A Mini Iran in Karnataka
Restoring Democratic Ethos- Tasks Ahead
Mangoes are Passion for Him
The small village of Alipur makes a small replica of Iran, says MAQBOOL AHMED SIRAJ
If an Anjuman e Jaafria, a Madrassa Hussainia, a Zainabiya High School, an Imam Khomeini Hospital, a Behisht-e-Ali graveyard, an Al-Abbas Boys Hostel with a couple of onion-domed mosques and Ashurkhanas thrown in their midst, can conjure up the images of Iran, then one could be sure that this village in Karnataka is a ‘mini Iran’. But for its rural squalor, Alipur could have easily been passed off as a miniature replica of Iran.
Visiting Alipur is an altogether new experience. Far removed from Iran, and Shia mainstream in India, it is a unique village, harbouring a Shia population of 10,000 and fashioning the lives of its inhabitants according to the orders of the faith. Though less affected by the Persian culture, nothing in the village hides the deep imprints of the new awakening in Iran since the 80s.
For all practical purposes Alipur is a small village, its rural folk betraying no trace of urban material race. Life is placid. With all the leisure at their disposal, the town has produced a battery of Urdu poets. Little intrigues amid sipping of endless cups of tea still consume their better part of the day. Drone of numerous saw mills is punctured momentarily when the buses from Bangalore disgorge the more enterprising of the village folk at the two ends of the day. But then life slips back to its normal somnolent pace.
Somewhere within each of Alipur’s residents lies a spark. Over the last two decades the village has shown stirrings of change. The main thoroughfare, Imam Khomeini Road, named after the Iranian spiritual leader, culminates in an outsized, onion-domed mosque on one end and a modest Imam Khomeini Hospital on the other. An old Ashurkhana has seen good days. A modern building has come up for its extension. Removed a furlong away is the village’s Eidgah and graveyard named Behisht-e- Ali standing in the serene and solemn surroundings. The Imamia Trust of Bangalore has also chipped in by building a resettlement colony for the wandering tribes of Persian-speaking gypsies, the erstwhile village spectacle makers.
Women in black overall burqas walk freely in the sub-streets while school girls attend the Bintul Huda and Zainabiyah high schools donning headscarves.
The village has now 22 scholars trained in Qom in Iran and Damascus. However none could finish the Dars-e-Kharij to win a title of Ayatollah. A higher centre of theological education, Hauz Ilmiah came Baqarul Uloom up five years ago.
According to gem merchant Ali Jawad, who hails from Alipur, the village was known as Belligunta 300 years ago. It began to attract attention following arrival of Syed Mustafa Hussaini, an Abidi Sadat following the downfall of Adil Shahi kingdom of Bijapur. Hussaini and his wife Bathoola settled down here. Much later poet-scholar Mohammad Shaffi Baqari arrived from Hyderabad 150 years ago. He founded the Madrassa Jafria. His son Abbas Baqari who lived upto an age of 115 years, made strenuous efforts and taught a lot of people in and around the village. He founded the Anjuman Jafria which today controls the mosques, ashurkhanas, madrassa, eidgah and graveyard.
Did Iranian revolution cause any impact in Alipur? Going by the simple profile of the village folk, Iran is still a remote land of Alf Laila imagination. Alipur Shias did bring out a few processions in those heady days of revolution. But then hard realities of being Indians overcame. Still later, there had been occasional visits by Iranian leaders. Among them top listed is Ayatollah Khameinai, the successor to Ayatollah Khomeini to the seat of supreme spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic. Then came a clutch of MPs such as Ayatollah Jannati, Kashani, Ghayuri and Asafi. The Shia women are now allowed to pray in the exclusive upper chambers of the Mosque during Jumaa and Ramazan.
Imam Khomeini Hospital came up in 1991 under Imam Khomeini Medical Trust. According to Administrative Officer Nadeem Raza, the hospital used to handle nearly 30 deliveries a month and has worked hard to bring that number down since then by spreading small family norms. Besides Zakat a part of the annual net savings is set apart at a rate of 20 per cent among the Shias. It is called Khums and the Alipur’s Khums enables them to run a hospital, a ladies cultural centre, Imam Mahdi Trust, and Sajjadia Welfare Association, all bodies rendering yeoman service.
Though most Alipur Shias are engaged in gem cutting and polishing business, very few have been able to make it big. A good number of youth are engaged in the cutting and polishing. But lack of training and skill takes them no higher in the business. Most languish as petty traders. Perhaps the local Bintul Huda Memorial High School in the village could think of introducing a vocational course in gem cutting and polishing and carpentry in order to train the boys in their ancestral trades.
Says Shafiq Abidi, a journalist from Alipur working in a Bangalore daily, Alipur still does not have a police station. The Anjuman Jaafria selected all the 10 panchayath members for the just concluded local bodies election. Curiously even the non-Muslims from the surrounding villages authorised the Anjuman to select the six members from their areas to avoid elections. But the scourge of dowry has a vice like grip over the village. In one case, a youth from the village created a sensation by taking his bride and the Qazi up in a helicopter to solemnise his nikah. It was only later learnt that the luxury owed itself to the dowry in cash extorted from the bride’s father.
According to Syed Tahammul Hussain Nashir Alipuri, president Anjuman Jafria, Alipur is an island of Muslim culture. It has maintained calm even during the most turbulent period and remains a dynamic symbol of cultural identity with progress.
The mock war between the BJP and the RSS should not obscure the fact that the ‘Project Manuvada’ has been discarded
By Hasan Mansur
The country is witnessing a mock sparring match between the RSS and its political outfit, the BJP; that this is a sheer charade is beyond doubt because the BJP is an integral part of the RSS, the fountain head of Manuvada which is based on the perverse theology of inequality, violence, discrimination against women and glorifying the macho man. The RSS and the BJP umbilical cord cannot be cut because it is suicidal for both. Yet they are caught in a crisis of their own making because of their insatiable lust for power which alone could restore Manuvada in all its pristine glory.
The new RSS fuehrer, Sudarshan has signalled his storm troopers, the VHP to announce a special yatra from Jaipur to Ayodhya as a prelude to set a deadline for Ram mandir construction, the last resort and the ultimate trump card when everything else fails. He has made no secret of his displeasure with the policies of Vajpayee government; he has announced the launch of the second war of independence, the epic war between the Hindus and Muslims being a part of it, and he has called for the appointment of civil servants with a “ Hindu bent of mind”, undoubtedly with Manuvada orientation. He has rubbished the composition of the Constitution Review Committee headed by Justice Venkatachalaiah for possessing Western mindset and now the RSS has revived the cry of “one people, one nation and one country”.
Vajpayee is caught between the devil and the deep sea, the RSS and globalisation respectively. He is charged with acting at the behest of the multinationals and the U.S. dominated financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. He is seen as fast losing the vice-like hold on Uttar Pradesh (UP) and that could spell the doom of the BJP which is clinging to power there with a clutch of political outfits which are no better than mafia. What is worse, his health has also become a matter of concern of late. It is becoming clear that he is no longer the Sangh Parivar’s biggest vote-getter. With his new-found love for Bill Clinton, he is looked at with suspicion by the RSS.
The present situation has been most vividly summed up by an Indian columinst as follows, “Assumption of the status of a `national saviour’, patriotism as a monopoly business of parties in office, targeting and alienating communities which cannot be fitted into the mainstream”, fomenting xenophobia by harping on the “foreign hand”, destroying institutions through denial of funds and pressure tactics or suborning them to be run by guided loyalists, rewriting history, subverting academic bodies while reordering their direction and content of work, defining what is acceptable in the realm of art and cultural expressions all these are projects underway, pursued with far more ideological fervour than during the Emergency.” He concludes this with a telling remark, “Given the strong arm of the law and the rule of lawlessness, in an increasingly criminalised political culture, the Emergency is as permanent as the state”.
L.K.Advani has returned with great determination to have the instruments of oppression honed after studying the terror tactics of the Israelis in dealing with the Palestinians, overlooking the lesson to be drawn from the ignominious Israeli retreat from Lebanon. To quote another renowned columnist, “Here although the basic rights have not been suspended, the scale, the intensity and organised violence of human rights is much more appalling than the atrocities inflicted during the Emergency. Even the right to one’s faith is fraught with danger, while the communities are besieged by fear and cut off by a sense of belonging to the country. The MISA gave way to the TADA and the lapse of this draconian law which left judges in search of their jurisdiction, is now sought to be replaced by an even more monstrous “Prevention of Terrorism Law”. To quote Harish Khare of The Hindu, “ ...to re-establish the magisterial authority of the law, it is for the Union Home Minister to recharge his depleted intellectual batteries before he makes one more attempt to replicate Sardar Patel”.
The writing on the wall is clear as never before. The threat of Manuvada is not addressed to just Muslims and Christians but to Dalits, other backward classes, intellectuals, the Left forces and the poor and exploited in general. The desperate bid of the RSS to restore Manuvada, a throwback to ancient times, a most regressive genocidal move must be stoutly opposed, resisted and contained if not eliminated by the people of this country rising above caste, class and ideology, to bring back the humanism of democratic ethos.
Mangoes are Passion for Him
This Mango grower has developed expertise in growing multiple varieties of mangoes on a single tree
Lucknow : Maleehabad’s Kaleemullah Khan has developed expertise in growing mangoes of multiple varieties on a single tree.
He may not be a scientist, but his horticultural skills are causing ripples. The bearded man in his 60s from Maleehabad has developed two magic trees of mango. While one among them can grow 315 varieties of mangoes, the other can bear 200 varieties of the same fruit. This has given him a place in the Limca Book of World Records and several state and national awards.
Haji Kaleemullah Khan requires no introduction in the world of mangoes. Having several awards from mango exhibitions, Khan is currently providing his expertise to Iran where he has developed a new variety with a new aroma and flavour. It has been named after the leader of the Islamic revolution, as “Amba-Khomeini”. Offers from several other Gulf and Islamic states for horticultural activities have been rejected by Khan.
“ I will work in Iran for the expansion of horticultural activities and to offer my expertise in mango growing. I have declined to accept any salary. I have accepted this offer as a goodwill gesture, I only want a hospital in my town Maleehabad”, says Khan.
Unfortunately Khan’s talent and expertise is not recognised by the State or Central Government. In fact Dr. S. S. Negi, former director, Central Institute of Sub-tropical Horticulture had refused to give him any credit by saying: “Growing multiple varieties on a single tree is no big deal.” That the institute fails in preserving and protecting its own plants and sapling is another story despite the fact that developing them had entailed heavy expenditure from the state and the national exchanges.
“ I am a 7th standard dropout and have been looking after this family business since 1957. My family’s record in this business goes back to 150 years. I am more interested in developing different varieties on a single tree and began the multiple grafting process. By the grace of God my two magic trees have got much fame and are a centre of attraction for tourists and horticulturist all over the world” says Khan.
Last year he carried out another feat. He uprooted a full grown tree from his orchard and gifted to the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. The tree has survived after transplantation.
Khan’s philanthropy and hospitality has already assumed folkloric dimension. According to a rough estimate, mangoes worth Rs. 50,000 are annually gifted by Khan. This besides the expenses on food, tea and snacks to visitors. In this materialistic world Khan is till living in the good old days. He is not interested in bank balance nor in gadi and bangla (Car and Bunglow) “sweetness is all he wants to spread” say the proud Malihabadis sitting in a dhaba sipping tea and discussing mango trade.
“Will his knowledge and expertise survive him?” I have passed it to my children” he answers. “But I am sometime worried that it might go with me to my grave”, he adds.
But one thing is sure from Malihabad to Tehran (Iran). Khan will remain in the hearts of the people for a long time to come. If a small and backward village Dussehri could be known for its mango all over the world why not this magician horticulturist who has carved a niche for himself in the field of horticulture.