Faisal Khan: Promoting amity in times of ‘hate’

Ram Puniyani
December 3, 2020

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In the process of formation of the nation one of the major pillars is the concept of Fraternity. The words, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are flagship of French revolution, the revolution which overturned the feudal system, the kingdom and heralded the coming in of Modern Nation state, the concept of democracy. The path of these values has not been easy in India, where the process of ‘India as a nation in the making’ begins in the colonial period, running parallel to development of values of a modern state. As an aside since Fraternity, the classical part of triad, is male oriented so we should use ‘national community’, with all its inherent diversity in place.

This process of formation of national community in India ran along with the anti-colonial movement and came as an overarching Indian identity above the identities of religion, caste, region, ethnicity and language. The national movement integrated all these sections as Indians. History does not run in a smooth line, as National movement led by Gandhi united the people, there were communal elements, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which focussed on religion based identity. These tendencies were at the root of sectarian politics, which acted as a counter to the uniting influence of the national movement.

Nearly seven decades after Independence we are facing a situation which is very close to when Gandhi made all efforts to unite the people cutting across the lines of religion. The rise of communal politics during last three decades has widened the gulf between the religious communities, particularly Hindus on one side and Muslims and Christians on the other. Those wanting to uphold the values of Freedom movement and values of Indian Constitution have been scratching their heads as to how to cultivate and restore the bonding which made India, a nation. One effort has been to try to make bridges among different communities through respecting the traditions and faith of ‘others’. These efforts have also talked in the language of religion; have attempted to follow the moral values of religion. Moral values of religion were the core of teachings of Bhakti-Sufi saints. These also formed the base of Gandhi’s practice of Hinduism, which was inclusive and attracted the people of diverse religions.

In contemporary times there are activists who are endeavouring to walk this path. It may sound innocuous few decades ago, but not any longer. Now we see the case of arrest of Faisal Khan, who has tried to revive Khudai Khidmatgar, the organization floated by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Seemant Gandhi. Gaffer Khan was ardent supporter of the path of nonviolence. He stood for respecting all religions and was totally opposed to the partition of the country, for which he had to spend years in the jails of British rulers and later in the ‘Muslim Nation’ Pakistan.

Faisal Khan, yearning for amity love and peace began his journey for communal amity with other peace workers. He decided to revive Khudai Khidmatgar to pursue the path to strengthen the spirit of Indian Community and on these lines has been trying one after the other move to bring the religious communities together.

He set up Apna Ghar for people of all religious communities to share and enhance the intercommunity bandings while celebrating festivals of all religions. He is also a trustee of Sarva Dharma Sadbhava Kendra Trust located in Ram Janaki Mandir Sarju Kunj, Ayodhya. There is a plan to develop an all-faith communal harmony centre in this Temple. Faisal Khan has offered Namaz several times in this temple. People of all faith and caste including Dalits are welcome in this temple. At another level he is part of organizations for Human rights like NAPM and at global level with Hindus for Human rights in US.

Recently he undertook a five day peace yatra in Brij region in UP along with four of his friends. This peace yatra was '84 Kos Parikrama' of Braj in Mathura during which they paid a visit to Nand Baba Mandir. As Faisal visited the temple he received prasad from temple priest and recited verses from Ramcharitmanas to the priest. The priest happily allowed him to offer namaz inside the premises on October 29, 2020. The petition that has been launched on Change.org, says, “When it was time for the midday namaz (Muslim prayer), Faisal was going to pray outside, but the priest invited him to pray right there in the temple. Faisal and one of his associates, Chand Mohammed, prayed in the temple compound.”

He has been arrested on charges which are related to inciting intercommunity tensions and is in jail for last few weeks. When we are talking of promoting intercommunity amity such an act is what gives the signal of intercommunity harmony. The state is duty bound to promote fraternity, the sense of Indian community, which Faisal Khan and his friends were trying give a message of. Many people accuse that secular forces have failed to address the people as they have been talking in a language which is away from the language of people, people who are steeped in the religiosity. Faisal Khan is doing precisely what many sympathetic critics are alleging is the failure of secular forces.

Gandhi and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan saw religion as a moral force, as a spiritual path. They succeed to a large extent. After their passing away from scene, communal forces have overshadowed the moral ethical component of religion and presented religion as pure identity, and have used it as divisive force.

Today we are in a strange situation. The religious gulfs are rising and those trying to bridge it are accused precisely of things which they are fighting against. Society needs to introspect and take the path of Gandhi and Khan Saheb, to cement to gulfs which have crept in due to the divisive politics of sectarian nationalism. People like Faisal Khan need to be understood and respected for the path they are pursuing to promote the idea of inclusive India.

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News Network
August 10,2022

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Patna/New Delhi: With Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) breaking ties with the BJP in Bihar, the National Democratic Alliance, or NDA, has suffered a small setback in Rajya Sabha.

Mr Kumar's Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), has five MPs including the Deputy Chairperson Harivansh in Rajya Sabha.

The NDA did not have majority in the upper house even when the JD(U) was part of it. Mr Kumar's JD(U) is the third party to leave the NDA in the last three years. Earlier, the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akal Dal quit the NDA. The Telugu Desam Party, or TDP, left before the general elections in 2019.

With JD(U) no longer with the NDA, the BJP-led national coalition will be more dependent on other neutral parties such as Odisha's Biju Janata Dal, or BJD, and Andhra Pradesh's YSR Congress Party, or YSRCP, to push crucial bills through the upper house.

The current strength of Rajya Sabha is 237. There are eight vacancies - four from Jammu and Kashmir, one from Tripura and three to be nominated. The majority mark is 119.

The NDA's current strength in Rajya Sabha is 115, which includes five nominated MPs and one independent.

After the JD(U) left the scene, the NDA's number has been reduced to 110, or nine short of the majority mark.

The government can nominate three more MPs before the winter session and BJP is likely to win the Tripura seat, whenever election takes place. Even then, the NDA's strength will be 114, which will still be short of the new halfway mark of 121.

The BJP will need the support of BJD and YSRCP - which has nine MPs each - on crucial bills.

In the recent presidential and vice presidential elections, however, the BJP got support of BJD, YSRC, TDP, Shiromani Akal Dal and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.

Here's how the numbers stack up for the NDA in Rajya Sabha: BJP 91, AIADMK 4, SDF 1, RPIA 1, AGP 1, PMK 1, MDMK 1, Tamil Manila 1, NPP 1, MNF 1, UPPL 1, IND 1 and nominated 5, whose total comes to 110.

Mr Kumar will take oath as Chief Minister of Bihar today at 2 pm. Rashtriya Janata Dal's Tejashwi Yadav will be the Chief Minister's deputy in the new "Grand Alliance".

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August 19,2022

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Ahmedabad, Aug 19: Some of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case of the 2002 Gujarat riots are “Brahmins” with good ‘sanskaar’ or values and it is possible they may have been fixed due to their past family activities, a BJP MLA, who was a part of the state government panel that recommended remission to all the 11 men found guilty, said on Thursday.

C K Raulji, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Godhra, said he does not know whether the convicts, released after spending more than 15 years in jail, were involved in the crime.

On August 15, all the 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 case of Bilkis Bano’s gang rape and murder of her seven family members during the communal riots walked out of the Godhra sub-jail after the BJP government in Gujarat allowed their release under its remission policy.

“We took the decision on the basis of a Supreme Court order. We were asked to look at their (convicts’) behaviour and decide (on their early release),” Raulji, who was one of the members of the government-appointed committee that recommended granting of remission to the convicts, told a news portal.

“We asked the jailer and learnt that their behaviour was good in the prison…also (some of the convicts) are Brahmins. They have good ‘sanskaar’ (values),” said the ruling party legislator.

The Gujarat government’s decision has invited sharp criticism from the opposition parties who have said the move was against the Centre’s guidelines.

However, Raulji said the convicts may have been fixed.

“It is possible that they (the convicts) might have been fixed in the case due to their past family activities. When such riots take place it happens that those who are not involved are named. But I don’t know if they committed the crime, we decided (on remission) based on their behaviour,” he said.

Asked about the welcome accorded to the 11 men after their release from prison, he said they had not welcomed them.

The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts after the Supreme Court directed it to consider their plea for relief under the state’s 1992 remission policy.

A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008, sentenced to life imprisonment all the 11 accused in the case for murder of seven family members of Bilkis Bano, a riots survivor, and her gang rape. Their conviction was later upheld by Bombay High Court.

These convicts served more than 15 years in prison after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release.

The apex court had directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of his sentence as per its 1992 policy on the basis of the date of his conviction. Thereafter, the government formed a committee which took the decision to allow release of all the convicts.

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district. Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang raped and seven members of her family were killed during the BJP backed riots. 

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August 10,2022

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Patna, Aug 10: After taking oath as Bihar Chief Minister an eighth time, thus continuing in the chair with a change of partners, Nitish Kumar took a shot at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the next Lok Sabha elections: "He won in 2014, but will he in 2024?"

Though Nitish Kumar repeatedly spoke of "working towards Opposition unity" to unseat the BJP at the Centre, he told reporters that he is "not a contender for anything", when asked if he wants to be PM candidate. "The question to ask is, if the person who came in 2014 will win in 2024,” he said.

Elections in Bihar are due in 2025, a year after the Lok Sabha contest. Nitish is likely to still be in the chair in 2024, which means the who'll-be-the-challenger speculation isn't likely to die down soon, especially with the Congress weakened and the Opposition still far from united. His deputy once again, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav has said Nitish Kumar is the "most experienced chief minister in India right now".

It helps Nitish Kumar's case that another regional leader with national ambitions -- Bengal's Mamata Banerjee — has had to halt her march after corruption charges against her party colleagues. 

Analysts have for years floated the theory that Nitish Kumar could be the Opposition candidate against PM Modi, if the Congress plays a non-leading role. But that's drowned out as he floats in and out of alliances — with and against the BJP. Till yesterday, he was chief minister with BJP support. And now he is back with the RJD of old pal Lalu Yadav, whose son is his deputy in the new government — a new version of their 2015 alliance. The Congress is among the partners.

The first version of the JDU-RJD-Congress tie-up — called the 'Mahagathbandhan' or Grand Alliance — won power in 2015. Nitish Kumar had broken up with the BJP two years before that, ending a two-decade relationship. He had problems with Narendra Modi's past, particularly the 2002 Gujarat riots, and left the NDA after he became the PM face. 

But he made up with PM Modi's party in 2017, walked out the Mahagathbandhan and took a fresh oath. The JDU and BJP remained together for the 2019 Lok Sabha contest, and then won the 2020 assembly polls. Nitish Kumar remained in the chair. Two years on, he has switched again. 

Today he said he did not want to be Chief Minister after the 2020 win with the BJP. "Ask people in the party (JDU), what they have been reduced too. I did not want to become CM... but I was put under pressure. Then you see what happened. I have not even spoken to you (journalists) in two months." 

He pointed towards the drop in JDU's numbers. "How many seats did we win in 2015? And then we went with the same people (BJP) and look at what we have been reduced to." Besides those in the JDU, Tejashwi Yadav too has said the BJP "wants to finish off regional parties" and "usurps its partners".

In 2015, Nitish Kumar's JDU had won 71 seats as part of the Grand Alliance's 170, in a House of 243. The RJD was the single largest party with 80 seats, but he became chief minister as leader of the pact.

At present, the JDU has 45 seats. The BJP, which has 77, made him chief minister in 2020 despite these numbers — but with two deputies from its stable. Why the switch now? Nitish Kumar and his party, it is learnt, were spooked in the latest by the Maharashtra coup in which the BJP backed a split in the Shiv Sena to return to power.  

On his fate after yet another flip, Nitish Kumar today said, "Whether I will stay or not... let people say what they have to say." After staking claim yesterday, he said he "never allowed corruption", and "we want brotherhood in society". Standing next to him, Tejashwi Yadav accused the BJP of dividing people along communal lines: "We are socialists. All of us want that the BJP's agenda shouldn't be implemented in Bihar."

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