The blood-curdling Shraddha Murder case sounds straight out of a horror movie. A woman was killed by her boyfriend over a fight, and the murderer cut her body into 35 pieces and dispensed it in parts over 18 days.
But the case is also highlighting a deeply rooted problem in the Indian media and society as a whole: Islamophobia and victim abuse culture.
The Shraddha Murder Case
Shraddha and Aftab worked together in a call center and met each other via a dating app. Shraddha’s family, however, was not in favor of the relationship. This led the couple to move to Delhi from Mumbai and live together.
According to the police report, Shraddha and Aftab always had troublesome relationships, with frequent stances of violence. But, six months back, the abused relationship had their last fight, in which Aftab choked Shraddha to death.
In fear of being caught, Aftab butchered Shradha’s body in 35 pieces. Then, for the next 18 days, the cruel murderer used the silence of city night to dispose of parts of Shraddha’s body across the Lutyens Delhi.
Aftab also continued to live in the same house where he murdered, butchered, and kept his lover’s body. In a police statement, he disclosed that he even used incense sticks to wash off the smell of blood and flesh.
The gruesome Shardsha murder case came to light when the victim’s father reached out to the police. Shortly after the FIR was filed, police caught Aftab, which is when the heinous murder case came to light.
But, as gruesome as the murder is, the Shraddha murder case is perceived in a very different light by the Indian Media.
People around the country are using the case to advocate love jihad, scaring, shaming, and silencing women about relationships, and so much more, but what the case stands for, i.e., intimate partner violence and women’s safety in India.
Communal Violence & The Islamophobic Indian Media
The violence caught on camera: A Muslim man’s house was set on fire in Agra by a mob over his relationship with a Hindu girl (16 April 2022).
Young Muslim boy assaulted in a college in Surat over claims of “love jihad” (24 November 2022).
A Christan community arrested in Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur city over claims of ‘Forcer Conversion (1 December 2022)
The above headlines, from this year alone, show how religious insecurities, which are not necessarily based on truth, have led to the rise in communal violence. Buring down houses, mob lynching, harassment of citizens, and increased attacks on youngsters have become the new norm.
The primary target of this violence is usually Muslims and Christians.
In many cases, the unverified information is circulated, mainly by the mainstream media, with a communal twist. In contrast, however, there is no credible data yet to prove that India is indeed grappling with “forced religious conversions” or “Love Jihad.“
But switch on any News channel, and these are amongst a few mainstream topics.
Shaming, Scaring, and Silencing Women: Victim Abuse Culture
“Western culture has ruined Hindu girls.” Read one of the many tweets blaming Shraddha for the murder.
From the 2012 Nirbhaya case (the famous 2012 Delhi gang rape case) to the 2022 Shradha Murder case, the victim blaming and abusing culture hasn’t changed.
In Lata Singh v. State of UP (2006), the supreme court noted that even if it “may be perceived as immoral,” a live-in relationship among two consenting adults is not illegal.
“Live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country. The decision to marry or not to marry or to have a heterosexual relationship is intensely personal.”Indian supreme court, 2013
However, when it comes to relationships, especially inter-faith couples, women are often scoffed at, ridiculed, looked down upon, and scared to silence.
Intimate Partner Violence
The shame associated with live-in relationships holds women from publically acknowledging intimate partner violence. In fear of being blamed for their choices and deserving of the harassment, these women shut themselves, evidently seen in the case of Shraddha and Aftab’s relationship.
Although the specifics of Shraddha Walker’s case are not yet known, it is important to keep in mind that if adult women in consensual relationships are reminded of their legal protections and that just because something is socially “frowned upon,” it does not necessarily mean it is wrong, brutal murder like these can be avoided.
But, intimate partner violence stretches far beyond violence in live-in relationships. Matrimony really isn’t a safeguard from abuse, either.
In India, the cases of cruelty against women by husbands have increased by 53%.
“It appears that married women in India are safer on the streets than in their matrimonial homes.“Delhi high court
According to Kavita Krishnan, a women’s rights activist, husbands/ boyfriends murder women after months and years of domestic violence. And if people can have a different outlook, the lives of such women can be easily saved.
Shraddha Murder Case: The Wakeup Call
Shraddha murder case is the perfect example of how the Indian Media diverts the audience from the core problem (intimate partner violence) and directs them to the superficial issue of love jihad and forced conversions.
Polarizing opinions and Islamophobia influencing debates and reports have become the norm. Be it any news; mainstream media houses find a way to reap their Islamophobic perspective while religious minorities and abused women continue to suffer in the dark.
The case should be a wake-up call, if not for the media, at least for the Indian population, to demand the government for better laws to protect women. And India, as a society, needs to evolve and respect women for their personal choices. This will encourage women stuck in abusive relationships like Shraddha to come forward and be saved.
BBC’s Modi Documentary Rattles Modi Government
BCC recently released a documentary on India’s controversial right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi rattling Modi and his ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The documentary’s first episode titled “India: The Modi Question” which was released in the UK on 17th January drew a sharp reaction from the Modi government.
Modi Government Blocks the Documentary in India
The Modi government moved swiftly to block the documentary in India. Proving right the critics of IT Rules, 2021, the Modi government’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting invoked emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 to order YouTube to take down all the videos that had published the first episode of the documentary. Orders were also issued to Twitter to take down all the tweets that had posted the link to the documentary. Both YouTube and Twitter complied with the orders, removing all the posts and videos flagged by the government.
The government alleged that the documentary was found to be “undermining sovereignty and integrity of India, and having the potential to adversely impact India’s friendly relations with foreign states”, which allowed for the invocation of the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021. The government also alleged that the documentary questions the credibility of the Supreme Court of India and attempts to sow divisions among different communities while also making unsubstantiated allegations regarding the activities of foreign governments in India.
Earlier India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson dismissed the documentary as a “propaganda piece that lacks objectivity and reflects colonial mindset”. The spokesperson also questioned the timings of the release of the documentary.
The documentary’s first episode produced by the BBC tracks Modi’s “first steps into politics”- his association with the right-wing Hindu extremist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), his rise through the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and further his appointment as Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat in 2001 till 2014. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi’s involvement in and his response to a series of communal riots in 2002 remains a source of controversy.
The documentary highlights a previously unpublished report, obtained by the BBC from the British Foreign Office, which raises questions about Modi’s actions during the religious riots. The report claims that Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that enabled the violence.
The report cited by the BCC was part of an inquiry ordered by the then foreign secretary Jack Straw. The reports say that “the extent of violence was much greater than reported” and “the aim of the riots was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas”.
Jack Straw is heard in the documentary saying, “these were very serious claims that Mr Modi had played a proactive part in pulling back police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists. That was a particularly egregious example of political involvement to prevent police from doing their job to protect the Hindus and the Muslims.”
Modi’s Role in Gujarat Riots of 2002
It is the documentary’s highlight of the Gujarat riots of 2002 that has rattled the Modi government.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people. Most of those killed were Muslims. Modi is alleged to have instigated the riots and further prevented the police and the army from taking any action to stop the riots. Most of the reports published on the Gujarat riots by the Indian media as well as the international media point out Modi’s direct role in facilitating the riots. It has been claimed that Modi gave a free hand to Hindu extremists to kill Muslims and the aim was to purge Hindu localities of Muslims.
Modi has rejected these accusations. Further, in 2013 an investigation approved by the Indian Supreme Court absolved Mr. Modi of complicity in the rioting. Based on that finding, a court in the state of Gujarat found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
Action Taken by Foreign Countries against Modi
Like the above-cited British Foreign Office report, there were many countries that were convinced of Modi’s role in the killing of Muslims during the riots. Concerned countries acted against Modi at different levels.
Modi was banned entry into the U.S. for more than a decade for his role in the riots. In 2005, Modi became the only person ever to be denied a U.S. visa under the 1998 law on violations of religious freedom. The U.S. State Department invoked a little-known U.S. law passed in 1998 that makes foreign officials responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for visas. The ban on Modi’s travel to the U.S. was revoked by the Obama administration in 2014 after he became the prime minister of India.
A Permanent Stain on Modi’s Career
Modi may have achieved great things in his political career, but the stain of the Gujarat riots is permanent on his career.
Modi loves the camera. He loves advertising and branding himself. Modi puts his picture on everything. He loves hearing his voice. However, ever since he became the prime minister of India, he has never given an unscripted interview to the media. He has also never held a press conference in India or abroad. It has been claimed that Modi does not want difficult questions about his attitude towards the Muslim minority of India thrown at him.
When Modi became the prime minister of India, Indian liberals were hopeful that Modi had changed. They were wrong in their assessment that Modi as a prime minister would be inclusive. However, after Modi’s eight years as a prime minister now, he has not changed his attitude towards Muslims. As of now, Muslims are increasingly persecuted by his government.
This author highly recommends that you watch the BBC documentary on Modi. Its first episode has been released here (if you are outside the UK watch it here or use VPN). The next episode will be available on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, at 21:00.
Sopore Massacre 1993- When 57 Civilians Were Killed in Kashmir
Sopore Massacre 1993- When 57 civilians were ruthlessly killed in Kashmir
The Sopore Massacre refers to the shooting of at least 57 civilians (according to some reports 45 civilians) in Kashmir, in the town of Sopore on 6 January 1993 by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF). The BSF 94 Battalion set five Sopore neighborhoods on fire in broad daylight while opening fire from all directions. 48 people died from gunshot wounds, nine people were burned alive, and hundreds more were hurt, leaving them as the only witnesses to the horrifying, inhumane massacre. The Sopore town, then known as the “militancy capital,” experienced numerous killings and arsons in the 1990s.
However, January 1993 massacre carried out by the BSF scarred the town painfully after coffins of burned citizens were lowered into graves, numerous others were injured, and residential houses and business units burned down and destroyed.
Justice has eluded the relatives of the victims of the brutal Sopore Massacre for the past 30 years now. The loved ones of the people in Sopore were shot at and burned indiscriminately in Apple Town Sopore in North Kashmir at the hands of the troops of the BSF. On that tragic day, the BSF went on a rampage after a militant allegedly stole a rifle from a trooper, after which they killed at least 57 innocent Kashmiri civilians.
While Gawkadal, Handwara, Kunan Poshpora, Kupwara, and Bijbehara are only a few of the numerous bloody atrocities that have happened in Kashmir. The Sopore massacre is one of the uncommon handful that has also been recognized by the Government of India. The first sign of acknowledgment was the approval of a First Information Report submitted in Sopore in 1993 by Muhammad Ilyas, president of Anjaman-i-Munir-ul-Islam and registered as “FIR Number 8/1993.” The BSF was charged in the FIR with burning down 400 homes and businesses in addition to killing 57 civilians.
Read here, The Forgotten Jammu Massacre
Survivors Recount the Horrors of the Sopore Massacre
An eyewitness on the condition of anonymity told The Kashmiriyat, “I spotted the BSF Soldiers at a distance who stopped an SRTC Bus (JKY-1901) and pulled out the driver and went inside the bus, then the BSF men fired bullets mercilessly at 20 people, killing them all on the spot. “After the bus was filled with a pool of blood, the troopers started spraying gunpowder, kerosene, and petrol on the surrounding buildings and torched them.”
After a militant allegedly snatched a riffle from a BSF trooper, the soldiers from the 94th Battalion slaughtered innocent Kashmiris shortly after the incident. Even today, while recounting that horrific carnage, many who witnessed it shudder.
“Among the 57 dead civilians, 48 died due to bullet shots and 9 were burnt alive. More than 400 commercial establishments and 75 residential houses were set ablaze in five localities of Sopore- Armpora, Muslimpeer, Kralteng, Shallapora, Shahabad, and Bobimir Sahab. Among the gutted buildings, there were some landmark buildings like Women’s Degree College and Samad Talkies.” Said the witnesses.
“I still have the haunting images in my mind, there was a shopkeeper who rushed out of his shop in flames and shouting for help, but there was no help on offer,” said the survivor of the massacre.
A 57-year-old witness said that it was only after Sopore had buried its people that the BSF came up with a theory that a local Militant had decamped with a rifle, somewhere in the township.
What led to the Massacre?
Despite 30 years having passed by, nobody quite still understands nor has there been any official record of what caused the BSF men to carry out such a heinous crime and kill people indiscriminately on that chilly January morning of 1993. There were only two options available to helpless people trapped in the horrible event, and both decisions ultimately proved to be very costly. Stepping outside of their shops meant being immediately shot at. While those who took refuge in their shops were burned to death. Many of the victims who died on January 6, 1993, were buried without their loved ones having the chance to bid farewell to them or participate in the funeral rites.
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Chairman and renowned Human Rights activist Parviz Imroz told CNS that 24 days after the massacre government set up a one-man Commission of Inquiry on 30 January 1993 comprising of Justice Amarjeet Choudhary. “Between, 30 January 1993 and 30 April 1994, the Commission visited Jammu and Kashmir only once. The government described the inquiry as a “farce” and chose not to extend the term of the Commission. No report was therefore submitted by the Commission. Simultaneously the CBI was tasked with the investigation in January 1993 itself and took 20 years (January 1993 to July 2013) to carry out investigations, only to seek closure of the case citing lack of evidence.”
The “farcical” actions of the State, continued Parviz Imroz, are in contrast to the evidence that is readily available and might be utilised to bring charges against troops of the 94th Battalion, BSF. “The CBI record itself has names of ten BSF officers/personnel who could be indicted in this case, including the then DIG R.S. Jasrotia, Sector Headquarters, BSF, Baramulla and Commandant S. Thanggapan, 94th Battalion, BSF. Instead, the CBI has sought to rely on a BSF court-martial to close investigations (despite never seeing the court-martial file as the BSF refused to share the same.”
The CBI purposefully withheld providing the record despite earlier court orders to that effect in order to prolong the proceedings.
No Closure for the Victims and their Family Members
Imroz claimed that the evidence obtained through RTI made it abundantly evident that the BSF’s court-martial process was just an attempt to obscure the killings, as the seven BSF men accused were ultimately convicted only guilty of one charge. “Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy houses, etc”, and the maximum punishment awarded was “3 months rigorous imprisonment in force custody”.
The Sopore massacre survivors had opposed the case’s closure, and on January 20, 2014, the TADA court in Srinagar was ordered by the CBI to provide over the entirety of the investigation’s file.
“Massacres like the Sopore one continues to haunt Kashmiris because there has been no closure. No one has been punished and the case has been hanging since 30 years. If a young Kashmiri child reads about it today, he will be provoked,” said a Srinagar-based senior journalist Sheikh Mushtaq. The Valley was hit after the incident, said observers.
The case was handed over to the CBI, who sought a closure on the investigations in December 2013. In order to refute the State’s lies and attempts to cover up the Sopore massacre of 1993, the survivors sought to challenge the CBI in the court.
India: School Principal Booked After Students Recite Iqbal’s Poem- What Makes Muhammad Iqbal a Contentious Figure in India?
School Principal booked after students recite Iqbal’s Poem- What makes Muhammad Iqbal a Contentious figure in India?
After the great poet Muhammad Iqbal’s poem “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua” was recited by students during the morning assembly, a video of the event went viral, leading to the arrest of the principal of a government school and a Shiksha Mitra in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. The Education Department has also placed Shiksha Mitra Wazeeruddi under investigation and suspended the school’s principal, Nahid Siddiqui. “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua”, also known as “Bachche Ki Dua” (A child’s prayer), is an Urdu language dua, or prayer, in verse form authored by Muhammad Iqbal in 1902. The poem has been set to music and sung in morning school assemblies in Pakistan as well as India.
While far-right groups have been using this and similar incidents in order to demonize Iqbal for quite some time, Muhammad Iqbal has become a contentious figure in India for many more reasons. Muhammad Iqbal is also known for writing the most popular patriotic song of India “Saare Jahan se acha Hindustan humara” (Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan), which he also called “Tarana-e-Hind” (Song of India).
School Principal booked in UP
A First Information Report was filed against Siddiqui and Wazeeruddin at the Fareedpur police station in response to a complaint made by Sompal Singh Rathore, a local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) official, who claimed that a “religious prayer” was recited at the public school in an effort to convert the children. He also alleged that the principal “made” the students recite the Islamic prayer with the purpose of offending Hindu sensibilities. Police have filed the FIR against the two instructors under sections 298 (deliberate intention to wound religious sentiments) and 153(provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) after taking notice of the complaint.
The complaint was lodged by Sompal Singh Rathore, a local leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an Indian right-wing Hindu organization based on Hindu nationalism. According to Rathore, students should be made to recite the Indian national anthem and “Saraswati Vandana” (a Hindu mantra for goddess Saraswati that is recited for music, knowledge, and wisdom). Instead, they were forced to chant “Mere Allah Burai Se Bachana Mujhko” (O Allah, protect me from evil) by the headmaster.
Controversy over Iqbal- The Second Incident in Four Years
This is not the first time that a school head has been terminated because of a prayer. This is the second time in four years that a local VHP worker filed this type of complaint. Three years ago, in October 2019 a VHP worker alleged that the headmaster of a government primary school in the Bisalpur neighborhood of Pilibhit had forced students to recite a religious prayer that is typically recited in madrasas. As a result, the headmaster was subsequently suspended. The students also recited “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua” by Allama Iqbal in that instance. Later, the headmaster was reinstated but moved to a different institution.
Soon after the complaint was lodged and the incident made it to the news, BJP spokespersons took to social media to support the FIR. Anyone who called out the absurdity of the complaint started to get trolled by BJP spokespersons and supporters who called these people anti-nationalists and supporters of a communal leader like Iqbal. Right-wing groups started demonizing Iqbal by calling him a bigot and father of the two-nation theory and a staunch advocate for the creation of Pakistan.
When a popular Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai took to his Twitter handle to express his disappointment with the incident, he was severely trolled. One BJP supporter and journalist even wrote an article dedicated to “demystifying” the myth of Iqbal’s pedestalization by the Indian left and Indian Muslims.
“While the nation and especially those advocating secularism know Iqbal only for writing ‘Sare Jaha Se Accha, Hindustan Hamara’, there’s much more to him that they conveniently sweep under the rug, which includes Tarana-e-Milli and the formation of Pakistan . . . The Islamic fundamentalist nature of Muhammad Iqbal became entirely evident as he wrote, ‘Cīn o-ʿArab hamārā, Hindūstāṉ hamārā, Muslim haiṉ ham, wat̤an hai sārā jahāṉ hamārā’ ”, the article mentioned.
Who is Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) ?
Iqbal, one of the most prominent figures in Urdu literature during the first three decades of the 20th century, transitioned from writing about subjects that were specifically Indian and reflective of pluralism and multiculturalism to using worldwide realities to arouse, stimulate, and encouraging the imagination of Indian Muslims. Through his stirring poetry, he was one of the first to teach socialism and the socialist movement to young people in India. In addition, he added contemporary philosophical ideas that he had learned about while studying in Europe and greatly expanded the range of the educated Muslim intellectual discourse while keeping it bound to their essentially Islamic roots. He advocated “socialism” cloaked in Islam in his fiery rallies against the powers of capitalism and imperialism.
Poems like “Masjide-e-Qartaba” (The Mosque at Cordoba) and “O Ghafil Afghan” (O Heedless Afghan), written by a celebrated and lauded poet like Muhammad Iqbal, fueled a rising fear that a “grave disaster” was waiting to strike the Muslims of the sub-continent. Iqbal was one of the first to notice the struggles that the Indian Muslims were experiencing on account of their religion, and to include it in his poetry. The fate of his fellow Muslims in various colonized lands seemed to foretell even worse things for Muslims in India, who were a minority in a colonized Hindu majority population.
Upon the formation of Pakistan, he was honored as its national poet, as well as earning the titles ‘Mufakkir-e-Pakistan’ (thinker of Pakistan), Hakeem-ul-Ummat (sage of the Ummah), and Shayar-e-Mashriq (poet of the east).
The Vilification of Muhammad Iqbal
The most well-known of Iqbal’s many works is the timeless “Saare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara,” which he wrote in 1904 and which became one of the songs that propelled Indian independence fighters against British authority. The right-wing groups vilifying Iqbal keep reinforcing that after writing “Tarana-e-Hind” (song of India) in 19004 he went on to write “Tarana-e-Milli” (song of the community) in 1910. They use this example to display the contradiction between the India-loving patriot that he is thought of instead of the Muslim bigot and the father of the two-nation theory that he turned out to be.
The Tarana-e-Hind and the Tarana-e-Milli show the progression from “Hindi hain hum watan hai Hindustan hamara” (We are the people of Hind and Hindustan is our homeland) to “Muslim hain hum watan hai sara jahan hamara” (We are Muslim the whole world is our homeland). However, it might be worthwhile to consider his body of work as a whole to try and understand the movement in his poetic thought. Iqbal’s history and poetic career can be split into three phases. The first one is his patriotic poetry dedicated to the Indian nation and patriotism from 1901 to 1905, after which he did philosophical poetry from 1905 to 1908, and eventually, his work and poetry focused on the Muslim community from 1908 to 1938.
Iqbal is considered to have given the vision for the creation of Pakistan, whereas Jinnah is considered to be the one who shaped this vision.
While Iqbal’s “Tarana-e-Milli” is a poem that talks about the notions of Islamic universalism, it has no offensive hints at the Hindu community. Therefore, using this poem to call Iqbal a Muslim bigot seems absolutely absurd.
Hindu Right Wing Group’s blind hatred for Muhammad Iqbal
Soon after his death, Iqbal (1877–1938) was denounced as the creator of the “two-nation theory,”, a follower of pan-Islamism, and a fervent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. After being hailed as Pakistan’s “national poet,” this criticism gained momentum in the years following the 1947 partition. However, people of India should pause and think about BJP’s hatred for the same poet who gave India “Saare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan hamara,” a song that, incidentally, is used as the marching theme by not just one but multiple military bands of different regiments of the Indian armed forces.
BJP’s and other Hindu right-wing groups’ tendencies to perceive India through a starkly black or white lens, has led the Indian people towards majoritarianism and vilifying any belief system that differs from their own. The mindless loathing for Iqbal and everything he stands for seems unsurprising and even inevitable given the intensely volatile and polarizing times we live in.
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