Beef, Sufi Conference, Right Wing murderers, Kashmir — Signs of the Times

SIGNS OF THE TIMES - this week’s column

First things first. There seems a definite pattern to the hounding and killings of Muslims on the pretext of beef buying /cooking and cow slaughter. The communal attacks that started from the barbaric lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri are now spreading out., Towards the outlying locales of Delhi and Rajasthan where Right Wing goons have begun harassing and attacking Muslim butchers and sellers, Towards rural stretches of Haryana’s Mewat region where Muslims live in the most disadvantaged scenario, without the basic traces of development reaching out to them. Towards the interiors of Jharkhand, where two Muslim cattle traders were killed and their bodies hung from trees! One of the victims was a 13 year old boy …he was killed out there in the open and yet we sit all too quiet! No cries, not even from any of the Commissions nor from any of the Child Rights forums! Why? I’m purposely not mentioning Ministry for Minorities Welfare as its manned by the likes of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Najma Heptullah!

And in the backdrop of these blatant killings by Right Wing murderers, there came up that one big distraction - the so called Sufi Conference! In fact, it seemed one of the desperate ploys of the Modi government to hoodwink and distract. And every possible effort to was used to make a success of that farce: Skull caps seemed part of the dress code of the audience …perhaps, to relay that Muslims sat stuffed in that venue hall; though many could have been RSS men, Layers of expensive looking flowers adorned the hall; not sure whether fake or synthetic or plastic or grown in the RSS nurseries watered by the likes of Nitin Gadkari known to use his own urine for gardening! Then, a bunch of maulvis and maulanas hovered around prime minister Modi who rendered a well scripted or say well worded speech …The only person missing from this perfectly contrived setting was Javed Akhtar!

My humble suggestion to the political organisers and hosts of the Sufi Conference is that they should first go and read what Sufis and Sufism is all about and then think of uttering the word ‘ Sufis’, They ought to realize that genuine Sufis kept away from the rulers of the day, they kept away from political strategies and tactics and masks and camouflages, they kept far away opportunist poets who curry political favours by uttering ‘suitable’ verses, suitable for the political climate and the whims of the rulers of the day.


Getting back to these dark days where one has to think a hundred times before deciding what to eat or cook or consume or buy …It was painful to see the plight of the four young Kashmiri students studying in Rajasthan’s Mewar / Chittorgarh region; they were made to stand as though they had committed theft or some heinous crime. All that they done was to buy 300 gms of mutton from the local market. That was enough to trigger off rumours that it was beef, followed by attacks on them, leading to their arrest and public humiliation ….

Kashmiri Muslims have been targeted on the flimsiest of grounds …In fact, around 2002, PUDR had brought out a booklet on the treatment meted out to the Kashmiris when they venture out of the Valley, to any of the metropolitans. And this trend / situation has been worsening. Hotels and hostels don't want to rent out rooms to the Kashmiri Muslims. They have been called militants! And not to overlook the manner in which the police treats Kashmiris, And there's no platform from which these students can seek help or complain…

I recall Professor Nasir Mirza, of the Media Education Research Centre of the Kashmir University (MERC), telling me around December 2004 about a documentary film ‘ Kaash’,”Our local newspapers often carry stories of young Kashmiri boys traveling by train to Delhi, of being harassed in Punjab and forced to part with some money to get safe passage otherwise they’d be booked as anti - social and anti - national elements …recently a group of media students undergoing training at Mass Communication Research Centre (Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi) were asked to make a short documentary on any theme of their choice. They came up with a 15 minutes film titled ‘Kaash’ in which a young man is shown responding to an announcement by a former prime minister that there are immense opportunities for the Kashmiri youth and they should come forward and avail them. The film focuses on the harassment this young Kashmiri man faces when he leaves home and starts his journey …he is harassed on the way and all through, even denied accommodation in any hotel.”

In fact, all these years I have been witnessing this trend - that is, Kashmiris harassed once they move out of the Valley, If one goes back to the news report published around the August of 2005 wherein particular photo -shots of Kashmiri Muslims were linked to the DarulUloom in UP’s Deoband and its only later that the army clarified that that the men in those photos were not ‘Kashmiri terrorists/militants ’ operating from Deoband; in fact, they were VDCs - Village Defence Committee men - who were actually engaged in fighting militancy along with the security agencies! There were clarifications to this effect in almost all national dailies during the third week of August 2005.

 To go back to January 23, 2007 the Delhi police dropped charges against the Kashmiri model Tariq Dar, but not before detaining him for almost three months… In fact, during that very phase - January 2007 - a Kashmiri student Shafqat studying in Dehradun was beaten up by Army jawans as soon as he'd entered their compartment without really realizing that it was reserved for them, and so badly was Shafqatthrashed that there were bruises on his entire body and the case came up during the Assembly session.

And if one were to ask why the political men and women of Kashmir don’t stand up and fight for the very survival cum dignity of these young Kashmiris, one can only say that there have been some efforts but not really strong enough. Half hearted attempts. One hears Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti come up with the regular set of assurances or even hold meetings with their political counterparts but quite obviously those haven’t proved effective enough …

And if one were to go back to news reports of 2006, the then chief minister of J&K, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had asked the chief ministers of 11 states not to harass or take any action against traders and students of Jammu and Kashmir without consulting the Director General of Police and the ADGP (CID)”to ensure that innocent persons are not harassed on the pretext of questioning in the event of any terrorist act in their respective states.”He had sent this message to the chief ministers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi. Bihar, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

In spite of that appeal by Azad there had been reports of Kashmiri students targeted in Gujarat. I quote from this report of Abdul Hafiz Lakhani published in the Milli Gazette of 16 -30 April 2006, -

“Ahmedabad: the crime branches of the Ahmedabad and Mumbai police are exchanging detainees who are later used as targets for encounters, sources here believe. Following the encounter of four men believed to be Kashmiri militants in Vatva in Ahmedabad recently, highly placed sources say they were detainees who had been with the city police for the last four months …” In another report in the same issue of MG by the same writer /reporter - “a sense of fear engulfs Kashmiri students in Gujarat, while management and teachers of Islamic seminaries say that madrasas area vehicle for the promotion of national integration …”

And whilst interviewing the late Mufti Mohammad Saeed on two earlier occasions when he was the Union Home Minister and then when the was the Chief Minister of J&K, I had asked him to comment on the news reports of the harassment meted out to Kashmiris student in New Delhi, UP, Maharashtra and in several other states. To quote from my interview with him published in a national daily in April 2003, this is he had detailed -

“We are looking into those cases …I'm aware of the kind of harassment and humiliation some Kashmiris are facing outside the State…I have openly talked at meetings about the dangers of looking at all Indian Muslims with suspicion. I have cited instance after instance of the loyalty of Indian Muslims and yet I fear some polarization is indeed taking place.”

Today, in 2016, young Kashmiri Muslims are getting targeted in several towns and cities of this country. Why are we silent on this? Why don’t we speak out? Why don’t the politicians take a stand on this?

23 March 2016