Thursday, August 21, 2014

Minds trapped in "metal coffins"

The multiple partitions in South Asia makes a powerful case for co-existence (which is, sad to say, lost on the extremists). Tactics which lead to polarization between (and ghettoization of) communities must end, else we will be well on our way to create a Middle East in our midst.

Take one instructive example. EMS Namboodiripad is an all-time great amongst Indian politicians. But even as a man of the left he was not averse to playing communal games. It was in 1969 - only two decades removed from Partition I - that EMS promised and delivered a "muslim district" in Kerala by merging together the Muslim majority areas of Thrissur, Palakkad and Kozhikkode districts. This was done at the behest of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in return for short-term political support for the CPM led Left Front (IUML has long back ditched the CPM and is now partnered with the Congress).

Now the IUML is demanding for a separate Muslim state by bifurcating Kerala and capturing some land from Tamil Nadu (good luck with that). So...the next logical step will be a Muslim country...right? Not to worry, people already refer to Malappuram as mini Pakistan.
Recently Malappuram district secretary of Muslim Youth League demanded the division of Kerala. He demanded a new state named Malabar with Kozhikode as the capital city. It is reported that they want a new state including “7 districts, right from Thrissur, along with the inclusion of Mahi and the Nilagiri district of Tamil Nadu.". The justification for the demand is that "it will be the sole solution" that will "help in the progress of the region." 

All this political skullduggery has predictably led to a backlash and "hindu" organizations have now joined forces- for example, the Nairs (NSS) and the Ezhavas (SNDP) who were once separated by bitter caste barriers. Once the Left collapses, the BJP will be ready to take over (just like how it is happening in Bengal).

No good comes out of creating divisions within people (usually done for winning political power). Neighbors should not have to meet purity tests. And when one identity (religious) becomes too strong, then people will suffer, minorities for sure, but even people from the dominant faith.  

The stowaways who were just now rescued from a "metal coffin" in England have been identified as Afghan Sikhs. Sikhs and Hindus have been living in Afghanistan for centuries. With the rise of the Taliban (again), these communities face the choice of conversion or death. If and when the Taliban comes back to power (again), only muslims will be left to face the beatings, hand choppings and be-headings, while muslim women will disappear into home-prisons.

International manhunt continues for traffickers who crammed 35 immigrants into container bound for Port of Tilbury. Disturbing footage showed migrants crawling helplessly on the floor, while harrowing screams echo around docks. Altogether, 13 children, including a baby, and adults up to the age of 72 - including man in his 40s who died - were among groupEssex Police have confirmed all of those inside the unit were Sikhs from Afghanistan - two remain in hospital today

Finally, a comment on the latest abduction case (again). Tamil Nadu was spared the terrible Hindu-Muslim riots that shook North India during partition. As a Tamilian from the Christian faith, Friar Alexis Prem Kumar may not comprehend why a Pashtun from the Muslim faith would have cause to dislike him, even to hate him. But we still have to wonder if he and his family were willfully unaware of current events or relying on divine grace. If so it was an act of foolishness that may cost his life.

We also understand that religious folks have a strong sense of service. But any service (especially in foreign lands) must be coupled to a proper risk-benefit analysis. It is madness for a Catholic to be deployed in Afghanistan where apostasy-conversion-blasphemy carries the most severe of penalties. Jesuit Refugee Service, the employer of Prem Kumar, must answer why it was necessary to put this man's life in danger. 

Ultimately in the grand scheme of things it probably does not matter if a single Sikh, Hindu, or Christian is unable to survive in Afghanistan. The Hindu-Sindhis, to take one example, have made a new home for themselves over a matter of a two generations. But those minds trapped in metal coffins- they are worrisome indeed. 

It will take some extra-ordinary event to bring peace to the Middle East and North Africa. We do not see any prospect of such an event in our lifetime at least. So many millions condemned to perpetual strife, cleansing and genocide, this is certainly not the will of God for sure (if she exists). But it is also a cautionary tale for India and Indians. Let us all learn and live, let us all live and learn.
 Family members of abducted Jesuit priest from Sivaganga Fr Alexis Prem Kumar who met Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Thursday evening said that they were assured that the Centre was keen on rescuing him soon and it was taking all efforts to bring him back.

Kumar's 77-year-old father A S M Antonysamy, brothers Albert Manoharan, John Joseph, sisters A Elizbeth Rani and Sahaya Selvi who met Sushma Swaraj submitted a petition to the minister seeking to intensify efforts to find him. "The minister assured that the Centre was keen on rescuing Alexis Prem Kumar and was taking all diplomatic efforts to bring him back," said Fr Francis Jayapathy, who had accompanied the family members.

The 47-year-old priest from Sivaganga district who went to Afghanistan as country director of Jesuit Refugee service, a catholic charity organization in 2012 was abducted by suspected Taliban militants on June 2 this year from Herat province in Afghanistan.

It has been nearly two months since his abduction but there was little information about his whereabouts. "We don't know where he is being kept or what efforts were being taken by Afghanistan authorities to rescue him. But the only factor that keeps our hopes high is the assurance from the Indian embassy officials that he is safe," said a family member.


Link (1): Illegal-immigrants-in-Tilbury-shipping-container-were-Sikhs-from-Afghanistan

Link (2): Government-taking-all-efforts-to-bring-back-priest



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