'Beggary is an age-old social evil'. Despite India's rapid economic growth, begging is one of the biggest issues. It is estimated that there are around half a million beggars in India. The beggary is always considered to be a noble act. It is related to religion and culture. Religious mendicancy is not only tolerated by a large section of Hindus, Muslims and Christian population, but even supported on religious grounds. According to the Census 2011, about 92760 beggars are from Muslims and 2.68 lakh from Hindus. The term, 'begging' is defined differently in different religions i.e. "bhiksha" (alms) in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, and "Zakat" in Islam. 'In India, religious mendicants are often exempted from the operation of general laws prohibiting beggary'. A sort of religious sanctity is attached to alms. "A beggar appeals to your religious sentiments, to your sense of dependence on divine grace when he shouts, 'may god give you happiness' (Tumkoparmatmasu-khirakkhay, baba); he appeals to you as a parent when he blesses your children (tumcharay-balbachchasukhirahcy); he appeals to your sense of greed when unfold wealth and even a kingdom is promised to you or a nice husband or a job in exchange for a price, and seeks your protection for himself and his starving family; and finally he tells you of his illness, hard luck, bereavement and utter destitution." The beggar employs some psycho-physical techniques in order to make his appeal effective. "It should (i) attract attention, (ii) appeal to emotions, (iii) impress the need of the beggar upon the mind of his patron".

In general, beggars can be categorised into two types—beggars who have no choice and are forced to do it. They choose railway stations, religious and spiritual sites, and shopping places for begging. General people show sometimes their arrogance towards beggars and they neglect them with some abusive words. Put in most cases, common people provide alms to gain some from unseen God.

Anyway, religion is a technique of begging of poor and it is a tool to the rich (people have religious faith) to gain God's blessing. Thus, religion teaches to be sympathetic to the poor, not to be empathetic to abolish this curse. There is no or hardly any initiative from any religious institution to rehabilitate the beggars from this occupation. Religion fails to integrate the people of different faith, while religious conflict and violence are the continuous happening. People of all sorts want only their own prosperity, and they think to fulfil only their own greed of living with comfort. That's why, beggary exists even in most advanced society. The governments have only enacted some laws to prohibit this as their sole responsibility. Of course, the governments always promise false employment security during election campaign to the educated unemployed. It is strategically weak to combat the problem of unemployment. So, rehabilitation of beggars is simply unrealistic.

It is very much unfortunate that religion does not promote equality and justice or it does not work to strengthen human bonding among people of different faith that "we are all the sons of the supreme, we have no division".
HarasankarAdhikari, Kolkata

Voices of Democracy
The arrest of five human rights activists, professors and lawyers in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon clashes early this year is a symptom of fascistic state terror. The alarming arrest of Advocate and General Secretary of Indian Association of People's Lawyers (IAPL) Surendra Gadling, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) Public Relations Secretary Rona Wilson, Head of English Department Professor Shoma Sen of Nagpur University and member of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), cultural activist and founder of Republican Panthers Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal Sudhir Dhawale and anti-displacement activist and Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) Mahesh Raut is a clear manifestation of fascism to crush the voices of dissent in this country. The intemperate use of sections of the IPC and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on all five reveals legal over-reach and exposes the desperation to foist extraordinary and excessive charges on all five to ensure they remain in the clutches of the Fadnavis-Maharashtra government. All the arrested have consistently worked for the assertion of oppressed and marginalised communities against majoritarian forces, spoken out against Brahmanical patriarchy, upheld peoples' fights to land, life and dignity, and have strived for the release of political prisoners. Today, after standing for the assertion of dalits, adivasis, muslims, women, workers, farmers, marginalised sexualities, and oppressed communities, upholding the principles of democracy, and consequently, being a thorn in the side of a vengeful police force, they are under the custody of impunity. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of violence during the Bhima-Koregacn clashes enjoy the protection of the state, patronage of the RSS and walk free. Now, with concerted efforts to implicate the arrested, egregious narratives of plots of assassinations is being weaved to defame and keep them in jail. These retributive actions are intended to threaten anyone who speaks out for them and drive a wedge between all struggles for people's rights. In the last few years, wherever people have asserted their rights, the political establishment has clamped down on them with brutal force—be it in Saharanpur or Una, Bhima-Koragaon or Thooth-kudi. The assault on the democratic fabric of this country, through the abuse of the legal and judicial process, the stage-managing of media for public trials, and deliberate efforts to build a climate of fear is blatant and pervasive. Today, more so than ever it is crucial to reiterate unity in the face of divisive majoritarian politics that uses structural hierarchies to violently suppress different sections of people and communities. Concerned signatories demand the immediate and unconditional release of all five human rights activists, professors and lawyers.
Abha Bhaiya (Jagori Rural, Himachal Pradesh and One Billion Rising), Abha Dev Habib (Miranda House, University of Delhi), Abhay Regi, Department of History, (SOAS, London), Abhijnan Sarkar (editor, Towards a New Dawn and documentary filmmaker), Achin Vanaik (Retired Professor, International Relations and Global Politics, University of Delhi) and 222 others

Vol. 51, No.1, Jul 8 - 14, 2018