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SACW #1. (02 Oct. 01)

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | Dispatch #1. 02 October 2001 http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex [ Global Vigil for Peace Actions on October 2, 2001, check out the website:
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1 6:19 PM
      South Asia Citizens Wire | Dispatch #1.
      02 October 2001

      [ Global Vigil for Peace Actions on October 2, 2001, check out the
      website: http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/vigil/ ]


      #1. Pakistan: At critical crossroads (Asma Jahangir)
      #2. India - Pakistan: Their disease is mistrust (Kuldeep Nayar)
      #3. India: Is Bajrang Dal different from SIMI, ask opposition parties
      (Deepshikha Ghosh)
      #4. India: Simmering Controversy: The Ban on SIMI (Yoginder Sikand)
      #5. India: Support historian, Professor D. N. Jha's, right to freedom
      of expression



      11 October 2001

      At critical crossroads

      By Asma Jahangir

      The horror and terror of September 11 has now turned into moments of
      suspense and worry. Pakistanis are familiar with acts of terrorism
      and its consequences. They, have, therefore, almost unanimously
      condemned the killing of innocent people in New York and Washington.
      There can be no justification for or rationale behind such acts.
      It does, however, call for reflection by the entire world leadership.
      The North needs to change its policies towards the South, just as
      much as the Muslim world needs to correct its rhetoric against
      "infidels" and promote a culture of democracy and tolerance within
      their own countries.
      The solution to terrorism does not lie in "waging wars" but in
      bringing those responsible to justice and in ensuring that
      governments do not tolerate or promote terrorist gangs. A measured
      response is called for because an all-out war may polarize the world
      further, thus playing into the hands of the very forces which
      encourage terrorism. Since the international alliance against
      terrorism claims to fight this battle to protect freedoms, it will be
      expected to be transparent in its moves. It will require greater
      resolve to uphold the norms of justice, particularly in the face of
      an adversary who spurns universal values of freedom.
      The issue of terrorism is one of the most controversial in
      contemporary international law and politics. Acts of terror have been
      glorified as "freedom fighting" and genuine freedom fighters have
      often been dubbed terrorists. The United Nations too failed to define
      "terrorism" because the term is emotive and highly loaded
      politically. The League of Nations failed in 1937 to determine the
      parameters of "terrorism" and since then there has been no serious
      attempt to define the term, which continues to be used selectively
      and vaguely. But whatever definition one accepts , the tragedy of
      September 11 will cover it all, particularly as none has so far
      claimed responsibility for it . It has violated the right to live
      free from fear and the right to life, liberty and security.
      The world has changed after September 11. Freedoms will now be
      compromised in favour of the pressing need for security. Despite the
      assurances of the West that its campaign will not discriminate
      against any religion or nationality, Muslims, Pakistanis and Arab
      nationals are experiencing more prejudice and bias. Airport
      terminals, employers, buyers and business houses of the West are
      being selective. The growing flow of refugees from Afghanistan will
      bring multiple problems for Pakistan. Despite foreign aid, our
      resources will suffer and our governance deteriorate. Many freedom
      fighters will be unfairly painted as terrorists and oppressive
      regimes will take advantage of this new wave of anger against
      In the wake of efforts for a new world of security, Pakistan must
      strive to acquire a new image. It must be seen as being independent
      of the West but no friend of terrorist regimes or gangs. Above all,
      we must make sincere effort at cleaning up our cupboards of all the
      skeletons we have gathered over the years. Let there be no ambiguity
      about our present position. It was not courage but plain good sense
      that compelled us to side with the international community on the
      question of terrorism. The people of Pakistan are paying for the sins
      of their past leaders. It ought to be made amply clear so that we are
      not led into another myth, another trap by our leaders.
      Pakistanis take crisis well. This has been no exception. There is no
      panic and the common people have not taken to the streets in support
      of the Taliban regime. Their lack of support for the Taliban is not
      because they respect the government of the US - whom they closely
      associate with the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians - but
      because there is a growing resentment against domestic jihadi groups
      and disrespect for the Taliban style of government. As such, there
      was a sigh of relief at the military regime's decision to join the
      world alliance against terrorism.
      It was not courage but preservation that drove President Musharraf to
      fall in line with the alliance. The few Jihadi groups and religious
      parties, who oppose the government's decision stand alone. The people
      have wisely decided to back the regime, not because they support army
      rule but because they have had enough of religious extremism. Tension
      between the army and the jihadi groups may bode well for the country
      and democracy but there will be a price to pay for the legacy of the
      No one can predict the turn of events to follow. It is difficult to
      grasp the full impact of the future shape of globalization in the
      wake of the terrorist attacks in the US. So far the emerging signs
      are not very helpful for Pakistan. We have a tendency to jump to
      conclusions. The signals given by the West, and reinforced by our
      government, is that we will be awash with dollars for our support to
      the world alliance against terrorism.
      Such expectations are unreal as the West will carefully watch a
      nuclear power with a military government at the helm and a tendency
      to promote obscurantist ideas and practices. The separate electorate
      system, the so-called Islamization of laws and periodic calls for
      jihad are breeding grounds for extremism - a spur for the worst type
      of conservative elements, which, given a chance, will keep us
      perpetually hostage to Ziaism.
      If we wish to turn the present crisis into an opportunity for
      ourselves, we will have to find the political will to radically
      change our domestic and foreign policies. It will require a sustained
      process towards democratization of Pakistan and promotion of higher
      human values and norms. As a first step the military government has
      to change its orientation and recognize the follies of the past. It
      has to take the lead in reining in the militant forces they so openly
      patronized at one time. At the same time, political forces have to be
      involved in mobilizing public opinion and in decision making at this
      critical juncture. Therefore, general elections should be held sooner
      rather than later.
      The government can force people to attend its rallies but it cannot
      command the receptivity and enthusiasm needed to carry the actual
      message of the moment far and wide. The armed forces can easily
      control the militants but recent events have shown that without
      involving the political forces, the military cannot motivate and
      mobilize the people sufficiently to express their strong disapproval
      of acts of terrorism carried out in the name of religion.
      Militant religious groups could easily exploit the emotions of a
      large conservative fringe in the country if they are seen to be taken
      to task because of the demands of the West and without visible
      support of the people of Pakistan. Any such backlash will only
      strengthen militant groups and marginalize the people , silencing
      their voices infinitely.
      The campaign against terrorism, as it is being called, will last
      quite a while, its first target being Osama bin Laden and the Taliban
      regime in Kabul. This puts Pakistan's foreign policy in a dilemma.
      The Northern Alliance, an avowed enemy of Pakistan, will be on board
      to push the Taliban southwards. As a reward, the Northern Alliance
      will ask for their piece of the cake when the booty in Afghanistan
      comes to be distributed. Pakistan will need better political and
      diplomatic skills along with a vision to play a positive role in the
      emerging context. It is, therefore, imperative that the democratic
      process starts immediately so that a broader-based government brings
      full force of public opinion to bear on the critical decisions that
      are clearly involved.
      Generally, politicians rather than generals have a better
      understanding of political dynamics and will be more willing to take
      a regional approach in the days to follow. Pakistan must acquire an
      image of a serious player with a fresh approach in building peace in
      the region. We are being led to the final crossroads with an
      opportunity to choose between being regarded as hidebound or counted
      as a mature player, capable of moving ahead with a new resolve and



      September 25, 2001

      The disease is mistrust
      by Kuldip Nayar

      Every time India and Pakistan face a problem, they tend to look
      towards America as if its nod is all that matters. This has been
      particularly so after the end of the Cold War. The approach is
      demeaning and smacks of servility. Yet for illusory gains, the two
      countries try to catch Washington's eye.

      The carnage in the US was an opportunity for both Prime Minister
      Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf to have
      discussed common dangers. They should have been on the hotline.
      The theatre of war is going to be this part of the world and we,
      the two countries, will be hit directly, without knowing for how
      long and to what extent. But the reaction of both has, however,
      been otherwise.

      New Delhi and Islamabad have been vying with each other in offering
      assistance to Washington. The manner in which Foreign Minister
      Jaswant Singh has been going about the task - a foreign television
      network even cut him short in his entreaties to support the US -
      gives the impression as if New Delhi felt that it had been left out.
      Jaswant Singh is still at it, persuading the US to use India.

      Yet initially, India did not figure among the countries President
      Bush feelingly mentioned for their prompt and generous assistance.
      It was obvious that Washington did not want to give India precedence
      over Pakistan or say something which would make Islamabad feel that
      it came next to New Delhi.

      Of course, Washington's main consideration to get Pakistan on its
      side was the location of the country, a state bordering Afghanistan
      for miles. The American administration has always felt happier with
      military dictatorships than democracies which have to think about
      people's sentiments and parliament's endorsements. Since Pakistan
      took time to throw its weight behind America, US Secretary of State
      Colin Powell was late in attending to Jaswant Singh's injured
      feelings that America was not asking India for any assistance.

      Islamabad's response has been on expected lines. It has taken no
      time in siding with Washington but has staged a drama for the public
      of being on the horns of a dilemma. Whether it has brought in
      Kashmir or not hardly matters. The problem is terrorism, not any
      territorial discussion. If Kashmir has any relevance at all, it is on
      the basis that terrorism in the state is financed, sustained and
      exported by Pakistan. Musharraf should have known by this time that
      the solution of Kashmir has to be found by the two countries, not a
      third party. From Tashkent to Lahore, all declarations and
      agreements speak about the principle of bilateralism and even the
      international community has accepted it.

      In any case, the war declared against terrorism is not on the basis
      of principles. Had it been so, Washington would have helped New
      Delhi long ago when it had provided it with the documentary evidence
      to prove that terrorists were trained, armed and sheltered by
      Pakistan. America woke up only when the fire of terrorism began to
      engulf it.

      Not long ago, India, Russia and America had announced their resolve
      to combat terrorism jointly. Washington established an FBI office in
      New Delhi. But all that was a mere exercise. Washington did not show
      any real interest. Several US think tanks, conscious of India's
      travails, also gave perfunctory sympathy. Now all of them are
      vociferous against terrorism. But they still do not point their
      finger at Musharraf who has given the name of jihad to terrorism.

      As in the past, Islamabad has come to believe that the war against
      terrorism has given it a chance to extract the maximum military and
      economic assistance from America. General Zia-ul Haq did the same
      thing during the Soviet Union's attack on Afghanistan. India knows it
      too well how those arms reached the hands of jihadis and others who
      are still using them in their killings in Kashmir. America should
      realise that terrorism will continue to thrive if politics is the
      criterion to select the enemy.

      It has taken several years but many in Pakistan have begun to
      realise how terrorists, primarily fundamentalists, have contaminated
      their society. And they feel that Pakistan has been playing with
      fire. But the people across the border are still not exposed to the
      democratic and secular India. The information reaching them is scanty
      and slanted. Some Pakistan journalists have gone back from Agra with
      a new image of India. Indian journalists themselves were surprised
      to find their counterparts from Pakistan so different from the
      stereotyped impression they had.

      Such contacts, such efforts to know one another had to establish a
      rapport despite the differences between the two governments is all
      what the lighting of candles at the Wagah border on the night of
      August 14-15 is about. It is a tender message of peace in the
      jingoistic atmosphere. The establishments on both sides, including
      the governments, have stonewalled the relationship. It is only the
      people-to-people contact that will break the crust of suspicion and
      lessen the cliché-ridden image of one another.

      A substantial part of the intelligentsia in India is against any
      joint Indo-Pak gathering or gestures like lighting candles at the
      Wagah border because it sees no difference between the government
      and the people. Officials have only strengthened the impression. A
      slow change is taking place in Pakistan but very slow. Still it is
      for the intelligentsia, which forms public opinion, to decide
      whether to tar people in Pakistan and the government with the same
      brush or do something to retrieve them. They do not have even an
      elected set-up.

      We should not forget that a long, protracted anti-Pakistan feeling
      changes into anti-Muslim feelings. This not only puts our society
      under strain, but poses a challenge to our secular polity, which is
      still not strong enough to resist all the buffets of communalism.
      Certain parties and individuals want a Hindu rashtra. Hating Muslims
      as well as Pakistan is part of their agenda. But that was not the
      ethos of our national struggle in which people from all religions
      participated. Nor does it represent our composite culture.

      After Partition, Mahatma Gandhi went on fast to make New Delhi pay
      some Rs 60 crore to Pakistan - its share from the division of
      assets. The war in Kashmir was raging at that time and Sardar Patel,
      then home minister, was deadly opposed to giving the money. But the
      Mahatma stood by his conviction that Independent India would not
      violate its moral obligation or the solemn promise given, whatever
      the price. The money was paid. Of course, this is related to values
      and norms, which are beyond the comprehension of people dripping with
      hatred and parochialism.

      Pakistan is going to be an intransigent neighbour for a long time to
      come. India has to learn how to live with such a country. Kashmir is
      only a symptom, not the disease. The disease is mistrust. This has
      to be dispelled. Events have meandered to a situation where, even if
      there is a conflict, there is no settlement; even if no hostility,
      no harmony and even if there is no war, there is no peace. We have
      to go beyond this. The lighting of candles may not shatter the
      darkness but the message of peace never goes to waste. In the land of
      Gandhi, we should never lose sight of this basic truth.



      Is Bajrang Dal different from SIMI, ask opposition parties

      By Deepshikha Ghosh, Indo-Asian News Service

      New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) Major opposition parties have revived a call to ban
      the Hindu right-wing Bajrang Dal, saying it is no different from a radical
      Islamic group that was proscribed by the Indian government last week.

      The Indian government is at a loss to explain why no action has been taken
      against the Bajrang Dal despite its blatantly communal activities, while it
      was quick to ban the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

      The government has justified the ban on SIMI saying the outfit was
      responsible for anti-national activities and had close links to terrorist
      groups and said at least four state chief ministers had asked for the ban.

      The home ministry acknowledged it has also received a recommendation from
      Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh to ban Bajrang Dal, the
      right-wing youth group that has ideological kinship to Prime Minister Atal
      Bihari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

      A senior home ministry official, while not denying they had received such a
      request, said: "There is nothing conclusive that could stand the test of
      judicial scrutiny."

      The Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) call it a
      blatant lie.

      "There is evidence of the Bajrang Dal's hand in the ruthless killing of
      Graham Staines. That should be conclusive for banning the outfit, so what is
      different in their case?" asked Congress leader Anil Shastri.

      Australian missionary Graham Staines was burnt alive with his two sons
      inside a car in Baripada, Orissa, in January 1999, allegedly by Dara Singh
      and a group of activists who were chanting slogans of Bajrang Dal.

      The Dal was responsible for burning copies of the Koran and inciting
      communal passions too, said Amar Singh, a leader of the Samajwadi Party. He
      claimed that there were several incidents of communal violence to the Dal's

      All opposition leaders assert that Bajrang Dal, perceived as foot soldiers
      of a radical Hindu ideology, has acknowledged publicly its role in a "Hindu
      awakening" that smacks of religious chauvinism not unlike SIMI's campaign
      for Islamic supremacy.

      "If the ban on SIMI is lawful, then the government should immediately ban
      the Bajrang Dal, which often organizes militant meetings across the
      country," said Sitaram Yechuri, politburo member of the CPI-M.

      Opposition leaders asserted that much as what SIMI has been accused of, the
      Dal had also organised weapon's training camps to prepare youth for a Hindu
      campaign to build a temple in place of the 16th century Babri mosque razed
      in Ayodhya in 1992.

      A Bajrang Dal chief declared in June this year that in the camps, "each
      trainer would train 100 people in the use of knives, sticks and rifles."

      In 1996, the group's activists were jailed in Mumbai for vandalizing the
      house of artist Maqbool Fida Husain for his nude paintings of a Hindu
      goddess. The group has also been known to impose moral strictures on public

      Reacting to the demand for banning Bajrang Dal, the BJP pointed out it was
      the Congress Party that had revoked a ban imposed on the Dal just after the
      demolition of the Babri mosque.

      "A tribunal set up by the Congress government cleared the Bajrang Dal and
      revoked its ban. Now they are again recommending its ban," BJP leader
      Narendra Modi said.

      The Congress countered that the Dal had since openly mounted a campaign
      against Christian missionaries and had grown bolder.

      --Indo-Asian News Service



      Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2001



      The recent banning of the Students Islamic Movement of India [SIMI]
      by the Government of India has created a considerable stir all over
      the country. Several lives have been lost in police firing on Muslims
      protesting against the ban in Lucknow. Human rights activists as well
      as Muslim leaders have been quick to accuse the government of
      hounding Muslims, using the SIMI ban as a pretext to stoke
      anti-Muslim passions and to derive political mileage therefrom. The
      government has been assailed for ignoring completely similar
      terror-spewing groups among the Hindus, such as, for instance, the
      Bajrang Dal, the VHP and the RSS, while focussing its attention on
      Muslim fundamentalist outfits alone.
      While the logic in this argument is indeed compelling, it is,
      in my view, no reason to ignore the very real danger that groups such
      as the SIMI pose, not just to the country as a whole but, equally, to
      the Muslims of India themselves. The SIMI is a hitherto little-known
      Muslim students organisation, set up in 1977 as the students’ wing of
      the Jama'at-i-Islami Hind. Owing, partly, to internal differences, on
      the one hand, and to the growing radicalism of the SIMI, on the
      other, the Jama’at soon decided to disassociate itself with it, and
      set up another students’ wing of its own, the Students Islamic
      Organisation (SIO). Since then, the SIMI has been an independent
      body. Exact figures of SIMI membership are unavailable, but it is
      estimated that it has some four hundred ‘ansars’ or full-time cadres
      and some nineteen thousand ordinary members all over the country. It
      is particularly strong in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but in
      recent years has managed to make inroads among Muslim students in
      southern India as well. Muslim students up to the age of thirty are
      eligible as members. The SIMI also has a wing for school-going
      children, the Shaheen Force, and a separate section working among
      female students as well. It also has a department for missionary work
      (da'wah) among non-Muslims, trying to impress them with its own
      version of Islam. It operates essentially through personal networks,
      meetings, conferences as well as the numerous magazines that it
      publishes in English as well as several Indian languages.
      The SIMI sees Islam as a complete world-view and ideology,
      governing every aspect of a Muslim's personal as well as collective
      life. Islam, it believes, has laid down a complete code of conduct
      for Muslims to follow, with detailed rules regulating such private
      matters as dress and food habits as well as collective affairs such
      as politics, economics and international relations. God, it believes,
      has set out a complete legal system for governance, as contained in
      the Qur'an and the Hadith, or traditions of the Prophet Muhammad.
      'Success' (falah) in this life and the world to come, it insists, can
      only be had if human beings are ruled by the laws of Islam. Hence the
      necessity of setting up an Islamic state, not just where Muslims are
      in a majority but all over the world, including India, home to the
      world's largest population of Muslims after Indonesia.
      For the SIMI, nationalism is a ploy hatched by the West to
      divide the Muslims. Hence, it is seen as a poisonous ideology, which
      must give way to a world-wide Islamic polity, the Khilafat, a
      pan-Islamic state ruled by a single Caliph (Khalifa). Secularism,
      which implies equal treatment of all religions by the state or the
      privatisation of religion, is seen as un-Islamic, for Islam is said
      to be all-embracing in its scope and to be far superior to other
      faiths. Likewise, democracy is fiercely condemned, for it is seen as
      replacing the ‘rule of God’ with the ‘rule of Man’. Religions other
      than Islam are all declared to be 'false' (taghuti), to be struggled
      against till the whole world embraces Islam. This involves a long
      drawn-out movement and because of the stiff opposition that
      non-Muslim 'enemies' are expected to put up, violent 'jihad' is to be
      waged if necessary. Islam is thus reduced to, what, for practical
      purposes, seems little more than a military programme. As the SIMI
      slogan so strikingly puts it:
      'ALLAH our Lord
      Mohammed [peace be upon him] our Commander
      Qur'an our Constitution
      Jihad our Path
      Shahadat [martyrdom] our Desire'.

      Among the major concerns of the SIMI has been the mounting
      spate of attacks on Muslims in India and elsewhere. It has been vocal
      in its protest against the killings of Muslims in India, the
      destruction of mosques, moves to impose a uniform civil code on all
      Indian citizens and so on, and in this it has shared the concern of
      other Muslim organisations in the country. But where it differs from
      them is in is shrill radical rhetoric, which is guaranteed to ensure
      that even the most legitimate of Muslim demands go unheard by
      sympathetic non-Muslims. In SIMI discourse, Hinduism is painted in
      the most lurid colours, and as an inveterate foe of Islam and its
      followers. The only way to salvation, then, is by converting to
      Islam. The latest issue of SIMI's Urdu monthly, 'Islamic Movement',
      possibly the last to come out since it has now been closed down
      following the ban, has photographs of angry-looking young men and
      bearded Maulanas protesting against atrocities on Muslims on
      Parliament Street, Delhi, waving banners announcing, 'Sudarshan,
      Singhal, Vajpayee, Advani' Embrace Islam for Eternal Success’.
      Since nationalism is seen as an anti-Islamic concept, the SIMI
      regards all Muslims throughout the world as one unit, as members of
      one, indivisible 'ummah'. Reports about atrocities on Muslims in
      other countries, from Afghanistan to Algeria, and from Bosnia to
      Burma, fill the pages of its magazines, and Muslims are exhorted to
      take to the path of armed struggle to liberate themselves from 'evil'
      non-Muslims. According to intelligence reports, the SIMI is said to
      have established close links with various Islamist groups in several
      other countries, including Osama bin Laden's network in Afghanistan,
      the Hizb-ul Mujahidin in Kashmir, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth,
      Saudi Arabia, the International Islamic Federation of Students'
      Organizations, Kuwait, and with Islamist students’ groups in Pakistan
      and Bangladesh.
      Among the possible reasons for the government's decision to
      ban the SIMI could be the mounting allegations of its having
      reportedly been involved in fuelling communal tensions in the
      country. Giving its radical rhetoric, it would be surprising if
      SIMI's attacks on other faiths and its strident championing of the
      dream of an Islamist Khilafat would not have further exacerbated the
      already tense communal situation in those parts of the country where
      it is active. If the banning of the organisation was part of a
      broader effort of the government to clamp down on all groups fanning
      communal hatred, the ban, then, may have well been justified. This,
      however, is not the case, for but no such action has been taken
      against venom-spewing Hindutva groups as well, whose close links
      with the government are well known. SIMI is now being accused of
      having been involved in some incidents of communal strife, but, for
      the most part, these accusations have yet to be substantiated. On the
      other hand, despite the enormous amount of evidence indicting
      Hindutva organisations in the killing of vast numbers of Muslims,
      Christians and others, not only has the government chosen not to take
      any action against them, but is continuing to patronise them and
      assist them in their sinister designs. Nothing more need be said to
      show the government's actual sincerity in combatting all forms of
      religious terror for what it is worth.
      While the outlawing of the SIMI may indeed serve a positive
      purpose, it might just as well boomerang, by further radicalising
      SIMI sympathisers for such groups are known to thrive in times of
      repression. It ought to be clear that bans on organisations that
      promote inter-communal conflict can serve little purpose in the
      absence of a sustained struggle against the ideology that informs
      them and that today threatens to transform itself into social common
      sense. If the government is at all serious about countering the likes
      of SIMI, it would do better to turn its attention to redressing the
      growing alienation and insecurity of Muslims in this country, attacks
      on their institutions and mosques, anti-Muslim pogroms and the like,
      all of which provide fertile ground for organisations like the SIMI
      to take root and for their appeals to fall on receptive ears.
      Never before has the need for seriously seeking to counter religious
      terror, Muslim, Hindu or of whatever other hue, been as urgent as it
      is today, but in this, the BJP-led government can hardly be expected
      to play an honest role, subservient as it is to the dictates of the
      RSS. It is for the Muslims themselves to take the lead in opposing
      groups such as the SIMI, for they must realise that radical
      Islamists, with their promises of an illusory utopia, are their own
      most inveterate foes, only providing further fodder to rabidly- anti
      Muslim Hindutva forces. For their part, Muslim and Hindu social
      activists seriously concerned with the way the country is hurtling
      down the road to perdition must turn their energies to fashioning new
      ways of understanding their own religions so that they can play a
      role in promoting peace, dialogue and social justice, issues anathema
      to the SIMI and its Hindutva counterparts, but of central concern for
      the very survival of the country and to the one thousand million and
      more of its Hindu, Muslim and other inhabitants.


      From: shishir_jha@...
      Subject: [FOIL] RE: Endorsement on Behalf of Dr. D. N. Jha
      Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2001 14:03:29

      Signature drive in support of historian, Professor D. N. Jha's, right
      to freedom of expression. His recent book "Holy Cow: Beef in Indian
      Dietary Traditions", has been banned by a Hyderabad court and he is
      facing the threat of arrest.

      Professor D. N. Jha, a historian at Delhi University, is facing the
      threat of arrest and possible bodily harm. What has a scholar of his
      repute done to face such a situation? He has written a book titled
      "Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Traditions", recently banned by a
      Hyderabad court, where he has provided historical evidence to show
      that beef eating was rather widely engaged by various Indian,
      including many Hindu, communities before its recent discouragement.
      The book is indeed a bold initiative given the attempts at cultural
      and political policing of India by the Hindutva forces. These forces
      led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad do not want this book to see the
      light of the day.

      It is precisely at such times of attack at our precious liberties
      that we need to vigorously debate new ideas and systematically
      challenge old mythologies. "Holy Cow" seeks precisely to do this by
      researching a diverse range of ancient Indian scriptures. We find
      that beef eating had been sanctioned and widely practiced much before
      the advent of Islam in India. In fact even the gods such as Indra and
      Agni appeared to have had special liking for different types of flesh
      like those of bull and cow. The Manusmriti too did not prohibit the
      consumption of beef. The book does help to establish that dietary
      habits cannot be held as rigid markers of community identity.

      D. N. Jha briefly explains in a recent interview, (The Week, August
      26) "I am for protection of the cow, but why this privilege only to
      the cow? Why not the buffalo? It is not my intention to hurt
      anybody's religious sensibilities." The point is that the book should
      be a source for further enriching and understanding our complex
      historical legacy rather than be seen by the Hindutva brigade as a
      symbol of cultural insult or the demeaning of our religious
      sensibilities. Attempts at curtailing our right to express difficult
      and bold issues has been tried before by many fundamentalist forces.
      However to pay "the price of liberty" we must show "eternal
      vigilance" and resoundingly defeat these forces.

      In order to combat such communal forces we are starting a signature
      drive in support of Professor D. N. Jha's right to express his
      particular historical views.


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