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Published: January 29, 2012 02:11 IST | Updated: January 29, 2012 04:31 IST

In Jaipur replay, university bows to ABVP film fatwa

Amruta Byatnal
Filmmaker Sanjay Kak during an interview with The Hindu. File photo

The Hindu Filmmaker Sanjay Kak during an interview with The Hindu. File photo

Symbiosis University has cancelled the screening of documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak’s Jashn-e-Azadi on Kashmir, after the right-wing student organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), raised objections to its ‘separatist’ nature. The film was supposed to be screened at a three-day national seminar called ‘Voices of Kashmir’ at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, organised in association with the University Grants Commission (UGC) on February 3, 4 and 5.

The organisation now wants the entire seminar cancelled, ABVP Pune unit Secretary Shailendra Dalvi told The Hinduon Saturday evening. “The content of the seminar, like the film, is anti-India, and against the Indian Army. We will not stand for anything that divides the country. Symbiosis has agreed to cancel the film screening, and we are giving them three days’ time to think about the event, too,” Mr. Dalvi stated.

Last week, Jaipur Literature Festival organisers were forced to cancel a videoconference with author Salman Rushdie after protesters threatened to disrupt the event.

Speaking to The Hindu over telephone, Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce principal Hrishikesh Soman stated that the ABVP had approached him on Friday, and that the college agreed to cancel the film screening “considering their [ABVP's] emotions and feelings.” “I told them that the seminar is entirely academic, apolitical and non-religious. But the film has met with criticism from all corners. So we have decided to avoid unnecessary controversies and cancel the screening,” Mr. Soman said. “If people have a very strong reason to protest the film, then we should be tolerant enough,” he stated. The seminar will be attended by senior journalist and Jammu and Kashmir interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar, among others.

Asked if the college would cancel the event altogether, Mr. Soman said: “After the first meeting, the ABVP has not made such a request yet. If they do, then we will try to sort it out.” Asked if the cancellation of the film screening withheld the students’ right to experience and discuss all sides of the Kashmir conflict, Mr. Soman said: “I don’t want to get into petty issues. The seminar will be purely intellectual, and will focus on socio-cultural and educational issues in Kashmir.”

Mr. Soman said Mr. Kak had been “informed categorically” that the film screening had been cancelled. Speaking toThe Hindu, Mr. Kak stated he would be attending the seminar in spite of the cancellation. “I will utilise the two hours given to me and talk about what I want to talk about,” he said. Mr. Kak is scheduled to deliver a presentation on “Speaking about Kashmir” on February 3. His film, Jashn-e-Azadi, made in 2007, explores the meaning of azadi(freedom) in violence-gripped Kashmir.

Apart from Mr. Kak and Mr. Padgaonkar, the panel of speakers includes Hamid Marazi, Zaffar Iffat Fatima, M.K. Raina, Pran Kishore, Sanjay Nahar, and Babali Saraf. Iffat Fatima’s documentary Where Have You Hidden My New Crescent Moon will be screened at the seminar, a press note stated.

Keywords: Jashn-e-Azadi, ABVP, Sanjay Kak, artistic freedom, academics and politic

Printable version | Jan 29, 2012 11:10:55 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2840515.ece

Shiv Sena ransacks Times of India office

Staff Reporter
DAILY'S OFFICE TARGETED: Shiv Sena activists ransacked the loby of the Times of India building in Mumbai on Saturday in protest against a report in the Maharashtra Times, a Marathi daily which belongs to the ToI group. The page one report said a Sena MP was on his way to joining the NCP. The picture shows the vandalised foyer. Photo: PTI

PTI DAILY’S OFFICE TARGETED: Shiv Sena activists ransacked the loby of the Times of India building in Mumbai on Saturday in protest against a report in the Maharashtra Times, a Marathi daily which belongs to the ToI group. The page one report said a Sena MP was on his way to joining the NCP. The picture shows the vandalised foyer. Photo: PTI

Shiv Sena workers ransacked the lobby of The Times of India building here on Saturday afternoon in protest against an article on Sena Member of Parliament Anandrao Adsul. The page one article in Maharashtra Times speculated that Mr. Adsul was likely to join the Nationalist Congress Party.

Police arrested 17 Sena activists involved in the attack. “We have booked them for criminal trespass, damage to public property, rioting, etc. under sections 427, 323, 452, 141 to 149 of IPC [Indian Penal Code], section 135 of the Bombay Police Act,” Deepak Dhole, senior inspector of the Azad Maidan police station told The Hindu.

Eyewitnesses said that more than 50 Sena activists protested before The Times of India building here on Saturday afternoon. They burnt copies of Maharashtra Times and shouted slogans. “They waved black flags. Then some of them suddenly entered the building and went on the rampage. They broke some window panes, damaged the lobby. One of our colleagues was hit on the head by a lathi,” R.L. Kadara, the security guard at the building, said.

“A newspaper which calls itself responsible carried wrong news on page one along with my photograph,” Mr. Adsul, the Sena MP from Amravati, said. “On the eve of the polls, such news creates confusion in the party’s ranks and leads to misunderstanding. The party workers had gone to give the letter to the Editor, but they were manhandled. The chaos ensued later,” he said.

“A politician has to work very hard to rise to a party position,” said Shiv Sena legislator Sanjay Raut said. “One news item can ruin his political career. We have never supported violent attacks but the newspaper should not have printed his name.”

Maharashtra Times Editor Ashok Panvalkar said the paper always printed balanced views and never targeted any particular party leader. “All the Marathi newspapers had carried speculative news about possible defections. We have never personally targeted Adsul or anyone. Had he sent his clarification, we would have carried that as well.”

Mr. Panvalkar said the party workers handed over the letter to one of the employees of Maharashtra Times and then engaged in rioting. “We condemn this attack. We are going to write our editorial on page one on Sunday. We will also print the clarification issued by Mr. Adsul. Violence cannot be a solution.”

The NCP too condemned the attack. NCP legislator Jitendra Avhad visited The Times of India office. The party later issued a statement saying, “Everyone has the opportunity to deny the wrong reports about him. But such an act is a cowardly attack on the freedom of expression.”

Keywords: Maharashtra TImes attack, Shiv Sena, Anandrao Adsul

Printable version | Jan 29, 2012 11:15:22 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article2840228.ece

Mulayam gets Shahi Imam’s backing

Atiq Khan
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh with the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari at a press conference in Lucknow on Saturday. Photo: PTI PTI Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh with the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari at a press conference in Lucknow on Saturday. Photo: PTI

Support Samajwadi Party in polls, says Syed Ahmed Bukhari

Twenty years after he admonished the then Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Abdullah Bukhari, for dabbling in Uttar Pradesh politics — the Maulana had campaigned for the Janata Dal in the 1991 Assembly elections — Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh has joined forces with the late cleric’s son and the present Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, to win over Muslims in the poll-bound State.

Coming out in open support of Mr. Singh, Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari appealed to Muslims to back the SP in the polls.

In fact, the first indication of a ‘patch-up’ and a possible ‘tie-up’ between Mr. Singh and the Shahi Imam (he has been a vocal critic of Mulayam) became evident when Maulana Bukhari’s son-in-law, Umar Khan, was made the party candidate from Behat in Saharanpur district. Mr. Singh’s move was resented by the party’s Rajya Sabha member Rashid Masood — even the SP’s ‘Muslim face’ Mohammad Azam Khan was said to be unhappy. Mr. Masood later quit the SP and joined the Congress.

SP manifesto

“The promises made in the SP poll manifesto had convinced me there is a ray of hope for Muslims, and after talks with Mulayam Singh ‘sahab’ on the quota issue I came to Lucknow to issue an appeal to the minority community to support the SP,” the Shahi Imam said at a function held at a five-star hotel here on Saturday. The SP chief was present.

With the race between the Congress and the SP getting into top gear before the first vote is cast on February 8 in the seven-tier Assembly elections, the Shahi Imam slammed the Congress for “conspiring to make Muslims backward and poor.” Referring to communal violence, he said Muslims had been the worst sufferers in the riots. “Now, they are being targeted in the name of terrorism.”

He alleged that two innocent Muslim youths were killed in the fake encounter at Batla House, but the demand for a judicial inquiry was rejected by the Congress. “A judicial probe would have revealed the ugly face of the Congress,” he added.

“Investigations have revealed the involvement of some Hindu organisations in the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Samjhauta Express and Ajmer Sharif blasts, but only Muslims are viewed with suspicion,” the Shahi Imam alleged.

Lauding the SP president, he said “Mulayam Singh sahab” was magnanimous enough to admit his mistake of aligning with Kalyan Singh and expressing regret, “unlike the Congress which, till today, had not admitted its mistake in the demolition of the Babri mosque.”

“The heart-burning (khalis) among the Muslims has ended after Mr. Singh accepted that his party had made a mistake of going with Kalyan Singh.”

Rejecting the UPA government’s decision on 4.5 per cent quota for backward Muslims, the Maulana demanded reservation for Muslims in proportion to their population.

Mr. Singh reciprocated the Shahi Imam’s gesture and assured him that he would not let down Muslims, and defended proposed 18 per cent reservation for the minority community. He said the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra reports had said that the condition of Muslims was worse than that of Dalits. Mr. Singh said 4.5 per cent reservation was for the minorities and not for Muslims alone as was being made out.

Some ‘ulema’ from Darul Uloom, Deoband, including Maulana Noorul Huda and Maulana Mufti Arshad Farooqui, were present.

Keywords: Five State Assemply polls, Assembly elections, Uttar Pradesh polls, Mulayam Singh, Samajwadi Party

Printable version | Jan 29, 2012 11:16:54 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article2840357.ece

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News » National

Published: January 29, 2012 03:17 IST | Updated: January 29, 2012 03:17 IST

Bid to make an “Ayodhya” out of Bhojshala foiled

Mahim Pratap Singh
The Bhojshala at Dhar in Madhya Pradesh. File photo: A.M. Faruqui

The Hindu The Bhojshala at Dhar in Madhya Pradesh. File photo: A.M. Faruqui

Hindu group accuses CM Chauhan of betraying Hindu cause

The Madhya Pradesh police on Saturday foiled the plans of a Hindu right wing group that had vowed to take out a “palki yatra” on the occasion of Basant Panchmi to the controversial Bhojshala archaeological structure in the Dhar district.

“Over 50 arrests were made and the palki yatra bid was foiled peacefully,” Anuradha Shankar, Inspector General of Police, Indore, told The Hindu.

“We had been making preventive arrests for the last few days and situation had largely been under control,” said Ms. Shankar.

Dhar had been virtually transformed into a police protected fortress to prevent the yatra, planned by Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM), a splinter group of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, led by former Sangh pracharak Naval Kishore Sharma.

The situation in Dhar was a curious one as several Hindu right wing groups accused Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan of betraying “the Hindu cause” after the CM had refused to allow the yatra and had ordered the police to ensure law and order at all costs.

Dhar, home to the love-legend of Baaz Bahadur and Roopmati, has been under the cloud of communal politics over the Bhojshala for decades now. And ironically so on Basant Panchmi, which is regarded as the festival of love according to Hindu tradition.

Once a seat of learning, the Bhojshala, currently under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India, currently follows a curious “modern tradition” whereby Hindus are allowed to offer prayers every Tuesday while Muslims are allowed to pray every Friday.

Dhar has often been considered the “Ayodhya” of Madhya Pradesh on account of the controversy surrounding the Bhojshala, a 11th century structure built by Dhar’s great architect -king Bhoj — who unfortunately and wrongly has been used by the ruling BJP government to communalise the state capital Bhopal by renaming it to Bhojpal.

The structure later, around the 13th century and since, became a mosque named after Muslim saint Kamaluddin Chisti, a disciple of the famous Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya.

Since then, Hindu right wing groups have maintained that the structure has been wrongfully “converted” to a mosque and the idol of Vagdevi Saraswati (the Hindu goddess of knowledge) removed by Muslim invaders and later taken by the British to London.

The groups have been demanding the bringing back of the Vagdevi Saraswati idol from London and have tried to make their point by unsuccessfully attempting to install a replica at the site last year.

R.S. Garg, former deputy director of the Madhya Pradesh archaeological department, who authored a two-volume authoritatively researched work on the structure, had maintained that the structure was already in ruins when Kamaluddin Chisti came and began preaching Islam.

“The Bhojshala was destroyed due to infighting between Hindu rulers and when Kamal Chisti came to Dhar, there was no Bhojshala, only the ruins of it,” says Chinmaya Mishra, an Indore-based historian who assisted Mr. Garg in his research.

The issue has seen violent riots in 2003, which was also an election year in Madhya Pradesh. The then Congress government under Chief Minister Digvijay Singh had even considered banning the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other saffron outfits rallying around the cause.

At this point, the issue has brought to the fore an internal “moderate-extremist” divide within the state’s Hindu right with the RSS backed BJP government not allowing the protests while local BJP leader Vikram Verma (former Rajya Sabha member and union minister in the NDA government) backing the proesters.

According to informed sources, Mr. Verma has been at odds with CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan since their BJYM (Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha) days.

Following the arrest and hospitalisation of ex-Sangh pracharak Naval Kishore Sharma, who was on an indefinite hunger strike at Dhar’s Rajwada Chowk demanding the bringing back of the Saraswati idol and the right to take out the palki yatra, the HJM activists had lashed out at Mr. Chauhan during a press conference.

And so, according to official sources, the situation could take the form of a more serious showdown next year, when Madhya Pradesh will be facing assembly elections and Basant Panchmi will fall on a Friday, the weekly Muslim prayer day.

Whether or not the Bhojshala will become an election issue next year is a point of speculation especially since the current police action has hinted at it not being backed by the ruling BJP government in the State.

Keywords: palki yatra, Hindu Jagaran Manch, right wing activism, Ayodhya controversy

Printable version | Jan 29, 2012 11:19:50 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2840507.ece

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