Monday, June 7, 2010

Delhi Minority Commission abdicating its duty

Consistent battle for information has unravelled several intriguing truth in the past five years when the RTI Act was passed. The young RTI ‘Maverick’ Afroz Alam Sahil, who has to his credit the post-mortem report of the deceased in the Batla House Encounter, has got another piece of information which is both surprising and reveals the sorry state of affairs of the Delhi Minority Commission (DMC).

Afroz had filed a petition under RTI Act 2005 to enquire about the ‘Fact Finding’ team that was supposedly constituted to ‘assess and analyse facts of the Police action’ inside Flat No L-18 of the Batla House, where the encounter took place. Many locals and human rights activists have questioned the Police version and believe that the encounter was ‘fake’. The reply that Afroz has got says that no fact finding team ever visited the site or talked to locals and never submitted any report. On the question of who comprised of the ‘fact finding’ team it further gives references tosection 8 (b & h) of the RTI Act, which allows the authority to withhold information if prohibited by a tribunal or court; or the reply may endanger the life of the person(s) concerned, respectively.

Interestingly Afroz has a copy of the document which has names of all the members of the said team. Says Afroz, “The report that I had got from the NHRC has a page which says that a fact Finding team would analyse facts and atmosphere, but the subsequent report was missing”. This prompted him to file a separate RTI, but it seems the endeavour has gone waste.

After repeated denial by the Delhi Police and AIIMS, Afroz had filed a RTI with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) requesting them to supply information based on which the NHRC has formulated its report and concluded that the encounter was not fake, as largely believed. The copy of documents that he had received comprised of reports submitted by the Additional Commissioner of Police (Vigilance), Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance), Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime), Deputy Commissioner of police (Vigilance), Joint Commissioner of Police and Deputy Secretary (Home) of the NCT of Delhi. It also had copies of the post-mortem reports of alleged terrorists and Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma.

The same report has the copy of a letter that talks about the said ‘Fact Finding Committee’ and their objective. But it contains no report. According to this document, the team comprised of four members – Maqsood Ahmed, Dr D. K. Panday, Dr Mahender Singh and Rev. Manoj Malaki. The document dated 5 November, 2008 is signed by then Secretary of DMC Sanjay Pratap Singh. When asked if such a team was actually constituted, Kamal Faruqui, who was the Chairman of the DMC at the time refused to comment.

A member of the supposed Committee, on the assurance of anonymity, told this reporter that the “DMC never seemed serious and that we were never provided any resources. Further the Committee was soon dissolved”.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer School: Muslims in the West

Mohammad Reyaz, a final year journalism student from Jamia Millia Islamia, is among fifteen students selected from across the world to attend an International Summer School on “Muslims in the West” being organized at Erfurt University, Germany.

Reyaz, a student of final year MA Convergent Journalism course at Anwar Jamal Kidwai-Mass Communication Research Centre, has been selected to participate in the workshop being organized by the Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Erfurt, Germany from 14 to 29 August 2010.

Mohammad Reyaz would be one of the fifteen young scholars from different countries to participate in this cultural exchange. Mr Reyaz, currently a student of convergent journalism at MCRC has also done his BA (Hons.) in English from Jamia, said JMI media coordinator.

The Summer School will be chaired by Prof. Jamal Malik, Chair of Islamic Studies, University of Erfurt. The University of Erfurt has been engaged in debates on areas of current relevance such as “Islam and the West”. The two week workshop to be held in August on “Muslims in the West” will address contemporary debates related to the subject and the programme will be spread across four different sessions.

Besides the creation and consolidation of a permanent basis for a dialogue, the goal of the workshop is to provide the possibility to directly experience the pluralistic structure of Islam in the European context, not just between Muslims and non-Muslims, but also among Muslims themselves.

The educational component of the Summer School will also be accompanied by a rich cultural programme and excursions to Weimar and Berlin.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

'Stone' Kasab

Tomorrow is the Judgment day for the lone alive 26/11 accused Ajmal Kasab. He might be thinking of the Qamayat- the Final judgment day. What was simple act of terrorism for all Indians and the world at large, for him and his mentors sitting across the border (perhaps also for some in the country) it was an act of martyrdom- Jihad as they call it.

But since his acts were motivated by his interpretation of Islam, he should be punished in the classic way as preached in Islam. It is wrong for the media or citizens to influence the Judgment, I would like to advice Judge M L Tahaliyani to order to 'stone him to death' by general public, especially by the relatives of those killed in the terror attacks.

I wish and pray that good sense and Islam prevails in this case, and the court is willing to deviate from the Constitution to follow classic Islamic method of prosecution.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

RTI Crusader reluctant to provide information

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself” (Leo Tolstoy).

This appears to be the story of Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), the organisation that claims to work for ‘just, transparent, accountable and participatory governance’. Afroz Alam Sahil, an RTI activist had filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 seeking information from the PCRF relating to funding and other details of the RTI Awards 2009, organised by PCRF.

Magsaysay awardee Arvind Kejriwal, the moving force behind the organisation, had said in the media that PCRF does not come under RTI purview, but he would still furnish information for transparency. However, the one month period within which an authority needs to reply has long passed. An aggrieved Afroz has accordingly filed the first application after waiting for few extra days. In the application, a copy of which is available with this reporter, the appellant has explained, that although not for profit organisations like PCRF does not come under RTI, but as torchbearer of the information revolution, they should come clear on their accounts too.

“I have nothing personal either against PCRF, Arvind Kejriwal, or Parivartan (the NGO that he runs). In fact I have great respect for him... But I have made a list of prominent organisations and activists, including Aruna Roy, that work for RTI revolution across country and have filed applications to them all to set examples to government authorities,” said Afroz.

National RTI Awards 2009, the first of its kind, was in controversy right from the day it was announced. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah had called it “shamelessly demeaning” and said that information commissioners would not accept awards as they “are not school children” (IE-Nov 20).

Several activists have also accused Arvind Kejriwal of handpicking nominees and in many cases awarding incompetent persons. It is like an ‘eyewash...deliberately promoting some at the cost of others’.

Interestingly the website of the PCRF has copies of audit returns filed for the past two financial years, but it has no details of funds that it receives. It however, does mention that in partnership with other activists, that include former Journalist Manish Sisodia and TV producer and writer Abhinandan Sekhri, Kejriwal started the foundation with the with the Magsaysay award money as ‘corpus fund’.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The question of 'Identity'¿

“I have grown certain that the root of all fear is that we’ve been forced to deny who we are”.

Frances Moore Lappe, the American activist, could not give a more succinct explanation on the question of ‘identity’. An extension to the aforesaid observation though could be ‘or to accept what others are’. “Muslims in the West” or anywhere (including my country-India) also have the same symptoms. So while they are in a state of ‘seige’ and see conspiracy of Judeo-Chrisitan in everything - good or bad, non-Muslims have developed an Islamophobia. They see a threat coming to their culture and civilisation. What Huntington called ‘The Clash of Civilisations’¿

9/11 changed the way the world sees Muslims. The good Mujahedeens of the latter Cold War era were now part of the ‘global jihadi’ militant networks. The changed perception was not restricted to fighters (good or bad¿), but also reached the Muslims on the streets. Muslims too are in many ways responsible for the changed behaviour, for most of them had suddenly become ‘hypersensitive’ about their religion, roots, culture and kinship.

The West today is at a strange juncture, fuelled by labour imports from former colonies and other developing nations, as also refugees from war torn countries, a sizeable number of their population are not ‘Western’, i.e. they are from a different civilisation altogether – from religion to culture to food and dress habits, and often language are all different. Any diaspora tries its best to retain its identity, but the withholding is more with Muslims and has even accelerated in last two decades more so because of ‘global Islamization’, but also owing to ‘perceived’ attacks on their religion or culture.

Thus as the West intends to integrate all its citizens, Muslims are exerting themselves more vehemently in their appearance (veil or beard). The West also has its share of blame – the proposed ban of minarets in Switzerland or of veil in France are recent examples. In fact the cases of ‘honour killing’ of girls who want to marry a non-Muslim boy have also been reported in the last couple of years.

Am I a Muslim first or an Indian first? Often Muslims in India are asked this question. And the most liberal answer that one can give is – ‘I am an Indian Muslim’. In villages and towns, on the surface India seems, to be one nation. But scratch a bit and there are several identities that one is vying for -regional, religious, linguistic, ideological conflict is quite apparent.

Although I am proud to be born in a vibrant secular democratic country, India has its own share of problems, reasons for which are often quite indigenous. So while Muslims in India were virtually immune from global anti-communist struggle during the Cold War, local incidents (demolition of mosque, frequent riots, etc.) have led to radicalisation of a section of Muslims. Of course 9/11 also brought its share of problems to India.

As a person born with several identities, my unvarying endeavour has been that of reconciliation – escaping sometimes, but often trying to integrate one with another.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

50 Recreation Centres for Senior citizens in Delhi

Delhi Government funds 50 recreation centres for senior citizens and are planning to start 50 more. We tried to find out the condition of those centers and if there is need to open more such center. Moreover, isn't recreation a luxury when a large section of poor old people do not even have a place to live or food to eat.

By Mohd. Reyaz and Ranish Hangloo for AJK MCRC

Reconstructive surgery for LAPs

Due to intensive leprosy elimination programme, rate of leprosy is now less than one per thousand people. India still has a long way to go in rehabilitating those already affected. The Government of India introduced reconstructive surgery in 2008.

By Mohd. Reyaz and Karishma Karki for AJK MCRC