When people take the law into their own hands to punish a person without a fair trial, justice dies a slow death. And when the lynch mob turns racist, the result is even more deadly. But the worse is when the authorities turn a blind eye, then to even think that the criminals will be brought to justice is to dwell in a fool’s paradise.
The incidents of mob lynching by the cow vigilantes on a mere suspicion of cow slaughter is not a new development, but what is scary is that the frequency has considerably increased after 2014.
Rakbar Khan lynching case (recent)
On July 20, 2018, a 28 year old man, Rakbar Khan, a resident of Kolgaon in Haryana and his friend were mercilessly thrashed by the villagers in Ramgarh on a suspicion that they were the cow smugglers. His friend survived but Rakbar Khan couldn’t be saved. What is chilling is that as per The Indian Express and NDTV, the police took almost 3 hours to take the victim to the nearby hospital, barely 4 kms from the spot of the crime. Acc. to NDTV report, an eyewitness said she had seen the police beat and abuse the injured man.
The value of human life can be gauged by the fact that instead of taking Rakbar Khan to the hospital first, the police chose to first transport the seized cows to a shed.
The first major incident of mob lynching after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections took place on 28 September 2015 in Dadri, UP, where a 52 year old Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi on a mere suspicion of stealing and slaughtering a cow calf was beaten to death by a mob of villagers. His son too sustained injuries. On inquiry by the Government it was found that the meat found in Akhlaq’s home was not beef. October 15, 2017 report in Times of India states that the accused in Mohammad Akhlaq lynching case, who are out in bail have got jobs in the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) plant in Dadri near Bisada village.
Pehlu Khan lynching case
On 5th April 2017, a dairy farmer from Nuh district of Haryana named Pehlu Khan was attacked and murdered by a group of 200 cow vigilantes affiliated with right-wing Hindutava groups in Alwar Rajasthan. In this case again, all the six accused named by Pehlu Khan in his dying declaration have been given clean-chit.
These three incidents are not the only incidents, everyday a new incident comes to forefront, hotly debated, accused are arrested only to be later released, public forget and go back to sleep unless jolted by another chilling incident.
I would like to conclude with a conversation that I had with my sister a while ago.
Sister: “write something on mob lynching. You were anyway going to write about it, weren’t you?”
Me: “Ah! everyday a new case. You know all the people whom Pehlu Khan named in his dying declaration have been acquitted. Everything is futile now. I don’t think my words will leave any impact.”
Sister: “that is exactly what the men in power want. To normalise these incidents so much, that people start getting immune towards them. We cannot and should not ignore the plight of the victims.”
My sister’s last statement really hit me hard. She could see what I couldn’t, that’s exactly what they want. To instil hopelessness in the hearts of even those who do not easily give up. We can’t let them win in this poisonous agenda of theirs.
“The Fragrance of Sunshine” is a collection of poems, quotes and prose. The book is divided into five chapters and each chapter deals with a new subject covering a different shade of life; such as identity, love, tragedy etc. The musings bloom with the scent of hope to obliterate the odour of despondence.
Chapter Wise Synopsis
The first chapter of the book, “SHINING” deals with identity issues and aims to show a way to those who are embroiled in self-doubt, insecurities and complexes; people with herd mentality who are so used to following others that they cannot even imagine themselves in the shoes of a leader. This chapter encourages the readers to carve out an identity of their own and shine like the sun that instead of depending on the external light builds its own.
Chapter 2, “BLUSHING” is divided into two parts, ‘love’ and ‘beauty’. The objective of the first part is to study and understand the concept of love by dissolving and becoming one with love; to blend all the definitions to come up with the most colourful definition, to find love in the most unusual spots, to rub the surface where hate sits to uncover the ocean of compassion within.
The second part talks about the subjective concept of ‘beauty’. The author seeks to shatter the societal standards favouring a certain complexion, size and shape. The aim is to let the young minds know that beauty is only skin deep. It’s not about the colour of your skin and not even about the facial features or the way your body has been modelled. It’s about the sublimity of your soul, the sweetness of your speech, and the sparkle in your eyes.
However, the author doesn’t believe in being scornful towards those who have a different definition of beauty from hers. People can have conflicting point of views. And as long as they do not crush or look down upon another human being they can go about propagating and following the definition that’s closest to their hearts.
“WITHERING”, the third chapter of the book presents the harsh realities of the world, the despondent words describe the wounds as they are; undressed and throbbing. This chapter is bound to leave a bitter taste in your mouth and stir your hearts. The underlying theme of the book is hope, and this chapter is much in line with the theme. Hope is not about covering up the wrongs of the society, but to stay positive in the face of adversity. To believe that a day will come when the oppressions will end, smiles will bloom and the fragrance of sunshine will spread again.
“GROWING ” is the fourth chapter of the book, it’s about hope, strength and peace. Each one of these are interdependent. If you are mentally strong, you will end up discovering hope even in the most hopeless situations, and once you attain hope, peace will automatically make way to your heart. The main highlight of the chapter are its proses that appear towards the end.
“LIVING” is the final chapter of the book. It’s an amalgamation of all the chapters. A quick revision, with the main focus on what life actually is, and not what we think it is.
Now that the month of Ramzan and the day of Eid is over, I feel a void in my heart. The body still craves Sehri (pre-dawn meal) at 3:30 am sharp. I have been waking up for fajr, the morning prayer without the ring of alarm, and that’s pretty unusual. My mind knows but my body doesn’t, it’s a case of sweet imbalance.
This year again I celebrated Eid in my adoptive city, Delhi. The city of my birth, Patna, must have missed me just as I missed it, dearly. I have a habit of attaching sentiments with things. Things respond to me in ways people don’t, it can be just the branches of a tree in the backyard of my childhood home swinging in the breeze, and to me it will seem as if the tree is sending salutations my way. This life is like a Rubik’s cube. Not easy to solve but interesting, attractive, magical. I can’t ever call it boring, not even on my dark days, because the slayer of dark is life itself.
When people ask cliche questions like, “how was eid?”
I simply answer, “good”, Can there be a better answer for this bland question? Eid is always good. It’s a day of celebration. What we make of eid is the real deal. It’s the same with all the festivals. If you lack enthusiasm it will be no better than the rest of the days. It’s like if you find diamonds strewn on the floor, and instead of scooping them up, if you merely keep looking at them, you will gain nothing. At the end of the day, much depends upon what you want, and how you exert yourself to get that.
Life comes a full circle, there was a time when we were kids, going around in an all siblings-cousins groups, with purses in our hands meant exclusively for hoarding all the eidi money, it used to be fun, not just because we would extort money from every known elder we came across, but also because those elders would make things interesting for the children by coming up with innovative ideas of playful haggling. Things don’t become interesting on their own. Efforts are required.
Similarly, life doesn’t become colourful on its own. You need to make use of the colours, dip your brush in them and paint away. Colours remind me of bangles that we would customarily and mandatorily buy on a night before eid from the local stores in the neighbourhood, those little shops would be jam-packed, but we would always successfully trot our way to the counter. It would be exhilarating trying out bangles, and matching them with our eid outfits. Even though we would have an option to go to more popular shopping places, but we would always choose to buy bangles from our neighborhood, mainly to get all the chaand raat feel. I lived in a mixed locality. So there was quite a handsome percentage of Muslims residing in the area, and that explains why all through Ramadan until eid, the roads, and the lanes would be lit, buzzing with activities. Another interesting ritual was that, the money for the bangles would be provided exclusively by my grandmother. These little things are what bind us together. It’s about inclusiveness, about how you involve all your family members on special days.
Our grandmother was almost a matriarch in our joint family system. And our eid day would begin only after we have said our salaam to her. So after getting dressed in our sparkling dresses, Salma Sitaras, we would hurry to her room, and her sweet compliments would automatically brighten up our day. Next we would attack the firni sewayian, (vermicelli pudding) a special dish, it’s almost like sheer (milk with dates+ vermicelli) but much different. I would particularly choose that bowl, the contents of which would be properly covered with the silver foil (vark). Aesthetics always appeal to my eyes. All the female members of the family would then gather in the grandmom’s room and offer eid prayers. The ritual of hugging each other thrice would then follow. It’s a beautiful display of community building and brotherhood.
We would then start visiting relatives, and entertaining those visiting us. And the day would come to an end just like that. As you grow up, things change, but memories remain. Now when I see my younger cousins do what we used to do, my heart dances with joy. Life does come full circle.
Whenever I feel I can no longer persevere, or am on the verge of giving up, instead of seeking strength from others, I seek strength from my own family, particularly from my elder sister, who achieved whatever she achieved because she just went for her goals without paying heed to the negative advices and early setbacks.
Growing up, Bushra too, like me was bad at math. But unlike me she never gave up on the subject. It’s possible that you can be bad at something and still like it. But what is more interesting is that her love was so strong that she beat all odds to build a career out of it.
Once she scored so poorly that had I been in her place I would have burnt my books, lol, but that event became a turning point in her life, from that time onwards, she became extremely strong headed and resilient, I would often see her struggling, but giving up was never an option for her, and her improvement was commendable. Even when she had an option to drop math and take up biology, she continued with it. There ensued a little tiff in the family because parents wanted her to become a doctor, but soon they too realised that she won’t budge. And the decision was locked. Her grip on the subject was still not very strong, but she would labour hard. Even if she had not done engineering she would have done Math (H.), (that was her back-up option) and ultimately she went on to do M.tech in electronics and telecommunication.
Her professional journey set off from the Faculty of Engg & Tech. Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, where she was appointed as a guest lecturer. Even though she was never interested in academia and knew that in a long run she wouldn’t like to build a career in it, she worked as a thorough professional and never compromised with the quality of her work, owing to which she always managed to earn positive feedback from the students. Her stint at the university lasted for about two years, soon after she got married, moved to the UK, took a break for a year, and in her very first attempt bagged a job at the prestigious Jaguar Land Rover, she works as an electronics Hardware engineer there. It all seems magical at times. When I see her progressing consistently, I feel so delighted. Because I have been a witness to her struggles too.
Hey Bushra, here’s a little gift from me to you. A poem by ToddMichael St. Pierre
Sister of mine, please know that I miss you,
As miles separate us in life as we roam.
I close my eyes and we’re still together…
Splashing in puddles as we skip toward home.
Picking wish-flowers and making mud-pies,
In fields of Summer, under apricot skies,
Oh it really does seem like yesterday,
And I’ll always remember us this way.
Sister of mine, please know that I love you,
No distance on earth, could alter this truth.
Not a day passes, that I don’t think of you,
And far-away playgrounds in dreams of youth.
A Rohingya boy carries an older relative up a muddy path at the Kutupalong extension site, built on land allocated by the Bangladesh Government. © UNHCR/Paula Bronstein
They traverse on foot, sail on the sea, lost in wilderness they trot and trot, and with each step ahead, they are pushed a lifetime away, from a place called home. A journey of life and death they are compelled to undertake.
They are just like you and me, but not as lucky, humans called refugees; they are the people escaping war, natural disaster or persecution. Unfortunate beings who move to another land not to build a better life, but to keep themselves from dying. When they move ahead, they leave behind all the comfort and material wealth they once enjoyed, they are forced to part; with their jobs, fame, position; with their family and friends. And with their future hanging in an indefinite limbo they try to build their temporary homes in a borrowed piece of land. But not all host countries are receptive and not all refugees are embraced with open arms. Some are treated as uninvited intruders, shunned by the host Governments and the people alike. Looked with suspicion, their camps burnt, supplies cut.
The 1951 Geneva Convention is the main international instrument of refugee law. The Convention clearly spells out who a refugee is and the kind of legal protection, other assistance and social rights he or she should receive from the countries who have signed the document. The Convention also defines a refugee’s obligations to host Governments and certain categories of people, such as war criminals, who do not qualify for refugee status. The Convention was limited to protecting mainly European refugees in the aftermath of World War II, but another document the 1967 Protocol, expanded the scope of the Convention as the problem of displacement spread around the world.
Article 1 (A) (2) of the 1951 Convention defines a refugee as an individual who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence who is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
One of the major rights that the refugees enjoy is the right of ‘Non-refoulement’ which is guaranteed under Art. 33(1) of the 1951 Convention, ‘Non-refoulement’ refers to the obligation of States not to refoule, or return, a refugee to “the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or a political opinion”. This right of ‘Non-regfouelment’ is universally acknowledged as a human right.
India has had an age old tradition of according humanitarian protection to refugees and asylum seekers. In India refugees are considered aliens under the ambit of the term ‘alien’. Enactments governing aliens in India are the Foreigners Act, 1946 under which the Central Government is empowered to regulate the entry of aliens into India.
The Constitution of India guarantees certain Fundamental Rights to refugees. Namely, right to equality (Article 14), right to life and personal liberty (Article 21), right to protection against arbitrary arrest (Article 22), right to protection on respect of conviction of offences (Article 20), freedom of religion (Article 25), right to approach Supreme Court for enforcement of Fundamental Rights (Article 32), are as much available to non-citizens, including refugees, as they are to citizens.
Even though India has not ratified the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol to it, but it did accede to various Human Rights treaties and Conventions that contain provisions relating to protection of refugees. As a party to these treaties India is under a legal obligation to protect the human rights of refugees by taking appropriate legislative and administrative measures under Article 51 (c) and Article 253 of the Constitution, and also under the same laws it is under the obligation to uphold the principle of ‘Non-refoulement’. India is a member of the Executive Committee of the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees which puts a moral, if not legal obligation, on it to build a constructive partnership with UNHCR by following the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
If we talk about the Rohingya Refugee crisis, it is regarded as one of the major refugee crises in the world today. The United Nations has termed these refugees, as ‘stateless’ i.e. those who are constantly moving from one place to another in search of shelter. They have also been described as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world by the UN.
The Rohingya people are an ethnic group, who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar. Nearly all the Rohingya in Myanmar live in the western coastal state of Rakhine. There was an estimated about 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016-2017 crisis. On 22 October 2017, the UN reported that an estimated 603,000 refugees from Rakhine, Myanmar has crossed the border into Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. This number increased to 624,000 by November 2, 2017 and over 625,000 by December 6, 2017.
The Rohingya maintain they are indigenous to western Myanmar with a heritage of over a millennium and influence from the Arabs, Mughals and Portuguese. Historically, the region was an independent kingdom between Southeast Asia and the Indian Sub Continent. Rohingya legislators were elected in the Parliaments of Myanmar until persecution increased in the late 20th century. The Rohingya have faced military crackdowns in 1978, 1991-1992, 2012, 2015 and 2016-2017. UN officials and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have described Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing.
Despite being able to trace Rohingya History to the 8th century, Myanmar law does not recognize the ethnic minority as of the eight “national indigenous races” and consequently Rohingya have been denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law. They are also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs.
In 2017, the Permanent People’s’ Tribunal a United Nations-backed International Court based on Bologna Italy, found Myanmar guilty of genocide against the Rohingya people.
After the killings of nine border police in October 2016, the Government of Myanmar blamed what it claimed were fighters from an armed Rohingya group into the villages of Rakhine State. A security crackdown on villages where Rohingya lived ensued; during which government troops were accused of an array of human rights abuses including extra-judicial killing, rape and arson-that the Government denied.
In February 2018, the Associated Press released the video showing what they say is the site of massacre and at least five undisclosed mass graves of Rohingya in Myanmar. The UN’s special rapporteur to Myanmar said violence against the Rohingya bear the hallmarks of genocide.
About one million Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the brutal military action in 1977. The majority have taken refuge in Bangladesh, but other countries in Asia and the Middle East have also opened their doors to one of the world’s most persecuted communities.
In August 2017, the Government of India had announced that it was planning to deport all 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in the country. On September 18, 2017, the Government told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that the continued illegal immigration of Rohingya to India had “serious national security ramifications and threats”. India’s selective-securitization approach is apparent in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to exclude Muslim (illegal) migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh from being eligible for citizenship. Moreover, in 2015 and 2016 the central government issued notifications to exempt certain groups of (illegal) migrants (Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists) from the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport Act (Entry into India) Act, 1920 some of which prescribe imprisonment for immigration violations for up to five years and deportation.
Since India is not a signatory to international refugee Conventions, it is using that as a cover to prevent Rohingya from accessing programmes that would help them with food and health care. Civil Society groups such as the Rights to Food have tried to monitor and intervene, but increasingly they are dealing with a backlash from the Government that does not even consider the Rohingya to be refugees, seeing them instead as illegal migrants, and therefore making moves to try to kick them out of the country.
In response to this move, two refugees in 2017 filed a plea with the Supreme Court to direct the Government not to deport them and other members of their community. They argued that they met the basic conditions for refugee status and that the Indian government should provide them with “basic amenities to ensure that they can live in humane conditions as required by international law.”
The plea also said that the “proposed deportation is contrary to the Constitutional protections of Articles 14, 21, and 51 (c) of the Constitution of India. This act would also be in contradiction with the principle of ‘Non-refoulement’, which has been widely recognised as a principle of customary International law”. It also said that India had ratified and is a signatory to various conventions that recognise the principle of ‘Non-refoulement’, which prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they may face threat to their lives.
The petition further said that India has traditionally been hospitable to host of refugees and displaced people both from South Asia and across the world.
The case is being heard by a top court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra.
Recently one more shocking incident pertaining to Rohingyas made it to the news. On the intervening night of April 14 and 15, 2018, a fire had broken out at a Rohingya refugee camp near Kalindi Kunj in South Delhi that quickly engulfed the whole camp in which more than 200 residents of the camp lost all their belongings including the identity cards and special visas issued by the United Nation. Initially it was being speculated that the fire was due to a short circuit but a criminal complaint was filed by public interest lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan against a BJP Youth Wing leader Manesh Chandela after he allegedly admitted on social media to burning down a Rohingya Refugee camp. But sadly no action was taken by the Delhi Police to register a case against the alleged perpetrator.
I would like to conclude by saying that it’s time that the world at large should come together to resolve this issue of ethnic cleansing and take an appropriate action against the guilty nation.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
– Robert Kennedy
There are some episodes that you remember more vividly than the other, what day it was I can’t recall, but I do remember that it ended in a much grander way than the rest of the days, I went home pumped up and enlightened that evening. Some people get fixed in your heart only to leave you completely baffled, transfixed. They make us think about things we generally avoid, making us question our own existence and purpose in life. They are the breathing lessons, sent our way so that we can mend our ways.
That day I was to meet my friend in Connaught Place for lunch, we had not already decided upon the place of meeting, so we spent some time in the summer heat coming up with a name, locating it and walking all the way from one corner to another. Let me tell you, the sun was particularly unkind that afternoon. And when we finally reached our destination we let out a sigh of relief, but no sooner did we sit, than the waiter broke the unfortunate news that because of some issues they were serving only starters that day, so no main course. It was a famous Chinese place and I wanted to gorge on the hot noodles and manchurian, like old times. Choosing that particular restaurant was a much thought out decision because we were tired of having pastas all the time. I don’t experiment much, so my orders are almost always the same. We blamed our fate, and since had no energy to shift to another cafe, we remained seated, and ordered some of the starters, and hungrily ate.
By the time we were finished, it was late afternoon, and the temperature had already started sinking like the sinking sun, so after wrapping up, we decided to sit on one of the benches outside. Little did I know that I was chosen to witness two magical moments and that too back to back, it was surreal, what played out first I don’t remember, all I know is that both of them made me think, and learn.
Incident one, (it can be the second too) involved three hungry street dogs and two kind ladies. I saw compassion dressed as humans lovingly feeding the canines, compassion is a word that’s not meant to be just written or read, it’s a word that should live in our eyes, in our hands, in our actions. The wagging tails of the joyous dogs was what they were getting in return. Compassion for compassion. It always pays off. The second incident, (it can be the first though) was equally magical, it started like any other ordinary encounter, a little boy walking up to us and requesting us to buy a few pens. Let me be honest I don’t always purchase from them, but more often than not I do. Pens are something that I keep buying and losing, the process is never-ending, so I am perpetually in need of new ones. On that particular day I didn’t want to buy and instead just support the child monetarily. So I gave him some money, and asked him to keep the pens with him, but no, this boy was not looking for charity, he insisted that I should take the pens, I agreed to keep one, but he wanted me to keep both. And that was not enough. When I accepted his plea, he started counting the money before my eyes. And after he had counted he found out I had paid him one extra rupee. And as soon as he discovered that, he made no delay in offering to return. I smiled and affectionately requested him to at least keep that with him, he smiled back and agreed. That child’s dedication and professionalism is what made me realise, that integrity is something that can neither be beaten by poverty nor be bought by wealth. It made me think how even some of the wealthy people think not twice before cheating others for their own benefit, or before looting the public who had put their trust in them. However, no matter how shrewd they are, in the end they always end up filling their insatiable bellies with fire, and losing their peace of mind.
How do you call yourself independent when you can’t even cook for yourself. What if you are caught up in a situation when there is no one around, and suddenly the urge to devour the home cooked butter chicken is too high; will you bottle up your desire and sleep dreaming about the mouth watering dish?
Learning to cook is not only about passion, it’s about necessity.
Back in the days I hated cooking, I couldn’t tell the difference between the spices, to me cooking was an ordeal which was not only boring but also time consuming…