Published on: May 1, 2011
UP Brahmin fights for imams’ pay hike

Lucknow: Prominently sporting a vermilion tilak and a neatly coiled shikha (tuft of hair), the “special invitee
general secretary” of the Imam Council of India (ICI), Pandit Amar Nath Mishra, did seem out of place among the 500-odd imams, pesh imams and imam-e-juma who had assembled in Kaisarbagh Baradari to press for decent monthly wages.

But he appeared to be everywhere: on the dais exchanging a word with Maulana Hifazurrehman Meeruthee and other worthies, issuing directions to the electricians or to the battery of bearers and the caterer. Once the ‘jalsa’ (state-level convention) got over, he remained a much sought-after figure as participants rushed to congratulate him for the successful show.

It’s not every day that they appoint a president of the Brahmin Sansad as convener of an imam meet. Exulting over “the historic achievement of bringing together all rival factions of the minority community – Shia, Sunni, Barelvi, Nadvi, Kachochwi and Deobandi – on the same platform for the first time”, Mishra said it took him six months of intense touring and hobnobbing with the warring sections but the common agenda was a potent glue.

Any resistance owing to his get-up, especially the tilak, rudraksha and crystal beads around his wrists? None. They share the same profession so he enjoys a healthy camaraderie with imams. Of course, there are a few compromises. Like the lunch served, which was a non-vegetarian’s delight with all the famed Awadh delicacies. “It’s their preference so who am I to be judgemental?” he says.

His role has the approval of the Brahmin Sansad as well. “Imams are the most poorly paid lot in UP and we are pressing for the implementation of a nine-year-old Supreme Court order which has provided relief to imams in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

Apart from lobbying with the government and politicians for ensuring better management and maintenance of Wakf property, the council has decided to enlist public support by launching a signature campaign,” Mishra said. ICI, which hopes to have two crore signatures from UP to be presented to the prime minister and the president, gave him the honour of signing his name on the rolls first.

Manjari Mishra in The Times of India, April 18, 2011

J&K Muslim jawan helped nab Pak spy

New Delhi: The latest spy saga between India and Pakistan that unveiled a few kilometres away from the Mohali
stadium while the two sides played the World Cup semi-final has an unlikely hero: An Indian army soldier from the Kashmir valley.

According to sources, it was the quick reflexes of the soldier that led to the dramatic detention of a Pakistan high commission driver in Chandigarh, a few kilometres away from where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousaf Raza Gilani, were meeting. What has added a sense of pride to those who oversaw the operation is that the one who helped nab the spy was a Kashmiri Muslim.

Sources said the high commission driver had struck up a conversation with the army man at a crossing in Chandigarh “because of his distinct Kashmiri features”. At a subsequent meeting the driver offered him money for divulging military details.

Josy Joseph in The Times of India, April 18, 2011

Their camaraderie is a paradigm of amity

Navi Mumbai: At a time when communal harmony in the country comes under strain at the slightest provo-
cation, the bond that two Navi Mumbai youngsters share proves that the nation can stand as one – provided we open our hearts and minds to each other. The friendship between Rahul Bhoir, 25, and Akbar Mohammed Shaikh, 27, stands as a shining example of religious amity in the satellite city. Both jointly run a firm which accepts orders to decorate during religious and other functions and are members of Pragati Mitra Mandal, a social group in Turbhe.

Even as the nation closely follows the judicial proceedings of the Ayodhya dispute and the post-Godhra riots, the two friends haven’t let the flashpoints affect their relationship. They actively participate in each other’s festivals. At the recently concluded Id-e-Milad celebrations in Vashi, Rahul donned a white skullcap (usually worn by Muslims) and undertook the decoration work for the street procession. Likewise, during the annual Ganesh festival, Akbar is engaged in decorating the various pandals (temporary structures) and the clay idols.

“We have known each other for over a decade now, since we grew up in the same locality in Turbhe. However, our religious faith has never been a hurdle in our friendship,” said Rahul. Akbar added, “Just as Rahul participates in Muslim festivals, I like to give my best while working at Ganpati pandals and other religious occasions. Doing this gives us immense satisfaction.”

When asked if controversial issues like communal riots strained their ties, both said that they don’t let such things get in their way. “We are aware of what has happened in various communal riots; this cannot affect our friendship. We must live in peace and harmony,” said Rahul.

Vijay Singh in The Times of India, March 6, 2011

Tipu’s gifts to Hindu temples

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju on Sunday (April 17) attributed simmering Hindu-Muslim
tensions to a deliberate rewriting of history to project Muslim rulers as intolerant and bigoted whereas ample evidence existed to show the reverse was true. The judge also said that Indians were held together by a common Sanskrit-Urdu culture which guaranteed that India would always remain secular.

Justice Katju said the myth-making against Muslim rulers, which was a post-1857 British project, had been internalised in India over the years. Thus Mahmud Ghaznavi’s destruction of the Somnath temple was known but not the fact that Tipu Sultan gave an annual grant to 156 Hindu temples. The judge, who delivered the valedictory address at a conference held to mark the silver jubilee of the Institute of Objective Studies, buttressed his arguments with examples quoted from BN Pande’s ‘History in the Service of Imperialism’.

Dr Pande, who summarised his conclusions in a lecture to members of the Rajya Sabha in 1977, had said: “Thus under a definite policy, the Indian history textbooks were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Islamic rule.”

Justice Katju said Dr Pande came upon the truth about Tipu Sultan in 1928 while verifying a contention – made in a history textbook authored by Dr Haraprasad Shastri, the then head of the Sanskrit department at Calcutta University – that during Tipu’s rule 3,000 Brahmins had committed suicide to escape conversion to Islam. The only authentication Dr Shastri could provide was that the reference was contained in the Mysore Gazetteer. But the Gazetteer contained no such reference.

Further research by Dr Pande showed not only that Tipu paid annual grants to 156 temples but that he enjoyed cordial relations with the shankaracharya of Sringeri math to whom he had addressed at least 30 letters. Dr Shastri’s book, which was in use at the time in high schools across India, was later de-prescribed. But the unsubstantiated allegation continued to masquerade as fact in history books written later.

Justice Katju said the secular-plural character of India was guaranteed both by the Indian Constitution and the unmatched diversity of the Indian population. The judge attributed the diversity to the fact of India being a land of old immigrants dating back to 10,000 years. (Justice Katju and fellow judge Gyan Sudha Misra first propounded this thesis in a judgement, excerpts from which were carried as an op-ed article in The Hindu edition dated January 12, 2011.) The diversity, reflected in the wide range of religions, castes, languages and physical attributes found among the descendants, led the founding fathers to draft a Constitution with strong federal features. “Diversity is our asset and our guarantee for staying secular,” said Justice Katju.

Vidya Subrahmaniam in The Hindu, April 18, 2011

Archived from Communalism Combat, May 2011 Year 17    No.157- Observatory