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Programmed to Kill

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In a deeply affecting account titled Hashimpura 22 May (Penguin 2016) of the slaughter by armed policemen in 1987 of 42 young civilian Muslim men, police officer and novelist Vibhuti Narain Rai says, ‘Imagine such a close encounter with death that when you open your eyes to bodies – dead and half dead – you may want to touch (your killers) to believe you are still alive. When molten lead rips through your flesh and flings you in the air like cotton balls, there is no pain, no fear and there is not even time for memories to torment you. There are rifles blazing around you and then there is the cacophony of abuses being sprouted by your killers. And with numbed senses, you wait for one of the bullets whizzing past you to enter your body in a way that you are tossed in the air for a moment and collapse on the ground with a thud. How will you describe such a death? Especially when you are seeing your killers for the first time and despite thinking hard your mind cannot just figure out why would they want to kill you’.
I imagine that similar thoughts would have raced through the mind of Bengali migrant worker Afrazul Khan, minutes before he died, in Rajsamand in Rajasthan on December 6, 2017.
When a man he had never met in his life assaulted him suddenly, savagely, incomprehensibly. Initially unable to grasp what was happening to him, he realized in the last seconds of his life that the man for some reason wanted to take his life. ‘Babu’, he begged him plaintively, desperately, ‘let me live’. But his killer persisted. Did he notice that a young teenager was filming his killing? Was there time even for memories of his loved ones before he was knocked unconscious and set on fire?
Through his book on Hashimpura, Rai is tortured by another question. Why the soldiers ‘put their rifles on the chest of unarmed hapless youngsters and shot them and even after they fell on the ground shivering, kept on pumping bullets in them to make sure they die. All this without knowing them, without any personal enmity! Why?’
The same question has besieged and haunted me as well, ever since I went four days after the brutal hate killing of Afrazul Khan with a fact-finding team of comrades to try to make sense of what had happened. And why?
Through our investigations, it became clear that the man who killed Khan in a video-graphed gruesome murder, Shambhulal Regar, did not even know the man he killed. Even less did he have any personal grouse or enmity against him. It is evident that he murdered him because he wanted to kill a Muslim, any Muslim, as an example to all Muslims.
Khan’s trade as a petty construction and labour contractor allowed him to invite him unsuspectingly to an isolated plot of land – a vacant housing plot that he owned jointly with his brothers – close to the highway but hidden by thick overgrowth. We speculate that Shambhu got Khan’s number on the false ground that he wanted some construction work done on his land, possibly a boundary wall.
To understand what may have motivated this man to kill a stranger, my colleagues and I visited his home. He was born into the Regar caste, deemed to fall very low in the caste hierarchy. Their traditional caste occupation is the skinning of cattle and the treatment of the hide. Even the Chamar, who traditionally make shoes, regards the Regar to be unclean and untouchable.
The small town in which he lives is settled in colonies divided mostly by caste. He lives with his brothers in a joint family in the town’s Regar colony. We found that not just Shambhu’s family but many others of their caste seem to have raised their economic situation over time. The colony had paved roads, cemented drains and concrete houses, although the roads were mostly blocked by stray cattle. Shambhu’s family lived in a three storeyed home, with a lift and an iron gate.
His family met us outside the gate of their home, and understandably were cautious and guarded as they spoke to us. Shambhu has a mentally challenged daughter, who he is seen holding close to him in one the videos in which he rants against Muslims. In the first visit to their home by my colleagues, she was playing outside. Unaware of the gravity of the crisis into which the family had been plunged, and affectionately insisted on touching the feet of all the visitors.
It was clear that no one in the family now pursued their family trade. Rajsamand is famous for its marble business, and Shambhu’s family too had benefited from this. His father had shifted his base to Anand in Gujarat, where he built and installed marble temples in the homes of the devout. I am sure that he would not have revealed his caste to his customers. One of Shambhu’s brothers worked as a laboratory technician in the government hospital. His other brother was doing well in his furniture business.
Shambhu, they said, was ‘doing nothing’ these days. He had built up for himself a fairly successful marble business, and even had an office in Gurgaon. But they said that his business also collapsed under the pressures of demonetisation. Since then, they said that he spent most of his time glued to the internet. He was most drawn to videos circulated on the internet by many Hindutva groups that are full of venomous propaganda against Muslims and Christians.
In circulation are also videos of hate and lynch attacks against Muslims in many parts of the country, circulated by the hate attackers themselves, as convinced about the masculine valour of their aggression and blood of what they feel is the defence of their religion, as they are of their impunity. We spoke to other residents of the Regar colony. They all spoke of his addiction to Hindutva videos. Some said he also watched the execution videos of Islamist groups like the ISIS. Others spoke of his other addiction, to smoking ganja.
No one among his family and neighbours spoke of him being mentally disturbed or agitated. None would have suspected that he could have done what he did. He was, of course, full of hatred against Muslims. They did not, of course, support his killing, but they seemed to find both explicable and justified his loathing of Muslims.
We asked them what the cause was of this hatred. They spoke in particular about them as predators of innocent Hindu girls, in the evil conspiracy of love jihad. We asked them to cite specific instances. They were able to recount only three instances of alliances of Muslim men with Hindu woman.
One dated back 12 years, a second 9 years and the third 7 years. We met the young woman involved in the last incident. She did go as a young teenager with a much older Muslim man to Malda in Bengal. She said that Shambhulal Regar took some money – around 10,000 rupees – from her mother to ‘rescue’ her and bring her back. She refused to return with Regar. But on her own volition some months later, she returned to her mother, as she was unhappy in the man’s home. The past five years after her return, she has tried to study and rebuild her life. She is now studying for her Class 12 examination, and wants to be a nurse. She is furious with Regar for dragging her name as a rationale for his horrific crime. She wishes to be left alone, and so I do not mention her name or other details here.
When people of different communities live side by side, it is surprising that there were not more instances of people being drawn to one another across faith. In our meeting with local Muslims of the district (and not the migrants), they said that since many among them were doing well in the marble business, they were able to send their children to college. They now live in dread that if even one of their sons befriends a Hindu girl, the consequences can be catastrophic for the entire community.
Shambhu explains his reasons for enmity with Muslims in three videos that he circulated. One was a rant that followed immediately after his nephew records his murder of Afrazul Khan. A second shows him at a temple, and a third with his mentally challenged daughter. I quote the substance of his tirade in the Fact Finding Report that I wrote with John Dayal and Kavita Shrivastava. ‘He speaks of love jihad which he alleges targets innocent Muslim girls for sexual bondage to Muslim men; of counterfeit notes that fund terrorist groups; of films (and he specifically mentions PK and Padmavati) which make fun of Hindu gods and distort ‘Hindu’ history; of a Muslim conspiracy to destroy a generation of Hindus by attracting them to drugs; of mafia dons who find safe havens in Pakistan while looting India; of sinister black-robed Muslim men who surround mosques; and of the Babri Masjid where a Ram Temple could not be built even after 25 years. Being born to a disadvantaged caste, he significantly calls for the breaking of caste boundaries for all Hindus to unite against the multiple jihadi conspiracies of the Muslims in India’.
The defence of the Sangh organisations will surely be that his was a lone wolf attack, and that he was not an enrolled member of the RSS or any of its affiliate organisations, or that we was mentally disturbed. This was their defence when Dara Singh burned alive Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons; and even earlier that Nathuram Godse who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi was not a member of the RSS. This is what an RSS spokesperson said to me in a heated television debate on the question: he charged that I and others like me from the ‘Left’ had a ‘jaundiced eye’, and saw blame the RSS and its affiliates for the crime of a man who was no more than a deranged murderer.
These are, however, very thin defences. There can be little doubt that Godse shot Gandhiji because he was intensely influenced by the relentless venomous ideological fusillade of the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS against Mahatma Gandhi’s conviction that India belonged to its Muslim citizens as much as it belonged to Hindus. Likewise that Dara Singh was swayed by the Sangh propaganda of Christian evangelism threatening to bribe ‘innocent’ tribal people to Christianity. (Even Atal Vajpayee said in barely disguised defence after the killing of Staines and his sons that there should be a national debate on conversions). In the same way, Shambhu’s communal rant on the videos he and his nephew made reflect intense internalisation sustained through the past century of the ideological anti-Muslim propaganda of the Sangh organisations and the BJP.
We need to stare the truth in its face. Shambhulal Regar killed an innocent Muslim man in a public videotaped performance because he was taught and programmed to hate all Muslims.
(thecitizen.in)


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Opinion

Religion and Modernity

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Amir Suhail Wani

“I have always avoided with horror all error in matters of faith”Eckhart

A voice lost to wilderness or the madman’s rubric, any talk of religion, God, metaphysic, values and reality suffers any of two possible consequences. Giving him the advantage of anonymity, a top notch Jamat I Islami scholar pertinently described modern epistemology with all its offspring as the means and instruments of ensuing and securing a revolt against the God and religion. Never before was civilization so shallow in matters of faith and never before a unanimous and collective onslaught was launched against the sacred, Transcendent and divine. A mere mentions of words like “Divine”, “sacred” or “Transcendent” makes people, experiencing the opiedation of modernism, to rise their eyebrows. Any talk of worlds beyond the sensual is termed as intellectual backlog. World has seen, now and then, people rising, out of their intellectual sincerity or otherwise rising against religion and God. But historically they could never enjoy the status of metanarrative, but were always, by virtue of historical entelechy confined to margins of civilization. In post renaissance era world has succeeded, by and large, in constructing a civilisation and culture with man rather than God as its ontic reference. This man cantered civilization has paved all the possible ways for criticism and demolition of religious meta narrative.

 

Let’s come to philosophy first. Modern philosophy, starting with Descartianskepticism and evolving through the stages of Positivism, Naturalism, Materialism Nihilism and Existentialism, modern philosophy seems to have ultimately ended up at postmodernism. The possibilities of future development can’t be ignored nor can it be claimed that postmodernism is an all pervasive philosophical trend claiming universal adherence. But the broader picture of things has unfolded thus. Postmodernism maintains incredulity towards metanarrative and has brought with it a host of questions. Traditionally and even up to recent past man seemed to be unanimous on ontic and epistemic stability of things. But with postmodernism not only have been the institutions of religious and traditional impotence held under scrutiny but the very fundamentals of human existence like language, society and all other institutions of human importance have been deprived of their ontic reference and have been made to float freely in abyss of uncertainty. The case with science has been no better. Being a victim of excessive and inordinate empiricism, the Modern day science has surrendered its inquisitive and rational spirit to sheer scientism.

Ibn Arabi, a classical theorizer of Islamic mysticism noted that “God is a percept, not a concept”. In this single line, the master has resolved an age old question and the problems associated with it. The notion of “conceptual scheme” as it has been adopted unquestionably alike by scientists and philosophers has brought with it an equal number of goods and ills. Man has turned obsessive to reduce everything to his conceptual categories. The human attitude of dividing a problem into subunits, though it has paid heavily in scientific realm, but has simultaneously brought irreconcilable problems in other affairs of human existence. Modern medicine treats biology disentangled from psychology and this piecemeal approach has landed us in an era where we know more and more about less and less. In a sense we know everything about nothing and nothing about everything. Traditionally things were seen associated and entangled in the cosmic Web. Coming back to human methodology of understanding things by dividing them into subcategories and then understanding things in terms of local mental categories has distorted and ruined our understanding of God, sacred and divine. We need to understand that the laws formulated by human mind are refuted within the physical realm itself. Thus the laws obeyed by matter aren’t obeyed by light and the laws applicable to fermions are completely defied by bosons. So within our physical immediacy are instances to cleave apart our ultimate trust in the laws of physics. The unending quest for unified theory in physics might bring further insights in this direction. Thus we need to be careful and watchful to the fact that the laws of matter do not apply to the realm of spirit. Coming back to God who is neither material nor spiritual, neither defined by material boundaries nor circumscribed by contours of space we need to be all the more careful. While we try to understand God in terms of mental categories derived from our physical realm we need to be very cautious that all these categories do not hold true beyond this material universe. Our conceptual schemes, which in the final analysis rest on the categories of mundane material realm are too coarse and inappropriate to conceptualise and theorise the realm of divine, sacred and godhead. At a point where despite all boasting scientific discoveries man is yet incapable of understanding his basic biology and where despite of conquering the vastness of space man is yet to gain a glimpse of his psychological depths any sweeping statements and miscalculated statements oriented towards reduction of divine to categories of psyche seems but a naive affair. The enlightened theologians, mystics and philosophers of the past have explicitly denounced the access of finite human mind to infinite cosmic intelligence. What God has informed us here and there in sacred texts is to contemplate the nature and our own selves. This unbiased contemplation is sure to bring forth some indirect aspects of divine. Though we shall be fully conscious of the fact that within the physical universe and human civilization there are instances which are heartrending, discouraging and at times they run quite contrary to the notion of divine. But the mystics and enlightened men throughout the history have been able to dissect the veil of appearance and have succeeded in looking at the essence of existence. On having this enlightened vision they bowed their heads and understood the essence of these apparent vagaries of nature. Ibrahim, the father of modern monotheism, Buddha a silent contemplator, Nanak, a socially conscious religious purgator amply demonstrate this state of enlightenment. Modern scientific mind is highly welcome in questioning the authenticity of religion, aspects of divine and the apparent chaos that is witnessed everywhere in physical and social landscape. There can be no proper understanding in absence of questioning. Likewise doubt is an essential ingredient of faith. But while one raises questions in atheist or any such frame one must have patience, tolerance and wide sightedness to understand theistic point of view. To dub religion irrational for its simple disagreement with science seems a rather constricted opinion. Religion has been a great architect in shaping the course of human civilization and to unfasten our knots with this perennial source of wisdom, learning, inspiration and exaltation will amount to gross intellectual injustice. The need of hour is not to posit theists and atheists as antithetical but to encourage each to understand the point of other. Maybe in this collective endeavour humanity discovers a paradigm that has still not been thought of.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat& mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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Opinion

Making Kids Sick and Stressed!

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Dr. Shahid Amin Trali

It is quite obvious that having a happy and thriving child can greatly enhance a parent’s personal happiness and their life satisfaction. But having a low, pessimistic or depressed child will certainly detract from one’s overall happiness. Children are the lovely birds. They are always innocent creatures. Rightly said that God lives there where children live. The smiling faces of our children can be a therapy for any kind of depressions.

Revisiting the past, our childhood was very rich. Life in the past was more social. Children hardly found time in past to be low and depressed. Earlier generations used to spend good time outdoors; playing sports, or engaged in physical activities. But the technology nowadays invites our children and adolescents to sit a lot. Now children are turning more isolated and limited to the world of games and gadgets. The excessive usage of the technology has truly damaged a lot and posing a serious threat to our future. So much so a bigger concern now is that a popular game Player Underground’s Battle Ground (PUBG) is turning more harmful for our youngsters. The Jammu and Kashmir Students Association (JKSA) has rightly demanded to immediately ban the game. The addition to this game has become so serious that our youngsters are unstoppably playing the game and losing a precious time.

 

A good data is available that Interviews with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and other technology elites consistently reveal that Silicon Valley parents are strict about technology use. A recent research has found children who spend more than two hours a day looking at a screen have worse memory, language skills and attention span. The research, which involved children aged between eight and 11 found that those with higher amounts of recreational screen time on smart phones and playing video games had far worse cognitive skills across a range of functions. One more research has found that an eighth-grader’s risk for depression jumps 27% when he or she frequently uses social media. Children who use their smart phones for at least three hours a day are much more likely to be suicidal.

Using the internet and technology is the need of the time but researchers suggest its safe and proper usage. One study reveals that in 2007, Bill Gates, the former world’s richest and CEO of Microsoft Corporation implemented a cap on screen time when his daughter started developing an unhealthy attachment to a video game. He also didn’t let his kids get cell phones until they turned 14. But the alarming situation today is that the average age for a child getting their first phone is about 10 years. If any kid is alone with the internet, and no one else is around, the technology can be a curse. When our kids use gadgets and access the internet within limits and in safe and public surroundings, the technology can enhance learning and prove a beneficial friend. But a good research is still needed to examine the potential impact of technology on our lovely children. Psychologists need to speed up efforts to show how dangerous modern gadgets and technology can be for our children brains and what limits are there for its right usage.

Today medical sciences have found greater advancements. But it is surprising to mention that the numbers of our children are also found increasing when it comes to anxiety, pressure and conflict among our children. This pressure and conflict is not evolving on its own. As society and parents, we have now become more rigid with our demands. But the life of our children has become more caged and suffocated with those unreal demands. In actual terms we are never doing justice with the upbringing of our lovely kids. There is always a bigger force applied on our kids now. We are forcing our children to get high marks or grades in examinations. We are forcing them to be only the doctors and engineers. We are even forcing a small kid to carry a burden of bags that is even unbearable for an adult. We are forcing them to be locked in a school even when they attain just two years of their age. This pressure on our children to achieve high levels of academic success and being caged is overriding their joys of education and making our kids anxious and depressed.

A study of University of Michigan, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, revealed that children whose parents said they would respond by lecturing, punishing or restricting their child’s social activities actually had lower levels of literacy and achievement by the end of high school. The study offers a useful advice that parents who use punitive parenting practices may unintentionally deny their children the opportunity to learn the very skills and knowledge they require to improve their grades. Even more worse, punitive strategies may increase children’s sense of frustration and aversion to school work.

Societies need to realize the value of development of children in right ways. Why we are that much rigid when we have big flaws in our system. It’s rightly said that we have the brilliant minds joining doctors and engineers at the initial level. Next level with exceptions we have those who do not qualify medical and engineering, they found success in other professions like education, law, management, security, administration etc. Next level with exceptions those who do not fit in these two levels become the politicians and they rule the first two levels. The current scenario proves it right when our youth sensation Dr. Shah Faisal resigned from his prestigious IAS post to and serve big as a politician. Also a good lesson is that we have majority of politicians who are hardly fit for any good post.

It is better to inculcate right values in our children. Parenting is a great and noble task, but it isn’t that easy to bring up happy and a confident child. We must strongly encourage creativity in our children rather than being rigid with them. Our strong focus must be to make our child healthy, happy and productive. We need to be as realistic as possible but don’t thwart the ambitions of our lovely children.

(The author is Assistant Professor, ITM University Gwalior.Educator at Unacademy and Editor in Chief at startupdailytips.com. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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Opinion

BEING AN ALIGARIAN

The Kashmir Monitor

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By ShabbirAariz

Not so big and not so clean is a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh yet widely known because it is home to an iconic educational institution, the Aligarh Muslim University. Aligarh has some interesting features which get currency and access to places from wherever people come to study in the university. And an Aligarian is the one who is a pass out of the university generally. Generally because there are also some who even after staying for years on the campus, come out as ‘clean’ as while taking the admission. However, being an Aligarian has something of magical and magnetic about it, that can be felt only when one Aligarian comes in touch with another even while being from different socio-cultural backgrounds , having been on rolls of the university at different points of time and different disciplines and yet meet like long lost members of the same family. This may perhaps be true of other educational institutions also but is more expressing in the case AMU. Pass outs from AMU, across the subcontinent on their name plates besides their educational qualification, put a tag as ‘Alig’ with pride. AMU has played host to a cross section of society with means and those without means. AMU continues to remain a less expensive educational institution having benefited unimaginable number of under privileged people across the globe. AMU has shaped the lives of many like academicians, writers, diplomats, soldiers, sports persons, actors and also the leaders who in turn have been able to shape their nation. People with any sense of history consider visiting this university as a pilgrimage also for the reason that the last resting place of its founder, late Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is within the campus. The man who suffered humiliations and resistance from various quarters while establishing it. Some prejudices surface from time to time even now.

Everyone who has the opportunity of putting in time as a student in AMU, has his own stock of impressions and experience to share and plume his memory. I too am not an exception to my share of good and bad experiences while even bad ones with the afflux of time turn to be good too. Some of the features and facts remain common at all times. These include a certain features sounding with alphabet ‘M’, such as Muslim university, Majaz the poet who besides having remained a student in the university, has given an eternal anthem to the university. Also that Asrar-ul-HaqMajaz has remained most south after by the female on campus. And similarly the Maris road in close vicinity of the campus. Matri, a type of crisp biscuit, mosquito with terrible sittings etc form the part of everybody’s memory. Some of the events that are a regular feature, make AMU an institution distinguishable from other institutions. Besides annual Sir Syed day in the month of October, are mushairas and qawalis part of AMU culture. Other than what has been said here-in-above, I have had some memorable experiences of meeting and knowing some legends in their own right. I am sure that if I were not in AMU, I could not have met and known them. To name a few ; a great Urdu critic and satirist , late Rashid Ahmad Sidique, poet Bashir Badar, noted jurist, often consulted by the then prime minister, Mr Misba-ul-hassan, who was our dean in the law faculty.

 

You are never an Aligarian unless you jump from sublime to ridicule. In this line also am reminded of a friend known for playing pranks till this date with whosoever comes his way. Once out of tradition, on return from seeing off a home going friend at the railway station, he pointed to a hotel on our way back and wanted to have a cup of tea with me, to which readily agreed little knowing that the owner ran a brothel too which was revealed to me on his making enquiries of that kind. While negotiating with the owner, my friend sought STUDENTS CONCESSION on the charges for the ignoble act which left the owner furious who in all rage said that the concessions are available in railway and air and not here. My friend shrugged his shoulders and joined me in the street outside.

I will be leaving this write up incomplete unless I mention one AlamBhaie, a student and a class of his own. AlamBhaie was a generous person to my understanding, who always offered to help a fellow student at any level from the vice chancellor down to the level of a bearer least worried about the results of his effort. Alam known to everyone on the campus, was taken lightly and considered an idiot to the extent, the saying about him would go that if idiots had horns, AlamBhaie would be a stag with twelve horns. What an irony! God bless Alam, wherever he is. Yet another area of fascinations and affairs of which some culminating into success while others ending up in a fiasco is an added feature of AMU days and summed up by one poet- student Sabir in his verse;

SABIR ISS ALIGARH NAY QEHQAHOON K SAATH SAATH
KUCH ZAKHAM BHI DIYAY HAIN DILE BAY QARAR KO.

(The author is a senior lawyer and a well known writer and poet. He can be reached at:[email protected])

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