Vande Mataram Fatwa: Hardly Controversial

November 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service India Correspondent (MMNS)

NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding all the reservations and bias, they entertain against each other, several groups representing extremist sections of Indian Hindus and Muslims may be blamed equally for needlessly making noise over their stand on the Indian national song- Vande Mataram. The controversy hit the headlines with Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), a Muslim organization issuing a fatwa against recitation of Vande Mataram, as according to them several stanzas were against their religious principles. The JUH issued the fatwa at its 30th general session held at Deoband (November 3). It did not take long for extremist Hindu groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal to immediately protest against the JUH-fatwa. Several leaders associated with saffron brigade also labeled as not singing the Vande Mataram as an act of treason.

Clarifying his stand on the issue, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid questioned both the JUH-fatwa and the saffron brigade’s stand on it being compulsory for all Indians, including Muslims, to sing Vande Mataram. “During the independence movement, all national leaders, including leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind Hind sat together and resolved that some stanzas of Vande Mataram would be treated as the national song and would be sung voluntarily. Nobody was forced to sing it and this is something which was there in the resolutions of both JUH and the Congress party,” Khurshid said. Just as there was no need for JUH to raise the issue again, as it had been already settled earlier, no individual could be forced to sing the song, he said. “I don’t know why this issue is being raised again,” he commented.

Vande Mataram, song was a part of the novel written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay called Anand Math, published in 1882. When India achieved independence in 1947, it was expected to become the national anthem. Objections raised by Muslim leaders, led to the song (Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak Jaya), written by Rabindranath Tagore become the national anthem.

Considering the fact that issue was resolved several decades ago, there was no reason for any fatwa against it. It would have been different case altogether, had JUH issued the decree in response against any of their members or associates being forced to sing the song. Similarly, the protest raised by extremist Hindu groups would have carried some relevance were the JUH-fatwa legally or morally binding on the entire Indian Muslim community. Or if the fatwa was suggestive of their showing disrespect to the national song. In this context, Vande Mataram is not the only national issue over which controversies have been raised time and again. Officially, though Hindi is India’s national language, it is not binding for government work across the country. Each state uses its regional language, with Hindi being the official language of less than 10 states. Bengali is West Bengal’s official language, Tamil of Tamil Nadu, Marathi – Maharashtra, Gujarati – Gujarat, Telugu – Andhra Pradesh and so forth.

The key point here is that the decision of various states of not using Hindi as their official language is not regarded as an act of treason and/or their showing disrespect to the national language. So why should questions be raised regarding the JUH-fatwa on Vande Mataram? Just as all Indians cannot be forced to use only Hindi, why should hue and cry be raised if some individuals or even groups decide not to sing Vande Mataram? It would have been a different case altogether, if the same was suggestive of such national symbols being abused.

Besides, it is indeed surprising that a lot of noise has been made over JUH-fatwa. One organization’s fatwa has prompted critics to say that it reflects the backwardness of Indian Muslims, their suffering from leadership crisis and their life being still being confined to dictates of their clerics. These points would have had some credibility if JUH was representative of the entire Indian Muslim community. It is not. The error lies in the critics confining their approach to analyzing issues linked with Indian Muslims only to their stereotyped approach, strongly suggestive of the negative bias they still hold against the country’s largest minority community. Just as neither the BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena or any extremist organization linked with saffron brigade or known to project its Hindutva-agenda, be held as representative of the entire Indian Hindu community, no Islamic group – even if claims to – be regarded as the voice of all Muslims in India. The error lies in assuming a few select groups to represent one whole religious community. How can the regional, religious, casteist and other ethnic factors the Indian people across the country are divided into be ignored? This is strongly reflected by numerous political parties, spread across the country. Difference in political culture from north to south, east to west and from state to state also stands marked by the dress, language, even the variety in food, used by Indians. It is indeed amazing, that while making noise against the JUH-fatwa on Vande Mataram, the critics virtually ignored facts such as that organization does not represent the entire Indian Muslim community and singing it is not binding on all Indians, just as using Hindi as the national language is not. The issue, hardly controversial, has been made to appear as such by noise raised over it!

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Indian Muslims Question “Anti-Terrorist” Moves Targeting Only Them

October 1, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

2008-09-26T114346Z_01_DEL12_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA

Police frisk men before Friday prayers during the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad September 26, 2008.

REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

NEW DELHI: Within a few days of Delhi Police having claimed a major breakthrough in tracking down terrorists’ network, through its encounter called Operation Batla House (September 19) allegedly responsible for blasts that have rocked the country recently, the capital city was hit by another blast (September 27). A low-intensity explosion rocked a crowded flower market in South Delhi’s Mehrauli area in the afternoon, killing three and injuring around 20. While Muslim leaders across the country have condemned the Mehrauli blast, they have lashed at authorities for having failed to adequately combat terrorism. Blaming the police for targeting only Muslims as suspect terrorists, Indian Muslims representing different sections and regions, have held this anti-Muslim negative approach as responsible for country being hit by terrorist incidents.

In the opinion of Maulana Asjad Madani, chairperson of Freedom Fighter Hussain Ahmad Madani Education Front and a member of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) working committee: “It is because only innocent people are being arrested and innocent people killed in blasts and such operations, that actual terrorists manage to escape and continue their operations.”

“Till date, the authorities have not able to prove charges against a single Indian Muslim who has been arrested as a suspect terrorist,” Madani told TMO. The Muslim leaders are agitated about the authorities not adopting a similar attitude towards Hindu extremists indulging in terrorist operations against Christians and the ones caught while assembling bombs.

Madani also expressed concern that Muslims who are released after having languished in jails for months or years, are not given any compensation for having suffered because of false charges levied against them. “Their being released is of course a great relief for them. But even this step is taken as a great favor being bestowed upon them. They deserve compensation. Besides, action must be taken against the erring officers who levied false charges against them,” he said. Referring to Batla House encounter, Madani views as “fake,” he said: “If authorities are unable to prove charges against the two killed (Atif and Sajid), their families should be given compensation and erring officers punished.”

Mujtaba Farooqi, secretary Jamaat-e-Islami told TMO: “The Batla House encounter is just a minor example of the manner in which Muslims are being targeted as terrorists.” He and several Muslim leaders expressed the opinion that this “communal agenda” was a follow-up of September 11, 2001 attacks in United States with only Muslims being nabbed as terrorists, in keeping with anti-terrorism pattern followed there.

It was to express their protest against the government’s “negative” attitude that a large number of Muslim organizations and other like-minded leaders staged a demonstration at Jantar Mantar (September 26), Farooqi said.

Mushir-ul-Hasan, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University, has decided to provide legal aid to two Muslims arrested, who are students of Jamia Millia. The two arrested for their alleged role in Delhi serial blasts are:– Mohammad Shakeel and Zia-Ur-Rehman. While his role has been appreciated by Muslims and secular minded Indians, the extremist, radical minded Hindu groups have reacted strongly against it. Demanding his resignation as the VC, they displayed their anger by burning his effigy (September 25).

Dismissing speculations of his taking the decision under any “pressure” or “compulsion,” Hasan told TMO: “It was an instinctive, spontaneous response to a crisis-ridden situation.” Elaborating on it being his legal as well as natural obligation to take such a stand, Hasan said: “One is basically trying to uphold the rule of law, in keeping with the international principles applicable in United States, United Kingdom and India, that unless proven guilty the accused is innocent.” Besides, he pointed out: “Students are our wards. We are their custodians not only while they are students but even afterwards. It is based on this confidence and understanding that parents decide to send their students here.”

When questioned on the apparent bias sensed by Muslims in Indian media’s approach towards the issue, he replied: “Some sections of electronic media are trying to hound us, castigate us by presenting only a negative image about Muslims (as terrorists).” Hasan views the government’s approach as “positive,” as it has so far respected the university’s autonomy and not interfered in his decision to provide legal aid to the students.

The apparent discrimination displayed by Indian police personnel in targeting Muslims as “suspect terrorists,” without any substantial evidence has also prompted Muslim leaders to demand a major change in the police services. Maulana Abdul Hameed Noomani, spokesperson for JUH, views the Batla House encounter as a fake one and deliberately planned. He laid stress on the need to reform the entire Indian police system. Drawing attention to recent reports of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindu extremist organizations’ indulgence in terrorist activities targeting Christians and their being caught in assembling bombs, Noomani said: “Why hasn’t substantial action been taken against these groups? Just as these groups’ activities cannot be used to label the entire Hindu community as terrorist, why are only Muslims being cornered only because of the bias displayed by police and the media against them?”

The attempt made to “justify” Batla House encounter as “genuine” because of Inspector M.C. Sharma having succumbed to bullet wounds he received at the site has been refuted -by those viewing it as fake- posing the following questions. In their opinion, Sharma received shots from the back, from his own colleagues, who started firing indiscriminately to give the impression of their being engaged in a “heavy encounter.” If Sharma was killed in an encounter, where is the weapon by which he was killed, why have the forensic report of the bullets not been made public and whose fingerprints are present on the weapon that killed him? Besides, if the police personnel were sure of nabbing terrorists, why were some of them not wearing bulletproof vests? The fact that they went to the targeted house, without any search/arrest warrant only suggests that they were not even sure of whom would they meet there. The bullet wounds received by two “suspect-terrorists” killed in the so-called encounter were point-blank ones, which is “not possible in an encounter,” according to Madani.

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