The Spirit of Independence

I WISH I could go back in time to the dawn of 15th August 1947, and feel the first rays in an independent India. Sixty four years later we seem to have taken our independence for granted. Heroes of the freedom struggle have given way to corrupt politicians. Security has never been worse. Rising prices of commodities have affected almost every Indian. The country has produced more billionaires during the last decade than all the previous put together, but the poverty ratio has not changed. This is surely not the vision of our founding fathers!

The vibrant democracy, inspite of its shortcomings, seems to be our only saving grace. As for the rest, we need to do a little more ourselves. If Anna Hazare can take a stand against corruption, why can’t we stand up to corrupt practices.

As an Indian Muslim I’ve had my share of highs and lows. My disappointments over the years have been few and temporary, but my hope in the country is permanent.

These voices of some of my fellow countrymen, from across the globe, strengthen my faith in this great nation.

August 15th is a very important day not only for the history of India but also as a day of freedom. There is nothing better than the feeling of being free.

To me both Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose were equally important as freedom fighters. Gandhi ‘s policy was centred around peaceful ways whereas Bose never shied away from using force. For a complete victory we need both.

India has many states and languages, but barring a few conflicts and issues, there is so much harmony. Illiteracy seems to be the root of all evils. If we can eradicate illiteracy it would help reduce corruption, racism and poverty in our country.

If we consider the year in the context of the Independence Day then in my opinion our year should start with 15th of August. As a poet I would like to say-

‘Ab ke naya saal aisa nazar aaye
Pichhle sab salon se badla sa nazar aaye

Ham ka jazba ho baaham ham sab ke
Na ho koi hadca ayodhya-o-gujarat ke jaise
Rishton ko joda jaaye sakht zanjeer se aise
Ke phir se tootkar kadi koi na bikhar jaaye’

Abrar Ulhaq, property consultant, Dubai (originally from Etah, UP)

To me August 15th is an emotional and significant day as an indian. I still remember the pride with which we re-ran the special assembly back home (after school) to keep the celebrations going. I cherished winning the elocution competition on ‘the’ occasion — the once in a year event. Nothing was bigger than that!

My favourite freedom fighter is the Mahatma. The man who started it all, and the man revered by us all as ‘bapu’. He is perhaps the greatest icon of leadership in this imperfect world. He took the definition of inclusive leadership closest to perfection.

As a kid I never felt any discrimination, perhaps chastity of thoughts reigned supreme. It feels strange now when people smile at you sheepishly every time India beats Pakistan. The same people get embarassed while criticising Pakistan in front of me, as if I am not an Indian. Sadly, Indian independence is more about Pakistan and less about India or the British imperialism. It appears funny though, half the country would love to migrate to London if given a chance! If only there was no partition, Muslims would have been treated as more Indian (or more patriotic).

Having said it all, the very fact that I can level criticism through any medium, albeit constructive, without fear is what india is all about.

Ahmad Mehdi, works for Ricoh India, New Delhi

The word ‘freedom’ is very significant to me and therefore the date. There is a lot of sarcasm around as to what we’ve achieved in the last 64 yrs but I would still prefer where we are than being ruled by the British.

I remember visiting Abba’s office (district courts) on this day and the ‘Jai Hind’ salutes all around.

Mahatma Gandhi as a freedom fighter stands out for me. His fight always started with his inner self and was built on the philosophy of attaining will power or controlling your ‘Nafs’.

My work gave me the opportunity to live and explore different parts of India. Its so colorful. To discover and enjoy India you need many lives. Although my religion doesn’t allow me to say this, but if I had to be reborn I prefer to be born again in some part of India.

I think Indian muslims should open their doors more and intermingle with other communities. The Ghettoization is not helping them in any way!

Amir Naqvi, works for Honeywell, Dubai (originally from Safipur, UP)

In many aspects India is still struggling with slavery, only the masters have changed. August 15th seems to be just about organising parades and distributing sweets. This day must be a guiding light for a brighter India.

Our school celebrated Independence Day by organising a parade and distributing sweets among the students. I was entrusted to not only sing a patriotic song but also to lead the parade with full police uniform.

Bhagat Singh is one name which left a deep impact on me. It could be because I’ve heard so much about him since childhood. But, his role in the freedom struggle indeed needs much appreciation.

I studied at ‘Saraswati Sishu Mandir’, an RSS backed school, so there was naturally some discrimination especially during the parades and exam marking. Beyond school it was business as usual.

I feel our culture and food stands out compared to other countries. It’s only corruption which fails us. If we can remove that then there’s no denying that India is great.

Dr. Mohammad Vaseem, post doctoral fellow, South Korea (originally from Mankapur, UP)

If you consider the magnitude of the achievement, August 15th is a very significant day. The relevance seems to have been lost in recent times.

I think the turning point in our freedom struggle was the Indian Mutiny of 1857. It gave hope to Indians that the Britishers could be overthrown. Revolutionaries like Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, and Ashfaqullah Khan instilled fear in the hearts of the Britishers. By the time Gandhi came, the Britishers were already in the process of moving out plagued by their domestic problems.

I love the unity in diversity of this country. If you are in pain, the first person who comes to your help could be of any religion.

If given a chance I would remove all the current politicians, especially those above 45 years of age. We still are not fully independent! We seem to be ruled by corrupt politicians whose actions are alarmingly similar to the Britishers. The Britishers looted India and sent the loot abroad our politicians are doing the same. They stash their black money outside India.

I have personally seen the kind of talent we are losing to corruption. The day we can wipe it out would be the day we will truly be independent. One Anna Hazare cannot do it, we have to change our mindset first.

Fasih Ahmad, works for Ozonebarter, Hongkong (originally from Lucknow)

August 15th means a lot to me being an Indian and knowing the country’s history.

I don’t have any favourites when it comes to our freedom fighters, quite simply because I don’t know what exactly each stood for.

I don’t know about the rest of India but Bangalore has always been this migrant town, and now a city. I have been lucky not to have any discriminatory experience that may have left a mark.

I think democracy is the best thing about this country and poverty the worst.

Fiza Ishaq, independent researcher, Bangalore

August 15th holds a big significance in my life as it symbolizes our freedom from the suppressive British rule. One feels very proud to be an Indian, especially on this particular day.

I’ve fond memories of people lining up on street pavements to watch the Independance Day parade. The section displaying Indian weaponary from the parade broadcasted by Doordarshan fascinated me.

Subhash Chandra Bose is the freedom fighter I admire the most as I do not believe in Gandhian philosophy.

I like the harmony that exists between people of different religions and cultures in India. It’s only the poverty, and to a certain extent, the hatred against the Muslims which saddens me.

Irfan Kazmi, works for Alhamrani Universal Co. Ltd., Saudi Arabia (originally from Lucknow)

Even though Muslims face some discrimination in India, I would want to believe this is a global phenomenon. It’s quite human for one to discriminate on the basis of class, caste, religion or colour. I do feel things would have been far different under the British rule.

Subhash Chandra Bose was the real freedom fighter. Gandhi to me as a national hero was more to do with politics. The Britishers didn’t leave India because of Gandhi and his Satyagrah. They were already on their knees because of the second World War. Also, India was not a viable option for them anymore. They were concentrating on the gulf more at that point of time. Even if we do credit Gandhi for our Independence, how long would have we survived without a competent national army.

If I am not living in places like, Kashmir, the North East and Naxal affected area, I think India is one of the best places to live anywhere in the world. I only wish I could remove the ‘chalta hai’ attitude of our people.

Sabir Khan, accountant, Pune

I remember enjoying the extra holiday we used to get in school on this day. As a kid, August 15th looked important and I used to feel proud with the small flag in my hand and a laddoo in my mouth.

In my opinion Subhash Chandra Bose was the most impressive among the long list of people who fought for India. If he had been around, India would have been a different place.

As a Muslim I’ve never felt discriminated in India. But I do feel, given a demanding situation my Muslim identity may limit my chances of fighting back effectively.

The never say die attitude of the common man who works on the Indian streets, fighting daily challenges, amazes me. Inspite of their hardships they smile and dance to Bollywood tunes.

Poverty remains our biggest stumbling block. We can still fight it, though. If every MLA is entrusted with the task to move just five families out of poverty in his constituency every year, it can make a big change. He can do so by helping them find employment within their area. If society starts supporting the underprivileged, India would change for better.

If every MP is entrusted with the task to improve the living conditions of any one town/locality during his tenure by ensuring proper supply of essential amenities, it would make a big difference.

Shahnawaz Mehdi, works for Nissan Middle-East, Dubai (originally from Lucknow)

August 15th to me is freedom, some patriotic songs and a day off.

I admire Bhagat Singh the most. His idea of freedom was very original. He was the one who highlighted the difference between violence and self defense.

Glorious history of India is a matter or pride. It’s the poverty which saddens me no end.”

Shah Zaman Rizvi, works for Pure Gold Jewellers, Dubai (originally from Lucknow)

August 15th is important for the very fact that we achieved complete authority over our own country on the day. But it also makes me sad that we did not utilise this power appropriately. India would’ve been a super power had it not been the dirty politics that now runs in it’s bloodstream. I hate the fact that it has spread it’s tentacles to defense, health and other areas. Even the kids now know that bribery works wonders.

As a Muslim we did face issues while searching for a rental place, but I respect the wishes of the people. They have a right to rent out their house to whom they please. It’s not a big deal to me.

I love our culture and the brotherhood that still exists, no matter what people say or do. I’m also in awe of the religious tolerance we are melted into. It’s a perfect example of how a true human should be.

Sukaina Merchant, event planner, Dubai (originally from Mumbai)

August 15th seems to have lost its significance. Like all businesses I close my office on this day but in my view we should work more than usual instead, and help India grow.

The memories of the day are mostly from the school days. When I was in the Government college we used to get four laddoos in a pink envelope.

I feel there is nothing in India which other countries do’nt have. I just like India because I was born here. It’s my motherland!

I only wish to remove corruption from the country.

Tariq Mumtaz, IT consultant, Meerut, UP

August 15th is like the birthday of a person who is very close to heart. I remember going out for parades and flag raising ceremonies on this day.

Subhash Chandra Bose to me was a true freedom fighter.

As a Muslim I did face discrimination a few times but that didn’t stop me from admiring the Indian culture.

I like the music which we are mixing up with the west. Our big problem seems to be only corruption. Take that out and India is a heaven.

Taskeen Jamali, works for Ford Motor Company, Ontario, Canada (originally from Moradabad, UP)

Being our Independence Day, August 15th automatically becomes significant.

For me Subhash Chandra Bose was a real fighter.

I think discrimination does exists in India. During the last semester of my MBA, I was told to opt out of the interview with a leading employer, which had come for the campus recruitment, as they don’t hire muslims. The institue’s director didn’t want me to waste my time.

I like the simplicity and diversity of my country, and wish I could wipe out communalism from this land.

Toufique Khan, works for Mashreq Bank, Abu Dhabi (originally from Bahraich, UP)

Honestly August 15th is like any other day for me except getting a public holiday. May be the true meaning of the day has been lost.

I remember the essay writing competitions we had in school and the patriotic songs and movies being played on Doordarshan that day.

Bhagat Singh and his team tops my list of freedom fighters. He carried the spirit of a great warrior. A fearless soul, an inspiration for the youth of India.

Barring a stray incident at the IGI Airport, Delhi, my Muslim identity has never been a problem for me in India.

I cherish the bond of culture and friendship between Muslims and Hindus. If I could, I would remove corruption and hate killings in India.

Urooj Ikram, homemaker, Ankara, Turkey (originally from Aligarh)

As an indian I am proud of what our fellow Indians did 64 years ago, but when I see today’s leaders celebrating 15th of August ( with smug faces in crisp kurtas ), it looks like a slap in the face of this day’s spirit. There is hardly any difference between them and the ones we fought against to gain our freedom.

I remember as a kid we used to bunk classes to practice the National Anthem and march past drills. Today no sweet tastes as good as those four laddoos on the morning of 15th of August.

Rani of Jhansi appeals to me as a freedom fighter. Girl power maybe!

On a personal level, I’ve never faced any problem in India being a Muslim. In fact, the way we are discriminated here in USA, India feels like “apni gali” (next lane).

I love the simplicity of Indians. It makes us vulnerable and gullible at times, but its priceless!

I wish I could change our system, they way it works. Corruption is not an individual’s practice, it’s a tree which branches out.

‘Hum pe mushtarka hain ehsaan gham-e-ulfat ke (read it ‘gham-e-siyaasat ke’)
Itne ehsaan ki ginwaaon to ginwaa na sakoon’

Zainab Khan, homemaker, Louisiana, US (originally from Aligarh)

The significance of August 15th cannot be expressed in words. The feeling of being the citizen of a free country is enormous.

I remember celebrating it with lots of fun in school. I used to prepare a speech to be delivered during the school assembly. We looked forward to the parades, and scout and guide camps associated with the day.

To me all freedom fighter contributed towards one cause, so can’t really differentiate between them. But I do admire the trio of Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah khan and Thakur Roshan Singh.

I like the famous Indian jugaad, which simplifies so many things. The talent, so readily available in every nook and corner of India and selfless love of the people amazes me.

Beaurocracy is a bane in this country. The paper work need to be abolished to at least check some corruption.

Zartab Jafri, works for IAP HR Solutions, Mumbai

I’m signing of with this couplet of the revolutionary poet Akbar Allahabadi which beautifully expresses the feelings of an Indian Muslim-

“Paamal hain magar hain sabit qadam wafa main
Hum misle-e-sang-e-dar ke is aastaan par hain”

[Though crushed, we are firm in our loyalty
We are like a rock at the threshold of our country]

Jai Hind!

Adolescent At 60

By Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam,

At 60 human individuals start getting old, staring at retirement and slowdown in physical, mental and economic activity. Soon, they are pushed to the margins of life as “senior citizens”, who no longer have anything meaningful to contribute and have to make room for the next generation to take over. Happily, a republic’s life is longer, its lifecycle different. Our republic is 60 today, a strong, powerful pre-adult entity set to bloom into a global player within the decade. That is the good part, requiring celebration.

In fact, there are a whole lot of achievements to celebrate. For instance, a longer life expectancy (about 67 years), which is an addition of nearly two decades of life, largely due to better nutrition and health care.

Another major victory is sustained democracy in a world which still has a substantial number of countries where people’s participation in decision-making is negligible. Like in the United States or other mature Western democracies, the military is confined to barracks, away from levers of power and political authority. The military here knows its rightful position as paid government servant assigned to the defence of national borders, and some occasional work among civilians in emergencies. It never tries to become the people’s master by nudging away the elected authority.

Peaceful transfer of power and the right to dissent make India one of the most remarkable democracies. Respect for the right to dissent is not only a marker of democracy but also a marker of a mature civilization and a great society. Thank God, over the last 60 years, barring 18 months of the infamous Emergency, we have always enjoyed the right to say no to the most powerful in the land, including the Prime Minister. That is real democracy.

Democracy has matured in more ways: Now it is getting increasingly difficult for powerful classes in the villages to force Dalits and Muslims inside their homes and capture booths; there is greater transparency in bureaucratic transaction mainly because of the accountability enforced by the Right to Information (RTI) Act; greater vigilance and organised activism of NGOs makes it more difficult for bureaucrats and police officers to break law as easily as they did only a few years ago; politicians know today that they have to respect law as much as they can. That also is real democracy.
However, it remains a fact that so far not all corrupt politicians, bureaucrats are inside jails, although quite a few are there. Over the last decade the incidence of atrocities against Dalits has remained quite high, even in Uttar Pradesh, where a Dalit CM has been in power professing allegiance to the Dalit cause.

Even at 60, the republic has been helpless in enforcing its will in crucial areas where national integrity and public good is at stake. For instance, we have the mobocracy of Maharashtra. In the 60s, the newly cartoonist-turned politician Bal Thackeray made life hell for Tamilians and Keralites. Non-Tamilian and non-Keralite Indians never bothered to check the violence and hooliganism of Shiv Sainiks against helpless fellow Indians.

In the mid-80s Thackeray had another avatar. He forget about South Indians and began tongue-lashing Muslims. By the time the watershed events of December 6, 1992 happened Thackeray had started badmouthing Muslim Indians on a daily basis and his Shiv Sainiks had participated in the widespread anti-Muslim killings that preceded December 6 events.

In any other country where democracy had matured and rule of law was firmly established Thackeray would have been in jail long enough not to be able to start the round of anti-Muslim hooliganism leading to December 6. He was so contemptuous of rule of law and the authority of the state that he openly declared before the media that his Shiv Sainiks had demolished the undefended mosque. This was certainly not the way the Indian state should have allowed itself to be humiliated by a gang of law-breakers. Meanwhile, the non-Muslim segment, which is 85 percent of the population, largely kept itself aloof allowing the crime to happen and than go unpunished.

That the culprits of December 6 are free to do as they will is not a matter of satisfaction for the Republic of India, or for any other republic caught in a similar situation. Just because the culprits were never penalised for their evil acts they went from one carnage to another. Mayhem against Muslims and Christians is still a frequently recurring phenomenon, tied neatly to electoral politics. Also, just because the mass murder of Muslims was condoned by the Indian state for decades, the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 was easy to be carried out. Out of hundreds of identified and unidentified killers those brought to book can be counted on the fingers of a single hand. Meanwhile, the criminals roam free enjoying power and prosperity. All this has not covered the republic with glory.

There could be a whole lot of judicial, legislative and administrative measures to establish rule of law in the country, but nothing worthwhile was done. For a more just and law-abiding future we have been pleading for judicial reforms, police reforms, legislation to establish an Equal Opportunity Commission, actionable laws against hate speech and hate crimes.

As Muslims we are also concerned about the falling representation of Muslims in Central and state legislatures, meagre presence in other bodies of decision-making and governance, hubs of power and influence.

Democracy would be meaningless until neglected sections of society are empowered through targeted education, economic aid, job quotas and other interventions. We had vainly been asking for better representation of Muslims in government commissions, committees, sub-committees and other niches of power through nomination and co-option. We have been asking for meaningful policing to prevent anti-Muslim violence by Hindutva hooligans and gangs like Shiv Sena, MNS, Sanathan Sanstha and Abhinav Bharat. Every plea has gone unheard, apparently.

Fair play and better participation of all classes of Indians are essential for a just and durable order. Hopefully, our republic will mature within the current decade to eliminate hunger, illiteracy and injustice. Let us all work towards that goal.

(The writer is Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies, and General Secretary, All India Milli Council)

Namaz At India Islamic Cultural Centre

Photo & text by Kashif-ul-Huda,

The building of the India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC) takes your breath away. The beautiful dome, intricate calligraphy and delicate design in beautiful Persian tiles make you spellbound. The administration of IICC can be forgiven for taking 22 years to complete its construction.

Between Indira Gandhi laying the foundation stone of the Centre on August 24, 1984 and her daughter-in-law inaugurating it on June 12, 2006, it took many people and much money to see to its completion. It is a beautiful example of Muslim’s and the Indian government coming together to give shape to an institution.

With the objective to “promote understanding among the people of different religion and help the promotion of the cause of national integration,” IICC has quickly become an important institution.

Last year, it saw a bitter fight between businessman Sirajuddin Qureshi and present Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid for the post of the president. Though Mr. Qureshi was able to win the election easily, the quarrel symbolizes the prestige of the institution.

Though it has become a hub of Muslim related activities like seminars, conferences, and meetings, the space allocated for namaz (prayers) seems to be an after-thought. You have to go down a flight of stairs to get to the place. Though there is a proper wuzu-khana the musalla (prayer place) is neatly tucked away from important parts of the building. It is out in the open with only a few rows with overhead covering. During winter the musalla moves in-doors in the basement. I did not see any place for women to offer prayers. There is no mihrab, dome or beautiful columns as is found in other masaajid of India. In short, the building does a wonderful job of hiding an important pillar of Islam.

Namaz at IICC [IICC photo]

So, a premier institution of Indian Muslims that have the backing of some of the biggest names of the community comes up short in the “Islamic” part of its name, let’s hope it holds up to the “Indian” tag.

IICC in daylight [Photo by s.prigge]


Flagging TimesNow

When there is no news what a 24/7 news channel got to do? Of course, they are going to make up the news.

Horror! Horror! A Pakistani flag unfurled in Assam. This was a big news around October 2008. Look carefully and you see that crescent in Pakistani flag is upside down. Another thing you will notice that news channel Times Now is repeating the same visuals over and over again. There is some sword like thing that is in the picture but it is not clear what is it and who is holding it.

TimesNow video

The TV Channel offers no information on how they got these “exclusive visuals.” Was it shot by their journalists, who alerted them that this flag is there go and shoot the pictures? If it was not their own camera person then who provided them these visuals, who are these people? How they come across this flag and what are their motive in giving this visual?

Times Now failed to reveal the source but thanks to YouTube now you can see the raw footage without Times Now editing and commentary:

Raw footage

Notice that sword like thing is actually a bow and arrow, a weapon of choice in Assam.

I had to consult an Assam resident for this- the people in video are speaking in Bodo language. They are saying- hold the flag, spread it with the bow so that the flag can be photographed.

Also, in this video you can notice that this seems to be an open area, no village around it except a structure visible at a distance. So we established that video was shot by the Bodos, as far as we can see it there are no Muslims or their houses around, if the Muslim village is behind the camera person then he should have shot that as well to make it more incriminating. Given that Bodo miltants are doing their best to drive Muslims out of their villages their action should be highly suspect and a news organization if given a piece of information from one party, should check and verify it before airing it.

But in this case, there is ample evidence that this flag is a fake, probably set up by the Bodos themselves. Given that Times Now edited the footage tells us that they knew that this video is problematic and therefore they cut it short showing only the flag not the people and removing the audio.

Please contact Times Now and complain:

Mr. M.Vasudev Rao
Authorised officer – Legal Department
Times Global Broadcasting Company Ltd.
Trade House, Kamala Mills compound,
Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel,
Mumbai – 400 013
Phone: (+9122) 24999944
Fax : (+9122) 29440307

Haven On Earth

The mighty Kanchendzonga
The mighty Kanchendzonga

In the year 1592, when men in power were still God fearing and honored their word, a sacred covenant between the Lepchas – the indigenous people of Sikkim, and the Tibetan Bhutias was solemnized. This historical event took place near Gangtok, the present capital of Sikkim.
Continue reading Haven On Earth

We Are The New ‘Coolies’

It was 1893 and a young Indian lawyer, dressed in an impeccable European dress, was travelling first class in a train from Durban to Pretoria in South Africa.  All was well until the train reached Pietermaritzburg in the province of Natal. A European passenger had summoned the railway officials who ordered that the young lawyer vacate the compartment since ‘coolies’ and non-whites were supposedly not allowed in first class compartments. When the lawyer protested he was pushed out of the train along with this luggage. Continue reading We Are The New ‘Coolies’

The Message Of Jammu & Kashmir Elections

Sushant K Singh and Rohit Pradhan

Kashmiri MenThe free, fair, and peaceful elections in Jammu & Kashmir are a significant achievement. Only a few a months ago the state was ravaged by protests over the Amarnath land issue; large demonstrations took place in valley matched by equally vociferous and passionate protests in some parts of Jammu. Articulate columnists had suggested what was hitherto unthinkable: India should give up Kashmir, as the issue at hand seemed intractable. Continue reading The Message Of Jammu & Kashmir Elections

Madrasa Reforms And Inter-Faith Dialogue

Madrasa of Ulugh BegBased in Hyderabad, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani is one of the leading present-day Indian ulema. Author of some 50 books, mainly on Islamic jurisprudence, he is a senior member of numerous important Islamic organizations, including the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Islamic Fiqh Academy, the Bahrain-based Association of Islamic Banks and the Council for Inter-Sectarian Dialogue, Tehran, Iran. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand he talks about various issues related to madrasa education in India, particularly the question of madrasa reforms. Continue reading Madrasa Reforms And Inter-Faith Dialogue

Iqbal, Jinnah And The Lost Glory Of The Muslims Of India

 Muslim Boys' in IndiaThe fierce controversy that raged in the minds of the Muslims of India over the issue of pan-Islamism and nationalism in the decades preceding India’s independence and partition in 1947 was profoundly influenced by three pre-eminent leaders of India’s Muslims of that time. These were Mohammad Iqbal, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Abul Kalam Azad. Continue reading Iqbal, Jinnah And The Lost Glory Of The Muslims Of India