Special Reports

MG publisher releases two important books

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Pharos Media, publishers of The Milli Gazette, released two important books within a week. One, on the widows and half-widows of Kashmir was released at Srinagar on 12 May, while the other, on the history of the Manipuri Muslims, was released at Imphal, capital of Manipur, on 17 May.

Srinagar: Widows and Half-Widows: Saga of extra-judicial arrests and killings in Kashmir, was released here on May 12. Written by Kashmiri journalist, Afsana Rashid, the 192-page book focuses on women who even after years of the disappearance of their husbands, sons and fathers are still on a daily search for their loved ones while trying to discover their own identity – are they widows or not widows. Apart from economic hardships, they’ve been alienated by their families, society and government.

The book is a study of more than 40 cases of half-widows and mothers of disappeared people during the last two decades since the eruption of militancy. It chronicles the sufferings of these victims and their dilemmas regarding their identity and status in society. It is the first book on the issue.

The event was chaired by Abdul Rashid Hanjoora, prominent social worker, advocate and chairman, Islamic Relief and Research Trust, and attended by chairman of Pharos Media and chief editor of The Milli Gazette, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan and head of the department of Islamic Studies at University of Kashmir Prof Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi. A select group of social and human rights activists, intellectuals and mediapersons attended the book release at Taj Hotel here.

Describing the book as a wonderful beginning, A.R. Hanjoora called for practical solutions and policies for half-widows. “If we can’t mobilise our community, we have no right to blame the government. Journalists have a role to play in creating awareness about the issue,” he said adding that about two-lakh children have been orphaned since the inception of militancy in the Valley, “but only 1800 orphans are being looked after by the government. As such, there is a need to adopt orphans as well. The society should look after children who have been orphaned ever since the eruption of the militancy.”

Hanjoora further said that society should focus on the problems of women whose dear ones have been subjected to enforced disappearances. “There are more than 3000 NGOs registered in Kashmir but unfortunately only a few are working on the ground. There is an urgent need to pay attention to issues confronting widows, half-widows and orphans. We need to have documentation for posterity.”

Speaking at the occasion, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan said that “The issue of widows and half-widows is of great significance in the Kashmiri society today and we decided to hold this function here in Srinagar in order to show to you that we care about you and share your sufferings.” He stressed that there is a pressing need to document these cases because if these cases are not documented, how will they be accounted for tomorrow when everyone who caused these sufferings will be called to account? By documenting them, Afsana has done a great service to victims and their families,” said Dr. Khan adding that the book will soon be translated into Urdu and Hindi and possibly also into other languages at a later stage so that a large section of our society knows about these sufferings.

Afsana Rashid, the author, said that “Women have been the worst hit in the Valley. Their stories, pain and trauma made me take up their issue and make a small contribution.” She added that the Kashmiri society has failed to provide succour to its widows and half-widows. She said that the need of the hour is that the government, NGOs and society as a whole should come forward so that the problems being faced by these women are solved.” Afsana said that most of these women belong to the middle class and have been going round in circles from pillar to post to trace the whereabouts of their missing dear ones. Some of them even moved out of the state to search their dear ones but to no use. In this entire process, there is great chance that they get exploited. The author said, “Courts have failed them, successive governments have brushed aside this issue, society has adopted an indifferent attitude and there are others who earn out of the indigence of such families... Consensus is required over the matter especially the matter related to property rights of these women and their children. No courts or clerics have so far come forward on this issue. Ulama from all schools of thought need to evolve a consensus on property rights and remarraige protocol related to half widows. People generously offer donations, zakat and sadaqats (charity), but with no accountability. Creative, productive and peaceful mechanisms have to be found to assertively put an end to their sufferings.”       

 

Manipur’s little known Muslim communities have a long and rich history, dating from the time of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). In this exhaustive historical account, Farooque Ahmed traces the arrival of Islam in the region in 615 CE through the Prophet’s uncle S’ad ibn abi Waqqas, an uncle of the Prophet, who was also instrumental in spreading Islam in China. Around the same time, an Arab Muslim family settled in the Manipur region and over the centuries Muslim traders, settlers and preachers helped the nascent community expand, flourish and thrive. These waves of migrations and local conversions coalesced into a unique identity of ‘Pangal Musalman’ reflecting the egalitarian and congregational ideals of Islam. (from the blurb of the book)

Imphal (Manipur): Manipuri Muslims: Historical Perspectives 615-2000 CE, authored by the Manipuri Muslim historian Farooque Ahmad and published by Pharos Media, was released here at Hotel Classic Regency on 17 May in a glittering release function attended by notables, intellectuals, scholars and journalists, especially from the Muslim community known here as “Pangal” or “Meitei Pangal”. Head of Pharos Media, Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan was present during the book release function which was chaired by Halim Chowdhury, IAS (Retd), Chairman of the Manipur State Minorities Commission, The guest of honour was Riyaz Ahmed Shah, a renowned Muslim scholar of Manipur.

A. Hakim Shah, Senior Lecturer at Imphal’s G.P. Women’s College, offered a critical review of the book and presented an overview of the multifaceted historical period covered by the book. Hakim Shah pointed out that new findings have been incorporated in the 192-page paperback volume which is priced modestly at Rs.200. The book attempts to distinguish folklore from historicity. The author Farooque Ahmed, currently a Project Director with the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) of New Delhi, who is currently undertaking an ICHR-sponsored research on the later part of the Pangal (Manipuri Muslims) history. The merit of the book is the analysis and rich bibliography and sources the author depended upon. Farooque Ahmed pointed out that Sa’d ibn abi Waqqas, an uncle of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), happened to arrive in Manipur in 615/6 CE from Abyssinia by sea-route, first landing at Chittogong port, now in Bangladesh and that after a couple of years preaching Islam in Manipur, Sa’d arrived in China in 617/8 CE with two other Sahabis and he went back to Arabia in around 622 CE.

The book informs readers that two big immigrations of Muslims to Manipur occurred in 1606 CE and 1724 respectively, mainly as a result of political upheavals in the Mughal Empire caused by wars of succession among Mughal princes. A mega settlement of Muslims had taken place in Manipur in 1606 CE, says the author. The book offers diverse references that two Mughal princes, Mirza Baisangar and Shah Shuja, were compelled to take flight into the interior of Manipur and ultimately to settle there in 1679 CE becoming part and parcel of the Manipuri Muslims. The book offers innovative ways to perceive the past heritage of the Manipuri Muslims and explains how different clans (shaqzi) came into being among the Pangal community who are products of waves of immigrations into Manipur due to inevitable human expansion and geographical explorations in a multi-directional manner, especially from eastern Bengal and Barak-Brahmaputra valley.

Halim Chowdhery, who formally declared the release of the book, acknowledged that it is a timely research outcome when the Pangal community have for long desired to understand their past history which Farooque Ahmed in Manipuri Muslims has tried to explain,  filling a historical gap as past authors did not suceed in presenting these facts academically. He declared that copies of the book will be purchased by the library of Manipur State Minorities Commission and shared with other institutions.

Riyaz Ahmed Shah spoke about the new aspects and approach of the book in the light of research methodology which distinguishes the book. He urged further inquiry into the history of the Pangals, especially the old epoch as a follow up to this remarkable work.

Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, who himself is a historian and scholar of Islam and the Middle East, hailed the publication as a small start but a big step for the community in the far-flung Northeast India whose history and narratives will now be read and heard across the country and the world over, further encouraging writers and academicians among the Pangals to excel in the field of education, research and publication, and to serve the state with a progressive outlook and foster social harmony.

The book has hit the bookstalls in Manipur and Delhi with curious buyers picking up the new publication with earnest interest in the history of a Muslim community in a far-flung part of the country. Communities in the state of Manipur are interested in the historical narrative and wish to know their past better.

Dr. Khan who arrived in Manipur on his first visit to the area, had an opportunity to interact with local Muslim leaders and common men in Imphal and Lilong regions and visit Muslim institutions like Jama Masjid and Darul Uloom in Lilong and saw a mosque under construction which on completion will be the largest in the North East.

 

       

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2011 on page no. 17

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