Wednesday December 12, 2018
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Sitting on communal volcano: Why we must introspect

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By Sapan Kapoor

After days of violent protests in Punjab over the alleged sacrilege of various scriptures of Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, tension gripped the hilly Bhaderwah town in Jammu region on Friday over allegations that some unknown miscreants desecrated the Quran.

Shops, public transport, businesses and educational institutions remained closed in the town of Kishtwar after Muslims alleged that during Thursday’s Dussehra celebrations in the town, miscreants burnt some pages of the Quran.

On Friday, Muslim youth took to the streets, burnt tyres and blocked traffic on the roads. Bhaderwah has nearly as many Muslims as Hindus. Authorities said the situation is under control and the veracity of the allegation was being probed.

Meanwhile, a youth was arrested in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district for stabbing a constable in a bid to register protest against the ban on beef imposed in the state. Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is on the lookout for a local priest suspecting that he might have instigated 20-year-old Abdul Malik to attack the constable who survived the attack.

On the day of Bakr-eid this year on September 25, Abdul, an unemployed youth from Pusad village in Yavatmal, repeatedly stabbed the constable after offering namaz at a local mosque.

While stabbing him, an angry Malik allegedly could be heard screaming,

“Tumhari government beef ban karti hai, toh yeh lo (Your government bans beef, so you suffer).”

This alarming development is something we should definitely lose our sleep over. In the case of protests in Punjab, where several people have lost their lives in recent days, the involvement of foreign agencies, namely Pakistan’s ISI, has been alleged by the authorities. They accuse Pakistan of trying to fish in India’s troubled waters.

There might be some truth in this as well. It is likely that ISI has activated its sleeper cells in different parts of India to take advantage of the prevailing disturbing atmosphere in the country. Especially in Punja,b efforts seem to be on to revive now defunct Khalistan movement.

However, we as a society also need to look into the mirror and introspect. Why is it that our own people are seeking to polarize the society along the lines of caste, creed and religion, making it easy for hostile foreign forces to intervene? Why are people being bumped off for their eating habits, their ideas and the way of their life?

Two brothers, Rupinder Singh and Jaswinder Singh, accused of being involved in the desecration in Bargari, were arrested after their telephone calls were intercepted.

Additional Director-General of Police (crime and security) Iqbal Preet Sahota said, “The two brothers have been talking to their masters abroad, including Dubai and Australia, and discussed about delivery of cash to them in lieu of their acts of sacrilege”.

Here’s a transcript of one of the two conversations published in a newspaper.

Rupinder: The task is important. He has some stuff of Maharaj… pages
Jaswinder: The torn ones or the other…..?
Rupinder: Enough. Don’t talk further

Therefore, the foreign hand in these incidents to incite people into taking laws into their hands and dividing the country along the lines of religion, caste and language could not be ruled out.

However, we as a society also need to look into the mirror and introspect. Why is it that our own people are seeking to polarize the society along the lines of caste, creed and religion, making it easy for hostile foreign forces to intervene? Why are people being bumped off for their eating habits, their ideas and the way of their life?

In the past two weeks alone, three people have been killed following rumors of cow slaughter in different parts of India. In Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri, a 50-year-old Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq, was beaten to a sodden pulp and his son critically injured on September 28 after rumours spread that they had slaughtered a cow.

Days after, on October 17, a 20-year-old youth from Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, Noman, was lynched in Himachal Pradesh for being allegedly involved in ‘cattle smuggling’.

On October 19, a truck conductor died in Delhi after unknown assailants threw a petrol bomb on him in Jammu’s Udhampur following rumours that he slaughtered a cow.

There’s politics written all over these incidents. Can we blame foreign agencies too for these attacks on India’s minorities by our own people who seem to be pursuing the politics of polarization? Polarisation does help when it comes to polls (duh).

The truth is we are playing with fire, for mixing religion and politics could be dangerous. Ask Pakistanis who are still reaping what they sow during Zia’s regime in the 80s. We do not need to walk on the same dangerous path that will lead us to the abyss of darkness extrication from which will be impossible. United we stand divided we perish.

In President Pranab Mukherjee’s words,

“We can’t allow the core values of our civilisation to be wasted. The core values are that over the years, civilisation celebrated diversity, promoted and advocated tolerance, enjoyed plurality. These core civilisation values keep us together over the centuries.”

Let’s take a pledge to cleanse our hearts. Let there be peace in our words, thoughts and actions. Let’s tame the evil within us, for India’s soul is at stake.

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Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Pakistan, Religious Freedom
Members and supporters of the Muslim Student Organization (MSO) chant slogans during a protest after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Islamabad, Pakistan. VOA

The United States said Tuesday it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the U.S. government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.

Pompeo a year earlier had placed Pakistan on a special watch list – a step short of the designation – in what had been seen as a U.S. tactic to press Islamabad into reforms.

Human rights advocates have long voiced worry about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, including Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians.

Sikh, Religious Freedom
A Sikh pilgrim visits the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

But the timing of the full designation may be jarring as it comes after Pakistan moved to resolve its most high-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October releasing Asia Bibi – a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy.

The government recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal.

“In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” he said.

Nine countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern – China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

pakistan,Sikh, Religious Freedom
Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, center, arrives along with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, second left, brother Atal Yousafzai, left, and the principal of all-boys Swat Cadet College Guli Bagh, during her hometown visit, March 31, 2018. VOA

The United States removed one country from the list – Uzbekistan– but kept it on the watch list.

Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.

Also Read: The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the heterodox Christian group known for proselytization.

Also on the watch list was the Comoros, the Indian Ocean archipelago that is almost exclusively Sunni Muslim. (VOA)