31 December 2017

31 Dec.ND: NRC draft to be published at midnight: Muslims in Assam anxious over citizen list/ Women wanting to go for Haj without Mehram to be exempt from lottery: Govt

31 Dec.2017: 12 Rabial Aakhir 1439:Vol:9, No:86
NRC draft to be published at midnight: Muslims in  Assam anxious over citizen lis
India is set to publish the first draft of a list of citizens of the northeastern state of Assam after decades of debate, sometimes violent, over immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh. Draft list, to be published at midnight on Sunday, will ultimately be incorporated into National Register of Citizens (NRC) after a census carried out for the first time since 1951. The Govt claims this register will be used to identify and deport illegal immigrants, but activists warn that hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Assam could be rendered stateless in the process."Officials [associated with NRC project] visited many homes in our village but skipped ours. I am scared about my family being kept off the list. I am an Indian citizen. My father teaches in a school here; my grandfather has a national voter identity card too, [but I] am still petrified," 25-year-old Hussein Ahmed Madani, who lives in the remote Baladmari Char village in lower Assam, told Al Jazeera."I have seen many people in my village returning after long fights in the High Court and Supreme Court, vindicated after long battles to prove their citizenship. But there is an atmosphere of fear in the village, in our community here. Who knows who will be thrown out as Bangladeshi."Since the country's partition in 1947, Assam has been rocked by protests over "illegal immigration" from across the porous riverine border with Bangladesh, increasing sectarian tensions and riots between the state's indigenous population and Bengali-speaking Muslim migrants.In Feb.1983, over 2,000 Bengali-speaking Muslims, allegedly illegal immigrants, were killed in Nellie in central Assam. In recent years, thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims have been thrown in detention camps in Assam as "doubtful voters" and "immigrants".Comprising an estimated 40 % of the state's population, Muslims have continued to battle the tag of "infiltrator" - and amid such strident rhetoric, many are anxious about the citizen list."If it's a free and fair list, no genuine citizen's name will be dropped. But the ones executing the list work directly or indirectly under the right-wing BJP Govt, which is hostile towards Muslims," Aman Wadud, rights lawyer in state capital of Guwahati, said."This is the same Govt which rode to power spewing venom against Muslims, alleging that 35 electoral constituencies are dominated by Bangladeshi Muslims. People are apprehensive that this Govt might try to manipulate the list and drop legal citizens from the updated list." To make the list, citizens in Assam must provide documents proving that they or their family lived in the country before March 24, 1971 - a date that accounts for the migration of people from across Bangladesh who were fleeing persecution during 1965 India-Pak conflict, but excludes those who arrived during and after 1971 war leading to Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. Upamanyu Hazarika, who founded Prabajan Virodhi Manch anti-immigration group, said that "outsiders" were threatening the state's culture and cornering resources, such as land and jobs. "By virtue of being Muslims, they become part of the larger Muslim population and their interests are legitimised, overlooking the fact that they are foreigners," Hazarika said. India says it has implemented a border management plan in conjunction with Bangladesh, but the Bangladeshi Govt has denied discussing the deportation of migrants with Indian officials. 2 countries share a border of over 4,000 kms. BJP Govt says there are about 20 million Bangladeshi immigrants in India, although this figure is disputed. The release of NRC comes after the first census in over half a century. BJP says it is a "nationalist project" to identify immigrants and thwart "designs of demographic change in the state". "Demographic changes in Assam owing to illegal immigration of Bangladeshis is alarming to the extent that many districts have become Muslim-majority areas,"BJP spokesman Sudhanshu Mittal said.Wadud, however, said state was making it very difficult for Muslims to prove their Indian citizenship."Indian citizens are being branded as foreigners, harassed and targeted," Wadud said. "But this is not new. Massacres against Muslims branded as Bangladeshis in Assam are cyclic.There is a new form of segregation growing."aljazeera
Women going for Haj without ‘mehram’ exempt from lucky draw:Govt
New Delhi:Muslim women who have applied to go for Haj without a ‘mehram’ (husband or a male first blood relation as guardian) this year have been exempted from the lucky draw system that the Haj Committee operates, the Govt said on Sunday.This means that all the 1,300-odd women who have applied for Haj will be able to travel with no quota restrictions. The announcement by the minority affairs ministry came after PM  Narendra Modi in his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ said that women should get equal opportunities as men.“Thanks to PM  Narendra Modiji for mentioning in today’s (Sunday) Mann Ki Baat the decision of Minority Affairs Ministry to lift ban on women going for Haj without mehram,”Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.“After the PM ’s suggestion, I assure that those about 1,300 women who have applied to go for Haj without mehram, will be exempted from the lottery system and allowed to proceed on Haj,” Naqvi said. Normally, Haj Committee of India (HCI) finalises the names of pilgrims who can go for Haj from HCI quota through a lucky draw as it receives applications many times more than India’s fixed quota of around 1,70,000 pilgrims.IANS
Women wanting to go for Haj without Mehram to be exempt from lottery: Govt
Treat applications of women going alone on Haj as special: PM
1300 Muslim women have applied to perform Haj without ‘mehram’: Modi
New Delhi: In the wake of the new Haj policy, a total of 1300 women from around the country have applied to perform Haj without ‘mehram’ or male guardian, PM  Narendra Modi said on Sunday. Addressing monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’, Modi said the discriminatory policy was in practice even after 70 years of independence but the minority affairs minister has finally put an end to it.“It had come to our notice that if a Muslim woman wants to go on Haj, she must have a mehram or a male guardian, otherwise she cannot travel. It was discriminatory and we have changed this rule,” said Modi. “Today, Muslim women can perform Haj without mehram and I am happy to note that this time about 1300 Muslim women have applied to perform Haj without mehram,” he added.Modi further proposed that single women pilgrims should be excluded from the lottery system for selection of Haj pilgrims. “Usually there is a lottery system for selection of Haj pilgrims but I would like that single women pilgrims should be excluded from this lottery system,” he said. However, recommendation has drawn flak from prominent Muslim organisations who called it “un-Islamic” and “against the Sharia”.thestatesman
Muslim women can now travel for Haj without male guardian: PM Modi
Muslim Women Finally Have Freedom, Says PM in First Comment on Triple Talaq Bill
New Delhi: In his first remarks on the issue of instant triple talaq after a bill banning it was cleared by Lok Sabha, PM  Narendra Modi said after "years of suffering", Muslim women have finally found a way out to "free" themselves from the practice. He also said in 2018, people should work towards the all-round development of the nation even as his Govt pushes for reforms measures to tackle black money, corruption, benami properties and terrorism."Without referring to the Muslim women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill passed by Lok Sabha last week, Modi said Muslim women were facing hardships due to the prevailing practice of instant triple talaq for years. "But now they have found a way to free themselves (from the practice)," he said.PTI
Muslim bodies to move SC if triple talaq bill passed by RS
Kochi: Alleging "illegality" in provisions of the bill that criminalises instant triple talaq, an IUML leader today said Muslim bodies would challenge it in the Supreme Court if the Rajya Sabha also passes it.Lok Sabha had last week passed the bill that makes triple talaq punishable by up to three years imprisonment for the husband.(IUML leader in the Lok Sabha PK Kunjalikutty alleged there were many "lacunae" and "contradictions" in the bill passed by the Lower House last week.IUML national general secretary said various Muslim bodies in the country would move the Supreme Court if the bill was also passed by the Rajya Sabha. "We will challenge it in the Supreme Court. We will move the apex court if the Rajya Sabha also passes the bill. IUML will be a party to it," Kunhalikutty told PTI.Hitting out at BJP Govt, he alleged the ruling partys move to "criminalize a family problem is completely politically motivated"."It is a bid (by the Centre) to interfere in the personal law," the IUML leader said.PTI
Triple Talaq Bill: Will Muslim Members of Rajya Sabha Follow Owaisi and Walk out?
New Delhi:Bill criminalizing Triple Talaq was passed in the Lok Sabha where the ruling BJP has brute majority, and it will be moved in the Rajya Sabha on coming Tuesday. Though BJP does not have majority in the Upper House of Parliament, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 is almost certain to be passed there also with the support of Congress –main Opposition party which had not opposed the bill in the Lok Sabha. But the million-dollar question is: What will Muslim Members do?In the Lok Sabha, except MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, no other Muslim MP could speak, mostly toed to their party lines.  Owaisi strongly opposed the bill while pointing out various shortcomings in it. Before the voting, he walked out of the House. On social media, several Muslim MPs of Lok Sabha have been criticized for not speaking against the bill as they were not allotted time by their parties.As the Business Schedule of Rajya Sabha has listed the bill for coming Tuesday, Muslim community may expect a repeat of Owaisi’s stand from Muslim Members of Rajya Sabha.In the Lok Sabha, along with Owaisi’s AIMIM, some other parties like All India Muslim League, RJD, BJD, AIADMK and DMK had also opposed the bill. But in Rajya Sabha unfortunately, none of these parties except Muslim League has any Muslim Members.In 245-Member House, there are currently 238 Members – BJP and Congress having 57 Members each, followed by Samajwadi Party (18), TMC(13) and AIADMK (12). There are 19 Muslim MPs in the Upper House including 6 from Congress, 3 from SP and 2 each from Trinamool Congress and PDP of J&K  besides 2 from BJP – M.J. Akbar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Even if 17 non-BJP Muslim MPs oppose the bill and walk out, it will not affect the outcome when Congress supports the bill. However, their united stand and show of tokenism will go a long way in the history. Caravandaily
Party didn’t allow me to speak against Triple Talaq Bill in Lok Sabha: Congress MP Asrarul Haque
Just a day after Congress party supported the hugely contentious Triple Talaq Bill in Lok Sabha, voices of dissent have started emerging from the party. Its lone Muslim MP from Hindi heartland, Maulana Asrarul Haque Qashmi, has accused the party of not allowing him to speak against the Bill in the Parliament despite his insistence.Voicing his strong opposition, Kishanganj MP said the Bill is against the Constitution, the ‘Shariat’ and women rights and said he wanted to vote against it but couldn’t reach the Parliament on time due to traffic jam. Maulana added that he is against party line on the issue and it should not be passed in Rajya Sabha.A video of Qashmi’s statement shared on various social media platforms has drawn huge criticism for Congress which is trying hard to move away from the policy of minority appeasement. Twitter users questioned the party for silencing Muslim voices, called it a ‘lame excuse’and party’s ‘damage control mode’.TwoCircles
#StandUpForMuslimMen: Modi Govt’s Move To Criminalize Triple Talaq Backfiring?
New Delhi: The move of the central Govt to criminalize instant Triple Talaq,” is backfiring.In less than 48 hours of the bill criminalizing Triple Talaq passed in the Lok Sabha, even staunch opponents of Triple Talaq have come out against the bill and launched hashtag #StandUpForMuslimMen. Women intellectuals and journalists, who were strongly opposing the practice of Triple Talaq, seem to have been antagonized by the bill. They say the bill only seeks to populate jails with Muslim men.Eminent author and columnist Rana Safvi tweeted: “I am a Muslim woman and I am against the triple talaq practice as well as Triple Talaq Bill, which seeks to only populate Indian jails with Muslim men. #StandUpForMuslimMen.Day after the passage of the bill, she wrote a strong article in DailyO.in. Like Rana, many other eminent Muslim women including journalists Seema Mustafa and Irena Akbar are using the hashtag #StandUpForMuslimMen. caravandaily
Triple talaq bill a trap, says Actor Ali Fazal:IANS
Actor Ali Fazal said the triple talaq bill passed by the Lok Sabha is a trap.Ali tweeted:"What a trap this triple talaq bill is. Wow... and nobody is consulted? I am not a lawmaker and even I follow the Beebak Collective and other groups. At least discuss. You send the husband into jail by criminalising it. You are back to square one. Family is again abandoned! Not civil."
Deoband: Muslim women protest against triple Talaq bill
Deoband: After passing the bill in Lok Sabha the Central Govt is gearing up to pass bill in Rajya Sabha. However restiveness prevailed among Muslim organizations and scholars because of the bill. Religious and social organizations of women are marking their protests against the bill. All India Majlis Tahaffuz Khawateen organized a press conference in the premises of Public Girls Inter College. Addressing the press conference, President Tahaffuz Khawateen, Saba Haseeb Siddiqui said Muslim women never accepted a law against Islamic Shariah nor will accept it. She said AIMPLB, scholars and other Muslim religious organizations have always been demanding that the bill should not be finalized without showing it to scholars and intellectuals but the central Govt passed the bill with all its flaws showing that it wants to force its decision upon Muslim women, while the shariah laws are complete and logical. Saba Haseeb said all Muslim women are with Muslim Personal Law Board because laws of Muslim Personal Law Board are in the light of Quran and Hadeeth. She termed the decision of central Govt as open interference in religion and shariah. Saba appealed the members of Rajya Sabha not to pass the bill without proper amendments.siasat
Patn : Women come out in opposition of Triple Talaq bill
Patna: Just days after the Lok Sabha passed the 'Triple Talaq' bill that criminalizes the age-old practice of divorcing the wife by her husband in the Muslim community by an act of saying 'talaq', or divorce, three times, the women cell of the AIMPLB, at a function in Patna on Saturday, opposed the bill saying any interference in the Shariat Law would not be tolerated by the Muslim women of India.Speaking on the occasion, the Chairperson of the women cell of the AIMPLB Dr. Mahazabeen Naaz said that Muslim women favored the Shariat Law overwhelmingly and would not tolerate any change in it by any Govt, political, or judicial body."Our freedom is dependent on our Shariat Law and we Muslim women condemn this new 'Triple Talaq' Bill unequivocally and without any reservation," Dr. Naaz said adding who would support the wives if their husbands are rounded up and sent to jail.Nargis Jehan Barwi, an advocate, also slammed the new bill that now awaits clearance from the Rajya Sabha saying the Muslim Personal Law was an integral part of the Muslim life and therefore, could not be tampered with by any Govt regardless of one's intention. The head of the Imarat-e-Sharia Maulana Anisurrahaman Qasmi echoed the sentiment saying any interference in the Shariat Law regarding 'Triple Talaq' would not be tolerated as this was a ploy by BJP Govt to fill jails with Muslims.patnadaily
Muslims will only follow Islamic laws: Agra Mufti Rumi
Agra:The triple talaq issue has become a thorn for the Muslim clerics, on the other hand BJP is taking full political advantage of the issue, reveling in the debate that has arisen from this. Agra Mufti Abdul Khubaib Rumi was breathing fire against proposed law at the Royal Jama Masjid in Agra. Commenting on the issue, Rumi said, the Centre is bringing this law to mislead the Muslims and all of us will have to oppose it. He said that the proposed law is against the Islamic laws and Muslims will agree to it.Rumi stated, it is shameful that such a far-reaching step was taken by the Govt without consulting the community members. He further added that the law has many flaws but it was still being imposed on the Muslims. intoday
Triple Talaq bill a conspiracy to disrupt Muslim family life: Muslim groups
New Delhi: Reacting to the proposed Triple Talaq bill, Muslim groups alleged it is a “deep-rooted conspiracy” to disrupt the family life of Muslims. Alleging the ‘secular’ Congress also part of the conspiracy, they said the swift move to get the bill passed has ulterior motives other than what is being claimed. Welfare Party of India described the bill as “anti-Constitutional” and “anti-Shariah” which violets the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 15, 16, and 25. WIP president Dr. SQR Ilyas questioned the intent of the Govt saying it wants to create friction and family discord in the society by this proposed law. Slamming opposition Congress for supporting the bill, Dr. Ilyas said the Congress is also involved in this “deep-rooted conspiracy” to make the matrimonial life of Muslims as “hell”. He said the BJP is not a well-wisher of the Muslim women as it is trying to present itself. BJP Govt did not do justice with rape-survivors and sexual-assault victims of Gujarat,Muzaffarnagar and other communal violence incidents. Noted social organization Popular Front of India also opposed the bill saying it was drafted without any sort of discussions or consultations with the affected parties, Muslim women’s organizations, bodies representing Muslim community. Front chairman E Abubacker said the claim that the Bill is about protecting the rights of marriage of Muslim women is devoid of any substance since the opinion of Muslim women had hardly been ever taken into account. Even the request by the President of AIMPLB to the PM was not taken into account, he added. “Such a blatant rejection of an appeal from the largest body representing all the different sections of the Muslim community in the country is suggestive of the disdainful attitude of Narendra Modi towards minorities”.He underlined that triple talaq is an issue affecting a tiny percentage of Muslim women. Even then, sending the men involved such cases to jail, instead of solving the problem, only intensifies the suffering of the victims and their children. It is, therefore, safe to say that this is an anti-women Bill. risingkashmir
Why say triple Talaq? Just leave her, become PM: Lamba
New Delhi: AAP MLA Alka Lamba Writing from her official Twitter account handle, says:“Why say “Talaq Talaq Talaq” and go to jail , when you can just leave her without saying anything and become the PM  of India.#Triple Talaq.”Alka Lamba’s tweet opened doors to a new controversy with BJP leaders have been fuming at her and accusing her of insulting the PM.Meanwhile, some netizens supported the legislator’s tweet saying she just expressed opinion. siasat
Lucknow Girls Madrasa - A battle of control, not case of sexual assault
Lucknow:Even as a section in the media is going wild, circulating unsubstantiated and contradictory claims, new details which emerged today morning showed that the Lucknow girls’ madrasa row is actually a battle of control between two rival groups which has been turned into a case of sexual assault. A resident of the area where the madrasa is located while talking to ummid.com on phone said the battle to control the madrasa management was on since last few months. Taking advantage of the current atmosphere in UP , the rival group staged a drama against Taiyab Ziya, manager of the madrasa, in order to snatch from him the control of the madrasa.“A thorough investigation and medical examination of the girl students are needed to expose the truth behind the entire incident”, the local resident said on the condition of anonymity. Contradictions in the media reports also confirm what the local resident said talking to ummid.com. Initially, it was claimed that the police raided the madrasa in Yasinganj area under Saadatganj police station after they received “letters” from the girl students saying they have been held hostage and are being sexually harassed.A report in a Hindi daily of Jagran group today morning however said that the police was actually called by Taiyab Ziya, the manager and the accused on Thursday. The report said Syed Ashraf Jeelani, who claimed to have donated the land for the Madrasa, was in the campus to “probe the allegations of harassment against Taiyab Ziya”.But, Taiyab Ziya called the police and in a written complaint accused that Jeelani was threatening to kidnap him, the report said.The report also quoted Syed Ashraf Jeelani that the land on which the madrasa was running was donated by him and it was he who had appointed Taiyab Ziya as manager. But, Taiyab Ziya later sidelined Jeelani and took total control of the madrasa in his hand.The report also said that the police was able to broker peace between the two rivals. It was when the police was leaving the madrasa premises with Syed Ashraf Jeelani that a piece of paper was thrown at them in which the girls while alleging that they were being sexually harassed by the manager sought their help.Following this, the report said, Syed Jeelani met the ASP and registered a complaint against Taiyab Ziya. Taking action on Jeelani's complaint the police went to Madrasa once again and rescued as many as 51 girls from the madrasa.Meanwhile, Zia was produced in a court which sent him to judicial custody for 14 days. A further investigation in the case is also underwaty, and the case has also been reported to the Child Welfare Committee.ummid.com
J&K: 5 CRPF  soldiers killed after suspected JeM militants attack CRPF camp in Pulwama
5 soldiers of the CRPF were killed after militants attacked a training centre in J&K’s Pulwama district early on Sunday, ANI reported. 2 of the militants were also killed, while at least 2 soldiers were injured.The attackers are suspected to be from JeM group, according to the HT.“The militants are holed up in a building block in the camp, and an operation is under way to neutralise them,” an unidentified CRPF official told PTI. The number of attackers is not clear.2 of the soldiers injured were identified as Narender and Samadhan Malve, according to ANI. Militants threw grenades at the centre, where troops were trained for counter-militancy operations in J&K, and opened fire before entering the camp of the 185 Battalion in Lethapora around 2.10 am, NDTV reported.The attack comes days after Indian troops killed top JeM commander Noor Mohammad Tantray in Awantipora’s Samboora area. Meanwhile, a soldier died after Pakistan allegedly violated the ceasefire along the Line of Control on Sunday in the Nowsehra sector in J&K ’s Rajouri district. Pakistani troops began to fire around 3.50 am, Indian Express reported. scroll
Judge Hearing 2002 Naroda Gam Riots Case Retires
Ahmedabad:  Special SIT court judge PB Desai, who was hearing the 2002 Naroda Gam riots case, retired today.He had heard depositions of over 300 witnesses, and for the last three months he was hearing final arguments by the SIT lawyer which were about to end.The final arguments by the defence and victims' lawyers are yet to start.His retirement won't necessitate fresh examination of witnesses before a new judge, but the final arguments will have to be heard afresh, a prosecution lawyer said.PTI
Adanis Lose Defamation Case against The Wire, Senior Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
Ahmedabad: A Gujarat court has rejected the 6-month-old defamation case filed by industrialist Gautam Adani’s Adani Group against Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, senior journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of The Economic and Political Weekly, 3 other journalists and eminent news portal The Wire. The court only ordered the defendants to remove a sentence and an adverb from the 3500-word article. The article “Modi Govt’s Rs 500-Crore Bonanza to the Adani Group” was published in EPW on June 17, 2017 and was reproduced in The Wire on June 19. The Adani Group was so furious over the article that EPW was forced to sack Thakurta.Moreover, on June 24 and then on July 5, the Adani Group had sent the defamation notice to the publisher of EPW, namely, Sameeksha Trust and the authors of the article – Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Abir Dasgupta, Advait Rao Palepu and Shinzani Jain. The Wire was also dragged to the court as it had republished the article. caravandaily
ATS arrests ex-SIMI member from Mumbai airport
Mumbai:  ATS Maharashtra on Saturday apprehended a former SIMI member from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.ATS officials said that Sarjeel Sheikh, 34, was nabbed Saturday morning based on a tip-off that some absconding former members of the SIMI were visiting India regularly.Sheikh was an absconding accused in a case registered at Kurla police station relating to assault on a public servant as well as unlawful assembly, officials informed.HT
School headmaster suspended in Mirzapur allegedly preventing students from singing Vande Mataram :TOI
Varanasi: The headmaster of a primary school in Mirzapur district was suspended for allegedly preventing students from folding hand and singing Vande Mataram during prayer. According to reports, district basic shiksha adhikari of Mirzapur Pravin Kumar Tiwari on Friday suspended the headmaster of the primary school at Jafarkhani village in Jamalpur block Shahid Faisal after a preliminary investigation."We have been receiving complaints from children's parents that the head master did not allow students to sing Saraswati vandana with folded hands, or say Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai. He also allegedly beat students when they did not obey his command," the BSA told TOI over phone adding that during investigation the teacher also confessed that he used to stop the children one year back. timesofindia
After Amit Shah ‘assurance’, Nitin Patel takes charge as Gujarat deputy CM, gets finance portfolio
Ahmedabad:After holding out for 2 days over not getting “appropriate” portfolios, Gujarat deputy CM Nitin Patel assumed charge of office on Sunday after a word with BJP president Amit Shah.He was apparently placated after Shah assured him of a new portfolio fit for his “stature as number two in the cabinet and as the deputy CM ”. Within hours of this conversation with Shah, he was given the finance portfolio to go along with a few others he was allotted earlier.Botad MLA Saurabh Patel was initially allotted the finance and energy portfolios. There was no official word immediately on whether Saurabh Patel would get another portfolio.HT
Kar Sevak Balbir Singh who helped demolish Babri Masjid, now Mohammed Amir, determined to rebuild 100 mosques
Balbir Singh was a kar sevak who participated in the razing of the Babri Masjid. Today, as Mohammed Amir, his goal is to repair and rebuild 100 mosques. 25 years ago he was not Mohammad Amir but a certain Balbir Singh, and the highlight of his life until then was that he was among the handful of kar sevaks who had clambered up the dome of Babri masjid to strike the first blows. The same kar sevaks who were lionised by Bal Thackeray as his men.“I am a Rajput. I was born in a little village close to Panipat,” he discloses. “My father, Daulatram, was a school teacher and a man of deep Gandhian leaning. He had witnessed the horrors of Partition, and went out of his way to make the Muslims in our area feel secure. He had wanted me and my 3 elder brothers to do the same.”When he was 10, Balbir’s family moved from the village to Panipat so that the children could complete their secondary education. Balbir continued his studies on the side, garnering the triple MA degrees from Rohtak’s Maharishi University. “As my father never believed in idol worship, we didn’t go to temples,” he says.“Ayodhya was abuzz on Dec. 5,” he recalls. “Men from VHP ruled the town and Faizabad. We stayed with thousands of other kar sevaks, heard the chatter going around. Advaniji was not important because he worshipped Jhulelal, and hence was not considered to be a Hindu; Uma Bharati was a drama queen. I was there with my close friend Yogender Pal. We were all impatient, we wanted to get going.”“I was like an animal that day. Then, the rallying cries from below reached my ears and I felt emboldened again and plunged my pick-axe into the dome.”A heroes’ welcome awaited Balbir and his friend Yogendra Pal when they returned to Panipat. Two bricks that they brought back from the rubble in Ayodhya were kept at the local Shiv Sena office, he says. At home, though, his father issued an ultimatum. “It was either him or me. One of us had to leave the house, and I decided that it would be me. I looked at my wife but she just stood there, so I left home alone.” As riots erupted across the country, Amir sought places of refuge where “Muslims wouldn’t be able to get him.” “I would be scared of anyone with a beard.” He only returned home when he learnt that his father had passed away. But his other family members no longer wanted him. His father had specifically instructed that his second-born son shouldn’t be allowed to attend his funeral. “They said I was the reason for his death.”But an even bigger shock awaited Balbir. His close friend and collaborator at Ayodhya, Yogendra Pal, had become a Muslim. The aftermath of the Dec. 6 frenzy and the riots had left Pal deranged. When Balbir went to meet him, Pal told him that embracing Islam had helped soothe his mad thoughts and fears. “While talking to him, it occurred to me, would I too go mad because of the sin I had committed and what I had helped unleash? In fact, was I already going mad?”It was at Pal’s instance that in the June of 1993, six months after the climax at Ayodhya, Balbir travelled to Sonepat to meet Maulana Kalim Siddiqui who had converted his friend Yogendra Pal.Siddiqui was in Sonepat for an event, and Amir went up to him and told him what he had done. He asked the maulana if he could come and stay at the madrasa in Phulat for some time. “I was still not sure if I wanted to convert, but he accepted my request. He told me that I had contributed to the destruction of one mosque, but I could always help build several others. They were such simple words. I sat down and began to cry.” After spending a few months at the madrasa, Balbir converted and was given the name Mohammed Amir.While at Phulat, Amir learnt Arabic and read the Quran, and, since he had majored in English, he taught at the madrasa. In August 1993, he reconciled with his family, and his wife joined him at the madrasa the same year. She converted to Islam soon after (Amir claims that she did it of her own accord). Their four children were all born in Phulat.Between 1993 and 2017, he claims to have identified and restored several decrepit mosques in north India, especially in Mewat, with the help of the Waliullah Trust. Forty so far, he says, adding that he is especially proud of the work that he has done at a mosque in Mendu, near Hathras, UP . “There are several mosques in various stages of disrepair across north India that even the Waqf Board is not aware of. I seek out such places, clear them of encroachments, tidy them up and get people to start worshipping there again. At some places, I also set up madrasas, and that is especially important for me, since I believe the bane of the Muslim community is their total disregard for education.” Sometimes, he says, he is helped by Muslims in and around the area; at others, he does it alone. His goal is to repair and rebuild 100 mosques. That would get him something close to atonement.Mumbai Mirror
2 protesters killed in Iran anti-Govt rallies: aljazeera
At least two protesters have been killed in rare anti-Govt protests in Iran, according to a semi-official Iranian news agency. Mehr news agency said on Sunday that at least two people died on Saturday night in Dorud, a city in western Iran. Habibollah Khojastepour, security deputy of the governor of Lorestan province, said the presence of "agitators" prevented a peaceful end to the protest, according to Mehr.Khojastepour said neither police nor security forces fired at the protesters. He did not provide a reason for their deaths.News of the fatalities came as Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli warned demonstrators against disruptive behavior."Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price," Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on state television early on Sunday.Iranians began protesting on Thursday in the second city of Masshad, rallying against high prices.The rallies have since gained momentum, spread to other cities, and are described as the largest in nearly a decade.Saturday marked the third day of anti-Govt protests across Iran, when students and police clashed in Tehran.Videos posted on Twitter by the New-York based Center for Human Rights in Iran appeared to show police in riot gear clashing with protesters outside the gates to the Tehran University.A second video showed smoke-shrouded streets, purportedly from tear gas, in the same area.Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people across Iran attended preplanned pro-Govt rallies on Saturday to mark the end of unrest following the country's 2009 election. State TV aired footage showing people in several cities waving flags and carrying banners bearing the image of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.The large demonstrations, which were organised weeks ago, are held every year.Potkin Azarmehr, a blogger who focuses on the secular pro-democracy struggle in Iran, told Al Jazeera that several groups have been protesting for some time "and now their slogans have become more radical". Mahan Abedin, an Iran analyst at Middle East Eye, said the protests reflect the gap between ordinary Iranians and the political elite.Reports said activists on social media have called for a fourth day of protests on Sunday.Meanwhile, the US has been quick to respond to developments, warning Tehran against arresting peaceful protesters.In response to Trump, Bahram Qassemi, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, called the US president's warnings "cheap, worthless and invalid", according to the semi-state news agency Fars.
Russia: Court upholds ban on Navalny running for prez
Russia's top court has upheld a decision barring opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president in March.41-year-old lawyer announced his candidacy last week, but Russia's Central Election Commission later ruled that he could not take part in the elections due to an earlier conviction of fraud. Navalny responded by filing an appeal, which was, however, dismissed by the Supreme Court on Saturday.Shortly after the upholding of the ban, Navalny used Twitter to call on his supporters to boycott the March 18 vote.A staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin, Navalny rose to prominence in Russian politics in 2008. aljazeera
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Compiled and edited by Anwarulhaq (Released at: 8:22 PM)

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