A Muslim Pandit
Pandit Mustafa Arif regrets his ‘labour of love’ Ishwar Prerna or God’s Inspiration, a work consisting of 10,000 verses in 18 volumes, never reached the two misguided men before they beheaded a tailor in Udaipur. Had they given even a cursory glance at this ‘magnum opus’ in Hindi inspired by the holy Quran, claims Pandit Arif, they could have changed their mind and not perpetrated the heinous crime.

Working tirelessly for nine years, Pandit Arif, 72, has penned these verses in simple Hindi which upholds God’s universal message of love, compassion and enshrined in the Quran. He has written it in the format of hamd or God’s praise.

“The duo who brutally killed the tailor had either not heard of the Quranic verse which talks about God’s dislike for those who create turmoil on the earth or deliberately didn’t heed it. I am aghast that this barbarity was committed in the name of the Prophet who preferred peace to violence, forgiveness to revenge,” he says. He conveys this Quranic message, quoting a line from his collection: “Fasad zameen par na faillao yehi hukm-e-ilahi hai/Apas mein jud jane mein hi ab sabki bhalaee hai (God doesn’t allow trouble on earth/the salvation is in peaceful co-existence)”.

A former member of Ujjain (MP)-based Mahakaleshwar Mandir’s administrative committee, it was in Ujjain in 1992 that the All-India Brahman Samaj conferred the title of a Pandit on Arif. Acknowledging his commitment to Hindu-Muslim unity, his devotion to understand and his respect for Hinduism, he received the Mahakal Samman in 2004 at Talkatora auditorium in Delhi.

This Ratlam-born Dawoodi Bohra Muslim began his career as a Hindi journalist in the 1970s in MP, moved to Delhi in 2001 when Vajpayee was Prime Minister, and is now settled in Mumbai. He edited government-run quarterly magazine Sadhvana Sandesh.

Scheduled Caste Status
Seeking the inclusion of Scheduled Caste (SC) Christians and Muslims into the Scheduled Caste category, former Union minister R Dhanushkodi Athithan urged Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M K Stalin to pass a resolution requesting the Centre to act on the demand so as to uplift the communities from poverty. In a letter, Athithan cited examples of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Puducherry state governments passing such resolutions before.

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 says no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Castes (Dalits). Dalit Sikhs and Buddhists had reclaimed SC status through amendments in 1956 and 1990 respectively. “Even as scheduled caste members converted to Buddhism and Sikhism enjoy all the constitutional guarantees of the Scheduled Castes, it is not the same for Christianity and Islam. Dalit Christians and Muslims are denied the SC status, rights, reservations, safety and education. They are treated officially as Other Backward Class caste, which is unjust and needs to be addressed”.

Further, Athithan pointed out that Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission Report in 2007 had recommended amendment to the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, to delink SC status with religion, and make it religion neutral. “After conversion, Dalits feel ecstatic that they are not under any dominant caste. Still, they are seen with bias by caste Hindus. Similar is the case with SC Christians and Muslims who are discriminated against by the dominant caste despite conversion. They live in slums and colonies and reel under poverty as their new religion does not give any monetary support. The Dalits continue to remain in the same socio-economic status even after conversion”.

As the Tamil Nadu government under DMK Chief Minister Stalin is giving an impetus for social justice, and implementing various schemes to uphold equality, it shall also pass resolutions urging the union government to make necessary amendments to revise the constitution by including Christian and Muslim Dalits into SC list, and make sure they get all the benefits and priorities entitled for SC category. This will also bolster the case in this regard pending since 2004.

Sewer Workers
9 July 2022, New Delhi. Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) held a meeting of sewer cleaning employees’ organisations and unions, in which they expressed their reaction on the present status of sewer workers.

DASAM has been working with contractual sewer workers for the past few years. In the last one year, DASAM has represented the issues of sanitation workers before the key institutions of Delhi Government, such as Delhi Commission for Safai Karamchari (DCSK), Urban Development Department, Delhi Jal Board, Legislative Committee for Scheduled Castes / Tribes, and 10 people's representatives (Members of Legislative Assembly).

DASAM expresses its sincere thanks to the DCSK and appreciates the recommendation to increase the compensation amount from Rs10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh on the death of a sewer worker.

Sewer workers expect that Delhi Government will take cognisance and take decisions on other major issues like their permanent appointment, abolition of contractual practice in perennial nature of job, free medical service and proper compensation of the accidently injured, keeping contractual sewer workers on government payroll till their permanent posting, provide security arrangements and equipments to all the labourers working in sewers or open drains or septic tanks.

The fight of these workers (Safai Karmcharis) engaged in sewer / septic tanks / open drains cleaning for their constitutional rights will continue. In this regard DASAM has held more than 50 meetings in a year with contractual sewer workers and their unions in Delhi with the support of social activists from across the country. It came out clearly in these meetings that due to harsh treatment by contractors and fear of losing job and livelihood, sewer workers are not able to raise their voice. In such a situation, DASAM is appealing to all the people’s representatives, parties, social activists to stand with them so that they can get justice from the Delhi government.
DASAM, New Delhi

Father Stan Death Anniversary
July 5, 2022. US Rep. Juan Vargas announced the introduction of a resolution, co-sponsored by Reps. Andre Carson and James McGovern, to honour the life of Indian human rights defender Father Stan Swamy in the US House of Representatives. The resolution, introduced on the first anniversary of Father Stan’s death in police custody, notes the use of malware to target hundreds of Indian activists and plant evidence on the devices of Father Stan’s Bhima-Koregaon case co-defendants, and expresses concern at the misuse of anti-terror laws to target rights defenders and political opponents. The announcement came at an international webinar featuring lawmakers from around the world.

The webinar, titled “Persecution of Religious Minorities and their Defenders in India: Commemorating Father Stan’s Death in Custody,” featured Rep. Vargas as well as MP Neale Hanvey (UK), MEP AlviinaAlametsä (EU), Senator David Shoebridge (Australia), and UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor. Adivasi rights defenders also spoke on ongoing violations against India’s Indigenous peoples. Poet, author, and activist Dr. Meena Kandasamy moderated the event.

The webinar was co-organised by Front Line Defenders, Hindus for Human Rights, the Humanism Project, India Civil Watch International, and Survival International, and cosponsored by Adivasi Lives Matter, Dalit Solidarity Forum, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), and the Indian American Muslim Council. The recording of the event can be viewed here.

“I am appalled by the abuse Father Stan faced while in custody. No one who fights for human rights should face such violence and neglect,” said Rep. Vargas.

Mary Lawlor said, “If Father Stan’s life represents the best tradition of human rights defence and social justice work, his unlawful arrest and death in custody represent the rapidly accelerating assault on rights, justice, rule of law, and democracy by India’s current political regime.”

Echoing concern over these assaults, especially through the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Australian Federal Senator David Shoebridge said, “The continued erosion of human rights and the rule of law makes India a less reliable partner, economically and politically, for democratic countries like Australia. This is ultimately a tragedy for both countries.”

“We have to emphasise that we cannot have business deals, investments, and cooperation, if the issues in India are not fixed,” Member of the European Parliament AlviinaAlametsä said.

All panelists noted Father Stan’s extensive service fighting for the rights of Adivasi peoples. Adivasi leader Soni Sori highlighted the continued instances of rape, incarceration, torture, and killings of Adivasis in the region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh.

Lalsu Nagoti, an Adivasi lawyer and rights activist, spoke of both the denigration of Adivasi culture by groups attempting to impose Hinduism on Adivasis, and the destruction of sacred mountains and forests by mining corporations. “This is not development, it is destruction,” he said.

Rights defender Gladson Dungdung spoke about travelling alongside Father Stan on fact finding missions when innocent Adivasis were brutally murdered by government forces. Dungdung said, “Today, if you raise your voice, demand for the enforcement of constitutional rights, demand for people-centered laws, or if you speak for your rights, all this comes under the purview of crimes in India. I am speaking today, but I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”

UK MP Neale Hanvey took great efforts to raise the case of Stan Swamy in the UK Parliament and with the Foreign Secretary, including introducing an Early Day motion condemning the persecution of Father Stan in June 2021, and another expressing condolence for his death in July 2021.

This international condemnation comes in the wake of a new round of arrests. UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor said, “The most recent arrests of Teesta Setalvad, RB Sreekumar, and Mohammad Zubair show just how urgent it is to intervene to prevent the further deterioration of the rule of law in India.”

Remarking on the recent Wired expose linking the Pune police to the digital attacks on the Bhima Koregaon arrestees, Dr Kandasamy said, “There is not a shred of evidence left in the case against the Bhima-Koregaon 16. They must be released immediately.”
India Civil Watch International

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Vol 55, No. 5, Jul 31 - Aug 6, 2022