Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jharkhand Village Turned A Wasteland Into A Thriving Forest Without Government Or NGO Intervention

By Chhandosree*, Ormanjhi, Jharkhand
There are many instances of communities coming together for a common cause but such action is usually catalysed by government schemes or interventions initiated by non-governmental organisations. Hesatu village in Jharkhand's Ormanjhi administrative block, 27km from state capital Ranchi, is a notable exception.

In a state that derives its name from forests but where tree felling is rampant, 93 households of Hesatu have shown how to create a sustainable economy from ecology by raising a forest of over 100,000 trees on what used to be 365 acres of wasteland barely six years ago. Spread across a 3km radius, this village of 800 people had large acres of land lying fallow, but till 2010, villagers who owned them did not know what to do with it. The situation is much different in 2017. "The annual income through our agro-forestry initiative is between Rs 40 to Rs 50 lakh. That is what we had been earning for last few years," resident Shivnath Pahan told

Villagers are, however, quick to stress that achieving this wasn't easy. Like Rome, Hesatu forests weren't built in a day. Recalling how their project forest began, villager Devendra Nath Thakur, one of those deeply involved in the project, said: "In 2010, we had been sharing our worries over the chunks of wastelands at a gram sabha (village meeting) and someone said, why don't we have forests of our own? The idea caught on. Suddenly, the meeting, which was about a problem, became all about solutions. Around 25 to 30 young villagers prepared the draft of what you are seeing as a forest today."

Homegrown science: A lot of homegrown science was at work. Thakur said they had planted trees at a distance of 8 feet from each other. Every tree has a 1.5 feet radius trench around it. Ginger and turmeric shrubs are planted around the trench, with tubers underneath. "Three levels of plantation, three sources of income," Thakur told

How did they manage to think of this on land that used to lie fallow? "We are farmers. Nature is our mother. We know the land as well as a mother knows her child. We knew that it would require some preparation but our efforts would yield fruit. That's what gave us the courage to start agro-forestry in three tiers," said Thakur's friend Jagnu Oraon.

Three-tier business model: "If there's a three-tier model of forest produce, there must be a three-tier business model, right?" Oraon said. "Our first level of income is through the selling of produce, second through training others on our innovative practices and third through the sale of dry logs." On their income development pattern, Thakur said: "Thirty percent goes to land development, 30% goes to the community, 30% to feed people who toil in the forests round the year and 10% on welfare."

This apart, villagers have started an open school of training. "We charge Rs 100 per day per person to learn how we work. We spend Rs 90 to feed him. Our training charge is Rs 10," said Pahan.
The latest addition to the earning is through dairy due to the forest. "The 2016 monsoon was a boon for us. We earned around Rs 4 lakh by selling grass and bought around 70 cows. Now the villagers are earning Rs 5,000 per day by selling milk. And last year's income through forestry was around Rs 40 lakh," said Thakur.

The beginning was auspicious. "We started our work six years ago in Holi. We dug the earth, ploughed it and planted vegetables the first year. With profits from vegetables, we started working on the bigger project — that of growing trees. We were already cultivating lac on kusum (Schleichera oleosa) and ber (Ziziphus mauritiana) trees on 200 acres. We added the numbers on the community forest of 365 acres," Oraon said.

Creating their own luck: Mahavir Mahto, another farmer associated with the project, said, "Smaller plots here and there are for vegetables. So, we are maintaining a community forest and a kitchen garden." Alijaan Ansari, another villager, said they created their own luck. "We have a perennial river nearby, the Domba. But, earlier, it dried up in summer. Now, the river stays full round the year."

In just six years, it is unbelievable that so much of the good work has been done without any government or NGO intervention. "Keep us away from government and NGOs," a villager laughed, not wanting to come on a quote for his candour. "Years will pass without any good work if these two are involved. The government will waste days in passing files. NGOs can't move an inch without stakeholders meetings and documentation. We are doing well on our own," he added with a grin.
But, isn't government and NGO help needed to protect valuable assets such as timber? The Hesatu team said no. "Every tree is counted and marked as you can see. Plus, here is a canal between the forest and road that neither animals nor trucks can cross," Oraon explained.

No more seasonal migration: What brings additional satisfaction to the villagers is that seasonal migration has been stopped. "Till 2012-13, around 200 people used to leave the village to work as daily wagers in other cities. In 2014, when we realised that we have started making profits through forestry, we counselled the family members of the migrated people to stop them from going anywhere and work here instead. In the years 2015 and 2016, the rate of migration was lower. And in 2017 we can safely claim that our village is migration-free," said Sunita Devi, a villager, and active plant grower.

The villagers have now identified several barren patches around Hesatu that they are now developing into small nurseries. "To grow more trees, we would need more saplings and for more saplings, we would need more nurseries. We would continue to grow more trees till someone comes and says we can't grow trees in other places. But believe me, seeing the greenery around, people will appreciate rather than stopping us," said Pahan.

The villagers echoed something environmentalists across the globe keep reiterating. "The cool breeze and chirping birds remind us that saving greenery is the only way to save mankind," Thakur said. The farmer then looked around in satisfaction. "Our children too are lucky. While helping us plant trees, they learn math through measurements, colours through flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Above all, they love mother earth because each tree is like their sibling.

Chhandosree is a journalist based in Ranchi. This article was first published on, a public-interest communications platform focused on rural India.

Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti - Representation to PM on Migration fresh registration - February, 2017

To: The Hon’ble Prime Minister,
Union of India, South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi
February 17, 2017

Subject: Safe guarding the life and survival of Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandit families who stayed back and chose to live in Kashmir Valley after the mass exodus of the Community in the year 1990

Hon’ble / Esteemed Sir,

May it please your honour, with reference to the subject cited above it is most humbly submitted as under:

That from the last few months we have submitted a series of communications to your goodself for the survival of the left out Kashmiri Pandit Community who stayed back in Kashmir Valley after the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandit Community due to armed insurgency and political turmoil in the Valley. The last 26 years this left out Community faced all sort of threats and administrative isolations which include cold blooded massacres which occurred till 2003 and leaving out from the all the welfare decisions taken in the interest of “Migrant Kashmiri Pandits” and “Surrendered Hardcore Militants”. 

At present this miniscule minority of 808  families comprising of 3445 souls (as per government census conducted in the year 2009) is slowly wiped out as liabilities by making our lives miserable, dejected and depressed one because no successive government took our problems seriously as we are not counted under “Vote Bank Politics”. This fact can be corroborated with the statistical data which our organization collected, analyzed and processed and is reproduced herein below:

Sr. No.
Time Period
Kashmiri Pandit Population
In Kashmir Valley (families)
Migration (families)
Till 01.01.1990
01.01.1990 – 31.08.1990
01.09.1990 – 31.03.1992
01.04.1992 – 31.03.1998
01.04.1998 – 31.03.2008

These figures reveal that out of 75,343 families; 74,535 families i.e. 98.92%, of Kashmiri Pandits living in Valley opted for migration from time to time till 31.03.2008 and even after the said date the process of migration never stopped. These figures also reveal that the KP population in the Valley is still draining out and obviously, it is not the security reason but clearly indicates that the State and Central Government have failed in restoring their faith in the Community and nothing positive has been done to stop this effectively.

As per the Government Census done by the end of December 2009, reveals that there are just 808 families living in the Valley having nearly 3445 souls. As the process of migration never stopped so the figure after the gap of 7 years, i.e. 31.12.2016, can be more less as it seems from the trend which can be seen from the figures above. The dwindling population of the left out Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir Valley says a lot about the apathy they are facing at the hands of successive Governments.

The unrest faced by the Valley in the year 2008, 2009, 2010 and now in the year 2016, have created lot to trust deficit for majority community and the State Government being the sufferers as every Kashmiri Pandit living in Kashmir, whether having any affiliation to any political party or not, is a born “Jan Sanghi” and “Government of India Agent” and this tag name attached to Kashmiri Pandits have created life as depressed and survival almost bleak.

The present Government and its alliance are making this miniscule community to run from pillar to post as some members of State BJP unit are in a mood to take political revenge as they treat us as traitors because we did not left Kashmir Valley in 1990 and for a section in Majority Community Population we are having a tag name called “Jan Sanghi” and are unwanted in the larger interest of their political agendas.

That this miniscule Community despite facing all odds contributed in its own ways and means to the larger interest of the Country and State by actively participating in the process to bring peace to this part of the world. Though from the last 26 years no support was provided to us by any successive governments, but still we never backed and worked selflessly at ground zero in the interest of our Country. Till date nothing has been done to mitigate our problems but on the contrary the news about the re-opening of fresh migrant registration being started by the State Government, with the consent of Ministry of Home Affairs, Union of India, have raised few questions which needs early answers, so that this left out community can take a unanimous step for the future so that the legitimate interests of the Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandit Community are safeguarded.

The re-opening of fresh registration, means that Central and State Government is indirectly accepting and acknowledging that the situation in the Valley is Out of Control and the Militancy is increased many folds as such State and Central Government is unable to protect their citizens who are not supporting the secessionist voices. If the political workers are not safe, then

1) the recent resolution passed by the State and Central Government that already Migrant Kashmiri Pandit Population will be re-settled/rehabilitated in Valley is an eye wash as how can a State Government at the same time allow fresh registration of migration on the basis of life threat & claim to bring back Kashmiri Pandit population who have faced cold blooded murders till year 2003 ?

2) how come a Valley based Kashmiri Pandit, who by default is Pro-Indian, is safe?

3) why the minority security pickets installed at different places in Kashmir Valley were removed and exposing/risking the life of the left-out Kashmiri Pandit who are still residing in Kashmir Valley ?

4) It seems that that State Government / Central Government was deliberately trying to put the left-out Kashmiri Pandit population at risk of life threat for gaining some hidden political agendas, when they feel that their party workers are not safe then how cam left-out Kashmiri Pandits are safe ?

5) At the time of crises and massacres the then Government in the year 1998 and 2003 was requested  to re-open the registration of migration for Kashmiri Pandits, so that left-out Kashmiri Pandits could leave the Valley and live a peaceful and safe life but at that time it was denied, then why it is re-opened now ?

6) Why Central and State Government do not register the entire Valley based Kashmiri Pandit families as “Migrants” to save their lives from any further massacres as happened till 2003 and rehabilitate them outside Kashmir with the facilities at par, as provided to other Kashmiri Migrants?

7) If not, then why a Valley Based Kashmiri Pandit, who always is a pro-Indian, is made scapegoat when other political workers are given a chance of registration as “Migrant” and live a peaceful life outside Kashmir?

On the contrary, if the situation is not so bad that a fresh “Migrant” registration is needed then this is surely a dangerous move played by the State Government and it alliance political party to get their political workers settled on the budget meant for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and it seems that re-opening of this fresh registration of Migrants done by the current government and its alliance political party is to facilitate their party workers in Valley by providing them hassle free Government Jobs and Accommodations and other rehabilitation benefits which will help them to establish the base of their Political Party in Kashmir Valley.

As the situation in Kashmir Valley is deteriorating day by day due to increasing Militancy related incidents and Militant Encounters, it is humbly prayed that the matter be looked into on priority basis and we left out Kashmiri Pandit families who are still residing in Kashmir Valley be also provided a chance so that we can take a unanimous decision of leaving Kashmir Valley and getting ourselves registered as “Migrants” without any pre-conditions so that we the miniscule minority could live a peaceful and threat free life outside Kashmir, and oblige

Thanking you in anticipation with request that any decision / communication made in this regard may be forwarded to us also.

Yours faithfully
Sanjay K. Tickoo
President, KPSS

Copy to the:
1.  His Excellency The Governor, State of Jammu and Kashmir, Raj Bhawan, Jammu.
2. Hon’ble Union Minister for Home Affairs, Union of India, Central Secretariat, North Block, New Delhi.
 3. Hon’ble Chief Minister, State of Jammu and Kashmir, Civil Secretariat, Jammu / Srinagar.

More statements/press releases by Sanjay Tickoo
See also

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Anwesha Madhukalya - Hindus And Muslims Join Forces To Save A Mosque - A lesson in brotherhood from Gujarat

After communal riots broke out in Ahmedabad's Kalupur neighbourhood 30 years ago, the area's Muslim residents began to avoid the prayer hall located in the predominantly Hindu area. When riots broke out again after the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992, devotees stopped going to the mosque altogether. According to a report in the Times Of India, the mosque, which is nearly 100 years old, is located near three temples. After it was abandoned, it fell into disrepair, with weeds and foliage taking over the prayer hall. However, in March 2016, azaan was heard from within the mosque for the first time in three decades.

The communal riots of 2002, set forth an unlikely but not unprecedented chain of events. Residents near the mosque volunteered and came together to save the mosque. Hindus reached out to the Muslim community and people from both the communities set forth to protect and save the mosque.

They cleared the vegetation and contributed resources for the mosque's renovation. The efforts led to solidifying the bond between the two communities and an atmosphere of peace prevailed. In fact, a set of keys to the mosque have been given to flower sellers Poonam Parekh and Kaushik Rami, who set up shop near the mosque. As reported in Times Of India, the priest of one of the temples in the vicinity said that after the rehabilitation of the mosque, Muslim youths do not have to go to another locality to pray anymore.

As they say, the way to bring in love and peace is by love and peace.

Monday, February 27, 2017

LSR College English faculty backs their student

NB: Congratulations on your brave protest, Gurmehar, we are all with you. My late father too was an Army officer, who taught me to stand up for truth and justice. I am sure the spirit of your dear father is proud of you. Well done. Dilip

Rituparna Chatterjee: What The Trolling Of Gurmehar Kaur Says About How Indian Men View Women With Opinion

We, the faculty members of the English Department, Lady Shri Ram College unequivocally and strongly support our student Gurmehar Kaur and her right to express her opinion on issues that embroil our university. It is immensely gratifying to us as her teachers that she has responded sensitively, creatively and bravely to events in her immediate context rather than seek the safe refuge of silence. We feel that it is the bounden duty of educational institutions to nurture sensitive, responsive and critical thinking students without the fear of violent retaliation. We are proud that Gurmehar has fulfilled her duty as a young citizen of this country.

The threats of violence and brutality that she faces are absolutely reprehensible. Responses on social media by public figures such as Virendra Sehwag and Randeep Hooda are shameful trivialization of the intimidation that Gurmehar faces at the hands of violent mobs whose viciousness the university has recently witnessed.We fervently appeal to the good sense of the public and to institutions of redressal to help restore our faith in law and justice in our country and let our young citizens think and articulate without fear of intimidation.

Delhi University student  Gurmehar Kaur early Tuesday morning announced that she’s withdrawing from the Save DU campaign – that’s protesting against student violence on campuses – saying she’s ‘gone through enough’. The 20-year-old daughter of a martyred Indian Army Captain was in the eye of storm following her poster campaign on social media demanding an end to violence on campuses, allegedly by ABVP students. “I’m withdrawing from the campaign. Congratulations everyone. I request to be left alone. I said what I had to say.. I have been through a lot and this is all my 20 year self could take :)” she tweeted this morning. Kaur, however, urged students to go to the protest march taking place today at Khalsa College in large numbers.  “The campaign is about students and not about me. Please go to the March in huge numbers. Best of luck.”

She adds: “To anyone questioning my courage and bravery.. I’ve shown more than enough. One thing is for sure, next time we will think twice before resorting to violence or threats and that’s all this was about.” Kaur has also alleged that over the last few days, she has received violent threats including those of rape and murder. On Monday, she approached the Delhi Commission for Women asking that the threats be probed.  The DCW then urged the Delhi Police to take suo-moto action and arrest those guilty.

On Monday, Union Ministers including Kiren Rijiju targeted Kaur questioning who was ‘polluting’ her mind, to which she responded saying:  “I have my own mind, nobody is polluting my mind. I am not anti-national.” Kaur initiated the campaign after her friends were verbally and physically abused at Ramjas College in North Campus, allegedly by ABVP students. Tuesday’s rally by students from Delhi University has been called to reclaim campuses spaces and demand that those responsible for last week’s violence – including police officials – be brought to book.

Union Law and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad condemned the intimidation. “Any kind of intimidation of this young girl is wrong and will be dealt with strongly,” Prasad told The Indian Express. He added: “Everyone has got the right of freedom of speech and expression. Violence is not permissible at all. But the country also needs to reflect that those who openly talk of breaking India, demanding that Kashmir should be given Independence and Bastar should be made independent, do they have the right to campaign for breaking of India under cover of freedom of speech? But violence has no place at all.”

NB: To suggest that the Ramjas seminar of 21-22 February was a venue for discussing the secession of Kashmir or Bastar is a shameless distortion of facts, which is now the expected mode of public utterances by this government. In fact I was due to speak there, on the issue of the massacre of 1984 and its impact. I could not do so as the ABVP was indulging in riotous activity, under the nose of the Delhi police. Students and teachers participating in a seminar were attacked with stones and beaten up, by the state-protected ABVP cadre who used the mere appearance of certain names on the seminar programme to start a riot. I have written about this here. That ministers responsible for law and order take the side of hooligans is shameful. The Law minister doesn't notice that the violence was unleashed by the ABVP, and that this courageous young woman was threatened in vile language for opposing violence and intimidation. Here is an example of the easy patriotism of our Sanghi motormouths: BJP MP Pratap Simha Compares DU Student Gurmehar Kaur With Dawood Ibrahim . How brave and manly they are. DS 

The English Department of Lady Shri Ram College, where 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur is a first year student of English Honours, has unanimously issued the following statement today: We, the faculty members of the English Department, Lady Shri Ram College unequivocally and strongly support our student Gurmehar Kaur and her right to express her opinion on issues that embroil our university. It is immensely gratifying to us as her teachers that she has responded sensitively, creatively and bravely to events in her immediate context rather than seek the safe refuge of silence. We feel that it is the bounden duty of educational institutions to nurture sensitive, responsive and critical thinking students without the fear of violent retaliation. We are proud that Gurmehar has fulfilled her duty as a young citizen of this country.

The threats of violence and brutality that she faces are absolutely reprehensible. Responses on social media by public figures such as Virendra Sehwag and Randeep Hooda are shameful trivialization of the intimidation that Gurmehar faces at the hands of violent mobs whose viciousness the university has recently witnessed.We fervently appeal to the good sense of the public and to institutions of redressal to help restore our faith in law and justice in our country and let our young citizens think and articulate without fear of intimidation.

The statement has been signed by Rita Joshi, Madhu Grover, Rukshana Shroff, Arti Minocha, Maya Joshi, Shernaz Cama, Mitali Mishra, Arunima Ray, Dipti Nath, Maitreyee Mandal, Janet Lalawmpuii, Ngangom Maheshkanta Singh, Karuna Rajeev, Wafa Hamid, Jonathan Varghese, Taniya Sachdeva, Rachita Mittal. Kaur, on Tuesday, withdrew from the Save Delhi University campaign, but urged students to attend it in large numbers. She took up the poster campaign against violence on campuses after her friends were attacked – verbally and physically – allegedly by members of the ABVP. During her campaign, she alleged to have received threats – including those of rape and murder – on her social media accounts. Moreover, Union Ministers including Kiren Rijiju questioned her motives asking who were behind ‘polluting her mind’.

PS: Among the comments below this article in IE is this one. We should read it carefully, for it reflects a common attitude: Like J-p-a-n, the nation that provides the best social services to its citizens, we should also ban social sciences research/degrees from all Indian universities..., it is urgent now, because too many fake or pseudo intellectual with less than half of IQ of any engineering student from a good college are getting created and a huge unproductive force of unskilled people with just show-off degrees are getting created... this is anti-thesis of education... these guys know nothing and consider themselves intellectuals... the only thing they try to learn is language and quotes.. The information about Japan is reported here: The Abe administration is directing the abolition of humanities and social sciences at National Universities in Japan

What is significant is that the commenter want this ideal to be enforced in India. He considers the only knowledge worth knowing and teaching to be that connected with measurement. Everything else is worthless. History, literature, philosophy, language, everything beyond mathematics, science and technology deserves to be forgotten. This is typical of the productionist sentiment of the modern mind, which can't understand that science is a product of the human spirit, not its lord and master. We may also note that the Sangh driven government wishes to bring about the same obliteration of the humanities in India - barring their certified and approved version of Indian religion and culture. The assault on the mind unfolds every day in India's universities as well - FYUP was only one example of it. Only a firm commitment to philosophical questioning can stem the tide of nihilism. Mathematics is ethically neutral. Here is something to think about: Satyagraha - An answer to modern nihilism - DS

Ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca // samanyam etat pasubhir naranam
dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso // dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah
(Hunger, sleep, fear and sex are common to men and animals
What distinguishes men from animals is the knowledge of right and wrong)
(Bhagwadgita; Tr S. Radhakrishnan, 1948, 1971, p 79)

State protected hooliganism in Ramjas College
Here are some posts relevant to violent censorship in Ramjas and elsewhere:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Muslim organisation announces Rs 10 lakh reward for beheading Tarek Fatah // Self-Appointed Defenders of Islam must be careful (1994)

NB: The outrageous instigation to murder Mr Tarek Fatah by some Muslim clerics is an example of how low our standards of personal security, justice and public discourse have sunk. Not to mention what passes for religious belief. I post beneath it an article I wrote 23 years ago, when a similar situation had arisen with the controversy around Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. The article was a contribution to an ongoing debate in The Pioneer (then edited by the late Mr Vinod Mehta). It speaks for itself, and the relevance to the current situation should be clear.

These clerics may criticise Mr Tarek Fatah's ideas and beliefs, but they have no right to indulge in calls for murder. This is a criminal offence under Section 108 of the IPC and deserves police action. Murderous threats cannot be permitted to pass under the guise of an expression of hurt sentiment. (The vicious campaign against Taslima Nasreen by certain ulema and organisations of conservative Muslims is still going on). It is a favourite habit of communalists to resort to violence and/or violent intimidation if anyone challenges their so-called religious beliefs. A famous 'Baba' who is also a successful businessman recently announced his desire to behead all those who did not chant Bharat Mata ki Jai upon demand. Would these ulema approve of head-chopping in revenge for 'hurt sentiment' by the Hindutva brigade? 

Frankly it is a wonder to me that persons who are so consumed by hate and blood-lust are seen by any section of the public to be interpreters of religious truth. It is unbelievable that Almighty God could be so bloodthirsty. Does God have nothing better to do than wait for heads of blasphemers to roll? Hasn't enough blood been shed? There are many of us whose sentiments are outraged by the antics of nation-worshippers and communal fanatics. It doesn't give us the right to resort to or instigate violence. This has gone on for too long and we have to raise our voices against it, no matter which religious flag they wave. 

At the height of the violence of 1947, Mahatma Gandhi had said “it is time for peace-loving citizens to assert themselves and isolate goondaism. Non-violent non-cooperation is the universal remedy. Good is self-existent, evil is not. It is like a parasite living in and around good. It will die of itself when the support that good gives it is withdrawn.” The men demanding violence in the name of religion are a disgrace to whichever faith they claim as theirs. They can continue only because many of us remain silent or complicit in their misbehaviour. It is time that peace-loving persons of all faiths break their silence and withdraw co-operation with those who incite or indulge in violence - DS 
A Bareilly-based Muslim organisation has announced a “reward” of Rs 10 lakh to behead Islamic scholar Tarek Fatah for allegedly promoting “un-Islamic” views through his TV programme.
The All-India Faisan-e-Madina Council also demanded an immediate ban on ‘Fateh ka Fatwa’, a television programme hosted by Fatah on a private news channel. “Tarek Fatah is conspiring to disrupt harmony between Hindus and Muslims. He is as an agent of our enemies. He must be stopped at any cost and our organisation will pay Rs 10,00,786 to any person who will decapitate him,” said Moeen Siddique, head of the council.“He and his programme are being funded by foreign enemies of our country and the government must initiate an inquiry against him,” Siddique said. Fateh, a Canadian national of Pakistani origin, is known for his secular views against Islamic fundamentalism. “In his programme, he claims that it is not required to wear a burqa and terms triple talaq as haram. Muslims must not listen to his advice and come forward against him,” said Siddique.

Other Muslim social organisations too voiced their resentment against Fatah. Jamat Raza-e-Mustafa, another social organisation that works under the aegis of Dargah-e Ala Hazrat, has written a letter to the President Pranab Mukherjee, demanding a ban on the television programme and expulsion of Fatah from the country. “Fatwa is a religious edict, which can only be issued by a recognised Muslim cleric. Fateh is neither a cleric nor he has any knowledge about Quran. His programme has hurt the sentiments of the followers of Islam,” reads the letter sent to the President by Nasir Qureshi, the convenor of the Jamat Raza-e-Mustafa. Both the organisations have also demanded immediate ban on the private news channel that airs the said programme.
Self-Appointed Defenders of Islam must be careful
(Dilip Simeon in The Pioneer, April 27, 1994
This article was written 23 years ago, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the ban on The Satanic Verses; the victimisation of professor Mushirul Hasan for suggesting the ban needed to be lifted. (He was violently assaulted in December 1992). Soon after that, the hounding of Taslima Nasreen began in Bangladesh.

Mr Ajit Bhattacharjea’s article on the decline of Jamia Millia’s liberal tradition coupled with another epistolic exemplar of intolerance by Mr Badrul Islam (The Pioneer, April 14, 1994) between them herald the revival of a long and painful controversy. Mr Bhattacharjea is right to remind us of the humanist origins of Jamia during the first non-cooperation movement, and of the reformist aspirations of Dr Zakir Husain. Mr Badrul Islam, on the other hand, is still asserting his mythical and monolithic truth. At the risk of sounding trite, I shall use this opportunity to drive home certain arguments about minority rights. I write this on the assumption that Mr Islam’s views are not his alone, and that those who think like him are interested in the reactions of non-Muslim readers.

Jamia provides Prof Mushirul Hasan with his bread and butter, says Badrul Islam, and he ought to maintain its decorum by repecting “the sentiments of the Muslim majority”. (How does he know what these are?) He adds that Prof Hasan ought not to have spoken out in favour of Rushdie’s book, demands an apology, and ends on the grand note of magnanimity. Prof Hasan did not speak in favour of the book (which he had every right to do). He merely opposed the ban. Why do persons like Mr Islam insist on deliberately misreading Prod Hasan’s words? In any case, by what norm does the airing of opinion become a violation of decorum? If Jamia provides Prof Hasan with a livelihood, by the same token the Indian Constitution provides Mr Badrul Islam with the freedom to air his own illiberal and often disgusting views.

If, say, the Bajrang Dal were to ask Mr Islam to maintain the decorum due in the Indian polity by keeping his mouth shut, would he not seek protection under the democratic Constitution rather than from Islamic commandments? Democratic values would prompt me to come to his defence, even though I detest his views. But conservatives like him must consider the implications of their beliefs more rigorously. Islam, we are told, enjoins the “taking to task” of Prof Mushirul Hasan for the sin he has committed. What sin? Who decides what a sin is? To say that the ban should be lifted is not the same thing as abusing the Prophet of Islam. But even such abuse can-not become the occasion for threats of violence. I insist on the right to blaspheme, and to criticise the contents of all texts, religious or otherwise.

Dogma of Internality: Ambedkar’s Riddles of Hinduism was said to have hurt the sentiments of Hindus, and the Quranic injunction to destroy idols and attack idol worshippers might have the same result. Satyarth Prakash by Swami Dayanand Saraswati contains uncomplimentary references to Jesus Christ and Guru Nanak. The Ramayana recommends the thrashing of women and Sudras, and the Bible proclaims the permanent collective guilt of the Jews for Christ’s crucifixion. Can Mr Badrul Islam state why these texts should not be banned?  Or why those of us who object to any of the contents of these texts should not start beating up those who revere them?

What constitutes “taking to task”? Mr Badrul Islam must remember that Prof Hasan was brutally assaulted December 4, 1992. After the communal tragedies we have witnessed in recent years, it is shameful for him to condone such violence. He criticises The Pioneer for interfering with “the internal matters of Jamia”. His entire argument is loaded with the dogma of internality. Even his commendations of forgiveness imply that no one else is capable of being forgiving. In a recently published interview, a Jamia student leader threatened to “hack Mushirul Hasan to pieces”. Would Mr Islam consider this an example of an internal matter? He refers to Prof Hasan as “a known Marxist”. Apparently, known Marxists with Muslim names are not free of religiously motivated accusations. I submit that the violent attacks on Hindu journalists by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992, was not an internal matter for Hindus alone to react to. Along with the destruction of the Babri Masjid, that event too, was my concern, as an Indian citizen.

Concepts such as human rights and constitutional liberties may not be found in the Quran. Yet Mr Islam seems to take them for granted he talks of minority rights. The question he should confront is: If the “Muslim majority” (his phrase) will not grant democratic rights to minorities within its own ranks (reformers and liberals), how may it expect minority rights to prevail in the policy as a whole? The Assamese journalist, Mr Amin-ur Rehman, has recently been subjected to death threats by fundamentalists. Will Mr Islam speak out in defence of this man, even though he might disagree with his ideas?

Pitfalls of absolutism: In the end, it all boils down to the question of violence and civilised conduct. We are living neither under Sharia law, not the codes of Manu. Mr Badrul Islam is free to condemn apostates, blasphemers and Marxists. But quotes from Quran and Hadith cannot justify the instigation of violence against those whose opinions he finds outrageous. It is a crying shame that Government ministers too have indulged in such instigation, and that, far from protecting Prof Hasan, the administration shielded rank communalists who were and still are in clear violation of criminal law.

We must now demand that it provide due protection for him to resume his functions. Even those who publicly endorse the fatwa against Rushdie are guilty of murderous incitement. If, after December 4, 1992, the anti-Mushir lobby in Jamia have spoken of minority rights on a single instance (which I am sure they did on December 6), they will have transgressed their own communal logic. For they will have admitted that a sense of virtue and non-violent conduct among non-Muslims is the only stable basis for the safety of the minorities, and that therefore their monolithic doctrines are not the only fount of virtue.

The same points may be made differently to highlight the pitfalls of philosophical absolutism. Is it reasonable that those who practice spiritual apartheid (by harping on communal internality), should demand or expect social and political equality? Is it fair that persons or groups who disdain democracy as a value should take advantage of it to undermine its scope and content? Anyone who believes himself to be in possession of the Absolute Truth (which comes in various pigments), is walking in the footsteps of the Inquisition.

With the judgement over talaq, we will hear a new outcry about Muslim (read Muslim men’s) rights. I hope that the self-appointed defenders of Islam restrain their verbal and physical expressions in the coming weeks. There are many citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim (and I count myself among them), who will support the liberation of Muslim women from the conservative straitjacket. Mr. Islam might pray for our eternal damnation. I shall still defend his civil liberties against the designs of the saffron brigade. But he may not commit, or instigate, violence against us. In such an even, democrats will have to ask for the strictest possible action under the law to restrain him and his kind. Insh’allah, matters will not come to such a pass.

see also

The Broken Middle (on the 30th anniversary of 1984)

Friday, February 24, 2017

How Trump Gets Away With Corruption By Jonathan Chait

One of the flaws in the design of the federal government is that, while the founders envisioned competing branches of government, unified party control of government can turn those branches into partners who do not check each other’s abuses. A second flaw is that Congress has a diffuse and often-confusing decision-making process that can make public accountability extremely difficult. Both problems come together in a new story that ought to be huge news but will instead be relegated to legislative arcana.

Here is the story. The House of Representatives has refused to investigate either one of the two massive ongoing legal and ethical violations involving the Trump administration: President Trump’s opaque ties (financial and otherwise) to Russia, and his ongoing self-enrichment in office and violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

If the House won’t investigate, what happens next? Well, the next-best course of action would be some form of public debate on the matter. This is not nearly as good as a real investigation, since the absence of subpoena power means Republicans can simply deny Trump has done anything wrong while blocking any efforts to acquire the evidence that would prove the case. But at least it’s something. That’s why House Democrats introduced a “resolution of inquiry” that would force House action on these issues.

Today, Politico reports the House’s response: It will divert the resolution to the House Judiciary Committee, which will (almost certainly) vote on Tuesday along party lines to kill the inquiry. It will be a minor story that probably receives scant or nonexistent coverage from television news, and then it will be quickly over. To be sure, coverage of Trump’s scandals will surely continue. But coverage of the House role in permitting Trump’s behavior will be extremely minimal.

The problem — which is a long-standing one and has protected both parties over the decades — is that the chain of responsibility is too long and obscure to have any bearing on the average voter. The average House Republican votes for the party leadership, which then allocates decisions like this to individual committees, which can be stacked with partisan loyalists from safe districts. (Of course, the overwhelming majority of House members come from safe districts that insulate them from accountability — another longstanding flaw in the system.).. read more:

“Home” Does Not Equal “Citizenship” By Sara Shneiderman

Where is home? For any of us? What does it mean to belong?
Since the executive order on immigration was signed, I’ve been haunted by a photograph taken by my great uncle David Seymour “Chim” in a Warsaw orphanage in 1948. In it, Tereszka, a displaced child, draws a picture of “home.”  Tereszka’s eyes have been with me since I can remember, a reminder of the lucky circumstances of history that enabled my grandparents to build a new home in the US after arriving as Jewish refugees from Poland via France in 1940. Today her eyes bear a new incredulity.

Conversations with diverse friends and students since the executive order on immigration was signed have revealed that our collective sense of home is shaken. Our individual reckoning with this unsettling historical moment may differ depending upon our personal constellation of citizenship and residence documentation (or lack thereof), religious affiliation, physical appearance and geo-social location. But Tereszka’s photo should remind us all how quickly lives may be unraveled through violence, war, displacement, and policies such as the travel ban.

In theory, the logic of the executive order is predicated on the fiction that people feel at home within the boundaries of the nation-state in which they hold the documentary trappings of citizenship, and therefore have the option to simply stay or return there. In practice, despite its temporary judicial suspension, the order’s implementation at various border points clarifies in real, human terms that whether by blood or descent, our ties to the nation-state that issues our citizenship documents (or refuses to do so) do not necessarily determine where we feel most at home. This disjuncture between what we might call the documentary and affective dimensions of citizenship is a focus of my anthropological research in South Asia, and the Himalayas, as well as part of my family history and life trajectory. As a second-generation Jewish American, I am now resident in Canada on the unceded territories of the Musqueam people. The home that I make for my children here is premised on the colonial usurpation of others’ traditional territories and homes, violence not unlike the historical and contemporary aggressions elsewhere that have compelled so many to seek refuge in the US.

The travel ban prevents people fleeing such oppression from finding new homes, as well as those who have made their home for years in the US from returning to it. For me, the executive order feels like a betrayal of “home”, the place where my forbears found refuge. I say this from a position of privilege as a white permanent resident of Canada, but the emotional loss of the country that my grandparents and parents believed in is real.

The executive order was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The president’s statement on that occasion excluded Jews, and was hailed by white supremacist leaders as a necessary “de-judaification” of history. The objective seems evident: to erase the history of past forms of exclusion and violence in order to facilitate new ones, as Holocaust historian Timothy Snyder explained in a recent interview. By the end of January 2017, 48 Jewish centers in the US had received bomb threats. These threats are not only a “Jewish issue”, just as the travel ban is not only a “Muslim issue”. While recognizing the specific pain of those directly affected in each case, we need to address these issues systemically, as part of a whole.

Those once oppressed may also become oppressors, victims can become perpetrators. Recognizing this is another way of countering attempts to reduce all members of any group to a singular stereotype or ideological position. This means challenging Israel’s politics of occupation, settlement and wall-building at the same time that we work to remember the Holocaust. The US administration has directly cited the Israeli experience as evidence that “the wall works”, and is reportedly seeking Israeli advice on building the US/Mexico wall . These confluences indicate the need for careful attention to situated histories and the granular questions of how specific exclusions are produced—who the agents are and what motivates them—to complement large-scale political resistance. Connecting the dots between micro and macro, across space and time, is one of the roles for anthropology and other critical social sciences in this moment. There is a pressing need to recognize oppression and exclusion in both particular and universal forms. We must share stories beyond our own communities, but in ways that can be grasped by others who know little of our own pasts.

The travel ban strips us all of the agency to build our own senses of home. Instead, it over-identifies all citizens with their putative state, rather than recognizing that many people are at odds with the states in which they were born or hold citizenship. Many of those seeking entry to the US now do so on humanitarian grounds, just like those of earlier generations. My grandparents could no more remain in Poland than Syrian refugees today have the option to stay at home. Documentary citizenship from the nation-state which claims the territory in which they were born offers no relief.

In other cases, such as for the over 4 million stateless people in Nepal, the problem of being citizenshipless is not a product of displacement, but rather of birth within the territorial boundaries of a state that will not acknowledge entire categories of people as its legitimate citizens due to their ethnic identity or family history. And yet there is no other place to which they belong. The larger problem, then, is the Westphalian nation-state system and its presumption of a direct correlation between territorial location and a singular citizenship for each of us. By the same token, as Audra Simpson powerfully explains in Mohawk Interruptus, American citizenship—like that of many contemporary nation-states—is premised upon the disavowal of indigenous sovereignties, and is therefore a site of refusal for many. For such reasons, the historical accident of my own US citizenship feels both fortunate and perpetually fraught.

It is ironic that corporations (including universities) idealize the so-called “global citizen” when s/he begins as a citizen of a handful of states in the Global North and travels elsewhere to proselytize the virtues of capitalism, democracy or “development.” Yet these organizations reject this concept when the direction of movement is reversed. Many universities have released strong statements condemning the travel ban; we should also urge them to rethink the notion of “global citizenship” that undergirds many of their initiatives. We are not all immigrants, we are not all global citizens, but we are all human. We all deserve to make our homes in peace, while never forgetting the specific historical circumstances that have delivered us here, often destroying other homes along the way.
We must ask ourselves:  What historical circumstances have enabled each of us to make our home, wherever we are? How do we make it a just and inclusive home now? How can we help others find home in difficult times? Tereszka’s eyes demand nothing less.