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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 12-12 No:144    *   DECEMBER 1998/ SHABAN RAMADAN 1419H
email: editor@islamicvoice.com

FEATURES


Fiftieth Anniversary of Human Rights and the Indian Poor
Non-Hindus in a Hindu State : The Nepalese Example
Religious Harmony In Islam
Leaves From Life : Nothing But Lies


Fiftieth Anniversary of Human Rights and the Indian Poor

By Hassan Mansur

1998 has been the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Indian Independence. The right to life with dignity is assured under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which India ratified in 1979. Article 6 of this Covenant holds that every human being has the inherent right to life, protected by law and inviolable by arbitrary deprivation; Article 7 forbids torture or inhuman treatment; under Article 4, these covenanted freedoms are nonderogable even “in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation”. The significance of this Article is yet to sink into the consciousness of social activists. In the Constitution of India, Article 21 guarantees the right to life and liberty and Article 51 of the same obligates the state to implement the international covenants and foster respect thereto.

The fundamental right to life with dignity is no favour done by any institution, constitution or state. To quote Judge Tanaka, a distinguished member of the International Court of Justice who wrote in 1966. “The principle of protection of human rights is derived from the concept of man as a person and his relationship with society, which cannot be separated from universal human nature. Then, existence of human rights does not depend on the will of a state, neither internally on its law or any other legislative measure, not internationally on treaty or custom, in which the express or tacit will of a state constitutes the essential element. A state or states are not capable of creating human rights by convention. They can only confirm their existence and give them protection. The role of the state is no more than declamatory”.

This fundamental right to life with dignity implies the right to education, formal or non-formal, right to employment, right to shelter and the right to health (what with health getting increasingly privatised). Lately the right to faith has come under increasing threats and in the Indian context, this is equally important. All these taken together make for the right to life with dignity which no arbitrary or undemocratic law can revoke.

One has to invoke the name of Ambedkar who did most to draft the Indian Constitution and specially those articles impinging on fundamental rights. His views on caste and social discrimination are most relevant as they have a bearing on a people who have been the worst victims of violation of human rights in this country, the Dalits. He has termed the caste system as graded inequality and has described Manuvada in the following terms, “A population which is hidebound by caste.. which is infected by ancient prejudice.. which flouts equality of status and is dominated by notions of gradations in life, a population which thinks that some are high, that some are low, can it be expected to have the right notions even to discharge bare justice.” His characterisation of Indian independence, “On January 26, 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality, in social and economic life, we will have inequality.. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy..” Has been most telling and things have not changed much.

Ambedkar went into the heart of the matter while assailing the Manuvadi’s disinterest in the Dalits as arising from total absence of social conscience and moralistic unconcernedness. Dalits have to be in the forefront in any struggle against the forces of manuvada whose bid to grab total power in order to impose the medieval laws of Manu on a forward looking pluralistic India has never been so menacing as of now.

After the Dalits come the minorities, specially the Muslim community subjected to threats of genocidal proportions. It has discovered to its great dismay that the covenanted freedoms cited earlier from the ICCPR are to be seen more in the breach than observance. A fear psychosis is being whipped up using the alleged ubiquitous presence of Pakistan’s ISI, which takes in those gullible and politically naive, thus creating a climate of fear, ideal to push through repressive laws, recreation of an ethos that witnessed the monstrous birth of that most lawless law, TADA against alleged terrorists. Advani in a frenzy is exhorting all states to emulate the example of Tamil Nadu which has been blackmailed into bringing in a mini-Tada. The obvious victims will be the Muslims as seen earlier in Mumbai and elsewhere. Now that even Christians have been labelled anti-national for alleged conversions they are also likely to be victims of state violence. All those who shall protest against rising prices, unemployment, criminalisation corruption and communalization of the polity will have to bear the brunt of state violence and naturally these will be the poor of all burnt of state violence and naturally these will be the poor of all castes and communities and the Indian state in saffron will act in a truly ‘secular’ way bashing up the poor of backward classes, Dalits, minorities and the tribalism.

Manuvada is no prerogative of the Sangh Parivar; it is present in the political parties of the Right and Centre like the Congress and Janata Dal, not to name the regional outfits of other states in the country. In this situation, where is the promise to “keep alight the hope of a new day dawning” with the inherent dignity of the equal and unalterable rights of all members of the human family .. as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world? Communists of all hues who had the class conflict as the credo of their ideology have woken up at last to the hydra-headed menace that the Sangh Parivar is and have vowed to fight it to the finish.

The hope lies in the consolidation of all the poor, irrespective of class, caste or creed, be they backward class, Dalit tribal, or minorities who could mobilise all progressive forces like those on the left and thwart the sinister conspiracy of the saffron brigade which is making a final bid to re-establish the reign of Manuvada. The decisive defeat of these regressive forces will facilitate, not the mere observance but the celebration of human rights in this country.

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Non-Hindus in a Hindu State : The Nepalese Example

By Yoginder Sikand

nepal.jpg

Fig 1. JAMIATUL BANAT (BALKAWA BAZAR, SIRHA)

Rabid Hindutva is a strange, two-faced monster. On the one hand, it seeks to whip up support by venomous attacks on Muslims and other non-Hindu groups. On the other hand, it unabashedly claims that it is only in a truly Hindu state of its own making that the lives of Muslims and other marginalized communities can be safely guaranteed. A Hindu state, the advocates of Hindutva never stop repeating, is the only dispensation that can guarantee the rights of all communities.

While, in recent years, Hindutva propaganda has been falling upon increasingly receptive ears, it is instructive to reflect on what real consequences a Hindu polity might actually have for the country’s marginalised millions. Of particular relevance here is the example of Nepal, the world’s only officially declared Hindu State, and a model frequently hailed by the Hindutva camp for India to follow.

With a population of some 20 million, the mountainous kingdom of Nepal is home to some 36 different castes and tribes. The vast majority of Nepalese belong to the Tibeto-Burman race. These include such groups as the Sherpas, Bhotias, Newars, Rais, Gurungs, Limbus and others, most of whom follow a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, customs and practices. The other significant groups in the country include upper-caste Hindu migrants from India-the Brahmins and the Chhetris as well as scattered community of Muslims and low caste Hindus from India who live in the Terai belt in Southern Nepal.

Although the upper-caste Hindus form only a small minority, they exercise a near total monopoly over the polity, administration and economy of Nepal. Indeed, it is because Nepal is an officially declared Hindu state that the upper caste minority has been able to ensure for itself such a position in the country. In fact, Nepal’s first constitution, which was specifically Hindu, was itself based on a rigid caste code that guaranteed the supremacy of the upper caste minority. Thus, in Jang Bahadur’s Mulki Ain (Constitution) of 1853, the people of Nepal were classified into four groups on the basis of the dictates of the Hindu Dharmshastras (Scriptures), in descending order:

(a) Tagadharis or upper caste Hindus who wear the “sacred thread”, including Brahmins and Chhetris (Rajputs)

(b) Matwalis, or ‘alcohol drinking’ castes: These included most of the Nepali Tibeto Burman Buddhist and mixed Hindu-Buddhist groups, who were considered low according to the law and given the status of Shudras.

(c) The namasine or ‘non-enslavable’ Mlechhas (non Hindus): These included Muslims and Europeans living in Nepal, all of whom were treated as low in status.

(d) The masine or ‘enslavable’ untouchable, including the Bhotias, Chepang, Majhi and Pahari, many of whom were Buddhists.

Thus, the very structure of the Nepalese Hindu constitution was based on a primitive caste order that sanctified untouchability and at the same time guaranteed the privileges of the upper caste minority. There is, then, no reason to believe that the Hindutva brigade in India today so fiercely advocates would mean anything different in practice, if not in theory.

To further reflect on what consequences for the marginalized minorities of India a Hindu State which is really nothing but a Brahminical, upper-caste Hindu state would have, the example of Hindu Nepal is once again very revealing. In her recently published study, Religious Minorities in Nepal, Mollica Dastidar writes that because the very constitution of Nepal was based on the Hindu Caste System previously egalitarian non-Hindu groups were forced to adopt the caste system, thereby introducing a steep hierarchy within what were once harmonious communities. Thus, she writes that, “The casteless egalitarian Buddhist societies of Nepal assumed caste-like features in order to become acceptable in the dominant Hindu social order.” Further, with Brahminical Hinduism as the state religion, many non-Hindu Buddhist tribal communities were gradually absorbed into Hinduism, as a result of which Buddhism, once the religion of the majority of indigenous Nepalese, now officially accounts for a mere 5% of the country’s population. This process of absorption of the Buddhists into the Hindu fold, which still continues even today, has, according to Dastidar, “Only served the narrow interests of the Brahmins”. She goes so far as to term the state-sponsored Hinduization process as “nothing but the subjugation of tribes under the ruling high caste Hindus of Nepal.”

nepal1.jpg

Fig 2. MADRAS NOORUL HUDA (DARCHHA, RAMPUR, PALPA)

With regard to the Muslims of Nepal, who officially account for no more than 3% of the country’s population, very little is known. Anantraj Poudyal, in his Nepal: Muslims in the Hindu State, traces the entry of Islam into the region as early as the 7th Century A.D., though not all scholars would seem to agree with this. Be that as it may, historians are unanimous in asserting that under the Hindu laws, then operating in Nepal, Muslims as well as Christians were relegated to a very low status in the caste hierarchy. The French historian, Marc Gaborieau, in his paper, Muslims in the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal writes that in the classical Hindu constitution of Nepal adopted in 1853, based for the most part on the Brahminical Scriptures, “Christians and Muslims were listed with untouchable castes from whose hands only raw and dry eatables could be accepted.” He writes that according to local belief, ‘For Hindus, all Muslims are impure and the latter have to agree to be treated as such’. Indeed, so great was the prejudice against Muslims that till just a few decades ago, Muslim children were not allowed to attend schools anywhere in the country.

While Hindutva advocates often uphold traditional Nepal as a haven of communal harmony, Dastidar believes that the absence of overt conflict between various social and religious groups in Nepal till recently can be explained almost entirely by the harsh repressive control exercised by the high caste Hindu leadership over the vast majority of the people of the country. Thus, she writes that it is no mere coincidence that today, as the forces of democracy in Nepal grow increasingly assertive, sharp contradictions between the high-caste minority and the vast, low-cast and tribal majority are rapidly coming to the fore, sometimes assuming violent forms. A clear illustration of this is the growing mobilization of Buddhist tribal groups, classified by the Nepalese state as Hindus, demanding that they be recognized as Buddhists and be given their rights and due share that they accuse the upper-caste minority to have usurped, in the name of Hindu unity. This has resulted in the birth of several political formations, including the Nepal National People’s Liberation Front, the JanJati Party and the Mongol National Organization, all demanding the establishment of a secular Nepali state in place of the present Hindu constitution which they see as providing the legal sanction to the continuing hegemony of the high-caste Hindu minority. Similar demands have also been voiced by lower caste Hindu groups all over the country, especially in the South.

As these events so clearly show the Hindu state in Nepal is now being increasingly seen by its victims for what it actually is-an instrument for maintaining and promoting of the interests of the high caste Brahminical minority at the cost of not just groups such as Muslims and Christians but, indeed, and more importantly, the vast majority of Nepalese themselves who are officially classified as Hindus. This itself would suggest that the fiery advocates of a Hindu state in India today have precisely the same intentions.

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Religious Harmony In Islam

By M.I. Liaqath Ali

Islam preaches total social harmony which includes religious harmony that the whole world needs. Despite our age of information, geographical unification of countries and internationalisation of learning and economics, the world badly requires a strong movement to dispel aggression in the name of race and creed. Islam provides an excellent model implemented by Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and proved of its practicality.

Allah epitomises religious tolerance in the Qur’an in a nutshell: Lakum deenukum wa liya deen, Your religion is for you and my religion for me (109:6). This need to be adopted worldwide as a slogan. There need be no restraints on preaching faith by appealing to reason. Holy Qur’an says : Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. (16:25)

Coercion is rejected by Islam. Al Qur’an says: La ikraharfiddeen , There is no compulsion in religion. (2:256) Says Holy Qur’an : “ Would you compel people that they should become believers?” (20:99 & 13:40). For, belief (iman) is something concerned with intellect and soul and not with physical body. On compulsion one may outwardly declare belief but the heart may reject it; infact compulsion tends to prejudice the heart permanently even against the plainest of truths, such as Allah has given and His Messenger expounded. Besides, the accountability for unbelief (Kufr) is on the unbeliever, not on Muslims, guarantees Allah (6:108).

Allah ordained religious freedom and tolerance and His Prophet (Pbuh) implemented and preached it. Allah tells believers, ‘Do not insult what they call gods that are other than Allah.’ Prophet and Islam r promised the Christians of Najran not to harm their crosses or idols. He even allowed Christian delegates from Najran to pray in his Mosque at Al-Medina.

Beyond tolerance, Islam supports harmony with other religions. In the edict he issued in Hijri 5, Prophet (Pbuh) gave full protection to Christians of conquered territories in all religious, spiritual, social, cultural, economic and legal matters; he had warned that anyone who went against these provisions was an accursed offender of Islam. Non-Muslim citizens were treated as equals of Muslims. In fact it was incumbent on the Governments to protect their life and property so much so that they were exempt from military service.

Prophet (Pbuh) set wonderful examples for us to follow. He stood up when funeral procession of jew passed. Zayd, a Jewish slave boy was presented to Prophet (Pbuh). He treated him as if he was his son and set him free. He (Zayd) refused to join his parents and remained with the Prophet (Pbuh) and got converted to Islam. Prophet (Pbuh) married one of his close relatives, a free woman, to Zayd.

Islam strongly rejects fanaticism in any form. Prophet (Pbuh) clearly distinguished fanaticism from loyalty. He legitimised loyalty by saying: “To love one’s people is not fanaticism but to wreak cruelty on other peoples is.” He condemned those who feliciltate such cruelty. He observed that they would be thrown into hellfire as surely as a man will fall into a well who hold fast to the tail of a camel jumping into it. The Messenger (Pbuh) further said: He is not of us (his umma) who gathers people together on the basis of fanaticism, he who fights for it and he who dies for it! Prophet (Pbuh) promised that in the hereafter he would advocate with God for him who was wronged by a Muslim. (Source: Abu Dawood).

Al Qur’an commands believers to maintain justice and that hatred of any people should not divert them from dispensing justice even if it is detrimental to them, their parents or relatives. (4: 135 & 5 :8)

As Allah and his Apostle (Pbuh) have repeatedly observed all the people of the world are descendants of the single soul of Adam, regardless of their present faiths. Their God is only One -Allah. Their posterity will discover the original true path of Islam and join it in waves. Therefore we shall not keep Islam to ourselves alone as certain other religionists do on one extreme. We shall not also thrust our religion on anyone as certain others do on the other extreme. We shall preach the right beliefs in a beautiful manner as Allah and His Messenger (Pbuh) commanded.

Commendable indeed is the UAE Government’s pursuance of religious harmony by protecting the interests of members of other religions and promptly and summarily punishing violators to whichever religion they may belong.

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Leaves From Life : Nothing But Lies

By D.A. Sait

One of the most overworked but least appreciated of human virtues is the lie, without the assistance of which this life cannot go on. Every day every one of us tells lies by the dozen without realising it. We take to the lie just like the fish take to water. You call on a pal when he is at breakfast. Courtesy demands that he ask you to join him. What is your response? Thank you, but I have just had my breakfast, you lie, hoping all the time that he will press you to join him. But he is too clever for that. Take another instance. You need a few thousand rupees urgently. Your neighbour has always been so friendly and dripping with kindness that you feel you cannot do better than bite his ear. And then what happens? Oh, God, why did not you ask me yesterday, he says, adding that all that he had in the bank had been drawn to clear a debt, which, you know in your bones, is a lie, a black one at that. Your neighbour’s son has passed the B.E. final exams with a second class. So you, an indulgent mother, make it a first class for your daughter in the MBBS, though she has just scraped through with a third class. Another lie of the black variety. You son is working in Dubai on a salary of twenty thousands rupees per month, but for the benefit of friends and relatives, some of whom might turn out to be excellent dowry material, you multiply this figure suitably. One of the commonest variety of the lie is when you want to use your neighbour’s phone to make a call and his phone has so obligingly gone out of order. The list is endless. The lie has come to stay. It is your most obedient servant.

Lies can be classified into the Big Lie and the Small Lie. The Big Lie is the exclusive privilege of the big people, and is an area marked ‘Out of Bounds’ for the smaller fry. A Big man can take in his stride a statement like, ‘Yesterday as I was having tea with the Prime Minister...’. But a small man attempting anything like that is bound to be greeted with cries of ‘tell that to the marines!’ Which brings to mind the case of the small man who floated a big lie that he had floated so many companies in the state that he was going to be honoured with an award. The award was eventually conferred on him by the court in the form of a prison life for his practice of separating people from their cash by resorting to lies.

Lies uttered by politicians, however, take the cake, for they always manage to wriggle out of lies already told by helping themselves to a further supply of lies. This consists in denying statements already made by resorting to the now all-too-familiar expedient of ‘I have been misquoted.’

You thus go on merrily fooling the world with your lies. You have certainly fooled your fellowmen. But have you fooled God? Do not you know that Allah is All-knowing? That the innermost secrets of your heart are no secret to Him? If you are aware that Allah knows that you are lying will the Day of Judgment not catch up with you? If your answer is ‘Yes’, then why invite divine punishment with your reckless lies? Why not thing again before giving vent to another lie?

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