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Intolerant India!

Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri’s book launching in Mumbai was a purely literary event but the intolerant attitude of Shiv Sena even to such harmless events  has ,yet once again, exposed claims of Indian secularism. The situation is going to worsen further if Modi government continues to encourage such extremists activities. Freedom of expression is under threat in India and many of its  citizens are speaking out against the frenzy of violence and repression. Some of the violence and intimidation has been Pakistan-related and some Muslim related.  ‘Shining India’,  the hollow slogan is no longer relevant. Intolerant India showed its face once again when activists of the hard-line Hindu Shiv Sena Party, allied to the ruling BJP, threw black ink on the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, the organizer of  the book launch ceremony. The BJP government in India needs to realize that this not only casts a deep shadow over the region and its people, it has the potential to isolate its own citizens. Both Kasuri and Kulkarni must be appreciated for  refusing to cave.  Earlier the classical maestro Ustad Ghulam Ali had to call off his tour to India as he was not allowed to perform by Shiv Sena.  Freedom and civil liberties are under threat in India. For now, India presents a rather dark image.

Article 25 of Indian constitution states that: “Every person has the right to practice their faith as they choose, or no faith at all without fear or discrimination”. However, in practice such rights are flouted quite frequently. The ongoing beef controversy in India has reinforced the conviction behind creation of Pakistan. Many Muslims living in various parts of India have stated that Quaid-e-Azam had accomplished a good job by creating a new country for Muslims, where there is no ban on beef. The current Indian government, has imposed a ban on beef in several states of India. Ban was also imposed in Jammu and Kashmir where people showed their disapproval by calling strikes and slaughtering animals to defy the order. This beef ban controversy has sparked several debates: it has divided India along religious lines: if a person consumes beef he is called Pakistani or augarwadi (terrorist) or desh drohi (traitor); and if he does not, he is considered a patriot.
Discriminatory behaviour of Indian government towards the Muslims of India and Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) is on the rise since BJP came to power. Hindu fundamentalist government of the BJP is now openly subscribing to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology. Therefore, extremist elements of Indian society are picking up the courage to take the law in their own hand to the peril of Muslims. As a result, incidents of communal violence against Muslims have increased over a period of one year.
Muhammad Akhlaq was beaten to death and his 22 years old son was severely injured on September 28 in Dadri, Utter Pardesh, after it was rumoured that the family had been storing and consuming beef. Incident was triggered by an announcement by a local temple. Now the forensic tests have revealed that family had been storing mutton in their fridge and not beef! Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under strong criticism for not condemning the incident. Former IHK Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted “why there was no outright condemnation of the Dadri lynching?” Later, incidents of beating the Muslims on this count also happened in Manipur district of UP and state assembly of IHK
Denial of legitimate entitlements to Indian Muslims have attained such a proportion that Vice President Hamid Ansari has publically called upon the BJP government to take “affirmative action” to enforce rights of Indian Muslims as Indian constitution grants special “reservation” (quota) in government jobs, educational institution etc. He said these rights were admissible in Indian state practice but denied to Muslims. He gave example of many reports commissioned by successive governments and added that India’s Muslims faced issue such as identity and security, education and empowerment, equitable share in state funds and a fair share in decision making. He made these remarks at the golden jubilee celebrations of a Muslim entity, the All India Majlis-e-Mushawwarat (consultative meeting).
Indian newspaper “The Hindu” reported on September 02 that the Vice-President came under attack from the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on this count. VHP general secretary Surendra Jain said the Vice-President’s remarks were “communal” and did not reflect the dignity of his office. BJP general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya termed the Vice-President’s remarks as not commensurate with the constitutional position that he occupies. “A Vice-President’s post is a constitutional position pertaining to the entire country and not to a particular community”. He added that Muslims enjoyed more constitutional right than in many Muslim countries and went as far as to say that “even the country’s partition was accepted to appease Muslims”.
There are various categories of marginalized segment of Indian citizens including Dalits, Mahadalits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes (OBC), Extremely Backward Classes (EBC), etc. Vice President Hamid Ansari had merely asked government to take definite steps for rights of Muslims and other neglected classes in India. He had pointed out that caste discrimination existed among Muslim communities in India and “corrective strategies therefore have to be sought on category-differentiation admissible in Indian state practice and denied to Muslims”. Ansari had talked about recognising scheduled castes among Muslims and not reservations for Muslims on religious grounds. The statement was about the things already stated in the Sachar Commission Report. Privilege of reservation has been denied to Indian Muslim on the pretext of their overall number in India. Release of politically sensitive religious census data, ahead of elections in states such as Bihar, Assam and West Bengal is also aimed at creating the bogey of the so-called “Muslim dominance”.
Congress and Communist Party of India has supported Mr Ansari’s demand. Several reports including the Sachar Committee Report (2006) have highlighted the plight of the Muslims; indicating that on most socio-economic indicators, Muslim were on the margins or even worse than the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The Kundu Report (2014) commissioned to evaluate the implementation of the Sachar Commission had concluded that “serious’ bottle-necks remained.”
Quota is increasingly becoming a highly sensitive issue in the Indian political landscape. In August, the Patel community of Gujarat protested, in large numbers, demanding reservation of jobs for them. Provision of reservation has been cleverly utilized by some backward communities for their socio-economic and political empowerment. Moreover, the mainstream political parties have also exploited the issues for political gains. Support for Muslim reservation, however, is almost negligible. While Congress has paid lip service to the idea, BJP is aggressively against it.
Most glaring manifestation of Indian intransigence towards Muslims is its handling of the territory and the people of IHK. India’s 700,000-plus troops are stationed in Kashmir that makes it the most militarised conflict zone of the world. The law enforcement agencies are empowered by draconian laws which have frequently been condemned by numerous Indian and international Human Rights watchdogs. Another way to resolve the Kashmir dispute is through listening to Mahatma Gandhi, who said on 29 July 1947 in Delhi, “I am not going to suggest to the Maharaja (Ruler of Kashmir) to accede to India and not to Pakistan. The real sovereign of the state are the people. The ruler is a servant of the people. If he is not so then he is not the ruler. This is my firm belief…In Kashmir too the power belongs to the public. Let them do as they want.”
BJP government is communalizing the Indian politics which is likely to add to the plight of largest Indian minority—the Muslims. At the same time it is sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. Pakistan has taken the right step by informing the UNSG about Indian designs. The peace initiative offered by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his address to UNGA could pave the way for the peace and stability in the region. PM’s initiative proposes: Expansion of United Nations’ Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan’s mandate to monitor the observance of the ceasefire; Reaffirmation by both India and Pakistan not to resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances; Demilitarization of Kashmir; and an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier. However, India does not appear in the listening mode.
Indian paper Business Line reported on September 04 that RSS has publically asserted its ideological supremacy and the right to “guide” the BJP government. This was amply demonstrated during the three-day Samanvay Baithak (coordination meeting) of the RSS and its affiliates. The meeting saw senior ministers making presentations with regard to performance of their respective ministries’ work before the RSS. The CPI (M) and the Congress have rightly termed it as “remote controlling” the government. Such incidents put huge question marks on the security of the minorities living in India; it could lead India towards political polarization on communal lines.

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Blasphemy issue needs a permanent solution

The good sense has prevailed, an imminent catastrophe has receded. In a written statement issued on August 30, Geert Wilders announced "not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.” The contest was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. Meanwhile, the Netherlands government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte questioned Wilders' motive for organising the contest. Pakistan’s foreign minister congratulated the nation and Muslim Ummah on their moral victory and termed the cancellation of the contest a victory for Pakistan on the diplomatic front. Cancellation announcement came within days after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world. Condemning the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Imran Khan had blamed the recurrence of such incidents a collective failure of the Muslim world, saying he would take up the matter at the United Nations General Assembly’s upcoming session. After the publication of Salman Rushdi’s blasphemous book ‘Satanic Verses’, it has become very easy to malign Muslims in the West, the prime minister said. “And they have been successfully doing it.” If they [Western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the West how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Pakistan’s foreign office is undertaking a hectic diplomatic campaign to avert the exhibition of profane cartoons in November. Hopefully the good sense would prevail. Time and again, Western Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment. While earlier such incidents in Netherlands were an act of non-state actors, this time parliamentary permission to hold the forthcoming exhibition inside parliament premises had made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious extremism. Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, according to him, sweeping the continent. Wilders also urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and urged his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also stands for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools. Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky and thoroughly mired in populist rhetoric, where both the government and the opposition are, more often than not, competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was defeated in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Close to end of his previous tenure as Prime Minster, Rutte thought that being tough on Turkey would fetch him more votes, therefore he “happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes”. While during the electoral campaign, Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. Situation is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to articulate more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank. Pakistan had approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn had written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch Ambassador to Pakistan and the EU Ambassador, who represents 28 European countries, to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said. Pakistan’s new government had taken forth the process. During its first meeting, cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over an announcement of holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August 13, and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. “Pakistan’s ambassador in Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add. Foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi also spoke to his Dutch counterpart. Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva were directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. Though the triggering issue is behind us, OIC should not lower its guards, it should firm up an action plan if any individual or government attempts such a misadventure in future. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering. Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to find a permanent solution to this recurring issue. Matter should be persistently raised at the relevant international fora until a sustainable way is found by the international community for preventing such abhorrent acts.

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