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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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Jaipur Literature Festival Takes A Questionable Stand On The #MeToo Movement

JLF's fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned.

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#MeToo, women
The hushed whispers are getting louder. Flickr

After several star speakers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, including C.P. Surendran, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat, among others, have been accused of sexually harassing multiple women, on the sidelines of the popular lit fest, the organisers, in a cautiously worded one-sentence tweet on Thursday, have supported the rising tide of the #MeToo campaign in India — but questions still remain.

“The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival unequivocally stands by the women who have courageously spoken out for equity and dignity and is committed to supporting and amplifying their voices,” the official handle of the JLF said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement came two days after a petition was started on www.change.org by writer-editor Rajni George, asking its organisers to support the #MeToo India and stand up “against sexual harassment”.

#MeToo
Jaipur Literature Festival

“We write today regarding the serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment made recently against a number of men in and around the literary world, as part of the MeToo movement in India.

“We, the undersigned, are dismayed, saddened and angered by these accounts. We admire the work that the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) undertakes. As India’s largest and most recognised literature festival, we believe JLF is ideally placed to take the lead in addressing this urgent issue,” George’s petition said.

JLF’s response in the one-line tweet is general, and does not specifically mention whether any of the allegations that have now surfaced were earlier brought to the notice of the organisers.

It also does not make it clear whether the doors of the festival will remain closed for the accused in its future editions, or not. It further makes no comment whatsoever on several instances that are said to have taken place on the sidelines of the annual event.

#MeToo
Sanjoy K. Roy, with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore.

Notably, many of the accused have featured in prominent sessions at what is described as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, and, in many instances, the festival has been instrumental in increasing their popularity as well as readership.

On its part, JLF, produced by Teamwork Arts, headed by Sanjoy K. Roy, and with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore. In fact, the 2018 edition of the festival in January this year had come to a close with a hard-hitting debate on #MeToo, long before the campaign gained momentum in India.

Also Read: Watch Jaipur Literature Festival Live On Twitter

Many in the literary circles feel the benchmark that JLF has itself set over the course of its journey, its coming of age and gradual but distinct shift from controversies to substance in the recent years, its fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned. (IANS)