Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why do Muslims Complain about a Conspiracy of Silence in the Indian media?

BJP president Rajnath Singh objects to the use of the term 'Hindutva terrorism' by the media: news

'Of course, we have no objection to using Islamic terrorism...!'

RECENTLY I had to take issue with some articles written by Praveen Swami of The Hindu which, I felt, were more tendentious and subservient to the interests of the security agencies who seem to take a partisan view of things as far as Muslim community is concerned in many recent terror incidents(except the Malegaon case in Maharashtra.) One of the grievances raised by Muslim leaders and masses is that the angle, whether their enemies do have a role in these incidents never get probed by these agencies.

That is why the complaint that terror inquiries are being converted into a witch-hunt. My experience is that there is some substance in this allegation. Here is a post l had made to a discussion group on this and some reactions to them:

Since we have plenty of western experts to tell us from where terrorists come from even in remote Asian villages, I do not know whether a local narrative could sell in this highly monopolistic market.

But I do have a story to tell, because I happen to come from a village from where recently a 'terrorist' came up. And his story would give us an insight into how they are made to order and how they are disposed of.

His name suddenly came in Bangalore newspapers as part of terror network with a sophisticated training in Information Technology. Yahya Kammukkutty, who hails from Mukkam, a few km from my village, was indeed working in some IT company in Bangalore and he was earning some good money too. He had married from Karuvanpoyil, a small village where I had my primary schooling.

So Kammukkutty was picked up and Times of India gave a front-page news that terror network in IT business had been busted. Check out Bangalore newspapers of a few months back and enjoy the kind of cock and bull stories they built up on the Islamic terror network to finish off India's Silicon Valley.

But this move backfired when they named a person called Sheriff, a highly respected IT businessman in the city, as one of the kingpins of the network. Even the global names in IT business who knew him pooh poohed at this story and put an end to the cynical attempt to destroy the few fledgling IT businesses set up by Muslim community in the city.

Now what about Kammukkutty, my village terrorist? His wife and her people say he had plans to set up a new company and it was business rivalries that caused his ill fate. The police worked in cahoots with his rivals. Of course, that's a point to be proved or disproved in a court of law. By the time, sure, his life would be destroyed.

And do we expect him to get a fair hearing in a court of law? After all we have a democracy here, that too a vibrant democracy...(Remember Madani trial. Didn’t he get off, after nine years in jail?)

After a series of brain mappings, narco tests and all that, some of these cases were to be taken up by some lawyers but when he went to the court to file some petitions, he was not even allowed to enter the court. The 'nationalist' lawyers in Hubli and other places, where cases are pending, had decided not to take up cases relating to terrorists.

The point here is that the due process of law is being upstaged and upset by the law enforcing agencies themselves. The police are taking a partisan line, the laywers are refusing to take up cases and even physically stopping a few who dare to do so, and what would a poor man do?

Is a kangaroo trial enough for the wretched and the poor of this country? What is eerily fascinating is the fact that they had to face the brunt of even the most cynical actions of criminal conspiracy as in the Malegaon case, where a group of Hindutva activists are now taken into custody for planting a bomb outside a mosque the day before Bakrid last month.


Unknown said...

John Samuel writes in an email:

Dear NPC,

This is indeed a very serious issue. The story you narrated is deeply disturbing and quite possible. And this needs to be challenged and exposed .

1) While one has to challenge unequivocally all kinds of violence- terrorism or mob attacks, riots or communal violence- it is of cardinal importance that innocent people are not targeted, labeled and destroyed. Such labeling and targeting will only aggravate the problem and will never help to find a solution.

2) Every person who is accused of something is not guilty until and unless proven guilty. I have a big problem with the way the Police and the Media are handling these issues. Police are ever ready to conduct press conferences and the media ever ready to make masala stories (almost like the film Wednesday) for mass consumption. There has to be some basic media and police ethics in such cases and it needs to be handled with utmost sensitivity and care. Here, Police come with stories that they "cracked" the plot- sometime within hours-and then the so-called journalists jump the gun by discovering deeper plot, and thicker plot...already declaring the verdict.

This has become a pattern and this will subvert justice as well as Human Rights. Look at what happened in the Arushi case?
It is utterly unprofessional, unethical and illegal to paint an accused as "Proven Guilty" even before trial or basic investigation or charge-sheet. What the hell of a Rule of Law is this?

3)I think the present Home Minister has completely failed in handling any of the recent crisis or even addressing it or playing even once percent leadership role. I am appalled to see such lack of sensitivity and strategic understanding in handling such cases. I am all the more perplexed that UPA is keeping such a person in one of the most important ministries!!

4)I think there are many Human Rights and Legal support organizations in India- whose support should be sought like Lawyers Collective, Human Rights Law Network, Alternate Lawyers forum, Centre for Social Justice. It is important that we make conscious efforts to make sure that every such person who is at the receiving end of the Sate machinery gets the basic support for defending his or her case.

But the key is to tell these stories. Though Dr. Hameed had to undergo a trauma - it exposed the lie- the lie of the Australian government, the lie of the media d but let us also not forget there were so many people and organizations to support Hameed's case in Australia.

Terrorism is a reality- a mode war-fare in the modern does not have any religion. It happens on a regular basis in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Palestine, US (how many children and college students were killed by those who are angry about something?) It happened in Ireland as well. By simply addressing the symptoms or through sound and fury such issues cannot be solved. Bush made the world a much less secure place than anyone else in recent history. There has been terrorists from all religions and all colours. It is patently unethical and uncivilized to target or label one community (in Sri Lanka every Tamil is a suspect and it is not encouraged to employ them). What happened in Orissa, Karnataka too are terrorism- with an in-depth element of fascism. In the name of War on terror the US too is spreading terror across the world, through totally unethical and illegal war and through so many indirect ways of supporting such forces(the latest news is that US again began to support Taliban!)

All fundamentalists are not terrorists and all terrorists are not fundamentalists. However, there are also fundamentalist- terrorists. To me fundamentalists are those who insist on the "fundamental" faith of their particular religion should be the mode of life and guiding force to everyone. It denies agency of human beings, beyond the fundamentals of that particular faith/ideology or dogma. It seeks to offer "salvation" whole sale and retail through aggression and annihilation. Any form of fundamentalism can lead to fascist tendencies, sooner or later...

This needs to be challenged in a consistent and clam manner with a long term strategy and political process. That is one of the reasons that I believe that Left politics (in spite of differences etc) is important in India in the short term as well as long term. Because Left parties can really play an important bridging role in India as they have more ethical and less cynical leadership in comparison to other mainstream political parties...

These are highly disturbing times in India and the world...when I travel to Pakistan I do hear the same sense of disturbing stories on the ground- many of us must have seen Khuda Kelie- a film supported by many of our friends- and AA.

How do we change it? How do we transform this predicament of growing mistrust and chasm? That is the question I keep asking to myself every day.Not just in the case of India, beyond it. We have been trying to do whatever little way to address this...I somehow find it difficult to reconcile to the situation - as we need to change it: for a good today and better tomorrow; for the greater common good.

In fact, it disturbs me so much to see the agony and trauma of those who are killed and those innocent people who are unethically and brutally targeted without even a chance for fair trial or due process of law. Such violation of human rights have to be challenged.

I am sorry to be so passionate about it. It is because it is a personal story for me too.I was subjected to racial profiling so many times; I had to receive the dead bodies of four of my colleagues who were shot dead by fundamentalist-terrorists. I have had to face the agony, frustrations and tears of their young children...I was angry and deeply sad...Their only mistake was that they were women- and they dared to work for the literacy and social development of the community in the Northern Afghanistan. My Tamil colleague was detained by the Police when he was going to fix a UPS in our office in Southern Sri Lanka. I had to use all influences to get him released, after 24 ours of detention and harassment. Another women colleague in Bangladesh was attacked with acid- completely disfiguring her face- this was for standing up to the fundamentalists in the village. I had to do a sit in protest at the Sydney Airport because I too was subjected to harassment(violating the basic dignity) because of my mustache and brown colour and the complete anomaly of a name for a brown Indian! I am sorry that I share this experience not because of the "I" factor- but to tell that we all may have different kinds of experiences that deeply affect our thinking and perspective.

So the issue is much beyond India though we are all deeply disturbed about India. The issue is personal, political and cultural at the same time. It is indeed a sensitive issue which needs to be dealt with care and clam.

I think we all need to challenge and change it. By all means, in a democratic and non-violent manner.


Unknown said...

I do not agree when people say that there is a design behind all the careless expressions that appear in our newspapers. As I am more familiar with the way our desks work, I think it has much to do with lack of time, lack of sensitivity and just plain ignorance.

But what he says needs to make us more sensitive about the words and expressions that we use in our journalism. It is a reminder of how the words are taken by our readers. Serious newspapers are more sensitive about these things. I find that BBC makes every effort to use politically neutral expressions as far as possible and they use militant and not terrorist or extremist. For us even a Palestinian fighter is a terrorist.No editor bothers to correct such things.

And today's Hindu(29 March, 2008) wins the trophy for such careless journalism: read Praveen Swami's piece on the Islamic terror network in Kerala and he makes a lot of conclusions with flimsy evidence, about the terrorist networks lurking behind our backs in districts like Malappuram and Kondotty...

Well, can the Hindu editor tell us where does this district called Kondotty is situated in Kerala?

Frankly speaking, I used to take him seriously on his writings about Kashmir and Mumbai terror, etc, but now I think his writings need to be taken with a pinch of salt. What he peddles seem to be the undiluted IB stuff that even a mofusil reporter can see through.

N P Chekkutty

Unknown said...

A friend wrote as follows:

Mr Chekkutty should not have made a big issue out of a small error of saying Kondotty as a district. He would have meant Koshikkode.

My reply:

I write this just to point out that as a reader and a responsible journalist I do expect objectivity from each and every word I read in the newspapers of my choice. I am merciless with my own staff members as an editor and when I see this kind of nonsense I do seek an explanation. That is part of the normal practice of daily journalism.

Praveen Swami's piece, quoted by me yesterday, is more disturbing in many other ways, though I just restricted myself to his silly mistake. The fact is that he gives Trivandrum as the place of his dateline, and I am sure, he had not written it from the state capital. If he had, he would have quoted any sensible official or an expert in his article. He did not, instead he has just peddled out the stuff the IB people keep on feeding the media. If Prakash Karat and his Book World are happy with this kind of stuff, that is their business. I i do demand better stuff.

As a last point, I would like to point out that the two incidents he has referred to in his report are not conclusive at all. The case of Basheer is really curious and ambiguous as no one knows his antecedents and his connections. He has left the state many years ago and there is no case against him here. The case of Kammukkutty, alias Yahya, is more disturbing. It is still under investigation and what I do understand from our own investigation in Bangalore is that he is being set up by a group in the IT industry who do not want Muslims to start their own business. Yahya had plans to launch a company and it was just before he was arrested. Let us watch and wait till the case comes to court, before we jump to conclusions.

As a serious newspaper,I expected The Hindu would have considered all these aspects before they wrote such a piece against those two individuals and painting the state as a dark place where terrorists are lurking. It is a basic journalistic ethic that we get the facts right and I do not question their political line or their caste basis. But facts are sacred and they do not have a right to meddle with it.

N P Chekkutty

Unknown said...

Mr N.P.C

I expect some good article from you about

(1) Objectives of NDF
(2) Source of income of NDF
(3) and finally how its going to vanish from our Kerala society.


Unknown said...

K Govindan Kutty writes:


i have been following your interaction with people with strong
views on all things under the sun. i wish i had the benefit of
such certitude. i noticed your fec and chespeak interention
on muslims, conspiracy, fear and so on. fec is such a flood
and i am not able to catch up with it. and i do not want to initiate
a thread. i would have responded to your note on the conspiracy fear/charge
but then i thought it should leave it to you to decide if this should appear there.
these are no coordinated thoughts but only a tentative and quick statement
of what i think we owe to ourselves as an affirmative action. your venture to
drive home the minority case to others is indeed welcome, even necessary.
this is how i look at it. and this, if you so choose, you can move to the chespeak
and fec.

one thing everyone concerned with the muslim cause should do here and now
is to explain the message of islam to others. i recall hearing in a lecture hall in
lajpat bhawan, new delhi, a beautiful lecture by prof mujeeb, jamia millia islamia
vice chancellor. his subject was not my religion, what it means to me. it was:
my religion, what it means to you. can someone seriously take up that exercise?

it is greatly relevant because islam is the religion of 1.3 billion people in the world.
its spread will only increase, not decrease over time. in kerala, there are close to
ten million muslims. yet what non-muslims know about muslims and/or islam
is pretty little. the first thing on the agenda of any well=meaning organization should be
to tell others what islam is all about.

"...lead me out of darkness to light." this is no rendering of the line of the upanishad:
tamaso maa jyotirgamaya. this is the last line of the prophet's famous prayer of light.
look at the convergence. if you look at it closely, such convergences can be seen
all over. there is a hindu concept of saakshibhava. that is what is evident throughout
the quran. every surah is a declaration of being witness. they call it shahadah.

what i have in mind is a major credible effort to make islam accessible to those
who do not belong to it. islam came to kerala in less than a hundred years after the
prophet's mission. in fourteen centuries, it has egregiously retained its insularity.
you could say others have chosen not to understand it. the result is the same.

one reason for such lack of understanding and insularity is the medium of prayer
and thought. we covered this in another context briefly while talking about the
grandiloquence of melpathur and the celebration of his mediocre verse as sublime poetry.
islam has remained inaccessible to others because of the insistence that it should be
or can be understood only in arabic.

this is where we may ruffle religious feathers. dispel the assumed holiness of the word,.
reveal its meaning. that, i believe, should be the motto.. god speaking in an absolute act
of finality in arabic from 610 to 632 is not an idea that appeals to me for two reasons.
one, his choice of arabic as the language in preference to and exclusion of every other tongue.
why couldn't god speak any other language? two, that aspect of finality. personally, i fail to
accept anything as final. the end, as a concept, or even as an event, does not appeal to me.
in a manner of speaking, we are condemning poor god to a state of choicelessness.
he has said his piece through gabriel to muhammad in arabic over a span of 23
years and no one is ever coming up to vend god's word hereafter. history ended in 622?

to sum up my thesis, i have two points. one, make islam accessible as a school of thought
to other people. two, encourage creative and critical rexamination of its tenets. these two courses
are really interlinked. making islam intelliigble to others would mean getting rid of the
stranglehold of arabic. that will raise hackles among the rabid ulema. more of it will
happen when reexamination of tenets is proposed. but that i believe is what we owe
to ourselves, more particularly to the bulk of muslims.

so long.


Unknown said...

K Govindan Kutty writes in an email:

as i said in my last mail, i am trying to understand this eligion, islam,which has one point three billion believers. i do not think this can be discussed in fec's open forum where people have an opinion on everything under the sun
and are anxious to voice it. i grew up in a village watching goodness of muslim neighbours
and were happy to see their different styles and ways even when i could not make sense of them. i also grew up with and on the stories of muslim marauders.
yet islam seemed incomprehensible to me. i am trying to understand it.

and, in the course of my pursuit, i come up with things like this.
this is a paragraph from bernard lewis, hailed as the greatest living western scholar on islam. your organization can and should address itself to a perception like this,and even illustratively explain how it is wrong--if it is wrong, that is.

"...for most of the fourteen centuries of recorded muslim history, jihad was most commonly interrpreted
to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of muslim power.

in muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: the house of islam(dar-al-islam),
in which muslim governments rule and muslim law prevails, and the house of war(dar-al-harb),
the rest of the world, still inhabited and, more important, ruled by infidels. the presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only truces, until all the world either adopts the muslim faith or submits to muslim rule...."

i will earnestly wait for your analaysis of this view of islam. if the fear that this formulation
engenders in non-muslims cannot be dispelled effectively, anti-muslim movements will continue to gain strength, no less than muslim evangelists. so will you find some time to attempt to find answers to questions like this? so long.


Unknown said...

Bobby Kunhu writes in an email:

In response to KGK's queries:

1. I do not think there is uniformity in terms of what we call Islam - talking about lies, bloody lies, and statistics - I just finished reading an interesting book on the colonization of North Africa - that seemed to suggest that King Leopold's project was built on a certain epistemological representation of Islam.

2. As an atheist, and an admirer of Marxism, I have found Maxine Rodinson's explanation of Islam very relevant that even Marxists have stopped talking about it.

3. Jihad needs to be read in consonance with the crusades if that be the terms of reference - there seems to be a lot of forgetting of history - the problem, as I see it, is not Islam or Christianity or Hinduism, the problem is the positing of hierarchical truths and how that is pitched against one another. I am not the least surprised by an emerging homogenized notion of Islam - for me it is captured in the imagination of a child-victim of Gujarat pogrom who thinks that every "Hindu" is "evil" and wants to become a soldier to kill them - would he be a Jihadi?

4. KGK is absolutely right when he says "if the fear that this formulation engenders in non-Muslims cannot be dispelled effectively, anti-Muslim movements will continue to gain strength, no less than Muslim evangelists" - nonetheless just referring to the Kerala context - for a long time it was just Rolland Miller and his book that was the standard text on one of the largest Muslim communities in the world despite its multiple histories - this for me is a process of dehistoricizing a people.I hope we learn to see Muslims as human beings,not as gods or devils - borrowing the refrain from the feminist movement.