of such issues being deeply concerned with them both in the Supreme Court and the High Court. An all India strategy to deal with this issue would be advisable. The Chief Justice of India could be approached to commence appropriate proceedings on the judicial side. The Chief Justice may consider making appropriate orders relating to the issue of missing children to curb the illegal trade of their trafficking etc. 

10.  Political Reforms: The Justice Verma committee observed that reforms are needed to deal with criminalisation of politics. The panel has suggest that, in the event cognizance has been taken by a magistrate of an criminal offence, the candidate ought to be disqualified from participating in the electoral process. Any candidate who fails to disclose a charge should be disqualified subsequently.  It suggested lawmakers facing criminal charges, who have already been elected to Parliament and state legislatures, should voluntarily vacate their seats.

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Dalit women at the receiving end

BURDENED UNDER: Dalit women from Bhagana village, Hissar, Haryana, fetching water from far flung area as upper caste denies them access to the village’s common resources. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Data and research show how Dalit women are doubly marginalised subjected to a patriarchal set up at home and caste prejudice in society “Would you like to compromise?” That’s the first question a judge asks when a caste atrocity case comes up for trial, says Manjula Pradeep, of the Gujarat-based non governmental organisation Navsarjan. A study done by Navsarjan on atrocity data obtained through RTI for Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu found that between December 2004 and November 2009, “there were convictions in only 0.79 per cent of cases (three cases) of violence by non-Dalits across the three states. In Gujarat there were no convictions at all.” 

The worst sufferers of a systemic failure to probe caste crimes are Dalit women. They are known to face double discrimination; they become the target for upper caste men outside homes and gender-based violence at home. 

In a submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Navsarjan states, “Dalit women are considered as easily available for all forms of violence…The Indian justice system cannot serve as a deterrent for crime when there is no consequence for the perpetrators of violence against Dalit women.”
According to the organisation’s study there were 379 cases of violence against Dalit women by non-Dalits between December 2004 and November 2009 across the three states. However, the outcome of only 101 cases (26.6 per cent) was known to have been decided when the data was analysed in the beginning of 2011. 

In the three state -- Five Dalit women were murdered by non-Dalits (three in Tamil Nadu and one each in Gujarat and Maharashtra). There were 76 reported cases of rape or gang rape (20 in Gujarat, 35 in Maharashtra, 21 in Tamil Nadu). On the other hand violence on Dalit women by the community itself (including family) saw 15 women being murdered in the three states (eight Tamil Nadu, four Gujarat, three Maharashtra), and 37 cases of rape or gang rape (19 Tamil Nadu, 12 Gujarat, 6 Maharashtra) were reported. 

A total of 117 cases (30.9 per cent) remained pending in the courts and the status of 161 cases (42.5 per cent) was unknown. The cases where no information is available are likely to be undecided, the study noted. Navsarjan points out that the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women noted, “Dalit women face targeted violence even rape and murder by the state actors and powerful members of dominant castes used to inflict political lessons and crush dissent with the community.” 

At a recent seminar held at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), activists and academics raised concerns over state complicity as a major hurdle in seeking justice under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “The Act has completed 20 years, but people, even lawyers still don’t know about it. It is not part of the university curriculum,” Manjula Pradeep says.
She points out that Dalits were moving to the cities to “escape” atrocity and “the identity of being an untouchable.” While fighting caste violence and discrimination, the attitude of the government, police and the judiciary poses a formidable challenge.

Eknath Avhad, Dalit activist from the Marathwada region of Maharashtra blamed low political willpower for the dismal justice rate in atrocity cases. “Activists and people are ready to fight,” he says, “but they can’t fight the politics.” The Maharashtra government’s ‘Dispute Free Village’ scheme for instance is a case in point. 

A programme designed to work out compromises, almost imparts impunity to caste and other kinds of crimes. “It’s a licence to hooliganism. All odds are stacked against the Dalits,” Mr. Avhad said. “The police will not register cases or delay registration; if they do, they will conduct shoddy investigation. Then there is no witness protection. After 1995, the percentage of case registration was low. It dropped further after 2000.”


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