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Though a Muslim, I have no problem in saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’- Najma Heptullah

Minister for minority affairs: Najma Heptullah Image source: blogs.dw.com

New Delhi, April 6 : Terming the controversy related to chanting of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ as “unnecessary and uncalled for”, Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah has said that there was nothing wrong in praising the motherland and religion has nothing to do with this.

 “Whichever country is your ‘vatan’ (motherland) you should be loyal to it,” the minister told IANS in an interview.

Heptullah emphasised that there was some politics behind the controversy and said she herself being a Muslim had no problem in saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.

“By saying so I am not doing anything against my religion. My ‘imaan’ (faith) is not that weak. In fact there is no religion involved in it,” she said, adding that even Prophet Muhammad had endorsed this.

“I want to ask every Muslim where would they go after dying?” and answered: “It’s their motherland which would take them in her arms.”

The minister, however, said that there are different ways of showing or expressing loyalty towards the nation.

Commenting on yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s controversial statement where he had said that he would have “beheaded” those who refuse to chant “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” if the law of the land was not there, she said people should refrain from making such comments.

“My freedom of speech must not hurt anybody. We should be careful,” she said.

Asked whether these kinds of statements, which often come from various leaders of the BJP and other people related to it, affect the working and moral of the Modi government, the minister said she was “focused” and other ministers and functionaries were also busy doing their work.

Speaking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the policies of his government in relation to minority communities, the minister said that the central government was actually doing a lot for every single minority community of the country.

She accused the previous UPA governments of “doing nothing” for any of the minority communities and said they were busy labelling Modi as anti-Muslim.

“Whatever was to be done (for minority communities during Congress-led governments) was not done,” she contended.

Heptullah said 8.6 million scholarships were given to students of minority communities and she was inspired by Modi’s vision for the development of Muslim community — that he would like to see a copy of the Quran in one hand of a madrasa student and a computer in the other hand.

The minister also said that 27 madrasas are working with the central government’s skill development programme.

(Sushil Kumar could be contacted at sushil.k@ians.in)

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Sri Lankan Muslims speak of tragedies back home

Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN against the recent violence targeting their community

Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN. IANS
Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN. IANS

Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN against the recent violence targeting their community, and for some of them it had been an intimate family tragedy.

While participating in the demonstration of about 250 people, on Wednesday, they narrated to IANS the harrowing moments they went through as they helplessly shared the trauma in real time over the phone with their families as the relatives were besieged by mobs during the riots.

Munir Salim’s parent’s home was destroyed and car set ablaze by a rampaging mob in Welekada Ambalateena near Kandy on March 7, and his elderly parents and his sister with her five children barely managed to survive only because the rioters could not break the main door.

Protest against violence and injustice. (VOA)

But they set fire to the second floor of the house, where his sister lived, said Salim, who is the president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Association of New Jersey. His sister fled downstairs with her children and survived with her parents, he added.

“I was feeling helpless talking to my parents when they first told me how they were throwing stones at our house and setting fire to the mosque and the shops in the area,” he said.

The rioters then moved away for a while seeking other targets, then returned to set the fire to the house and the properties as he was calling them back, he said.

The houses of two of his aunts nearby were also attacked and his cousin had to carry his paralysed mother as they fled for their lives, he said.

There were two deaths, injuries to dozens of people, hundreds of houses and businesses destroyed and several mosques damaged during the riots that started on February 26 and continued till March 10. Sri Lanka imposed a State of Emergency and deployed troops to quell the violence.

For Shihana Mohamed it was a heartbreak, listening over the phone as her family’s history of living harmoniously in the Kandy area for more than a thousand years, unraveled on March 6, she said.

She told IANS that her sister-in-law fractured her leg while fleeing the fury of the mob that attacked her brother’s house, destroying it and burning his car in Kengalla, also near Kandy.

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Her 83-year-old bedridden uncle’s house was also attacked, she said, and his family had to carry him to safety. As she was hearing about the attacks on her phone, she said that she wept and then desperately called diplomats asking for help. While the attacks were taking place, the security personnel stationed nearby did not intervene, she said.

Mohamed said that while the attackers were Sinhala extremists, there were other Sinhalas who came to the aid of Muslims at risk to themselves.

The Sinhala family next to her brother’s house tried to intervene, but the mob over-ran them, while a Sinhala neighbour stopped the rioters from burning down her house, even though they managed to break the windows, she said. Her uncle was protected initially by a Sinhala, she said. In another instance of communal amity, she said a Tamil family sheltered her sister-in-law, who had broken her leg.

For her family this was the second setback. During riots in 1989, which were not overtly communal but more political, her family’s properties were destroyed and they had to rebuild home and business.

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The Association of Sri Lankan Muslims in North America (Tasmina), which organised the protest, demanded that the UN intervene and hold the Sri Lankan government responsible for bringing the rioters to justice and protect minorities.

Ghazzali Wadood, who was one of the protesters, said, “It is the ultra-nationalists who are responsible for the attacks. The government should take action against the politicians behind the attacks.” IANS