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Muhammad Cartoon Row: A Disturbing Polarisation

In a cycle of action and reaction, another incident occurred in Nice on October 29 in which an Islamic extremist beheaded a woman and killed two other French citizens attending a church.

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France protest Muhammad cartoon row

The beheading of a school teacher in a Paris suburb on October 16 — by a religious fanatic who was out to ‘punish’ the victim for showing a published cartoon of Prophet Mohammad during his class on social education — has reenacted the brutal killing of a dozen employees of Charlie Hebdo, a Paris based magazine, which was carried out by two heavily armed Muslim brothers affiliated to Al Qaeda in 2015 on the same count.

President Emmanuel Macron has responded by ordering the closure of a mosque to which the offender — an 18-year-old Chechnian Muslim — was linked and called the horrific crime a test for the nation’s resolve to assert freedom of speech against religious intolerance.

He declared that there will be no prohibition on such cartoons and a number of protest processions that followed the Paris killing therefore did carry the cartoons.

In a cycle of action and reaction, another incident occurred in Nice on October 29 in which an Islamic extremist beheaded a woman and killed two other French citizens attending a church.

The attacker reportedly shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ even after he was shot and arrested. The Mayor of Nice was quick to call for total elimination of Islamic fascism from France.

Some geo-political developments in the wake of the Paris murder are beginning to lay the seeds of a global polarisation between the ‘Muslim world’ and the secular democracies across the continents that were broadly against the idea of religious diktats curbing the freedom of expression of the people at large.

India has promptly condemned the Paris killing and stood by President Macron and his tough response to these ghastly acts of violence. It is a matter of grave concern for all peace loving nations that the world lately was moving in the direction where radicalisation of Islam would precipitate conflicts that might trigger a war-like situation at the global level.

The Paris beheading underscores the need for a democratic state to legally prohibit any act that would create enmity between communities, but at the same time it must also set an example of how a deliberate brutal killing of this kind must lead to capital punishment — whatever be the nature of defence put up.

In this context, 9/11 can be said to have provided the cut off point for the world to have transited to a new era where larger conflicts would arise from what Samuel Huntington and Barnard Lewis — both associated with the National Security Council of the US at that time — described as a ‘clash of civilisations’.

The war on terror that followed 9/11 — first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq — was in effect a combat between the US-led world coalition and the forces of radical Islam led by Al Qaeda and ISIS which had substantive support coming in for them from within the Muslim world.

There are reasons to apprehend that these incidents could foretell an escalation of faith — based terror across the world unless there was an express consensus in the Islamic world — possibly voiced at the Organisation of Islamic Conference(OIC) led by Saudi Arabia that resort to Jehad for avenging a perceived attack on Islam was not necessary or even valid in today’s times and that political disputes involving a Muslim country had to be resolved without invoking questions of faith.

This may not happen and therefore the danger from radicalised Islam that rejects any separation of religion from politics might grow large enough to pose a threat to world peace and stability.

It has to be noted that Islamic radicals of today carry the historical legacy of the first Jehad in modern history that was launched by the leading Ulema in Algeria, Arabia and India in the middle of the 19th century against the Western encroachment on Muslim lands — they called for going back to the puritan Islam of the days of the Pious Caliphs as their contention was that the political decline of Islam was caused by the deviation of Muslim rulers from that original path.

‘Revivalism’ is thus the hallmark of radical Islam and enmity towards the US-led West the prime motivation that drives it. Shias and the idol- worshippers come on its hit list too.

Europe is associated with colonialism and it is the presence of Muslims there in large numbers — they are migrants from the former colonies — that has allowed Islamic radicalism to strike roots in many of the European countries post 9/11.

The attack on Twin Towers could be easily traced to the ouster by the US of the Afghan Emirate led by Taliban-Al Qaeda combine that had been installed in Kabul by Pakistan in 1996 but had soon started showing its fangs against the West.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of the impact of history on Islamic radicals of the present was seen in the terrorist bombings at Brussels in 2016 where the attackers left behind a leaflet claiming that the bombings were in revenge for the Crusades – Belgium is known to have led that crucial long war to oust Muslims from the Christian Holy Land.

On the Indian sub continent that 19th century Jehad was led by Shah Waliullah a follower of Abdul Wahab and the epicentre of that prolonged combat- termed as ‘Wahabi Revolt’ by the British -was located in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan- it left the NWFP-Afghanistan belt totally radicalised consequences of which can be seen even today.

The protagonists of this failed Jehad established Darul Uloom Deoband in 1867- an institution that ran Deobandi madrasas all over India to teach puritan Islam and after Independence stayed away from politics while retaining its anti-West bias.

In Pakistan the products of these madrasas called Taliban were politically used by that country to take control of Kabul amid the chaos that prevailed in the post Soviet-Afghanistan conflict and that is how the Taliban with support from Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda established the Afghan Emirate in Kabul in 1996.

From India’s point of view, Pakistan never had any scruples about joining up with Islamic radicals who happen to constitute a significant arc of the Islamic spectrum across the Muslim world- it is the US policy makers who had continued to pamper Pakistan even after the Cold War had ended following the dismemberment of USSR.

This was because India-Pakistan hyphenation still dominated their thinking. They made an artificial distinction between ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’ in the context of cross border terrorism that Pakistan had launched against India using the battle-hardy Mujahideen as its instrument to replicate the Afghan Jehad in Kashmir.

Subversion in Kashmir was — since the early ’90s — being done on the war cry of Islam and not so much on the political slogan of Plebiscite or Azadi used earlier. Forced ouster of Pandits was part of the Pak-sponsored plan of Islamisation of the Valley.

Right through the Obama regime, the US administration looked differently at militants of HuM, LeT and Jaishe Mohammad controlled by Pak ISI – who were specifically set upon India – from the Islamic radicals of Al Qaeda and Taliban who considered the West as their first enemy but enjoyed a comfortable relationship with the Pak establishment.

It is in the Donald Trump regime that the Pak duplicitousness about Islamic terror was exposed and the US President’s visceral dislike of Islamic extremism led him to abandon the ‘good terrorists-bad terrorists’ line and call out Pakistan for sheltering Islamic terrorists of all hues on its soil.

US supported the move to proclaim Syed Salahuddin, Hafiz Sayeed and Masood Azhar as international terrorists. Under Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan has clearly chosen to take the side of Islamic radicals against the US with Imran even declaring openly that it was a mistake on the part of Pakistan to be with Americans in the ‘war on terror’.

Significantly Pak agencies around this time created Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) under one Asim Umar a former commander of Tahrik-e-Taliban, to join in the proxy war against India. While US-India convergence on opposition to Islamic terrorism strengthens India’s hands against Pakistan it is also a fact that unlike the US India does not have the comfort of distance on this threat and must strategise to deal with it on its own. The military and operational collusion between Pakistan and China has added to this challenge facing India.

In the backdrop of a polarisation between the US -led West and its supporters on one hand and the Islamic radicals and their sympathisers in the Muslim world on the other- triggered by the two theatres of ‘war on terror’, Afghan-Pak belt and the Syria-Iraq region, the emergence of the trio of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia that is questioning the US and upholding the cause of radicals, looks like a development of considerable geo- political significance.

Turkish President Ergodan, Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan and former Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad have denounced French President Macron for ‘hurting the sentiments of Muslims’ by criticising Islam – they maintained complete silence on the ghastly crimes committed by fanatics in France in the name of religion.

Imran charged France with spreading Islamophobia – he is trying to emerge as a leader of the Muslim world to gain some traction in domestic politics. Clearly within the Islamic world radicalisation is being upheld by a growing number of Muslim countries and the friends of US – Saudi Arabia and its close allies in the Gulf – seemed to be in a passive mode as far as the internal dynamics of OIC was concerned.

Nearer home many of the elite and Ulema who had been influencing the Muslims with their communal politics have criticised Modi government for extending support to President Macron’s plan of curbing Islamic radicals with a firm hand. India has to watch even more closely the trends of radicalisation developing within the country and in our neighbourhood.

We have to join in the fight of the democratic world against faith-based terrorism, focus on the Pak mischief of fishing in our troubled waters and step up efforts to project India as a democracy that provided equality of rights and same protection of law to all citizens regardless of class, caste and creed – but without permitting the play of minority politics.

BY : DC Pathak

(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau)

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Aatmanirbhar Bharat: Tribal Affairs Ministry to ink 2 MoUs with KVIC

A Tribal Affairs Ministry source related to development said that the two MoUs will be signed later this week.

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Employment Generation programme

New Delhi, Jan 17 : Giving a major thrust to the government’s ambitious Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the Tribal Affairs Ministry is all set to sign two MoUs with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for procurement of Khadi fabric for tribal students and for partnering with KVIC in implementing the flagship employment generation scheme – Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP).

The ministry will purchase over 6 lakh metres of Khadi fabric worth nearly Rs 15 crore for uniforms of tribal students studying in Eklavya residential schools across the country.

As part of the second MoU, National Scheduled Tribe Finance Development Corporation (NSTFDC), an agency of the Tribal Affairs Ministry, will be roped in as KVIC’s partner in implementing PMEGP scheme. NSTFDC is an agency that provides concessional loan schemes for economic development of tribals in India for funding entrepreneurial ventures of aspiring scheduled tribes in all sectors of the economy.

A Tribal Affairs Ministry source related to development said that the two MoUs will be signed later this week.

The MoUs are in line with the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan by creating local and self employment for Khadi artisans and the tribals. The huge purchase of Khadi fabric will create additional employment and income for artisans, a government official said. Similarly, roping in the Tribal Affairs Ministry with PMEGP will increase its ambit and also include more entrepreneurs from the ST community with local manufacturing.

Officials said the first MoU for purchase of Khadi fabric will be between NESTS and KVIC while the other one one will be between NSTFDC and KVIC.

The source said that the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which runs Eklavya residential schools where at present 75,000 students are studying, proposes to establish a total of 750 schools by 2022. He said that with 750 more schools, a total of 3.6 lakh students will be enrolled in these schools, which has been envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The source said that each school will have 480 students.

He further explained that the ministry has recently standardised school uniform design for the students in the schools with a distinct logo in partnership with National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) based in New Delhi.

The source said that keeping in view the focus of the government and the call of the Prime Minister to embrace Khadi as a philosophy and recently as a critical component of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat strategy, the Tribal Affairs Ministry felt it appropriate to source the fabric for uniforms of Eklavya residential schools from KVIC after several rounds of discussions.

He said that current requirement of around 6 lakh metres will increase in subsequent years as enrolment in the schools will go up.

“In order to take this forward, the Ministry through NESTS shall be entering into an MoU for procuring the fabric at an approximate cost of Rs 14.77 crore for 2020-21.”

The source further said that as two dresses are given each year and number of students will increase every year with establishment of new schools, this would be an annual affair and procurement is likely to multiply every year and expected to be of Rs 50 crore by 2022.

He also said that it would not only give quality dress material to the students but also give employment to thousand of artisans and workers across the country.

The source said that based on the success of school uniform initiative, other requirements of schools like bedding, towels, ‘dari’, and others can also be procured from KVIC in future.

“Therefore the proposed MoU between NSTFDC and KVIC will formalise this arrangement and will be a landmark initiative to bring synergy between NSTFDC and KVIC in reaching out to tribal entrepreneurs under the larger ambit of PMEGP scheme,” the source added.

The source further said that the MoU will be signed in presence of Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Arjun Munda.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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Horror of Jan 1990 continues to haunt migrant Kashmiri Pandits

For a common Kashmiri, both Muslim and Hindu, world has never been the same after January 1990.

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kashmiri pandit

Jammu, Jan 17 : The world for 70-year-old Autar Krishan Raina has never been the same place, not after he left his home in Srinagar in the aftermath of that horrifying night in January 1990.

“I never believed that old wounds could hurt so hard. I have often been jolted out of sleep as if those frightening slogans are still going on outside my home.

“We lived peacefully among our Muslim neighbours in Aaali Kadal area of downtown Srinagar. I had grown up alongside my best friend, Afzal, who would sit beside my mother like her second son.

“My mother loved Afzal like she would have if I had a blood brother,” Raina recalls the good old days walking down the memory lane to identify his home in Aali Kadal which today is a half-fallen ruin.

He now lives in Jammu city where his son and daughter grew up.

The daughter is a doctor while his son is working in Mumbai as a software engineer. Raina lost his wife two years after the family migrated with hundreds of other Kashmiri Pandits to take shelter away from home.

“My tragedy is that I did not only lose my home and friends. I have lost faith in the goodness of humankind,” he recalled with moist eyes requesting not to be pushed to relive the horror he has been through.

The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has haunted both local Hindus and Muslims. For centuries, the two communities had co-existed with intertwined destinies. Eid and Maha Shivratri had been common festivals.

The shrine of Sheikh Humza Makhdoom atop the Hari Parbat hillock in old Srinagar city has wonderfully blend with the neighbouring temple of Sharika Devi.

Muslims and local Pandits have paid obeisance at these two places of faith to pray for brotherhood, love and mutual respect. Their societal interests have been common. Imagining life without each other was impossible till 1990.

All that was shattered and lost during the January of 1990. Slogans of ‘Azadi’ (Freedom) had achieved just one objective, Kashmiri Pandits lost their home and hearth while the local Muslims lost their innocence.

For a common Kashmiri, both Muslim and Hindu, world has never been the same after January 1990.

Local Muslims have suffered immensely at the hands of those who hated their lofty traditions and the ideals of religious tolerance. Local Hindus have become refugees in their own country.

“We lost our homeland. Living as refugees in your own country is perhaps a tragedy only the Kashmiri Pandit has suffered. The future of my children is safe, but they have lost their roots,” Raina ends his story as he closes the door of his house away from home.

Will Kashmir ever be the same as it was before January 1990? Might be it will, but the wounds in the hearts and minds of those who suffered the horror of those days and nights will continue to fester because some wounds are never fully healed.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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Congress’s women wing to observe ‘Mahila Kisan Diwas’ on Monday

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi joined the protest march here on Friday to show solidarity with the protesting farmers.

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Mahila Kisan Diwas

The women wing of the Congress has decided to observe “Mahila Kisan Diwas” (Women Farmers’ Day) on Monday, to show solidarity with the thousands of farmers’ protesting against the three controversial farm laws.

All India Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev said: “The All India Mahila Congress which has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights wholeheartedly welcomes this and will support this call to observe Mahila Kisan Diwas.”

The Congress’ women wing said that the farmers have played a critical role in the fight for justice and have shown the country the importance of women in agriculture and in revolution.

They have not only left their homes to protest against the farm laws, but also worked to ensure more awareness amongst people on how these legislations will destroy their livelihood.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi joined the protest march here on Friday to show solidarity with the protesting farmers.

Speaking on the occasion, Rahul Gandhi said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not respect the farmers… the party is in farmerss support till these laws are withdrawn.”

Slamming the BJP, the Congress leader said the government is working for businessmen and these laws are not in favour of the farmers.

The Congress on Friday staged protests at all Raj Bhavans (Governor’s House) across the country and demanded the withdrawal of the farm laws.

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