HOME | ABOUT US | Speaker | Americans Together | Videos | www.CenterforPluralism.com | Please note that the blog posts include my own articles plus selected articles critical to India's cohesive functioning. My articles are exclusively published at www.TheGhouseDiary.com You can send an email to: MikeGhouseforIndia@gmail.com

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Minorities in a Dilemma on Whether to Support Congress in the Absence of a Third Front

Naushad, kudos for the brilliant piece. It has got a full range of interviews to understand the elections situation in India.  We are pleased to share that with our friends at my India Blog. I just had called people of India to put together ideas to deal with the 2019 elections.  Who should Muslims Vote in 2019 - https://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2018/03/who-should-indian-muslims-vote.html

Mike Ghouse


Minorities had realised that nothing concrete had been done for them. The Congress failed to reciprocate the unconditional support they enjoyed for decades with progress and development.

Updated:March 30, 2018, 10:49
OPINION | Minorities in a Dilemma on Whether to Support Congress in the Absence of a Third Front

OPINION | Minorities in a Dilemma on Whether to Support Congress in the Absence of a Third Front

Mohd Naushad Khan | Updated:March 30, 2018, 10:49 AM IST Image For Representation Only. (Getty Image)
Indian polity, since Independence, has been rotating on an axis of caste and religion. Either minority bashing or its appeasement has also been another hallmark of the Indian political mindset. 
Minorities, though, traditionally voted for the Congress but later became political fodder for several regional parties. They oscillated their support like a pendulum in anticipation that prosperity and, above all, sense of security would prevail.
Its revelation brought to light the picture that minorities, especially Muslims, have been cheated for decades. The findings of the report was food for thought and introspection.Minorities, without an iota of doubt, remained in the political basket of the Congress for decades. It was the Sachar Committee Report which, for the first time, pulled down the curtain of belief and trust towards the Grand Old Party. 
Minorities had realised that nothing concrete had been done for them. The Congress failed to reciprocate the unconditional support they enjoyed for decades with progress and development.
According to Afroz Alam, associate professor and head of Department of Political Science at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), "There has been a paradigm shift in the electoral chemistry between Muslim voters and Congress. Over the years, large number of Muslim voters have moved away from the Congress and fragmented their loyalties in favour of non-Congress, non-BJP regional political options. There is a growing realisation that the fundamental difference between Congress and BJP is blurring. Congress is shunning its centrist image. The party is trying to appeal to the Hindu core votes by not only cultivating its soft-Hindutva image but also by sidelining Muslims as a taken-for-granted junior partner.”

“We are witnessing another trend that Muslim voters are no longer susceptible to fall for mere projection of the BJP as a threat. There is, in fact, a substantial decline in their anti-BJP sentiments, for they have come to realise that even if it is in power, there is little likelihood of the hyperbolic threat translating into anything real. At the same juncture, Muslim voters are tired of being treated as ‘low cost’ voters due to the poor delivery of the policy pledges exclusively made to them at the time of election by the so-called secular political parties. In my view, Muslim votes will continue to be divided along the multiple lines if a coalition at the regional level does not happening before 2019 elections," argues Alam.

Putting forward his perspective, activist John Dayal, who also represents many National Christian Forums says, “Over the years, no single party has stood the test of the time as a protector of minorities. Every political party, when in power, has created laws which negatively impact minorities. For Muslims and Christians, the political spectrum extends from the Congress on the one hand to regional parties in UP, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and the rest of South India. They look to the Left if they want to keep the BJP out, or at least in a reduced margin in Parliament and state legislatures.”

Dayal further adds, “The Congress has had a terrible past since the 1970s with the Emergency, the Sikh issue, the Babri issue and the laws against the Christians have worked to expose it as a soft-Hindutva party. But when compared to the BJP and the RSS, the minority voter is left with choosing the winning candidate from the Congress and the other non-BJP parties. There seems to be no other choice.”

Needless to say, Congress these days hardly takes any political stand of its own. Rather, it goes on a defensive stance or acts in a reactionary manner. Rahul Gandhi no doubt is gaining political maturity but his escalation does not mean it is being well-received on the ground or would translate into votes. Very recently, he tried his best political manoeuvring in Gujarat but his foot soldiers, as many believe, failed to provide him with the kind of support base he required. The campaign was further hampered by loose talks of his party men.”

Irtiza Quraishi, President of Muslim Association Rehabilitating Homeless and Mistreated (MARHM), says, “I hear a lot of different Muslim opinions about Congress. There are Muslims who talk in favour of the party and then there are those who prefer regional alternatives like the AIMIM, AAP etc. There are also Muslims who accuse parties like AIMIM and AAP of being the B-teams of BJP, wherein these parties contest elections in places to divide the votes in order to help the BJP.”

“Lately, Indian Muslims have started believing that at the national level, to defeat BJP, the only contribution they can do is to support Congress jointly without dividing its votes among other parties. I know people who talk about how Congress is responsible for the backwardness of Muslims in India, yet in the next General Elections; they talk about voting in favour of the party to defeat the BJP. There are Muslims, such as myself, who like AAP and even I intend to vote for the Grand Old Party in the next general elections and for AAP in the next assembly elections,” said Quraishi.

On the future political posturing of the minority, Mohammad Sajjad, Professor at Centre of Advanced Study in History in AMU, Aligarh says, “Muslims should not be seen identifying themselves with any given political parties and they should vote silently, confidentially.”

However, the result of the recently held by-polls in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has sent the message for one and all ahead of 2019 polls. It has further rekindled the hope for a larger alliance within the regional groups. Both SP and BSP were quick to learn their lesson from the Tripura verdict. This by-poll result, no doubt, made it clear that 2019 polls may not be a cakewalk for the BJP. The by-poll message is loud and clear that no party should take the voters for granted.

Congress is still groping in the dark if we go by the trends in Tripura and the by-polls results in UP and Bihar. The dinner diplomacy was to feel the pulse of the regional forces and to get the glimpse of what is going on in the subconscious minds of the regional forces. It is yet to be seen how things would unfold ahead of the 2019 grand show. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Who should Indian Muslims Vote?

The title should have been, who should Indians Vote? As the essay is not about Muslims, but Muslims are a part of it as much as Hindus, Dalits, Sikhs, Adivasis, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Bahai's, Parsis and Jews.

Please review the following items; Ravish Kumar's appeal, Dr. Shariff’s latest research. Dalit Leaders call, Rajesh Khanna’s filmi speech and what kind of India does one want? 

India’s problem is like any other nations’ problem; the Majoritarian arrogance. A few among the majority feel threatened that their way of life is going to disappear. Their short-sighted solution is not dialogue, but showing other people their place or "Auqat" and sometimes resort to killing, maiming, harassing, lynching and raping, as if it will solve the problem, no, it does not, it will aggravate the situation further.

The best solution is hanging on to the values that gave India its stability, a growth economy, stability and a respectable place in the community of nations. We cannot exist by ourselves, we need consumers beyond our borders for us to thrive,  and we need to buy the things from others to grow, as we cannot produce them effectively.  We have a stable constitution, the constitution that guarantees every Indian to live his or her life as he or she chooses.  In simple words, every human is free to breathe, drink, eat, wear and believe whatever he or she wants.

The foreign direct investment poured into India because the investors felt safe with their investment. If they see the communal riots, lynching, harassment, discriminations against fellow Indians, they will pull out as they did in Apartheid South Africa. All of us will lose.
Muslims along with Dalits and Christians are in the most challenging situation, and I know the moderate majority of Hindus do not gloat over this; they want all to prosper and feel secure.

The smartness of Muslim, Dalit, and Christian leaders has not gotten anyone out of the ditches. Muslims being the second largest group in India need leaders who could lead the people in the right direction. The ugly rhetoric by some has created more barriers than the goodwill.  No more emotional slogans to deceive people in the heat of the moment, we need pragmatic solutions. 

Given the current situation, let’s collectively figure out how to get out of the mess and how we can handle the 2019 Elections for the good of all Indians.  Let’s look at becoming relevant again.

Let’s go with the idea of an ideal democracy and work our way towards it.

In such a democracy, Muslims don’t need anyone to represent them; the Christians don’t need a Christian to represent them, Dalits don’t need a Dalit to represent them, a Brahmin does not need to represent Brahmins, a Kashmiri Pandits does not need a Pandit to represent them. Similarly, no Adivasi, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Bahá’í, Zoroastrian, Jews and others need their own to represent them because the elected representative serves all people.  We need to nurture such individuals, India is blessed with too many good people.

Let me be clear; when Hindus, Muslim, Christians, Dalits, Sikhs and others are mentioned, I am talking about the majority of each group.  They mind their own business by taking care of food for their families, their children's education, healthcare, home,  and living a life of their own.  The troublemakers are a small percent of politically oriented men in each group; we should never use the phrases that Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs are wrong because that is false. 

We are all from Adam and Eve, and it is mentioned in Quran, Bible, and the Torah, and that makes all of us, the 7.5 billion of us, members of the same family.  I don't know if they believe in it, if they did, they would not treat another human any different. Neither the Muslims nor the Christians of India have expressed that thought boldly.

Swami Vivekananda also failed to communicate the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum to the people of India. Had he emphasized that we are all one people regardless of the color of the shirt or saree we wear, whether we eat roti with Pyaaz or Keema, whether we wear a topi,  turban, pallu, Hijab or whatever, we are still one people!   

Each group claims there is only one creator and they come to refer him as Eshwar, Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, Mahito, Ahura Mazda, Wahe Guru, Budhha, Mahavir and on and on.  However, when they are talking,  their mouths twist and say Hindu God, God of Israel, Muslims God or a Christian God,  what kind of talk is that? By the way, these are not majority of the people in any group, it is the tiny minority within each group. 

Muslim votes were rendered ineffective in the 2014 general elections. Muslims don’t need to blame anyone; instead, they need to find a way to become participants and contributors towards the well being of the nation.

Dr. Shariff’s latest report brings shame to our democracy. In the state of Karnataka alone 18 lakh Muslims are missing from the voter's list.  How significant that number is if that kind of research is done all over India?  Do we have caring Indians who can fund this research and work on registering the disenfranchised? A real democracy succeeds when all are participating. Let the funding come from the public and not the political parties as they would want a pound of flesh.

The political parties from BJP, Congress, JD, SP, AIDMK, Trinamool and other regional parties have their manifesto that they want Indians to subscribe.  It is time, we the people, the Indians of all hues develop our manifesto, not a Muslim or Christian manifesto, but an Indian proclamation for all Indians, and vote for those individuals who would subscribe to most of the items on the manifesto. 

Do we have a manifesto?
Together, let’s create one.

Let’s make a checklist and look to the candidates who would fit in, let’s not look to the parties, they have betrayed us before. It’s just not us; we appeal to all Indians to consider the grassroots list. Let’s make it meaningful again.

We can make a table for all the MP candidates across India, and publish a list where these candidates stand on issues critical to all Indians.

Does the candidate;

1. Stand up for any Indian when access to education is denied?
2. Stand up for any Indian when access to a job is denied?
3. Stand up for any Indian when access to housing is denied?
4. Stand up for the rights of individuals when they are violated?
5. Let's develop a comprehensive list - that benefits all Indians

We can develop a table for all the 545 contestants listed by the States in Alphabetical order; then across the columns, we will record the criteria and check mark the items that the candidates will commit to abide. 

 It should be our government by us for us, and they need our support. 

We need to vote those candidates who are clean and are willing to bring Indians together and not pit one Indian against the other. We don't need those guys, they are impregnated by the British mentality of divide and rule.

There are good individuals among BJP, Congress, BSP, JD, and other regional parties.   As Indians, we need to vote those candidates who are 1) Financially clean 2) Want to work on bringing Indians together and 3) subject themselves to investigation. If anyone is questionable, we need to disqualify them from our table until they prove they are clean.  Then we can expect the nation to move forward.

My appeal to BJP supporters is to seriously consider saving our democracy, we have the freedoms because that is the foundation laid by our founding fathers. Each one of you is a beneficiary of the great democracy created and nurtured in the last 70 years. Let's not give any party a landslide victory, let's deliberately provide a significant opposition to question the "mun-mani" raj by any party. If we do that, corruption will be checked; nepotism will be stopped, accountability of government will begin.  Let this be our government by us for us. 

Whether Congress or BJP, if you give them a majority, they will become arrogant and do things that are not good for the country. 

What do we have to lose by doing the right thing? 

Please write your comment in the comment section below for development of such a manifesto. This is not copyrighted; you can do it on your own or joins us in a team effort.

Articles Worth Reflecting: 

Mike Ghouse is an Indian American committed to building cohesive societies where people can live without fear and prosper together.  His work is listed at www.CenterforPluralism.com and http://MikeghouseforIndia.blogspot.com

# # #

'Ravish Kumar' Emotional Appeal to Muslims

Ravish Kumar's appeal, along with Dr. Saleh Shariff's report and a Dalit Leaders call has inspired me to develop an article, who should Muslims vote for? 

Brave and Honest Journalist 'Ravish Kumar' Emotional Appeal to Muslims

Courtesy - Surya

Ravish Kumar is an Indian one of the honest and brave TV anchor, writer and journalist who covers topics pertaining to Indian politics and society.

New Delhi: Recently noted TV anchor Ravish Kumar made an emotional appeal to Muslims during a programme. Following are his golden words.

1.Stop criticizing BJP and RSS.

2.Your opposition is their strength. Anyway except for Jammu and Kashmir neither you have to become chief minister anywhere nor the prime minister.

3.Those who have to grab ‘the chair’ they themselves will contest with BJP & RSS. Only because of your opposition BJP is creating fear of 18 pc Muslims among Hindus and is succeeding in getting votes of 80 pc Hindus. The director of the entire play is in fact just 3 pc.

4.Give vote in favour of whatever party you like, but don’t ever oppose BJP, RSS or Modi.

5.Forget that there is any organisation called RSS.

6.Forget that there is any party called BJP.

7.Forget that there is any leader called Modi

8.If you continue what you have been doing you will be politically made untouchables in few years. Then neither Congress will value you nor JP, SP or BSP.

9.The MIM or Owaisi you are blindly favouring will be allowed to contest as far as BJP is benefiting from them. The day when BJP will feel that their contesting is doing harm to it, from that day MIM will be banned as it was done during the first 30 to 40 years. You just focus on modern technology and education, secure marks through which you can get government jobs without reservation.

10.Before independence, the population of Muslims was 35 pc and they had occupied 35 pc government jobs. There was no reservation system at that time. Those who had reached the place did so on their own ability. Those who give zakat and sadaqah to religious institutions should also give them to institutions working for your education and employment. If there are no such institutions, establish them.

11.Remember! This is a competitive era and you are lagging behind in every field. Don’t rely on government aid, do whatever you want on your own.

God will do the rest!

Celebrations: Easter, Passover, Mahavir Jayanthi, Hanuman Jayanthi


When we live as neighbors, we might as well learn about each other. The best way to build cohesive societies is for its members to understand each other’s sorrows and joys, and festivities and commemorations. Wouldn’t it be nice if you know a little bit about your neighbor’s festival and perhaps invite them to your celebrations to start safe neighborhoods by understanding each other? Every human and every religious group celebrates something or the other in their way, each one is different, but the essence is same; celebrations and commemorations. A simple language is used for most people to get a gist of it. Details are in the links.
He is the founder of Jainism - The birthday of the last Tirthankara or great teacher and model of the Jainas. His birth and the events surrounding it are re-enacted. Monks or nuns read from the scriptures and teach about the rest of Mahavira’s life. Lay people then return home to a celebratory feast. http://centerforpluralism.com/mahavir-jayanthi-birthday-celebrations-of-mahavira/
This major Jewish festival lasts eight days and commemorates the liberation of the Children of Israel and their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The highlight is the Seder meal, held in each family’s home at the beginning of the festival, when the story of their deliverance is recounted, as narrated in the Haggadah (the Telling, or the Story). Matzah, (unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival, as are other foods that contain no leaven (yeast). There is a significant spring cleaning in the home shortly before the festival to ensure that no trace of leaven is left in the house during Pesach. Coconut pyramids and matza balls (which are put in soups) are foods that might be eaten at this time. http://centerforpluralism.com/a-passover-seder-haggadah-supplement/
While 2,000 plus Easters have come and gone, has he risen yet? Risen within us that is? I hope and pray that each of us will let Christ rise and shine through us, so we can allow him to use us to bring about a change that we are all yearning; a world where all of God’s children are respected and honored.
Hanuman is an iconic representation of courage, loyalty, and devotion expressed in the form of an animal; Monkey. He is called by many names including Anjaneya, Maruti, Pavanputra, Kesari Nandan, Arbiter, Anjaniputra, Bajrang Bali and Hanuman.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Happy Ramnvami

Ramnvami is birth celebration of Lord Rama, the Hindu king who set the high standards of morality in governance, of accountability, truth and integrity- his rule was called Ram Rajya.  In the Hindu tradition, he is an avatar (representation) of Vishnu, the energy that sustains the world, the other two energies are Shiva that destroys (brings closure) and Brahma, who originates life.
The epic Ramayana is said to be 8000 years old or beyond, staged in most of the towns in India, if not all. I grew up watching the Ramayana played out on stage on my street in Yelahanka, the town that gave birth to Bangalore.  It was a long show – from 10 PM through 5 Am in the morning. One of my cousin’s husband use to play the role of Hanuman in the play in another town and my brother in law’s friend played Laxman in the show.  There are great story tellers of Ramayana who go around this season and share the stories, and here in Dallas there was a Morari Bapu, and I have listened to him at the Ekta Mandir as well as the Caribbean Hindu Temple in Dallas.
I have done a few talks and storytelling myself about Dussehra celebrations, a story where the good wins over the evil by burning the effigy of Ravan. Indeed in a mixed gathering of people, after my story telling, most of the non-Hindus were able to answer the questions about Rama and Sita, Ravan, Bharat and Laxman, as a teacher of Pluralism, it was a satisfying experience to hear the positive feedback.
It’s a dream of many Hindus for the return of Ram Rajya, the governance of justice, fairness and truth. As a Muslim, I revere Rama and what he stood for. When you hear the story of Moses, Buddha, Rama, Krishna, Prophet Muhammad, Nanak, Mahavira… I see the commonalities in the life of all the great spiritual masters – they lived for creating common good in the society, they worked where justice prevailed for every human being and everyone was treated with dignity. The story is same, the greatness is same and I honor all of them.
Happy Ramnvami – Ram just does not belong to Hindus, his message belongs to all of the humanity.
Jai Shree Ram.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Why this liberal Muslim refuses to be patronised by the liberal Hindu

It is a great piece by Irena Akbar. She has stood her ground and taken issue with Guha, who wants assimilation at the cost of identity.  He should be advocating respect for the otherness of others. Individual should have the freedom to be who they are and no one has a right to cast others in their image.

I am pleased to add the following comments from Mohammad Imran,

"I agree individuals should have freedom to do what they want. In America Muslims do what they want because the country is run on law and order. American Muslims can express their views knowing law will support them. They can become very regressive if they want just like Amish or Hasidic Jews and live marginal lives in American society like them. They can assimilate in larger society too and become its active members. Choice rests with American Muslims.

Condition in India after Modi's ascendency is different. Its majoritarian politics seeks to nullify Muslim votes in country's elections. The net result is that so called secular parties are trying to distance themselves from actively seeking Muslim votes fearing BJP will use their courting Muslim votes to drive Hindu votes away from them. 

Law and order follow political diktats in India.  Yesterday's news is that 300 or so cases of people getting prosecuted for killing Muslims in Muzaffarnagar have been withdrawn under government order calling them politically determined prosecution cases. Indian Muslims can not depend upon law and order. Going to courts to seek righting the wrongs is a decades long process." 

Mike Ghouse


Courtesy - Indian Express
Written by Irena Akbar | Updated: March 24, 2018 4:17 pm

Why this liberal Muslim refuses to be patronised by the liberal Hindu

Comparison of the burka, a symbol of a besieged minority, with the Trishul, a symbol of aggressive majoritarianism is callous and insensitive.

Who’s afraid of the burka? Everyone. The right-wing hardliner, who pretends to be the saviour of the “oppressed burka-clad woman” even as he maligns Muslims at large. The left-wing “liberal”, who scoffs at overt religiosity and derides the burka as “being out of place in modern society”. The Muslim herself, who knows all too well that if anything unites the liberals and the hardliners, it is the “despicable” burka.
“Liberal” historian Ramachandra Guha made clear his disdain for the burka, likening it to a Trishul and endorsing its absence from political rallies, in the article ‘Liberals, sadly’ (IE, March 20). Guha wrote the article in response to Harsh Mander’s piece ‘Sonia, sadly’ (IE, March 17) which focussed on the political ostracism of Muslims — how political parties see them as a “liability” that could drive away Hindu voters; and how Muslims are censoring their religious identities in public. To drive home his point, Mander quoted an unnamed Dalit leader telling Muslims attending political meetings, “By all means come in large numbers to our rallies. But don’t come with your skullcaps and burka.” However, in a classic case of missing the wood for the trees, Guha nit-picked on the burka. He wrote, “The spirit of the (Dalit leader’s) advice was forward-looking. To object to its (burka’s) display in public is a mark not of intolerance, but of liberalism and emancipation.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Dalit leader’s advice was not driven by lofty agendas of “liberalism and emancipation”, but by the political need to to keep away Muslim symbols from his rally. Far from “emancipation”, such an advice disempowers Muslims to choose what they want to wear at a public meeting and prohibits an entire section among them to attend it. “Emancipation” cannot be forced upon people with calls for invisibility. Liberalism implies respecting the right of everyone, including a nude Jain monk or a burka-clad Muslim woman, to attend a public rally.
In order to balance his contempt for the burka, Guha likened it to the Trishul. He wrote, “While a burka may not be a weapon, in a symbolic sense it is akin to a Trishul. It represents the most reactionary, antediluvian aspects of the faith.” Yes, the burka is not a Trishul. Like a phone is not a fridge. An object is best defined by its use. A burka is to be worn; its appearance might cause contempt, or even fear, among some but it doesn’t kill. A Trishul, like all weapons, is designed to kill, to intimidate the enemy, and was used by Hindu deities to defeat evil forces. In times of hyper-Hindutva, the Trishul is used by grass roots BJP workers to exert Hindu dominance over the Muslim enemy. Which is why there is frequent news of motorcycle-borne youth with tilaks on their foreheads and saffron flags in their hands brandishing Trishuls in Muslim-majority areas of small towns of the country.
Guha’s comparison of the burka, a symbol of a besieged minority, with the Trishul, a symbol of aggressive majoritarianism is, thus, callous and insensitive.
That the burka is “reactionary and antediluvian” is a simplistic view. I invite Guha to meet my friends, among them a law student, an entrepreneur, an MBA, all of whom wear stylish abayas that they buy from across the world. They go to work, drive cars and bikes (some give me a ride as this burka-less writer can’t drive) and counsel me to stay strong when I feel low. A condescending view of the burka is typical of most liberal elites, who have their own definitions of a “good Muslim”. While the hardliner’s “good Muslim” eats only vegetables, chants “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, is seen nowhere near a cow, and speaks chaste Hindi, the elite left-liberal’s “good Muslim” eats biryani, kebabs, recites Urdu poetry, and organises ghazal evenings. That is only how far the “good Muslim” should express his/her identity. When he/she begins to defend the burka or the topi, let alone wear one, he/she becomes “too Muslim” for comfort.
Guha also questions Mander citing the election of Sadiq Khan as London’s mayor as an example of Muslim contribution to political life. He writes, “Sadiq Khan does not wear a skull cap, and his wife does not wear a burka either… they have identified themselves as being in favour of gender equality as well as cultural diversity.” With due respect, has Guha asked the Khans about their view on the burka and the skullcap? Who knows, London would have still elected him if he wore a skullcap? Hashim Amla, with his unapologetically long beard, played in the South African cricket team not long after apartheid was abolished in that country. Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Black athlete who wears the headscarf, is the first American hijabi Olympian. In her honour, Barbie recently launched a hijabi black doll. This, in Trump’s America.
I concur with Guha on the lack of visionary Muslim leadership, but I wish he could see beyond the political realm. In my hometown, Lucknow, ordinary Muslims have taken on leadership roles in the education sector. Integral University, for example, is a large private institution run by Gulf-returned Muslims. Unity group of institutions, which includes colleges and hospitals, is run by Shia Muslims. In 2010, for The Indian Express, I did a story on how madarsas in Mewat, Haryana, are modernising themselves, including running co-educational centres that teach regular subjects alongside scripture, without government intervention. There would be thousands of such unglamorous local non-political Muslim leaders across the country who are doing commendable work but don’t make it to the headlines.
Guha counts “three Muslim leaders” since Independence “who had the potential to take their community out of a medievalist ghetto into a full engagement with the modern world”. Does one even need to recount stories after stories of Muslims being denied housing in mixed neighbourhoods? Actor Emraan Hashmi — hardly the stereotypical Muslim — was denied a flat in Mumbai because he is Muslim. Muslims don’t choose to live in ghettos, which are “medievalist” because the authorities deny them proper civic amenities.
Guha wishes for ghettoised Muslims a “full engagement with the modern world”. I lived in a “ghetto” in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, many years ago. And each day, I would go to work in “mainstream” parts of the city. I would eat out with friends at fancy restaurants, watch BBC at home, and travel to foreign lands. How else does one “fully engage with the modern world”? Surely, I won’t shed my Muslim-ness to appease anybody.
Finally, Guha calls on liberals to fight both Hindu and Muslim communalists and promote the interests of the individual over the community. I wish to remind him that a community is made up of individuals, and when you endorse a politician’s advice to a community to keep away its religious symbols, you mock the rights of individuals too. This is not the liberal position. It is as illiberal as it can get.
Akbar an art curator, entrepreneur and writer, was formerly with ‘The Indian Express’

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How Zee and ABP News sowed communal poison

Goddamned shame on these two channels, there are those who get cheap thrills in creating tensions between two communities and there are those who work on building bridges.  This article has clearly spelled out how they do that. 

How Zee and ABP News sowed communal poison

Their coverage of Ankit Saxena’s murder was a master class in hate-mongering. Reporting Communal Issues - Part I
JYOTI PUNWANI on how low they stooped

How many dimensions can there be to the Ankit Saxena story? The young photographer was brutally killed on February 1 by his Muslim girlfriend’s family. His throat was slit as her parents and brother attacked him in the middle of a crowded Delhi street outside his home. His mother, who came to rescue him, was also attacked. All the while, the girl, Shehzadi, was waiting for him at a metro station.
The English press fleshed out the context in which the horrific killing took place. We got a comprehensive picture that told us that the lower middle class, mostly Hindi-speaking neighbourhood where Ankit and his girlfriend fell in love, had enough young Hindu-Muslim couples for this couple not to stand out.
Ankit’s father’s plea not to communalise the killing was given wide publicity. He did not hate Muslims because members of that community had killed his only child, he said. He knew the family; they had been neighbours earlier.
The girl’s family had earlier thrashed a Muslim boy who they suspected of dating their daughter.  So obviously, this incident wasn’t merely a Hindu-Muslim issue, though that angle could not be ignored.
The killing could have been discussed on TV from many perspectives: the problems that hound Hindu-Muslim liaisons, feudal attitudes to daughters, the fact that an ``honour killing’’, hitherto not a widespread urban phenomenon, had taken place in the capital, the way murder was seen as the solution, etc.

Stoking hatred of Muslims
Instead, two of the most popular Hindi channels,  Zee News and ABP News, used the photographer’s killing to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred among their Hindu viewers vis-à-vis Muslims and to target Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the ``secular gang’’, both of whom they accused of remaining silent about the killing only because the victim was a Hindu.
Were these angles backed up by reporting from the ground? Did they reflect the concerns of the parties involved? No.
What these channels used were two tweets, both by Kejriwal’s opponents: Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a SAD MLA from Delhi, and former AAP MLA Kapil Mishra, who was expelled from the party after he made unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against Kejriwal.
Sirsa’s first tweet mentioned that Saxena had been killed ``in our own Delhi by so-called `minority and oppressed’ religion.’’ His second tweet requested Kejriwal to announce compensation of Rs 1 crore for Saxena’s family ``like he did for MM Khan.’’ Kapil Mishra tweeted: ``Had Ankit been Akhlaq, my city’s ruler wouldn’t have slept all night.’’
Was it necessary to take note of these tweets while covering the Ankit Saxena story? This is not what the family was talking about. Indeed, when the ABP News reporter went to their house, Ankit’s father told her he was sad at the way news channels were saying ``false things’’ about his son’s death.
"Two of the most popular Hindi channels, Zee News and ABP News, used the photographer’s killing to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred among their Hindu viewers vis-à-vis Muslims and to target Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal"

But that seems to have hardly mattered to the channel.
Surprisingly, even Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari stated that the murder must not be communalized. So why did Zee News and ABP News pay so much attention to the tweets of two lightweight MLAs, both of whom were bent upon communalizing the murder and using it to targeting Kejriwal?
In fact, on both channels, panelists plainly told anchors that their channels were making the murder into a Hindu-Muslim issue for their TRPs.

When anchors turn as hatemongers 
For these two channels, Arvind Kejriwal became the story. ABP News actually opened a show saying the ``badikhabar’’ was that Arvind Kejriwal wouldn’t go to Saxena’s house, but had sent his MP and MLA instead (February 4).The next day, the same channel announced: ``Bada sawaal-4 din baad kyon jaage Kejriwal?’’

Kejriwal became for these channels, a symbol of the ``Muslim appeasement’’ practised by the ``gharwapasi gang’’.  In fact, at the end of a debate that lasted an hour and 20 minutes, ABP News anchor Romana Khan actually blamed ``secular politics’’ for Saxena’s killing, saying this kind of politics had ``sown the seed of hatred and now here was the harvest.’’
In the way they handled the killing, these channels committed offences under Section 153 A by promoting communal enmity and under Section 295 A by outraging religious feelings by insulting religion.
Sample these headlines and statements by anchors on both channels:
``Ankit ko pyar ki saza ya Hindu hone ki saza?’’
``Ankit ke murder par chuppi se Kejriwal banengey Muslimon ke masiha’’
``Kya mazhab dekhkar jagti hai secular gang?’’
``Kya hindu hatyaaon par secular gang ki chuppi ek saazish hai?’’
``Hindu hone ki vajah se ankit ki hatya?’’
``Sare aam beech sadak par gala kaatkar sazaye maut’’
In an ABP News discussion, senior journalist Abhay Kumar Dubey said that the direction of the discussion should be changed, and they should heed Saxena’s  father’s statement not to communalise the murder. At one point, he refused to answer anchor Romana Khan’s question, saying ``I’m not getting into this argument.’’
"In the way they handled the killing, these channels committed offences under Section 153 A by promoting communal enmity and under Section 295 A by outraging religious feelings by insulting religion"

But Khan continued in the style she shares with Zee News anchor Mimansa Malik: viz, ask provocative questions, get the Hindu and Muslim panelists angry with each other, and when the fight becomes too intense, admonish them.
In the ABP News discussion referred to above, titled: ``Badi Behes: Ankit ko Salima ke parivar ne kyonmara?”  
``Hindu activist’’ Jitender Khurana repeatedly ascribed the murder to the mentality bred by the Koran. Khurana’s FB page says he is the founder of the Hindu JagranAbhiyan. Among his latest posts are ``Hail Muthalik’’, a reaction to the acquittal of Pramod Muthalik, Hindu Sene founder, in the Mangalore Pub attack case.
So ABP News knew whom it was inviting for a debate on the sensitive subject of the killing of a Hindu photographer by a Muslim family.  Little wonder that the anchor did not stop him from describing the Koran as a text that preaches violence against other faiths, or asserting that while Hinduism was a religion, Islam could not be called one.
At one point, one of the two Muslim panelists was provoked enough to say that he did not want to mention the stuff written in Hindu scriptures, and indeed he didn’t. But this was the atmosphere of the debate. It finally forced panelist Rifat Javaid (founder of the website Jantaka Reporter) to say that it was debates such as this that led to enmity between Hindus and Muslims.
Indeed, the questions put to the Muslim panelists by Romana Khan made one’s jaw drop: ``Do you follow the Constitution or the Koran? If he’s a kafir, kill him –this is what your religion teaches?’’
In this discussion, Delhi BJP vice-president Rajeev Babbar was sanity personified, maintaining, despite the anchor’s provocative questions, that no one but the girl’s family was to blame for Ankit Saxena’s killing. At one point even he asked why the debate was being taken in a particular direction where entire communities were being blamed. Unable to get any rabid responses from Babbar, Romana Khan would turn to Jitender Khurana and the VHP’s Vinod Bansal.
Interestingly, ABP News Executive editor Vijay Vidrohi (seated at the back, where he could hardly be seen) asked Bansal the tough questions the anchor should have.
On Zee News,  murder was portrayed as representative of the condition of Hindus in the country. In a 40-minute discussion titled ``Muslim vote ke liye Ankit ki hatya par siyasi maun’’, which had two Muslims supporting the BJP line (one was a party member), anchor Mimansa Malik brought in the murder of Chandan in Kasganj, saying he had been killed for raising the national flag (a misleading description - the killing was a fallout of a Hindu-Muslim riot on Republic Day).
She read out a list of Hindus killed by Muslims in the last few months. ``Aur aap kehtein hain Hindustan secular desh hai aur musalman safe nahin?’’ she asked the two non-BJP Muslim panelists indignantly, following it up with: ``Kya hinduo ki jaan ki keemat nahin?’’
"A Google search showed that religion had played no role in what was called the ``serial killing of Hindus’’ by Muslims"

The VHP’s Vijay Shankar Tiwari went so far as to say that if ``Ankit, Santosh, Chandan had not been Hindus, they wouldn’t have been killed.’’
The mischief in this depiction was obvious. First, though one Salim was arrested for Chandan’s murder, an officer had posted on Facebook that it was ``Bhagwa that killed Chandan’’. 
In fact, Malik had no answer to Maulana Sajid Rashidi’s question about what made her so sure that Salim had killed Chandan. He also beseeched her not to compare Saxena’s murder to the Kasganj riot.
Second, a Google search showed that religion had played no role in what was called the ``serial killing of Hindus’’ by Muslims. One had been assaulted by his landlord over rent issues; another was killed by a Hindu with the help of a Muslim; while a third’s killing was the fall-out of Congress- BJP rivalry.

Targeting Kejriwal as an ‘appeaser’
Similar half-truths were telecast about Kejriwal’s reaction to Saxena’s killing. The premise on which both channels attacked Kejriwal was simple, and articulated by his arch-enemy Kapil Mishra: ``Had Ankit been Akhlaq, Kejriwal would have visited him immediately, and given him a compensation of Rs one crore.’’
The channels showed their malafides by refusing to telecast the entire story, reported in the press, that the delay in the CM’s visit to Saxena’s home was because the father was about to leave for Hardwar when Kejriwal wanted to visit him.
Both channels did long programmes on Saxena’s condolence prayer meet, using a video tweeted by Kapil Mishra. 
It showed Kejriwal abruptly getting up and leaving after someone there asked him about compensation, and he replied that this was not the occasion to argue about compensation.As he left, one could hear a male voice saying ``Mr Kejriwal…’’ but the CM paid no heed.
Initially, it seemed as if the person asking for compensation was the father. But the latter clarified on the debate that he was sitting at the back and couldn’t understand why the CM was suddenly leaving.
Zee anchor Aman Chopra tried very hard to goad the bereaved father into saying that he had been wronged and humiliated by Kejriwal, with no success. On the contrary, the father kept praising Kejriwal for the respectful manner in which the CM had met him in his office. All that the anchor could get out of the father was his plea, left unsaid after Kejriwal’s abrupt exit: ``Mr Kejriwal, don’t play games with poor people like me.’’
Here again, the channels’ malafides were exposed by the website Jantaka  Reporter which posted the entire video
The video showed the person demanding compensation introducing himself as a member of a Hindutva organisation and Kejriwal replying that he was in touch with the family, and had told them he would  meet their demands more than halfway. 
Three days after this prayer meet, the Delhi CM’s office wrote two letters to the India Today group and to ABP News, asking them to apologise. 
``The pattern of coverage of the condolence meet clearly shows that your channel tried to give the story of compensation  a communal colour with the intention of disturbing the social fabric of Delhi,’’ said the letter to ABP News.
The letter to the India Today group mentioned its news channel Aaj Tak as well as Mail Today managing editor Abhijit Majumder, and described their ``deliberate and malicious attempt to distort and communalise facts’’. It also asked that Majumder be sacked for tweeting that Kejriwal had left the condolence meet midway after the family asked for the same compensation that ``he paid to Muslim victims.’’
``How is it possible for a newspaper editor to spread blatant falsehood with a clear communal intent without even checking basic facts?’’ asked the letter, which then went on to clarify that Rs 1 crore compensation had been paid to personnel in uniform who died while performing dangerous duties and of the seven recipients of this compensation, five had been Hindus.
One wonders why the CM’s office didn’t write a similar letter to Zee News too.
Both Zee News and ABP News used similar tactics in their debates: out-shouting AAP panelists (the ABP anchor even shut off the AAP panelist’s mike); allowing their Muslim guests to be insulted; and agreeing with the most extreme Hindutva panelists.
Non-Muslim viewers of these channels must have been left with a simmering rage against a community which could ``cut a Hindu boy like a goat’’ and a contempt for Kejriwal’s pseudo-secularism. What of Muslim viewers? They too must have been left with rage, but against the channels.
Kejriwal dashed off a letter - which will probably be ignored. What can an ordinary offended viewer do?

Jyoti Punwani is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.