‘Muslims can demolish Rushdie intellectually’

February 7, 2012

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THERE WAS a flashpoint in 1997 when sections of Arun Shourie’s Worshipping False Gods called Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar a British stooge. Instead of unleashing violent mobs on the street, the Dalit community reacted in a surprising way. The offending book was countered by a few 100 written works big and small. Dalit leader Udit Raj, 54, tells Karuna John how a volatile controversy was successfully doused by debate.

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW

Why are we always easily offended?

There are a number of factors. We aren’t mature enough to appreciate different thoughts and ideas. Second, there is too much competition for power, name and respect. Sometimes, by opposing even a right cause, a person gets an identity. The media too gives importance to anything that seems controversial or spicy. The Dalit community is sensitive too as there is an identity crisis. For instance, once someone said Dr Ambedkar loved dogs. Even that was opposed by Dalit groups.

Dalits too want caste names to be banned…

If a Brahmin is not offended by being called a Brahmin, then why should a Khatik or Chamar be offended if they are addressed so? There is intolerance among Dalits. Some feel offended by the surnames they are given. They have found alternatives to those caste names. Call them Dhobi and they are offended. Historically, these terms connoted that they are lower castes. These words are banned, only if they are used to humiliate or lower the position of a person. Not so if these are used to describe someone, say in a play or poetry.

Does banning the use of a word or name change anything?

No. The scavenging community prefers to be known as the Balmiki community now but their position in society remains the same. Call them Bhangi and they’ll retaliate, call them Balmiki and they won’t mind. It reminds them of the roots that they want to forget.

There are self-appointed leaders who claim offence on behalf of the entire community.

It’s not necessary that only an elected person has a right to react. Mayawati rose to great heights when she opposed the word Harijan. She said, “Agar hum Harijanki aulad hain, to Gandhi kya shaitan ki aulad the (if we are the children of Harijans, was Gandhi the devil’s child?)” Till the 1980s, Dalits were happy to be called Harijan but later on the same word became derogatory. It was a word that stood for illegitimate children of Hindu priests living in temples.

Who had called for the ban on community names?

The communities themselves. The Balmikis did not want to be called Bhangis, same with Chamars, Pasi, Dhobi and Khatiks. We have not called for a ban. Tulsidas’Ramayan puts Dalit women in the same category as animals and idiots. People don’t like it but we can’t say that it’s not tolerated.

No one demanded a ‘ban’?

The issue has been raised. I think Muslims should answer Rushdie in the same way. They should write [books explaining] how he is wrong. There have been half-a-dozen movies on Jesus Christ showing him in different ways, including his sexuality, but Christians have not asked for a ban. They have written back saying it’s wrong. Even if Rushdie has written a wrong thing, the intellectual Muslims should write back and disprove him. Then Islam will be respected even more.

The Dalit community has had to face defamatory writing too?

Yes, Arun Shourie wrote a book, Worshipping False Gods, in which he said Dr Ambedkar was a stooge of the British, a sycophant who was also corrupt. We fought Shourie back in the same style and wrote that this is wrong. Muslims should react in the same way.

Was that seen as a sign of weakness?

No. We replied intellectually. Writings should be replied by writing. Shourie lost respect and was boycotted. I told the BJP leaders that if Dalits went away from the party, it was largely because of his book. Yet we did not ask for a ban. It was an occasion to react for us. It was a great contribution to the Dalit community as more and more Dalits began reading about Ambedkar’s life. Similarly, the Muslims should say that it is Rushdie who is the Satan. Banning results in curiosity, not just in Muslims but in other communities as well. If he was countered by intellectual writing then Rushdie would not have found a place anywhere in the world. They should demolish him intellectually, demolish his theory.

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News Network
November 30,2021

Allahabad, Nov 30: Sharjeel Imam's speech at the Aligarh Muslim University neither gave the call for anyone to bear arms nor incited any violence as a result of it, the Allahabad High Court has said granting him bail in a sedition case.

Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh granted bail on Saturday to Imam who was booked under sections 124A, 153A, 153B and 505(2) of the IPC at Civil Lines Police Station in Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh.

"Having heard learned counsel for the parties and having perused the record, without referring to the exact allegation made against the applicant, it may be noted that on an undisputed basis neither the applicant called anyone to bear arms nor any violence was incited as a result of the speech delivered by the applicant," the judge said in the bail order.

"In view of the above, without expressing any opinion on the final merits of the case, let the applicant involved in the aforesaid crime be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000 with two sureties of the like amount to the satisfaction of the court concerned," the judge said.

Imam was arrested on the false charge of making inflammatory speech at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

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News Network
November 28,2021

New Delhi, Nov 28: The ruling BJP was on Sunday set to sweep the civic body elections in Tripura where counting of votes was underway in 222 seats of Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and 13 municipal bodies, officials said.

Officials of the State Election Commission said the BJP has established an absolute majority in the 51-member Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) winning 37 seats. Counting is underway in others.

The saffron party has clinched the Khowai Municipal council, Kumarghat Municipal Council, Sabroom Nagar Panchayat and Amarpur Nagar Panchayat.

It is way ahead of its rivals in Dharmapur and Ambassa municipalities, Panisagar, Jirania and Sonapura Nagar Panchayats, besides Kailashahar, Teliamura, Melaghar and Belonia Municipal Councils.

The BJP had fielded candidates for all the 334 seats in the state where its nominees won in 112 places uncontested.

Reacting to the impressive performance by his party in the elections, BJP vice president Dilip Ghosh said in Kolkata the results of Tripura civic polls have exposed the "hollowness" of TMC’s claims of having made inroads into the northeastern state. He said people there have faith in the saffron party.

Describing TMC workers campaigning in Tripura as "hired people", Ghosh told reporters his party shares a "strong bond" with the residents of that state.

The TMC will not be able to open its account in Tripura "“unless the BJP decides against fielding candidate from any seat", he maintained.

"The civic poll results are on expected lines. The TMC did not have any chance to open its account in Tripura, they only made noises. This verdict shows hired people from West Bengal cannot help a party create a base in a state, which has faith in the BJP," Ghosh added.

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Agencies
November 20,2021

modishame.jpg

New Delhi, Nov 20: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have caved in to farmers' demands that he scraps laws they say threaten their livelihoods.

But the reaction to the shock U-turn in the northern states, where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces key elections next year, has been less than positive, a worrying sign for a leader seeking to maintain his grip on national politics.

In Uttar Pradesh's Mohraniya, farmer Guru Sevak Singh said that he and others like him lost faith in Modi and his party.

"Today Prime Minister Modi realised that he was committing blunder, but it took him a year to recognise this and only because he now knows farmers will not vote for his party ever again," said Singh.

For the young farmer, the matter is deeply personal.

Singh's 19-year-old brother Guruvinder was killed in October when a car ploughed into a crowd protesting against the farm legislation, one of eight people who died in a spate of violence related to the farmers' uprising.

Thousands of agricultural workers have protested outside New Delhi and beyond for more than a year, shrugging off the pandemic to disrupt traffic and pile pressure on Modi and the BJP who say the new laws were key to modernising the sector.

"Today I can announce that my brother is a martyr," Singh told Reuters, weeping as he held a picture of his dead brother.

"My brother is among those brave farmers who sacrificed their lives to prove that the government was implementing laws to destroy the agrarian economy," he added.

Around him were several police officers, who Singh said were provided after his brother and three others were killed by the car. Ashish Mishra, son of MoS Ajay, is in police custody in relation to the incident.

Ajay Mishra Teni said at the time that his son was not at the site and that a car driven by "our driver" had lost control and hit the farmers after "miscreants" pelted it with stones and attacked it with sticks and swords.

'How can we forget?'

In 2020, the Modi government passed three farm laws in a bid to overhaul the agriculture sector that employs about 60 per cent of India's workforce but is deeply inefficient, in debt and prone to pricing wars.

Angry farmers took to the streets, saying the reforms put their jobs at risk and handed control over crops and prices to private corporations.

The resulting protest movement became one of the country's biggest and most protracted.

Leaders of six farmer unions who spearheaded the movement in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab states said they would not forgive a government that labelled protesting farmers as terrorists and anti-nationals.

"Farmers were beaten with sticks, rods and detained for demanding legitimate rights ... farmers were mowed down by a speeding car belonging to a minister's family ... tell me how can we forget it all?" said Sudhakar Rai, a senior member of a farmers' union in Uttar Pradesh.

Rai said at least 170 farmers were killed during anti-farm law protests across the country. There are no official data to verify his claims.

A senior BJP member who declined to be named said the decision to repeal the laws was taken by Modi after he consulted a top farmers' association affiliated to his party.

The politician, who was at the meeting when the party agreed to back down, said those present conceded the BJP had failed to communicate the benefits of the new laws clearly enough.

Leaders of the opposition and some analysts said Modi's move was linked to state elections next year in Uttar Pradesh - which accounts for more parliamentary seats than any other state - and Punjab.

"What cannot be achieved by democratic protests can be achieved by the fear of impending elections!" wrote P. Chidambaram, a senior figure in the opposition Congress party, on Twitter.

But farmers like Singh warned that the government could pay a price for its treatment of farmers.

"We are the backbone of the country and Modi has today accepted that his policies were against farmers," said Singh. "I lost my brother in this mess and no one can bring him back."

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