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Indian Muslim

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    By Gyanendra Kumar Keshri, IANS,

    New Delhi: About 1.4 million Indian workers got regularised. 250 Indians are still stuck in Saudi Arabia without valid documents while nearly 140,000 workers have returned due to the kingdom's 'Nitaqat' labour policy, Overseas Indian Affairs Secretary Prem Narain has said.

    "Some 250 people are still there. They are stuck because of cases related to incomplete documents," Narain told IANS in an interview.
    The government is talking to the Saudi authorities to get them back, Narain said.

    "Recently, Saudi Arabia's Labour Minister was here. We requested him to allow those workers to come back to India. They (Saudi authorities) have given assurance...they are trying to finalise those cases," he said.

    Narain said the Indian mission in Saudi Arabia was providing all the necessary help to the affected workers.

    More than half of the nearly 2.8 million Indian workers in the kingdom were affected by the Nitaqat policy aimed at increasing job opportunities for locals. Nearly 1.4 million Indian workers were regularised, while some 140,000, who lacked proper documents, were forced to return due to the new policy implemented in November 2013.

    The secretary claimed that proactive steps taken by the Indian government and strong diplomatic relations helped avert a major crisis.

    "About 14 lakh (1.4 million) people are regularised in Saudi, they did not come back to India. Otherwise under the normal Nitaqat policy they would have been required to come back," said Narain.

    "We persuaded them to extend the grace period and finally around 14 lakh people were regularised," he added.

    Narain said the new policy is good for the genuine expatriate workers holding proper documents.

    "A majority of the Indian workers in Saudi are in blue collar jobs. A lot of them are illiterate and they are prone to exploitation. The new policy is good for them," he said.

    India and Saudi Arabia recently signed an agreement to protect the interests of domestic workers. The agreement was signed during Saudi Arabian Labour Minister Adel bin Mohammed Fakeih's official visit to New Delhi earlier this month.

    Narain said India would soon sign similar agreements with other countries to protect the interests of low-paid workers, who are generally prone to exploitation.

    (Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at gyanendra.k@ians.in)


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    By Amulya Ganguli, IANS,

    The Congress has several reasons, stated and unstated, for refusing to name Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate despite the clamour in his favour by his acolytes.

    These include the party's "tradition", as Sonia Gandhi reminded the working committee, of letting legislators choose their leader after the election, and the probable disinclination to convert the forthcoming general election into a presidential-style contest between Rahul and Narendra Modi.

    Even then, the suspicion will remain that the party refrained from naming the heir-apparent because of its belief that he is not yet ready for the plunge, especially against a doughty opponent like Modi. The fear apparently is that in a head-on confrontation, Rahul will come off second best.

    True, his speech to the All India Congress Committee (AICC), delivered occasionally in a rasping voice to show grit and determination, was his most combative till now. But, it lacked substance.

    A plea to the prime minister to raise the number of subsidized cooking gas cylinders from nine to 12, or the promise to let grassroot workers choose candidates in 15 constituencies, are unlikely to have a dramatic impact on the Congress's fortunes.

    Incidentally, if the dauphin's gift to women in the kitchen, taken together with his praise for bank nationalization, is seen as a hint of his economic vision, then it is farewell to reforms and a continuing emphasis on wasteful subsidies and a public sector-dominated economy.

    What was missing in the speech, therefore, was a blueprint for a future in sync with the changing times - something on the lines of what the heir-apparent had promised after the recent election defeats that could not even be imagined. But, neither Rahul nor Sonia Gandhi said anything out of the ordinary.

    While the Congress president made the familiar pitch for secularism, Rahul, too, warned against those who fanned communal fires. Even if large sections of people, especially the minorities, are aware of the threat posed to their lives and livelihood by sectarian violence, as the Muzaffarnagar riots show, the Congress can hardly expect to offload the heavy burden of incumbency by reiterating its old line.

    Rahul's reference in this context to the 3,000-year-old "idea" of India stretching from Asoka to Guru Nanak to Akbar to Gandhi may have had a Nehruvian touch. But, the first prime minister's civilizational discourses were made when the Congress was at the peak of its power. But, when the party is floundering in a morass of political despair, a greater need is to focus on immediate problems.

    Since corruption is one of them, Rahul did well to emphasize the urgency of passing the anti-corruption legislations pending in parliament. But, his castigation of the opposition's obstructionism was a reminder of the possible roadblocks, which could absolve the government of any lapse if the bills fail to become law.

    He did take credit for the enactment of the Lokpal law. But, the fact that it had been pending since 1968 was a reminder that the Congress hadn't been too eager earlier to get it passed. It was undoubtedly the Aam Admi Party's successful exploitation of the issue which persuaded the Congress and the other established parties to push it through. It was somewhat disingenuous, therefore, to flaunt it as an achievement.

    The long and short of the jamborees - the working committee meeting and the AICC - was that the Congress had been left pretty much where it was, still uncertain whether it can win. No one can say what might have been happened if Rahul was named as the prime ministerial candidate. It is possible that the rank and file would have been sufficiently enthused to make an impact on the election scene.

    But, in the long run, it isn't so much the person who matters as what he stands for, if the people in general are to be influenced. And, for this to happen, Rahul, as the Congress's most effective speaker at present, has to spell out his vision beyond the utility of the Aadhar cards in eliminating middlemen or involving a large number of people in the preparation of the party manifesto.

    For instance, if the Congress seriously believes that the Manmohan Singh government hasn't fared too badly except in failing to communicate its achievements to the people, it could have asked Rahul Gandhi to devote a good part of his speech to enumerating the plus points.

    That would have had a major impact unlike their dreary listing by the prime minister in his unemotional voice.

    In view of the prime minister's assertion that there has been a significant reduction in the number of people below the poverty line, this attainment is obviously something which Rahul could have highlighted with great effect, especially when he was talking about ameliorating the condition of those stuck between the middle class status and the poverty line.

    But, it is possible that he is less comfortable with statistics than with soaring ideas as when he said that he was ready to do whatever the party workers asked him to do. But, for the aam admi (common people), figures are easier to grasp than ideas.

    (18-01-2014-Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)


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    By IANS,

    Guwahati : At least five people were killed and two others injured when suspected militants of the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) attacked a bus in Assam's Kokrajhar district late Friday, police said.

    The incident took place at Aathiabari Tiniali under Serfanguri police station. Commissioner (Home) G.D. Tripathy said that while five people were killed on the spot, two others were injured in the attack. Two more people were missing after the incident, he said.

    Police sources said that a group of armed militants stopped the bus, which was travelling from Bongaigaon to Kokrajhar, at Aathiabari Tiniali and forced at least 10 people to get down and opened fire at them.

    Top police officials rushed to the spot and launched an operation against the militants.


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    By TCN news,

    Aligarh: The Aligarh Muslim University and its maintained institutions and offices were closed today on the demise of Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader and former Chancellor of AMU, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. He took his last breath in Mumbai.

    Addressing the condolence meeting held at the Conference Room of Administrative Block, AMU Vice Chancellor, Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah paid rich tributes to the departed soul and expressed deep sense of grief on the irreparable loss. He said that the spiritual leader was a great philanthropist and was always available to help the needy. Under his leadership, the community has achieved remarkable social, economic and educational successes across the world. He also established Saifi Educational Trust to provide financial assistance to the needy and deserving students of the Aligarh Muslim University.

    Gen. Shah said that Dr. Syedna Burhanuddin served the AMU as its Chancellor from 3rd October 1999 to 2ndOctober 2002. In recognition of his efforts for social and educational development of the country and services to humanity, Syedna was conferred Doctorate in Theology, honoris causa, by renowned institutions like the Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Aligarh Muslim University and Karachi University. The AMU conferred the honorary degree of D.Th. at the Sir Syed Day commemorative meeting on October 17, 1966.

    Syedna Burhanuddin’s father, Syedna Tahir Saifuddin Sahab has also served AMU as Chancellor from 12th April 1953 to 2nd April 1965, the date of his sad demise. As a mark of respect, AMU has named its school Minto Circle and the Saifi Hall of Institute of Ophthalmology after him, which is a living testimony to his relationship with this great seat of learning.

    A condolence resolution was also passed in the meeting expressing solidarity with the bereaved family.

    Pro-Vice Chancellor, Brig. S. Ahmad Ali, Registrar, Group Captain (Retd.) Shahrukh Shamshad and a number of officials and faculty members were present in the meeting.


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    By IANS,

    Patna: Bihar Saturday announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs.2 lakh for the kin of six migrant workers from the state who were killed in Assam by suspected Bodo militants, an official said.

    Home Secretary Amir Subhani made the announcement, saying Chief Minister Nitish Kumar directed him to approach Assam officials to request them to make arrangements for bringing the bodies to the state.

    "Nitish Kumar has also asked us to arrange for their cremation with government funds at their native villages in Saran and Siwan districts," Subhani said.

    The six Bihari workers were killed at Athiabari near Ramfalbil in Assam's Kokrajhar district Friday night when Bodo militants fired indiscriminately at passengers in a bus coming from Siliguri, West Bengal, to Meghalaya capital Shillong.

    Two other passengers were critically injured in the attack.

    District magistrates in Saran and Siwan have been asked to make arrangements for the cremation.

    Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United and the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and Left parties have condemned the incident and demanded protection for migrant workers in Assam.


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    By IANS,

    New Delhi: The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh was Saturday blamed by activists for mishandling the situation in Muzaffarnagar when communal riots broke out in the district last year and the poor condition in relief camps where the victims were housed.

    "The riot affected are not going back to villages because the Uttar Pradesh police has not registered cases against people who looted and burnt houses. If Mulayam Singh is so secular then why hasn't he visited the camps even once," Shehzad Poonawalla, an activist who has been working with the riot victims, said at a discussion on the media's role in Muzaffarnagar riots at the Press Club of India here.

    He alleged that it was "operation cover-up" by the state government.

    "Their agenda is now to show that all is well," he said adding that the media has been soft on SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.

    Poonawalla blamed the SP government for the poor condition in the relief camps and for mishandling the situation post riots.

    The discussion 'Communal Violence - Has the Media Been Soft on Mulayam?' was organized by the Foundation for Media Professionals.

    Beginning Aug 27 last year, clashes between the Hindus and Muslims of Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh claimed more than 40 lives.

    Former Managing editor of IBN 7 news channel and Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Ashutosh said: "Uttar Pradesh is going to have a big role in 2014 election. If Narendra Modi and BJP have to win Delhi, then they have to make UP their laboratory".

    Blaming the SP government for misgovernance, he said: "Akhilesh Yadav has not been able to run Uttar Pradesh".

    The former journalist said: "There were intelligence reports on the riots but they were not worked upon. There has been a joke in the name of rehabilitation".

    Farah Naqvi, member of the National Advisory Council, who has worked extensively on issues of communalism said: "Media has done a good job in Muzaffarnagar. The media focus this time is more on displacement than on the killings".

    Observing that Indians have become used to riots, she questioned the "absolute silence" of civil society and media on the around 100 odd incidents of communal tension which she said took place in Uttar Pradesh before the Muzaffarnagar riots.

    Defending his party, Madhukar Jetley, the sole representative of the Samajwadi Party, said none of the elected members of the SP were responsible for the violence in Muzaffarnagar.

    "In Muzaffarnagar, the riots were not allowed to spread unlike in Gujarat. Media has been very hard on Mulayam Singh Yadav," he added.


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    By IANS,

    Guwahati: Suspected Bodo militants continued with their violence in Assam, killing seven civilians and injuring nine others in three incidents in less than a day, officials said.

    A faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) opposed to peace talks killed one person Saturday evening at Ambagan in Udalguri district in the Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts (BTAD), police said.

    NDFB militants also fired indiscriminately at Bagidara village in Chirang district, killing one person and injuring five others.

    Bodo militants had killed five civilians and injured four others in Kokrajhar district Friday night.

    "In today's incident, Visham Sharma, a barber by profession, was shot dead by armed NDFB cadres from close range," police said.

    The militants had Friday killed five people at Aathiabari Tiniali along NH-31 in Kokrajhar district.

    "The militants first stopped four night service buses, coming from North Bengal to various locations in Assam and Meghalaya, paraded a few of them and shot at them, killing five people instantly and injuring four others," police said.

    The victims were all Hindi-speaking people from Bihar and West Bengal, they said.

    All the injured were admitted to a hospital in Bongaigaon and the condition of three was stated to be critical.

    "We have taken all measures to ensure law and order in and around the area. Additional forces have already been sent to the troubled areas and a massive operation has been launched against the militants," Commissioner (Home) G.D. Tripathi said Saturday.

    "Security forces killed a cadre of the NDFB faction yesterday (Friday) at Moinaguri in the district. The series of attacks since yesterday could be retaliation by the outfit," he said.

    Friday's attack came a few hours after newly appointed Director General of Police Khagen Sarma took charge and said the United Liberation Front of Asom, NDFB and the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) were planning to carry out serial blasts.

    Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had asked the DGP to deal with the situation firmly.


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    By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter,

    Guwahati: As many as seven civilians were killed by suspected militants of outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) Sangbijit faction during the last two days in three districts of lower Assam.

    Those killed persons also include residents of Bihar. On Saturday, one Hindi speaking barber from Bihar was gunned down at Udalguri while another belonging from minority community was killed at Panbari under Bijni Police Station in Chirang district in lower Assam. Four others also sustained injuries as the militants launched fire aiming at the villagers.

    Earlier, the NDFB militants killed five Hindi speaking people in Kokrajhar on Friday night on the National Highway-31 in Kokrajhar district. The militants stopped four night buses coming from different parts of North Bengal, dragged out 13 passengers, lined them up and opened indiscriminate fire, according to police.

    The barber has been identified as Bikram Singh (55), a native of Bihar, police said while the other one is Iman Ali in Chirang district.

    The deceased hailing from Bihar are Papu Kumar Singh (25), Shamsher Mantri (20) and brothers Ahot Bihari (20) and Raj Bihari (19) who were killed on Friday.

    The injured, also from Bihar and admitted to Bongaingaon Civil Hospital, are Amol Gupta, Ramanand Ojah and Babulal Karmakar.

    Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has asked the new state DGP Khagen Sharma to take strict action against the militants. Condemning the incident as barbarous the CM has asked the police to intensify operations to nab culprits.

    All the political parties and leaders have condemned the incident demanded justice for the victims. “This is non-sense. How can one solve problems like this? The militants cannot just keep on killing innocent people. If sometimes they would attack the Hindi speaking people then they would kill the Muslims. We strongly condemn it as inhuman,” said Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohilary.

    On the other hand, the Bihar government has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each and state funeral at home for the four from the state. Bihar Principal Secretary, Home, Amir Subhani said that on the instruction of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar the state government will pay Rs 2 lakh each to families of the victims.

    Subhani also said on the initiative of the Bihar government, the Assam government too announced Rs 6 lakh compensation to them - Rs 3 lakh from its fund and an equal amount from central fund.


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    By Dr. Syed Ahmed for TwoCircles.net,

    Imphal: Muslims bodies of Manipur demanded nomination of a Muslim leader as MP for the Rajya Sabha. This was expressed by the Spokes-person of Pangal (Manipur Muslim) Political Forum (PPF) M.I. Khan at a press conference held on 16th January 2014 at Manipur Press Club at Imphal.

    Speaking at the press conference, Khan said the ruling State Government should nominate a senior Muslim politician from the State as MP for the Rajya Sabha. In the last 60 years the representation in the Rajya Sabha from the State has been either from the Meitei or tribal community. The Muslim community too deserves to have an MP for the Rajya Sabha, Khan added.



    Spokes person of PPF, M.I. Khan speaking at the press conference (Photo by Manipur Update)

    If the ruling Congress Government fails to accept our humble proposal the Muslim community in the State would boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, he further said.

    Khan also pointed out that the State Government should consider nominating the Rajya Sabha MP from the 8 valley assembly constituencies, inhabited by Meiteis and Muslims, which fall under the Outer Parliamentary Constituency. The people in these assembly segments have been denied the right to contest Parliamentary elections as the constituency is reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. They only exercise the right to vote. Veteran Congress-man and Former Minister Md. Abdul Salam, who represented the Wabagai Assembly Constituency, has been addressing the need for representation of a Manipuri Muslim in the Rajya Sabha, Khan added.

    The press conference was attended by the representatives of All Manipur Muslim Girls Students’ Union, North Eastern Minorities Students’ Federation, All Manipur Muslim Women’s Development Organization and Manipur Muslim Un-Employed Youths Association.

    The above mentioned 8 assembly segments of the valley which fall under the Outer Parliamentary Constituency are 33-Heirok, 34-Wangjing-Tentha, 35-Khangabok, 36-Wabagai, 37-Kakching, 38-Hiyanglam, 39-Sugnu and 40-Jiribam. These 8 constituencies, settled by Non-Scheduled Tribes, along with the 20 Hill assembly constituencies constitute the Outer Parliamentary Constituency reserved for the Schedule Tribes. 32 assembly constituencies of the valley districts constitute the Inner Parliamentary Constituency.

    Some civil society organizations from the 8 assembly segments have been demanding nomination of a person from their segments as the Rajya Sabha MP.

    The election for the lone Rajya Sabha seat is scheduled for February 7, 2014. The incumbent Rajya Sabha MP Rishang Keishing’s term ends on April 9, 2014. Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) has started distributing application forms for intending candidates for the election.


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    By TCN news,

    Aligarh: The Department of Persian, Aligarh Muslim University inaugurated an international seminar on “Shahnama of Firdawsi” in the Cultural Hall of Maulana Azad Library on Saturday. A large number of delegates across the globe are participating in the three-day seminar.
    Professor Charles Melville of Cambridge University, UK delievered the keynote address at the inaugural session. He said that the Shahnama has a very interesting life in India and several manuscripts of it are available in different Indian libraries.

    Prof. Melville pointed out that the Aligarh Muslim University has a valuable collection of its manuscripts and the Maulana Azad Library of the University provides fantastic resources for scholars visiting it from across the globe.



    AMU VC, Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah giving presidential address at the international seminar on Shanama Firdawsi.

    In his presidential remarks, the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah said that Shahnama has a mystical and historical importance and it is a book of history. He said that Persian was official language of India during Mughal period. It greatly influenced the Indian architecture, music, painting and the Urdu language and literature.

    Lt. Gen. Shah urged the faculty members of the Department of Persian to work for the promotion of Persian language.



    Professor Charles Melville of Cambridge University, UK delivering the keynote address at international seminar on Shanama Firdawsi.

    AMU Pro-Vice Chancellor, Brigadier S. Ahmad Ali considered Shahnama of Firdawsi as one of the best epics in the world. He said that Mughal emperor Babur used Shahnama for motivating his soldiers. He said that Shahnama borne the history of Persian language and all concerned should make effort to preserve the language.



    AMU PVC, Brig. S. Ahmad Ali addressing at international seminar on Shanama Firdawsi.

    Professor Asif Naim Siddiqui, Chairman, Department of Persian in his welcome address said that a large number of delegates from Iran, Afghanistan, UK and other countries are participating in the deliberations.



    A scene of audience at the ianugural session of international seminar on Shanama Firdawsi.

    Professor Jafar Yahashi, Director, Firdawsi Studies, Iran, Dr. Ali Fauladi, Cultural Counsellor, Embassy of Iran, Dr. Usman Ali, Chargé d'affaires, Embassy of Republic of Tajikistan, Professor Abdul Khaliq Rashid of Afghanistan also addressed the inaugural function. Dr. S. M. Asghar proposed a vote of thanks.


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    By TCN News,

    New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia is organising an exhibition of paintings called “Amwaaj-e-Takhayyul” curated by Moinuddin Ghazali.

    Moinuddin Ghazali is a faculty member at Jamia Millia Islamia. He has developed a unique technique of paintings wherein he paints directly from the color tubes, using his fingers to create a beautiful landscape which may appear haphazard from up close but gains depth and perspective with distance. He held a solo exhibition called ‘Nuqoosh-e-Fitrat’ at the Visual Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi which was well-received.

    The exhibition “Amwaaj-e-Takhayyul” was inaugurated by Prof. Jai Zharotia, Eminent Artist on January 18, 2014 at 4 PM in M.F. Hussain Art Gallery, Near Ansari Auditorium, Jamia Millia Islamia.

    Mr. Raja Namit Verma, Great Grandson of Raja Todarmal was the Guest of Honour in the Inaugural Function.

    The exhibition shall be on view till 24th January, 2014 from 10 AM to 7 PM daily.


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  • 01/18/14--23:50: Religion, Peace and Violence
  • By Ram Puniyani,

    The global scenario is full of violence in the name of religion. The acts of terrorism are attributed to religious teachings at times. The local violence, the attack on religious minorities is also presented as a religious phenomenon. The last three decades have seen this tragic phenomenon where the political agenda of super power on one hand and the agenda of fundamentalist-fascist groups on the other have been given the veneer of religion. The major theory underlying the US policy in the oil zone has derived its legitimacy from Samuel Huntington theory of ‘Clash of Civilizations’. In South Asian countries spanning from Pakistan to Myanmar to Sri Lanka, the religious minorities have been on the firing line, have been facing a violence orchestrated by those practicing ‘religious nationalism’, those who on the pretext of defense of their religion, target the religious minorities. Be it the Hindus and Christians in Pakistan, Christians and Muslims in India, Buddhists and Hindus in Bangla Desh, Muslims in Myanmar or Christians and Muslims in Sri Lanka, the violence has been stalking them in one or the other form. This has increased the feeling of insecurity of religious minorities and also has eroded their rights as citizens.

    What has the moral teachings of religion to do with all this? Nothing whatsoever. Still the popular perceptions and propaganda of the religious nationalist groups has been so pernicious that a ‘social common sense’ has been created, which gives credence to the role of religion in this violence.

    It is in this light that three major statements from leaders, two of them religious and one political have come as a breath of fresh air, delinking religion from violence and espousing the peace making role of religion. Surely, religion is the most complex social phenomenon. It does encompass the element of moral values, values of humanism, so to say, on one side. At the same time it encompasses more visible facets of identity like rituals, Holy books, places of worship, the clergy and Holy Scriptures. At another level it has the element of faith in the supernatural power, deities. Surely, some of the religions did not talk of the supernatural power. In those religions, the prophets of the religions themselves, in due course have been given the exalted position of the God. This element of faith in supernatural is varying in degrees but is present all the same in different religions. These three statements, which struck the author all, came from people of diverse religious streams.

    The first one came from Pope Francis while deliberating on the future of the church and redefining long-held Catholic doctrines and dogmas. The recently held ‘Third Vatican Council’ concluded with Pope Francis announcing that Catholicism is now a “modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone….” In a very profound manner he went on to say that “God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace… Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice!”

    He added “because Muslims, Hindus and African Animists are also made in the very likeness and image of God, to hate them is to hate God...Whether we worship at a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a mandir, it does not matter. Whether we call God, Jesus, Adonai, Allah or Krishna, we all worship the same God of love. This truth is self-evident to all who have love and humility in their hearts!” “God is changing and evolving as we are, for God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it.”

    This lengthy quote from his speech demolishes so many of the intolerant attitudes towards, ‘others’, towards those having different norms, towards those having different sexual orientation as well. We witnessed recently in India that most of the clergy of different religions welcomed the Supreme Court decision whereby same sex relations are regarded as a crime. This quote from Pope also goes against the ideology of “Clash of Civilizations”; and the media propaganda whereby people of other religions are looked down upon, and Muslims in particular are demonized by large section of people. The biggest contribution of Pope is to emphasize on respect-tolerance for those who are different from us. It also outlines that we cannot stick to dogmas which were brought in the name of religion at particular time, in the times gone by. This is an extremely welcome stance taken by the highest authority of Catholic faith, something which can be the role model for clergy of other religions to emulate.

    Not to be left behind, the founding-leader and patron-in-chief of Minhaj-ul-Quran International and author of the acclaimed book Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings, Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri condemned all acts of terrorism and said that the concept of “Jihad has been hijacked by terrorists”. He is precisely on the dot as the word Jihad has been given the dastardly meaning by the Salafi version of Islam, a version picked up by the US for trainings in especially set up Madrassas, from where the Mujahidin, Taliban, Al Qaeda were brought up. The politics of control on the oil resources took an inhuman form where United States proactively picked up the pervert version of Islam and popularized as ‘the Islam’, aided and assisted by its minions and large section of World media aping US in most of the matters. Dr. Mohammad, is in line with the Sufi version of Islam, where tolerance for others and celebration of diversity has been the norm. In the name of this Jihad; so much damage has been done to the human race, to redo which massive efforts are needed and one lauds the efforts of those scholars and clerics of Islam who have presented the human, tolerant face of Islam Worldwide. One cannot forget to mention the great Islamic Scholar, Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, who strove till the end of his life to present the Islam in the proper light, in the light of values of amity and peace. Surely even today there are many who are aggressively promoting the intolerant versions of Islam, the likes of Dr. Zakir Naik, who are doing great disservice to Islam and human society.

    Swami Vivekananda is the latest icon to be hijacked by the politics of intolerance. Those who have spread hatred for religious minorities are projecting him to be their messiah. In this light Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh statement is very praiseworthy. Dr. Singh points out that “true religion cannot be the basis of hatred and division, but of mutual respect and tolerance for faiths and beliefs of all.”

    One does note the glaring differences in the interpretation of same religion. One can note the diverse and opposite ways in which political actions take place in the name of same religion. Two or three examples are very obvious. From Hinduism one can see Mahatma Gandhi on one side and Nathuram Godse on the other. In Islam one can see Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad on one side and Osama bin Laden and the Muslim nationalists on the other. Same way one can see Pope Francis on one side and Anders Berling Brevik (Norwegian terrorist who killed 86 youth) on the other. It is the same religion in whose name such opposite stands are taken. We need to wake up to free ourselves from the ossified, intolerant views of religions and stand for humanistic teaching and tolerant traditions of religions.


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    By Shaik Zakeer Hussain, TwoCircles.net,

    Bangalore: On 8th February Burooj Realization, a non-profit education research organization, will hold a first of its kind conference for Muslim educators in India. A one-day event, the conference will examine some of the current challenges facing Muslim run schools in the country, and come up with solutions to overcome it. Called the 'Milky Way Education Summit - 2014', it will bring together teachers, educators and researchers to consider challenges, exchange ideas and best practices to address school needs through a collaborative approach.

    Speaking to TCN, summit convener Ovias Siraj, says, "A lot of people are doing great work in different areas, but somewhere there is no collaboration, so the whole idea of this conference is to get people all over India to one platform." According to Siraj, they have reached out to almost 6000 Muslim run schools in India, and says some 500 principals and decision makers from these schools will be participating in the summit to be held in Chennai.



    He says that most schools, are busy with the nitty-gritty of the day to day management of their affairs, and though they start off very well, but become cemented down the line. So the question which Siraj says arises is, how do we think beyond it? Citing a recent survey by the multidisciplinary research organisation C fore, he says that out of the top 100 schools in India, only one is Muslim managed school. "We want these schools to have a standard on which to raise the bar, we want them to think higher and achieve higher."

    "There are three areas in education: the environment, the educator and the educated (students). We are focusing too much on changing the environment, rather the focus should be more on the students and the teachers; meaning the quality of teachers and the corresponding confidence that brings in, so that children can achieve more."

    Further explaining Burooj's method of bringing in change in the education system, he says that as an organisation they "travel a lot and reach out to some of the latest factors in education. Though the fundamentals remain the same, but the way of delivering it, changes with time. Be it teachers' training or managing HR policies, there are lot of changes taking place." For Burooj, it is the adaptation of these rapidly changing methods that would keep the equilibrium between Muslim run schools and other schools.

    Siraj also clarifies that, though most schools in India, irrespective of who runs, have more or less the same issues, but according to him non-Muslim run schools have started to adapt knew methodologies, whereas Muslim run schools haven't. A summit like this, he says will get these schools to think in a "new direction, and give confidence.""Different schools are good at different things, some are good at science, some at sports and some in another activity, so our summit will bring in the best practices from these schools to the centre stage, to have others learn from it."

    "There are schools working in the same city for decades, but there has never been any communication between them,"'Milky Way Education Summit - 2014', he says will try to bridge these communication gaps.

    The summit will see a range of topics for discussion. These include 'Bringing FINLAND Home', which Siraj explains is about the methods implemented in the Nordic country, which has the best education system in the world, then there is 'STEM: Where has the curiosity gone from Science?' which is about application based science, among others. He adds that because this is Burooj's first summit, they don't want to force participants with too many ideas, "If people can have one or two take backs, which they would implement, then we would consider this to be a success".

    The conference will also see keynote addresses from the founder of EduMedia, Sultan Syed, Rais Mukhtar, chairman of Rais Institute of Management, Danish Aga, former VP at Merrill Lynch and others.

    Burooj Realization was started in 2004 by Dawood Vaid, as an Islamic educational research centre, and works in "12 verticals including Teacher's training, Teenage workshops and Curriculum design and has since conducted 500+ workshops, quizzes and seminars across the globe including Singapore, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and across 40 Indian cities."

    'Milky Way Education Summit - 2014' will be held on 8th Februaury 2014, between 10 to 6 Pm at The New College, Peters Road, Royapettah, Chennai.

    To register for the conference visit:www.milkywaysummit.com


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    By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter,

    Patna: One of Rahmani 30 students, who is currently in IIT Kharagpur is short listed for regional final for renowned Hult Prize sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative. The Hult Prize Foundation recently announced that Indian Institute Of Technology, Kharagpur has advanced to the regional finals of the Fifth annual Hult Prize.

    The Hult Prize is the world’s largest student competition and start-up platform for social good. In partnership with President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, the innovative crowdsourcing platform identifies and launches disruptive and catalytic social ventures that aim to solve the planet’s most pressing challenges. Student teams compete in six cities around the world for a chance to secure US$ 1 million in start-up funding to launch a sustainable social venture.



    Team leader Imbesat Ahamd is an alumnus of Rahmani 30. Other team members include Saif Khan, Abhisek Datta, Khalid Abdullah Qidwai and Ahmed Aslam.

    There are 3 teams from India, from BITS-Pilani and IMT.

    This year's theme is "control of non-communicable diseases in urban slum". Imbesat’s project is a basic research work over slum areas of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. These are India's five largest slum. Their project will have two prime targets. The first one is to organise yearlong awareness campaign related to health issues in all such areas, so that the people could be aware of better health practices, government schemes, symptoms of chronic diseases which could be detected in early stages. For which we are planning to design a movable clinic.

    Their second target is to work on any one chronic disease either cancer or heart problem. "We are looking for some cheap and new technology which could be relevant to at least cure people whose disease have been detected in early stage," Imbesat told TCN, hoping that they succeed in their endeavor.

    Imbesat and his team are busy developing their project. They have two months’ time to design their project.

    Although the young team is focusing on their project, they have another worry – finance to go to Dubai in March for the function.

    (TCN appeals to its readers to help these young talents raise funds to sponsor their trip to Dubai in March.)


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    By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter,

    Guwahati: In a major development which is bound to help check tobacco abuse — an indisputable and perturbing public health hazard, a large number of MLAs cutting across party lines have pledged to make their respective constituencies tobacco free and save the children of Assam from the menace of tobacco.

    Signing a pledge to this end, the MLAs as the people’s representatives and responsible citizens of the state have promised to: Make all educational Institutions Tobacco free; Total prohibition on selling of tobacco products with 100 yards of the educational Institutions, and Prevent buying or selling of tobacco products by anyone below the age of 18.

    According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) carried out in 2010, in Assam, prevalence of tobacco users is 39.3 per cent as compared to national prevalence of 34.6 per cent, whereas 52.6 per cent of male and 25.3 per cent female are found to use tobacco in some form or the other.

    It would also be pertinent to mention that according to the provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, it is mandatory for all educational institutions to put up signage mentioning clearly that selling of any tobacco products within 100 yards of institution is strictly prohibited.

    COTPA also forbids buying or selling of tobacco products by any individual below the age of 18. The Voluntary Health Association of Assam (VHAA), a premier non-profit organization involved in the field of public and rural health, in association with Voice of Tobacco Victims (VOTV) carried out this drive to make aware the politicians on the hazardous impact of tobacco abuse and also seek their support towards making a tobacco free state.

    Renowned oncologist and Director of the Dr. B. Barooah Cancer Institute Dr. A.C.Kataki, who is also a patron of the VOTV observed, “Smoking and chewing tobacco is the single most important risk factor for cancer. 55-60% of all cancers in male and 25-30% in female are tobacco related cancer in this part of this country. Tobacco is also responsible for cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, peripheral vascular disease and has adverse effects on pregnancy and child birth.”

    Hailing this move, Executive Secretary of the VHAA, Ms. Ruchira Neog observed that without the support and help from the political fraternity, the drive to make Assam tobacco free, cannot be achieved. She also called upon the policy makers to take a firm stand in this regard to ensure a safe, healthy and tobacco free future for children.

    The Legislators on their part thanked VHAA for its sincere efforts in making a tobacco free society and promised all help in this regard.

    Amongst the signatories are Pranab Kumar Gogoi, Speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly and MLA from Sivasagar, Nilamani Sen Deka, Parliamentary Affairs Minister and MLA from Dharmapur, Chandan Brahma, Transport Minister and MLA from Sidli, Prashanta Phukan, Dibrugarh MLA, Keshav Mahanta, Koliabor MLA, Pramila Rani Brahma, MLA-Kokrajhar East, Hafiz Bashir Ahmed, MLA-Bilasipara West, Abdur Rahman Ajmal, MLA- South Salmara, besides others.


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    By IANS,

    Ghaziabad : Around 100 activists of the Hindu Raksha Dal staged a protest outside Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's house here demanding withdrawal of police cases against them.

    A member of the Hindu group said its members had been arrested over the Jan 8 attack on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) office here because of a police complaint filed by the AAP.

    The protesters demanded the immediate withdrawal of the case.

    "Certain charges levelled against us are false," a spokesman for the group said.

    The activists gathered outside Kejriwal's residence around 9 a.m. and said they wanted to meet him. But security personnel did not let them in.

    Meanwhile, Kejriwal, who came out of the apartment complex in his car to go to Delhi, was intercepted by the demonstrators shouting slogans against the AAP. Police used force to let Kejriwal proceed.


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    By Vikas Datta, IANS,

    Jaipur : Targeted killings of terrorists in badlands of the world have been taken to a new high by the US and in the foreseeable future this looks likely to be intensified amid indications that other major powers may also adopt the technique, says a chronicler of America's shadow war on terror.

    Mark Mazzetti, author of "The Way of the Knife", said here it was an unprecedented power vested in the American president.

    "There has been no point when the American president had the power to decide about the life or death of an individual in a foreign land," Mazzetti, who is the national security correspondent with the New York Times, said in an interview to IANS at the Jaipur Literary Festival 2014 here.

    "Targeted killings have seen before 9/11... but never on this scale and reach. 9/11 was a cataclysmic moment for the US and led it to embark on a new kind of war. Use of armed drones and special operation forces against terrorists came out of the lab in response and will only intensify," he said.

    "It has become a central part of the foreign and national security policy of the US," he said.

    Agreeing that targeted killings have been used by certain countries, notably Israel, Mazzetti said Israel also invented drones but never used both of these to the extent US has employed them.

    "(US President Barack) Obama has ended the war in Iraq and looks to do the same in Afghanistan but is intensifying the strikes," he said.

    Mazzetti said he did not see the targeted strikes ending soon but noted there were indications that the US monopoly on it will soon end.

    "Technology of this is proliferating... One day, Russia or China, or for that matter, India will decide to use drones for the same policy. When that happens, it will be difficult for the US to criticise them," he said.

    To a query if the technique was counter-productive in respect that it led to the rise of a new generation of terrorists, Mazzetti said that its effects on radicalisation were unclear.

    "It has been successful in wiping out the Al Qaeda leadership as well as terror groups planning to attack America, but it was unclear that it had any effect of radicalisation. It is a tool for killing terrorists. Of course, with the terrorists, some others... innocent people have been killed. It's hard to know if it has radicalised the people in the areas where it has been employed."

    "There is anecdotal evidence of radicalisation... even Faisal Shahzad (the Pakistan-born US citizen who made an abortive attempt to blow up the Times Square in 2010) cited the drone attacks as the trigger," Mazzetti said.

    "It is a tool for killing terrorists... This is war and nothing in it is without costs and consequences," he said.

    At a session earlier in the day, Mazzetti said the Obama administration sought to contrast its policy from the George W. Bush regime's "hammer" method to that of the scalpel, thus implying a clean and surgical strike to take out terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen, and Africa, but he has chosen to represent it by a knife since "knife-fights are bloodier and messier".

    "In the process, the CIA was transformed from an espionage and intelligence-gathering outfit to a paramilitary force for lethal targeting of terrorists," Mazzetti said.

    He added that the new role of the CIA in the war against terror came after the revelations of torture methods such as "waterboarding", till "one point when the agency saw killing of terrorists better than interrogating them over the legal complications of torture".

    "There is far less legal controversy over killing terrorists than torturing them," he said.

    The phenomenon had also blurred the clearly demarcated lines between the soldiers and spies, with both taking on the roles normally performed by each other, he said.

    On what prompted him to write this book, Mazzetti told IANS that he wanted to put together all these actions since 2001.

    "The war has played out... I wanted to write a history of the shadow war. Also some classified information about 9/11 had become available," he said.

    "It was a story waiting to be told," he added.

    (Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)


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    By Soroor Ahmed, TwoCircles.net,

    Should a community, which has the potential to collect Zakat worth about Rs 50,000 crore annually be equated with Dalits––or be dubbed as inferior to them? Perhaps not. But who would dare to challenge the perception developed ever since the Sachar Committee report was submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2006.

    The figure of Rs 50,000 crore is not the figment of my imagination, but is the outcome of the study done by Mumbai-based Prof Rahmatullah, a noted scholar and Chairman of Jan Sewa. “Ten years back I did a study and the amount was Rs 10,000 crore. By that standard the figure may definitely be Rs 50,000 crore,” he told me recently.



    A rally in Muzzafarnagar demanding reservation for Muslims

    Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi also did a similar study on the philanthropic aspect of Zakat some years back. Experts somewhat disagree in the exact figure, yet they are of the view that much productive and long-lasting work can be done with the Zakat money.

    So by that figure one crore Muslims can be disbursed Rs 50,000 annually from the Zakat amount––it means over Rs 4,000 per month per person, not per family. A person can comfortably live on this much amount even if he or she does no work.

    Now come to the Sachar Committee report, which no doubt has its academic significance. But one has reason to question it as it is based on secondary data––such as Census 2001.

    Take the example of Census 2011. A senior journalist of Bihar rang me up to inform that nobody turned up at his house to collect data related to 2011 Census. Not only that, he said that many other people in his neighbourhood had a similar complaint. The journalist does not live in any remote village but in the posh locality of Bihar’s capital, Patna, Patliputra Colony. Here prominent bureaucrats, judges and academics of the state live. Needless to say the journalist is not a Muslim. So this is the way our house-hold Census are done and we base our study and consider reports like that of Sachar Committee as Gospel truth.

    Yet one cannot reject the Sachar Committee Report out of hand as it has many important things to suggest.

    The problem is not with the Sachar Committee report as such, but with the way it is being interpreted and used by Muslim intellectuals, politicians and community leaders. Some of them honestly believe that the report is the most authentic documents and would not at all raise any question––even if there are several––others would just try to use to climb up their political as well as academic ladders.

    They would not take into account the fact that in the process, consciously and unconsciously, they are tarnishing the image of the community and instilling hopelessness and despondency among its youth.

    The irony is that those, who spoke and wrote on the topic after the Sachar Committee report saw the light of the day, have made no first hand study of Dalits.

    No doubt, Muslims do lag behind the Hindus in the field of education and wealth; still they are ahead in several other indicators. For example, an average Muslim live a year longer than an average Hindu, the child mortality rate and infant mortality rate of Muslims are much better than Hindus in general (not just Dalits). The maternal mortality rate of Muslim women is less than Hindus notwithstanding the fact that they give more birth than Hindu women. These are some of the figures of health notwithstanding the fact that their villages and localities have much poorer health infrastructure and poor Muslims face much hardship.



    No doubt the government should be blamed for, deliberately or not so deliberately, neglecting the Muslims. This is a fact Muslims know, but the government is not going to listen. So why not the community initiate its own concrete development programme.

    How long will the likes of Abusaleh Sharif go on attending the seminar and keep stating the same platitude. Now that he is the Executive Director of the US-India Policy Institute and spends most of the time in Washington DC, he had to return to India repeatedly to keep Muslims reminding that the community is either worse than Dalits, or is slightly better than them.

    The need of the hour is to pay less heed to such discussions. As one needs to look like beggar to beg––even if one is not so––some of our community leaders go overboard in sketching the negative picture of the community. They have, in a way, institutionalized beggary. Whether the number of Muslim youths, who have cracked medical, engineering, management, civil services, etc in the last five years have increased or not, needs an objective study. But what is happening is that thousands of boys and girls, even of relatively better off families, are seen wasting their time in getting central government scholarship as per the recommendation of the Sachar Committee report. They buy mobile phones, cricket kit, jeans etc with that amount. Those who really deserve it hardly gets the scholarship.

    What now needs to be told loud and clear is that Muslims are not Dalits, nor should there be any comparison with them because of obvious socio-religious reasons.

    Take the case of Delhi alone. Right from Julaina to Kalindi Kunj––not to mention of Nizamuddin or Jama Masjid area––lakhs of Muslims of all class live. Thousands of them are millionaire. Offices of all the premier Muslim organizations are situated in these localities. The Zakat collected from Muslims of this pocket of New Delhi is enough to feed and educate the entire needy and deserving Muslims of Delhi.

    But the problem, according to Dr Rahmatullah and other scholars, is that these amounts are used in solving the short term problems of the Muslims and the community leaders have hardly initiated any long term programme to improve the lot.

    Muslims may not be getting jobs in India easily. Their youth may face some discrimination. But the need of the hour is to tell them that discrimination is a global phenomenon. You will have to excel rather than keep parroting that we are worse than Dalits.



    Who can deny that so far remittance is concerned Muslims are better than others. Pay a visit to NRI section of any bank branch and see to it as to how many Muslims and how many Hindus are in the queue. The number of Dalits in them are negligible.

    Pay a visit to villages of Siwan in Bihar or Azamgarh in UP: one would find air-conditioners running on generator sets in Muslim houses. I am not talking of Muslims of Hyderabad, Mangalore or Mallapuram.

    True some Muslim remittance earners are paying attention to education, yet the fact is that many others sent their sons to Gulf countries just after doing Plus-II or getting a diploma degree to earn fast bucks. They have hardly any plan to go for higher education or appear in high-profile competitions.

    It is not just a coincidence that Amir Subhani, presently the home secretary of Bihar, was the IAS topper of 1987. Now the same Muslim concentrated Siwan, the highest remittance earning district of Bihar, struggles to produce any youth who can qualify for the Bihar Public Service Commission.

    The sons and daughters of many neo-rich remittance earners either waste their time on Facebook, make boyfriend or girlfriend, or in partying. Of late, many of them have picked up the habit of drinking.

    And not to mention of average Muslims marriages. Can any average Dalit match them?



    A Poster in Okhla reads in Urdu "Stop playing with means of bread and butter of Muslims."

    The problem is that many of our community leaders have started selling the poverty and backwardness of the Muslims to enter Rajya Sabha or some other good academic position either in India or abroad.

    It is true that only two to three per cent Muslims qualify UPSC, IIT, IIM and other such exams, but ironically there are four Muslims in the top 100 richest Indians. This fact surely goes to prove that the community does not make use of its wealth for improving the educational condition as such.

    Yes Muslims are making some efforts in the field of education. They have opened a large number of private engineering and some medical colleges, especially in south India. But that has more to do with business and less to do with improving the overall educational status. Can anyone come out with the data showing as to how many such colleges are run by Dalits?

    Take the example of construction sector, once again not of Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore etc but of Patna, the capital of the relatively backward Bihar. In over three kilometres long stretch between Gandhi Maidan and Sultanganj one can find about 100 apartments with about 2,000 flats. Almost 80 per cent of the owners are Muslims. Even most of the builders belong to the community. In fact there are hardly any Dalit builder in Patna.



    True Muslims are backward in several social and economic indicators and the government is not paying attention. But by repeatedly comparing them with Dalits the community leaders are doing great disservice. It is their responsibility to do something more––instill confidence among its next generation and call upon them to look beyond discrimination.

    True there are a large number of Muslim artisans and craftsmen, who are facing the brunt of technological changes. Many of them are losing jobs, but this phenomenon is not only confined to Muslims alone. If the demand of tyre and motor mechanic are getting reduced, as now vehicles are coming with tubeless tyres, a large number of youths are becoming car drivers, who are much in demand both here and abroad. Mobile mechanics, computer technicians etc are also attracting the new generation.

    Reports like the one presented by Sachar panel does not always tell the entire story. After all there is no denying the fact that the number of Muslims in the 15,000 or so farmers, who commit suicide every year, is negligible.

    The need of the hour is to portray the picture of the Muslims as it deserves. There is no need to exaggerate it. One should take into account the fact that the figures of Dalits are sometimes inflated as the government wants to propagate that the heavy amount spent on them are yielding results.

    --
    Soroor Ahmed is a Patna-based freelance journalist. He writes on political, social, national and international issues.


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    By IANS,

    New Delhi : Terror outfit Indian Mujahideen is planning to abduct Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to demand the release of its co-founder Yaseen Bhatkal, police said Sunday.

    "According to information from an intelligence agency, Kejriwal can be kidnapped by IM members, who are planning it in order to get co-founder Yaseen Bhatkal released," a police officer said.

    Bhatkal is currently in custody of Karnataka Police in connection with the 2010 Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts. He was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in August 2013.

    Bhatkal is accused of being involved in many terror attacks across the country.

    Police said a senior officer met Kejriwal Sunday to inform him about the threat and persuade him to accept high-grade security cover.

    However, Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh told media persons that Kejriwal did not accept the police proposal.

    All top party leaders will maintain their stand that they will not accept security cover, he said.

    Kejriwal has been refusing to accept security cover in keeping with his party's policy to "end VIP culture in politics".

    Last week, intelligence officials had warned that Kejriwal could be targeted by the water and tender mafia, which were feeling threatened because of his anti-corruption policies.


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    By Vikas Datta, IANS,

    Jaipur : There is uncertainty about Afghanistan after the scheduled withdrawal of US troops but the region is not the same as it was in 1989 when the Soviet military pulled out and the presence of responsible regional powers like India and China might help to ensure stability in the embattled nation, say experts.

    "No one, including me, knows what will happen, but we can outline parameters to make an assessment. (Coalition) combat troops will leave, the Afghan army will take over security aided by US and foreign advisors - a few thousands, the government will keep the cities and main roads secure, the US and Afghanistan governments will try to resume the peace process - now stalled - with the Taliban," said Barnett Rubin, who has served as an advisor to Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy to Af-Pak, and was involved in trying to begin negotiations with the Taliban.

    "What will be the balance of power? Who will collapse? All this remains to be seen," he said at a session "Dispensable Nation: Afghanistan After the US Withdrawal" on the third day Sunday of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2014.

    "It can be argued the changes in Afghanistan are both irreversible... and unsustainable," he quipped.

    Rubin, however, contended that the view that must be taken should be free from dichotomies about what will happen.

    "It's not the same Afghanistan any longer, it's not the same Pakistan, it's not even the same region," he said.

    He noted that regional powers like India and China were taking responsibilities, including of security, and the latter is telling Pakistan that it doesn't want a Taliban government in Kabul.

    "That will not accomplish all that is wanted but will certainly check Pakistan's behaviour," he said.

    "It is not like 1989 (when the Soviet troops withdrew)," he stressed.

    Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent of the New York Times and author of a book about the US operation for targeted killings of terrorists, said it was disheartening to see there was more concern in Jaipur about the situation in Afghanistan than in Washington D.C., where there is a "degree of fatigue" over what has been the US' longest war.

    "There are meetings, talks but it (Afghanistan) is not the highest priority of the Obama government. There are doubts about (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai. It's not a rush to the exit yet, but it is certainly a quick walk," he said.

    Mazzetti said there was a marked difference of opinion between the primary US stakeholders - the military, the CIA, the State Department and the White House - about what would happen and what should be done.

    He also said he believed that China and India - and Pakistan as well - would continue to play a key role.

    Intervening here, Rubin said there was convergence on Beijing and Washington's views on the situation in areas west of China.

    "The Chinese attitude is that Pakistan is not a very reliable ally in south Asia... it is seeing cooperation with the US in Afghanistan," he said.

    Journalist Ben Anderson, who has accompanied coalition forces in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, said the role of Afghan security forces was not seen positively by the people in the south Pakhtun belt, and he could from his personal experience say their activities made the Taliban "look like the good guys".

    He foresaw a civil war at least in south Afghanistan to remove the "government proxies".

    The speakers also dwelt on the ethnic issue, which created a vicious struggle for power and patronage in a poor country.

    They also agreed Pakistan has to be brought in for a meaningful settlement.

    The problem is, the experts said, is the divergence in approaches - the US wants the matter to be solved between Afghans, the Karzai government want to hold peace talks with the Taliban, and the Taliban wants the peace process only after the US leaves.

    "Everyone wants peace... only their concept of peace is the other side surrendering," said Rubin.

    (Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)


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