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They and Us

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Rape is assuming social approval in India. The bloody reaction by thousands of followers of rape-convict “god man” Ram Rahim Singh in parts of Haryana and Punjab is a pointer towards it. Around 40 people have died and over 250 injured in clashes between police and followers of Ram Rahim sing over the past two days. The self-appointed spiritual guru, on Friday, was convicted by the court in a case of raping two of his followers. He heads a cult-group and socio-religious organization Dera Sacha Suda, headquartered in Sirsa Harayana. Dera head has a huge fan following in many states of north India. Around one lakh supporters of the ‘guru’ converged on the courthouse to shout angry protests. His followers went on rampage in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and Noida, resulting in the death of 32 persons and injuries to 250 others. What went on Friday in Haryana was the danse macabre in real term. The scenes were very much like Bollywood films. The spectacle put on by the convicted ‘guru’s’ followers brought large parts of Punjab and Haryana to a standstill. There was such a violent frenzy from his followers that a massive mobilisation by the state had to be undertaken, with trains, schools and telephony being disrupted. Despite appeals for calm, his supporters continued their rampage after the verdict was announced. But the larger question is how these cults are allowed to become a law unto themselves and how it is that they seem to feel a sense of entitlement that they are above the law. Dera chief not only had the street support, a formidable section of politicians and religious leaders also rose in his support. BJP member parliament Sakhshi Maharaj publicly supported Dera chief questioning the verdict by saying “you are listening to two women only (who complained of rape). Why don’t you listen to crores of his followers”. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is also alleged to have close links with Ram Rahim Singh. He is alleged to have gone soft on Dera chief’s supporters. Misuse of religious position by some people is a norm in different societies everywhere in the world. But protecting them and their crimes for political or other reasons is the most abhorring thing one can think of. Kashmir, for that matter, is a different story. In 2006 when some top politicians and influential government officials including sitting MLAs, ministers and senior bureaucrats were found involved in the infamous sex scandal, thousands of people struck streets in protests demanding legal action against those involved in the scandal. It was under severe public pressure that many of them were arrested and jailed for months. It was again government that helped the rape accused by shifting the case to Chandhigarh. Though they have since been acquitted for want of ‘evidence’ but many of them still face isolation at social level. The Budgam thug Gulzar Peer’s is another case in point. He would be called “Peeran-e-Tareeqat”, (saint of saint-hood) by his ‘followers’, who were actually partners in his crimes. Achievements of his saint-hood were being projected in newspapers against paid advertisements. But when the mask of false dervish-hood fell from his face and two girls complained of rape by the so-called peer, angry people attacked his citadel, destroyed it completely and forced the government to act against him. He has since been in jail, though there were attempts to release him. However, the fear of public anger does not allow the government to release him. The quantum of punishment to Dera chief would be decided by the court on Monday. There are fears that violence may again erupted in areas of Dera chief support. That makes Kashmir different from India.


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Editorial

Revival of back channel diplomacy

The Kashmir Monitor

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It is quite premature to say which way the Indo-Pak relations would go in the days to come but some positive signs are emerging on the sub-continental horizon. The war of words at government level in New Delhi and Islamabad has, at least stopped, and no threats or warnings are issued against each other. Last week, even more positive thing has happened on Indo-Pak front. The track-II diplomacy between the two countries has been revived. Last Friday, a delegation of experts from India visited Islamabad and held a meeting with the members of Pakistani counter-parts. The delegations from the two countries included foreign officers and former envoys besides experts from other fields. The meeting is viewed as a major development towards easing tension and normalizing relations. The talks continued for two days. The second phase of talks will take place in New Delhi sometime soon. Given the level of hostility and antagonism between the two countries, one cannot expect results overnight.


It is a long and assiduous process to bring the two countries on table. However, the beginning has to make somewhere. Nothing could have been more appropriate for this than the Friday-Islamabad talks. This is the first direct or indirect contact between Islamabad and New Delhi after February 14 suicide attack in which over 40 CRPF men were killed in Pulwama. It is most likely that the two countries would open airspace for each other in near future. Pakistan recently opened its airspace for former Indian foreign minister SushmaSwraj to attend the SCO meet in Bishkek. They also opened it for Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bishkek but he avoided to use the space and took a alternate route bypassing Pakistan. India and Pakistan shut their air space for each other on February 27 after Indian force carried out a strike in Balakote in Pakistan’s northern KhaibarPakhtoon province. Pakistan air force retaliated with similar action on February 29, and captured a pilot besides destroying a jet fighter. That brought the two countries on the brink of nuclear war. However, the international intervention, more particularly from Saudi Arabia, China and America, stopped the two countries from going for war. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party BJP made it a major poll issue and got a resounding support from the people of India in the elections. His re-election has made many people doubtful about any thaw in the relations with Pakistan.

The revival of track-II diplomacy is seen as major departure from the years of hostile relations. It is time that both Islamabad and New Delhi step forward and make it a base for building relations anew. It is quite sad to note that a small but vocal constituency led by mad-media has high-jacked the agenda of the government and they formulate the foreign policy in TV studios. This is a reflection on the thinking and wisdom of the people in office that they get affected by this jingo-brigade. Saner voices in this point of time need to be heard and understood sans preconceived notions. The domestic squabbles and internal political exigencies have relegated the once vaunted India-Pakistan peace process to the proverbial square one. If the drift in Indo-Pak relations is not arrested it would appear that in the not too distant future the process may well be denuded of the proverbial fig leaf that has afforded it a semblance of respectability. Government of India might have a genuine case when they say that talks could be held only after Pakistan stopped ‘exporting terrorism’. But India is not the only country which faces terrorism. Pakistan has faced the wrath of terrorism more than India. Pakistan has publicly accused India of supporting and sponsoring terrorists in Pakistan. A former officer of Indian navy is in custody of Pakistan, who, the Pakistani authorities say, was on a terror mission in Pakistan. The allegations and counter-allegations would go on indefinitely unless some reasonable steps are taken to get people out of the caged mentality. The first step, in this regard, is to restart the dialogue process. That is the only way forward.

 
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Editorial

Food Adulteration

The Kashmir Monitor

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Almost 3000 food samples have failed the quality parameters in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three years. This shows how alarming an issue food adulteration is turning into. The increasing number of food adulteration cases has come to the fore despite several court directions to the successive governments to set up proper mechanism on the ground to check the quality of the food consumed by the people. Official data shows that over 300 people since 2016 has been convicted in cases involving food adulteration, and serving and selling substandard food products in the state. As per the consumer protection laws, states have to undertake regular monitoring, inspection and sampling of food items to check compliance of the prescribed standards and take penal action when the products are found adulterated, misbranded or are of an inferior quality. Food adulteration is an issue that encompasses the entire society or at least the majority of its people. The increasing consumerism, which in turn is drastically pushing the demand and supply needs, is one of the main reasons why people resort to food adulteration. Lack of proper quality inspection mechanism and less number of workforce too impacts the overall idea of curbing this menace. If the same continues, the consumers will have to think twice before purchasing chilli powder, edible oils and other daily-used food items in the market, as the city and its suburbs have become a hub for adulteration of various commodities. Though food safety and task force officials are conducting surprise checks, the adulteration is continuing unabated. According to the Food Safety and Standards Act 1955, the chemicals used in food items need to be labelled. But many traders and shopkeepers fail to do so. However, the move to make the labelling mandatory is a step in the right direction. Doctors are warning against consuming such products as it damages one’s health. According to food safety department officials, adulteration of food can occur at various levels such as production, entrepreneurship or sale. Consumer vigilance is the need of the hour.  There have been reports of chili powder being adulterated with brick; salt with powdered glass. It is alarming that around 68.7 per cent of milk and milk products sold across India are not as per the standards laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).  The World Health Organisation (WHO) had, in 2018, issued an advisory to the Government of India stating that if adulteration of milk and milk products is not checked immediately, 87 per cent of citizens would be suffering from serious diseases like cancer by the year 2025. . Consuming adulterated food is one of the major reasons behind increasing number of life-threatening diseases. Kashmir is witnessing an increase in the number of cancer patients. Research shows that there is a clear link between consumption of sub-standard and adulterated food can be one of the reasons of a person falling prey to this dreaded disease. The government needs to take up the issue on a serious level and ensure that any loopholes in the existing mechanism of food safety are properly plugged and safety of the consumers is given utmost priority.   

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Editorial

Sincerity

The Kashmir Monitor

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Sincerity is the freeing of one’s intentions from all impurities in order to come nearer to Allah. It is to ensure that the intentions behind all acts of worship and obedience to Allah are exclusively for His pleasure. It is the perpetual contemplation of the Creator, to the extent that one forgets the creation.

Sincerity is a condition for Allah’s acceptance of good deeds performed in accordance with the sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Allah has commanded this in the Qur’an:”And they have been commanded to worship only Allah, being sincere towards Him in their faith and true.” (98:5)


Abu Umama has related that a man once came to the Prophet Muhammad, and said, “What of a man who joined us in the fighting, his intention being for fame and booty?”

 


The Prophet Muhammad said, “He receives nothing.” The man repeated the question three times and each time the Prophet said, “He receives nothing”. Then he said, “Allah only accepts actions that are intended purely for His pleasure.”

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri related that the Prophet said in his khutbah during the farewell pilgrimage, “Allah will bless whoever hears these words and whoever understands them, for it may be that those who pass on this knowledge are not those who will understand it the best. There are three things concerning which the heart of a believer should feel no enmity or malice: devoting one’s actions to Allah, giving counsel to the Imams of the Muslims, and being loyal to the majority.”

What is meant here is that these three things strengthen the heart, and whoever distinguishes himself in them will have a heart purified from all manner of deceit, corruption and evil.

It has been related that a righteous man used to say, “O self, be devout and you will be pure.” When any worldly fortune, in which the self finds comfort and towards which the heart inclines, intrudes upon our worship, then it impairs the purity of our efforts and ruins our sincerity. Man is preoccupied with his good fortune and immersed in his desires and appetites; rarely are his actions or acts of worship free of temporary objectives and desires of this kind. For this reason it has been said that whoever secures a single moment of pure devotion to Allah in his life will survive, for devotion is rare and precious, and cleansing the heart of its impurities is an immense undertaking.

In fact, devotion is the purifying of the heart from all impurities, whether few or many, so that the intention of drawing nearer to Allah is freed from all other motives, except that of seeking His pleasure. This can only come from a lover of Allah, who is so absorbed in contemplation of the next world that there remains in his heart no place for the love of this world. Such a person must be devout and pure in all his actions, even in eating, drinking and answering the calls of nature. With rare exceptions, anyone who is not like this will find the door of devotion closed in his face.

The everyday actions of a person who is overwhelmed by his or her love for Allah and life in eternity are characterized by this love and they are, in fact, pure devotion. In the same way, anyone whose soul is overwhelmed by love for and preoccupation with this world, or status and authority, will be so overwhelmed by these things that no act of worship, be it prayer or fasting, will be acceptable, except in very rare cases.

The remedy for love of this world is to break the worldly desires of the self, ending its greed for this world and purifying it in preparation for the next world. This will then become the state of the heart and sincere devotion will become easier to attain. There are a great many actions where a man acts, thinking they are purely intended for Allah’s pleasure, but he is deluded, for he fails to see the defects in them.

It has been related that a man was used to praying in the first row in the mosque. One day he was late for the prayer, so he prayed in the second row. Feeling embarrassment when people saw him in the second row, he realized that the pleasure and satisfaction of the heart that he used to gain from praying in the first row were due to his seeing people seeing him there and admiring him for it. This is a subtle and intangible condition and actions are rarely safe from it.

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