Hoe islamvriendelijk is India vandaag?
De Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was uitermate verbolgen over denigrerende opmerkingen van twee Indiase BJP-functionarissen over profeet Mohammed tijdens een tv-optreden op 6 juni. Volgens de OIC passen de uitspraken binnen de huidige escalatie van haat tegenover de islam in India.
In de Golfstaten was de woede groot. De Verenigde Arabische Emiraten (UAE), Bahrein, Oman, Indonesië, Pakistan reageerden fel en verzochten India het vreedzaam samenleven meer te bevorderen.
De woordvoerder van de Indiase minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, Arindam Bagchi, verwierp de “onterechte en bekrompen opmerkingen” van de OIC en beklemtoonde nog maar eens dat New Delhi het grootste respect heeft voor alle religies.
De offensieve tweets en de denigrerende commentaren zouden gemaakt zijn door enkele individuen en “weerspiegelen geenszins de visie van de Indiase regering”.
Ashok Gladston Xavier vertelt het ophefmakende verhaal van Afreen Fatima, een studente en activiste aan de Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi (JNU).
Haar huis in Prayagraj (in deelstaat Uttar Pradesh) werd door een bulldozer met de grond gelijkgemaakt nadat de politie haar vader, Javed Mohammed, als het brein aanwees achter de protesten op 10 juni naar aanleiding van die vernederende uitspraken van BJP-leider Nupur Sharma. De aanklacht was dat het huis illegaal gebouwd was. Het huis was echter geen eigendom van Afreens vader, maar van haar moeder, Parveen Fatima.
Het huis was immers 20 jaar geleden door Fatima’s grootmoeder aan haar dochter geschonken. Hen was nooit verteld dat het huis er illegaal stond. Vóór de dag van de brutale vernieling van het huis, was er nooit sprake geweest van illegaliteit. De betrokkenen hebben geen enkele kans gehad om verzet aan te tekenen of om zich te verdedigen, wat nochtans een recht is volgens Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act uit 1973.
Bij de protesten van 10 juni werd de politie met stenen bekogeld. Daarop wilde de politie de protesterende (moslim)menigte een lesje leren. Dat lesje betrof de vernietiging van het huis van Afreen en de valse beschuldiging aan het adres van haar vader, die overigens de menigte had willen kalmeren.
Ashok plaatst het gebeuren in perspectief. Zowat 30 procent van alle huizen in India is illegaal gebouwd. Meestal blijven ze decennialang staan en laat de wet ze met rust.
Verder vraagt hij zich af waarom de islamitische landen de voorbije tien jaar niet hebben geprotesteerd tegen het molesteren en vermoorden van moslims, maar nu wel tegen de belediging van de profeet.
Protesten in Uttar Pradesh zijn schering en inslag en de regering van Uttar Pradesh wordt stilaan ook berucht voor haar bulldozers. Ashok vertelt ook hoe de jeugd in de maling wordt genomen door het leger en het (BJP-) Agnipath-project. Jongeren kunnen voor vier jaar dienstdoen in het leger. Het zou hen aan een job helpen.
Maar na 4 jaar zouden ze weer op straat staan. Dat zette kwaad bloed bij de jongeren die ook hevig protesteerden. Treinen werden in brand gestoken, publieke voorzieningen werden vernietigd. Maar anders dan bij de moslims, kwamen er geen bulldozers aan te pas, huizen werden niet afgebroken of illegaal verklaard. Ashok vindt dit geen toeval en verklaart waarom.
Bulldozing the dreams
Afreen Fatima has become a familiar name today in India. In the last few weeks, she has drawn a lot attention due to the campaign with the hastag #standwithafreenfatima. The bulldozers destroying her house was telecasted live on national television channels.
Her sister, mother and father lived in this house in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, while Afreen studied in Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. The demolition took place citing that the house was built Illegally on Government property. The family claimed that they had been paying taxes for the past 20 years without any delays and had the documents to substantiate the claims.
The house was a gift from her maternal grandmother and has remined there for over two decades. A notice was issued to them about the illegality of the building on the name of her father Javed Mohammed as opposed to her mother Parveen Fathima who is the owner of the property. Without being given enough time to explain themselves according the to the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973. The demolition took place.
The back story is that Javed Mohammed was considered to be a key organizer of protests that took place in Prayagraj in the second week of June. This protest led to stone pelting against the security personnel.
Wanting to take out the wrath against the protestors a notice hastily and wrongly issued and in no time the house was brought down in broad day light in front of the cameras and television channels broadcasting it. Worse still, the police claim to have found two guns in the premises of the demolished house.
Javed, his family and friends claim that he was someone who opposed the protests and called for the community to calm down during the eruption of the protests. His daughter was quite vocal against the inaction of the government against two of the spokespersons of the party in power who had insulted the Prophet in live television interviews.
There was an international outrage against this. The Gulf countries registered their protest by calling the respective Indian ambassadors and demanding and explanation to this. India was left red-faced and suspended the two people responsible for this.
Further some countries even threatened to send back the migrant workers back to India and some went to the extreme of reconsidering their import policy of Indian goods.
Locally, the mercury rose to take stringent action against the two people and resulted in protests in which Afreen Fatima had protested in Delhi and her dad is claimed to have protested in Prayagraj.
To teach a lesson to the protestors, bulldozers were sent to the house of Afreen Fatima and the houses were brought down while the world watched. The lessons to learn are not to protest and if you do be ready to lose your dear house.
A house in India is no mean thing. It is built with great difficulty by investing all the resources after planning for many decades. Even according to the Indian laws a house cannot be demolished that easily. There is enough scope to appeal and buy time to correct the mistakes.
Speaking of legality of the housing, in urban centres in India at least 30 per cent of the houses are illegal or they flout the norms. There are settlements and squatters which have existed for centuries and have been untouched by law.
In this case the high handedness and communal hatred has once again been proved against the minorities. The blatant attack against the minorities and their vulnerability has also become evident.
The reaction of the Islamic countries was quite interesting. In India, in the past decade there have been hundreds of Muslims who have been lynched, some even killed for silly reasons such as transporting meat, celebrating festivals or wearing clothes of their preference but not a single Islamic country raised its voice against these atrocities, but when the television interviews of the two people came out demeaning the Prophet their reactions called for almost a boycott of Indian goods and Indians.
The protests in India invited the horror of the Uttar Pradesh government with its infamous bulldozers
From that scene, let’s cut to the most recent protests. On June 14th the Government of India announced the Agnipath scheme. This was meant to increase the employment among the youth.
The scheme was to recruit youth for 4 years into the army, introduce them to new skills and retire them after four years without any long-term liability to the government. Currently, the army recruitments are very different, the short service commission for officers is for five years and for soldiers it is for 15 -20 years or it can be continued till retirement. A person retiring from the army would get a lifelong pension and a few other benefits.
Unable to cope with the financial burden of pensions and with the lack of ingenuity to create no jobs in the post COVID scenario a not so well thought our scheme like this was released. The youth who were preparing for years to get into the army, especially in the north of India, took this as a plan that would bulldoze their dreams and took to the streets to protest.
They set fire to trains and damaged public property worth millions of rupees. The BJP leaders were in no position to clarify the details of the schemes. In-fact some of them just added fuel to the fire by saying that after the four year stint the youth would be employed by the BJP as security personnel, plumbers and electricians.
The government now went into the damage control mode and had to call the army to explain the scheme. Ironically the former army top brass does not seem to agree with the explanations.
The opposition parties and the human rights groups see this scheme as an opportunity to train the youth to be part of the communal army that would further divide the country.
The protests continue to spread across the country. With a lot of damage done to the public property, it is interesting to note that no notices were sent to the houses of the protesters who led or participated in the vandalism, no one was identified to be staying in illegal housing, no bulldozer was sent to demolish the houses of the protestors. This is no coincidence!
Ashok Gladston Xavier
Ashok Gladston Xavier is associate professor in social work at Loyola College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
India activist Afreen Fatima says her house bulldozed ‘illegally’
Young Muslim activist’s house demolished after her father is arrested by the police for being alleged ‘mastermind’ of protests over anti-Islam remarks (Al Jazeera, 13 June 2022)
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