PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

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There have been serious questions raised about India's secularism since its independence in 1947. Such questions have gained new urgency with the rapid rise of Hindu Nationalists and the election of BJP leader Narendra Modi in 2014.

Serious doubts about India's claim of secularism were articulated well by Indian journalist Kapil Komireddy in an Op Ed piece he wrote for the UK's Guardian newspaper a few years ago. Here's an excerpt of it:

"Indian Muslims in particular have rarely known a life uninterrupted by communal conflict or unimpaired by poverty and prejudice. Their grievances are legion, and the list of atrocities committed against them by the Indian state is long. In 2002 at least 1,000 Muslims were slaughtered by Hindu mobs in the western state of Gujarat in what was the second state-sponsored pogrom in India (Sikhs were the object of the first, in 1984). Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra Modi, explained away the riots by quoting Newton's third law. "Every action," he said on television, "has an equal opposite reaction." The "action" that invited the reaction of the mobs was the torching of a Gujarat-bound train in which 59 Hindus pilgrims, most of them saffron-clad bigots who were returning home from a trip to the site of the Babri Mosque that they had helped demolish a decade earlier, perished. The "equal and opposite reaction" was the slaughter of 1,000 innocent Muslims for the alleged crime of their coreligionists."

Komireddy goes on to describe how India's "liberal" elite rationalize sectarianism in "secular" India:

"The novelist Shashi Tharoor tried to burnish this certifiably sectarian phenomenon with a facile analogy: Indian Muslims, he wrote, accept Hindu rituals at state ceremonies in the same spirit as teetotallers accept champagne in western celebrations. This self-affirming explanation is characteristic of someone who belongs to the majority community. Muslims I interviewed took a different view, but understandably, they were unwilling to protest for the fear of being labelled as "angry Muslims" in a country famous for its tolerant Hindus."

The Sangh Parivar's project to Hinduize India has accelerated with the landslide victory of BJP leader Narendra Modi and his inauguration as Prime Minister of India in 2014. Some of the manifestations of this phenomenon as reported by the Washington Post are as as follows:

1.The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (or the World Hindu Council) launched a program called “Gharwapsi” (or Homecoming) to urge India’s Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism, which they said was the religion of their ancestors. It has resulted in many reported instances of forced mass conversions of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

2.  Beef sales have been banned in several Indian states. The most egregious of such laws is the Maharashtra state law that criminalizes possession or consumption of beef.

3. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has said the Hindu scripture Bhagwad Gita must be declared a “national scripture.” Another BJP politician, Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of the northern Haryana state has said Bhagwad Gita is considered more important than India’s secular Constitution.

4. Poor school children are being denied eggs, a cheap protein needed by growing youngsters, in their school lunches by India's vegetarian Hindu elite, according an NPR report.  

The above changes are just the tip of a much larger iceberg of Hindu transformation of India with major appointments of Hindu ideologues by ruling party to key positions in education and media posts at the center and the provinces.

It's not just in India that the Hindu Nationalists are gaining strength. Their programs receive significant funding and support from non-resident Indians (NRIs). A report entitled "Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Gro... makes the following assertions regarding the strength and nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in the United States:

 a. Over the last three decades, a movement toward Hinduizing India--advancing the status of Hindus toward political and social primacy in India-- has continued to gain ground in South Asia and diasporic communities. The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh "family"), the network of groups at the forefront of this Hindu nationalist movement, has an estimated membership numbering in the millions, making the Sangh one of the largest voluntary associations in India. The major organizations in the Sangh include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

b. Hindu nationalism has intensified and multiplied forms of discrimination, exclusion, and gendered and sexualized violence against Muslims, Christians, other minorities, and those who oppose Sangh violations, as documented by Indian citizens and international tribunals, fact-finding groups, international human rights organizations, and U.S. governmental bodies.

c. India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group.

Acceleration of "secular" India's total Hindu-ization under Prime Minister Modi represents a sea change for South Asia region and the world. It could prove to be very destabilizing for India, a much larger and far more diverse country than its neighboring Islamic Pakistan. Such instability could derail India's economic rise unless its forced Hindu-ization is checked by the country's leadership with external pressure from India's friends. And its effects will be strongly felt far outside the borders of India. It is already causing serious issues between India and Pakistan that could lead a devastating war in South Asia with severe consequences for the entire world.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on September 23, 2015 at 8:04am

#India's #Modi eyes #SiliconValley on U.S. trip as euphoria fades. Reputation hurt by reform setbacks http://reut.rs/1L5qLNH via @Reuters

Western businesses and diplomats in Delhi privately say Modi's reputation as a man of action has been hurt by setbacks on economic reform. Some carp that he is better at speeches and launching projects than seeing them through.

The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Q3 Asian Business Sentiment Survey found on Wednesday that optimism among Indian companies, while still high, had been dented by the slow pace of reform.

U.S. lawmakers wrote to the Obama administration on Monday complaining about barriers to trade they said had got worse under Modi, as well as disputes over copyrights and patents.

"The sheen is off, certainly. He is no longer the new kid on the block," said Neelam Deo, a former Indian diplomat in Washington now at Gateway House, a think-tank.

"The first trip was euphoric, this one is much more a consolidation phase of the relationship."

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 26, 2015 at 4:42pm

Human Rights Advocacy Groups Oppose #India's #modiinsiliconvalley | NBC Bay Area. #BJP #ModiInUSA http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Indian-Prime-Minister-Narendra... … via @nbcbayarea

News that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to hobnob with the Bay Area’s leading tech executives has sparked outrage among human rights advocacy groups.
National advocacy group Sikhs For Justice plans to protest Modi’s visit at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters on Sunday morning and, later in the day, outside the SAP Center.

The group argues that Modi’s tenure as Indian's leaader has resulted in deteriorating religious freedom for its citizens. They allege that he is aggressively trying to turn the world’s largest democracy into a Hindu nation through forced conversion of Muslims and Christians.
Sikhs For Justice has also offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who poses specific questions to Zuckerberg and Modi regarding the latter’s treatment of Sikhs.

"We urge everyone to remind [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg that hosting a known human rights violator runs counter to the core American value of upholding religious freedom,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an attorney and legal advisor for Sikhs For Justice.
Modi, who was in the United States last September, is slated to visit Tesla and Google and meet with Indian-American startup founders. He believes that the technological innovation that these companies are known for can help to raise the standard of living in India.

The SAP center is expected to be at full capacity for Sunday evening's event. More than 45,000 people requested tickets to hear Modi speak, but the arena can only hold 18,000. Video screens will be set up outside to accommodate those who were unable to secure a spot inside.`

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 27, 2015 at 9:57am

Independent intellectuals attacked by Sangh Parivar assassins in #India as #Hindu fundamentalism grows under #Modi http://fw.to/CLvDTvk

Kalburgi, who vocally opposed the Hindu practice of idol worship, is the latest secular thinker to be assassinated in South Asia. His slaying late last month raises questions about freedom of expression and highlights the growing might of religious fundamentalists across the region.

Hours after Kalburgi was killed, Bhuvith Shetty, a member of the Hindu militant group Bajrang Dal, tweeted in celebration: "Mock Hinduism and die a dog's death. And dear K.S. Bhagwan you are next."

Karnataka boasts one of India's highest literacy rates and includes the technology hub of Bangalore, but it is also home to deeply conservative Hindu groups. Last month in the coastal city of Mangalore, a group of Hindu men spotted a Muslim man speaking with a Hindu woman. They tied him to a pole, stripped him and beat him for nearly an hour, according to police.

Two other high-profile rationalists, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, were shot point-blank 18 months apart in the western state of Maharashtra.

Dabholkar, a 68-year-old activist who worked on behalf of villagers exploited by local gurus and so-called godmen, campaigned for the state government to pass an anti-superstition bill. It's been two years since he was killed in the city of Pune, and no one has been charged.

"Fundamentalism in India is growing by the day across religions," Nayak said. "They feel they can scare us into submission but are completely mistaken. The anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra grew stronger after Dabholkar's assassination.

"As far as I am concerned, I would rather die speaking my mind instead of letting disgraceful things unfold in front of my eyes."

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 30, 2015 at 7:42am

#Indian #Muslim man beaten to death over rumours he had eaten beef in #Modi's #India | via @Telegraph #BeefBan http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/11900906/Musli...

Mohammad Akhlaq was attacked by around 100 people and despite being taken to hospital, police said "his life could not be saved"

A 50-year-old Muslim man was beaten to death over rumours he had eaten beef, a taboo in India, a Hindu-majority nation.
Mohammad Akhlaq was dragged from his house on the outskirts of the capital and attacked by around 100 people on Monday night, a police officer told AFP.
"When our team reached the spot a crowd was there outside his house. They (police) managed to rescue him and take him to the hospital, but his life could not be saved," said senior police superintendent Kiran S.
Indian police said on Wednesday they had arrested six people and "deployed additional personnel to contain any further repercussions".
Mr Akhlaq's 22-year-old son was also seriously injured in the attack and was in intensive care at a nearby hospital.
Killing cows is banned in many states of India, a majority-Hindu country that also has sizeable Muslim, Christian and Buddhist minorities.
In March, the state of Maharashtra toughened its ban to make even possessing beef illegal, a move seen by religious minorities as a sign of the growing power of hardline Hindus since nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi came to power.
The rumours that the family had eaten beef began when a calf was reported missing in Dadri village, 22 miles from New Delhi.
"An announcement about the family consuming beef was made at a temple, after which the mob descended on the man's house," said Kiran.
The Indian Express quoted Mr Akhlaq's daughter Sajida as saying the family had mutton in the fridge and not beef.
"They accused us of keeping cow meat, broke down our doors and started beating my father and brother. My father was dragged outside and beaten with bricks," she told the daily.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 4, 2015 at 8:28am

Godse's and #Modi's #India: Not My Idea of #India. #BeefMurder #BJP http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/not-my-idea-of-india-1225025 … via @ndtv

Last month, I was reading Nathuram Godse's statement to the court in his defence of murdering Mahatma Gandhi. The statement published in the form of a book titled 'Why I killed Gandhi' had me in a state of shock with Godse's justification of his intolerance. I was convinced that men like him were a minority, that Godse was a lunatic and the thought that killed Gandhi would not be tolerated by a civilized India.

In one of the paragraphs, Godse goes on to say, "I firmly believed that the teachings of absolute 'ahimsa' as advocated by Gandhiji would ultimately result in the emasculation of the Hindu community, and thus make the community incapable of resisting the aggression or inroads of other communities, especially the Muslims. To counteract this evil, I resolved to enter public life and form a group of persons who held similar views". This was the thought that killed Gandhi and deepened the roots of religious polarization and communalism in Indiasix decades ago.

On 28th September, the brutal murder of 50-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq in Dadri, in Greater Noida, by a lynch mob of 200 people on the suspicion that he consumed beef has proved once again that the thought that killed Gandhi is gaining momentum.

Ikhlaq, who worked as a carpenter barely 50 kms from Delhi, lived with his ageing mother, wife, younger son and daughter. His elder son, Sartaj, an Indian Air Force personnel is posted in Chennai. The idea of India that Ikhlaq's son Sartaj was trying to protect as an engineer in the Air Force betrayed him and his family earlier this week.

By killing his father, and leaving his brother in a critical condition, Sartaj's nationalism was rewarded in the most ghastly, unthinkable manner. The modus operandi used in the murder was no different than those used by radicals in the past. An announcement was made on a loudspeaker that a cow had been slaughtered and its carcass had been found near a transformer. The rumor later spread in the village with WhatsApp and other messaging tools, something that reminds us of the method used by extremists and bigots triggering the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. Within minutes of the announcement, the mob had killed Ikhlaque and severely injured his family. As if this act was not savage enough, government officials sent the meat found in the house to ascertain whether it was indeed beef - the suggestion being that if it indeed was beef, then the murder of two sons of India was justified.

Yes, this is the new India we are referring to where we talk of a revolution in technology, where our Prime Minister visits the Facebook headquarters and we get encouraging photo-ops from Silicon Valley.

This is the new India where the Prime Minister a day after the murder congratulates his Minister for Culture, Dr Mahesh Sharma, on his birthday on Twitter, the same minister who just this month famously pledged to cleanse Indian culture of Western influence. While the PM has every right to congratulate his ministers on their birthdays (birthday celebrations being a Western concept according to the Sangh Parivar), it was shocking that he had no word of condolence for the family of Sartaj, a patriot serving the country. He had no word of condemnation for those savages and murderers who had brought cultural cleansing into action.

------

The kind of thought we would mock our neighbouring country for on most occasions. As I write this, I am nauseous, pained, ashamed of being a part of this alleged India growth story. This is not the idea I grew up with and the new idea of India has shaken me to the core today.

India, my country, my motherland, why am I unable to recognize you anymore?

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 8, 2015 at 9:25am

#India's #Hindu Fundamentalists.600 attacks on minorities (#Christians, #Muslims) since #Modi took office @AJEnglish http://aje.io/vbr3

Since Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist and leader of the right-wing BJP party, became prime minister of India in May 2014, groups of radical Hindu nationalists have been terrorising religious minorities across the country.

According to a leading Christian rights group, at least 600 such attacks took place between Modi's election and August of this year. One hundred and forty-nine of these assaults were against Christians; the rest were targeted at the country's Muslim community.

The attacks, say critics, are being orchestrated by radical groups affiliated to Hindu nationalist and political pressure group: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS.

Prime Minister Modi is a lifelong member of the RSS and the backing of its members was crucial in helping his BJP party win the 2014 election. Since then, emboldened by the result, Modi’s most extreme nationalist supporters have routinely taken to the streets, using violence and intimidation to press their claim for a purely Hindu India.

Muslims have been forced to convert to Hinduism, homes burnt down and people even murdered for allegedly consuming beef; cows having special status in the Hindu faith.

Meanwhile, Hindu nationalists have been rewriting school textbooks in some states and holding training camps for teenage boys and girls in an apparent attempt to inculcate children into their cause.

We asked Indian filmmaker and journalist Mandakini Gahlot, herself a Hindu, to go in search of those who want a purely Hindu nation and find out what their resurgence means for the future of the world’s most populous secular democracy.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 9, 2015 at 10:30pm

#India's Top #BJP campaigner against #beef owns halal meat processing and beef export business Al-Dua. #BeefPolitics http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bjps-leading-antibeef-crusade...

MLA Sangeet Singh Som admits he was director of Al-Dua, a company that processes halal meat

Sangeet Singh Som, the fiery BJP MLA at the forefront of the frenzied anti-beef protests and an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots, founded one of India’s leading halal meat export companies, according to documents available with The Hindu.

The company, Al-Dua Food Processing Private Ltd, was founded by Mr. Som, along with Moinuddin Qureshi and a third partner, to deal in meat and meat products in 2005. According to Al-Dua’s website, the company is now a “leading producer and exporter of halal meat from India.”

Mr. Som’s role in promoting the company is at variance with the BJP’s campaign, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who during the Lok Sabha polls, called the growing meat exports the “pink revolution.” Mr. Modi and others have said that the growing meat exports were a cover for slaughter of cows.

When The Hindu confronted Mr. Som with the evidence, he flatly denied having anything to do with meat business.

“There was nothing about meat. I am a pure Hindu and would do nothing to hurt Hindu sentiment. You would be surprised to know that despite being a Thakur I don’t eat even egg and start my day with a havan,” he said.

According to the Memorandum of Association of Al-Dua Food Processing, filed on December 19, 2005, the company, which exports halal meat to Arab countries, was started “to carry on the business of (sic) manufacturers, producers, processors, buyers, sellers of and dealers in meat, meat products…”

Unsecured loans

Official documents show that in 2005-06, all three promoters of Al-Dua, one of India’s leading halal meat exporting companies Mr. Som co-founded, also advanced unsecured loans to the company. Mr. Som gave Rs. 4 lakh, Moinuddin Qureshi Rs. 7.60 lakh and Yogesh Rawat Rs. 4 lakh. The company also received unsecured loans from two other companies totalling Rs. 10 lakh.

Official filings with the Registrar of Company Affairs show that the company purchased a piece of land for Rs. 30,78,000 in 2005-06.

On March 27, 2008, Mr. Som ceased to be a director in the company. He transferred his 20,000 shares in the company to Nasira Begum at Rs. 10 a share. There is no evidence of Mr. Som receiving back the unsecured loan he gave the company, or of him charging any premium for the shares in the company.

Al-Dua was not the only business dealing between Mr. Som and Mr. Qureshi, one of India’s leading meat exporters. Mr. Som has also been involved as an additional director in Al-Anam Agro Foods Pvt. Ltd. with Mr. Qureshi.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 15, 2015 at 7:51pm

#Modi's #India saw religiously motivated killings, riots, forced conversion: US #ReligiousFreedom 2014 #beefmurder http://dnai.in/cWGe

India witnessed religiously motivated killings, arrests, riots and coerced religious conversions and the police in some cases failed to respond effectively to communal violence, according to the US State Department report on International Religious Freedom 2014.

In the India section of the Congressional mandated annual report released by Secretary of State John Kerry today, the State Department said that some government officials made discriminatory statements against religious minorities. "There were reports of religiously motivated killings, arrests, coerced religious conversions, religiously motivated riots and actions restricting the right of individuals to change religious beliefs," said the report.

It said that in some cases, local police failed to respond effectively to communal violence, including attacks against religious minorities, although local officials used broad authorities to deploy police and security forces to control outbreaks of religiously motivated violence. The local nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Act Now for Harmony and Democracy reported more than 800 religiously- motivated attacks from May through the end of the year 2014.

Citing Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Niranjan Jyoti's remarks at an election rally in Delhi, it said government officials reportedly made discriminatory statements against members of religious minorities. "After her remarks stirred several days of heated national condemnation and disrupted proceedings of parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in parliament that he 'strongly disapproved of the remarks' and 'we should avoid using such language'. Jyoti subsequently expressed regret for her remark," the report said. The State Department said there is restriction on free expression on basis of religion in India.

Authorities continued to enforce laws designed to protect "religious sentiments" which, according to observers, at times had the effect of limiting free expression related to religion, the report said. The State Department rued that hundreds of legal cases remained pending from violence during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat riots.


The Nanavati-Mehta Commission on the 2002 riots ultimately released its Final Report on November 18. Some NGOs called into question the impartiality of the findings. Court cases related to the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Odisha continued, resulting in convictions for persons responsible for the public rape of a nun during the riots. Displaced Kashmiri Hindu Pandits continued to seek redress for crimes committed against them and their houses of worship by Kashmiri insurgents in the 1990s, it said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 18, 2015 at 10:08am

#Mumbai Police thrashed two young #Muslims, asked them to go to #Pakistan, accuses victims' relatives. #India http://dnai.in/cWXI @dna
Residents of Mahim, two 19-year-olds Asif Shaikh and Danish Shaikh were allegedly detained and tortured by a few Bandra police officers on suspicion of being Pakistani terrorists or ISIS agents on Saturday, a leading daily reported.

Asif who works as a gym trainer was with Danish near Bandra Reclamation on the way back home from Bhabha Hospital, when they were allegedly picked up by the police.

Victims' relatives and neighbours allege that both Asif and Danish were detained and grilled for over three hours and were beaten badly. They were even asked to "leave India and go to Pakistan" by the police, they said.

Asif was hit with belts and batons and Danish slapped and punched, after which the police finally made a call to their parents to take them back.

It is not clear whether the detention of Asif and Danish was made an official entry in police records.

Asif's photo published in the news report shows the brutality he was treated with, but the police is yet to make comment on the incident.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 19, 2015 at 5:21pm

#Pakistan Dunkin Donuts franchisee offers free meals to visitors from #India to promote harmony. #Modi via @htTweets

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world/pakistan-s-dunkin-offers-free-m...


After a Pakistani family was denied accommodation at several hotels in Mumbai, the businessman who owns the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Pakistan has offered a free meal to all visiting Indians as a “goodwill gesture”.
Iqbal Latif, who operates 26 outlets of the international food chain in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar, took the step to show how Pakistanis welcome their neighbours while emulating Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings.
“I felt bad when I saw this family had to spend (a) part of (the) night (on a) footpath near a police station and another part at a pavement at the railway station,” Latif told the Dawn newspaper.
“It’s not a big deal, but an effort to invoke the teachings of Gandhiji who preached love and coexistence all his life.”
Last week, five members of a Pakistani family who travelled to Mumbai to pray at the Haji Ali ‘dargah’ spent the night on a pavement after they were denied accommodation by hotels because they did not have certain documents. The incident was widely condemned by rights activists.
Banners put up at Latif’s outlets across Pakistan on Friday said all short-term Indian visitors with a valid visa would be given “a free meal and a donut as a goodwill gesture” to promote peace and understanding. The banners featured the Indian and Pakistani flags.
On the first day of the offer, 17 meals were served to Indians in a Dunkin Donut outlet in the diplomatic enclave of Islamabad. Latif said he had felt “great honour (in hosting our) Indian friends”. No Indians availed the offer at outlets in Lahore and Peshawar.
Since the offer was made, the outlets served more than 2,400 customers and sales increased by 30%, Latif said.
“We’re waiting to treat Indians with a big heart and a big smile,” said Tehmina, who works at an outlet in Lahore.
Latif is elated by the response to the offer and “sees it as vital for promoting love among the people of Pakistan and India”, Dawn reported. He said he was “slightly apprehensive about the reaction in Peshawar to the display of the Indian flag, but visitors and passersby waved at the staff, a sign of approval”.
Recently, threats from the Shiv Sena forced the cancellation of two concerts by ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena activists also blackened the face of former BJP member Sudeendhra Kulkarni in Mumbai for organising an event to launch the new book by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri.
Latif said his pro-peace initiative had not met any interference from Pakistan’s intelligence set-up. “No ISI, no intelligence came to us to ask about the display of the Indian flag,” he said.
“Across the border, there is no hate. We all love India, 1.4 billion people love each other. We are only marginalised by a few hate mongers on both sides. I propose such initiatives on the people-to-people level (to) help make bridges,” he said.

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