|Az USÁ-ban élő muzulmán indiaiak első országos kongresszusának beszámolója / Report of IMC-USA (Indian Muslim Council\\\'s First National Convention, Santa Clara, USA, June 28-30, 2003)|
Subject: IMC-USA convention Report
Indian Muslim Council's First National Convention a Huge Success
India Symposium draws attendance by the hundreds
June 30, 2003: The first annual convention of the Indian Muslim Council-USA held on June 28th 2003 in Santa Clara, CA. was a huge success. Speakers and delegates called this a first of its kind symposium on India and a landmark event. The convention was covered widely in the local media.
Over 25 speakers representing a diverse and impressive array of experts, journalists, academicians and prominent representatives of secular as well as all major Indian religious communities held groundbreaking discussions on important contemporary issues relating to regional instability, human rights, sectarian violence, militant nationalism and prospects of boosting social amity in India. The convention, held at the Santa Clara Marriott, was attended by over 500 people.
Human Rights update
Smita Narula, India expert and senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, previewed an advance copy of HRW report on India titled "Compounding Injustice" at the convention. The report highlights the continued breakdown of government and judicial machinery in the Indian state of Gujarat which witnessed one of the most gruesome anti-minority violence in the history of Independent India. Govind Acharya, India Director at Amnesty International highlighted the plight of the religious minorities in Gujarat and suggested actions to bring the victims relief and justice.
Experiences in Multi-culturalism
The session titled "Experiences in Multi-culturalism" hosted a panel of speakers representing all major religious communities of India and was a major attraction. Raju Rajagopal, President of Coalition Against Communalism, elaborated on the distinction between Hindutva and Hinduism.
Reverend Jaswant Singha highlighted the plight of the Indian Chrisatians and expressed solidarity with the Muslim victims of the Gujarat pogrom. Kulmit Singh, National Coordinator of the Sikh Coalition, addressed the issue of the persecution of Sikhs in India and labeled attempts by the Sangh Parivar to address Sikhs as Hindus as a "policy of destruction through assimilation".
Dr. Aslam Abdallah, editor of the Muslim Observer and Minaret pondered on the issue of Muslim extremism while Dr. Ahmedullah Siddiqui, Professor of Public Relations at Western Illinois University, focused on fresh approaches that the Indian Muslim community can take in improving its outreach relations.
Dr. K. P. Singh, convener of the International Association of the Advancement of Dalit people explained Gujarat pogrom in the context of the 2000 years of persecution of Dalits. Dr. Rahul Deepankar, International President, Indian Buddhist Association of America spoke of the "dalitization of Muslims."
John Prabhudoss, executive director of the Policy Institute for Religion & State, a Washington DC based think tank, spoke about the need for joint efforts to counter the growing influence of the Hindu extremists on the Capitol Hill and establishment of a framework of cooperation among secular & plural minded groups.
Shri Shrikumar Poddar, of the Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, who was unable to attend the convention due to a prior commitment in Germany send a letter of support stating "I am wholeheartedly with you in the success of our mission".
Awards, named after great Muslim Indians were presented in various categories. The Main award of the Indian Muslim Council of USA namely THE RAFI AHMED KIDWAI AWARD IN HUMANITARIAN WORK was awarded to FR. CEDRIC PRAKASH S.J. of Ahmedabad and the citation inscribed on the plaque presented to him states "for selfless service towards the upliftment of the poor and oppressed classes in India”.
The award for "BEST INDEPTH COVERAGE OF THE INDIAN DIASPORA” was awarded to RUKMINI CALLIMACHI of the Daily Herald of Illinois for her series on the Indian Diaspora living in suburban Chicago.
The Banquet Address
Father Cedric Prakash Prakash, the Director of PRASHANT, the Jesuit Center of Human Rights, Justice and Peace in the State of Gujarat, spokesperson forewarned the people not to develop amnesia about the Gujarat pogrom and detailed the ongoing persecution of the Muslims and Christians in Gujarat. Referring to the words of India's first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru who fifty-four years ago in an address to the US Congress very forthrightly said " when freedom is threatened or justice is menaced, India cannot and shall not be neutral". Fr. Prakash said, "Yes, my dear friends, in the fact of what happened in Gujarat a year ago, none of us can be neutral. We have to take the stand for what is right and for what is just. He presented a replica of the "tree of life motif" of the famous Sidi Saiyed mosque to IMC-USA. The BJP led government had removed this century long symbol of Gujarat.
Praful Bidwai, one of the most respected and widely read journalist and political commentator in India, presented a detailed analysis of the political and economic strategy of the Hindutva group and called the battle for the soul of India as "not over yet". He predicted that Hindutva attempts to destroy India's secular democracy will fail. He backed his prediction with the fact that an overwhelming majority of India's national newspapers lamented the BJP's electoral victory in Gujarat and that no national or regional political party supports BJP's political or religious ideology.
Dr. Shaik Ubaid, president of IMC-USA, reassured Fr. Prakash that IMC-USA will never forget the Gujarat pogrom and will continue to work to bring all religious and secular groups together to promote pluralism in India. He pointed out that many moderate Hindu leaders have been in the forefront of the struggle against Hindutva-fascism. He warned that by remaining silent on the activities of Hindutva extremists, the Indian diaspora in the US will hurt the future empowerment of its coming generations. He called resisting the spread of Hindutva-extremism in India and the US, "the highest patriotic duty", as the extremists are not only damaging the reputation of India but are causing immense damage to India's economy.
Jameel Johnson, Chief of Staff of Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY 6th) addressed the overflowing banquet session on the importance of guarding the civil rights vigilantly while Congressman Mike Honda of Santa Clara (D-CA 15th) congratulated the Indian Muslim Council-USA for its holding of the inter-faith convention.
Gujarat & its Aftermath
Earlier in the day Nishrin Hussain, the daughter of Ehsan Jafri, the slain member of parliament of India, spoke about how women and children were specifically target by the perpetrators of The Gujarat pogrom. The same session also discussed the suffering of the Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims.
The afternoon sessions were addressed by an impressive array of academic experts, such as Dr. Lise Mckean, Dr. Angana Chatterji and Dr. Hari Sharma. Imam Khalid Griggs, the African American Muslim ` leader congratulated the Indian Muslims on forming their own organization but advised them to work with others and for all social justice issues.
Protests! And Praise!
About half a dozen protestors who claimed to be belonging to Hindu Unity, a group with extreme views that recently celebrated the birthday of Gandhi's assassin, denounced the ongoing discussion on pluralism and criticized Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The speakers and delegates were unanimous in calling the first IMC-USA convention a great success. The IMC-USA leadership was unanimous in attributing the tireless work of its Bay area team of volunteers as the factor behind the convention's success.
Who was Rafi Ahmed Kidwai?
Rafi Ahmed Kidwai (1894-1954)
Rafi Ahmed Kidwai was born on 18 February 1894 in a middle class Zamindari family at Masauli in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh.
He joined M.A.0. College Aligarh in 1916 but left it after completing BA. It was the time of the historic sessions of the Congress and Muslim League at Lucknow, where Congress-League Pact was signed in December 1916. He participated in the meetings with his Uncle Vilayat Ali and became a regular member of the Khilafat Organisation in 1920. He was the main force behind the Non-Cooperation Movement in Barabanki district. He was jailed and sentenced to six months in June 1930 for spearheading a no-rent campaign by farmers and villagers in Rae Bareli district.
Kidwai became a Minister in Pandit G.B. Pant Cabinet in UP when Congress governments were set up in many provinces under the Provincial Autonomy Scheme in 1937. He was given charge of the Revenue and Jail portfolios.
Under his stewardship, UP was the first province to do away with some of the defects of the Zamindari system. In April 1946, he became the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He introduced many reforms in jails, which aimed at making prisoners better citizens.
After the first general elections in 1952, Nehru inducted Rafi in his cabinet and entrusted him with the portfolio of food and agriculture at a juncture where there was food rationing all over the country and supplies were limited. Undaunted Kidwai set out to apply his administrative skills to the problem. Soon man-made scarcity changed into man-released abundance.
Rafi was a man of considerable learning, though not confined to mere academic knowledge. Men, not books interested him. Boldness, an imaginative approach and a human touch were his strong points. He was a man of action and lent excellent support to Nehru in the Party and the Government.
Ceaseless strenuous work shattered his health and he developed cardiac asthma. He died on 24 October 1954.