Busting Propaganda

Yes, It Makes No Sense To Compare Religious Majoritarianism In India And Pakistan

 

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Of course Pakistan is not an ideal place to be a minority. This piece is no defense of Pakistan’s record on minority rights. Pakistan can and should do much better. Now that we have cleared this bit, let us compare the situation of minorities in India with the situation of minorities in Pakistan. I write this piece as rebuttal to an essay written by one Sadanand Dhume.

In his piece Dhume has expressed concern over the direction in which India is going with respect to minority rights. However his argument still revolves around the notion that India may have its shortcomings but it makes no sense to compare an inherently pluralistic society like India to an inherently intolerant and monolithic society like Pakistan.

Dhume refers to Pakistan’s Shia population as a minority and I accept that categorization. Shias make up to 15% of the Pakistani population. 2% are Hindus and 1% are others. The population makeup of minority and majority populations in India and Pakistan is very similar.

Now let us examine some of the claims made by Dhume:

Among many other absurd theories peddled by Hindutva ideologues there is a popular myth that Hindu population of West Pakistan at the time of Partition was around 22% which came down to 2% due to slow ethnic cleansing carried out by the State of Pakistan over 70 years.

Dhume writes:

In undivided British India, in 1941, the areas that constitute today’s Pakistan were about 78% Muslim; the rest of the people were Hindu, Sikh and Christian. Today Pakistan is 97% Muslim…By contrast, in India the Hindu majority has declined gently from 85% of the population in 1951 to a shade under 80% today. In short, religious minorities have shrunk dramatically in one country while growing over time in the other.

Fact Check

There were in fact 17% non Muslims in West Pakistan and 83% Muslims. At the time of Partition most of them moved to India and less than 2% were left in Pakistan. So Pakistan started with a 2% Hindu population. Indian Punjab had over 30% Muslims and after the Partition only 2% Muslims remained on the Indian side of  Punjab. This was a population exchange. Not ethnic cleansing as is often argued by Hindu extremists. Today the Hindu population share of Pakistan is slightly higher than what they started with just after the partition. For a detailed research on the subject please refer to this blog.

Dhume is however right about the increase in the population share of Muslims in India. He is wrong when he puts this fact as evidence of Muslims’ well-being in India. There are three reasons due to which Muslim population has grown faster than Hindu population in India.

  1. Most Muslims are poor. People in the lower income bracket have more children. In Dhume’s own country, USA, a third of all families (33%) are classified as low income families. 44% of all children in US come from these families.
  2. Muslims have a lower rate of female foeticide as compared to Hindus.
  3. Due to certain unhygienic practices, Hindus have higher infant mortality rate. Muslim children in India are 17 percent more likely to survive infancy than Hindus

Even Pakistan’s Hindu population has grown at a faster rate as compared to their national average because most Hindus in Pakistan belong to lower income groups.

Dhume went on to make a rather bizarre claim. He reckons that minorities in India are treated better than minorities in Pakistan because Indian cricket team wears a “neutral blue” outfit rather than wearing a Saffron colored Hindu outfit. Sometimes appearances can be deceptive, still Dhume does not come across as a person who would believe North Korea is more democratic than USA just because North Korea calls itself ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’.

Beyond this point I write on Muslims are really treated in India. It is a long and harrowing read.

A recent study published by PEW ranked India fourth after Syria, Iraq and Nigeria in a list of countries where social hostilities involving religion is very high.  Here I list a number of issues faced by Muslims in India that are not faced by Hindus in Pakistan being a minority.

Hindus in Pakistan do not face massacres and mass rapes like Muslims face in India on a regular basis. Nellie, Bhagalpur, Mumbai, Gujarat, Muzzafarnagar are just few of the many examples that can be found in recent history. To constantly live with the feeling that one day, due to some event not connected to you, a mob will attack your house, rape and kill you and your family is a miserable way to live.

Hindus in Pakistan are not constantly held responsible for the crimes done by Hindus in other parts of the world. Muslims in India are answerable for any crime committed by a Muslim anywhere in the world.

India exerts constant pressure on its Muslim minority to prove loyalty to the Nation via majoritarian themes. Allegiance to the national anthem or the national flag is not good enough. A Muslim has to deify the nation into Bharat Mata and Sing hymns for the deity. Vande Mataram or else…

In India Hindutva extremists openly call for the rape of Muslim women, even ask people to dig out dead Muslim women from their graves and rape them, such people are rewarded by the masses during elections.

There is no pressure from the Pakistani society to take away the rights granted to Hindus under the Hindu Personal Law. In India there is massive pressure from the Hindu society to bring in Uniform Civil Code that will dissolve the Muslim Personal Law and ask Muslims to abide by the customs that Hindus deem correct for them.

Pakistan does not put restrictions on the dietary habit of Hindus and other Non Muslim citizens of Pakistan. A Non Muslim citizen of Pakistan is free to consume alcohol and eat pork. In India beef is banned in many states because beef is consumed mainly by Muslims and Dalits.

The politics of Pakistan is not focused on Hindus. You will hardly find any talk shows on Pakistani channels discussing Hindu matters. The Hindu society of Pakistan is not constantly under pressure from the media or the politicians. In India almost every issue can be linked to the Muslim minority. Hindu majority of India is obsessed with Muslim issues. Even the population explosion of India is blamed on 14% Muslims and not on 80% Hindus of India.

Muslims in India are regularly jailed for years (sometimes for decades) on terrorism charges fabricated by the police. Eventually they are released by the courts due to lack of evidence but are never compensated for the decades lost in prison.

There are hundreds and thousands of internally displaced Muslims in India who have lost everything during majoritarian mob violence, these people settle in slums. The Govt provides no assistance in their resettlement.

Every few days a new video emerges in India where a Hindu mob is seen lynching a Muslim man, where a Hindu mob appears to unleash brutal violence against Muslim families including women, children, elderly and the disabled.

There are hundreds and thousands of Hindu extremists on Indian social media who threaten and abuse Indian Muslims in the most vile and vulgar ways.

As Aakar Patel puts it:

That is the main thing that would have disturbed me as a Muslim, I think. Having lived through the reality and understood it, one would then be confronted with this relentless, middle-class Hindu focus on Muslims as the problem. See any story in The Times Of India and go through the comments written by readers. I have been writing in Pakistan’s papers longer continuously than any other Indian and I assure you that either they are editing their nastiness out of reader comments, or we Indians have some truly vile people in our midst and they are not a small minority.

In Pakistan those who attack minorities are seen as terrorist. In India the media uses terms like ‘activist’ or ‘vigilante’ or in one case ‘animal rights group’ to describe people who brutally lynch innocents on the streets of India, record their act on camera and proudly post it on social media for everyone to see.

On the creation of Pakistan Dhume writes:

Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 for an explicitly communal reason: as a separate homeland for Muslims based on the belief that Indian Muslims constituted a distinct nation, and that Hindus and Muslims could not live together in peace as compatriots.

Savarkar and Golwalkar are considered to be the most eminent ideologues of the Hindutva ideology that rules over India today. Both Savarkar and Golwalkar through their extensive writings supported the Nazi action against Jews. Golwalkwar wanted to carry out a holocaust against Indian Muslims. He even prepared a district-wise plan for the extermination of Muslims.

The two nation theory and the idea of a homogeneous Hindu Rashtra was first peddled by Hindus. The Muslim leadership remained divided over the idea of Pakistan. In fact most Muslims rejected the idea of Pakistan and chose to live in an India which they believed would remain pluralistic and secular.

Finally I would like to agree with Dhume that it is borderline ludicrous to compare India with Pakistan on minority rights. In fact it is ludicrous to compare India with any other country on minority rights.

The ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ That Wasn’t

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It is said that religion and politics should not be discussed at the dinner table. Both topics generate a lot of heat without producing much light. There is no reason to believe that social media would be any different while discussing these topics.  Go ahead and write something on the principles of religion or write something about politics, while most people will engage with you within the limits of decency some would cross those limits and indulge in a phenomenon called trolling.

Simply disagreeing with someone is not trolling. Defamation, vilification, attacks on sexual orientation, threat of violence or trying to get the person sacked from the job may all classify as trolling behavior.

Normally when we are discussing religion or politics on a public forum we expect some harsh reactions. We expect some trolls. We block them and move on. But there are occasions when the trolls arrive in organized groups. They want to shut you down. They want to drown your voice. Your social media timeline is filled with hundreds if not thousands of messages attacking you in the most vicious ways. It is not humanly possible to block each individual troll. They are just too many. This is called a troll mob.

People are generally sympathetic towards those who are victims of troll mob attack. It also gives an impression to the supporters that the person must be doing something right to get such a reaction from the trolls. Also new followers join in solidarity. So not everything ends in negativity after a troll mob attack.

On Twitter everything is verifiable. You cannot claim you were a victim of a troll mob attack unless there are hundreds if not thousands of tweets mentioning you with nasty comments. One simple search with your handle name can tell if you were a victim of a troll mob attack.

Now coming to the crux of the story, I write this because there is a handle called ‘Muslim Voices India’ that has been propped up by some individuals to talk about Muslim issues. I believe some of these individuals are amazing people, others not so much. This handle is based on the curator model. Every few weeks they get someone to curate the handle. They talk about religion and naturally they get all kinds of reactions.  A simple Twitter search will tell you that people (mostly Muslims) have been generally quite decent in engaging with the curators of the handle.

This time things got a bit nasty. There was one troll with a Muslim name (most probably a Muslim) who got annoyed with what the curator had to say. This guy indulged in trolling. I don’t exactly know what he has said but let us assume he said some nasty things. Other Muslims confronted him and he deactivated his account. There was just one troll. I cant say this for sure but this one troll is supposed to have engaged with some online troll army (unrelated to any Muslim group) to get the curator’s account suspended via mass reporting.

Today I have 27,000 followers on twitter, I am not the most liked guy for my inability to be economical with the truth.  I have been told that people have tried to get my account suspended but so far I am in luck that it has not happened. It is hard to tell why they suspended Muslim Voices handle.

Now the act of one individual was marketed by some people with malicious intent as a “Muslim Troll Mob”. Not just any troll mob, it was described as a ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ by the editor of an online news portal called Two Circles Net. This portal, ironically, is dedicated for highlighting Muslim issues, apparently.

I ran a detailed Twitter search but found no evidence of a  ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ attack. You can run your own search if you like. By and large most people were engaging with the curator in a very decent way. So I decided to ask the curator myself if she could point me to some of the hundreds and thousand of tweets from the ‘Muslim Troll Mob’. She got very annoyed and blocked me. Maybe she saw me as a part of the “Muslim Troll Mob”. Sadly I wont ever know.

Now this is not the first time people associated with this handle ran with the “savage uncivilized Muslim” stereotype by using an act of an individual. With another curator exactly one troll commented about the sleeveless dress that the respected curator was wearing in her DP (Display Picture). Well they got what they wanted. The “Savage uncivilized Muslim”. Comment after comment were made by various handles highlighting the issue. It is as if they are not here to make a conversation but here to find these trolls that they can skillfully use to paint the entire community as savage uncivilized beasts.

The curator of Muslim Voices India took the effort to scan the entire Twitter time line of this one troll to find vile content posted days ago, which she then quoted in her blog. I apologize for reproducing this content here but in the interest of explaining their intent this is necessary. She ignored all the great experience she had while interacting with hundreds of Muslims who supported her and wrote a blog on this!

From the curator’s blog:

I blocked one filthy account criticising the @MuslimVoicesIN account and having several tweets on his timeline along the lines of “I will put my hand in your sister’s vagina…”

…..

Note:I am taking her word for this because even this could not be verified independently.

So after painstakingly reading the entire twitter time line of this one troll, after dedicating an entire blog to the issue the curator had this to tell me when I confronted her with the fact that there was no ‘Muslim Troll Mob’

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But it did not stop there. How can vilification of Muslims be complete without linking them to terrorism? While this fictional ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ attack was being discussed ad nauseum between these “enlightened reformers”, one came up with this tweet:

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Vilification of Muslims confirms fears of the majority community, it has buyers, so much so that some TV channels in India invite a Canadian Pakistani to badmouth Indian Muslims. There is a growing market for this type of hate. The easiest way to increase your follower count is to vilify Muslims. When Muslims confront such views it is then portrayed as evidence of their inability to take criticism. Vilification is not criticism and Muslims are well within their rights to speak against the attempts to vilify them or paint them wild savages who wont understand the so called progressive thought process.

It is not a disputed fact that there is widespread anti Muslim sentiment on social media in India. Some Muslims are trying to ride on this sentiment by peddling stereotypes that have been created by the majoritarian forces. Backward, savage, wild, angry and stupid. This is how they want to define Muslims. There can be no other reason why they would use the act of few individuals to malign the name of an entire community that is normally very good on social media.

They wont stop. They will continue with their efforts to vilify Muslims. But it is now up to us to take a stand against this bigotry. Let us expose them for what they are. They are populist manipulators. All they want is a good name for themselves at the cost of the community. Let them have their good name with Islamophobes but let us take a pledge that we will make everyone around us aware about their designs. We will use whatever media we have at our disposal to make people aware of what they are up to. We will not give them the chance to malign the whole community. Not one person should be allowed to troll them.

Hijacking Feminism

@GenderlogIndia is a Twitter handle that talks about feminist issues. The handle is based on the curator model where the handle is passed on to different people to share their views. Recently the handle was passed on to a “Pakistani” Canadian sex blogger who identifies herself by the pseudonym Eiynah. By her own admission she “is not much immersed” in Pakistani culture. So here we have a westerner with little understanding of the sub-continental culture running GenderLog–INDIA.

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People immediately noticed that the tweets were different than usual. Some people found it annoying, some people found it amusing (including me) and some people thought it was different so it should be welcome.

Eiynah expressed the view popular with some western feminists that the niqab donned by some Muslim women is a tool of oppression. This is not an unreasonable view. In the past I have tweeted against the face covering niqab.

Everything was fine until Eiynah was confronted with the fact that some Muslim women actually wear the niqab as a matter of choice. This view was expressed by another female. This was just too much to handle. Suddenly the niqab clad women who were oppressed magically transformed into evil witches who can be casually equated with the violent racist Ku Screenshot - 26_06_2015 , 10_19_27 PMKlux Klan. It doesn’t end there. They also needed to be banished from public space.

Do you see the problem? These women who are supposed to be oppressed should be oppressed further by taking away their right to be in public space. I hope it makes sense to you. I concede I am not smart enough to make any sense of this. Either they can be poor oppressed souls or evil conniving evil people like the KKK. They can’t be both.

At this point I got a hint of Islamophobia and bigotry. Equating the women who choose to wear the niqab with Ku Klux Klan? Really? Anyway let us go a bit further because it gets a whole lot interestScreenshot - 26_06_2015 , 10_29_42 PMing.

Nowadays due to the civil war in Iraq and Syria and its extensive coverage in the media, Muslims face bigoted taunts where bigots use the name of despicable terrorist organization like ISIS to vilify normal Muslims. Recently on a train in Sydney such a attack on a hijab clad woman was recorded by a good Samaritan who confronted the bigot. The media hailed the good Samaritan and condemned the bigot for taunting the hijabi lady using the name of ISIS.

Eiynah used the same modus operandi. Now the choice to wear the Hijab was akin to the choice of joining ISIS. Yes you read it right. The choice to wear a piece of cloth to cover your head is similar to the choice of joining a despicable violent terrorist organization that kills thousands of innocents. KKK to ISIS? Well that escalated quickly.

At this point I had no doubt in my mind Eiynah is a Islamophobic bigot who is misusing the platform Screenshot - 26_06_2015 , 11_25_55 PMprovided by GenderLogIndia to vilify Muslim women who choose to wear clothes that conform to their individual religious values.

Now I was told by well meaning people that I misunderstood her tweet. She was merely saying that just because it is a personal choice does not mean it is beyond condemnation. After all if we can condemn the personal choice of some idiot joining ISIS why can we condemn the personal choice of someone wearing a Hijab? There are two problems with this explanation.

This analogy could have been made with almost any ‘choice’ in the world. For e.g. she could have said that we can criticize the choice of people smoking, or people eating unhealthy fast food or any of the million such examples. But no. The reference to a despicable terrorist organization had to be made. Why? Well I will let you decide why.

The second problem with criticizing “the choice” in this context defeats the feminist cause. It has taken years for feminists to stop people from criticizing their right to choose. For e.g. if there is a Muslim cleric who issues a fatwa that criticizes “the personal choice” of Muslim women to wear shorts what will be the reaction of the feminists? They will be up in arms against the cleric and rightly so. Who gave the cleric the right to criticize the personal choice made by a Muslim woman? Similarly no one gave the right to Eiynah to criticize the personal choice made by Muslim women. It just goes against everything that feminists have fought for ages.

Lastly I want to ask the creators of the GenderLog India handle. Do they have any sympathy for the hijab clad women who are increasingly becoming the victims of hate crime? Do they understand that in spite of all the pressures many women choose to wear the headgear because they believe it is a part of their cultural identity? Instead of increasing the understanding around the issue would it be the right to promote fear and paranoia around this? I will let GenderLog ponder over this and I believe they will do the right thing by women.

BJP’s hate propaganda against Muslims. Will the Election Commission take note?

 

 

 

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using illegal and dangerous propaganda tactics to spread hatred in the society. For the sake of few extra votes they are willing to weaken the foundations of the country. Following are a few examples of BJP propaganda against Muslim minorities of India.

 Exhibit 1: 

https://twitter.com/PathanAsmakhan/status/409375715323174912

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The Russian President has never made such a statement but BJP wants people to believe that Government of India is encouraging terrorism in the country to “appease Muslims”. The idea is to generate extreme hate towards the Muslim community and polarize the society.

Exhibit 2:

https://twitter.com/PathanAsmakhan/status/446859925189177344

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In this propaganda poster, BJP is claiming that Mehbooba Mufti, the president of the Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has warned the Kashmiri pundit community that they will face genocide if they return to Kashmir and their properties should be auctioned off. The modus operandi is the same. BJP makes up inflammatory speeches and mischievously attributes it to Muslim leaders so that they can demonize Muslims.

Exhibit 3:

https://twitter.com/PathanAsmakhan/status/446857908660101120

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Here BJP is falsely accusing the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi of of threatening to expel the Hindu communities from Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Hyderabad. The Shahi Imam has never made such a statement.

Exhibit 4:

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Here BJP is using pictures from of Pakistan where extremists of the notorious Jamat Ut dawa organisation are seen to be burning the Indian flag but BJP wants people to believe that Muslims in India are burning the Indian flag. These pictures originally appear here on this Pakistani website http://tribune.com.pk/story/590123/pakistan-independence-day-live-updates/.

All the examples given above are violations of Indian law. BJP employs foot soldiers to carry out its vile propaganda and if the media highlights it then it distances itself from the person who is employed to carry out the propaganda. Pathan Asma Khan is the District President of BJP Minority cell, Municipal councilor, Gujarat Nagarpalika Parishad (member) from Nadiad, Gujarat.

Hope the election commission of India and law enforcing authorities take action now so that this does not result in killings an riots against minorities which is what BJP may be looking for just before the elections.

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