Saturday, March 31, 2012
Chillah courtyard plays host to launch of book on dargahs
New Delhi: That Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (Delhi’s iconic 14th century Sufi saint) was against any kind of state powers and preached the message of Sufism — which is that of peace, love and harmony... That he was anti-establishment and was never himself the head of a state, but still a government unto himself...
This is how Sadia Dehlvi justified the absence of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for the launch of her second book The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi on Monday. “No doubt, politicians are never to be trusted. The Chief Minister told me she was caught up with work as it was the last day for filing of nominations for the MCD polls,” Dehlvi said.
Beyond the initial hiccup, however, the book launch was a success for several reasons. One being the venue itself — the lesser-known courtyard of the Chillah and Khanqah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya — a place, Dehlvi says, from where she began writing her book. “ It is also the place where Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya lived and began his mission of Sufism from,” she said.
“I feel very lucky that I got permission to launch my book on the dargahs of Delhi from this place where Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya lived. I started writing my book from this very courtyard — with the most beautiful and peaceful neighbourhood — the lesser-known, but most important, centre in Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya life, where he lived, meditated and died,” Dehlvi said.
In the absence of the Chief Minister, the book was launched by Syed Altamash Nizami and Farid Ahmed Nizami from the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah. The launch was followed by a Sufiana Kalam — a qawwali rendition by Dhruv Sangari and his group.
Like Chillah and Khanqah of Nizamuddin, The Sufi Courtyard journeys through the famous and lesser-known dargahs of Delhi.
From the first Sufi centre established in Mehrauli by Khwaja Qutub Bakhtiar Kaki — during the early days of the Delhi Sultanate — to the late 19th century Sufi retreats, the book explores the spiritual, cultural and historical legacy of Delhi Sufis.
Dehlvi has attempted to recreate the ethos of Delhi to give an unusual perspective on the multiple influences which went into shaping the country’s Sufi traditions.
[Picture: Book cover from HarperCollins Publishers India.]
Friday, March 30, 2012
Mela Charaghan: Urs of Madhu Lal Hussain begins at Baghbanpura
Lahore: The three-day 424th urs of Madhu Lal Hussain started here on Saturday as devotees from all over the province began pouring in to pay their respects to the Sufi poet.
The urs, also known as Mela Charaghan (Festival of Lights), started at 11am with chadar poshi, a ritual changing of the sheet covering the tomb.
The ritual was performed by Auqaf Minister Haji Ehsanuddin Qureshi, MNA Rohail Asghar Sheikh and MNA Pervez Malik, while MPA Chaudhry Shehbaz and MPA Waseem Qadir were also present at the occasion.
A number of food stalls were set up on GT Road and close to Madhu Lal Hussain’s shrine. Swings, a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel, a swing boat ride and a trampoline were installed around the shrine for children.
Mela Charaghan got its name from the large fire, Alao, at the shrine where people throw candles, oils and mud lamps (charagh) after making wishes. The fire remains lit till the conclusion of the ceremony.
The urs continues around the clock, with women mostly there during the day and the men at night.
Auqaf Minister Qureshi, inaugurating the urs, said that the government was paying special attention to the protection and renovation of Sufi shrines.
He said that Mela Charaghan was a cherished folk tradition in Punjab, especially Lahore.
Sheikh Muhammad Younis, the manager of the shrine, told The Express Tribune that tight security had been arranged for the urs.
He said that men and women had separate entrances.
He said that the concluding prayer would be led by Ghulam Mustafa Rizwan.
He said that the Auqaf Department roughly broke even or made a small loss at the festival.
The department allocated Rs345,000 for the urs this year, while last year Rs300,000 was collected from charity during the urs.
A side of the shrine was occupied by malangs wearing traditional black dhotis and anklets and dancing the dhamal to drum beats. People gathered in groups to discuss the contribution of the Sufis in spreading Islam and for naat khawani. The Auqaf Department distributed a langar (free food) to the devotees.
People travelled great distances to get to the festival, some waving red flags bearing Quranic verses.
Saleem Baba, a malang from Sialkot, said that he came to the urs every year. “We get blessings from the saint and then distribute them amongst the people in our areas,” he said. “We try to bring people enlightenment, so they can understand the vital contribution made by malangs.”
Pictures: Devotees arrive from far and wide for three-day urs. Photo: Ijaz Mahmood and Waseem Niaz / Express.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Ankara: With flourishing trade relations, cultural ties and governments with a similar understanding of democracy, Turkey and Bangladesh are very close countries, Bangladesh Ambassador to Turkey Zulfiqur Rahman has said.
He added that relations between the two countries should be further developed in order to match their true potential.
Speaking to Today's Zaman on the occasion of the national day of Bangladesh, Rahman noted that Turkey and Bangladesh have a common past and have gone through the same political phases, leading to recent, successful democratization. Cooperation between the two countries is going very well in terms of trade, education and defense; however, it should be boosted further, he emphasized.
Trade volume between the two countries reached $1 billion in 2011. The leading sector in which Turkey imports from Bangladesh is ready-made-garments, of which Bangladesh is the fourth-largest exporter in the world. Rahman appreciates the Turkish government's efforts to increase investment and trade relations with his country, noting that while the trade volume between the countries was only $47 million in 2002, it had reached $658 million by 2009 and last year it hit $1 billion.
“The trade between Bangladesh and Turkey right now is satisfactory, but it is not up to the potential … for the two countries,” said Rahman, recalling Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's proposal to increase bilateral trade volume to $3 billion by 2015 during his visit to Bangladesh in November 2010. Rahman expressed the pleasure of the Bangladeshi government with this proposal and the strong efforts to realize it.
Rahman noted that Turkey and Bangladesh need better links in some sectors in order to achieve this target. The ambassador asserted that Turkey is a very promising market for Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals, which have significant access to EU and the US markets, being exported to a total of 80 countries worldwide. “The Turkish government is now paying a huge amount to the social security sector because of drug prices. If the Turkish government purchases our pharmaceuticals, the amount will be reduced by at least half,” he said. He noted that delegations from the two countries are working towards the application of Turkish rules and regulations to Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals.
Located in a cyclone region, Bangladesh also has a very quick disaster response mechanism. Their successes in disaster management have reduced cyclone deaths from 20,000 in 1970 to fewer than 200 by the 1990s. Rahman stated that his country is ready to share its experience in this regard with Turkey and that a process for cooperation is already being worked out.
Turkey and Bangladesh already work together well in defense, with cooperation dating back to 1978, when the two countries signed their first defense cooperation agreement. A bilateral military training agreement in 2004 carried defense cooperation to a higher level. So far, approximately 3,000 Bangladeshi military officers have been trained in Turkey. In order to finance the education of Turkish soldiers in Bangladesh, Turkey has provided an annual grant of TL 500 million to Bangladesh since 2008.
Having been busy making arrangements for a visit by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Turkey next month, Rahman also expressed satisfaction with the increasing diplomatic contact between the South Asian country and Turkey. Hasina, who will visit Turkey in April, will also deliver a speech at Ankara University on the political and economic empowerment of woman. Erdoğan's visit in November 2010 marked the first prime ministerial visit by Turkey to the country in 21 years. In February of the same year, Turkish President Abdullah Gül also visited Bangladesh.
With a population that practices a Sufi understanding of Islam -- which is in harmony with their Bengali culture and rules out any divisions between the people -- as well as a government that stands an equal distance from all religions, the country draws a very democratic image. Having a predominantly Muslim population (88 percent), the country embraces all other religions, including Hindu, Buddhism and Christianity. “The Constitution of Bangladesh allows all citizens the freedom to practice their religion, based on the idea that the state does not interfere in their religious practices,” stated Rahman.
Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan, acquiring independence for its Bengali-speaking nation in 1971. Rahman claimed that the Turkish struggle for independence inspired Bengalis deeply during their own fight for independence.
Bangladesh has experienced two military coups since it first gained independence. The first coup was staged by Gen. Ziaur Rahman in 1975, who was interestingly elected president in the national elections of 1977. Another military coup came in 1981 and continued until 1991. With a political movement for civilian politics in 1991, the military government stepped aside, and from then on the country has practiced full democracy.
Asserting that the political experiences of Bangladesh and Turkey are also similar in terms of sidelining the military from politics in recent times, Rahman feels that Turkey and Bangladesh could share their democratic experiences with “their brothers” in the Middle Eastern states and assist them during their transitional period following the Arab Spring.
Rahman also mentioned that the message of Sufism can be applied as an antidote to the present conflicts in the Middle East, not only down religious but also sectarian lines. “The governments in the Muslim world have the responsibility to preach tolerance; this is the main message. … Muslims are divided down many lines, and these lines are artificial lines, created by the people who do not want Muslims to be united,” the ambassador remarked, claiming that the picture in the Middle East of chaos and conflict would be very different if the main spirit of Sufism had been practiced.
Rahman acknowledged that the Sufi version of Islam, which is practiced in Bangladesh, came to the country from Konya. He claimed that Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi is a household name in Bangladesh and everybody knows about him.
However, Rahman lamented that Bangladesh is not very known in Turkey, despite the cultural and religious affinity and the common past between the nations dating back to 1920. “When Turkey was struggling for its independence in the 1920s, Bengali people sent military and financial assistance to Turkey,” he stated.
Picture: Bangladeshi Ambassador to Turkey Zulfiqur Rahman spoke on bilateral relations in an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman. Photo: Today's Zaman, Mevlüt Karabulut.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Lahore: Renowned Sufi singer Iqbal Bahu passed away after protracted illness here on Saturday. He was 60.
Bahu, known for his ‘Sufiana’ and Arifana Kalam (poetry of saints) was shifted to a local hospital where he died of cardiac arrest. His funeral was offered in Iqbal Town near his residence in Satluj Block.
Mohammad Iqbal Bahu began his career from Radio Pakistan and later performed for Pakistan Television. He was famous for singing Heer (poetry of Waris Shah).
Born in Gurdaspur, Indian Punjab, his family migrated to Pakistan after independence and settled in Lahore.
He mastered the Sufi tradition of well-known Sufi saint Hazrat Sultan Bahu and was awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtaiz in 2008. Literary Originations expressed grief over the demise of famous Sufi singer.
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji`un; Qur'an 2:156
'Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return'
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The Fight for Kashmir’s Soul: Wahhabis. Deobandis. Tablighi Jamaat. Orthodox outfits have been turning the Valley into a bastion of puritanical Islam. But the Sufis are fighting back to regain their moorings.
A colourful procession stretched a mile long along the picturesque Dal lake. A truck carrying preachers in green turbans was followed by thousands of faithfuls waving green flags. Some people were busy at makeshift kitchens on the roadside where tehri (turmeric-dyed rice), salt tea and kehwa were served to the devotees.
The occasion was not a political rally but the celebration of Eid Milad (Prophet’s birthday) on 12 February. Organised by Minhajul Islam, a newly-floated Barelvi outfit, the procession was a not-so-veiled attempt to reassert the Valley’s Sufi tradition and reclaim the religious space ceded to the conservative Wahhabi Islam.
It was the first time in the past two decades that the festival attracted such a massive crowd — estimated to be around 1 lakh [one hundred thousand] people.
Similar events were held at shrines housing the Prophet’s relics. Bazaars and government offices were lit up, adding to the festive air. Understandably, this uninhibited display of festivities didn’t go down well with the adherents of puritanical Islam, who want celebrations to be “austere and exclusively devoted to worship”.
Over the past two decades, the orthodox Deobandi Islam has spread through an extensive network of madrassas, followed by the Wahhabi Islam propagated by the Jamiat Ahle Hadith (JAH). Together, they have gone a long way in reshaping the Valley’s religious landscape.
The JAH owns around 700 mosques, 150 schools and claims a membership of 15 lakh people, which has made it an influential entity even though it doesn’t indulge in any demonstrative political activity.
It is between these religious traditions — antithetical in their stance on Islam — that Kashmir is getting inexorably split. Even though the conflict is not yet out in the open, the two religious sects are busy building up their mutually exclusive domains that don’t see eye to eye.
It is a battle for the soul of Kashmir between the Valley’s Sufi moorings and its newfound fascination with a mix of Deobandi and Wahhabi Islam.
After having a free run in the Valley for the past two decades, conservative Islam, which saw its influence rise with the growth of the separatist movement, is confronted with a sudden proliferation of Barelvi outfits. In the past four years, several Barelvi organisations claiming to be the custodians of Kashmir’s Sufi moorings have sprung up to challenge the growing power of the Wahhabi faith.
“We are here to resurrect Sufi Islam,” says Minhajul Islam chief Maulana Mohiudin Naqeeb, who thinks Wahhabism is primarily a political strain of Islam. “It is the Sufis who brought Islam to the Valley. Their shrines have a spiritual significance as they mediate our relationship with God. Nobody should stop us from visiting them.”
Minhajul Islam is part of an amalgam of 45 Barelvi outfits called Karwan-e-Islam, which is working for the revival of the Valley’s “Sufi soul”. The alliance is led by Maulana Ghulam Rasool Hami, the Imam at Srinagar’s Dastigeer Sahib, one of Kashmir’s pre-eminent Sufi shrines.
The Karwan-e-Islam has plans to establish the Valley’s first Sufi university, named after Sheikh-ul-Alam, Kashmir’s patron saint. The university, besides teaching all modern subjects, will sponsor research on Kashmir’s Sufi saints.
However, the proposal is still hanging fire with the state government, which, incidentally is also sitting over a similar proposal from the JAH. In fact, the government has already allotted land for the Jamiat university, to be called Transworld Muslim University. But the final nod has yet to come after differences arose during discussions in the Assembly in 2009.
But the bid for the universities — Minhajul Islam also has an individual proposal to revive Shah-i-Hamdan’s Sufi university at the shrine of Makhdoom Sahib — is a sideshow to the competitive grassroots work that is redrawing the battlelines.
If a recent study by the Union home ministry is anything to go by, a majority of youth are seeking refuge in religion. And a substantial portion of them make up the ranks of conservative Islam, propagated by the JAH and Darul Ulooms inspired by the Deobandi school of thought.
This generation rejects the idea of the Sufi shrines being a source of salvation or the saints being the agency mediating the connection between their followers and God.
These youth are not satisfied with their individual sense of salvation. They want to transform society. Over the past two decades, their sphere of operation has widened from the Darul Ulooms into everyday community life. A new debate about the nature of “essential Islam” is raging in Kashmiri households. As a result, there is an emerging polarisation that is not easily discernible to the naked eye.
Ordinary Kashmiri households are a living proof of this new reality. One such house is that of Sufi-oriented Abdul Gafoor at Ganderbal. Two years ago, his trendy, jeans-wearing son Sajid Gafoor, 23, went through a sudden spiritual transformation after his chance association with the followers of Tablighi Jamaat, an offshoot of the proponents of conservative Islam. He started praying five times a day, donned a skullcap and grew a long beard. And it wasn’t long before he started questioning his parents’ faith in Sufi dargahs, saying the shrines had no divine authority and the saints buried there were mere mortals.
“He told us we were committing shirk (worshipping anyone other than God) and therefore transgressing the boundaries of religion. Our rebuff made him only more rebellious,” says Gafoor. “But we told him that Kashmir is a Pir Waer (Valley of dervishes) and it was because of these dervishes that Islam had spread here.”
The tension at Gafoor’s house, if not transparently evident, is palpable in the evolving religious discourse of the Valley. It plays out in every locality, village and mosque with the debate centered on the rival claims to the allegiance to what is perceived to be bona fide Islam.
Some people such as Sufi scholar Hameed Naseem Rafiabadi call this transformation one of the most radical in the 700-year Islamic history in the Valley — a sweeping transition from the Sufi tradition to the puritanical Islam. “A few decades ago, it was only a few families in Srinagar who espoused conservative Islam. Now, there are thousands of followers, a constituency that is now duly played to by the political parties,” says Rafiabadi, the author of the book Islam and Sufism in Kashmir.
But there is now a deliberate effort to reverse this orthodox juggernaut. And it is here that things are getting complex. For the first time in history, Sufi Islam is getting organised and aggressively promoting devotion to shrines. What is more, there is now a competitive race to enlist followers.
“We have around 4,000 khatibs (prayer-leaders) and 30,000 more are undergoing training,” says Karwan-e-Islam head Hami. The amalgam also has 50 Darul Ulooms and madrassas where they teach Quran and Hadith. “Around 30,000 students study in the madrassas but we plan to take the number to three lakh in another five years.”
Karwan-e-Islam also plans to hold an international Islamic conference in May where it will invite leading Sufi scholars such as Allaudin Siddiqui from the UK, Syed Ali Jami of Egypt, Dr Tahir-ul-Qadiri and Alama Hanif-u-Din from Pakistan and Sheikh Abubaker Shafi from Kerala, besides a number of others from Central Asia.
On the other hand, the JAH is pinning its hopes on the expected visit of the Imam of Mecca later this year. “We have invited him and he has assured that he will come,” says JAH general secretary Abdul Rehman Bhat. With 700 mosques and 150 Darul Ulooms, JAH has already deeply entrenched itself in the Valley. “We have two part-time madrasas in every village,” says Bhat.
Similarly, the Deobandis have networked the Valley with some of the biggest Darul Ulooms in the state. Their Darul Uloom at Poonch has around 1,500 students and the one at Bandipora has 1,000 students. The Deobandis also have two major Darul Ulooms in Srinagar. They are the centres of exclusive religious learning, which between them turn out hundreds of moulvis and a number of muftis who then enter mainstream Kashmiri life and try to remould it in their own image.
But Barelvis don’t think Wahhabism encompasses the full gamut of faith. “Sufism takes care of Zahir and Batin (exterior and interior self ) whereas other schools of thought focus exclusively on the exterior meaning of Quran and Hadith,” says Hami. “We believe that only Sufism helps in full development of spirituality, recycles our self and liberates us from all ills.”
However, senior JAH leader Maulana Riyaz Ahmad says there is only one authentic version of Islam — “one prescribed by God and his Prophet”. He suspects there are deliberate efforts to “twist Islam” to suit the needs of the establishment.
“There cannot be a compromise Islam. Islamic principles cannot be adapted to taste,” says Ahmad, who is the brother of the late JAH president Maulana Showkat, who was killed in an IED explosion on 8 April 2011. “But we aren’t worried. Even if one percent follow the true path of Islam, they can usher in a revolution.”
BUT THE issue doesn’t end with this deepening polarisation. What is vitiating the atmosphere is the endemic perception about the government’s role in setting up Barelvi organisations as a counter to the proponents of conservative Islam. Equally, the conservatives themselves are not free of blame. They are also suspected to be the recipients of foreign funding.
Lending some credence to these suspicions was the home ministry’s reply to an RTI last December, in which it revealed that 362 madrassas in Jammu & Kashmir had been funded under the Scheme Providing Quality Education. However, all the religious outfits have denied any kind of government funding with Hami even holding a press conference to distance his madrassas from the controversy.
Besides, the distance both the Barelvis and conservatives have maintained from the politics of Kashmir have sowed doubts about their ideological outlook, more so in the separatist quarters who tellingly point to their silence through the successive summer revolts from 2008-10.
“We are witnessing the growth of an army of maulanas who maintain a safe distance from the ongoing turmoil in the state. But at the same time they are splitting the society along sectarian lines. We see their emergence as part of a deliberate strategy to weaken the movement,” says a leader of hardline Hurriyat, an amalgam that is otherwise accused of being a proponent of fundamentalist Islam.
A moderate Hurriyat leader has a similar take. “We have a hunch that there is a well-planned conspiracy to embroil Kashmir in a sectarian war. We look worryingly at this development,” he says.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka
Monday, March 26, 2012
Al Shabab fighters seize central Somali town: Shabab commanders call on fighters to intensify attacks against government and regional forces
Mogadishu: Al-Qaeda-allied gunmen seized the key town of Dhusamareb in central Somalia Tuesday, as Shabab commanders called on fighters to intensify attacks against government and regional forces.
Witnesses said Shabab fighters on pickup trucks mounted with machine guns entered the town at dawn, driving out the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, an Ethiopian-backed force who follow Somalia’s traditional Sufi branch of Islam.
“The mujahideen fighters stormed the district after attacking it from two directions early this morning, there was little fighting as the apostate militia fled the city,” Shabab commander Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim said by telephone. “With God’s help, we will be advancing onto other districts in the region,” he added.
Dhusamareb is a strategic town in the central Galgadud region controlling a key road, and its capture marks a notable fight back by the hardline Shabab, who have pulled out of several key areas in recent months.
Rival armed groups have repeatedly fought over Dhusamareb, controlling it briefly until fresh attacks root them out.
“Al-Shabab fighters riding on vehicles mounted with guns entered the town after fighting with the Sufis, the city has now fallen and they are setting up their base in the police station,” said Abdirahman Moalim, an elder in the city. “Al-Shabab is in full control, the other fighters (Ahlu Sunna) have left,” said Ahmed Mohamud, another resident.
The town’s capture comes as Shabab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane called on fighters to renew attacks against the 10,000-strong African Union force, which props up the weak Western-backed government in the anarchic capital Mogadishu.
“They (AU forces) will continue to face hard hitting guerilla attacks that will destroy them, just as armies that were more powerful than them were destroyed,” Godane said in a broadcast on the pro-Shabab Radio Al-Andalus. Godane, who is also known as Abu Zubayr, also called for attacks in the northern autonomous Puntland region, which is allied to the Western-backed government.
“Mujahideen fighters in areas controlled by the apostate Puntland government must remain unified, you must strengthen your battle fronts until you ensure the Islamic flag flies over the whole region,” he added.
The Shabab face increasing pressure from pro-government forces and regional armies, and last month lost control of their strategic base of Baidoa to Ethiopian troops, the second major loss in six months after abandoning fixed bases in capital.
Kenya sent its troops into southern Somalia to fight them in October, blaming the Shabab for the abductions of several foreigners. Its troops have now been incorporated into the AU force.
Ethiopian forces entered Somalia a month later in the west, as international diplomatic, military and relief efforts focus on ending the conflict in the south.
However, experts warn the Shabab are far from defeated and remain a major threat, especially now they have in many areas switched to guerrilla tactics.
The Shabab and other militia groups have tried to exploit the power vacuum in Somalia, which has had no effective central authority since plunging into war 21 years ago when president Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.
[Picture: Location of Somalia; Orthographic projection map. Photo: Wiki]
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Lost spring in Lahore: With the ban on Basant in its fifth year, the city is a poorer place
Lahore, a centre for the arts and learning in the early 20th century, has been the custodian of a plural, vibrant culture for decades. Its walled city, unlike several other old settlements, has continued to survive despite the expansion of the city. So have its peculiar features: its dialects, cuisine, community linkages and, of course, rich festivals such as Basant. As the capital of Punjab, Lahore used to celebrate Basant — the arrival of spring — in a colourful manner.
Since the medieval times, Basant was acknowledged and celebrated by the Chishti saints. Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi turned it into an act of devotion, and Amir Khusrau’s songs captured the multi-layered evolution of this festival.
Punjabi poets such as Shah Hussain gave a Sufi flavour to it. Hussain, in one of his kaafis, says: “The Beloved holds the string in his hand, and I am His kite.” The festival offered a meaning to all and sundry: from playful kids to lovers and Sufis; from profit-seekers who developed livelihoods around the festival to the community as a whole.
Basant was celebrated by all communities prior to Partition: Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs treated it as a Lahori festival with an identity linked to the city. In this milieu, Allama Iqbal was known to be an avid kite flier. But the post-1947 rise of clerics meant that inclusive cultural practices were to be treated with suspicion. For many decades, the Pakistani mullahs have ranted against Basant as an “unIslamic” festival and one that endangered public morality.
Unfazed by these fatwas, Lahoris continued with the festival. It even received state patronage on various occasions. A citizen of Lahore, Mian Yousaf Salahuddin (the grandson of Iqbal), turned his old Lahore haveli into a cultural hub and, over time, Basant celebrations became an international attraction. By the 1990s, proactive civil servants turned Basant into a great regional festival. Lahore’s then deputy commissioner, Kamran Lashari, provided full backing to the holding of this event in the 1990s. That was perhaps the time when Basant also became most controversial due to its scale and the increased hazards of unregulated kite-flying in which metallic or chemical-coated string was used.
The use of this string instead of the traditional dor caused many deaths each year and the local government was unable to enforce regulations on its usage. The metallic wire would get entangled in electricity cables in the old city, leading to electrocution. The courts intervened and asked the Punjab government to ban the festival in 2007.
Ironically, the banning of Basant did not take place in the name of religion but through a public interest litigation. However, the ideological opponents of Basant have been happy with the outcome and have created an uproar each time someone raised the question of reviving Basant after putting safety measures in place. But Lahore is a poorer place now. It is devoid of this public celebration, especially for thousands of impoverished workers in the old city and neighbouring towns where Basant was celebrated with great fervour.
The last time a major Basant controversy erupted was when Punjab’s constitutional head was the slain governor, Salman Taseer. He was keen on the festival restarting in his tenure and he also asked the provincial government to introduce the required measures. But the court ban could not be undone. Thus, in 2009, he held a Basant festival in the lawns of the Governor House and made it an open house for Lahoris. Little did he know that, in a couple of years, a bigot would kill him for his secular and tolerant views.
Like several other realities of Pakistan, Basant deaths are a governance failure. Local governments tasked with the mandate to enforce social regulation are no longer there. Pervez Musharraf had introduced a system of devolved governance, which was undone by the ruling PPP and its allies and now no political party wants to revive them. With local participation, the use of inappropriate kite-flying materials could be checked and controlled.
But the PML-N, the ruling party in Punjab with a conservative support base, and an even more conservative judiciary have truncated a cultural continuum. It is a separate matter that terror outfits which celebrate death in the name of religion and preach violence are free to operate while a people’s festival is under intense judicial scrutiny and executive control.
Such are the ironies of contemporary Pakistan. The rich and the powerful organise their private parties with great fanfare in well-manicured gardens, while the ordinary people have to be content with doses of public safety and disguised religiosity.
Lahore’s true spring will return the day the Basant ban is removed and its pluralism is rescued from further vandalism in the name of “public interest”.
Rumi is a writer from Lahore
[Picture: A kite shop in India. Photo: Wiki.]
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Surrounded by engrossing stories of Sufi saints, tales of emperors & poets is none than Delhi’s well-known village named after Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, well known Sufi saint.
At the epicenter of the area is Dargah of Nizamuddin, set in a medieval ambience of narrow alleys and bazaars. Because of its association with the saint, the area became a popular site for burials – for emperors, saints, nobility, royalty, warriors and poets alike.
While one takes the Nizam Piya trail which details the monuments in and around Nizamuddin, Himanshu Verma, an emerging arts curator, talks about Humanyun’s Tomb, one of the many monuments which lies in the vicinity,
“Humayun succeeded Babur and had ruled India for nearly a decade before being ousted by Sher Shah Suri. Taking refuge at the court of Safavid ruler, the Shah of Persia, Humayun regained control over Delhi in 1555 AD. Unfortunately, he met with an untimely death after falling from the stairs of Sher Mandal library. Bega Begum also known as Haji Begum, Humayun’s Persian wife, supervised the construction of a tomb for her husband. This tomb was the first building to be constructed during the reign of Akbar and the site chosen for it was on the banks of the Yamuna adjoining the shrine of the Sufi saint of Chisti, Nizamuddin Auliya.”
Located exactly opposite Humayun's Tomb is Nizamuddin Dargah. It is the mausoleum of Nizamuddin Auliya, one of the best known Sufi saints. This dargah is not only revered by Muslims but includes visitors from other faiths, including Hindus.
Built by Muhammad Bin-Tughlaq of Delhi Sultanate this mausoleum also includes the tombs of Amir Khusrau, one of the eminent Muslim poets and Jahanara Begum along with the tomb of Inayat Khan located within the complex.
Today, the dargah is surrounded by a bustling marketplace complex, surrounded by a colony of staunch Muslims. According to legend, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya was chiefly responsible for spreading Sufism to every corner of India. Born in 1236 and known as Sheikh Nizamuddin, he came to Delhi along with his mother and became a disciple of Sheikh Farid of Shakargunj.
It is often said that Hazrat Nizamuddin was the first to predict that the city of Tughlaqabad which was the capital of Delhi Sultanate would never prosper to glory and Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq would never return to Delhi to rule the Sultanate. His prediction came true and since then it was believed that all his predictions would come true.
He died in 1325 and laid to rest in this mausoleum constructed by Muhammad Bin-Tughlaq who decorated it with white marbles inscriptions from the Quran.
Qawwalis at the Nizamuddin Dargah are very well-known and boast of their own loyal following.
The colony around is named after the saint and is divided into two parts along Mathura Road - Nizamuddin West where the Dargah step and a lively market dominated by Muslim vendors is located, and Nizamuddin East, an upper-class residential area situated between Humayun's Tomb and Nizamuddin Railway Station.
The other important monuments in this heritage area include Chausath Khamba, Mirza Ghalib's tomb, Barakhamba, Blue Gumbad at the roundabout and Lal Mahal.
But while the area bears such a rich history, today the area reels under the influence of drug abuse, crime and poverty all of which remain a big problem for the neighbourhood.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Filming of ‘Ishq Khuda’ begins
The filming of Pakistani feature film ‘Ishq Khuda’ began yesterday (Sunday). The cast and crew left for Swat yesterday, which included, Ahsan Khan and Meera.
Songs and scenes containing both of the stars will be filmed in a 14-day spell. After the completion of the first spell the crew will take a short break and than a next spell would be filmed near Sargodha in Soon Sakesar Valley.
The other cast members will be joining them soon as well. Some portions of the film would be shot in Lahore also.
The director of the film is Shehzad Rafique while Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sanam Marvi and Shazia Manzoor have sung the songs for the film.
The music is composed by Wajahat Attre and lyrics are penned by Riazur Rehman Sagar.
The film is based on Sufism and is slated for an Eidul Fitr this year.
[Poster from Galaxy Lollywood.]
Thursday, March 22, 2012
At cave no. 9, Ajanta Caves, Akhtar Pervez is perched on a stone, watching tourists walking in. He offers to tell them the story of these caves.
His narrative is delivered in a loud and clear voice. His story is not like the parroted lines of professional guides; instead Pervez, 28, talks about the caves as if they were old friends.
They are old friends, for Pervez, a resident of Aurangabad, grew up in their shadow. “Researchers, painters and photographers have come here and they needed help. I would assist them. They, in turn, gave me a better understanding of the area,” he says.
Pervez isn’t the only local who has been roped in to guide visitors and academics through monuments. A number of initiatives across India have realised that localites bring a personal perspective into a narrative about a site.
Their renditions give history an emotional intensity and turn ruins into living memories.
In Delhi’s crowded Nizamuddin Basti, for instance, a heritage walk is in progress. At the helm is local lad Amir Ahmed, who points out the important places and the events that played out centuries ago. Yet, two years ago, Ahmed had no idea of the rich past of his birthplace.
“I used to play cricket here with other boys. We would only regard these structures as purani imarat,” he says.
He was trained in heritage by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). Today, Ahmed coordinates the volunteer’s self-help group of AKTC.
“Our group consists of 15 boys from the basti. We undergo training, update our knowledge, plan routes and deliver talks to the locals about conservation,” he says.
The group also conducts heritage walks at Humayun’s Tomb and recently started the Sufi Trail by Rickshaw to include Sufi shrines around Nizamuddin.
In Bhuj, Gujarat, 20-year-old Vimal Shah was selected for training at the tourism programme by Kutch University. Now, he works as a guide for three months during the annual Kutch Festival.
“I have grown up in Bhuj and take pride in showing people around. It makes me realise the heritage value of this place,” he says.
Deeti Ray, Programme Officer, Cultural Revival, AKTC, says,
“Our idea was to empower the locals. This would make them sensitive to their area and aid conservation efforts as well as provide employment opportunity to the locals. The self-help volunteer groups are very independent. After we train them, they plan walks and activities independently. We are only facilitators.”
[Picture: Ajanta Caves, entrance of cave no. 9. Photo: Wiki.]
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Mumbai: There are two types of Islamic preachers: the incendiary supremacists who justify violence in the name of avenging real or imagined injustice and the pacifist moderates who hail forgiveness as the best human virtue.
Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri belongs to the second category. Based in Canada since 2006, the Pakistan-born eminent Sufi scholar and preacher has been on al-Qaida's hit list ever since he issued a 600-page fatwa against terrorism on March 20, 2010.
He has also drawn flak from a group of orthodox fellow religionists for propagating an Islam which, his detractors say, is too "inclusive" and "forward-looking".
This past week, Qadri, who was in the city on the invitation of Minhaj-ul-Quran , addressed two gatherings in the city. Fundamentalist organisations did everything in their power to stop him -the Raza Academy even approached the Bombay High Court, demanding a ban on his sermons in the city as that could cause trouble.
The court admitted the petition, but allowed Qadri to deliver his lectures, saying it would hear the tapes later.
Part of the fundamentalists' ammunition against the preacher was that two weeks earlier, while addressing a crowd in Kutch, he had allegedly "thanked" Narendra Modi -an act which raised a storm in Gujarat's Urdu press. So, does he really admire Modi?
"I didn't even utter Modi's name," says Qadri. "I just thanked the state government which provided me with ZPlus security and facilitated my address. It was my moral responsibility to thank them."
Many scholars before Qadri have issued fatwas against terrorism. But Qadri's fatwa, given greater legitimacy by the endorsement of the famous Cairo based seminary Al-Azhar University, is an absolute refutation of all terrorism without any excuses.
Perhaps the al-Qaida got offended and marked him because of the line in the fatwa which said:
"It can in no way be permissible to keep foreign delegates under unlawful custody and murder them and other peaceful non-Muslim citizens in retaliation for the interference, unjust activities and aggressive advances of their countries. The one who does has no relation to Islam and the Holy Prophet."
In Mumbai, addressing the packed Birla Matoshri Sabhagar hall, Qadri had declared: "I am not saying anything new. I am just communicating the true spirit of Islam which is tolerant, inclusive and forgiving." Raising his fist, the frail preacher in black robe and Sufi-style skull cap said: "I am an enemy of terrorism and don't care if I am killed saving humanity from this scourge."
The preacher challenges critics to counter the anti-terrorism fatwa he issued.
"Why hasn't anybody written even a pamphlet rebutting what I said in the fatwa?" he asks. However, he says he prefers not to reply to personal attack and goes on to recall his days in Pakistan when a maulvi wrote against him in a journal for years.
"On my silence, the maulvi once shouted at a meeting, 'What did I get from attacking him all these years? He has not replied even once.'"
Qadri terms as "criminal" the silence of the majority on the depredations of a handful of misguided youth. "If there were a dozen voices like mine within the Muslim community, things would have been different," he says.
The preacher has written over 1,000 books, and the DVDs and CDs of his sermons sell like hot cakes in Muslim pockets, from the markets of Multan to the bylanes of Bhendi Bazaar. No wonder, thousands turned out to hear him live.
[Picture: Shaykh Tahir ul-Qadri addressing people in Bangalore, India, Saturday, March 10. Photo: Minhaj-ul-Quran. ]
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Studying Islam amid the strife in Yemen: Thousands from all over world pursue religious interest in the country
Mukalla: Despite fierce fighting between Yemen rivals during the political crisis in Yemen, Indonesian man Faiz has never thought of leaving Yemen and going home. He is among hundreds of foreign students who prefer Yemen as a place for studying Islam.
"I feel safe here," he told Gulf News. "I'm studying in Hadramout province because it is the source of knowledge that spreads all over Indonesia. I also feel at home here. [Islamic] scholars are faithful."
Faiz, 39, is a postgraduate student at local private university in the port city of Mukalla. "The last time I visited Indonesia was in 1999. I will only go home when I finish my PhD."
While Yemen students travel abroad to seek knowledge, many foreign students see this poverty-stricken country as an ideal place for studying Islam.
During the recent crisis in Yemen, only a few overseas students left the country. Foreign students who particularly come to Yemen for religious studies are spread all over the country. Foreign students can be found at Iman University in Sana'a, Dar Al Hadeth in Sa'ada, and others. However, the southern province of Hadramout has taken the lion's share of foreign students.
A diplomat in the Indonesian embassy in Sana'a told Gulf News that there are approximately 1,800 Indonesian students still studying in the province.
"The majority of our students are studying in Hadramout. The place is calm. Students who were studying outside Hadramout had been asked to leave the country during the crisis."
Tarem, a small city in the centre of Hadramout's long valley, has been known for centuries as a centre for Sufis. Supporters of the Sufi school in Hadramout proudly say that their grandfathers played a great role in spreading Islam in Asia and Africa.
Hadrami missionaries and traders interacted with host communities and convinced millions of people to embrace Islam. Local people in Tarem say that the grandchildren of early missionaries were sent back to Tarem and this explains why the city is awash with hundreds of students from different countries.
"I believe Western students prefer to study in Tarem because of the spiritual tranquillity that characterises the region," said Walead Mosaad, an American student who studies in Tarem.
"Most of us come from bustling metropolises where the intrusion and abrasiveness of modern life is hard to escape. Additionally, scholars from Tarem have an authentic chain back to the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and thus faithfully reflect his teachings without the interference of extremist ideologies and political agendas," he added.
In Tarem, there are many Islamic institutes that follow the traditional method of teaching through circles and recitation. Dar Al Mustafa, Ribat Tarem, and the college of Sharia are the main places that attract foreign students.
After graduating from Tarem schools, Walead thinks the Hadramout Sufi school of thought is an example of the normative teachings of Islam along with the teaching of Azhar in Egypt, of the Qarawiyyin in Morocco, and of the Umayyad mosque and traditional centres in Syria.
"We believe that the school of Hadramout as well as the schools mentioned above reflect authentic understandings of the Prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) teachings, and therefore, are entirely incompatible with extremist ideologies," said Walead.
New foreign students have special classes that train them in Arabic, after which they can join the normal student body that is fluent in Arabic.
"The main teachings here revolve around three themes: Knowledge [which includes Quran, hadith, spiritual purification, and dawa [understanding of Islamic teachings engagement and dissemination]," he said. "There is a sister school close to Dar Al Mustafa called Dar Al Zahra that exclusively teaches female students."
Far from the city of Tarem, we visited another educational establishment that teaches foreign students. Mukalla-based Ahgaff University was established in 1994. The university's College of Sharia has graduated hundreds of foreign students.
"There are many Muslim students from outside Yemen studying at Ahgaff university," said Zain Bin Aqeel, the director of foreign student department at the university.
"We don't call them foreigners. They are Muslims. Most of them study Islamic studies at Sharia in Tarem. A few of them are also studying other scientific majors like computers and business. Studying Islamic studies at the university is free of charge."
"The university aims to create a bridge of communication between Hadramout and countries in Asia and Africa to send the moderate soul of Islam."
To ensure no foreign students leave the university and join local terrorists groups in Yemen, the university has imposed many preventive conditions.
"We don't accept any student unless he/she gets a letter of recommendation from our partner institutions in his/her homeland. We have strong links with many clerics and moderate Islamic institutions in Indonesia and Africa."
Only students of those clerics are admitted to Zain's university. "If the student was accredited, he should also fulfil other normal requirements like having a high school certificate, is healthy and pays fees [for scientific majors].The student should deposit an amount of money for buying a return ticket in case of emergency. The university also keeps the student's passport."
Upon arrival, the university informs the student's embassy, ministry of higher education and security services in Yemen. "We do our best to keep our students away from terrorists. But in the age of globalisation, we can't fully guarantee immunity from extremist ideology."
Zain doesn't have an accurate figure of the foreign student who graduate from his university, but he put the number at thousands.
"Thanks to Allah, thousands of foreign students graduated from our university and all returned to their countries, bearing the moderate thought of Islam. We have students from Malaysia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, but most of students are from Indonesia."
Now, there are approximately 800 students at Ahgaff university.
"Unlike Yemen students, foreigners are given special courses to clear out some misconceptions about Islam that the students may have acquired from the media."
In other parts of Yemen, foreign students have to pay a heavy price for living in a troubled area. When Shiite rebels besieged, in October last year, a local Salafi school in the northern troubled province of Sa'ada, foreign students got drawn into the fighting with the rebels. Local human right activists said that dozens of French, Indonesian, Indian, British, Ethiopian, Somali, Sudanese, Algerians and other nationalities have been killed in Sa'ada sectarian battles.
Not monitored by government
Hamoud Al Hitar, the former Minister of Endowment and Preacher, told Gulf News that Yemen has been known for centuries as an Islamic hub and students from all over the Islamic world come to the country to study Islam in Zabed, Tarem, Sa'ada, Jebala and Taiz.
Despite the influx of foreign students, Al Hitar said Yemen's religious schools were not fertile ground for terrorism and the surge of foreign students in Yemen had nothing to do with the spread of Al Qaida.
"Yemen schools have moderate views. We shouldn't be concerned over the radicalisation of foreign students. Those who fight with Al Qaida have been recruited outside Yemen."
He admitted these schools were not carefully monitored by the government. Hamoud Al Hitar claimed that in 2007, when he was in office, the ministry suggested sharing the responsibly of monitoring Islamic centres in Yemen with the ministry of education.
"We agreed that we create a department in the ministry of Endowment to solely observes the schools in terms of curricula, teachers, and sources of income. When the proposal was sent to the cabinet, security parties stepped in and killed it in the cradle. They want these schools remain out of our eyes."
Picture: Students at Tarem city in Hadramout province,the epicentre of Islamic education. Photo: Saeed Al Batati/Gulf News.
Monday, March 19, 2012
The Sultanate’s return: Tracing the origins of Islamic Bangladesh.
In 1342, Shamsuddin Iliyas Shah, ruler of the kingdom of Shatgaon, annexed two other Muslim kingdoms in medieval Bengal, shortly after all three had declared independence from Delhi.
This enlarged kingdom, now called the Sultanate of Bangala, survived as an independent country for over 230 years, and in some sense can be considered a prototype for present-day Bangladesh.
Much of what Bangladeshis have inherited as their cultural and political legacy comes from the sultanate era: the name of the country, the currency, religious leanings, language and literature, many folk and spiritual traditions, and roughly the current territorial borders. Indeed, the political identity of Bengal through the ages – first as an independent sultanate, then as a Mughal, British and Pakistani province, and finally as a republic – has its genesis in this period.
Despite establishing a strong, self-assured and independent kingdom, however, the Iliyas Shah dynasty, hailing originally from Iran, remained a foreign presence in the Ganga delta.
Whether the largely Bengali-speaking Hindu and Buddhist population viewed their Persian-speaking Muslim rulers as occupiers cannot be known for certain. However, since as early as the reign of Shamsuddin Iliyas Shah’s grandson Gyasuddin Azam Shah, the dynasty’s rule was being undermined by an influential Hindu aristocratic landlord, Raja Ganesh.
In 1410, Ganesh successfully captured the state – aided in part by the infighting within the Shah family, with sons killing fathers for the throne – and became the de facto ruler of Bengal for the next five years.
Ostensibly, this rebellion was a reaction against the foreign nature of the sultanate administration; realistically, it was about control. Religious prejudices must also have played a significant part, as Raja Ganesh, upon seizing power, proceeded to persecute the Sufis of Pandua, site of what was then the largest mosque in Southasia.
Bengal had already become home to numerous Sufi saints of the Chishti order who, as was the custom of the time, enjoyed a close relationship with the king through a system of mutual patronage. A ruler’s legitimacy came from the moral endorsement implicit in his closeness to a respected saint. Conversely, the absence of patronage meant that the moral health of a reign could not be assured.
After coming to power, Raja Ganesh was neither afforded such patronage nor did he seek it, setting off alarm bells throughout the kingdom. Disturbed by the takeover, Nur Qutb i Alam, the foremost Sufi of Pandua, even invited the Muslim king of neighbouring Jaunpur to invade Bengal and overthrow the new king. Interestingly, however, Raja Ganesh was equally unpopular among the Hindu elite, whom he claimed to represent.
Chishti Sufis first entered Bengal in 1296. Shayekh Akhi Sirajuddin, the third saint of this order, arrived in 1357 on the command of his spiritual guide, Nizamuddin Awliya of Delhi. Sirajuddin left behind him a line of spiritual successors, of whom Nur Qutb was one.
Sufis were seen both by themselves and by the population as bringing social justice to a place with deep caste divisions, and where a militant Hinduism dealt heavy-handedly with Buddhists. Before the sultanate was established, a number of Sufis were killed for attempting to introduce social egalitarianism, and the rise of Raja Ganesh looked, for a time, like a return to the bad old days.
The intense power struggle that ensued between the Sufi saints and the new ruling dynasty finally ended with a compromise, whereby Ganesh’s son, Jadu, was allowed to ascend to the throne, but only after he converted to Islam.
The offer had originally been made to Ganesh himself, but he had declined. Evidently, Islam, above anything else, was the qualifier for ruling the sultanate, which for the first time was to be governed by a Bengali. This established the precedent that neither ethnicity nor lineage was of consequence in the government of Bengal, but also, more crucially, it preserved Islam as the moral authority in the Ganga delta.
As the first Bengali Muslim king, Jadu, now renamed Jallauddin, set off a process that saw Islam in the delta uncoupled from Persian-Arabic culture. Throughout his reign, Islam continued to fuse inextricably with Bengali culture, as is evident in the architecture of that period and in the development of Bangla as a parallel court language. Thus, by indigenising itself, the sultanate was able to outlive the dynasty that established it, and it would continue to exist as such despite several changes in leadership.
A state had emerged, and a nation – a Bengali Muslim one – was following close on its heels.
The Iliyas Shah family did return to power after the rule of Jallauddin’s son. But instead of reversing the policies of its Bengali predecessors, the reinstated dynasty continued to expand the process of indigenisation.
With the descendents of the Iranian Shah content to accommodate themselves in the new culture, the sultanate hastened to become a Bengali kingdom. This transformation signalled not just the robustness of Bengali civilisation, but also Islam’s ability to embed itself among the people it reached. To put it simply, Islam became Bengali, and Bengal became Muslim.
The Bengali sultanate reached its pinnacle under another ruling family – the Hussein Shah dynasty. After a series of coups and counter-coups by Abyssinian military officers, in 1493 Allauddin Hussein Shah came to power, ushering in the golden age of medieval Bengali history.
During this period, Bengali language and literature found patronage and subsequently proliferated throughout the sultanate. The system of imposing per capita tax on non-Muslims, called jizya, was abolished, and non-Muslims were also appointed to high ranks within the administration. Territorially, the sultanate expanded and also experienced an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity, during which Bengali Hindu society transformed to give rise to a fusion of Hindu mysticism and Sufism.
Mutual curiosity between different religious orders had existed in Bengal since as far back as the 12th century, when Amrtakunda (The pool of life), a Sanskrit manual on tantric yoga, was translated into Persian as Bahr al hayat, and into Arabic as Hawd al-hayat, and circulated as far away as Kashmir.
While the Sufis of the time sought to incorporate the esoteric philosophies and practices of local yogis into their own religious lives, the Hindu mystics began redefining their ideology according to the Sufi worship of divine love. And underlying both of these newer layers was a 1000-year-old Buddhist perspective.
The resulting confluence of these three traditions produced a spiritual practice reliant on devotional singing and chanting, called kirtan, as a means to both profess and transmit the love of God, manifested in this case as Krishna. The parallels between kirtan and Sufi practices such as qawwali and zikr are unmistakable. What makes the parallel clearer is that Gaur Vaishnavism, as this new cult came to be known, registered itself as a monotheistic religion and disregarded the traditional Hindu polytheistic perspective.
Naturally, this created friction with the Hindu orthodoxy. But the Muslim court, including King Hussain Shah and the Sufis, received the new religion favourably and allowed Sri Chaitanya, the founder, to propagate it freely throughout the delta.
It is possible that with its conceptual similarities to Sufism as well as its emphasis on casteless equality, the spread of Gaur Vaishnavism actually helped the proliferation of Sufi teaching, and eventually of Islam, in Bengal. However this is conjecture at best, and cannot be verified.
Whatever the reason, the Vaishnavis would later join forces with the Sufis to spawn the syncretic Baul tradition, arguably the most significant vehicle of spiritual enrichment in Bangladesh today.
The sultanate of Bengal became embroiled in the politics of northwest India once again when droves of Afghans fleeing the expanding Mughal Empire arrived in eastern India after 1526.
Finding themselves dislodged from power in Delhi and Kabul, these Afghans built an alternative nexus of power in Bihar and Bengal. Viewing the rising Sher Shah Suri in Bihar as a buffer between Bengal and the Mughals, Hussain Shah’s successor, Nusrat Shah, fostered friendly relations with leaders of the Pashtun influx.
His brother, however, was less astute, and his hostility towards Sher Shah brought an end to the sultanate’s neutrality in 1537 when it came to blows with the Afghans and lost. Bengal then became a launching pad for Sher Shah’s conquest of North India, expelling the second Mughal emperor, Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun, from Delhi.
Humayun later reconquered Delhi and parts of northwest India, but Bengal remained in the hands of Afghan kings until 1576. The next 30 years were a period of resistance against the advancing Jallauddin Muhammed Akbar, with an ebb and flow of success on either side.
Then, in 1605, the Mughals finally consolidated their rule in Bengal. This ended 233 years of sultanate independence and reintroduced Persian and Urdu into the Ganga delta – and with them, social elitism along foreign and local lines. The Mughal chauvinism evident in the new architecture and institutions of government would sideline Bengal’s own Muslim culture, threatening the existence of the unique syncretism nurtured by the sultans of Bengal.
Amazingly, however, despite remaining a province for almost 400 years thereafter, an independent Bengali state reappeared in 1971.
The creation of Bangladesh has put Bengali culture on centre stage once again, and encouraged a pluralistic secular environment where the Baul tradition and Bangla language, literature and art receive patronage in a way that they didn’t during the British, Mughal or Pakistani years.
Islam in Bengal is also far less dogmatic than it might have been had Bangladesh remained a part of Pakistan. From Bangladesh’s very beginning, all faiths have been allowed to practice freely, and numerous non-Muslims hold high positions in government departments.
In this way, then, the re-birth of the Bengali state can be seen as having brought with it its own revitalised worldview and cultural orientation, as well as a new commitment to the Bengali school of synthesised mysticism.
~ Zeeshan Khan is a Bangladeshi living in Australia, where he is currently writing his first book. He studied international relations and now works in media.
Picture: Mirhab (prayer niche) at Adina Mosque, Pandua. Photo: Zeeshan Khan/HS.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Rohi Mela: Poetry finds fertile soil in the Cholistan desert
Bahawalpur: This year saw the 11th Rohi Mela, a celebration Sufi poet Khawaja Ghulam Farid. The festival provides much-needed economic support to the people of Cholistan.
The organiser of the mela, Jalil Kohkar, told The Express Tribune that he finances it alone and faces several administrative difficulties. He said that the mela was the biggest event in the area and thousands of people attend. He regretted, though, that no security arrangements were made by the government.
Aside from the organiser’s difficulties, the thousands who turned up had a colourful and enjoyable experience.
Farid is an immensely respected poet. He came from the Chishti-Nizami Sufi orders, was born in Chachran Sharif and buried at Kot Mithan in the district of Rajanpur. His life story was similar to many Sufi poets: travelling from city to city, preaching peace. Farid was well-versed in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Sindhi, Braj, Bhasha and Punjabi.
His preachings and poetry also had a political bent, as he opposed British role in Bahawalpur. He said to ruler of Bahawalpur in one poem: “You rule yourself on your state and finish the police station of the British from your state.”
A love of Cholistan pervades his work. There are also many depictions of the desert life of Rohi Cholistan.
The mela was inaugurated by the current leader of the sufi order, Khawaja Moeen Koreja. The eleventh edition featured Cholistani singers, who recited the poetry of Farid, as well as other entertainments, such as camel shows, horse races, motorbike races, snake shows and wrestling. Moeen told The Express Tribune that the event was one of the most important cultural events in the region.
One of the singers, Shoukat Cholistani, told The Express Tribune that Farid’s poetry contains a love for the land and life of Cholistan, and for that reason people from the region appreciate him. Other singers also expressed their pride at singing the verses of the regional hero.
During the mela season, the organisers filled much of the land with tents so that people could stay at the event. There were also more than 200 stalls of Cholistani-related items, such as shoes, clothes and jewelry.
A free medical camp was set up by the Khawaja Farid Foundation. An eye camp was also set by the Al-Khidmat Foundation.
Picture: Khawaja Farid Stamp. Photo: Pakistan Post.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Pakistan's modernity: Between military and militancy
Pakistan's modernity is structured along two axes: neo-liberal nationalism and right-wing radical nationalism. The meeting of the two trajectories has turned Pakistan into a hybrid-theocratic state which encapsulates a mix of economic neo-liberalism, pockets of social liberalism, formal theocracy and larger spaces experiencing informal theocracy
There is a new kind of literature on Pakistan in the market which claims to present an alternative view of the country, a view that is more positive and talks of the huge potential of the Pakistani state to become a success story on par with the emerging economies of the world. Instead of focusing on religious radicalism, the war on terror, the problematic politics or the excessively powerful military, the new works highlight the progressive, liberal and democratic tendencies of the state and society. One of the key arguments presented in the new literature is that given some structural changes in politics, especially by replacing the traditional elite with the growing middle class, the country can be turned into a success story. The emphasis, thus, is on empowerment of the middle class, greater urbanisation, political order and economic development. This is the formula for socio- political and socio-economic modernity.
This essay examines the above notion and argues instead that this peculiar formula for modernity is deeply flawed. The empowerment of the middle class or economic progress does not automatically translate into liberal progressive modernity mainly due to the nature of the state.
Pakistan's modernity, I argue, is structured along two axes: neo-liberal nationalism and right-wing radical nationalism. While the neo-liberal nationalism axis depicts an authoritarian and top-down model of economic and political development marked with the expansion of a national security-obsessed middle class and ruling elite, the right-wing radical nationalism axis denotes the growth of religious radicalism and militancy as symbols of geopolitical modernity and anti-imperialism. The terms - military and militancy - are both used here in symbolic terms. While military denotes all forms of authoritarian behaviour, militancy refers to all the shades ranging from latent radicalism to extremism and religious fascism which will also be referred to here as jihadism. I also argue that liberalism is one of the many consequences of modernity, but not the only one. The meeting point of both trajectories has resulted in turning Pakistan into a hybrid-theocratic state which encapsulates a mix of economic neo-liberalism, pockets of social liberalism, formal theocracy and larger spaces experiencing informal theocracy.
The neoliberal-nationalism axis:
The new or alternative view literature is represented by three works: (a) Maleeha Lodhi's Pakistan: Beyond 'The Crisis State' (2011), (b) Anatol Lieven's Pakistan: A Hard Country (2011), and (c) Javed Jabbar's Pakistan - Unique Origins; Unique Destiny? (2011).
What is common in these books is a propensity to consider modernity as a "rational or social operation that is culture-neutral" (Taylor 1995: 25) which means looking at modernity purely in material terms and as a goal that can be fulfilled through good neo-liberal policies.
There are two angles of such scholarship: (a) take the emphasis away for any weakness or failure of the state from the civil and military bureaucracy to the political elite that is also considered the traditional elite, and (b) present an alternative formula for the country's progress through improving governance and transferring power to the middle class. This indicates a fair amount of heating up of the inner conflict between the traditional elite and those that aspire to and are taking place of the old elite.
Significance of armed forces: According to this type of literature, an alternative but successful Pakistan can be created by fulfilling certain sociopolitical conditions and honouring the right agents of change such as the urban middle class largely represented by the state bureaucracy, especially the military. All the three works highlight the significance of the armed forces as an organisation with an unquestioned reputation, especially in comparison with other players such as the politicians. This is not simple propagandist literature, but the type which is arguing for a structural sociopolitical shift - movement of power from the traditional elite to the emerging middle class.
Although modernity has several dimensions, the concept of modernity envisioned by this set of authors has a strong neo-liberal flavour that espouses economic progress as a key indicator of modernity, which, in turn, requires political order and building up of a strong and centralised national-identity that seems to be missing at the moment. These authors envision a modern Pakistan as economically progressive, ideologically secular-liberal, increasingly urbanised with a fairly strong industrial and technical base. The greatness of the state is not evaluated through political and social progress or lack of it but from mundane material aspects such as the size of the country being the sixth largest country in the world.
The latest prescription for progress also calls for strengthening of the nation state and deepening a sense of nationalism. Therefore, it is necessary to downplay all such elements such as ethnicity and sectarianism that might weaken the nation state project. It is not as if the formula is not being adhered to by the state machinery which likes to minimize the emphasis on ethnic politics and downplay sectarian differences. The state bureaucracy, especially the military, even uses brutal force to curb ethnic differences as is obvious from the case of Baluchistan.
The ethnic differences are not viewed as positive diversity but as part of the traditional-elitist political framework which must be replaced with another that proposes top-down nationalism to attain progress.
The fact that Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world has begun to figure in the statist literature. But a centralised national identity is even more important, hence, the emphasis on defining and streamlining what the former information minister Javed Jabbar calls Pakistaniat which is a set of positive attributes of a committed Pakistani citizen. But most important, Pakistaniat is about a sense of homogeneous nationalism. These characteristics such as resilience in the face of adversity, feeling concern in the face of national humiliation, sense of pride in being a Pakistani are some of the 57 characteristics that in the eyes of the former information minister, Javed Jabbar, constitute positive characteristics of "Pakistaniat" and will guarantee the country's development. Intriguingly, the author also includes respect for religious and ethnic minorities as one of the prominent characteristics of Pakistani nationalism which is a misrepresentation of facts or figment of his imagination. Given the attacks on religious, sectarian and ethnic minorities that have increased in the past couple of decades, Jabbar's assertion is more of propaganda and pretense rather than a fact.
While the state tends to use coercion, it has also tried other means such as generating a new national narrative and build institutional mechanisms to rope in dissidents towards this narrative.
However, these factors have to be matched with two essential drivers for change: the nationalist-urbanised middle class and the military.
Progressive nationalist middle class: The alternative view literature completely discards the traditional elite as the engine of progress. Progress, it is believed, can only be brought about by the burgeoning middle class.
The bulk of the rural middle class represents medium-sized (less than 100 acres) farmers and the burgeoning trader-merchant class that live in towns small cities that have cropped up from villages and depend on the agrarian economy. The urban middle class, on the other hand, comprises trader-merchants, small business and professional class belonging to various vocational groups in intermediate cities and large cities. The middle class also includes the bulk of the state bureaucracy such as civil servants and military.
The urban upper-middle class, on the other hand, represents the intermediate class that will eventually become the upper class and it comprises the echelons of the burgeoning media, the elite of the civil and military bureaucracies, the top leadership of the judiciary and the legal community, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector and professional expatriate Pakistanis that are keen to build their influence in their home country by remaining central to its politics.
The underlying assumption is that the empowerment of this socio-economic class is bound to bring liberalism and progress to the country.
There are four issues with such formulation. First, it suffers from serious lack of clarity in defining the socio-economic origins of the ruling elite. We get an impression as if the ruling elite comprises mainly of landowners or entrepreneurs. The reality is that the bulk of the ruling elite no longer comprises traditional feudal-landowners but is instead of middle class and even lower middle class background.
Second, these authors tend to borrow a Marxian political formulation without understanding its historical linkages. The entire debate of middle class and progress is essentially borrowed from western history that is not necessarily applicable to most developing countries where the bulk of the middle class is not liberal or politically progressive.
Third, there is a problematic suggestion that middle class is liberal, secular and progressive that can guarantee Pakistan's internal political and economic integrity. Such notion does not take into account the fact that in a pre-capitalist culture like Pakistan's, the middle class is intellectually an extension of the ruling elite.
Fourth, it artificially links political development with economic progress. In fact, democratic norms and politics can be ignored for ensuring a top-down economic progress that is best attained through military bureaucratic dictatorial regimes.
Finally, political development is not directly linked with economic development and the focus of the middle class is the latter not the former. Moreover, this class has always supported and benefited from authoritarianism.
The middle class needs attention due to its ideological leanings which are conservative, pro-authoritarian and increasingly latent-radical. The bulk of the emerging rural or even urban middle class is not socially or politically liberal. The same can be said of the middle class in major cities. The urban middle and upper middle class both have an inclination towards authoritarianism and even latent religious radicalism. Most recently, new political movements denoted by urban- based political parties, such as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (the justice party) run by the former cricketer Imran Khan, espouse wrangling political control through the army's help. The other two pillars of the middle class, that is, the media and the legal community (including the judiciary), both have authoritarian, centre-right nationalist and even latent radical perspectives.
In any case, the media and the legal community have exhibited authoritarian tendencies with an interest in acquiring unquestioned power, a behaviour that the traditional elite is accused of.
The military: The country's six-lakh strong military and its extended families, which include retired personnel and their kith and kin, are critical to the presentation of a progressive-modern Pakistan narrative. There are several reasons for this. First, the military is considered as an institutional representation of middle class ethos. The assertion is that the military is neither authoritarian nor a detriment to political development. It only intervenes to protect the state from internal and external threat. Moreover, unlike the traditional elite, which establishes a patron- age system of politics and is essentially authoritarian, the military, being a representative of middle class values, encourages the establishment of sustainable democracy.
Since the military has brute force, which is so critical to Pakistan's praetorian politics, the middle class views the armed forces as critical for change.
Third, due to the character of the military being middle class it is seen as a source of political and economic modernity in the country. According to the new narrative, not only is the current army chief Kayani progressive, he is also liberal with great concern for strengthening democracy.
The military prefers a strong president, especially when the army chief himself is the president or when the office- bearer is a favourite of the armed forces. However, it is the second time in the country's history that the president is not of the army's choosing and the service was unable to remove President Asif Ali Zardari due to his ability to compromise and negotiate space for himself. Some analysts believe that this balancing act will result in prolongation of the civilian government, which, in turn, will result in strengthening of the democratic system.
According to an expert of Pakistan's civil-military relations, Saeed Shafqat, the accommodating behaviour of the army top brass has encouraged the civilian leadership to respond positively and give an extension to the army chief, which Shafqat presents, as an example of elite accommodation ("Praetorians and the People", in Maleeha Lodhi (ed.), Pakistan beyond the Crisis State, 2011).
There are three problems with Shafqat's formula. First, he wrongly assumes that such accommodation is unprecedented. In fact, a glance at Marxian literature in Pakistan, especially the works of authors like Hamza Alavi indicate a partnership between the ruling elite and the civil-military bureaucracy in the country that dates back to the early days of the state. The army has historically used crisis to replace unfriendly political leaders with others considered loyal. Thus, the elite accommodation existed even under the seemingly liberal dispensation of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto during the 1960s and the 1970s.
Second, he does not ask the basic question if a major shift in civil-military balance could happen without a major transformation of the rules of the games regarding civil-military balance. What may actually appear as accommodation is based on some tactical adjustment of the military taking charge of some areas while leaving the less important issues for the civilian government.
Third, what Shafqat calls elite negotiation is essentially an adjustment between the two power poles in the country - military and civil - to protect overall elite interests. Such an adjustment does not in any way indicate a fundamental shift in the political system and structure or a movement away from authoritarian rule.
Supporting the middle class narrative helps the military in remaining relevant to the country's politics and establishing its own image as being above board. It uses the corruption of the politicians and its own image as a representative of the middle class to influence national psychology. This is part of the exercise of establishing intellectual control of the people.
The right-wing radical-nationalism axis:
There is an increasing non-liberal trend in the country which follows two inter-related trajectories: (a) latent militant radicalism that is found mainly amongst the poor and the lower middle classes (but does not preclude the middle class), and (b) latent radicalism found amongst the middle class, the upper middle class and (to a certain extent) the upper class as well.
Latent militant radicalism can be defined as a tendency towards adopting violence as means to suppress people of opposing religious ideology. Latent radicalism is defined as the inability to imagine the "other" that is defined on the basis of religious dogmatic differences. Although representing a class divide, the two trends feed on each other and on the modernity debate as well.
First, the state presents these trends not as a regressive behaviour, but as an indicator of growing anti-imperialism and anti-neo-colonialism in the society. Such an argument is even made by elements who once represented the liberal left. Today, some believe that the Taliban must be tolerated as they are the only bulwark against American hegemony. The political right, which is a bulk of the parties today including the mainstream political parties, has an element that is sympathetic to the militant and latent militant radical elements in the society and view the war on terror as a foreign conspiracy. Such belief has created a certain amount of psychological confusion and infested the society with conspiracy theories in which Pakistan emerges as a victim of American expansionist designs.
There are quite a few urban and educated people who stand up to defend Afia Siddiqui, an Al Qaida member, or support Mumtaz Qadri, a religious bigot and the killer of the Punjab governor Salman Taseer. This is not a result of any confusion but an extension of the victimhood discourse that then allows people to target the native "other" who is viewed as an agent of the imperialist force.
Second, there is an increasing societal ownership of the radical discourse, especially at the level of the middle and upper-middle classes. For instance, one of the emerging icons is a rabid televangelist Zaid Hamid, who preaches hatred of the US and India, rejects democracy and propagates the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Another popular character is the former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who approves of the tribal system for adjudication and is known for his links with the religious right parties.
Such support indicates an increasing acceptance of right-wing politics as an alternative to the existing political parties that are viewed as lackeys of imperial power, the US. It is a fact that Pakistan's nationalism today has a deeper shade of ideological right, which is now being legitimised, through a new scholarly discourse that presents radical and religious forces as part of the native culture. In doing so, the new narrative even provides justification for jihadi outfits and jihadism.
New face of Pakistani modernity? The growing number of Pakistani postmodernist scholars such as Humaira Iqtidar, Kamran Asdar Ali, Saba Mehmood, Amina Jillani and many others in western and elite Pakistani universities are now proposing the religious right-wing forces as the new face of Muslim and Pakistani modernity. Iqtidar, a UK-based Pakistani anthropologist has argued in her book Secularising Islamists that forces such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawa have a secularising influence over the society. Others such as Mehmood and Jillani present Islamists as the new face of feminism in Pakistan and the Muslim world in general. They are similar and different from the modernists of the early days who advocated inclusion of religion in politics from the perspective of keeping the state away from turning into a theocracy. The traditional modernists (1960s and 1970s) believed that religion should remain fundamental to the state but should be kept in a most liberal form. The post- modernists, on the other hand, are of the view that radical elements should be allowed to pursue their agenda that would eventually result in the religious right toning down its rhetoric and become more inclusive. There is a definite effort to legitimise both the political and religious right which makes the mix of Lieven-Lodhi-Jabbar and postmodernist scholars' narrative a dangerous brew. While the former present nationalist right-wing military authoritarianism as representing the face of progressive-nation-statist-modernity, the latter highlights the same for the religious radical forces.
Third, the growing radicalism is part of the evolving politics and psychology of the middle class. A general perception created about militants and radical forces in Pakistan is that they belong to the poor and the disgruntled strata of society. If poverty indeed were the key driver, the volume of violence would have been much greater especially in areas that were identified as highly food insecure. In fact, the recruitment for jihad is from areas which are relatively food secure such as south and central Punjab. Poverty becomes a driver only when combined with other factors such as weakening of the traditional power structure, weakness or absence of the state in occupying the space, and the relative strengthening of the militant structure. In Pakistan's case, the rise in militancy is directly linked with state support, be it from the military or provincial governments.
The various militant outfits recruit their foot soldiers from amongst the poorest segments of the population, but these are not the only ones recruited for jihad. Over the years, jihadi outfits have exhibited a propensity to recruit capable youth who are literate or semi-literate. It is also mainly the middle class that is eager to give donations to the militant outfits and madrassas.
The expansion of jihadism in Pakistan, in certain respects, rep- resents the breakdown of the feudal system which many would consider as a socially modernising development. The absence of an alternative force and discourse has favoured radical forces more than anything else.
Impact of Urbanisation: Another influence pertains to the growing urbanisation in the country. The fact that Pakistan is moving very rapidly towards urbanisation as a result of which almost 50% of population is projected to be urban by 2030. It not only influences the mode of production, but also alters cultural norms. For instance, the social and economic structures have an impact on psychological, intellectual and even spiritual needs. Pakistan's foremost social scientist Hamza Alavi believed that Barelvi and Sufi Islam, which denotes "peasant's religion", would become less relevant with growing urbanisation, particularly sophistication in modes of production. Deobandi and Wahabi Islam, as opposed to Sufi and Barelvi Islam, have textual basis and offer a form of modernity. Allama Mohammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher of Pakistan, also recognised this factor. While Sufi shrines will continue to attract people, they will fail to fulfill the spiritual and intellectuals needs of those marching towards some form of material progress.
The militants benefit from the rise in Deobandism-Wahabism since it enhances the ideological pool from which they can recruit fighters at will.
But the most noticeable development pertains to the impact of Deobandism-Wahabism on Barelvi religious norms that face the pressure of competing for political and ideological space. The Barelvi clerics and organisations seem under pressure to generate a popular discourse that matches the Deobandi ideology. This behaviour is most obvious from the Barelvi reaction to the blasphemy issue.
The fact of the matter is that the Sufi-Barelvi ideology has gradually lost ground, as it could not play the role in creating an ideology needed by the state to fight its foreign battles.
Those that represent the Sufi culture have failed to develop an alternative narrative which is needed to counter extremism.
Are these ideological forces relatively benign and will eventually get tamed by forces of capitalism, as suggested by Syed Vali Nasr? In his latest book on forces of fundamentalism in some of the Muslim countries Nasr has proposed that ultimately the fundamentalist forces will be tamed mainly because people do not want violence. However, such an analysis is based on a certain amount of naivety and simplicity in understanding various societies particularly Pakistan, which has already turned into a hybrid theocracy. This means that the country comprises small pockets of liberalism, small spaces where sharia law is formally enforced and larger spaces where it is informally implemented. This is not simply an issue of implementation of the sharia, but the use of force in various forms to restructure the power base and the ideological structure of the state.
At a micro level, the use of force translates into cases like the torture of the Christian woman Aasiya Bibi who is jailed for blasphemy. Notwithstanding the veracity of the claim against her, the fact is that the state is unable to provide her some form of protection while she is incarcerated.
Similarly, the state is increasingly less capable of providing protection to its citizens as the more violent forces dictate their ideology such as the case of the school in Rawalpindi where masked men entered and threatened the young girls who had not worn the hijab. The militants are, in fact, the neo-feudals who are gradually gaining the same kind of power that the traditional feudal-landowners used to have.
This is not to suggest that all militants are above the law, but the fact is that the state has established a principle according to which some favoured militants are propelled to being above the law. Since the militant forces have both the power and authority of religion, it has become difficult to contest their power. Geopolitically, the militant forces and their ideological network have gathered influence due to their efficacy for the military-strategic objectives of the state. The militants have established a partnership with the security apparatus of the state, which also considers the partnership beneficiary in pursuance of its military-strategic goals. The Pakistani state has often been viewed by its military establishment as a fortress of Islam. Religion is also seen as a source for propelling the state's influence in adjoining regions such as central Asia for which a partnership with militant forces is necessary.
The military's new partnership is different from its older linkage with the traditional elite. The powerful establishment of the Pakistani state is in a process of reinventing itself because of which it seeks newer partnership and narrative. The emphasis on the power of the middle class that is audible in some of the recently written books that are sponsored by the establishment is meant to produce a new set of political stakeholders that can challenge the traditional and the old elite.
Although the establishment, which is dominated by the military, has been central in creating the traditional elite as well, it is now eager to produce a new crop which has a more exciting narrative. The middle class is presented as an epitome of liberal-progressive Pakistan. However, it is an erroneous assumption to consider the middle class as liberal since the bulk of it seems to be ridden with latent radical tendencies are on the verge of it. Such an attitude will affect Pakistan internally before it has an impact on its external relations. In Pakistan the growth of the middle class accompanied with increasing urbanisation is an evolving socio- economic and sociopolitical phenomenon.
While the liberal political forces have been receding in terms of providing a forceful narrative, the radical forces have been gaining momentum. Religion, which was made the logic for the creation of the state, has become an even more powerful tool that could be used to determine internal and external relations. The newer political stakeholders view the Taliban and other militants as forces that challenge neo-imperialism by the US and other western forces. Even some of the new scholarly discourse tends to legitimise the jihadis.
The liberal-western elite, which dominated the state at the time of partition and even later, has gradually lost its legitimacy. Such developments are taking place in an environment where there is very little space for a liberal discourse. The liberal elements in the country that can liberalise the religious-political discourse and rescue it from the clutches of latent radicalism are few and far between.
More important, it will take decades before a movement towards counter-radicalisation picks up speed. Meanwhile, any change that will happen will be through connivance with the security apparatus of the state which will remain relevant for any change in the political system for many years to come.
This is an abridged version of the paper which was published by Economic and Political Weekly, India earlier this year.