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How do we Promote Peace in India, Today?

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani We are passing through times when Hate against weaker sections of society and religious minorities is increasing by leaps and bounds. The increase in the mob lynching all over the country on the pretext of child lifting is coming on the back of mob lynching on the pretext cow-beef, public flogging-humiliation of dalits on the issue of beef and other issues related their caste humiliation. Mobs seem to be emboldened by the fact that there has been an approval of these acts from the top. Ministers like Mahesh Sharma came to the funeral of Dadri accused, now Mr. Jayant Sinha welcomed the accused of Alimuddin lynching accused when they got bail. The matters are frighteningly increasing as now the horrid incidents of rape are being given a communal twist, fake news is being employed with impunity on one side and rape accused are getting social support on the other. It’s a matter of shame that in case of Kathua the then Ministers from BJP Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended the event organized by Hindu Ekta Manch, which was protesting against the arrests in the case. Now in case of Mandsaur rape, the incident is being given false twist to demonize a community. The accused belonged to Muslim community. Muslim groups took out a procession demanding severe punishment to the accused. Jyotiradiya Scindiya of Congress joined a candle light procession to demand death penalty to the accused. Social media was used to spread the hateful message as if he was demanding the release of the accused. The pictures of procession were photo shopped to present Muslims in bad light. A message was circulated, which said that members of the Muslim community rallied in Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women. The text of the placards in the Mandsaur procession was “We won’t tolerate attacks on daughters, stop this brutality”. A tweet was circulated “NCRB report: India is most dangerous for women reason: In India, 95% of the rape cases have a Muslim perpetrator. Of the total 84734 rape cases, 81000 rapes had a Muslim rapist and 96% of the victims are non-Muslims and with an increase in theirpopulation, number of rapes will also increase.” Nothing can be farther from truth. NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not record the religion in cases of rape. This tweet and the one about Jyotiraditya Scindia was exposed by AltNews, the portal going to the roots of such fake news and is doing a great service to society by giving the truth and exposing the news which is deliberately trying to demonize the religious minority. One recalls that in case of Muzzafarnagar; the violence was incited by circulating a photo of two young men being beaten by a Muslim looking crowd. It was presented that Hindu youth are being beaten. As such that picture was from Pakistan, the crowd beating two thieves. Recently in Kairana the Mahagathbandhan candidate Tabassum Hasan won the election against the BJP candidate. After winning she stated “This is the victory of truth and ‘Mahagatbandhan’ (coalition) and defeat of the BJP in the state and Centre. Everyone has come out and supported us. I thank them.” On social media and on TV debates what was presented was that she said “This is the victory of Allah and defeat of Ram”. This quote was posted on a number of pro-BJP pages on Facebook among which Yogi Adityanath-True Indian posted it on 1 June, and was shared massively. One recalls that in recent times BJP has deliberately muddied the waters of social media by employing thousands of trolls, as Swati Chaturvedi’s “I am a Troll”, tells us. As such the hate propaganda began with demonization of Muslim kings for breaking Hindu temples in medieval period, for spreading Islam, for having large families, indulging in polygamy, being terrorists etc. Now it has taken a dangerous turn with people trained in communal ideology and in the use of social media twisting the facts blatantly. There are reports that in the forthcoming elections BJP is planning to train lakhs of volunteers in the use of social media for electoral gains. The rising hatred is becoming like a monster, propelling itself beyond control. Can we just accuse the social media for intensifying this hate? Some control and restraint is needed, some fact check is necessary for this highly impactful media. What is also needed is that mechanisms like AltNews are made more popular to counter these falsehoods. It is heartening to note that Twitter has decided to suspend seven Crore fake accounts. We also need to ensure that the misconceptions and Hate which is ruling our society, streets need to be countered by message of love. What we need is that truth is propagated and message of peace is made more effective. We have activists like Faisal Khan, who through his Khudai Khidmatagar takes out peace marches. Harsh Mander’s Paigam-E-Mohabbat (Message of peace) has been doing yeomen service by meeting the families of victims of lynching and creating an atmosphere of amity. Mahant from Ayodhya Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri, through his less advertised peace marches is trying to reach sections of society with a message of tolerance and peace. Such efforts need to be upheld and broadened. These are just few examples of the initiatives in this direction, there are many more which need to be projected to promote and preserve amity in India. Countering Hate and promoting amity became the central message of father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who struggled to promote peace, in the highest traditions of his Hinduism. As the fake news is assuming frightening proportions and is doing serious harm to the concept of fraternity inherent in Indian nationalism, we need to retune ourselves to the core value of amity, which was the foundation of freedom movement and is very much the part of our Constitution.

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India’s ethno-sectarian mosaic

Conceptually, one can trace back domestic façade of Hindu extremism to erstwhile Maha-Bharat mythology. Foundation stone is provided by the religion sanctified Hindu caste system.In the historic perspective, during 1820s or so the British tried to consolidate whatever the caste Hindus were available into a single organized entity. Then on, Hindu community started working towards their national reassertion and around 1925, the concept of “Hindu Rashtra” or Hindu nation state was floated. India is spreading hate-based ideology and Hindutva extremism under present government. Amendments are being incorporated in text books to tarnish Muslim leaders’ image. Prime Minster Narendra Modi, a well-known RSS representative in the BJP government and a flag bearer of the Hindutva ideology of RSS is behind the intimidating plot, rendering full governmental support and protection to the perpetrators of anti-minority drive. The ‘Ghar Wapsi’ movement is based on getting back emigrant Hindus into the folds of Hindutva and converting the Christians and Muslims into the fold of their ‘original religion’. The movement has gained momentum during the current regime. No reversal is expected in Indian behaviour. So, people of the region in general and minority groups living in India should learn to adjust to this stark reality and take measures to mitigate the impact of state practiced exclusionism by India, it is indeed a difficult path to tread. This pattern is likely to go on because “Hindu India” sells well among the rural Hindu masses which form the major chunk of Indian population. Hindu votes will continue to determine who could rule India. Therefore, even the mainstream political parties, which previously prided themselves with secular ideology have largely tilted towards appeasement of Hindu majority, at the cost of minorities. Indian is habitual of ignoring the reports of Human Rights watchdogs which convey their concerns about oppression of Indian minorities quite frequently and rather strongly. The United Nations need to take cognisance of the situation and place India on watch list with regard to its ill-treatment of minorities. Unless appropriate safeguards are built, in line with Universal Declaration of Human rights, majoritarian rule in Hindu India would continue to oppress the Indian citizenry.

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Evolving Pakistan-India thaw or another mirage?

Another Pakistan-India thaw in the offing?

Ceasefire violations across the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary(WB) became a new norm during Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s government. India reneged on a 2003 cease fire agreement, resulting in loss of property and innocent lives of Kashmiris. During last year alone, India committed 1,881 ceasefire violations, the highest number since the ceasefire arrangement broke down. During five months of current year 1,050 such violations have been committed by India. Notwithstanding, Pakistani leadership kept striving for bilateral talks. Hostility between the two is a significant impediment to the socioeconomic development in both countries. Now one wonder whether India's offer to revert back to 2003 ceasefire agreement is an Evolving Pakistan-India thaw or another mirage? During the current year things began to take a turn for the better. Pakistan invited Indian Defence attaché to attend Pakistan day celebrations; and he attended. Pakistan also hosted India with other Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) members to discuss regional terrorism. In September, Pakistan and India will also participate in SCO joint counterterrorism exercises in Russia. In the meanwhile, Pakistan also hosted a Track II dialogue with India. Last month India's home ministry had ordered its occupation forces in the IoK to stop operations during the fasting month of Ramazan. And a round of bilateral talks pertaining to maritime matters has just concluded. For its part, Pakistan has consistently advocated resumption of structured dialogue with India. And while it was preoccupied with fighting terrorism, it made strategic sense for Pakistan to seek at least a calm eastern frontier. A convergence in India’s strategic thinking towards Pakistan’s point of view could open the door to addressing, if not fully resolving, the major issues. India had also embarked upon a strategy to destabilise Pakistan domestically, and isolate internationally. Both did not work. On the contrary, a significant convergence has emerged between Pakistan and major regional powers, like Russia, China and Iran, on regional matters while India and the US are seen as spoilers. Despite Donald Trump’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric, an open-ended US confrontation with Pakistan and its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, widely anticipated by India, have not happened. The US continues to rely on Pakistan’s cooperation with regard to Afghanistan end game. India triggered Doklam stand-off with China has also forced India to be realistic in its regional ambitions. India has once again acknowledged the significance of 2003 ceasefire arrangement and as there is no better alternative in place, India should steadfastly implement it.

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Strife Torn Kashmir: Longings for Peace

The Green of the valley has regularly witnessed the blood of militants, Kashmiris, personnel from armed forces and now even those of tourists. In the month of May (2018) earlier this year a school bus was stoned leading to the death of an eleven year old child. This is the background in which Mehbooba Mufti the Chief Minister of Kashmir, sitting on the heap of a coalition, which is ideologically spilt down to the last, requested for a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir in the holy month of Ramadan. Kashmir lately has witnessed increased violence as Central Government, which is calling the shots in Kashmir has adopted the iron fist policy substituting the earlier one of being part sensitive to the grievances of local population. It is during this period that the fake encounter of Burhan Wani unleashed a series of protests, and the disgruntled and alienated youth intensified their favorite method of protest, ‘stone pelting’. Now the frustration levels of the protesters are so high that they are not scared of the consequences of the repressive steps of the state.UPA II undertook a major step by appointing a team of interlocutors. Dileep Padgaonkar, M M Ansari and Radha Kumar. They undertook extensive interaction with diverse groups within the state and submitted their recommendations, which were basically asking for promoting autonomy of state assembly, dialogue and improvement of relations with Pakistan. The report is lying deeply ignored. It is time that this report, the last major step at reconciliation on the issue, is revived to bring in peace in the Valley. The BJP’s role in the alliance has been very negative and has marginalized the Muslim community in a Muslim majority state. Can Mehbooba Mufti assert herself to articulate the democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir is the question we need to ask. The anger of people against Mufti has grown immensely. The ceasefire declared by the Government is a welcome move and it needs to be backed up by humane policies to restore peace in the valley.

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The fast disappearing Muslim in the Indian republic

The fast disappearing Muslim in the Indian republic

As the nation celebrates the Republic’s 69th year, the one dangerous trend that is becoming solidified since 2014 is the political invisibilisation of the Muslim, by denying the significant minority any political space. This is key to the Hindutva project of Hindu majoritarianism and the othering of the Muslim in every social sphere. The BJP is ruling 19 of the 29 states at the present, but has Muslim representatives in only three states. It has made “Congress Mukt Bharat” its rallying cry. But what is immediately manifest is the march towards a “Muslim Mukt Bharat.” The terrifying denouement of this will be especially catastrophic for the Pasmanda Muslim, who is subject to the “double-bind” of religious as well as caste discrimination, and who continues to remain on the margins of the nation’s socio-economic and cultural life. A democracy will become brittle when its minorities are systematically subject to a political apartheid and denied political representation. Certainly, no democracy can be a real democracy when its oppressed castes and classes are pitted against each other on the basis of religion.

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