Jammu Civil society groups urge for peace, harmony

AMMU : Several civil society groups here have made separate strong appeals for maintaining communal harmony and restoration of peace.
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A group of social activists and advocates appealed to all sections of society to restore the rich cultural and secular ethos of Jammu region by maintaining calm and not getting led astray by rumours and propaganda.

Expressing grave concern over the Kishtwar incident and its spill out in various other parts of the region they said that the situation needs to be handled at both the administrative and political fronts to not only bring some semblance of normalcy but also to heal the minds and treat the hatred that is vitiating the atmosphere.

They said that Jammu region has always exhibited the best of secular traditions since the last several decades and that these need to be preserved at every cost.

The group included H.U. Siddiqui, M.R. Quereshi, A.H. Mughal, Mehmood Mirza, Iqbal Hussain Butt, A.A Hamal, Anwar Choudhry, Achal Sharma, Ashwini Sharma, Master Abdul Majid, Azam Shah, Farooq Muztar, Khurshid Bismal, Mohd. Ayub Shabnam, K.K. Kapoor, Maroof Manhas, Raja Abbas and Nazir Chowdhry.

The Internationalist Democratic Party (IDP) also made a strong appeal for maintaining peace and expressed grave concern at the spill over of the Kishtwar incident to Jammu city and other areas.

It’s president I.D. Khajuria and general secretary J.A. Kazmi were extremely concerned about the incidents of targeting minorities in areas where they have a microscopic presence. They said that this seemed to be a part of bigger conspiracy which needs to be unveiled.

They added that the immediate need, however, is to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of all communities, especially in areas where they are in minority. They have also appealed to general public to remain calm and resist the temptation of getting swayed by rumours.

Meanwhile, the residents of Talab Khatikan, Mohalla Dalpatia, Residency Road, Link Road, Jain Bazar, Mohalla Mastgarh and Mohalla Khatkatian, while addressing a press conference, today expressed concern over the prevailing situation.

They said, “It is a known thing that all the communities Hindu, Muslim, Sikh are living in the state in exemplary harmony, particularly in the district of Kishtwar, Doda, Reasi, Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch, Kathua and Udhampur. The incident which took place on August 9 in Kishtwar is highly condemnable and cannot be justified at all.”

They further appealed to all the like minded people irrespective of caste and creed as well as political parties to come forward in normalising the situation and bring peace in the troubled area as soon as possible. They also demanded that the culprits should not be spared and must be brought to book and dealt with an iron hand irrespective of caste, community and religion the belong.

The civil society group alleged that some political parties tried to communalise the situation as the election of 2014 was nearing. “The activities of such elements are required to be curbed with an iron hand, so that harmony could be maintained irrespective of which community they belong to,” they added.

Those who addressed the press briefing included Hafeez-ur-Rehman (Advocate), Bashir Ahmad Malik, Sanjeev Gupta, Devinder Singh, Ayub Beg, Ashiq Hussain, Raji Shaluja, Dr. Shahid Mugdal, Ajay Gandotra alias Manta, Devinder Gupta, Vinod Kumar, Sudesh Dogra, Mrs. Kapoor, Rinku, Happy Gupta, Parveen Singh, Davinder Joshi, Rashid Ahmad, Safdar Khan Manhas and Zeeshan Ali.

Meanwhile, Duggar Vikas Manch (DVM), a forum which represents all segments of Duggar Society, today appealed to the people of Jammu region to maintain peace, which is an example of brotherhood and communal harmony as there is a dire need at this crucial moment of maintaining this centuries-old tradition of the state, and requested the people to defeat the designs of divisive forces.

DVM President Dineshwar Singh Jamwal demanded that the sufferers must be compensated as per their damages and asked the officials to remain vigilant and caution the people of both the communities against rumour-mongers.

He further appealed to the people to maintain peace and communal harmony to help restore law and order, which Jammu region’s society symbolizes with its pluralistic ethos and peaceful co-existence of different faiths, cultures and ethnic groups.

DVM also urged the civil society of Jammu region to come forward to defuse the tensions in this region as the government has failed to deliver in time though Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs have lived together in harmony even during worse situations in the region.

Source: KT NEWS SERVICE

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Civil society group to help Batla House case convict

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) A civil society group comprising Jamia Millia Islamia teachers Thursday expressed shock over the conviction of lone accused Shahzad Ahmad in the Batla House shootout case and vowed to seek justice for him in a higher court.

“It was a huge disappointment for us. We will definitely approach the higher court for justice,” said Manisha Sethi, president of Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA).

A Delhi court convicted Ahmad, from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, for killing Delhi Police Special Cell Inspector M.C. Sharma, who had led a police team that raided a flat in Batla House neighbourhood, close to the university, where the shootout took place Sep 19, 2008.

Sethi said they fought for five years to reveal the real face of Delhi Police who staged the shootout and arrested the innocent people.

“The prosecution has failed to explain the theory of Delhi Police. I really wonder how such the decision took place,” she said.

Defense lawyer S. Qamar said: “Since we did not receive a copy of the court’s judgment We will look at the order and challenge the decision.”

JTSA, a civil society group, ran a campaign claiming that the shootout was fake and the arrests of Shahzad and other suspects for it were wrong.

In October 2012, JTSA brought out a report, ‘Framed, Damned, Acquitted‘ documenting 16 cases where trials of terror accused resulted in acquittals for lack of evidence.

JTSA also questioned the alleged discrepancies in the police version on the Batla House shootout through a report “Encounter’ at Batla House: Unanswered Questions”.

Civil society groups stage dharna at Jantar Mantar

New Delhi, July 21: A protest march followed by dharna was organised at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday to protest against the recent killing of four innocent civilians in BSF firing at Gool in district Ramban. The protest dharna was organised by Save Sharmila Campaign and Mission Bhartiyam.

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The protestors raised slogans and demanded stern action against those behind the killings. They further demanded withdrawal of contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which the protestors felt was the root cause behind such incidents.
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign is a nationwide campaign in support of Irom Sharmila and for the repeal of the draconian law AFSPA. For two years, it has been working to spread awareness, mobilize support and generate political pressure to get the law repealed. It is an umbrella of many civil society organizations. The protest was joined and supported by many progressive groups namely AISA, Campus Front of India, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, NCHRO, PUCL, J&K RTI Movement and PUDR among several others. 
Condemning the “brutal Gool killings”, they felt that the massacre was not a sudden reaction to the protests by locals over alleged desecration of Quran.
A large number of people from Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern states also joined today’s protest at Jantar Mantar. Among the speakers were Ravi Nitesh, Mission Bhartiyam, Muhammad Tanveer from NCHRO, Amit, Sandeepan and V Arun from AISA, Dr Muzaffar Bhat from J&K RTI Movement, Piyush from JNSU, Hemant from DSU, Talha Huseyn from Campus Front, Asad Ashraf from JSS, Manjit from PUDR, Guneet from PUCL, Dar Rashid a Human Rights lawyer from J&K and Devika Mittal from Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign.
“The Ramban incident is a prima facie case of coercive method adopted by the security personnel. It highlights the highhanded attitude of the security forces that they have acquired over a period of time due to their absolute powers and the impunity granted to them”, Nitesh said.
“This protest is about this unacceptable massacre, it is to show our solidarity with the victims and demand justice but it has been organised to attack the root. We know that this incident is not the first incident in Kashmir. These inhuman incidents are quite frequent in Kashmir and in states of North East because draconian laws like AFSPA breed them. We are here today to appeal for humanity, to demand the repeal of AFSPA.” remarked Devika Mittal.
“It is unfortunate that these incidents are happening in the World’s largest “democracy”. It is unfortunate that these killings are justified in the name of upholding the ‘integrity’ of the nation. We feel that development, basic civil rights, basic amenities and justice should be used to uphold the ‘integrity’ not torture and killings.” said V Arun Kumar.
Dr Muzaffar Bhat of J&K chapter of RTI Movement remarked, “this incident happened in Jammu which is seen to be more “peaceful”. So there cannot be any justification. It shows that the entire Jammu and Kashmir is under attack.”
“There is a long list of incidents where security personals of almost all wings have violated the human rights in J&K. There have been fake encounters, torture, rapes etc. in the state but nothing has been done to prosecute the culprits till now. So there is every reason to believe that like other similar incidents before, there will be no action taken by the government against security personnel in Ramban massacre too”, said Mohammad Tanveer of Campus Front of India.
Asad Ashraf from Jamia Solidarity Students told that “unless and until there is demilitarization, the situation will not improve in J&K. We must know that dissatisfaction is a primary reason for increase in insurgent activities so it’s high time that we think about “their” welfare, not “ours”.
Kaashif who was here from Chhatra Vimarsh magazine, remarked that; “How do we take pride in being the world’s largest “democracy” when democracy is not extended to all states within our own country.”
Manjit from PUDR remarked, “It is tragic that Kashmiris are looked upon as “anti-national”, as “anti-Indian”. It is true that there are anti-state slogans in Kashmir but this is because the only symbol of India i.e. the army has created hell in their land (J&K)”.
The protest was supported by Activists like Gautam Navlakha, Prashant Bhushan, Manisha Sethi and Dr Sandeep Pandey, the organisers claimed. However, they were not present on the occasion.

Two-child policy violates human rights of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims – UN expert

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An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Government of Myanmar to respond unequivocally to the revival of a local order limiting the number of children Rohingya Muslims can have to two, stressing that this is a clear violation of their human rights.

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar emphasized that the Government had an obligation to review and revoke all orders which violate international human rights standards.

“This local order is one of many that have been introduced by local Rakhine state authorities that violate the basic human rights of Rohingya Muslims, including with regard to freedom of movement, marriage, and registration of newborn children.”

“These orders provide further ammunition to local authorities, including the border security force Nasaka, to discriminate against and persecute the most vulnerable and marginalized group in Myanmar,” he added in a news release.

Mr. Ojea Quintana noted that the vast majority of the 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are without citizenship and are stateless, making them extremely vulnerable to human rights violations.

“This local order in the northern Rakhine state townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw is a clear-cut human rights violation targeting a particular ethnic and religious group,” he stated. “The Central Government must provide an unequivocal response.”

Myanmar has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which obliges State parties to respect and protect the right of women and men “to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights.”

Also, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the Government not to restrict the number of children of Rohingya people.

“It is the role of the State to provide information to the public on family planning and to provide contraception and other reproductive health services to women and men throughout Myanmar,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. “It is not the role of the State to introduce discriminatory and coercive measures such as these.”

The Special Rapporteur has maintained that discrimination against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state is one of the underlying causes of the communal violence that erupted there last year, and is fuelling the spread of anti-Muslim violence across the country.

“Only by addressing this discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities can the Government of Myanmar hope to forge integrated communities that live together in equality, peace and harmony,” he underscored.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Indian troops martyr six Kashmiris in May

Srinagar, June 01 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, Indian troops, in their continued acts of state terrorism, martyred six Kashmiris including a child during the last month of May.

According to the data issued by the Research Section of Kashmir Media Service, today, of those martyred one was killed in custody. The troops also subjected one person to custodial disappearance. During the month, 81 people were critically injured due to the use of force against peaceful demonstrators by Indian police and paramilitary personnel in the occupied territory while 71 civilians, mostly youth, were arrested. The troops molested two women during the period.On the other hand, senior leader of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Agha Syed Hassan Al-Moosvi Al-Safvi, addressing a public gathering in Badgam, demanded of India to reveal the whereabouts of more than 10,000 Kashmiris, who had been subjected to custodial disappearance by Indian troops and police during the past twenty-four years. Another APHC leader, Zafar Akbar Butt, addressing a meeting of the Association of Kashmiri Affected Families in Budgam appealed to the world community to play an effective role in tracing the disappeared Kashmiris.

Thousands of people raising high-pitched anti-India and pro-liberation slogans participated in the funeral of a youth, Sajjad Ahmed Mir, who was martyred by Indian troops in Vandena area of Shopian yesterday. The veteran Kashmiri Hurriyet leader, Syed Ali Gilani, who is under continued house arrest in Srinagar, addressing the participants over telephone said that the Kashmiri martyrs had rendered sacrifices for a great cause.

Indian police arrested APHC leaders, Shabbir Ahmad Shah and Muhammad Yousuf Naqash, along with several Hurriyet activists from Pampore, today. They were on their way to Littar, Pulwama, the native area of the martyred youth, to express solidarity with his family.

An APHC delegation including Yasmeen Raja, Mukhtar Ahmed Waza and Musaddiq Aadil visited  Hariparigam  area of Tral and condoled the death of a youth, Saifullah Rafiq Ahangar, who embraced martyrdom during a clash with Indian troops, last week. Addressing a gathering on the occasion, the leaders reiterated the Kashmiris’ resolve to take the martyrs’ mission its logical conclusion.

In Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, in his report to the UN Human Rights Council, urged India to revoke draconian law, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, from occupied Kashmir and Northeastern Indian states. During Heyns’ visit to India and occupied Kashmir in March 2012, several human rights defenders and civil society groups had lodged complaints on the extrajudicial killings committed by the Indian forces.

Vice President of India Inaugurates ‘Muslim Educational Conference’ in Mumbai

Following is the text of address by the Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari at the inauguration of the “Muslim Educational Conference” organized by Maulana Azad Vichar Manch in Mumbai today :
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“I am happy to be here today to inaugurate the ‘Muslim Educational Conference’ organized by Maulana Azad Vichar Manch whose good work amongst Muslim youth in Maharashtra for raising awareness on issues of importance to the community, particularly relating to literacy, is noteworthy.

This conference is timely. Its relevance cannot be over-emphasised. Absence of literacy is denial of one of God Almighty’s gifts to mankind. This audience knows well that the first Message given to the Prophet of Islam was in the opening verses of Surat al-Alaq. It was simple and emphatic:

Iqra be ism-e rabbukal lazi khalaq

Khalaq-al-insaana min alaq

Iqra wa rabbukal akramu

Allazi allamu bil qalam

Allamal insaana ma lum yaalum

(Proclaim in the name of thy Lord who created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood. Proclaim! And thy Lord is most bountiful, Who taught the use of the Pen, taught man which he knew not). Furthermore, narrators have attributed to the Holy Prophet the remark: utlubul ilm lau kaana bis seen (seek knowledge, be it in China).

And yet, despite these emphatic injunctions, many Muslims and many Muslim communities have for long ignored the need to acquire education and through it knowledge and, as a result, deprived themselves of the good that emanates from education. Backwardness was a logical consequence.

There was a time in history when Muslim societies led the world in every form of knowledge. Then neglect set in. As a knowledgeable observer put it, “the modern period of Islamic history begins with decadence within and intrusion and menace from without.” The quest for knowledge was replaced by apologetics.

As a result and till about the middle of the 20th century the disease of illiteracy became pervasive in Muslim communities the world over. Then change set in. Introspection and self correction produced dramatic results in many Muslim societies to the east and west of India. High literacy levels in Indonesia and Malaysia on one side, and in Iran and Turkey on the other, show how determined action can produce excellent results.

On the other hand, a general reading of the educational landscape in regard to the Muslim community in India compels one to recall an old couplet:

Aghyar mehr o mah se bhi aage nikal gaye

Uljhe hue hain subh ke pehli kiran se hum.

This neglect has been costly. The Muslim segment of India’s population has lagged behind, is educationally backward, and because of it cannot avail of all the benefits that are available to fellow citizens.

This was known before the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Committee reports. These reports have sanctified the ground reality with official data. They have also administered shock therapy and propelled introspection and corrective action by the community itself. It has also generated demand for affirmative action by the State.

II

A look at the official data available from Census 2001 reveals the dimensions of the problem:

· Muslims constitute 13.4 per cent of the total population as per 2001 census. This amounted to 138 million. On the basis of the 2011 census total of 1.21 billion, the Muslim segment would be around 156 to 160 million. Data shows that this segment lags behind others sections of our society in terms of economic, health and educational indices.

· The literacy rate amongst the Muslims in 2001 was 59.1%, compared to the national average of 64.8%. This gap was greatest in urban areas.

· In higher education, while 7% of the population aged 20 years and above were graduates or diploma-holders, the figure for Muslims was 4%.

· The worker population ratio for Muslims is 31.1% as opposed to the national average of 39.1%. The lower ratios are mainly due to much lower participation in economic activity by Muslim women. It is also impacted on by lower levels of educational qualification which precludes Muslim youth from entering the high paying organised sector.

· Rural areas with concentration of Muslim population are lagging behind in access to social and physical infrastructure such as schools, health centres, roads, housing, sewage and water supply. Access to bank credit is low and inadequate.

In addition, Muslim representation in central and state public services including police and armed forces remains low. The overall situation has been summed up succinctly by the 12th Plan document:

“While India has experienced accelerated growth and development in recent years, not all religious and social groups have shared equally the benefits of the growth process. Among these, the Muslims, the largest minority in the country, are lagging behind on all human development indices.”

The reason for this ‘lagging behind’ has been traced to a mix of inter-linked issues of equity, identity and security; a significant part can nevertheless be attributed to the educational backwardness of the community which leads to higher unemployment, rampant underemployment and confinement to traditional, low paying professions and under-representation in modern organised business sector.

Educational backwardness thus has a negative impact on the social attainment of the community and by implication on its role in decision-making.

Education, therefore, is the most important socio-economic challenge for the Muslim community; its deficit is the biggest impediment to its progress, prosperity and empowerment.

Pursuant to the Sachar and Ranganath Mishra reports a number of schemes for scholarships and for development of minority- concentration districts were included in the 11th Plan. Their implementation has been uneven; the beneficiaries of scholarships were limited in number and reports about the good done in identified districts are less categorical. The lessons learnt need to be translated into conceptual and procedural correctives.

The 12th Plan also recognises the importance of educational empowerment of the minorities, especially the Muslims, and aims at providing adequate resources and ensuring a more efficient and effective implementation of new and existing new schemes.

Here a question comes to mind. This relates to the ambit of Article 15(4) of the Constitution. It speaks of special provisions for the advancement of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as also for “any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens”.  This provision for affirmative action is inclusive, not exclusive, and can be extended to any class of citizens identified to be socially and educationally backward.

Once such identification has been undertaken, the quantum of corrective action has to relate to the actual extent of backwardness and cannot be discriminatory or symbolic. In doing so, we can draw upon our experience of six decades.

III

The time is ripe for invigorating the process. The high rate of admission at primary levels amongst the Muslims shows their intense desire to seek modern education. The lower percentages at other levels show that the community starts lagging behind from the secondary level onwards. The reason for this lies in economic incapacity.

Neighbourhood schools and schools up to middle level need to be set up in minority concentrated blocks, large villages and urban minority concentrated settlements for easy access and retention. Particular attention should be paid to vocational training centres and their employment potential.

The biggest catalyst for a positive transformation of society is the education of its women folk. We will have to focus on female literacy, both in the national context and in the case of the Muslim community.

In rural areas, schools for girls up to senior secondary level should be made mandatory to ensure that girls continue their education. There is also an urgent need for village level centres to lower the girls drop out rates as they start attaining adolescence. This will also have a positive impact on employment and income generation for the families. In many pursuits, educated and trained girls can work from home and generate income for the family.

As access to bank credit remains an issue for the minorities scholarships should target, in addition to primary levels, the secondary level band to ensure higher retention rates at that level.

Furthermore, tertiary level incentives, especially on scale of scholarships to those who qualify, should be appropriate and realistic.

The socio-economic amelioration of backward segments of the Muslim community is not merely a question of minority welfare. It is a national issue. India cannot emerge as a modern, developed nation-state without its largest minority being a part and parcel of the growth story and being fully integrated in the national mainstream in social, political and economic spheres.

It is my hope that over the next two days the Muslim Education Conference will provide a vibrant platform for discussions on the educational status of Muslims in India and come up with suggestions for consideration of the government as well as the civil society.

I thank the organisers for inviting me today. I wish the Conference all success.”

29 May 2013