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Lord Ram all set to take Times Square by storm

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, the same will be witnessed by thousands of Indian-Americans at the Times Square in NYC.

Maneesh Pandeya

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Setting the Indian media abuzz and keeping the coronavirus off primetime debates with the upcoming Ayodhya revelry on Thursday, Lord Ram is ready to take New York City’s iconic Times Square by storm.

Indian-Americans and followers of India’s religious and spiritual offerings have been ecstatic. The giant billboards of Times Square are instant publicity for many brands worldwide. Perhaps for the first time, the billboards will showcase India’s religious heritage and belief on that scale of grandeur and historic glory when Lord Ram and 3D portraits of the grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be beamed across the Times Square on Thursday to celebrate the temple’s foundation laying ceremony.

As the Prime Minister lays the foundation of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the same will be witnessed by thousands of Indian-Americans at the Times Square in NYC. While the coronavirus cannot take busloads of the Indian diaspora to Times Square, the majority of the 4 million-strong Indian American community will be seeing it live on TV, although thousands are believed to have confirmed their participation and are coming all the way from cities like Boston and Chicago, and from Ohio, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania, besides the NYC and New Jersey’s strong Indian-origin population standing as organizers and volunteers.

 “It’s a moment of a lifetime and a historic one for us Indian Americans and for the 1.8 billion Hindus worldwide,’’ says Jagdish Sewhani, a prominent diaspora leader and president of the American India Public Affairs Committee.

Sewhani is credited to be the man behind this ‘grand show of Indian culture and heritage’ and what many say “the growing influence of India’s stature on American soil”. “Interestingly it happened in a flash and with just a couple of calls among friends,’’Sewhani told The Daily Guardian. He added, “The moment we heard the news of PM Modi going to Ayodhya to lay the foundation of the Ram Temple, I called a couple of friends to ask if we can showcase the same to the world from the Times Square, and everyone sounded positive… time was a factor, but the band of relentless volunteers have worked day and night to make it happen.”

 Sewhani’s joy got a momentary disruption on Thursday when news about ‘cancellation of billboard display’, quoting the ad company, was flashed after some Islamic organisations reportedly protested the Hindu deity’s display on billboards. When contacted, Sewhani confirmed to TDG: “We’re going with the celebrations… this is fake news. We are only celebrating Ram Janmabhoomi pujan, nothing else.’’

It seems that Lord Ram will have to face some protests on foreign soil this time. Pakistan supporters have always protested big Indian events like Howdy Modi in Houston and the last UNGA meeting in September, but have been outnumbered by the strong Indian-American presence at both places. The Indian media seem puzzled about the actual outcome of this `unconfirmed news’, reportedly based on a website run by a fundamentalist group. When TDG questioned Sewhani again on Tuesday night, he reiterated the statement he made earlier saying, “Indian diaspora is now even stronger to make this show happen… we’re on with this and don’t believe fake news and rumors.’’

Another ‘showman’ of India in America, Dr Bharat Bharai, the Chicago based doctor, who had organised big events for PM Modi and the last pro-India demonstrations at the UNGA in NYC in September 2019, is euphoric and emotional. “The sacrifice and the struggle made for getting back the Ram Janmabhoomi of thousands of Hindus for the last 500 years have succeeded finally,’’ Dr Bharai, someone known to be very close to PM Modi in America’s Gujarati diaspora, told The Daily Guardian.

 Sewhani added, “Among the prominent billboards that are being leased for the occasion are the giant Nasdaq screen and the 17,000-sq-ft wrap-around LED display screen, considered among the largest continuous exterior displays in the world and the highestresolution exterior LED screen in Times Square.’’

 Sewhani credits PM Modi for the Ram Temple construction at Ayodhya. “Till six years ago, we never thought that this day would come soon, but due to Modi’s leadership, this day has come and we want to celebrate it in a befitting way.”

 Beginning from 8 am on 5 August till 10 pm, images of the words ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in Hindi and English, Lord Ram’s portraits and videos, 3D portraits of the temple’s design and architecture as well as pictures of the laying of the foundation stone by PM Modi will be displayed across several billboards, which are among the most striking and popular features of Times Square. Members of the Indian community will also gather to do the lighting and distribute sweets, besides the showcase of Indian heritage – music and dance to enthral the masses, who will gather at the Times Square from across the world.

India will come alive about 8000 miles away in NYC, said Dr Sampat Shivangi, the National Mental Health advisor in President Donald Trump’s administration. Calling it a unique event in the history of two nations, as Dr Shivangi said: “One that is our motherland India and another, the adopted one, the US.” “A celebration of this degree for the resurrection of Ram Janmabhoomi at the Times Square is something every Hindu in America has been looking up to for years and this will be a moment to cherish for generations,’’ he said.

There are at least 300- odd Hindu temples in the US and nearly 50 of these are in the New York and New Jersey areas, which are closest to the Times Square. Pramod Bhagat, a New Jersey resident informed that coronavirus fears may compel people to maintain social distancing and not be present at the spot in bus loads, “but small family gathering of bhajans and kirtans are being organised in households to celebrate and be a part of this historic moment”.

 Dr Shivangi added, “I can assure you the glimpses of these events will leave lasting memories that are being eagerly awaited. These visuals will show to the world that Hinduism is well and alive and that it is a universal dharma (religion).”

While the thousands of Indian-Americans present at the Times Square will rejoice the moment, Dr Bharai said, “The Hindu Mandir Executive Conference (HMEC) of the US and Hindu Mandir Priests Conference (HMPC) and VHP of America are organising a virtual collective national prayer across America to celebrate the historic Ram Janmabhoomi poojan in Ayodhya. It’s a dream come true. The chanting will start in the US and Canada from 8 pm to 9 pm US EST on August 4.”

Dr Bharai, who himself had done kar seva in Ayodhya, added: “This is the third time in the last several decades that IndianAmericans have organised massive events at the iconic Time Square — the live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at Madison Square Garden, Diwali and now Ram Janmabhoomi poojan.’’ He said the strong Indian diaspora, with mostly Hindus, are all for contributing to “the construction of the temple.”

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Opinion

Opposition attempts for a Federal Front to face BJP in 2024 continue

Pankaj Vohra

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Opposition attempts for a Federal Front to face BJP in 2024 continue

With top leaders from Bihar, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav calling on Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, days before she is set to relinquish her post, speculation has begun in political circles regarding their visit. It is well known by now that Nitish Kumar could be the possible face of a proposed Federal Front before the 2024 Parliamentary polls and has made it clear that he shall be contesting for Lok Sabha, leaving the State for Tejasvi Yadav, his deputy. This assurance has led to a patch up between Lalu and Nitish, who had virtually started their political journey together, way back in the 1970s when the J.P.Movement was gaining momentum. It is evident that they realise that since the Gandhis were not contesting the Congress organisational elections, they have excluded themselves from the leadership role of a united front against the BJP. The new Congress president, would be no position to lead the Opposition formation, since he would have to on one hand, save his position, and on the other ensure that the party does well in the big battle. Sonia was the UPA Chairperson and oversaw the working of the Manmohan Singh government. However, with her failing health, she has decided to take the back seat for a while and all decisions on her behalf, even when announced by her, are taken by Rahul Gandhi. With the Congress in no position to do hard bargaining, it is unlikely that it shall be leading the proposed front. This is in contrast to 2003 where at the Shimla Conclave, Sonia had given a call to other opposition parties to join hands with the Congress to oppose the NDA government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee. At that point of time, she was assisted by a number of Congress leaders, most notably, Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh and Makhan Lal Fotedar. At present, the Congress does not have many leaders in the advisory capacity, who have the gravitas, and therefore, most of the decisions seem to be taken in a hurry without much application. Rahul’s team, does not command the same respect as the Sonia’s team of 2003. It is significant to recall that when Sonia Gandhi decided not to become the Prime Minister in 2004 after the defeat of the NDA government, Lalu Prasad Yadav, sent a message that the leader of the UPA would be chosen by all the constituents. However, Fotedar stepped in and made it known to the former Bihar CM that since the Congress was the largest party, it is Congress alone which shall decide on who the leader of the UPA should be as also the next Prime Minister. Nitish and Lalu in the present context believe that the credentials of those who are outside the Congress fold to take the lead, were stronger. Although West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee and Maharashtra strongman, Sharad Pawar are expected to play a stellar role in Opposition politics, Nitish is looking like the front runner at this juncture. It is another matter that Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to go from strength to strength and there is no big challenge to his position. The Sonia, Nitish-Lalu meeting should be apparently viewed as an exploratory exercise to assess each other’s mind as also the emerging situation. A lot more developments are expected in the future, especially after the Congress completes its organisational elections. 
— Pankaj Vohra

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JAISHANKAR’S SPEECH, UKRAINIAN CONFLICT AND UN REFORM

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JAISHANKAR’S SPEECH, UKRAINIAN CONFLICT AND UN REFORM

Many things were said by Foreign Minister Jaishankar in his address to the General Assembly on 24 September, but what stood out as noteworthy was his focus on the urgency of UN reform, describing the current structure as ‘anachronistic and ineffective’ and how it was being increasingly perceived as ‘denying entire continents and regions a voice.’
Many people have expressed disappointment with the United Nations in the context of the Ukrainian conflict. Dissatisfaction has been expressed on two counts. On the one hand the complaint has been made that the organisation itself has shown itself to be incapable of handling a real global crisis. Especially since this particular crisis is not an ordinary one, since Russia, possesses nuclear weapons in the thousands – and President Putin has recently hinted darkly at the possibility that he may use them.
The second complaint doesn’t target the organisation itself as much as it targets its current leader, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. In a recent article in Foreign Policy Harvard Professor Stephen Walt wished for every world leader to have the following observation prominently displayed on his work desk: ‘It’s much easier to start a war than to end it.’ It has been separately argued that Guterres did not do enough to prevent the war in Ukraine.
It is argued that the Secretary General did not properly heed advice given to him by Western nations in January this year before the Russian attack commenced on 24 February 2022. Satellite imagery clearly showed a troop build-up by the Russians near the Ukrainian border. According to American intelligence and advice tendered there was a clear possibility of the Russians invading and Mr Guterres should therefore have taken preventive action. What kind of preventive action?
At a minimum, have a face-to-face talk with the leaders of both nations, especially Putin. It is further argued that it wasn’t even necessary for Guterres to make a special trip to Moscow for this purpose. He was, anyhow, going to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Winter Olympics taking place in Beijing, which Putin would also be attending, (together with the Chinese premier Xi). He could have tried to use that opportunity to have a short but effective engagement with Putin.
Guterres confessed later that, like many others at the time, he never really believed that Russia would invade Ukraine. As a matter of fact, he had made a public announcement to that effect just three weeks before the invasion happened.
In his defence, it can be said that at the end of the day we are all human, and Guterres was by no means alone in concluding that the Russians were actually bluffing and would never really invade. Critics of Guterres do not accept this line of defence arguing that the job of the Secretary General of the United Nations is a job different from all others and requires the head of the UN to be on the ball all the time. The Secretary General needs to be super-alert and super-active all the time, simply because the stakes can be so very high. Once the invasion of Ukraine took place, it became all the more difficult to end the war.
Anyhow what’s done is done and cannot be undone. After all, even had the UN Secretary General been more alert and savvier than he was, he may not have been able to prevent the invasion. Critics of the UN Secretary General perhaps do not have an appreciation of the structural limitations under which the Secretary General operates, which brings us to the second criticism which is that the UN has failed as an institution.
There are some of us who argue that the organisation itself should be disbanded. Clearly an overreaction and an extremely foolish idea, it is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Let us not forget that the UN and Guterres are even now playing an important, perhaps indispensable role in the conflict. In the early days of the conflict, on 28 April 2022, when Guterres visited Kiev, he spoke in an interview on how he had seen airports, roads and schools all lie in ruins due to Russia’s invasion. Large populations were without water or electricity. The Secretary General also spoke then on how together with its humanitarian partners the UN was working to ensure safe passage from besieged areas, and to provide aid where security permitted, allowing around 600,000 people to receive some form of aid. That humanitarian effort continues.
If the UN did not exist, we would anyhow need an organisation much like it. What makes far greater sense is to try and reform the United Nations so that it has the power to constructively intervene in such volatile, dangerous situations. As Prime Minister Modi suggested recently, a view echoed by President Macron, this is not the era of war, and there should therefore be an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious negotiations based on the principles of the UN Charter and International Law. As things stand, however, the UN Charter does not envisage a credible action plan in the event a UN Security Council member, in this case Russia, itself becomes an aggressor.
Who will bell the cat? The Council will never reform itself, without pressure being brought to bear upon it. The call for reform can only come from the larger community of nations. History has time and time again shown how the demonstration of public will and determination can unseat monarchs and dictators who might appear, from the outside, to be too well entrenched to topple. We, the people of the world, cannot sit and watch while the UN Security Council starts to increasingly resemble an oligarchic club that refuses to open its doors to other important actors, for all of us have a stake in the survival of the planet.

Rajesh Talwar is an author of 34 books across multiple genres. He has worked for the United Nations for over two decades across three continents in numerous countries.

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Jan Dhan and inclusivity: The Modi way

Financial inclusion is a national priority of the Modi government, as it is an enabler for holistic growth.

Sanju Verma

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Jan Dhan and inclusivity: The Modi way

Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) was launched on 28 August 2014, with the motive of ‘Banking the Unbanked’, with 179 million accounts being opened in the first year itself. PMJDY’s objective has been to ensure accessibility to various financial services like availability of basic savings bank account, need based credit, remittance facility, insurance, micro-credit and pension to excluded sections, that is, weaker sections and low income groups. PMJDY accounts hit 462.5 million, as in, 46.25 crore accounts in the last eight years, with deposits hitting a solid Rs 1.73 lakh crore. Operative accounts as a percentage of the total, stood at a healthy 81.2% in August 2022. Average deposits, per Jan Dhan account, rose to Rs 3761 in August 2022, from Rs 3398 a year ago. The average deposit per account is up over 2.9 times from Rs 1279 in August 2015.The increase in average deposit is an indication of increased usage of accounts. PMJDY has expanded its coverage to 67% of the rural and semi-urban areas and has over 56% women account holders, in a remarkable example of not only being the world’s largest financial inclusion scheme, but also being gender sensitive. About 80 million PMJDY account holders receive direct benefit transfer (DBT) from the Modi government.
Digital transactions have seen an increase with 319.4 million RuPay debit cards being issued under PMJDY, installation of point of sale (PoS) machines and introduction of UPI, taking total such transactions to 71.95 billion in FY22 from 9.78 billion in FY17.Total RuPay card transactions at PoS and e-commerce have increased from 282.8 million in FY17 to 1.51 billion in FY22.
The centre now plans to cover PMJDY account holders under its flagship insurance schemes, PM Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and PM Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and improve access for them, to micro-credit and micro investment plans such as flexi-recurring deposits.
PMJDY is a national mission on financial inclusion. In addition, the beneficiaries get RuPay Debit card, having in built accident insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh. Technological issues like poor connectivity and glitches in on-line transactions have been effectively addressed in mobile transactions in the last seven years. In fact, technology has been used befittingly as a big enabler, something that never happened meaningfully, prior to 2014, under successively incompetent Congress regimes.
Former PM Rajiv Gandhi had said that in India from the 1980s, out of 100 paise of benefits, only 15 paise reached the true beneficiary. The remaining 85 paise was gobbled up by middlemen and sarkaari babus. Thanks to PM Modi’s Digital India, 100% of all benefits reach the beneficiary through DBT. Coming back to Jan Dhan, more than 1.46 lakh ‘Bank Mitras’, became a part of PMJDY, to ensure it reached India’s remotest and the poorest. Under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), a sum of over Rs 30,945 crore was credited into accounts of women PMJDY account holders during the Covid lockdown.
“Banking the Unbanked” pertains to opening of basic savings bank deposit (BSBD) accounts with minimal paperwork, relaxed KYC, e-KYC, account opening in camp mode, zero balance & zero charges. “Securing the Unsecured” pertains to issuance of indigenous debit cards for cash withdrawals and payments at merchant locations. “Funding the Unfunded” pertains to other financial products like micro-insurance, overdraft for consumption, micro-pension and micro-credit. Jan Dhan accounts are online accounts in the core banking system of banks, in place of the earlier method of offline accounts. Interoperability through RuPay debit card or Aadhaar enabled Payment System (AePS), have been force multipliers.
The Modi government decided to extend the comprehensive PMJDY program beyond 2018, with some modifications. Focus shifted from ‘Every Household’, to ‘Every Unbanked Adult’. Free accidental insurance cover on RuPay cards was increased from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh for PMJDY accounts opened after 28 August 2018.The scheme also provides Rs 2 lakh for accidental death and full disability, and Rs 1 lakh for partial disability, for a premium of just Rs. 12 per annum. Enhancement in overdraft (OD) facilities was enabled, with OD limit doubled from Rs 5000 to Rs 10,000 and with OD upto Rs 2000, given without conditions. The upper age limit for OD was also raised from 60 to 65 years.
PMJDY has been the foundation stone for people-centric economic initiatives. Whether it is direct benefit transfers, Covid-19 related financial assistance, PM-KISAN, increased wages under MGNREGA, life and health insurance cover, the first step of all these initiatives is to provide every adult with a bank account, which PMJDY has been doing on a war footing. One in two bank accounts opened between March 2014 and March 2022, was a PMJDY account. Within 10 days of nationwide lockdown, more than 20 crore women PMJDY accounts were credited with ex-gratia. PMJDY provides an avenue to the poor for bringing their savings into the formal financial system, an avenue to remit money to their families in villages besides taking them out of the clutches of the infamous, usurious money lenders. PMJDY has brought the unbanked into the banking system, expanded the financial architecture of India and brought financial inclusion to almost every adult. In today’s post Covid-19 times, we have witnessed the remarkable swiftness and seamlessness with which direct benefit transfer (DBTs) have empowered and provided financial security to the vulnerable sections of society.
Financial Inclusion is a national priority of the Modi government, as it is an enabler for holistic growth. The journey of PMJDY led interventions undertaken over a short span of 8 years have in effect, produced both transformational as well as directional change, thereby making the emerging financial ecosystem, capable of delivering financial services to the last person of the society and the poorest of the poor. The underlying pillars of PMJDY, namely, ‘Banking the Unbanked’, ‘Securing the Unsecured’ and ‘Funding the Unfunded’, have made it possible to adopt a multi-stakeholders’ collaborative approach, while leveraging technology for serving the unserved and underserved areas as well. No government in post Independent India has embraced welfarism, within the larger framework of a capitalist order, as seamlessly as the Modi government and that speaks volumes about PM Narendra Modi’s commitment to a socio-economic order that encourages all the three–egalitarianism, free markets and competition.

Sanju Verma is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘The Modi Gambit’.

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Opinion

Cinema on big screen back in Kashmir after 32 years

Pankaj Vohra

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Cinema on big screen back in Kashmir after 32 years

It is a well-known fact that both Bollywood and Cricket are perhaps the greatest unifying forces in the country. Therefore, the return of cinema on the big screen in Kashmir is perhaps a great breakthrough made by the present administration and could contribute in restoring some sort of normalcy in the Union Territory. Over the years, Kashmir was one of the favourite places for shooting movies and its beautiful scenic surroundings provided the backdrop for so many on the screen romances. Raj Kapoor was probably the first big producer director who shot his Barsaat’ in the valley. There were objections in some quarters when the movie was released since orthodox people objected to Nargis wearing a Kashmiri dress. There was no end to filming there onwards. Shammi Kapoor’sJunglee’ which provided him the Yahoo image and launched him from that point as the rebel star was partly shot in Kashmir. Scores of movies from Kashmir Ki Kali’ andJab Jab Phool Khile’ starring Shashi Kapoor followed. However, at the beginning of the 1990s, some people decided to take law into their own hands and objected to Bollywood movies being screened. Their primary objection was that their religion did not permit films. This was a totally uncalled for interpretation of Islam since in neighbouring Pakistan which is an Islamic country, Movies continued to be produced and watched by millions of people. In fact, Hindi films were a big hit in that country and on my only visit to Islamabad in 2005, was surprised to see Shah Rukh Khan posters and videos at many places. It was evident that Bollywood was a big influence and people looked forward to watching films produced in Mumbai and elsewhere. Thus, to infer that movies should be banned in Kashmir was a completely regressive step. Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has taken this initiative of once again making theatres available to the masses so that they could enjoy watching movies. It has always been the constant demand of anyone from Kashmir who visits other parts of the country that their programme should include at least two or three movies. The administration there has made it possible for them to entertain themselves in their own cities and towns. Many people have expressed the apprehension that Ultras inspired by forces from across the border may try and disrupt the screening and may also target the movie theatres to spread terror. The government is obviously prepared to take everyone on who wishes to pursue this kind of line. In fact, people should come out in open support of the authorities as without their participation, it would be extremely difficult to take this positive proposal ahead. Kashmir was always known for its distinct culture and cannot be deprived of this new experience for many who may have never been to a theatre. This is a step in the right direction which needs wider endorsement. Once movies start getting screened, more and more producers would line up to shoot their films thus adding to the revenue of the UT and other areas. Kashmiris cannot be denied entertainment any further. And the movies will strengthen their economy because the film industry is very resourceful and influential. 

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Opinion

CRIME AGAINST WOMEN: A STUDY OF PERCEPTIONS AND AWARENESS IN YOUTH

The Indian legislations made to deal with crimes against women are in galore. The Constitution of India and certain other legislations having bearing on women’s protection are as under of certain other enactments pertaining to the crimes committed against women. These laws have been passed by Indian Parliament from time to time to prevent such crime against women in the Indian society.

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Crime

It is an exigency today for our society to thoroughly study the crimes against women in various patterns and shades. The crime against women has become the order of the day and the same is confirmed by our print, web and broadcast media by their news reporting and coverage. Though women are worshipped as life givers, the numerous instances of crimes against women stand antithetical and are as stigma to our culture. It may look repetitive but to remind that women play a very pivotal role in the society, and yet the society has not given them their due share and the veneration they deserve. The Indian patriarchy has always been biased against women and this negative inclination has resulted in grievous offences like rape, acid attack, stalking, voyeurism and a host of other heinous crimes.
The glorious Vedic history stands as a witness that women in India were treated as goddess in the form of Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Durga and had a very reverential status in the society they enjoyed the equal rights like men. However the medieval period saw the unprecedented and never to be repaired deterioration in the status women one time enjoyed. The new low was that they were treated as subservient as property. They were no near men not to think of near equality. This period was called ‘Dark Period for Women’ and it holds water. The period of British rule further lowered the position of women drastically mainly due to the western socio-cultural impact. Many reform movements were launched for the women and by the women against the age old bias, inequality, suppression and other corollary atrocities, and voiced for the women education and necessary legal reforms. Thus during this period the efforts of the reformers, national leaders and women’s organizations resulted in a good deal of social legislations by the British Government.
After Independence, the Constitution of India guaranteed gender equality, fundamental rights and special provisions for the treatment and development of women in every sphere of life. Even after these rights, women have been always discriminated on the basis of their sex.
Efforts have been made at various levels to curb the same. However, no substantial change had been visible until the year 2012, when the heinous rape committed in Delhi shook the entire nation up from this false stupor of security.
In December 2012, the Government introduced the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012 in the Lok Sabha. The Bill sought to redefine the offence of rape and amend the penal laws in line with the recommendations of the Law Commission of India and the National Commission for Women (NCW). Following the Delhi gang-rape incident, the Government constituted a three member committee headed by the former Chief Justice J. S. Verma to suggest amendments to the criminal laws to ensure speedier justice and enhanced punishments in cases of extreme sexual assault. The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, passed in the Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively on March 19 and 21, 2013), the bill received presidential assent on 2 April 2013 and was deemed to be effective from 3 February, 2013. Most of the recommendations made by Justice Verma Committee were incorporated as paramount for quicker trial and an enhanced punishment for the criminals committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women.
India being a follower of UN Charter and other important international instruments like Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women 1979, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 1993, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966, and related Protocols of 1976. These international instruments provide for equality, security, liberty and integrity for all persons inclusive of women.
The Indian legislations made to deal with crimes against women are in galore. The Constitution of India and certain other legislations having bearing on women’s protection are as under of certain other enactments pertaining to the crimes committed against women. These laws have been passed by Indian Parliament from time to time to prevent such crime against women in the Indian society.
There are many factors that contribute to crime against women in India such as chauvinistic patriarchy, illiteracy, unemployment, unequal wages, discriminatory socio-cultural practices, lack of awareness of seriousness of the crime, unquestioned acceptances of men’s superiority over women etc.
In the emotionally charged atmosphere after Nirbhaya gang rape case at that time, parliament did not get scope for undertake its due deliberation on the amendments or debate on each clause. It was anxious to appease public sentiment and enact more stringent rape laws.
Presently, the failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment eroding the rule of law, and not the want of needed legislation of Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 as the changes are unquestionably draconian. If there is a felt need for more laws, then there are many recommendations of expert bodies and judicial decisions that remain unimplemented. But the government ignored all the recommendations and in haste passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. The amendment brought certain change in IPC, Cr.P.C. and the Evidence Act particularly relating to protection of women against crime. These challenges unquestionably the Criminal Law Amendment Act which is being abused in practice.
In recent years there has been an alarming increase in sexual violence and harassment of women, which reveals a large scale societal breakdown. Violence against women appears to have the dual function of at once controlling women and perpetuating their interior status. It also aims at restricting women’s mobility and sexuality and to punish women who flout societal norms prescribed by the particular community. All the public place are physically dominated by man which poses a number of threats for women while they are moving towards pursuing education, acquiring some gainful employment or even trying to make a stride in the public space. To enable women to fight against discrimination and abuse it is necessary to empower them by ensuring for them appropriate and effective legal aid. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 is a successful step in this sense which not only expands the definition of rape, it also addresses penalties for other abhorrent forms of crime like stalking, voyeurism. But the study revealed that appropriate and efficient laws alone are not sufficient to protect the right to live with dignity of women.
The purpose of law is to prescribe the standard of behaviour of the people and to regulate their conduct in a civilized society. Faithful implementation of the law is of the essence under the rule of law for good governance. In the absence of faithful implementation of the laws by efficient machinery, it remains mere rhetoric and a dead letter.
Unless and until people are ready to fight for it, things will not change. To handle women-related crimes effectively society’s perception needs to be completely altered. Strict law, however, creates fear among the people but it cannot put a complete deterrent to it since male domination and women subordination is very much ingrained in our socio-economic and political system. Socialization of children based on equality of sexes can redistribute and equate the power between male and female thereby alter the unequal power relations between both the sexes. Social media can play a significant role in making the masses understand sexism, sexual violence, fighting patriarchy and facilitating altitudinal change in the society.

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Madrasa surveys could become a gamechanger

Muslim intellectuals like Iqbal had felt need for improvement of madrasa syllabus. Even today the need for reforms in Muslim education have not changed.

Atir Khan

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Madrasa surveys could become a gamechanger

The government surveys of madarsas have great potential for country’s progress if carried out in the right earnest. But they are happening at a time when memories of certain madarsas in Assam being demolished due to alleged terror links are fresh in people’s minds.
In Assam certain madarsas were demolished even before its accused teachers were taken to court trails on the charges of terror links. It was interpreted as an onslaught on the madarsas due to mistake of a few persons. This has shrouded the entire exercise aimed at studying Muslim education system with an element of suspicion.
In India madarsas have been in the forefront of the country’s freedom struggle. Unfortunately, their state of affairs ever since the Independence have been largely neglected. Their condition has worsened ever since they were excluded from the Right to Education Act.
Now Uttar Pradesh & Assam governments have embarked upon a massive exercise of mapping them. Dharam Pal Singh, a senior minister in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet said that the survey is meant to find the deficiencies in the education of the unrecognized madarsas in the state.
This move has challenged the status quo at the madarsas and have therefore created restlessness among the Ulemas, which have questioned the timing and the intent of the exercise.
The surveys were initiated after National Commission for Protection of Child Rights submitted its report to all state governments asking them to map the madarsas.
The report has made the recommendation on the basis of certain complaints of child rights violations. It is estimated that there are more than one lakh madarsas in the country.
Interestingly NCPCR in its 2021 report had not singled out madarsas. But it had also recommended mapping of the all unrecognized Vedic Pathshalas, Gumpas and other forms of non-formal education centers as well.
However, there has been a sharp criticism among the Muslims and some political leaders, who on various counts have questioned the state governments’ extraordinary attention and singling out the Muslim institutions.
However, Muslim intellectuals like Iqbal had felt the need for improvement and had believed that the madarsa syllabus was ossified in time. Even today the scholars’ views on the need for reforms in Muslim education have not changed. Indian madarsas largely run-on charity and have not relied either on government or foreign funding. A large percentage of these madarsas act as orphanages.
To bring about more clarity let’s look at the type of madarsas in India. Basically, there are three types of madarsas. First which are unmapped and include country’s top madarsas including highly reputed Darul-Uloom. It is run by donations from within the country. Such institutes constitute the largest number in the country.
The second type are recognized, which are registered in the state madarsa board and provide some kind of modern education to the children. They also receive textbooks, uniforms, other facilities and funds from the governments.
The third type is unrecognized, which have approached the government for funds but either due to insufficient infrastructure or some other reason they were not granted the recognition. They are also on their own.
According to NCPCR report total number of Muslim children in India in age group 6-14 years was 3.8 crores. Total number of Muslim Out of School Children is 1.1 crore (about 33 per cent). As per the reports most such students are studying in unmapped madarsas, (which are also considered to be unrecognized by the government) and about 15 lakh student study in the recognized madarsas.
In the past Congress, Janta Dal and BJP have made efforts to improve the condition of madarsas, by carrying out limited studies but no significant results were achieved.
The madarsas in India have largely remained neglected and left to fend for themselves due to their being involved in religious teaching only. But like other religious institutions across the country there are some black sheep indulging in undesirable activities such as terrorism, etc. Further there is a lack of transparency.
It needs to be understood that a small percentage of parents send children to madarsas by choice of pursuing Islamic studies. As some students are genuinely interested in advanced religious studies.
One also finds some very bright students in these institutes, who have even cracked All India Services competitive exams, considered to be one of the toughest in the world. Recently concluded NEET exams also prove their capability.
By and large a majority of students studying in madarsas constitute children of poor background, who don’t have the privilege of going to schools and belong to families which fall below poverty line. So madarsas remain the only option for their overall growth.
As per NCPCR report the Muslim community contributes to a share percentage of 69.18% to the religious minority population and contributes to a share of merely 22,75 per cent to the religious minority schools. It had a total of 4085 schools. It is also a fact that below 5 per cent students from madarsas make it to the undergraduate level.
There should be no doubt that madarsas need to be more inclusive in their approach and syllabus. There is no binding on madarsas to only impart religious studies. The Right to Education in all of its 39 Sections doesn’t restrict imparting religious education. Therefore, a blending of religious studies and modern education within the ambit of Right to Education Act seems to be a good solution. The madarsas need to open up to modern studies and private schools need to impart religious studies as well.
While madarsas have their own place and significance and should evolve for children’s betterment, there is also a need to increase the number of Muslim private schools in the country. The community should make efforts in this direction.
Now that UP, Assam and Uttarkhand government have decided to carry out the surveys of madarsas it is expected that it’s going to be a meaningful exercise. The data from the surveys will be used for the benefit of education for Muslim students, who would eventually turn out to be better and more productive citizens.

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