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Sense of fear, insecurity growing among Muslims in India

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Outgoing Vice President of India and outstanding Indian educationalist Hamid Ansari has rightly said that India is fast moving toward  a terrocracy as Muslims are being targeted a section of  majority Hindus and  there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country, asserting the “ambience of acceptance” is now under threat. 

Dr. Ansari said a sense of insecurity is creeping in as a result of the dominant mood created by some and the resultant intolerance and vigilantism he shared the view of many that intolerance was growing. In hard-hitting remarks during an interview he ascribed the spate of vigilante violence, mob lynchings, beef bans and “Ghar Wapsi” campaigns to a “breakdown of Indian values” and to the “breakdown of the ability of the authorities” to enforce the law. “…and overall, the very fact that the Indianness of any citizen (is) being questioned is a disturbing thought,” Ansari said.

By targeting Muslims the Constitutional guarantees for the protection of minorities are being violated by the ruling classes and judiciary has no role in protecting the Muslims from majority attacks, either.

Emotional outbursts

A feeling of unease and insecurity is creeping in among Muslims in India, , Vice President Hamid Ansari said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV joining a growing number of leaders who have expressed concerns over attacks on minorities.

Professor Hamid Ansari, whose second five-year term as the Vice-President ended on August 10, made these remarks in the backdrop of incidents of “intolerance” and cow vigilantism. Stating that he had flagged the issue of “intolerance” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues, Ansari, 80, also described the questioning of citizens over their love for India as a “disturbing thought”.

Ansari, who completed two terms as vice president on August 10, said that there is a breakdown of Indian values and of the abilities among authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work. “Overall, the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought,” he said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV.  Congress president Sonia Gandhi MP raised similar concerns during a speech in Parliament where she urged people to not let “dark forces” diminish India’s core values. Neither Ansari nor Gandhi named any party or individual in particular, but their statements can be seen to allude to the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which the Congress party and other opposition outfits often accuse of pandering to right-wing Hindu ideologies.

On the August 10 Ansari demitted his Vice Presidential office at Hyderabad House in New Delhi that only Philosopher S Radhakrishnan had occupied as long as 10 years. The BJP government, for obvious political reasons, did not want to elevate him to be the president nor was given another term. He ruled out possibilities of Indian Muslims getting influenced by ISI and such other elements but mentioned that it would be a correct assessment to say that the Muslim community is feeling insecure.

Ansari, the only two-term vice president after S Radhakrishnan, also voice advice for Muslim community. “Do not create for one self or one’s fellow beings an imaginary situation which is centuries back, when things were very different. The challenges today are challenges of development, what are the requirements for development; you keep up with the times, educate yourself, and compete…”

To a poser on the situation in Jammu Kashmir, Ansari said, “the problem has always primarily been a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.”

He agreed to a suggestion that politicians are ducking the problem. “That’s my impression. And I m not the only one in the country…when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens.” “Something is obviously going wrong. What exactly, I am not the final word on it, but I think there are enough people in the country who are worried about it. Eminent people belonging to different political persuasions and their worry must be taken on board,” the Vice President said. 

Muslim community terrorized, alienated

In the interview, Vice President Ansari referred to incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and alleged killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values, breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.” “Yes it is a correct assessment,” Ansari said agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them. “Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about it in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he said.

Ansari was of the view that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said. Asked whether he felt that the Muslims are “beginning to feel that they are not wanted”, Ansari said, “I would not go that far, there is a sense of insecurity.” Attacks on Muslims and lynching of Muslims directly say that. He said India is a plural society that has for centuries, not just seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now “under threat”. He was of the view that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day-in and day-out is “unnecessary”. “I am an Indian and that is it,” he said.

Asked in an interview why he thought Indian values were “suddenly” breaking down, Vice-President Hamid Ansari answered: “Because we are a plural society that for centuries, not for 70 years, has lived in a certain ambience of acceptance.” He said this acceptance was “under threat”. “This propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary. I am an Indian and that is it,” he told Rajya Sabha TV.

Referring to the incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values”, Ansari said, “breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.”

On being asked if he agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them, Ansari said, “Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,”  “There is a sense of insecurity,” said Ansari, adding that India is a plural society that for centuries, not for seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now under threat. The Vice President viewed that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is “unnecessary”. “I am an Indian and that is it.”

Regarding the issues of tolerance, he mentioned that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said. At an event in Bengaluru on Sunday, Ansari said the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism.

He said the issue of Triple Talaq is a social aberration and the reform, if any at all, has to come from within the community leaders of political other parties and religions need not interfere in the personal matters of Muslims. “The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it but patriarchy, social customs has all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable.”

Threat to nationalism and unity

RSS-BJP duo employs the “patriotism” to insult Muslims as if Hindus are extra patriots. They want Hindu votes to come to power. They don’t mind another division of the nation to make India a “pure” Hindu nation. . At an event in Bengaluru in the South, Vice President Ansari said that the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core “promotes intolerance” and arrogant patriotism. Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about people in politics or about political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that the person is ignorant and  that he is prejudiced and he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be an accommodative society,” he said.

Ansari was asked a question on his lecture at the National Law School in Bengaluru earlier this month where he said rejuvenating secularism’s basic principles was becoming a challenge. There is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he told journalist Karan Thapar during the interview after being asked to reflect on his statement in Bengaluru.

Asked specifically about his speech in which he spoke about a nationalism with cultural commitments at its core being perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism, and whether the remark was about the mood of the country in 2017, he replied: “Oh, absolutely.” And he agreed he had felt a personal need to underline that this need to keep proving one’s patriotism, and the intolerance it made for, was unhealthy: “Yes. And I am not the only one in the country; a great many people feel the same way.” Asked if he had shared these apprehensions with the PM or the government, he replied: “Yes… But what passes between the Vice-President and the PM in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged information.”

The outgoing vice president also ruled out the possibility of Indian Muslims being influenced by militant outfits.

Political reactions

Ansari said that he shared his apprehensions to the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers, but refused to divulge details of their interaction on the plank that “what passes between the vice president and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation.”  Asked in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari, who is also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, said that he had. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” said. He said that he has also flagged the issue with other union ministers. “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said when asked about the response of the government.

Anti-Muslim forces like BJP-RSS cannot digest plain criticism of Hindutva  mischief  and never admit that they have created a dirty sense of uneasy and insecurity  of for Indian Muslims, His comments drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement. In fact, that is how the BJP and RSS add members into their fold who speak against Islam and Muslims or for a Hindutva nation, and promote them for big positions.

Professor Ansari’s comments about the  feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity creeping in among the Muslims in the country against the current backdrop of intolerance and vigilante violence drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement.

Ansari’s successor Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in on Friday also criticized Ansari, seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”. “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.

A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.

Meanwhile, former union minister Venkaiah Naidu has been elected as his successor and Ansari thinks that the nature of the job of chairman of Rajya Sabha will dictate the response and there is no reason why the Opposition will not get a fair deal under Naidu’s chairmanship

Ansari’s successor an RSS operative Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in on Friday, seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”.  “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.

Ghar wapsi, anti-beef and cow worshiping for Hindu votes, lynching of Muslims in the streets by Hindutva criminals – are not propaganda!

PM Modi praised outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari for his track record in public service. With Ansari chairing his last session in the Rajya Sabha, Modi led the tributes as Upper House members expressed their heartfelt gratitude and congratulated the political veteran on his efficient contributions. 

A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In his remarks in the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.

Prime Minister Modi referred to the 100 years of public life of Ansari’s forefathers and said they were aligned with the Congress and Khilafat Movement. The Khilafat Movement, launched by Muslim clergy in India to protest against the threat to Islamic Caliphate following the defeat of Turkey at the hands of Britain in World War I, was supported by Mahatma Gandhi and has been seen as among the factors which contributed to the growth of separatist consciousness among the community which led to the country’s partition in 1947. In an interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Ansari struck a note of caution, warning that Muslims in the country are feeling insecure amid a sense of growing intolerance – “the ambience of acceptance” is at risk

Modi recalled Ansari’s diplomatic career during which he spent many years in West Asia and his role on retirement as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and as the Chairman of Minorities Commission. “Many years of your life were spent in that circle. You stayed in that atmosphere, with that thinking and debating with those people. After retirement your engagement mostly remained the same. “…But in the last 10 years, you had a different responsibility. Every moment was spent in the ambit of Constitution and running  Rajya Sabha. You tried your best to run it. “Maybe there was some uneasiness within you. But from now onwards, you will not face that difficulty. You will also feel free and work, think and speak according to your core thinking.”

Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about political people or political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be accommodative society,” he said.

Replying to a question on some BJP leaders comments related to minorities, he aid he would not talk about political people or political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be accommodative society,” he said.

Ansari also described the questioning of Indianness of citizens as a “disturbing thought.”Asked in an interview to Karan Thapar on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari replied in the affirmative. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” the ex officio chairman of Rajya Sabha said. Regarding the government’s response, he said, “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said.

Profile

Hamid Ansari was born to Mohammad Abdul Aziz Ansari and Aasiya Begum in Calcutta (now Kolkata), West Bengal, India on 1 April 1937 though his family belongs to Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. Ansari is the grandson of a brother of former Congress President Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, a leader of the Indian independence movement. He is the grand nephew of Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, the former President of the INC (Indian National Congress) and also the founder of Jamia Millia Islamia- now federal university.

Ansari studied at St. Edward’s School, Shimla, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and Aligarh Muslim University where he completed an MA in Political Science in 1959. He started his career as Officer in the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. He was Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Indian High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He was awarded the Padma Shree in 1984. He was also Professor  & Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from May 2000 to March 2002. He is known for his role in ensuring compensation to the victims of the Gujarat riots and pushing for a complete re-look into the relief and rehabilitation for riot victims since 1984.

Ansari was the first person to be re-elected as Indian VP after Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1957. He also presently serves as President of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Chancellor of Pondicherry University and the President of the Indian Council of World Affairs. Ansari worked as an ambassador and served as the Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002.[2] Later he was Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities from 2006 to 2007. He was elected as the Vice-President of India on 10 August 2007 and took office on 11 August 2007. He was reelected on 7 August 2012   His second term ended in August 2017 since he decided not to run for a third term in the 2017 vice-presidential election. Upon the inauguration of Ram Nath Kovind as President of India in 2017, Ansari became the first Indian Vice-President to serve during the terms of three presidents. Longest served Indian vice president

Ansari became the chairman of India’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on 6 March 2006.  In June 2007, Ansari, in his capacity as NCM chairman, upheld the decision of St. Stephens College to earmark a small percentage of seats for Dalit Christians. He resigned as NCM chairman soon after his nomination for the post of India’s Vice-President.

On 20 July 2007, Ansari was named by the UPA-Left, the ruling coalition in India, as its candidate for the post of Vice-President for the upcoming election. Ansari secured 455 votes, and won the election by a margin of 233 votes against his nearest rival Najma Heptullah of BJP who is now Governor of Manipur state. Hamid Ansari was re-elected for the second term on 7 August 2012, defeating the NDA’s nominee Jaswant Singh former Finance, External Affairs and Defence minister as well as former Leader of Opposition by a margin of 252 votes. According to the Constitution of India, Ansari, as Vice-President of the Republic, also serves ex officio as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Ansari was a member of the Congress before being nominated Vice President in 2007.

Career After completing his Master’s degree from the Aligarh Muslim University, Ansari worked as a lecturer in AMU for two years. He then wrote a UPSC exam and secured the 4th rank. He joined the Indian Foreign Service as a diplomat in 1961. He served the country as an IFS officer in various countries. He served as ambassador to United Arab Emirates from 1976 to 1980 and as Chief of Protocol, Government of India from 1980-1985.

Scholar

Ansari is a West Asia scholar and has written on the Palestinian issue and taken positions inconvenient to the Indian official line on Iraq and Iran. He questioned India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme where India voted against Iran. He said that though the Indian Government claimed to have acted on “its own judgment,” this was not borne out by facts Ansari feels that there is a sense of unease among Indian Muslims. He said this on the last day of his tenure as the Vice President of India, one of the highest constitutional posts in the country. [ Ansari quoted, “The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades… It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world.” – 15 September 2006, as Chairman of the Minorities Commission of India, on the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy

In his illustrious career that spun over forty-five years, Mohammad Hamid Ansari has worked in various disciplines in the offices of the Government of India. He is a seasoned writer in various news dailies and other print media. He is also a Padma Shri awardee. Read on to know more about the life and accomplishments of Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

Later, he rendered his services in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. He also served as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002. He was also a writer in different news papers on various issues. In 2006, he was appointed the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities. He was also appointed the Chairman of the Petroleum Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Oil Diplomacy for Energy Security. He also served as Chairman of the “Confidence Building Measures across Segments of Society in the State”. This was group a created to focus on issues in Jammu and Kashmir.

Ansari served as a co-chairman of the India-U.K. Round Table Conference and also as a member of the National Security Advisory Board. Ansari is a permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) and is also a trustee of the Bapu Sadbhavana and Shiksha Trust. On March 2007, he surrendered the charge of Vice-Chancellorship of the Aligarh Muslim University and went back to New Delhi to lead a life of retirement.

Contribution

Ansari played a vital role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. He also backed a thorough re-look into the rehabilitation of all the riot victims since 1984. He wrote numerous articles on the west Asian crises. His article named “Alternative Approaches to West Asian Crises”, (The Hindu, May 5, 2006), stressed upon the need for the progress of Iran, Iraq and Palestine. In an article named “Et EU, India,” (Outlook, October 10, 2005), Ansari was sceptical about India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme. He also edited the book “Twenty Years after the Islamic Revolution”. He played a significant role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. Even after his retirement from the IFS, he worked as a visiting professor at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Academy for Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Ansari’s deep interest in west Asian affairs saw him taking positions that were inconvenient to the stands of Indian officials on matters concerning Iran and Iraq.

Timeline

1937 – Was born in Kolkata, India 1959 – M.A. (Political Science) from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). 1959-61 – Worked as a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, AMU. 1961 – Joined the Indian Foreign Service, by securing 4th rank. 1976-80 – Worked as an Ambassador in United Arab Emirates (UAE). 1980-85 – Worked as the Chief of Protocol Officer, Government of India. 1984 – Was awarded the Padma Shri 1985-1989 – Worked as the High Commissioner to Australia. 1989-1990 – Worked as an Ambassador to Afghanistan. 1990-1992 – Worked as an Ambassador to Iran. 1993-1995 – Was a Permanent Representative to the UN, New York. 1995-1999 – Served as an Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 1999-2000 – Served as a visiting professor, Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 2000-2002 – Served as the Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh 2002-2006 – Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi 2003-2005 – Served as the visiting professor, Academy for Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi 2004-2006 – Was made Co-Chairman, India-U.K, Round Table Conference 2004-2006 – Member, National Security Advisory Board 2004-2005 – Was made Chairman, Advisory Committee for Oil Diplomacy, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas 2006 – Chairman, Working Group on “Confidence building measures across segments of society in the State”, established by the second Round Table Conference with the Prime Minister, Jammu and Kashmir issue, held at Srinagar. 2007-Present – Becomes the Vice-President of India and ex officio Chairman, Rajya Sabha

Observation

A vicious venomous air is spread across India that makes the innocent Hindus hate Muslims, kill then to appease their masters. In fact the seeds of such anti-Muslim venom were sown by the Congress and other so-called secular parties letting the RSS-VJP to target Muslims for Hindu votes.

In fact, The Congress party which keeps the saffron on top of  its party flag, wanted to make the Hindutva parties to thrive in the country as the top political outfits and to control the government and rule the Indian society.

That has indeed happened RSS operatives are now Indian PM, President and Vice President and federal and many sate governments are now in the hands of RSS-BJP – and the credit for all this goes to Congress party.

Had Ansari seriously tried, Kashmir would have become a soverign once again to pursue its rightful interests freely. But he was supposed to uphold the status quo of the government position so that smooth relationship could be maintained between Hyderabad House and PMO. Kashmiris are not lucky enough.  Their struggle hopefully would achieve that objective. 

Ansari’s painful words certainly made a lot of people think about fate of Indian secularism as there is concern now about genuine secular principles of India. He was speaking on the issues of cow vigilante attacks, mob lynchings and people not shouting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” being told to leave the country.

It is unfortunate and even ugly that the RSS-BJP elements foolishly question the patriotism of Indian Muslims as a cheap technique of wooing the Hindutva minded people to support the BJP and vote for the party.

It is obnoxious to see that today the Indian political parties especially the saffron wings, try to reform Islam while creating all criminal problems for them. They use prominent and “aspiring” Muslims to achieve their anti-Islamic objectives.

Above all, Ansari is a great humanist. Even as Vice President of India he could try to help the affected individuals but the system does not let the beneficiaries to get the lawful benefits as the government agencies create obstructions to his actions.  The argument only the government is supposed to decide to help anybody or deny any body justice. In Indian system President and Vice President are not above the PM and h they cannot direct the government or PM.

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An Indian perspective on Afghan peace-process

Ganesh Puthur

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image credit: UNAMA/Mujeeb Rahman

Afghanistan is staring at a massive political uncertainty with the United States preparing to exit the war-torn nation by 2021. America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could ultimately end up in the coronation of the Taliban in Kabul, hence returning to the despotic times of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan. Even though the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks involving the nominees of the Afghanistan civilian government and the members of Taliban are pacing up in Doha, chances of materialising these assurances are slim. Due to the emergence of factions within the Taliban and other terrorist outfits trying to establish their bases in Afghanistan, there are possibilities of a prolonged civil war once the American forces are pulled out. The result of peace-process will have a massive impact on the region itself. Therefore the Taliban’s possible access to power in Afghanistan has worried New Delhi since Pakistan could make this an opportunity to create fresh troubles in the region to further expedite their doctrine of ‘bleed India with a thousand cuts’.

The United States entered Afghanistan in 2001 to avenge the killings of 2,977 of its citizens by an Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre. Al-Qaeda had the patronage of the Taliban and was operating from Afghanistan. America’s military invasion had lead to the removal of the Taliban government. Later Hamid Karzai got appointed as the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with the blessings of U.S. For the past two decades, U.S troops were in constant encounters with the Taliban terrorists and lost over 2,441 soldiers to the rebel onslaught. Even after the U.S indulging in fully-fledged warfare and spending billions, the Taliban still controlled around 20% of districts in Afghanistan. They were in constant fights with the allied forces for taking the procession of another 50% districts. The U.S was successful in exterminating the prominent terrorists of Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), new leadership kept on popping up regularly. Hence, the ultimate motto of cleansing Afghanistan from the Jihadi elements was never met. 

President Obama was keen on exiting Afghanistan from the later part of his first presidency. Even though the number of troops decreased gradually, the process had to be stalled multiple times due to various terrorist attacks. But back home there was a rising rage among the public for spending their money in a far off land yielding nothing. At this juncture, the U.S government was quick to realise that that they had no military solution to put on the table. Thus through interlocutors, the American government reached out to the Taliban to formulate a respectable exit plan for the U.S. This plan reached a milestone when the Taliban and the United States signed an agreement on February 29, 2020 paving way for the Intra-Afghan talks beginning from September 12, 2020.

Afghan government released 5,000 Taliban rebels in exchange of 1,000 Afghan soldiers who were held as hostages by the Islamic radicals. With the peace talks gaining progress, there could be a demand for the release of more rebels. These people are trained in modern warfare and have the experience of combating U.S troops in strenuous mountainous terrain. Following the abrogation of Article 370, there has been a military crackdown on the terrorists and their affiliates in Kashmir. Many of the terrorist organisations operating in the valley face leadership vacuum since the Indian military is quick to identify prominent terrorists and then neutralises them. Pakistan, which is known for its proximity with the Taliban, might use them to create trouble in Kashmir. It was during the Taliban’s regime Indian Airlines flight 814 was hijacked by the terrorists and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan. India had no option but to free terrorists like Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in return of 160 passengers.  Also, Afghanistan is notorious for the production of Cannabis, Opium and other drugs. Taliban earns around $200 million a year selling Opium alone. Pakistan has been using narcoterrorism as an instrument to create social unrest in India. The Indian state of Punjab, which shares international borders with Pakistan, has been thoroughly affected by the drugs menace. Taliban’s total control over the drug production and its supply can be smuggled to India through ISI backed channels, further deteriorating the existing situation.   

Afghanistan is of immense strategic importance as far as India is concerned. This landlocked country is seen as India’s pavement to Central Asia since Pakistan cannot be a trusted ally for historical reasons. India has contributed more than $3 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan which includes their Parliament, Dams, Schools and many other projects. India had even allotted Lucknow’s Ekana Stadium as the home ground for the Afghanistan national cricket team. Bollywood movies are still popular in Afghanistan. What needs to be seen is the Taliban’s approach towards India. The Spokesperson of Taliban, Suhail Shaheen’s tweet read “The statement published in the media about Taliban joining Jihad in Kashmir is wrong…. The policy of the Islamic Emirate is clear that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.” This tweet caught the diplomatic community by surprise. It is a known fact that the Taliban’s deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani operates the Haqqani network which has organic bonding with the Kashmiri separatist groups. 

Sirajuddin Haqqani, in a recent op-ed piece that he wrote for the New York Times shared the vision that the Taliban has for Afghanistan. He wrote “liberated from foreign domination and interference, we together will find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam.” What Taliban did to the minorities and women in Afghanistan during their 5 year rule was brutal and condemned by the global community. But Haqqani concluded this essay on a positive note by saying that “the new Afghanistan will be a responsible member of the international community”. But it needs to be seen whether the Taliban relinquishes its claim for strict Sharia laws and makes concessions on democracy which they consider as a western poison.

 For all these years, India was hesitant to deal directly with the Taliban. But an evolving approach towards the Taliban is on cards with the Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar virtually attending the Intra-Afghan peace talks. He even gave India’s warning to the rebels that “Afghanistan’s soil shouldn’t be used for anti-India activities”. It will be interesting to see how China deals with the Taliban after wooing Iran with a $400 billion deal. With the possibility of enormous political changes after the signing of the agreement between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, its after-effects will be experienced in the entire South Asian region. India has no other choice but to engage with the about to be formed dispensation in the Kabul. 

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Rohingya repatriation: Has the world forgotten about the Rohingya crisis?

Shariful Islam

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Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar (file photo). IOM/Mohammed

In August 2017, the Myanmar army committed atrocities to the Rohingya people in Arakan state of Myanmar including rape, torture, burning the houses, killing. To escape from death, the Rohingya people fled to Bangladesh. The Rohingya crisis has been identified as one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.The United Nations (UN) has defined the crisis as the ‘textbook case’ of ethnic violence.

And considering the sufferings of the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh opened doors for them from a humanitarian ground. Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, including the Rohingyas who came earlier (before August 2017) in the country. Notably, Bangladesh is providing shelter, food, medicare and other facilities/services to the Rohingyas for a long time. The local people of Cox’s Bazar also showed great sympathy to those refugees sacrificing their lands, forests and other resources. Bangladesh has made tremendous sacrifices, including the forests. Initially, the country made Rohingya camps in 6,500 acres of land. It is already three years passed. But a successful Rohingya repatriation seems a dream to many given the current contexts. In this article, I attempt to show why successful repatriation is essential, why it failed, and the role of the international community in this regard.

Why repatriation necessary?

First, Rohingyas are creating an extra burden for Bangladesh, given the socio-economic realities of the country. Notably, being one of the densely populated countries in the world with limited resources, it becomes a daunting task for Bangladesh to continue its wholehearted supports for the Rohingyas in the days to come.

Second, Rohingya refugees have clear security implications for Bangladesh and beyond. It is reported that Rohingya criminals are becoming involved in the deterioration of the law and order situation in Cox’s Bazar, which becomes a grave concern for the locals. The local people who showed wholehearted support to the Rohingyas are worried now due to the increased criminal activities by the Rohingya criminals. It is reported that there are instances of murders in the Rohingya camp. In addition, after the murder of Jubo League leader Farooq by the Rohingya criminal, there were tensions among the locals.

It is argued that the longer the refugees stay in the refugee camps, the more likely they become a threat to peace (cited in Bariagaber, 1999: 605). Thus, prolonging the Rohingya repatriation will be problematic for Bangladesh, which merits serious attention from the international community. In this context, successful repatriation of the Rohingyas becomes essential.

Third,one can also argue that there are regional and international security implications of the Rohingya crisis. The international community can also consider this factor and take significant steps to resolve the Rohingya crisis and provide a better and secure life to the Rohingyas.

Finally, as a human being, Rohingyas deserve a better and secured life with dignity and fundamental human rights. Thus, ensuring their basic human rights becomes a moral responsibility of the international community.

Why Rohingya repatriation failed?

Bangladesh-Myanmar signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017, though no progress has been observed in making repatriation successful. On July 29, 2019, Bangladesh handed over a list of 55, 000 Rohingyas for verification for repatriation. Myanmar only cleared 3,450 Rohingyas for beginning the repatriation. Notably, Rohingya refugee repatriation to Myanmar has been failed twice, one in November 2018 and another in August 2019. Against this backdrop, one can ask: What factors have accounted for to the failures of Rohingya refugee’s repatriation to Myanmar? To answer this question, one can identify the following factors.

First, the absence of conducive conditions/environment in Myanmar is the major hindrance to the successful repatriation of the Rohingyas. Myanmar government showed apathy towards repatriation. One can also argue that the Myanmar government did not show firm commitments in the repatriation process. Though in the declaratory postures they are showing the international community that they are interested in the repatriation, when it comes to operational policies, they are reluctant in the repatriation process through not creating favourable conditions/ conducive environment for the Rohingyas. Rohingyas are scared that if they are back, the Myanmar army will kill them.

Second, the failure of the international community to repatriate the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar becomes another critical factor.It seems that international community has confined its role in providing reliefs, foods, healthcare services, money to the Rohingya refugees and sometimes made an occasional visit to the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar and took photographs and shared those (photos) in the social media and beyond. To a larger extent, the international community has bypassed their key responsibility to repatriate the Rohingyas to their homeland through pressurizing Myanmar. Thus, it will not be wrong to claim that the international community has totally failed to create a conducive environment in Myanmar which makes security concerns among the Rohingyas. Thus, those Rohingyas are not interested in to repatriate in Myanmar.

The most concerning is that it seems that the Rohingya issue is losing interest in the international community. There is already shrinkage of funds for the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. If the international community totally fails to repatriate the Rohingyas, it will create a disastrous situation for Bangladesh. It is well known that Bangladesh is a densely populated country in the world with limited resources, as noted earlier. Thus, the country cannot afford to continue its supports to the Rohingyas. In addition, there is a stronger possibility of conflicts between the Rohingyas and local people in the days to come given the socio-economic realities of the society.

One can argue that the United Nations has so far failed to pressurize Myanmar and create a conducive environment for the repatriation. Considering the narrowly defined self-interest, Russia, China, India whole-heartedly supports the Myanmar government. Though China and India bear dissimilarities in many issues, in the case of Rohingya issue, they maintain a similar stand, supporting the Myanmar government. Notably, Myanmar is a crucial state for China’s Belt and Road Initiative project, while the country is key to India’s act east policy. In addition, the UNHCR, ASEAN, EU, USA, Japan also failed to pressurize the Myanmar government and facilitate the Rohingya repatriation.

Third, the political economy of the refugees/NGOs is also responsible for the failure of the repatriation process of the Rohingyas. Khaled Muhiuddin (2019) writes that foreign aid ‘is prolonging the crisis. It is common sense that if Rohingya refugees are having a better life in Bangladeshi camps than the one they experienced in Myanmar, they will see little reason for going back to Myanmar. That is why efforts to ensure safety for Rohingyas in Myanmar are more important than providing comfort to them in the Bangladeshi camps’. Thus, foreign aid is benefiting both the NGOs and the refugees.

Around 150 international and local NGOs are working in the 34 Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. It is claimed that the political economy of the NGOs also works as a major hindrance to the Rohingya repatriation process. A resident of Cox’s Bazar, Rafiqul Islam Rafiq claims that various NGOs, including the UN agencies, demotivate the Rohingyas to repatriate (Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019). Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, president of BAPA and CAB, Cox’s Bazar contends that both international and local NGOs are telling the Rohingyas that this [Cox’s Bazar] is your place, it was once your place, a part of Arakan State. Since this is your place, you do not need to leave this place (Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019). A. N. M. Helal Uddin, president, civil society forum, Cox’s Bazar claims that if these Rohingyas leave, their (NGOs) business will be stopped. They are motivating the national crisis. The government should find out those NGOs and take actions against them (Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019).

Fourth, the economic interest of some local people also works as a hindrance to the repatriation. A resident called Jasim Uddin points out that the Rohingya refugees have created a huge business for the hotel, restaurant, flat owners who do not want that Rohingyas leave Cox’s Bazar(Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019). He claims that economic interest is the main factor of these owner classes, who devoid of patriotism. Notably, 1000 locally made weapons including knifes were seized from the NGO office SHED (Society for Health Extension and Development) who was working in the Rohingya camp (Osmany, 2019). Notably, SHED failed to provide any legal documents i.e. operating license to use these weapons (Aziz, 2019). Thus, it becomes important to monitor vigorously and ensure the accountability of the local and international NGOs who seek greater profits from prolonging the Rohingya crisis.

Fifth, one can also look at the role of the scholars and scholarship critically to resolve the Rohingya crisis. The Rohingya refugee crisis did not receive serious attention from the intellectual community. Even the role of Bangladeshi scholars is minimal in producing serious scholarship on the issue. The scholars cannot avoid their responsibility to resolve the crisis.

Finally, international media also failed to internationalize the issue and influence the policy formulations regarding the crisis. In the initial days, though the mainstream global media provided enough attention to the issue, in the latter days, they totally forgot the crisis. I wonder, if the same thing happens in the developed world, would the global media response be the same?

To conclude, Bangladesh, alone cannot resolve the Rohingya crisis. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh strongly contends in addressing the 75thUnited Nations General Assembly that the Rohingya crisis has been created by Myanmar and thus has to resolve the crisis by Myanmar. In this case, since Myanmar is not interested in resolving the crisis, it is the international community that can pressurize the Myanmar government and facilitate successful repatriation. In fact, the role of the international community, including the major powers, international media becomes essential to encourage Rohingya repatriation. The role of the scholars and scholarship also becomes necessary. The bottom line is that for the greater cause of humanity, the international community must come forward to pressurize Myanmar government and facilitate successful repatriation. The world needs to remember that Bangladesh has already done a lot to the Rohingya refugees. Now, it is the responsibility of the international community. Isn’t it?

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South Asia

A Way Forward – Neutralizing the Surge in Insurgency With Diplomatic Empathy in Kashmir

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

Nationalismis slowly losing its emancipatory value as the progressive inclusion of minority groups in public policy decision making has become a myth in itself. I have always maintained that the politics and carnage of minorities, especially Muslim identity in India, goes beyond the constructed rationalization of religiously prescriptive and deconstructed narrative of legislative Islamic discourse. It is, by its normative birth, focus on the knotty issue of electoral manifestation, and the violence on both, the psyche and body of the minorities has become an active semiotic territory of political narrative, which, when aggravated, creates a ‘psycho-political ripple effect.’ This article will elucidate the ripple effect created by the deeply ingrained inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injustice and trauma transmuted within and among Kashmiris, because of the ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)’; a policy that provides complete impunity to the armed forces in Kashmir, and how diplomatic empathy can work as a successful catalyst in neutralizing the surge in insurgency and civil unrest in Kashmir.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act 

The history of breeding insurgency in Kashmir goes back to the 1980’s, and since then, Jammu and Kashmir have been a propagating ground of separatist ambitions, demanding either complete independence or seeking ascension and amalgamation with Pakistan. Often called ‘Kashmir Intifada’, this insurgent group is a manifestation of the failure of Indian governance and inter-state diplomacy at the root of the initial disaffection and the coercive policies imposed on Kashmiris. Today, with more than 6 lakh security personnel (Army, Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed in J&K hinterlands, Kashmir has become the most militarized zone in the world, surpassing the combined presence of Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza strip and West Bank alone. The Indian security personnel have been implicated in multiple reports for torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of thousands of Kashmiris, and rape and sexual abuse of women in the valley with absolute impunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); a policy that provides impunity to any member of the armed forces without the permission of the central government. This act legitimizes and normalizes routine violence on Kashmiris, while parturiating victims with dissipating subjective agency and no legal mechanism to seek justice. 

Countless incidents of extrajudicial killings have been reported, and multiple unmarked graves have been witnessed; all with absolute impunity given to military personals involved. For example, a State Human Rights Commission inquiry in 2011 had confirmed that there were thousands of bullet-ridden corpses buried in unmarked graves in Kashmir. Of the 2,730 bodies uncovered, 574 bodies were identified as missing locals, in contrast to the Indian government’s confirmation that all the graves belonged to foreign militants. In the most haunting military violence imposed on Kashmiris, personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army were involved in gang rape of at least 40 women in Kunan and Poshpora villages in north Kashmir(February 1991), as they conducted an anti-insurgency operation in the region. Although the Press Council of India committee led by BG Verghese and K Vikram Raovisited the villages post the violence, but gave a clean chit to the soldiers, and the countless consecutive mass rapes by Indian soldiers followed – Chak Saidpora (1992), Wurwun (1995), Bihota (2000), Gujjardara-Manzgam (2011) etc. Post the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019; the situation has worsened.  

The Psycho-political Ripple Effect – Violence with absolute impunity begets violence with stern liability

“You lock us up during the day. You lock us up at night,” a middle-aged man shouts angrily, wagging his finger. As the policeman ordered the man to go inside his house as Kashmir was under the longest lockdown of a union territory in the history of the Indian constitution, the diminutive old man stands his ground and challenges him again. “This is my only son. He’s too small now, but I will prepare him to pick up a gun too,” he said. This man belonged from Khanyar, a local town in the heart of Srinagar, which is famous for protests against military violence and Indian hegemonic rule in Kashmir. In the same report, Mr. Malik, a Kashmiri native, predicts that every Kashmiri will join them. “It was said that in every family one brother is with the separatists and the other is with the [Indian] mainstream. The Indian government has united the two.” To understand the unwavering commitment of locals – who are teachers, vegetable vendors, workers in local manufacturing outlets, fruit sellers, etc., and their determination to prepare their future generations to become insurgents, is mandatory. This is a direct result of the internalized trauma and feeling of injustice that has transmuted in and within Kashmiris– both inter-regional and inter-generational. But, what has caused this transmutation? To know this, it becomes imperative to explore the phenomenon of ‘psycho-political ripple effect’.

A ripple effect, in a simple term, refers to the indirect effect that expands out from the organic source and reaches areas or populations far positioned from its intended purpose. To understand this phenomenon in a political-social environment, one needs to deconstruct the psychological effects of the ‘initial political disturbance’ created within the system of a targeted group of civilians and how it propagated outward to disturb an increasingly larger portion of the population within the system. This ‘initial political disturbance’ is a manifestation of normalized violence by placing the Indian military under an impunity umbrella, which has methodized and regularized routine violent acts against Kashmiris, including detention of small children, curfews, extrajudicial killings, torture, gang rapes, kidnapping of civilians, etc. The trauma is no longer confined to the victims of Konan and Poshpora mass rape or restricted to the pain of the community of human rights activists like Jalil Andrabi, Zafar Mehraj, Burhan Wani and Farooq Sheikh, who were brutally killed by the military forces, or limited to the medical community who are attacked for providing medical care to the insurgents, or to the families of Kashmiris who has been a victim of extrajudicial execution or reprisal killing, alone. 

The effects of this violence and the internalization of trauma has impregnated the psyche of most Kashmiris and has given birth to what I call is a ‘psycho-political ripple effect’ for future formations of popular resistance against Indian rule in Kashmir. With the institutional denial of justice, loss of subjective agency due to trauma, and erosion of indigenous Muslim culture, the mass-suffering has reshaped the response of Kashmiris towards military and political power. Here, military violence with absolute impunity is begetting violence with stern liability from the local Kashmiris, and the surge in insurgency activities is a testament of it. Apart from mass carnage and destruction like Pulwama attack (2019), Srinagar attack (2013), Amarnath Yatra attack (2017), Uri attack (2016), carried out by Islamist terrorist groups against the Indian militancy presence in Kashmir, many quasi-violence incidents has become a methodized way to confront Indian security forces. The effect of the political ripples is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of the locals that indulgence in the act of reciprocation against military force has become more imperative than the strategy to execute the ‘act’ itself. These incidents often involve collective participation of local Kashmiris demonstrating acts of resistance, which orthogonally represents assertiveness and visible symbolism rather than clandestine nature. The most common forms of this quasi-violence involve stone pelting at security forces, causing hindrance and interdiction of military operations to help the insurgents, attending insurgent funerals, etc. Although the participants are usually unarmed, the employed tactics are methodologically designed to incite, provoke, and coerce Indian security forces to dismantle the central government’s legitimacy and control over Kashmir. These quasi-violent ripple effect can be seen in Palestine as well, where Palestinians deploy the rock-throwing method as a mechanism to display resistance against IDF presence in their land. Psycho-political ripple effect can be witnessed in both of these conflict-infested geographies, where internalized trauma and feeling of injustice have transmuted among and within the native population – both inter-regional and inter-generational. 

Incorporating Diplomatic Empathy to neutralize the surge in insurgency 

It has been a year post the abrogation of Article 370. The surge in military brutality, human rights violations, increased unemployment, and a Rs 40,000 crore hole in the economy, has aggravated the spread of the psycho-political ripple effect. With Kashmir precariously poised between the two extremes, and an efflux of quasi-violent and strategic insurgent attacks on Indian security forces, it orthogonally points towards one thing – inter-state diplomatic failure. What diplomats and central lawmakers must consider is that the principle of “no negotiation with insurgents”, although seems logical, but fails to understand the primordial foundation of fortification of – what is terrorism? If insurgents and quasi-violent Kashmiri locals are willing to go against a robust military force and governance of BJP in power and risk the lives of self and other civilians, it only reflects that the cause of their insurgent activities is not being effectively addressed and is being alienated from mainstream political policies. The deeply ingrained inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injusticecaused due to impunity given to the Indian security forces in Kashmir has created psycho-political ripples that is manifesting into insurgent activities.

On the other hand, this internalization of trauma and conflict has also created a negotiating space of diplomatic activity through transmittal of empathy and the development of trust. For this reason, the traditional consultative decision-making process of negotiation from ‘top-to-bottom’ should be replaced by a ‘bottom-to-top’ diplomatic strategy where the principle of inclusion should be propagated, lessening the distance between the self and the other. Validating this, Marcus Holmes and Keren Milo (2016) writes, “Fisher and Ury’s (1983) classic work in negotiation theory notes the importance of what is now termed cognitive empathy in order to derive the interests that motivate one’s positions. Since negotiators do not have perfect information about their counterparts’ interests, those who do not try to take the other side’s perspective may fail to find rational conflict-resolution. Put another way, in order to rationally find a zone of possible agreement, both sides must understand the interests and positions of the other, including their best alternative to a negotiated agreement”. 

Diplomats and lawmakers must derive a solution that not only neutralizes the surge in the insurgency, restore human rights, but also stagnate the spread of psycho-political ripple effect within the Kashmiri community to restore civil rest and prosperity. To achieve the optimum conflict-resolution that modern diplomacy seeks to attain, empathy with the interlocutor is opulent. Re-structuring the Armed Forces Special Powers Act by ensuring that security forces – the army, the Border Security Force (BSF), and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), are trained in using lawful use of force in accordance and alignment with international standards, and those who breach these parameters would legally held accountable. To gain credibility and trust among the civilians, it is crucial that a sense of justice is restored within the system, which would neutralize their inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injustice and trauma. This can be effectively achieved  by the central BJP government, if they publicly commit to bring justice to all victims involved in human rights violations, which should involve legally prosecuting Indian armed forces, whether involved actively or participated in permitting the violations to be covered up.I remember reading an article about an elderly woman , who was one of the victim of Kunan Poshpora mass rape, and had died as she awaited justice to be served to her. Ghulam Mohidin, her son-in-law said, alleged that , “She died in 2010 as she was waiting for justice till her last breath, but nothing happened. The culprits are still roaming freely. Our family is still suffering ” he said. This psychologically intimate narrative reveals what I have been discussing throughout the article – the psycho-political ripple effect caused due to inter-generational and inter-regional transmutation of deeply ingrained sense of injustice and trauma, can itself become a synthesis to the initial theistic problem , which is the surge in insurgency in Kashmir ; if diplomatic empathy is tactfully and humanely deployed to neutralize these ripple effects by fortifying and preserving their human and constitutional rights. And, if diplomats and law makers fail to do so, these psycho-political ripples will multiple and increase exponentially, only to proliferate the psyche of the many generations to come by.

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