Bhatkal : Some Posers
Dawn of a Draconian Millennium
Law of the Land and Muslim Society
Leaves From Life : They Too Are Muslims!
By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
The recent incidents in the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka serve an important lesson i.e., it is not enough to be rich to protect a community’s interests. A community should be resourceful in diverse ways to shield itself from the onslaughts from multiple quarters. The Navayaths of Bhatkal need to take stock of their situation afresh and do the course correction.
Over the past two decades the communal forces succeeded in turning the once peaceful town into a hot spot. The Navayath Muslims have found themselves at the receiving end of all kinds of malicious propaganda, victimisation at the hands of the media, litigation, unnecessary probes and character assassination. Yet the response from the community has been one of total silence, cluelessness, paralysis of will and impotent rage.
The incidents during the last few years have brought delegations of Bhatkal Muslims to Bangalore in order to air their grievances and seek solace and solutions through consultation with Bangalore Muslims. It appears the community has been groping in the dark due to lack of enlightened and visioned leadership. The residual masses in the wake of the exodus of the leadership material to the greener pastures in the Gulf is led by the inept religious leadership which tends to be reactionary rather than pro-active.
The recent protest on the highly condemnable characterisation of Prophet Muhammad in a Kannada play at the Christian school of Anand Ashram Convent saw nearly 20,000 of town’s residents marching on the street on December 17. Though peaceful in nature it was aimless in that it rejected the apology tendered by the Christian convent. The sponsors of the protest march could have perhaps better utilised the opportunity by accepting the apology and extracting a promise by the school against any recurrence of such act; asking the school management to introduce Deeniyath in the curriculum for the Muslim students; and even better by explaining the Muslim position on the graphic display of holy personalities of the religion, Jesus (Pbuh) included. Details of the incident show that the play was inspired by ignorance of Islamic tenets rather than any desire to cause any slur against the holy Prophet, though this is not always the case. In a further knee-jerk reaction, the Navayath Muslims withdrew nearly 700 students from the Anand Ashram Convent. This must have acted as a shock therapy but does not seem to be inspired by a long term view of the problem.
Bhatkal’s plight owes itself to the steady depletion of the small town of its intellectual content due to mass exodus of its educated youth to the Gulf and the West. For the last two decades, the youth have been chasing the Eldorado in Dubai and other destinations in the Gulf, tempted as they were by the glitter and glamour of the life there. Little did they realise what social impact this would have on the life of the townsfolk. No attempts were made to develop stakes in the vital sectors such as legal profession, media, education, administration and on building bridges with the authorities. This is a unique case of affluence causing alienation among the people in as much as the communal forces targeted the community for its riches rather than for being weak.
Fascination for English medium education grew with migrations, and pursuit of professional education. Consequently the hitherto cloistered community lost its sense of cultural discernment. The presence of nearly 1000 Muslim students in the missionary run schools is an index to the changing mores. It is indeed disturbing for a townfolk like Bhatkal’s to have opted for such schools despite their deep attachment with Islamic traditions.
But looked at from another angle, it speaks of the community’s sense of frustration at not being at command of the situation; riots erupting in the erstwhile peaceful town with disturbing regularity, the Jagannath Shetty Commission lending credence to baseless allegations, their plea for justice remaining unheard, and finally the missionary institutions poaching on their faith and traditions.
Navayaths today stand at the cross roads, affluent but totally powerless to mend their situations, considerably well-educated but none willing to take up the cause of education, enough material resources, yet few interested in setting up local enterprise, a good number of professionals but all desirous of taking wings, and to sum up, a marooned island of affluence.
This is where the Navayaths suffer from a unique dilemma. Perhaps deep in their psyche is embedded the love for the soil of Bhatkal, their traditional abode. The attachment to the town (or soil) is as much part of their identity as the Shafii maslak and the sweet Navayathi language. Yet their lust for seeking greener pastures abroad reduces their capacity to be of any worthwhile use to their land of origin. They, thus, live in a dichotomous world, sandwiched between their love for the land on one hand and lustre lure and the lucre of the exotic locations overseas on the other.
Perhaps some introspection would be necessary at this hour. The community would need to refix its goals. This is essential as well as possible for a small and closely knit community. The Navayaths need to correct the heavy tilt towards its new found love for the economic pursuits abroad. It needs to build bridges with local communities, local administration, create local employment opportunities. This will pay them in long term. For this they need not look far. Manipal is an illuminating next door example. The Pias of that tiny town have in the last five decades turned that town into the Mecca of fortune hunters. Had they too looked across the Arabian Seas, perhaps Bhatkal would have none to follow.
As India enters a new millennium, the BJP government is planning more draconian measures like TADA to reign in India’s
minorities and the oppressed, says HASAN MANSUR
India that is Bharat is going into the new millennium with considerable trepidation. The things to come -- as the little publicised actions of the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) reveal -- present a formidable challenge to a pluralistic India. The Sangh Parivar, the family of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that speaks in many voices, has infiltrated into all sections of the Indian polity with its dogma of one country, one people and one culture. The concept of a pluralistic culture is repugnant to the saffron alliance.
Taking the cue from the political West, the saffron band is waxing eloquent over the so-called Islamic terrorism, making Islam synonymous with terrorism. The sinister motive behind this is to whip up communal passions against a community which finds itself besieged. The classic syndrome of the enemy within and the enemy without is being revived with a veneer of sophistication that conceals the hatred felt towards a whole community.
According to the RSS, the enemy without is undoubtedly Pakistan; it has neither the inclination nor the logic to distinguish the Pakistani hawks comprising the ruling class including its army from its citizens who wish to build bridges of understanding with this country as much as we Indians do. Pakistan with its rulers and people is sought to be demonised and is accused of aiding ‘Islamic terrorism’.
Islamic terrorism is again a label that the RSS seeks to stick on the Indian Muslim community. As the country stands on the doorstep of a new millennium, a new legislation is on the anvil to promote prejudice, a serious effort to legislate the hatred in order to harass and persecute the Muslims. The Home ministry forwarded to the Law ministry a proposal for the enactment of a new legislation “to effectively curb subversive and terrorist activities by militants and insurgents in various parts of this country: The reasons advanced are the alleged rise of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, the north-east and the Naxalties in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. The Home ministry claims that the new law will be as ‘effective’ as that infamous TADA, yet it shall have a “human face”. What is worse, the Law Commission has endorsed this proposal, agreeing to the need for a permanent anti-terrorist law. The proposed legislation which reeks of colonial legacy and jargon comes as no surprise. India’s fifty and odd years of freedom had only three years of respite from detention laws, otherwise this country has laboured under various oppressive laws like the Preventive Detention Act, Maintenance of Internal Security Act and the National Security Act; the last is still with us.
This new proposed legislation emphasises in the section on the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, north-east and Punjab, the rise of militant fundamentalism. But it is silent on the rise of militant Hindutva fundamentalism whose most known face today is none other than Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani who led the infamous rath yatra and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Neither he nor his associates have ever been charged under TADA which they richly deserved.
In the proposed legislation, in section 4, of the disruptive activity in Sub Clause (d) after (ii), the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, the premier organisation spearheading the human rights movement in the country, in its memorandum to the Law Commission has recommended that any attack on minorities, Dalits and Tribals should be considered equally disruptive. But then the Act singles out Muslim fundamentalist violence, betraying the legislative effort to contain fundamentalist violence as indisputably partisan, i.e. it targets the Muslim community.
Failure to provide protection to minorities against violence and intimidation shows itself as a partisan Hindutva exercise. The new millennium will see the sharpening of the economic crisis in India, with globalisation reigning sovereign, mass unemployment with closure of indigenous crafts and industries, “merit” as the dubious criterion which will keep out the poor, specially, Dalits, Backward Classes and the poor among the minorities, not to speak of the onslaught of a consumerist culture. This in turn will witness the poor ground under poverty rising in protest, mobilising themselves as radical movements opposing the sell-out of this country and its resources to the multinationals by the Indian state. The only response the Indian state has, is to bring its entire oppressive machinery of police and army to crush dissidence, terming it subversive and terrorist and treating it as a “law and order” problem.
In the millennium to come, the minorities alone will not be the victims of the oppressive regime of the saffron alliance. The proposed draconian legislation will come down upon the poor among other minorities, Other backward Classes and the tribals and the Dalits. The liberal and secular intelligentsia backing these protests will not be spared either. Muslim youth wedded to social justice and democratic governance must be in the vanguard with their brothers and sisters of the exploited communities already cited, in the struggle to forestall the re-installation of the Manu code that seeks to perpetuate inequality, violence against its own people, contempt for women and the cult of the macho man resurrected by the Kargil fervour of a militarised state with nuclear teeth.
The writer is an eminent civil liberties activist
Prof. Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan
Islam is far ahead of other religions in prescribing the basic laws governing human behaviour. It guarantees relative happiness, but not absolute happiness as the latter centres around the individual cut off from the society
Man’s behaviour is often erratic and self-centred. He does not realise that he is a social animal. His survival depends upon the extent to which he is socialised and also re-socialised. He has to learn the art of adjustment to ground realities. He wants happiness. But he does not prepare himself to achieve this end. In the process, he violates certain social norms. It is possible he is unaware of the existence of all these codes of conduct, or he does not care for them. This negative dimension of his social life puts him into various types of traps. It is said that obedience is the first law of God. But he tries to derive pleasure in violating the very essential requirement for a happy life.
Man is generally governed by self-interest and in the process of achieving this, he loses self-control. He does not look beyond this parameter. To maintain peace and tranquillity, to maintain equality and justice, to maintain gender justice, he should subordinate himself to the general requirements of the society which shelters him and provides opportunities for survival and prosperity. He has to learn the various rules of conduct that the society has laid down from time to time. Islam is far ahead of other religions in prescribing the basic laws governing human behaviour. Islam guarantees relative happiness, but not absolute happiness as the latter centres round the individual cut off from the society. To gain the knowledge of basic laws one need not be a graduate or even for that matter an educated person. It is well known that despite serious efforts to eliminate illiteracy, the majority still suffers from this social handicap which curtails advancement in socio-economic dimensions of life. There are certain basic laws that can be understood and observed in practical life by all, both educated and uneducated.
Let me deal with a few such laws. One should know the laws of the land, besides the laws of one’s own religion. There are chances of a direct or indirect conflict between the two. But if an objective analysis is made, the existence of conflicts becomes more superficial. After all, both the religious laws and laws of the State are ultimately for the healthy development of the individual as a member of the society.
The Indian law lays down the minimum age for marriage for boys and girls as 21 and 18 respectively; whereas the Muslim law directly does not prescribe the minimum age. But the spirit of Islam does warrant the parents, particularly of the girls, to take into consideration the happiness, both physical and mental, of the girls. There is a wrong perception that Muslim girls get married as soon as they attain puberty which again depends upon many external factors. May be true that in the past such early marriages used to take place. But today, parents are not in such a hurry to do away with their young daughters.
Indian Constitution compels compulsory education between the 6th and 14th years of every child. There are specific laws made in this regard. Punitive clauses are inserted in the legal text. But Muslims generally lack this legal mandate. Illiteracy and early dropouts stem from lack of this legal requirement.
Child labour is rampant among the poorer classes of Muslims. Child labour has become a social reality and is often a must because of the economic conditions of the families. But the law of the land does not permit child labour, particularly in health hazardous sectors. The child not only gets ruined physically but also mentally. They are exposed to several dangerous social evils. Parents and employers need to be addressed in this regard.
Dowry menace is eating away the most essential Islamic mandate for man and woman as husband and wife. Islam has prescribed the simplest type of marriages which does not permit any type of vulgar luxury. So also the law of the land warrants action against those who violate Dowry Act. Bride burning is becoming a routine feature of the Muslim society too. Who is there to educate all concerned about both Islamic laws and laws of the land? Those who have social responsibility and accountability because of their better status in society have miserably failed. Religious leaders, the legal community and the intellectuals have become victims of their own negligence.
Islam is the only religion which has specifically prohibited liquor. Islamic mandate is universally applicable, no matter to which religion one belongs. The law of the land has also directed abolition of liquor to preserve human safety and dignity. But in reality, the existence of legal prescriptions is generally lacking. Muslim society is gradually exposed to the horrors of liquor. Women and children become widows and orphans. There is absolutely no damage control mechanism.
These are some of the areas which need to be looked into. There is an absolute necessity on the part of the NGOs and good-natured individuals to take up propagation of both the laws of the land and Islamic laws to ensure better health, happiness and prosperity.
By D.A. Sait
With the advent of the new millennium comes a new Idd for the Muslims. Shopping for this Idd is in full swing right now. The rich and the middle-class have been buying expensive clothes for their families and cheap saris and lungis for the poor as has been the practice all along. Dressed up to the nines many of them will throng the mosques on Idd day as usual to celebrate an Idd they are not entitled to, for the very act of entering a mosque is only an annual affair for them. No need for them to fast, no need to pray every day, no need to read the Qur’an. All that is required is to distribute a few cheap Saris and Lungis to the poor, if that, make copious use of perfumes and make for the mosque on Idd day where they can rub shoulders with pious Muslims who have fasted, who have prayed day and night, read the Qur’an, given alms during Ramadhan. To be seen in the mosque or Idd-gah among the true believers is all that they want in order to be recognised as Muslims, besides taking on Muslim names. I know a Muslim who once asked me why he should fast when he is quite healthy without it and has enough for more than three square meals a day, forgetting that Allah can snatch away both in the twinkling of an eye. I also know of other Muslims who fast for the first three days of Ramadhan and the last three days as if Allah had made a special concession in their case. They also feel that they are exempted from reading the Qur’an or praying five times a day. They are the new breed of Muslims thrown up for the coming millennium. What answer they will give to their Maker at their appointed time and how HE will deal with them is known only to the All-Knowing Allah. I can only pray that they see the light before it is too late.
On the other side of the picture there are also poor Muslims who don’t fast all the thirty days of Ramadhan. They fast for the first few days and then the last few days. Some of them probably feel that as they are hungry most of the time their lives are one long saga of fasting and there is therefore no need for them to fast. Their attempts at satisfying the requirements of Ramadhan are perfunctory at best. They can’t read the Qur’an because they were never taught reading it.
I know a couple of boys of this poor section of Muslim society who work in two-wheeler garages for a living and have no time to go to a Madrasa. So they cannot read the Qur’an. They just manage to attend the mosque for the first few days in the beginning and closing stages of Ramadhan. They cannot perform ‘vazoo’ properly for their non practising Muslim parents never taught them. Whose responsibility is it to show them the right way to Islam? If only their parents had been guided properly they, in their turn, would have guided their children the right way, and their children wouldn’t have been the wayward castaways they have turned out to be. What it all boils down to is that there is no organised attempt among our learned men to get at the grassroots of the Muslim society and evolve a new generation of conscious Muslims. Will that day dawn with the dawn of the new millennium?