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Death of a Living Goddess and an Unfair verdict

Image source: mandalas.life

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The Living Goddess of Nepal (Kumari), a prepubescent girl child, possessing divinity is a well established and widely held belief. She is worshipped so long as her virginity remains intact and dismissed when she starts to menstruate.  By all accounts, the reason she is highly revered has much to do with her virginity as the loss of holy status is inevitable after the first menstrual blood. Strong voices regarding child and human rights raised so far have brought remarkable reforms in Kumari practice; yet the elephant in the room, her dethronement after puberty, undeniably a serious problem, is often downplayed. The supposed divinity of the Goddess and it’s connection with pubescence, as outrageous as it sounds, triggers a couple of very important questions. Does the Living Goddess really possess divinity? More importantly, must not we ponder and assess the eventual end of her divinity?

The 19th century famous German philosopher  Friedrich Nietzche declared– God is dead — a metaphor used to describe the gradual decline of faith in God. The philosopher attributes the advent of Scientific revolution and Age of reason in bringing an end to the existence of God, thanks to rational arguments and modern inventions or discoveries. Unlike the death of Western God,  the Living Goddess of Nepal, or her holiness to be precise, meets a surprising death(end), figuratively speaking, at the hands of first menstruation. Sadly, just a few drops of innocent and natural blood, with rosy prospects of procreation and motherhood, is believed to have committed a grave crime that a verdict was passed against it long ago — puberty ends divinity.

Moreover, proclaiming divinity’s end, as soon as Kumari reaches adolescence, she is replaced by another “virgin” child. Even though blood oozing from any part of the body due to cuts or wounds leads to Goddess’ dismissal,  the menstrual blood in every occasion has turned out to be most fatal. To confirm this we can check the numbers of all former Kumaris, and should not get startled if considerable cases are associated with their first period. Matina Shakya(2008-2017) was replaced in 2017 by  Trishna Shakya (2017-present), after puberty ended her nine-year reign. When the same phenomenon hit Preeti Shakya (2001-2008) in 2008, she was shown the door to an anonymous life in the suburbs. Likewise, in 2010 the divine life for Chanira Bajracharya finished abruptly  at 15, on the day she first menstruated and Samita Bajracharya(2010-2014) was appointed the new Kumari of Patan City in her place. It is a pity that once highly hailed all-powerful Goddess, sooner or later becomes a “nobody”, useless and mere mortal. Devotees accustomed to bow down before the deity in the hope of blessings are certainly baffled when simple biological blood brings her supreme divinity to its knees.

What would be the general frame of her mind and psychological state when the child realizes that fending off the imminent demotion is far from possible? Gripped by trepidation, she would definitely not want the undesirable menstruation, the antagonist, to come and take away her most cherished goddess status. Samita was in total shock and emotional at her dismissal following the start of her first period. Similarly, Preeti couldn’t help shedding tears when her term ended at 12 ,and  banished out of the paradise, because of approaching menstruation, which is considered as flawed. This is highly likely to leave a false impression in the mind of a demoted child and the collective consciousness of people. To them puberty or “supposed” impure blood must appear a nemesis of Kumari, a nasty thing that ends her holiness.

God/Goddess’ existence is an unsolved riddle, yet lives of many great sages and mystics throughout the history of Indian subcontinent — Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Shivapuri Baba, Meera Bai, Lalleshwari, Anandamayi Ma and so on —  convince godliness being a possible phenomenon. With no single exception these humans share two things in common; years of spiritual endeavours and eventual mystical/godliness experience. On the contrary, a girl child is expected to fulfill 32 physical qualities, before worshipped as a Living Goddess. Whether the girl child reaches the same transcendental state as the other divine beings shall always remain a debatable issue. Giving a benefit of doubt, for argument’s sake, we can assume that Kumari’s divinity is no lesser than those of highly revered personages. But would it be judicious to believe that a temporary biological phenomenon is capable of  ending divinity permanently?

In fact, literature on religion, spirituality and mysticism show that divinity is imperishable once obtained, which can be attested by the lives of human-turned holy beings. Thus what fizzles out at puberty’s touch, as in the case of Kumari, must be undeniably spurious and impotent . Above all, it is one thing to enjoy the prerogative of a goddess on chastity grounds but quite another to embark upon a spiritual journey and thereby attain godliness. Maybe the holiness does not exist inside the Living Goddess as believed and claimed, not at all, hence skepticism justified. Or perhaps it was there in profusion, but insofar as Nepalese society is accustomed to find coexistence of divinity and impure blood unbearable, it must have convinced us of the latter’s seemingly antagonistic role.

Challenging the popular yet pernicious existing belief that first menstruation ends divine power, I emphatically advocate that it is high time puberty is acquitted from a crime it “never” committed. Needless to say, since the inception of Kumari custom and up until the 21st century, Nepalese society’s fervent endorsement of such belief coupled with their reluctance to point fingers against the traditional practice certainly consolidated the superstition for many centuries. It “might” be our rights to continue long held old traditions and worship girl children in the form of goddesses, regardless of some compromises with their child and human rights. But we are not in the least entitled to mercilessly dethrone them under a completely false or trifle pretext. More importantly, we are not at liberty to dub a harmless biological phenomenon with an undeserved ugly reputation, on account of our illogical blood(menstrual) phobia. How many years or decades more it will take before we realize that menstruation is by no means impure, inauspicious and unholy?  Although the divinity of the Living Goddess appears disputable, one thing seems as clear as crystal, that the verdict passed against innocent pubescence to date was downright unfair. Unfortunately, the apotheosis of a girl child(woman) to a Living Goddess status is undermined by the fact that the Kumari practice explicitly condemns menses, an integral aspect of womanhood.

Krishnaman Rai is an aspiring thinker, currently a faculty member at National College(Kathmandu University), teaching Western & Indian Philosophy and Religion. An independent researcher with a major research interest in the area of Philosophy, Religion, Education, and Development.

Religion

Some wounds never heal: 38 Years till Date

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The treatment meted out with Minorities in India has stripped off the so-called secular mask from the face of Narendra Modi’s fascist regime. India, on one side, claims itself to be a secular state, while on the other side, it persecutes minorities, especially Muslims and Sikhs. This recently planned activity of hate speech against Muslims, has given a clear message to the Indian Muslims that their sentiments make no difference in the Modi led regime. Because if they did, people like Nupur Sharma would have been sacked as and when they made a hateful remark and not after the International pressure and ridicule India faced immensely. 

Minorities including Muslims and Sikhs have repeatedly expressed outrage at the blatant flouting of their core human rights especially on food, clothing, marriage and worship places. Yet, Modi led fascist regime has always turned a blind eye towards their concern. 

In June 1984, the Indian Army attacked the familiar Golden Temple along with 41 other gurdwaaras of Sikh community all across the Indian Punjab. This assault was codenamed as “Operation Blue Star” and this marked a beginning of gross violations of Human Rights. Sikh community even on the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star are protesting carrying the flags of “Khalistan” demanding a separate state for Sikhs. One of the Protester says that “We are holding this march to reiterate our commitment to the struggle for independence, and to pay homage to the people who tasted martyrdom during the Indian army’s heinous attack.” 

This operation was marked by Sikh leaders as the genocide of the Sikh community. They are still wounded with the thought that their leader was killed in this operation. Indian government had imposed draconian media censorship to hide the gruesome war crimes against Sikhs during the ‘Operation Blue Star’ by their Army. 

Post this gruesome incident, 20,000 Sikh families fearing for their life migrated out from India. Many of them resigned from their jobs and returned medals they had received from the Indian authorities as a protest against the attack on Golden Temple. 

These historical moves were always deliberate in nature whether it was Golden temple or Babri Masjid, whether it was Sikhs or Muslims. It was always about promoting Hindutva with a mask of secularism. Modi’s Hegemonic designs were always with an aim of targeting minorities of the country. The Butcher of Gujrat has now become a butcher of so many of the Minorities including Sikhs and Muslims. The recent event of Nupur Sharma hateful remark is just a chain of the previous events because it represents Narendra Modi’s anarchist mindset. 

Analysts believe that the genocide against minorities in India is already on the cards. The world must wake up! Before it’s too late! 

Be fearful of the genocide by Modi!! Be very fearful!

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Religion

Assault on Mughal icons and Indian mosques

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The monk chief minister of India’s most populated north-eastern State Uttar Pradesh abhors Mughal icons. He says that Mughals cannot be heroes to the Hindu. He renamed Mughal Museum as Chatrapatti Shivajee. During the election campaign he supported RSS’s demand for renaming Hyderabad as ‘Bhagyanagar’. The fanatic Hindu says that about 60,000 temples were converted into mosques during the Mughal rule. The Supreme Court pronounced that the Babri Masjid was in fact Ram Janam Bhoomi temple. Petitions have been filed to “restore “Tajo mahilya temple’ (Taj Mahal), Kashi Vishwanath Temple (Gyanvapi mosque).

A court ordered survey of the Gyanvapi mosque to trace remnants of the imaginary temple. The survey team appears to have inferred that an ablution fountain is a Shiva Lingum. The fanatic Hindu claims that Qutub Minar is actually the Vishnu pillar. It should be renamed Vishnu Stambha They chanted  the Hanuman Chalisa near the historic building Qutub Minar in Delhi on May 10, 2022It is alleged that the  minaret was constructed by demolishing 27 Jain and Hindu temples.

What is a Shiva Lingum?

After the disputed structure of the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, there is also a demand for a survey of the Taj Mahal. Several organisations are of the view that the 20 closed rooms of the Taj Mahal should be opened, claiming that they contain idols of Hindu gods and goddesses. A petition has also been filed in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in this regard.

According to Rohit Dasgupta, the lingam symbolizes Shiva in Hinduism, and it is also a phallic symbol. Since the 19th-century, the popular literature has represented the lingam as the male sex organ.

In Shiva-ite temples the lingam is often at the centre, surrounded by murtis (sacred images of deities). It is a smooth cylindrical mass. Often it rests in the centre of a lipped, disk-shaped object, the yoni, which is an emblem of the goddess Shakti. Ancient Sanskrit texts such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas relate narratives that identify the lingam as the phallus of Shiva. Yoni (Sanskrit: “abode,” “source,” “womb,” or “vagina”)

Yoni is the symbol of the goddess Shakti (a goddess, the consort of Shiva), the feminine generative power.

In sculpture and paintings, the lingam is depicted as resting in the yoni as a cylinder in a spouted dish. The two symbols together represent the eternal process of creation and regeneration, the union of the male and female principles, and the totality of all existence.

Practicing Hindus consider the lingam and yoni together .Short cylindrical pillars with rounded tops have been found in remains from Harappa, one of the cities of the ancient Indus civilization (c. 2700–2500 BCE), but there is no evidence that those were worshipped as lingams. One verse in the Rigveda (c. 1500 BCE) refers with scorn to people who worship the phallus, but there is no evidence in that verse that phallus worship was associated with the lingam or with Shiva. The earliest known Shiva lingam is the Gudimallam lingam from the third century BCE.

A local court to hear plea for survey of Mathura mosque ‘on the lines of Gyanvapi’

A Muslim body says the survey violates a law enacted by Parliament in 1991. What is this law, and what has the Supreme Court said about it earlier?

Converted temples in focus

Aside from the “60000 demolished temples”, the following nine converted mosques have been in popular focus.  

1. Ram Janmabhoomi Temple (Babri Masjid)

Many Hindus believe that the land on which the Babri Masjid was built in 1528 is the ‘Ram Janmabhoomi’ (birthplace of the Shri Rama). It was Mir Baqi, one of Mughal king Babur’s generals, who is said to have destroyed the pre-existing temple of Rama and built a mosque called Babri Masjid at the site. On December 6, 1992, the mosque was demolished by angry ‘kar sevaks’.In 2019, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the 2.77-acre land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims would be handed over to a trust for the building of a temple.

2. The Kashi Vishwanath (Gyanvapi Mosque)

Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The principal deity is known as Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara, which is another name for Shiva. ‘The temple town is claimed to be the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history.

However, the original Jyotirlinga of Kashi Vishwanath was nowhere to be found. It is said that the old temple was demolished as a result of the Mughal attack. It is alleged that Akbar and Aurangzeb destroyed it many times. In 1669, they then built Gyanvapi Mosque in its place. Later in the 1780s, the present temple was erected a few feet from the mosque by Maratha queen Ahilya Bai Holkar.

3. The Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple (Shahi Idgah Mosque)

The Krishna Janmabhoomi temple is located in the holy city of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. The temple is said to have been built by Lord Krishna’s grandson, Vajra. Ancient Hindu texts say that Mathura is the birthplace of the god, and locals believe that the temple was made 5,000 years ago.

Again during the Mugal era, the temple was allegedly demolished several times during 1017 AD. After being repaired by Hindu Kings the temple was again destroyed by emperor Aurangzeb and the Shahi Idgah mosque was built above the Krishna Temple.

4. Rudra Mahalaya (Jamia Masjid)

This ruined temple of Rudra Mahalaya is located in the Patan district of Gujarat. Located in the town named Siddhpur, the place derives its name from the ruler of Gujarat, named Siddhraj Jaisinh, who built a magnificent Rudra Mahalaya temple in the 12th century AD.

The temple was allegedly destroyed by Allauddin Khilji and later Ahmed Shah I ruined this temple and restored some part of it into the conjoint mosque. Years later, the locals found a shrine and Shiva Linga. This led to the erection or completion of the temple. Then Siddharaj put up the images of many great kings in the temple, along with a representation of himself with an inscription saying that, even if the land was ruined, this temple will never be destroyed.

Again, Mughal king Alauddin Khilji sent a strong army and destroyed the temple complex. The temple was further demolished and the western part was converted into a Jami Masjid by Ahmed Shah I of the Muzaffarid dynasty.

5. Bhojshala ( Kamal Maula Mosque)

Bhojshala is an ancient temple of Mata Saraswati. The temple was built in 1034 AD by Raja Bhoj, the powerful Hindu King whose empire extended from Rajasthan to Odisha and from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra. This temple is situated in the Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh, which was the capital of Raja Bhoj.

The process of the Islamic invasion started 36 years before the attack when a Muslim fakir named Kamal Moulana entered Malwa in 1269 AD. He collected information about the Malwa region for 36 years and handed it over to Alauddin Khilj.

Bhojshala was first attacked by Alauddin Khilji in 1305 AD. After the sacrifices of Hindu king Raja Mahakaldev and his soldiers in the battle, Khilji killed 1200 Hindus in Bhojshala as they refused to convert to Islam.

The Islam emperors tried to convert part of Saraswati Temple Bhojshala into a dargah. Today Muslims offer Namaz in this same Vijay Mandir. Later, Mehmudshah intruded on land outside Saraswati Temple and built ‘Kamal Moulana Makbara’ after 204 years of the death of Kamal Moulana.

6. Adinath Temple (Adina Mosque)

Adinath Temple is located in Pandua, West Bengal. Now known as Adina mosque, it was allegedly built by Sikandar Shah in 1358- 90 AD over a lavish ancient Hindu temple which is now said to be one of India’s biggest mosques. The Hindu claim the mosque was originally a Hindu temple of Lord Shiva which was demolished and rebuilt into a mosque.

The name “Adina” of the Adina mosque is also believed to come from the word “Adinath” depicting Lord Shiva.

7. Bhadrakali Temple (Jama Masjid)

Jama Masjid, which was constructed in 1424 CE by Ahmed Shah I, is allegedly a Hindu temple of Goddess Kali. Ahmad Shah I of the Muzaffarid dynasty captured Karnavati in 1411. Located in Ahmedabad, the city’s original names were Bhadra, Karnavati, Rajnagar, and Asaval of different ages. The name Bhadra was named after the Goddess, whose temple was built by the Rajput Parmar kings of Malwa (Rajasthan), who ruled this area between the 9th and 14th centuries.

The temple which is now a mosque is built with a large hall for mass prayers.

8. Vijay Temple (Bijamandal Mosque)

Bijamandal Mosque is located in Vidisha, a city in the state of Madhya Pradesh, around 60km from the capital city of Bhopal. Vidisha is famous for its Masjid.

Aurangzeb allegedly demolished the temple in 1658-1707 AD and converted it into a mosque.

9. Several Hindu & Jain Temples near Qutub Minar (Qawwat al-Islam Mosque)

It is believed that Qutub Minar in Delhi was actually Dhruv Sthambh that existed even before the times of King Vikramaditya and had Arabic scripts installed by Qutb-ud-din Aibak between 1191 – 1210 AD, followed by his successors Iltutmish, Alauddin, etc until 1315 AD.

The first mosque near the tower is Qubbat al-Islam or Quwwat al_Islam, Qutubud-Din Aibak, which was allegedly constructed after demolishing the Hindu temple built by Prithvi Raj Chauhan.

The Places Of Worship Act, 1991

The Places of Worship Act, 1991, seeks to prohibit the conversion of a place of worship and maintain its religious character as was at the time of India’s Independence on August 15, 1947. Section 4 (1) of the Act states: “The religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day.” The Act has been in force since July 11, 1991.

The Act in Section 4 (2) goes on to state that if any suit, appeal, or other proceedings concerning the conversion of the religious traits of any place of worship, existing on August 15, 1947, is pending before any court, tribunal or other authority, the same shall abate. It further stipulates that no fresh proceedings on such matters shall be initiated.

Section 3 of the Act prohibits conversion of a religious place in any manner, even to cater to a particular section of the religion. “No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof,” it reads.

The Act, however, exempts any place of worship, which is “an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site or remains covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958) or any other law for the time being in force”.

Section 5 of the Act states that its provisions shall not apply to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case. “Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the place or place of worship commonly known as Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid situated in Ayodhya in the State of Uttar Pradesh and to any suit, appeal or other proceeding relating to the said place or place of worship”.

The statement that “praying in a mosque is not an essential part of Islam and namaz by Muslims can be offered even in the open” by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in a 1994 judgment played a role in the Allahabad High Court decision to partition the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site.

Concluding reflections

The “secular” courts in India often dabble into religious matters. Emboldened by the Supreme Court verdict handing over a disputed site in Ayodhya to Hindu claimants, encourage the fanatic Hindu to capture sites in Varanasi and Mathura where the Gyanvapi mosque and Shahi Idgah Masjid are located. Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 sought to freeze the status of places of worship as on August 15, 1947, so that existing suits and proceedings abate and new claims are not entertained. Yet, in flagrant violation of the law, courts are repeatedly allowing proceedings to be initiated.

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Religion

The plight of the Muslim in India

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There is a hue and cry in India that the Muslim population in India may outnumber the current Hindu majority before long. The fanatic Hindus point out that Islam, unlike the Hinduism, allows polygamy. As such, a Muslim household is likely to have more siblings than a Hindu. The BJP wants to enforce a uniform Civil Code that outlaws polygamy.

Not all the projections about the phenomenal growth of the Muslim population may be correct. Above all, the Muslim population in India has always been under-represented in the Lok Sabha. Pew Research Center estimated that there were 195 million Muslims in 2015. By 2060, Pew estimates, there will be more Muslims in India than anywhere else in the world (outnumbering even Indonesia), and they will constitute 19% of Indians.

Riaz Hassan’s study

Riaz Hassan, in his study Indian Muslim: Sociology of a religious Minority infers:

The largest and most consequential change [in population] however will be in India. Its Hindu population will increase by 35 percent from 1.03 billion in 2010 to 1.38 billion in 2050, but Indian Muslim population will increase by 76 cent from 176million to 310 million in the same period. This means that the largest increase in the Muslim population of South Asia will occur in India.

India will acquire a new global status in terms of the religious composition of its population. Not only will it be the largest Hindu nation but also with a population of 310 Muslims, India will become the largest Muslim nation in the world. While Hindus will remain the majority population at 77 percent, the proportion of Muslims will increase from 14 percent of the population in 2011 to 18 percent in 2050. This means that nearly one out of every five Indians will be a Muslim (p. 2., ibid.)

Disadvantageous dispersal of Indian Muslim population

Unlike the Christians who have their chief minister in Christian majority Indian state, The Indian Muslims have no chief minister. Even the Indian held Kashmir state has been illegally converted into a centrally controlled Union territory.

Indian Muslims live in all parts of the country, but more than half of them live in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, west Bengal, and Kashmir. As per Census of India 2011, States with sizable Muslim population  are : Lakshadweep (64,473, 99%), Indian occupies Kashmir (12, 541, 302, 68%), Assam (31,205,576, 34%), West Bengal (91,279, 27%), Kerala (33, 404,061, 27%), Uttar Pradesh (199,812,341, 19%), , Bihar (104, 099, 542, 17%), Jharkhand (32,988,134, 15%), Uttaranchal (10,086,292,14%), Karnataka 961,095, 297, 13%).Delhi (16,787,941, 13%), Maharashtra (132,374,333, 12%), Gujarat (64,739692, 10%), Rajasthan (68,548,437, 9%).

Legislative voice in the wilderness

Most of the winning candidates are from opposition parties while only one candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 303 out of 542 seats across the country. But, only one Muslim candidate (a turncoat) could make it to the Lower House (lok Sabha,  house of the people).

Muslims have always been underrepresented in the lok sabha. In the 1980 election, almost 10% of those elected were Muslim. In 2014, it was less than 4%.

As the result of poor representation in the lok Sabha, critical questions about the plight of the Muslim in India are never asked. Most questions about Islam are usually asked by the Hindu legislators. These questions revolve around rituals like hajj. A set of 276,000 questions were asked in parliament from 1999 to 2017. Few questions are asked about plight of the Indian Muslim women, for instance harassment of hijab-wearing women at public places.  The number of Muslim women is less than 1per cent of lok Sabha.

Trend

The majoritarian policies of the BJP are likely to further reduce Muslim representation. Many Hindu nationalists express the idea that Muslims can never be truly Indians because, unlike Hindus, their holy sites are not in India. The BJP’s growth was catalyzed by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. In the 2002 riots, over 1,000 people, most of whom were Muslims, were killed in the state of Gujarat (Modi was then the state’s chief minister).  

The Muslim’s dilemma

During the freedom movement, the Indian Muslim was the avant-garde of the All-India Muslim League. With creation of Pakistan, they lost their charismatic leader, Quaid-e-Azam. The Indian Muslim felt orphaned and leaderless in a Hindu majoritarian state. They had to suffer the travails of living under a cosmetically-secular constitution unable to protect their minority rights.

Historically, Jamiyat Ulema-e-Hind, associated with Deoband seminary, remained affiliated with the Congress. The Jamiyat’s sole preoccupation was religious endowments. Key issues like Organisation of Islamic Countries, Kashmir and Palestine issues remained out of their focus. Similarly, Jamaat-e-Islamai was no longer in a position in the post-Partition India  to argue that secularism and democracy are alien to Islam. And the Muslim should strive for an Islamic state. In the post-Partition India, the prominent Muslim parties, Muslim League and Ittehadul Muslimeen were able to send representatives to the parliament. But, the ML is confined to northern districts of Kerala and the latter retained its political base in Andhra Pradesh, generally Hyderabad. The Indian Muslim who during Pakistan movement fought for a separate homeland is still under burden to prove that they are loyal to India and hence, worthy of Indian citizenship.

Physical insecurity

Indian Constitution and successive governments failed to ensure physical security to the Muslim minority (as also other minorities). Since Partition, over 40,000 Muslim have been killed or injured in anti-Muslim riots. In recent Delhi riots, Muslim houses and shops were bulldozed despite a Supreme Court stay order. The hapless Muslim was later compelled to participate in a joint Hindu-Muslim Taranga (Indian flag) march to show it was all hunky-dory with the law-and-order situation.

The Sachar Committee

This seven-member High Level Committee established in March 2005 by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, highlighted the social marginalisation  of the downtrodden Muslims. The committee was headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar to study the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in India. The Committee, inter alia, recommended setting up an Equal Opportunity Commission to provide a legal mechanism to address discrimination complaints, including in matters such as housing and employment.

The Committee observed:

“Their [Muslims’] conditions are only slightly better than those of Hindu Scheduled Castes/scheduled Tribes and worse than those of Hindus belonging to other backward castes [read mandal Report also]”.

Sachar Committee found that their identity marks such as address and names often lead to suspicion and discrimination by people and institutions. Discriminations are persuasive in employment housing and schooling. Muslim women who wear religious head and face covering can experience particularly acute discrimination. At the same time, most of the fellow non-Muslims fellow citizens regard the socio-cultural characteristics of the Muslim community as the cause of its “backwardness”.

Concluding reflections

The socio-economic condition of the Indian Muslim, like that of the dalit (the downtrodden untouchables) has worsened over the years. The golden words of the Indian Constitution about fundamental rights, justice liberty, equality and fraternity (Articles 25 to 30 in Part III of the Indian Constitution) remain unfulfilled.

The Muslim community should coalesce with other persecuted communities to forge an oppressed-people-of-India movement.

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