The Bharatiya Janata Party’s ruling coalition partner, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Friday accused its ally of “communalising human rights and governance issues” in the Jammu region.“There is nothing right about the right wing. The outburst by so-called leaders of Jammu about certain measures to safeguard the tribal community is unwarranted and uncalled for. This follows the politicising of the probe into the rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa,” said PDP leader Firdous Tak, also an MLC from Kishtwar in the Chenab Valley.Referring to the BJP’s stand on tribal rights over forest land, which the BJP is openly opposing, Mr. Tak said: “The majoritarian approach of pushing the minorities to the wall is not new in Jammu. The BJP is following the footprints of the Congress to represent the majority opinion.”Warning against playing communal politics, the MLC said: “Every time you [the BJP] play the communal card, you are hurting the constitutional mandate.”Tribal rights and the rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomad girl have had the two coalition partners pulling in different directions.Sources said that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday refused to meet the BJP MLAs who are demanding that the rape case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Ms. Mufti’s stand has further soured relations.
Tayyab Ali, 92, lies on a rusty cot in a large house with a courtyard full of plants. Clad in an off-white kurta, he peers intently through thick glasses as he says, “I moved here in 1946 to protect our heritage. I am still doing the same thing.”Tayyab Ali Bengali, as he likes to be called, had migrated from what is now Bangladesh. He was one of the 313 Ahmadiyyas who, at the time of the Partition, had chosen to stay back in Qadian in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. It was here that the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, had established a religious community in 1889. The Ahmadiyyas believe that their founder was the “promised messiah” of the Muslims, meant to propagate the teachings of Prophet Mohammad. But the majority Sunni Muslims believe the Prophet to be the last messiah. This fundamental difference in religious belief has meant that the Ahmadiyyas are a persecuted minority in every Islamic state.In Pakistan, where over 4 million Ahmadiyyas reside, an ordinance passed by the government in 1984 declared them as “non-Muslims”. It also made it a criminal offence for members of this community to practise Islam or claim to be Muslims.As for the Ahmadiyyas, they call themselves a “revival movement in Islam”, one that rejects “terrorism” and believes in the “jihad of the pen” as opposed to a “jihad of the sword”.Mr. Ali is proud to be a ‘Darvesh’, the title given to each of the 313 who chose to stay in India after the 1947 Partition, leaving their families in Pakistan. He recalls attending a few sermons given by Ahmadiyya leaders in 1945, after which he decided to join the sect. He moved to Qadian the following year.“My parents were Sunnis. They stopped me but I didn’t listen to them. After Partition, my father sent me a money order and asked me to come back. But I sent the money order back,” he says. He last travelled to see his family over 50 years ago, in what was then East Pakistan, but returned in four days. “The environment was hostile. My parents didn’t treat me well. I came back,” he recalls. In India, he says, he wakes up for fajr, the first of the five prayers through the day, rests, eats, and goes to watch kids play football in the evening.The only tough time, he recalls, was the year following Partition. “We lived like prisoners, with a bare minimum of food, for over a year. We couldn’t get out of Qadian. A year later, I started playing football and volleyball, and that became a reason for me to get out of Qadian sometimes for tournaments,” Mr. Ali says.India’s Ahmadiyya population is about 1.5 lakh, About 6,000 of them live in Qadian in a settlement spread across 1,500 acres. It has a residential colony, two mosques, State board-affiliated schools for both girls and boys, a religious college, a few manufacturing units, including a chapatti-making unit, playgrounds, community halls, and religious monuments.Self-sustaining communityModelled as a self-sustaining township of sorts, the community enjoys its own administration, known as the ‘Secretariat’, with separate departments for expenditure, construction, audit, general affairs, information technology, waseehat and jaidaat. All the department heads are appointed by the ‘Khalifa’, or fifth successor of the founder, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. The Khalifa is based in London, which has now become the headquarters of the community.“Most of the money to run the community comes from donations by our members across the country. A significant part of it is generated by a system wherein those who pledge allegiance to the community donate 10% of their property and monthly salary to the administration,” says Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat’s (AMJ) spokesperson Tariq Ahmed. Many members of the community live in houses owned by the sect, pay a nominal rent, and work at the Secretariat.Nasir Waheed, who handles accounts at the Secretariat, says that he gets a salary of just ₹7,000 a month but is grateful for the peaceful life. “My children study in the community school where the fees are low. And because I work for the community, there are a lot of benefits,” he says, adding that his father was a Darvesh. “He worked for free in the initial years and started with a salary of ₹5”.Mr. Waheed’s wife, Swalehah Waheed (37), says the women are mostly occupied in religious programmes scheduled through the year. The entire settlement is divided into 13 sub-areas, each headed by a woman who is responsible for the ‘religious guidance’ of the women of her subdivision. “They give us books of our Khalifa to read and there are regular discussions around it. Every now and then, religious programmes are organised where women and minor girls share what they have read,” says Ms. Waheed, who has a master’s degree in political science from Panjab University.While there are many like Ms. Waheed, there are also women like Tahira Maqbool. Ms. Maqbool is now an Indian citizen but was a Pakistani until two years ago. The 34-year-old mother of three recalls life back “home” in Faisalabad and the pain of living there.‘Home’ truths “I was born in Faisalabad and stayed there till I got married in 2003. It’ll always be home because I’ve spent my childhood there. But in Pakistan we are treated worse than animals,” she says. Recalling an incident, she describes how her brother was once stopped on the street for particular reason, slapped around, and asked to change his faith.Tehmida (29), also a Pakistani born and brought up in Karachi, got married in India in 2013. She, too, has experienced persecution. “I was a bright student in college and my teachers loved me. But the day they came to know that I was an Ahmadiyya, their attitude towards me changed completely. They even asked me to leave the college. I said I’ll only leave if you make a formal complaint.”Unfortunately, for the married Pakistani women in Qadian, the ordeal doesn’t end even after they leave their home country. In India, life without citizenship is not easy either.“Sometimes, I feel like a prisoner because I have to renew my visa every year. I got married here and my four-year-old son is also an Indian. But I can’t leave Qadian. To travel out of this town, I need a No Objection Certificate from the Indian government. This remains a huge problem,” says Ms. Tehmida, adding that her friends from Pakistan often ask her if she has visited Mumbai or the Taj Mahal. “What could I say?”Slow citizenship process Tears roll down the eyes of Ms. Maqbool as she recalls the time her father passed away, in April 2012. She could not go and see him one last time as she had submitted her passport to the Indian government as part of her citizenship application process. “It is a very slow process,” she says. “I received the citizenship certificate only in April 2016.” Rukaiyya Khalam (52), from Pakistan’s Rabwah, has a similar story. She came to India in 1994 and started her citizenship process right then. “My mother passed away in 1996. But there is a requirement that in order to get citizenship, I should not leave India for seven years after I come here. So I didn’t go. Now, more than 20 years later, I am still not an Indian national,” she says.Ms. Tehmida, however, is happy in one respect. “I am free to practise my beliefs the way I want”.Mr. Ahmed, too, dwells on the relief in being able to freely call oneself a Muslim.In September, the Pakistani government had removed Princeton economist Atif Mian, an Ahmadiyya, from the newly set up Economic Advisory Council because of opposition from the Sunni majority. “In Pakistan, we can’t keep the Koran. We can’t celebrate Id. We can’t publish any of our books or periodicals. We can’t greet with Assalamu alaikum. There is not a single month when our people are not martyred. How would they accept one of us in the national Economic Advisory Council? India and most of the 211 other countries where our people live are extremely tolerant in this matter as compared to Pakistan,” he says.Members of the community say that they can lead a normal life In India, like any other Muslim, so long as they don’t show that they’re Ahmadiyya. Mansoor Ahmad, a local who often visits his relatives in Delhi, says that his nieces and nephews go to a private college and none of their friends really care what community they are from. “But it’s not always like this. There have been instances when hardliners in Ludhiana have created a ruckus because of our presence during religious programmes. But even on those occasions things never escalated to violence,” he says.
The maiden session of the 17th Lok Sabha commenced Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi among the 320 of the 542 MPs taking oath during the first day of the two-day long swearing-in ceremony marked by some controversy, slip-ups and slogan shouting.Linguistic diversity was in full play with the oath being taken in different languages as several newly-elected members sported colourful attire, traditional shawls and headgears while a section wore a saffron look.As the Leader of the House, Modi was the first to take oath as member of the lower house, nearly four weeks after leading the BJP to a resounding victory in the Lok Sabha polls with the party retaining power winning 303 seats.Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah, Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari were among the prominent members who took oath.The oath was administered by seven-term BJP MP Virendra Kumar shortly after he was sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Kumar will also oversee the election of the Lok Sabha speaker on Wednesday.Addressing the media outside parliament before the commencement of Parliament session, Modi set the tone for the business in the House, saying the opposition need not “bother about their numbers” as their every word is “valuable” to the government.He urged all the MPs to be impartial in the House and address issues related to the larger interest of the nation.”When we come to Parliament, we should forget paksh (treasury) and vipaksh (opposition). We should think about issues with a nishpaksh (impartial) spirit and work in the larger interest of the nation,” he said.advertisementWhen Modi’s name was called out by the Secretary General for taking oath, members from the ruling NDA thumped the desk greeting the prime minister with slogans such as “Modi-Modi” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.Besides the union ministers who were elected to the Lok Sabha, members from 23 states and union territories, including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar took oath. In all, 320 MPs took oath, according to a Lok Sabha bulletin.The remaining 222 members will take oath on Tuesday.In the Monsoon session, a full-fledged Union Budget will be presented on July 5. The session concludes on July 26.The Lok Sabha at present has 542 elected members.Elections to Vellore seat in Tamil Nadu was cancelled as the Election Commission felt excessive money power was being used to lure voters in that constituency. A fresh date is yet to be announced.BJP MP from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur created a controversy when she suffixed the name of her spiritual guru with hers while taking oath, drawing objections from the Opposition.Amid protests and shoutings, Thakur said that it was her full name and she had mentioned that she had already mentioned her full name in the form filled for oath taking.The mention of Swami Purna Chetnanand Avdheshanand Giri as suffix to her name Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur evoked sharp reaction from the Opposition members who said this was not permitted.Amid noise and objections, pro-tem Speaker Virendra Kumar ruled that only the name written in her election certificate issued by the returning officer would go on record.Thakur, the Malegaon blast accused, took oath in Sanskrit and ended it with ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan.Thakur defeated Congress stalwart Digvijay Singh to enter the Lok Sabha for the first time.Later, BJP members continued to raise ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogans.Amid thumping of desks by Congress members, Rahul Gandhi took oath in English. He won the election from Wayanad in Kerala.He had also contested from the Gandhi bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh but was defeated by BJP leader and Union Minister Smriti Irani.Gandhi, who got elected for the fourth time to the Lower House in a row, however, forgot the customary practice of signing the Lok Sabha register and started walking towards his seat after taking oath.He was immediately called back by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the deputy Leader of the House, and also Lok Sabha staff to sign the register.Sonia Gandhi, who was present when Rahul took oath in English, thumped the desk along with other Congress members after his name was called for taking oath.The Congress president came late to the Lok Sabha and was not present in the House when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues took oath as members.Irani received the longest applause when she took the oathadvertisementAs soon as she was called for oath taking, ruling BJP members, including Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Shah, other union ministers and MPs were seen enthusiastically thumping the desks for a long time.While the prime minister and most of union ministers took oath in Hindi, Union Ministers Harsh Vardhan, Sripad Naik, Ashwini Chaubey and Pratap Chandra Sarangi did so in Sanskrit.BJP member from Bihar Jarnardhan Singh Sigriwal expressed desire to take oath in Bhojpuri, but the Lok Sabha Secretary General said the language was not in the eight schedule of the Constitution.Union Ministers Babul Supriyo and Debashree Choudhury, who hail from West Bengal, were greeted by fellow BJP MPs with “Jai Shri Ram” slogans when they were called to take oath as Lok Sabha Members.The cheer was apparently to take a dig at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who had allegedly objected to uttering the slogan during some incidents in the state.When Union minister of state for environment and forest Supriyo was called to take oath, BJP members loudly cheered with “Jai Shri Ram”.The slogan was repeatedly chanted when Choudhury, Union minister of state for women and child development, was called to take oath.At least seven persons were detained on March 31 for chanting “Jai Shri Ram” slogan when Banerjees motorcade passed through North 24 Parganas district of the state.ALSO READ | 17th Lok Sabha: Budget, triple talaq on Modi’s to-do listALSO WATCH | Narendra Modi arrives for the first parliament session of 17th Lok Sabha