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SACW | 9 Dec. 2005 | Bigots in Bangladesh, Pakistan, US / Quake Update / War n Peace in Sri Lanka, Nepal / Minorities India

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 9 Dec, 2005 | Dispatch No. 2186 (Interruption Notice: Please note there will be no SACW dispatches between 10-17 December 2005) [1]
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2005
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 9 Dec, 2005 | Dispatch No. 2186

      (Interruption Notice: Please note there will be no SACW dispatches
      between 10-17 December 2005)

      [1] Bangladesh: May I have your attention please? (Zafar Sobhan)
      [2] Pakistan: Earthquake Update, 08 December 2005 (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
      + Report by AH Nayyar
      [3] Nepal’s highlanders and Sri Lanka’s islanders (Kanak
      [4] US / Pakistan: Fighting Theocracy (Manzur Ejaz)
      [5] Bangladesh: Journalists threatened by Islamic militants
      [6] Minorities in India's Freedom Struggle (Asghar Ali Engineer)



      December 04


      by Zafar Sobhan

      HOW many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't
      see?" I dare say that Bob Dylan didn't have Bangladesh in mind when he
      penned his famous line, but it seems to me that his words are
      extraordinarily appropriate when looking back at the rise of terrorism
      in this country over the past several years.

      One of the main problems in facing up to the terror threat in Bangladesh
      has been to get a significant segment of the population to actually
      acknowledge that there is even a threat that needs facing up to. Part of
      the problem can be neatly summed up by Upton Sinclair's aphorism that:
      "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary
      depends on his not understanding it."

      But now, for all those whose salaries and livelihoods and political
      futures and personal philosophies depend on their not understanding that
      there is a terrorist threat in Bangladesh, one hopes that the events of
      the past week have had the effect of finally concentrating their minds
      on the enormity of the menace and the need to address it head on.

      Now, even if their salary or something else depends on them not
      understanding it, their life and the life of everyone in the country and
      the country itself depends on their understanding that the extremists
      mean business and that continuing to ignore or to minimize the rising
      threat is no longer an option.

      There can be little doubt that the terrorists are merely getting warmed
      up and that the coming months will see further escalation in terms of

      The attack on the AL rally last August 21 and the assassinations of
      Ahsanullah Master and SAMS Kibria sent the message that no one is immune
      to being targeted.

      The serial bombings of August 17 sent the message that the terrorists
      possess the manpower, sophistication, and organizational capacity to
      strike anywhere in the country and at any time.

      And the suicide bombings of this week have sent the message that there
      are no barriers to how far the terrorists are willing to go in order to
      succeed in their mission.

      So is this the beginning of the end for the Bangladesh of our Liberation
      War dreams? Is the curtain about to fall on our way of life if we do not
      unite to confront this threat?

      Ever since I started writing this column some two years ago, I have had
      people suggest to me that I am being unnecessarily alarmist with respect
      to the extent of the extremist threat to the country.

      In fact, I have heard this argument made again and again over the years,
      and not merely about my column, but about the extensive reporting and
      editorial commentary that The Daily Star has devoted to informing the
      public about the extremist menace.

      Earlier this week, not three days before the twin suicide strikes on the
      court premises in Chittagong and Gazipur, no less an eminence than a
      former minister, who has held multiple portfolios in the service of
      different administrations, suggested to me that some newspapers were
      trying to destroy the country with their sky-is-falling reporting about
      the extremists.

      In this, he was merely echoing what a number of current ministers and
      the PM herself are on record as saying about the media's role in
      creating the spectre of the extremist menace.

      It never fails to astonish me that even in the wake of massive arms
      hauls and repeated terrorist attacks that people could continue to
      believe that the media is blowing things out of proportion, but this is
      what happens when people are willing to subjugate common sense and the
      national interest to partisan politics.

      One hopes that the twin suicide bombings on the court premises of
      Chittagong and Gazipur that killed nine and injured over eighty on
      Tuesday and the suicide bombing in front of the Gazipur deputy
      commissioner's office yesterday will once and for all bring home to the
      entire country the enormity of the threat that we are facing and the
      consequent danger of minimizing it for political reasons.

      In fact, it seems to me that the terror threat is so great today as to
      render all other debate about the direction of the country more or less

      The fact that the attackers were suicide bombings is extremely
      significant. These are the first such attacks on Bangladeshi soil and
      signal a dramatic escalation in the destructive tactics employed by the

      Some might argue that in absolute terms the number of extremists is very
      small and that even their wider circle of supporters is by no means
      extensive enough to constitute any kind of a threat to the country as a

      However, this argument is misguided. In the first place, even though the
      network of extremists and supporters may be small in absolute terms, no
      one knows what their actual numbers are. In the second place, their
      numbers, however small, are augmented significantly by the number of
      enablers that the extremists evidently have in place in key positions
      within the administration and government services. Numbers are not
      nearly as important as access to influential positions in the corridors
      of power.

      Finally, we would do well to remember that if the people as a whole, due
      to either indifference or intimidation, sit idle and inactive in the
      face of acts of terror and carnage, that it might take only a relatively
      small number of determined, ruthless, and unprincipled militants to
      throw the nation into utter chaos.

      This is not to suggest that Bangladesh today stands at the brink of an
      imminent take-over by the extremists or that we have reached anywhere
      close to the point of no return. However, if one is to err, it is better
      to err on the side of caution, and I want to make clear that the
      comforting bromides we tell ourselves about the moderation of the
      population and the unpopularity of the militants, so as not to have to
      face up to the fact that the core of the nation is being threatened, are
      keeping us from taking the steps we need to take in order to get to
      grips with this crisis.

      So what needs to be done?

      The first step is to focus on the reality and immediacy of the crisis at
      hand, and to stop worrying about the image of the country or what people
      outside of Bangladesh might think, which, I am sorry to say, appears to
      have been the principle consideration governing internal discussion of
      the issue, and to begin to engage in what we have still to initiate --
      an honest and forthright national discussion on the terrorist threat.

      We need to understand that right now this is the sole issue that we
      should be focusing on as a nation. The discussion of the terrorist
      threat -- and by extension discussion of what steps need to be taken to
      counter the threat -- is still dominated by the voices of those who, for
      purposes of political expediency or ideological conviction or perhaps
      just common or garden idiocy, refuse to see the truth of what is staring
      them in the face.

      The first step towards healing is always acceptance. And it is only when
      we accept where we are as a nation and how we got here that we can have
      a meaningful and purposeful discussion of how to pull ourselves back
      from the edge of the precipice.

      Zafar Sobhan is Assistant Editor of The Daily Star."



      PAKISTAN EARTHQUAKE UPDATE, 08 December 2005

      From: Pervez Hoodbhoy
      Professor of Physics
      Quaid-e-Azam University
      Islamabad 45320, Pakistan.

      Dear Friends,

      Many on this list have contributed very generously to the Foundation's
      efforts and will surely want to know from time to time where things stand.
      So here is another update on the earthquake situation, and of the relief
      work undertaken by the Eqbal Ahmad Foundation with the help of faculty
      and students of the physics department at Quaid-e-Azam University,
      Islamabad, as well as several others.

      As bitter cold sets into the mountains, we have had to make a tactical
      shift of goals. We had initially thought of reconstructing 100 houses
      but this looks difficult. Nor does it seem the most important thing to
      do now.
      There are 2 strong reasons compelling us to think afresh. First, at
      current temperatures, cement does not set well (or at all) and even if
      we could buy enough cement blocks and other materials, they could not be
      used until April except at low altitudes. For all the talk we hear about
      pre-fabricated houses, we were unable to see any in the areas we have
      gone to and so that too is a dead end. Second, the most urgent thing now
      is to protect the maximum number of people from snow, rain, and biting
      cold winds.

      We have become a little more ambitious than before and are spreading the
      net wider. Thanks to a massive international effort, we see that
      everyone now has a tent and also that thousands more are on the way. But
      even the best winterized tents (and most are not) will be hopelessly
      inadequate as winter progresses. This demands that our efforts should be
      concentrated on building primitive temporary shelters constructed from
      corrugated metal
      sheets that are screwed or nailed on to a wooden frame. These metal
      sheets, as well as the wood, will be reusable in the spring (without
      loss of materials) for construction of permanent houses. Some people
      have started living within tents placed within our shelters to protect them
      against the elements. Each shelter costs about $300 (minus wood) and we
      hope to set up several hundred shelters with the money currently at our
      disposal. Typically these shelters house 6-8 people of a family.

      Various members of our team have chosen different earthquake zones as
      their principal responsibility. They have made separate visits. Abdul
      Hameed Nayyar, Hajra Ahmad, and I returned yesterday after a 2-day visit
      to Chikar, Bagh, and Rawalakot. Working through reliable local groups
      and individuals is fundamental to our efforts, but proper selection and such
      monitoring visits are crucial for ensuring that the most deserving get
      the materials we have obtained for them. Also, prevent pilferage of
      resources is an important consideration. This was Dr. Nayyar's third
      visit to these areas. His detailed report is appended below.

      I would like to share some additional observations with you and elicit
      your response to item 2 below:

      1) Two months later, the visible devastation has diminished but only
      slightly. Thousands of collapsed structures and buildings lie abandoned,
      and rubble has been cleared only in a few places. One does not see large
      scale reconstruction anywhere. But life is limping back towards a kind
      of normalcy. Aftershocks are becoming weaker but people are still too
      frightened to sleep indoors even where walls are still standing. This
      will surely change as the chill becomes yet more bitter.

      2) A few schools have reopened but classes are held outdoors because the
      buildings are unsafe with leaning walls and deep cracks. According to
      the government 16,000 schools were destroyed or badly damaged. We were
      impressed to see that many schools in Kashmir are coeducational even up
      to the matriculation level, and standards appear quite a bit better than
      in Punjab. Question: should EAF use part of your donated money for
      reconstruction of school buildings? Please let me know how you feel
      about this. It IS important.

      3) For the jihadist organizations the earthquake has been a godsend.
      Those that were formally banned by the Pakistan government are fully
      operative and highly visible in all earthquake zones, both Kashmir and
      NWFP. In open bazars and town centres one sees the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba
      (aka Jamat-ud-Dawa), Jamat-e-Islami, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba,
      Al Rasheed Trust, and others. They flaunt their flags and weapons, and
      drive in SUVs and vehicles, presumably given to them by the Pakistan
      army and intelligence agencies. These organizations have a new claim on
      legitimacy, and will surely find it easier to find more recruits because
      they acted promptly and efficiently. But surprisingly, Kashmiri
      nationalists, who are remarkably secular, have also done well in
      earthquake relief efforts and are gaining back some of the ground that
      they had lost to Islamic parties and organizations. The nationalists are
      not fond of Pakistan. We were amused to hear conversations between
      themselves where they would refer to us as "visitors from Pakistan".
      Islamabad is barely 30 miles away (as the crow flies) from Kashmir.

      4) People have mixed feelings about the army's efforts, which are
      immensely better now than in the week after Oct 8. In some places the
      army is having a rough time. It has taken upon itself the task of
      reconstruction, but is finding out the hard way that this really needs a
      civilian infrastructure. Disaster relief and management are complex
      tasks and easily messed up. We were told that near Rawalakot a crowd of
      15,000 stormily protested against the arbitrary manner in which the
      criterion for receiving relief money ($400 per household) had been
      changed, and against alleged irregularities. The earthquake has exposed
      Azad Kashmir's
      government as no more than cardboard puppets to be set aside, or
      manipulated at will, by the military rulers of Pakistan. The AJK
      government has had no role to play in the earthquake disaster management.

      Things are moving, and fortunately the grim predictions of mass deaths
      seem wrong. Thanks again, and with best regards.



      Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2005 00:09:02 +0500

      Pervez Hoodbhoy, Hajra Ahmad and I visited Kashmir with Mr. Arif Shahid
      on Sunday and Monday (4, 5 December 2005). We went to Muzaffarabad,
      Chikar, Bagh and Rawlakot. The purpose was to monitor progress of the
      work on temporary shelters (supported by the Eqbal Ahmad Foundation and
      SDPI) and to take a measure of additional demand. The work is being
      undertaken in 3 areas: Chikar, Bagh and Rawlakot. From Muzaffarabad,
      Prof. Khaleeque also joined us to Bagh.

      Chikar: Except for the last consignment of sheets for 14 shelters that
      left Rawalpindi on Monday, 5th December, all the sheets that were sent
      there for 40 shelters had been distributed. We visited two shelters that
      were being lived in, some which were ready or almost ready, and others
      for which wooden frame had been erected. Because the shelters were given
      to widely dispersed locations, it was not physically possible to check
      each of them. The local organizers said they needed to cater to a larger
      demand, and we promised to supply sheets for 50 additional shelters.

      Some people had enough wooden planks to use in making shelter walls and
      hence used the donated sheets for roof only, making larger shelters.
      Some had placed the sheets in inverted V shape on top of the tents they
      had received. This was another good solution, except that it would not
      allow lighting fire for heat.

      Insulation of shelters was a problem. When we suggested putting up hay
      stacks on the outside, a valid objection was that it would easily catch
      fire and destroy the entire structure. We are presently working on a new
      scheme in which we would supply iron wire nets to be fixed to the CGI
      sheets on outside walls and plastered with mud. The nets should be able
      to hold the plaster. We are going to test it here, and check the cost of
      iron nets before committing to this solution. The nets would be reusable
      later for making chicken coops when the dwellers get down to making
      permanent houses after the winter.

      In Chikar, we also met army officers. They told us that they were also
      following our prescription by distributing sheets to build shelters on
      our design. In fact, at places we needed to ask if the shelter was a
      part of the EAF/SDPI program or donated by the army.

      Bagh: We could not visit any site because we reached there after dark.
      Bagh is next to a river bed, but the places we have chosen for relief
      shelters are high up on the mountains around it. The roads up are very
      bad and it would take a whole day to check the sites. Besides, the team
      there had distributed the sheets late, and according to them, no
      shelters were ready by then. Cutting wood for frames is a major problem,
      mobile cutters being in high demand. They had received 823 sheets and
      had distributed 473
      to 32 households. With the remaining, they were hoping to get 52
      shelters completed within a week. We had a meeting with a few young
      members of the team, to whom Mr. Arif Shahid described his successful
      experience in Rawlakot of issuing sheets to only those who had completed
      the wooden frames. This area also needs many more shelters. They had a
      list of 16 villages that needed at least 50 shelters each. We promised
      to supply sheets for another 50 shelters.

      We also discussed the possibility of supporting destroyed private
      schools for reopening with a view to not only putting children back into
      schools but also providing employment to teachers who were presently out
      of job.

      Rawlakot: We stayed overnight in Rawlakot and had the taste of the
      severe cold. It has not snowed yet in the town or up in the places we
      are providing shelters to, but it was biting cold.

      In the morning we visited far off places like Chak Bazar, Khai Gala, Ali
      Sojal and Khorhi Channa, and saw a number of shelters made or under
      construction. In one place in particular we saw shelters being made from
      our help by a community of Christian sweepers who had faced
      discrimination even in relief, we were told. Many frames were waiting
      for sawing machines. The list of further need is very large here too. We
      were told
      that more people had erected frames in anticipation of sheets than those
      on the initial lists. Twenty nine additional ready frames were waiting
      for sheets in this area. Here also we promised to send sheets for
      another 50 shelters. The local organizers are preparing lists of many
      more needy households.

      We hope to send off 3600 sheets for 150 shelters in each of the three
      locations in a week or so. We have already sent material for 132
      shelters. If our insulation idea works, we will also send wire nets with
      detailed instructions.



      The News International
      December 09, 2005


      by Kanak Mani Dixit

      The ebb and flow of war and peace continues at the two corners of
      Southasia. The Maoist insurgents of Nepal have decided, at least at
      their very top echelons, to opt for open competitive parliamentary
      politics. They have extended their unilateral ceasefire by a month and
      all but ceased their rhetoric of revolutionary war. But the state
      establishment is unmoved.

      At the other end, past the tip of the Subcontinent, a chauvinistic
      inaugural speech by the newly elected president, Mahinda Rajapakse,
      suddenly jeopardised four years of precarious peace achieved and
      maintained by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and opposition leader
      Ranil Wickramasinghe. The Tamil Tiger leader Prabharakaran rejected the
      speech and two landmine attacks in Jaffna this week killed 12 soldiers.
      Rajapakse on Wednesday asked Norway to resume mediation.

      While Nepal sees the rays of a possible new dawn, Sri Lanka is suddenly
      pushed back to the brink of a familiar abyss. It is time to hold your
      breath in Sri Lanka and Nepal.

      There are significant aspects of the Tamil ‘liberation war’ and the
      Maoist ‘people’s war’ which make the two situations dissimilar. The only
      lesson from Sri Lanka for Nepal is that a ceasefire can hold even if the
      peace process is stuck.

      Nepal’s conflict can’t be resolved by studying the resolution in Sri
      Lanka, Mozambique or Sierra Leone. Resolution is always specific to the
      history of a country and the political and geopolitical matters specific
      to that society. The millions of dollars spent by the multilateral
      institutions, assorted think tanks and NGOs in taking willing Nepali
      politicians, administrators, activists and journalists on conflict
      resolution junkets to Jaffna and Geneva have served a limited purpose.
      The answers were always in the hills and plains of Nepal not in the pubs
      of Dublin nor the seminar hall of the Carter Centre.

      If there was anything Nepalis could learn in Sri Lanka, it wasn’t in
      Jaffna but in the rural areas of the deep south where the Marxist JVP
      waged two uprisings in 1971 and 1989. They have much more in common with
      Nepali Maoists than the Tigers. Also, it would be instructive to learn
      how the JVP has in the past decade converted itself into a mainstream
      party that now plays a king-maker role in parliament.

      While the JVP worked within the Sinhala communities of the south, the
      Tamil Tigers were and are a different cup of tea altogether. Their
      ruthless war has been based on identity politics. These are more
      virulent, fanatic and last longer. After all, it was the Tigers who more
      or less invented suicide bombings. The Maoists of Nepal, while they have
      tried to cynically exploit the susceptibilities of downtrodden ethnic
      communities, have been fighting what they identify as a class war. In
      theory, this is more easily resolved politically and by tinkering with
      the state’s delivery mechanisms rather than with the nature of the state

      While the LTTE takes significant support from the Tamil diaspora, not
      only are the Nepali rebels home-grown, the overseas Nepali working class
      does not form a significant source of funding for them. The military and
      state administration of the LTTE comes close to resembling that of a
      state, whereas the Maoists are ragtag in comparison. The LTTE has heavy
      artillery, a navy and it is rumoured even light aircraft. Nepali Maoist
      weaponry is almost entirely looted from the police and army. The tigers
      have a massive kitty in foreign banks; the Nepali Maoists on the other
      hand stash cash they got from looting banks and sponging off everyone
      from industrialists to the peasantry.

      The LTTE has carried out massive bombings in the heart of Colombo
      whereas the Maoists have left Kathmandu Valley strategically untouched.
      The Tigers specialise in assassinations of national leaders, both
      Sinhala and Tamil, whereas the Maoists concentrated on the ‘removal’ of
      local teachers, activists and political leaders in rural areas.

      No one would deny the injustice done by chauvinist Sinhala nationalism
      to the Tamil nor the burden of exploitative history on the rural people
      of Nepal. But by seeking to bring change through the gun, both movements
      have postponed the people’s future.

      Till a month ago, Sri Lanka had seemed headed for shore while Nepal was
      being tossed around rudderless in the middle of a typhoon. Today, it
      seems the islanders have suddenly been overtaken by the storm while the
      highlanders have found unexpected hope.

      The writer is a journalist based in Kathmandu



      Daily Times
      December 07, 2005

      by Dr Manzur Ejaz

      Do we have an alternative ideology that can motivate the people to outdo
      the mullahs in earthquake relief efforts or political activism? We don’t
      have that ideology because we are oblivious or contemptuous of our own
      secular traditions. We are living in a vacuum. Americans will fight back
      the Evangelist in their own way; the question is how will we

      Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a
      leading Jewish church-state watchdog, has signalled a sharp shift in
      policy by directly attacking several prominent religious right groups.
      He warned that the Evangelical right had made alarming gains in social
      and political influence and said that their aims included
      “Christianising America.” He called for a tougher and more unified
      Jewish response.

      Having been duped by the Evangelical right’s hostility towards Muslims
      and unconditional support for Israel, this is the first time that a
      prominent Jewish group has realised the dangers of a theocratic
      Christian state. The alarmists argue that the Jews have been persecuted
      in every theocratic state and the US will be no exception. They have
      started realising that religious persecution will not end with Muslims;
      it will extend to other minorities. Naturally, the Jewish groups will
      fight the theocracy within the context of Western tradition by forging
      alliances with liberal Christians and other progressive groups.

      For the last 25 years, we have been warning our American friends about
      the direction the country was headed in. We would share our Pakistani
      experience with them but they would arrogantly disregard it; what
      happens in a poor developing country cannot afflict the most advanced
      capitalist nation. They have been proven wrong. Present-day America is
      ruled by Christian Wahhabis.

      Their denial is not surprising: 30 years ago, Pakistani intellectuals
      never realised that their country was slipping into theocracy and
      sectarianism. More importantly, Pakistan’s so-called progressive
      intelligentsia — influenced by Western intellectual traditions and with
      no knowledge of their own past struggles — has failed to develop an
      alternative ideology. They have no respect for their own progressive
      intellectual traditions and are not capable of articulating a new one.
      This is what Boota Sain has been saying for the last 30 years.

      Boota Sain was introduced to us in the 1970s as a kind of malang with
      unusual insights. He was a factory labourer then but when I ran into him
      a few years ago he had gone into a textile related business. He has
      university- and college-going children and has picked up some English
      terminology over the years. A devotee of Punjabi classical poets his
      opposition to religious parties has not only been consistent but a way
      of life.

      When asked why he follows a philosophy that concentrates on inner
      purification and does nothing about making worldly life better, he
      sometimes laughs and on other occasions gets irritated. He says that
      there is nothing wrong with having a purer inner-self instead of a
      greedy and corrupt one. Furthermore, that his devotion had less to do
      with inner purification and more with setting people free of the mullahs.

      He always questions “Baoo Sahib, how do you tell people not to follow
      mullahs? Would you say that there is no religion?” In his view the only
      way to break the mullah’s grip is by preaching that religion and God is
      a personal matter which should not be brought into politics. “Let the
      politicians make laws that suit the people and leave the love of God
      alone or to your own heart.” He believes this to be the core of Sufi

      Over the three decades that I have known him, Boota Sain has picked up
      some modern political terminology as well. So, he contends that the
      approach of our buzargs (the elders or sages) was the best way to
      introduce secularism in society. According to him, it is the conspiracy
      of the mullah-style people to portray these buzargs as people who merely
      preached passive inner purification. Sometimes, mullahs come in beards
      and sometimes in three-piece suits, he jokingly adds.

      To prove his point Boota Sain asks about the disputes between Baba Farid
      and the qazi of Pakpattan or Bulleh Shah and the mullahs of Kasur. Why
      would a qazi get upset if it was only a matter of inner purification?
      Why did the mullah, qazi and ruler of the city gang up against Farid and
      kill his youngest son? Why did they refuse to pray at Bulleh Shah’s
      death? Because they [the Sufis] challenged them on every aspect of life.

      Farid sought to change the institution of the mosque where he insisted
      on dancing and listening to music. He would host Hindu yogis and all
      sorts of anti-establishment people at his quarters. Does any of you dare
      go to the mosque, listen to music and dance there, Boota Sain challenges?

      Boota Sain claims that these buzargs were not different from other
      intellectuals and artists. “Did Ghalib plough the fields? Did Iqbal do a
      mason’s work? Has any of you (i.e. intellectuals criticising these
      buzargs) or Faiz Ahmad Faiz or Munir Niazi, spent days on tractors,” he
      asks. “Our buzargs lived like the thinkers and philosophers of the rest
      of the world. I hear Greek philosophers also lived like them in dargahs
      (monasteries),” he adds. Probably, Boota refers to the academies of
      Plato and Aristotle as dargahs.

      Boota Sain points out that Baba Farid’s eldest son was a farmer while
      his middle son was in the army. His point is that if these buzargs were
      interested only in inner purification, their family members would not
      have opted for worldly businesses.

      Boota Sain may be too emotional about these matters but he forces you to
      think about the means and ways to fight an oppressive state supported or
      dominated by theocracy? This is not the first time that religious
      fundamentalism has threatened human liberties. Even the most liberal
      Mughal, Akbar, was forced to ban alcohol just as the most enlightened
      ruler of our times, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, did in the 1970s. Qawwali and
      dance were banned before Aurangzeb’s rule. Religious discrimination by
      the state was, through taxation and other laws, so pervasive that even
      Muslim minority sects were not spared.

      How could people fight an oppressive theocratic state when ideology was
      based on religion or metaphysical theory? The intelligentsia of that
      time could not have fought theocracy with Marxism or Western style
      secularism, ideologies that didn’t exist or were alien to the local
      culture. And, if secular ideology had to be carved out of the indigenous
      intellectual traditions and resources, what could be done other than
      personalising God and taking religion out of the socio-political arena?
      If fighting for free expression (music, dancing and other arts) and
      religious, social and gender equality was not an active struggle for a
      progressive secular state, what else was?

      And how do we fight the theocratic oppressive state in our own times? Do
      we have an alternative ideology that can motivate the people to outdo
      the mullahs in earthquake relief efforts or political activism? We don’t
      have that ideology because we are oblivious or contemptuous of our own
      secular traditions. We are living in a vacuum.

      Americans will fight back the Evangelist in their own way; the question
      is how will we!



      Committee to Protect Journalists
      330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA
      Web: www.cpj.org

      BANGLADESH: Journalists threatened by Islamic militants

      New York, December 8, 2005 —The Committee to Protect Journalists is
      alarmed by death threats from a banned Islamic group against journalists
      in four towns and cities in Bangladesh. Local media and CPJ sources said
      Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which is suspected of having
      killed up to 20 people in bombings in the last nine days, has threatened
      journalists in Chittagong, Faridpur, Barisal and Gaibandha. It has also
      threatened the lives of officials, police officers, and teachers.

      “These threats are clearly intended to inhibit critical coverage of
      Islamic militants,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “During this
      crisis, we urge authorities to take these warnings seriously and to
      safeguard journalists and others whose lives are in danger.”

      In a hand-written letter delivered to the Chittagong Press Club on
      December 6 the JMB threatened to kill 22 journalists whom they called
      “betrayers,” and to blow up the press club in the southern port city.
      Journalists Sumi Khan, Samaresh Baidya, Abul Momen, Farok Iqbal,
      Biswajeet Chowdhury, and Anjan Kumer Sen were among those named in the
      letter, according to the Dhaka-based group Media Watch. The press club
      has filed a police complaint. It recently made plans to install security
      cameras and a metal detector at the club entrance.

      Baidya, a senior reporter with the Bhorer Kagoj daily, told CPJ that he
      believed he was on the list of 22 because of his reporting on Islamic
      militant groups. The death threat was the second he had received this
      year. Police took six months to respond to his complaint in March about
      a threat from a student group, Baidya said.

      He said he was still reporting but had limited his movements because of
      the threats. “I know they can do anything any time,” he said.

      On December 4, the press club in Faridpur, a town west of the capital
      Dhaka, received a letter claiming to be from JMB and threatening to kill
      journalists who oppose jihad (holy struggle). The office of the daily
      Ajker Barta in the southern town of Barisal received a letter from JMB
      threatening to kill 12 people, including journalists, by December 14,
      according to The Daily Star. In the northeastern town of Gaibandha, a
      letter claiming to be from JMB threatened to kill six local journalists
      reporting for national publications if they continued to write against
      the group.

      The threats have sparked widespread fear among journalists covering
      recent bombings and writing about JMB, local sources told CPJ.

      Authorities have blamed JMB for a series of suicide bombings, the first
      ever in Bangladesh, which began with twin bombings in Gazipur and
      Chittagong on November 29 that killed 11. Two days later, another bomb
      near the courthouse in Gazipur killed at least one person and injured
      two journalists. A suicide bombing targeting a cultural organization in
      the northern town of Netrakona today killed seven people and wounded
      more than 50, Reuters reported.

      Committee to Protect Journalists
      330 Seventh Ave, 11th Floor
      New York, NY 10001



      Secular Perspective
      Dec.1-15, 2005


      by Asghar Ali Engineer

      The new generation of Indians is hardly in know of the
      role played by minorities in our freedom struggle.
      They think only majority community fought for it. In
      case of Muslims partition made them culprits for
      dividing the country Firstly all Muslims were blamed
      for partition and secondly it was thought they played
      no role in the freedom of the country. It is this view
      with which the whole new generation has grown. Even
      Maulana Azad‚s role has been obscured and our
      textbooks on history of our freedom struggle either
      totally ignore him or mention him just casually.

      In fact besides majority community all other
      minorities have played important role in freedom
      struggle. The Sikhs (Sikhs are a minority with a
      distinct identity and they resent being clubbled with
      Hindus) played glorious role and who can ever forget
      the supreme sacrifice made by Bhagat Singh. He has
      become an icon of Indians‚ hearts. Besides Bhagat
      Singh Sikhs played glorious role right from beginning.
      Who can ever forget Ghadar Party which was formed
      mainly by Sikhs and they went to Canada and America to
      fight for India‚s freedom.

      The role of Dalits also has been ignored by and large
      and also that of tribals from different parts of
      India. While much light has been thrown on the role of
      Mangal Pandey (recently a film also has been made on
      him), a Brahmin, one hardly finds mention of various
      Dalit leaders who also played role in 1857 war of
      independence. The Christians and Parsis too were in
      the forefront of freedom struggle. Who can forget
      Dadabhai Naoroji and Phirozshah Mehta besides others?

      But today we find hardly any mention of these persons
      who never hesitated to throw themselves in the
      struggle for freedom of our country. But our school
      textbooks hardly mention them. If the role of these
      communities is not highlighted what of Muslims who are
      thought to be culprits for dividing the country. And
      during the NDA rule even Father of the Nation
      Gandhiji‚s role was sought to be de-emphasised.

      I would like to deal with the role played by Muslims
      in freedom struggle, as this is important for
      de-communalising thinking of our people today.
      However, before we proceed further I would like to
      point out that while it is important to discuss the
      religious identity of people who fought for our
      freedom it is not our intention to communalise the
      role of those individuals in history. Those Sikhs,
      Christians, Parsis, Muslims and Hindus fought for
      freedom as they loved their motherland and not simply
      because they belonged to this or that community. Yet
      in the Indian subcontinent since nineteenth century
      religious identity became main identity as the British
      rulers divided us on the basis of religions and each
      individual despite his/her patriotism also considered
      himself/herself as belonging to this or that
      community. It is for this reason we have to talk of
      role of minority communities in freedom struggle.

      Unfortunately the minority communities have been
      marginalized in every respect including in respect of
      their role in freedom struggle. The history of freedom
      struggle as also that of medieval period is being
      written today from majoritarian perspective. It thus
      becomes necessary to emphasise the role of minority
      communities. While Mangal Pandey, a Brahmin‚s role is
      glorified in the 1857 war of independence (recently a
      film also has been made on him) the role of dalits has
      been completely ignored or if at all mentioned, it is
      mentioned only on the margin. The tribals also played
      important role but hardly mentioned in history books.

      Who can ever forget the role of Sikhs (though Sikhs
      are often clubbed with Hindus but Sikhs themselves
      resent being so clubbed) in freedom struggle. The
      Ghadar party mainly consisted of Sikhs and Ghadar
      Party played very important role. The members of
      Ghadar Party migrated to Canada and United States in
      early twentieth century to fight for India‚s freedom.

      The Namdhari Sikh movement, which came to be known as
      Kuka movement and consisted of lower caste Sikhs from
      artisan class and poor peasant started after
      occupation of Punjab by the Britishers posed a great
      threat to the British rule and challenged the role of
      Sikh elite including the Mahants of Sikh temples. It
      was the first radical challenge to the British rulers
      in Punjab. On the other hand the „Punjab Unrest of
      1907‰, which was spearheaded by Ajit Singh‚s Bharat
      Mata Society or alternatively called
      Anjuman-e-Muhibban-e- Watan (i.e. organisation of the
      lovers of the country) was a secular, political
      struggle of the peasantry against the destructive
      economic policies and laws of the British Government.

      Similarly, our history of the freedom struggle ignores
      the role played by lower class Muslims led by the
      orthodox ulama. The Muslim masses were mostly from
      artisan classes and belonged to poor peasantry. Most
      of the ulama came from these sections of Muslim
      society and they fought British rule tooth and nail.
      When Indian National Congress (INC) was formed in 1885
      Maulana Qasim Ahmed Nanotvi (who was founder of Darul
      Ulum, Deoband) issued a fatwa urging Muslims to join
      INC to fight against British rule. He also got fatwas
      issued by several other ulama on similar lines and
      published them in a book form called Nusrat al-Ahrar
      (help for freedom fighters) and as a result of his
      efforts large number of Muslims joined INC.

      It is true Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, an ardent advocate of
      modern education among Muslims and founder of
      Mohommedan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO) opposed
      Muslims joining the Congress but it was because of his
      priority to modern education rather than politics and
      not because of lack of patriotism. Also, he was
      representing the interests of upper classes of Muslims
      i.e. ashraf whereas the ulama in north India
      represented interests of lower class Muslims know as

      But realities in western India were quite different.
      There Badruddin Tyebji, the retired acting Chief
      Justice of Bombay High Court urged upon Muslims to
      join INC and himself joined it with three hundred
      Muslim delegates and was elected President of INC. It
      is interesting to note that three presidents of INC
      were from minority communities in those days.
      Badruddin Tyebji, a Muslim, W.C. Bonnerjee, a
      Christian from Bengal and Phiroz Shah Mehta, a Parsi.
      Dadabhai Naoroji was a critic of British economic
      policies and was devoted to the cause of India‚s

      The ulama, particularly of the Deoband School, were
      greatly devoted to the cause of Indian freedom.
      Maulana Mahmudul Hasan of the Reshmi Rumal (silk
      kerchief) conspiracy fame was stauch supporter of
      freedom movement. Another important name in this
      respect is that of Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi. Prof.
      Barkatullah also played key role in fighting the
      British in those days.

      In fact a provisional Azad Hind Government was formed
      in Afghanistan with Raja Mahendra Pratap as President
      and Prof. Barkatullah as Prime Minister. The Ulama
      urged upon Muslims to migrate from India to
      Afghanistan as they had declared India as Darul Harb
      under the British rule. Thousands of Muslims migrated
      and faced great hardships. Though it was not a wise
      decision but that is a different matter. What we
      intend to show here is that Muslims played very
      important role in freedom struggle.

      Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi was very enthusiastic
      fighter and when he was forced out of Afghanistan by
      the Afghan King he migrated to Russia through Central
      Asia and witnessed revolution in Russia and was
      greatly influenced by Russian revolution. Another very
      important figure is Maulana Hasrat Mohani who stood
      for complete freedom along with Tilak. He was great
      admirer of Tilak and opposed the Congress policy of
      Home rule in those days. He used to publish an Urdu
      magazine, which was confiscated by the British along
      with his press and his valuable books were also
      destroyed by the British police.

      Mention must be made here of Maulana Husain Ahmed
      Madani, the then President of Jam‚at-ul-ŒUlama-I-Hind
      who was an important ally of INC and was totally
      opposed to the partition of the country. He opposed
      two nation theory and wrote a book Muttahida Qaumiyyat
      aur Islam (Composite Nationalism and Islam). It is a
      seminal contribution by the Maulana. He argued against
      separate nationalism and quoted from the Qur‚an to
      support his contention. He gave example of the Holy
      Prophet who migrated from Mecca and set up a composite
      city state in Madina with Muslims, Jews and pagan
      Arabs constituting one political community described
      as ummah wahidah. All communities were given full
      freedom to practice their religion and charged with
      responsibility to protect Madina from outside attack.

      Many other Muslim leaders, besides Maulana Azad, who
      played an important role in freedom struggle and stood
      for united nationalism, were Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
      (Sarhadi Gandhi), Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. Ansari, Rafi
      Ahmad Qidwai and others. We must also mention the role
      of Ali Brothers i.e. Maulana Muhammad Ali and Shaukat
      Ali who play key role in Khilafat movement along with
      Mahatma Gandhi and also their mother Bi Amma.

      We cannot mention the role of several others in this
      article for want of space. But it becomes obvious that
      Muslims played very important role in freedom movement
      and also opposing two -nation theory propounded by a
      small minority of Muslims belonging to upper class.
      Large number of Muslims belonging to artisan classes,
      poor peasantry and backward caste Muslims,
      particularly the All India Momin Conference vehemently
      opposed partition of the country. It would, therefore,
      be wrong to blame all Muslims for partition of the
      country. Vast number of Muslims made great sacrifices
      for the cause of freedom of their motherland.

      Centre for Study of Society and Secularism


      Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
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