Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Chip in the Madrasa: A Novel

The Novel "Chip in the Madrasa" has been published by Kautilya Books. Its priced at Rs 299/- and is available for purchase on Amazon online store in India. 

"Chip in the Madrasa" is the story of a learned and progressive Maulvi who wants to teach mathematics, science and computers at his madrasa in an Indian village.

Maulvi sahab, the protagonist of the novel, is a devout Muslim and Islam for him is a religion and not a tool to fulfill political ambitions. But Maulvi sahab's progressive move rattles the Wahhabis who are hell-bent upon using Islam as a political tool. These Wahhabi Clerics and Sheikhs sitting pretty in Saudi Arabia continue to pull the strings of local politicians and their proxies in India. These politicians and a major political party that receive huge funds from Wahhabis unleash a vicious game to break the spirit of Maulvi sahab and other rational Muslims. They even foster a womanizer and crook as a knowledgeable Islamic cleric who issues fatwas by the day but indulges in wine and women at night. A game is unleashed to establish the narrative around the Wahhabi version of Islam and decimate Muslim rationalists led by Maulvi sahab.

So, will Maulvi sahab be able to withstand pressure of the powerful men who are backed by petrodollars and have the muscle power? 

"Chip in the Madrasa" is an insightful tale that unravels how the Wahhabis play their vicious games and continue to maintain their vice-like grip on Muslim minds across the globe.

Click here to purchase the novel "Chip in the Madrasa"

Friday, 27 April 2018

Interview with Vivek Sinha in Canadian Atheist

Interview with Vivek Sinha – Writer, Hindustan Times and The Times of India

Vivek Sinha is a Writer for Conatus NewsHindustan Times, and The Times of India. Here we talk about Kashmir, global terror, young life, sitting down with an ex-terrorist, and more.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You have written for both the Hindustan Times and The Times of India. Some focusing on global terrorism (Sinha, 2017a). How is the struggle for Kashmir a subset of global Islamic terror?
Vivek Sinha: The genesis of this “struggle for Kashmir” dates back to 1947 when India gained independence from British colonial rule. At that time there were two kinds of regions in the Indian subcontinent– British India and the Princely States.
British India was directly ruled by Great Britain and Princely States through their proxies. At the time of Indian independence British India was divided into two dominions, India and Pakistan… and the Princely states were given the option to join either the Indian or Pakistani dominions.
Jammu & Kashmir was a Princely state. Now, given the strategic location of Kashmir, British wanted it to join Pakistan as they felt a populous Islamic strip on the north of India could act as a buffer against spread of Communism. During post World War-II, USSR was aggressively pushing Communism across the world.
Even though the erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir acceded his Entire Princely state with India, the Islamic state of Pakistan attacked Kashmir and grabbed almost one third of Kashmir and continues to occupy this chunk (Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffarabad etc) even today.
Ever since then, Pakistan continues to foster discontent among Kashmiris, dreaming of the day when Kashmir is united with Islamic state of Pakistan. And what better way to realize this goal than to indoctrinate Kashmiri Muslims into fighting for the greater cause of establishing Islamic Caliphate.
This instantly connects common Kashmiri with the rest of Muslims spread across the world. The Kashmiri Muslim feels that (s)he is not alone and his/her struggle is for the greater Islamic cause. It helps give Islamic sanction to the deaths of Kashmiri. Sheer acts of terror are hailed upon as valour.
For several years mosques and madrasas in Kashmir have been used to preach this line of thought. Terrorists are branded as Militants and those killed in counter-insurgency operations are hailed upon as martyrs who have laid down their lives for the cause of Islamic Caliphate.  Islamic endorsement ensures a steady stream of recruits.
The world has come to know of this story when, in recent times, a few of these indoctrinated Kashmiri youth have openly professed their allegiance to fighting for Islamic Caliphate rather than Kashmir’s independence. Zakir Musa, the ousted Hizbul commander operating in Kashmir, minced no words when he said Mujahids like him are fighting only towards establishing Islamic Caliphate and their fight in Kashmir is only a part of this grand design.
Several other Kashmiri terrorists have been circulating messages across social media networks reiterating that their struggle is for Ghazva-e-Hind which aims to spread Islam across Indian subcontinent and establish the Islamic Caliphate.
Jacobsen: How was youth for you? What was your family’s geographic, cultural, linguistic, and religious background?
Sinha:  I was born in a middle class family. I was born and brought up at Kanpur, an industrial city around 445 kilometers south east of New Delhi. I am a Hindu and have completed my school from a Catholic Christian School.
The religious beliefs in my family are quite liberal. Despite being devout Hindus, my parents educated me and my brothers at a Christian school.
Growing up in Kanpur I had (and still have) several Muslim and Christian friends apart from Hindus. So we celebrated almost every festival (Diwali, Holi, Eid, Christmas) with equal enthusiasm and fervour.
Despite coming from a family of engineers I took up journalism and writing. My parents never objected to my taking up writing as a profession, rather they always encouraged it.
Jacobsen: Also, you sat down with an ex-terrorist (Sinha, 2017b). What was the experience like for you? Also in hindsight, any further reflection insights on the experience and conversation in general?
Sinh a: Right from the moment he (the ex-terrorist) walked in, I could read it in his eyes that the guy wanted my help very badly. I felt concerned for him. All the time, as he spoke, his eyes were moist with tears.
He felt betrayed and violated. He felt trapped by the same people whom he trusted and revered. He told me categorically that he understood this devious game only after everything was lost for him.
He was desperately in need of a saviour who probably could help him and his family lead a simple and normal life. After the coffee he hugged me tight and whispered “please help me brother” in my ears, even as he thrust a sweet candy on my palm.
After my meeting I spoke about him, wrote his story but have not been able to contact him yet again. Despite my earnest request he did not give his contact details.
In hindsight, I  wish he could have given his contact details to me, because I genuinely want to help him.  
Jacobsen: What concerns do you have about the progressive movements in the UK and in India?
Sinha: I feel that progressive movements should not be hijacked by any one set of ideologies. The progressive movement, by definition, should challenge the status quo and cull out the prevalent ills from societies and nation states.
Sadly, both in India and in the UK progressive movements seem to have fallen into the trap laid down by Leftist ideologies.
Instead of raising issues that could help in the betterment of societies the Leftists (aka Communists) have taken up the progressive movement and are trying to push their agenda in its garb.
A case in point is the concept of veil (burqa/hijab/ etc) in Islam. Across India and in UK a section of progressives can be seen justifying wearing of burqa by a Muslim woman as her freedom of choice.
But this same group maintains stoic silence when another Muslim woman discards her veil. Instead of defending her in the name of freedom of choice to Not wear the burqa, they castigate her and all the progressives who side with her are branded as Islamophobes. Similarly, other contentious issues like female genital mutilation are never taken up as aggressively as they should.
This nips in the bud all talks of Islamic reform. If the progressive movement has to convert itself into a formidable Movement then it needs to snap ideological knots off all hues and focus only on the issues.
Jacobsen: How do you recommend younger generations become involved in progressive politics and social movements for the improvement of the social conditions of those often neglected by the wider society?
Sinha: The younger generation needs to develop a thinking mind and question all kinds of beliefs till they get satisfactory answers. The connected world has opened new vistas of knowledge for everyone all across the world.
Rather than tying themselves with specific groups or ideologies and blindly aping thought processes of these ideological groups they should inculcate a reasoning mind and question set beliefs and dogmas.
Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?
Sinha: One cannot be a Thinker and Follower at the same time. If one sincerely wants to be a part of the Progressive Movement in their respective country/society then (s)he has to be a “thinker”. Only a thinker can challenge dogmas and initiate discussions, which ultimately leads to a better society.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Vivek.
Sinha: You are welcome.
Sinha, V. (2017b, June 1). Coffee with an ex-terrorist in Kashmir. Retrieved from https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/between-the-lines/coffee-with-an-ex-terrorist-in-kashmir/
Sinha, V. (2017a, June 6). Yes, Kashmir struggle is a subset of global Islamic terror game. Retrieved from https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/between-the-lines/yes-kashmir-struggle-is-a-subset-of-global-islamic-terror-game/.
Image Credit: Vivek Sinha.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.
this interview was first published in Canadian Atheist. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Selective and distorted reporting has harmed the discourse about Jammu Kashmir

Information flow drives dialogue, discussions and debates in a society, which is much needed for a nation’s well-being. Fourth estate, or the media, comprising an army of journalists aid and abet this flow of information that kick-starts societal discussions about legislative policies, executive actions and societal aspirations. Journalists rely on five ‘Ws’ and one ‘H’ to weave a story and to break down complex jargons, thereby simplifying the world for their audience. The five ‘Ws’ refer to What, Where, Who, When and Why and ‘H’ that refers to How, are exhaustive enough to systematically report an incident. Different journalists and columnists may choose to accentuate either of these basic questions in their reportage and spin the story accordingly. In this reportage ‘facts’ remain sacrosanct.
So an individual journalist or a media house may choose to highlight one of the specific aspects in their news but they cannot tamper with the facts. These ‘Facts’ are sacred. In the case of Jammu Kashmir all these basic tenets of journalism has gone for a toss, such that years of fact-distortion and selective reporting has resulted in a prejudiced flow of information.
The problem is compounded further as people based in Jammu & Kashmir, specifically in Kashmir Valley, rely almost entirely on newsfeeds and news reports by newspapers, magazines and web channels that are based in and operated from the Kashmir Valley. Most of Valley-based media groups have dubious sources of funding and harp on Kashmiri victimhood. They twist, turn and manufacture facts to justify Kashmir’s secession from India. All incidents are moulded in a way to prove that the Indian State is an occupying force that is committing barbaric atrocities on Kashmiris through its armed forces.
In the year 2009, two young women Neelofer and her sister-in-law Asiya drowned in a stream in Shopian and subsequently died. There were allegations of rape and murder, and several enquiries were conducted. This mishap with two young women of the Valley still touches a raw nerve in Kashmir. The media reported on this unfortunate incident and the investigations that were being carried on. Yet, the Kashmiri media houses implicated the Indian Army in this episode, when the Indian Army was nowhere involved. One of the young stone pelters, whom I met recently, confided in me and said: “We will not sit back till we avenge the rape and murder of our sisters Neelofer and Asiya.” The conviction in his tone that it was the soldiers of the Indian Army who committed this ghastly rape and murder was striking. He was unwilling to hear any argument or look into the facts that the Indian Army had absolutely nothing to do with this case. He showed me news reports as ‘evidence’. And these news reports were screen shots from Kashmir Valley based newspapers, magazines and portals. “Only our media reports these incidents. And they report truth,” he said browsing through the articles on his smartphone.
This effect of the concoction of facts by Valley-based journalists does not stop here. International media houses oftentimes pick up such news stories and quote these Kashmir Valley-based newspapers and magazines in their news reports. When an international news organisation writes about any issue it is followed by journalists all across the world, which includes India. Oftentimes, columnists and authors quote these publications in their writings and an incident becomes etched in the memories of a common Kashmiri and his psyche, forever.
A section of Delhi-based media organisations are also a party to this game. This coterie of journalists choose to selectively highlight issues based in a localised pocket of Jammu & Kashmir as the ‘only voice’ of Kashmir. There is absolutely no coverage of gross human rights violation in the Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK). For instance, Baba Jan a human rights activist in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of PoJK has been under illegal detention by Pakistan since 2011. His fault was that he ‘dared’ to protest against the massive and illegal construction activities under the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), which resulted in a man-made landslide. The CPEC is a USD 46 billion project that runs through Gilgit-Baltistan, wherein massive construction activities, excavations and detonation of mountains continues unabated. Baba Jan, the local leader, and the villagers felt concerned when in January 2010, a massive landslide hit Hunza Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan killing around twenty people and blocking a portion of River Hunza. Due to this landslide, a huge artificial lake was created that submerged several villages in Attabad.
This landslide was the result of massive on-going construction activities under the CPEC, thus making the landslide as ‘man-made’ rather than a natural occurrence. Baba Jan and other villagers expressed their concern to the Pakistan government that this newlyformed man-made lake in Hunza Valley might further overflow and submerge other villages. The concerns were expressed to the Pakistan government, since Pakistan continues to illegally occupy this part of Jammu Kashmir and is the de-facto colonial master of Gilgit-Baltistan. These worries went unheeded and six months later in June 2010, the overflowing water submerged two more villages in Attabad.
Protests and demonstrations under Baba Jan’s leadership continued and in order to quell the unrest, Pakistan arrested Baba Jan in 2011. He has been under arrest ever since. This illegal detention of a human rights activist in PoJK was neither reported by newspapers based in Kashmir Valley nor by the Delhi-based mainstream media.
And this news black-out is more by design, rather than by chance. News not pouring in from PoJK ensures that people in Kashmir Valley remain unaware of the pathetic conditions in which their Kashmiri brethren live across the LoC, so they can continue to be fed with a daily dose of Azadi.
Yet another dark kept secret of Kashmir’s society has been the regular sexual assaults on hapless Kashmiri girls by young men who pick up guns for the cause of Azadi. While reams have been written about the aspirations of Burhan Wani, Sabzar Bhatt and their comrades’ struggle to free Kashmir, there remains a deathly silence on their romantic escapades with Kashmiri girls and the forced sexual assaults. The Kashmiri media that concocts stories about Neelofer and Asiya maintains deafening silence on the sexual assaults of these “Romantic Terrorists” on Kashmiri girls.
There have been countless instances when a Kashmiri has been forced to accede to the demands of these Romantic Terrorists due to threats to his family. During my recent visits to the Valley a few Kashmiris confided in hushed tones about these concerns and how the family had to take their girl for secretive abortions. These girls and their families who are forced into submission by these drug-addict womaniser terrorists take their revenge by silently ganging up and informing the precise hide-outs of their assaulter. The security forces then conduct the cordon and search operation (CASO) and then eliminate these Terrorists. It is due to this reason that there has been a spike in elimination of terrorists in the Kashmir Valley. If reported correctly, this aspect of Kashmir will weaken the demands of Azadi and turn public anger against these armed terrorists. The Valley-based journalists choose to blatantly ignore this part of terrorism.
In fact, even during the nineties when terrorism first came to Kashmir, it was the Kashmiri women who were first systematically assaulted. It was an era when Pakistan-sponsored foreign mercenaries from across the world were infiltrated inside Kashmir. These foreign mercenaries who had come inside to fight for “Kashmir’s freedom” were at the forefront of exploiting Kashmiri women. During those years, these mercenaries and terrorists simply barged inside the homes and demanded food and women from the hapless Kashmiri. Those that resisted were shot dead and others relented grudgingly. Women who were raped at gun-point had to then go for abortions. This naked assault of Kashmiri women led to massive heartburn among the local Kashmiri and they became informers of Indian Army and other security forces. It was this silent rebellion which broke the backbone of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism at that time. The Valley’s famed journalists have chosen to ignore this saga as well.
Most times, the photographs of slain terrorists in Kashmir are smartly edited to give an impression that the dead militant enjoys massive popular support. None of the media houses based in Kashmir report that barring a few hundred, almost the entire crowd has been pulled out from their homes to take part in the funeral processions. Even the high profile journalists who especially fly over to Kashmir Valley never bother to report from the fringes and fail to get the whiff of prevailing sentiment.
Unfortunately a scenario about Jammu & Kashmir has been created such that news that cannot justify demands for Azadi, is no news at all. Facts are made up, genuine issues are covered up and in the process if ethos of journalism gets eroded, then so be it. Pressing issues that concern the well-being of Kashmiris gets buried in this maddening din of Azadi.
Thankfully, technology has been a great enabler in modern times that has opened new avenues across sectors, including news media. News dissemination is now no longer the preserve of a select few and rising internet penetration has opened new possibilities for the exchange of ideas. In this new wave where internet access is rising at a rapid pace, the need of the hour is to report on hitherto untouched issues of Kashmir and also to correct the prevailing distortions in the discourse on Kashmir. While the newsprint may or may not reach the common man in the state, real stories raising genuine concerns will definitely reach through myriad web portals.
Experts with vast experience in their respective fields of knowledge about Jammu Kashmir who were previously spurned by big media brands have begun sharing their views and their stories. New voices improve the texture, tenor and quality of discussions. This, indeed, is a refreshing change but much depends on whether the momentum continues. Current indicators point that this momentum will build upon in the coming years. It should. Because healthy discussions lead to a better society.
(Vivek Sinha is a Journalist, Film Maker and Author. He has made short films, documentaries and is the Author of a Novel “Chip in the Madrasa”. He tweets at @VivekSinha28) 
(this column was first published in Salute magazine)

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Yes, Kashmir struggle is a subset of global Islamic terror game

Vivek Sinha
The masks have fallen finally. And decisively so. That the “Kashmir struggle” has nothing to do with Kashmir and is a subset of global Islamic terrorism was always talked about and discussed, albeit in hushed tones, for lack of evidence. This faƧade has now fallen thanks to a flurry of audio messages by Zakir Musa where he openly advocates for Ghazva-e-Hind and exhorts Indian Muslims to rise up in revolt against the Indian state.
Musa was recently ousted by the Hizbul Mujahideen as chief of its Indian chapter after he clearly stated that terrorism in Kashmir was actually a part of the ongoing global war to establish Islamic Caliphate and has nothing to do with Kashmir’s Azadi. Musa even threatened to behead Hurriyat leaders if they continue to demand Azadi for Kashmir and seek a political solution to Kashmir issue.
Hizbul was quick to distance itself from Musa’s comments and forced Musa to quit as its India chief. Musa, on his part, remained defiant. He stood by his comments and very soon announced to set up a new Islamic outfit reiterating that “Mujahids” like him are fighting only for greater Islamic Caliphate and Kashmir struggle is a cog in this grandiose plan. The concept of Islamic Caliphate dates back to sixth century wherein the newly formed Islamic kingdom in Middle East (West Asia) was ruled by a Caliph according to Sharia laws who enjoyed absolute power. This Caliphate persisted in various forms across the Middle East (West Asia) and frittered away by the 19th Century. Radical Muslims have always dreamt of re-establishing the Caliphate and bringing new lands under Caliphate rule and consider this as Jihad. The set of laws under Caliphate include severe restrictions on a woman’s freedom and dissent to the Caliph is almost always punishable by death.
Terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda, IS (Islamic State), Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, among several others recruit youth with an impressionable mind into their ranks for the Islamic holy war to fight for the Caliphate. However, politically they put up the mask of fighting for oppression and injustice and hence try to turn the international opinion in their favour.
Ditto in Kashmir.
Over the years, Hurriyat Conference have used mosques and madarsas for recruiting young Kashmiri boys into joining their fight for Islam. They were subsequently indoctrinated into fighting the infidel Indian State. Thereafter these boys are segregated according to their commitment and inclination to be a terrorist who subsequently join ranks with LeT or Hizbul Mujahideen. The less virulent are asked to lead the mobs of stone pelters. In public the Hurriyat leaders talked about Kashmir’s Azadi thereby drumming up international support in favour of the right of Kashmiris to have self-determination. This double speak continued for several years till Zakir Musa took over as Hizbul’s India chief.
Musa exposed the double speak of Hurriyat leaders. He minced no words when, in his first audio message released in May this year, he questioned the rationale of using mosques and Islamic gatherings by Hurriyat Conference to openly advocate Islamic Sharia and an ambition to establish Islamic Caliphate across Kashmir. “…we want to ask these political hypocrites if Kashmir is a political issue then what’s the meaning of these slogans? Azadi kaa matlab kya? La Illaha Ilallah, (What is the meaning of Azadi? There is no God except Allah), Pakistan say rishta kya? La Illaha Ilallah (What is our relation with Pakistan? There is no God except Allah).”
He explained that Kashmiri youth need not be a part of any political movement and should only fight for the cause of global Islamic resistance. Musa followed this by a third audio message wherein he categorically asked his comrades not to fall in the trap of nationalism and remain on the path to establish Islamic Caliphate. “Khilafat (Caliphate) Unites but Nation Divides” read the poster in his audio message.
In his latest audio message he has further clarified about his intentions. He slammed Indian Muslims for not joining Islamic Jihad for the Ghazwa-e-Hind (battle for the conquest of India) describing them as “shameless” for what he called as inaction on their part. In the clip he also tried to draw a parallel with the holy war of ‘Jung-e-Badr’ (Battle of Badr) that was fought by Prophet Mohammad in 624 AD with the Quraish tribe to establish Islam.
Well, the context and motives of ‘Jung-e-Badr’ was entirely different and drawing parallels with today’s plans to establish Islamic Caliphate smacks of gross ignorance. Yet, the invocation helps win a few ignorant Muslims who impressed by the parallels might be drawn towards these terrorist organisations.
Once inside the ranks they get to know the reality. I recently met an ex-terrorist in Kashmir and he categorically said there was nothing Islamic about Kashmir’s struggle. The boys who join terror groups such as LeT or Hizbul Mujahideen are first spoilt with drugs and women before they are sent out to commit terror attacks. Musa himself confirmed this and said the mujahideens need to stay away from “intoxicating medicines”, a euphemism for drugs.
Musa’s audio messages may have several other layers, yet he has cleared the point that Kashmir’s terrorism is indeed a subset of the terror gambit of al-Qaeda and IS (Islamic State).
(this column first appeared in TOI Blogs)

Friday, 5 January 2018

Coffee with an ex-terrorist in Kashmir

Vivek Sinha
He gave furtive glances as he walked in and shook hands with me. I asked if he was okay as he seemed a bit uneasy. “I am fine, but I have to be cautious,” he replied as he stressed upon the word ‘cautious’.
He was an ex-terrorist.
Let’s call him Salim. This is not his real name, he did give me his real name but requested not to reveal it else his family might get in grave danger.
Salim met me at an upmarket coffee shop in the heart of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu Kashmir. “I am done with guns and my infatuation with all this Azadi stuff is over. Now, I only aspire to lead a normal life, take care of my wife, kids…” Salim spoke in a soft voice.
But why on earth did you ever pick up a gun? I asked cutting him short. Salim had said that he held a masters in commerce and was an expert on cyber security. By his own admission he could have easily secured a decent job.
“I was trapped,” Salim said without batting his eyelids. He added that one of his friends introduced him to a few people after Friday sermons at the local mosque in Shopian. These ‘friends’ often loaned him small amounts saying Salim is very well qualified to get a decent job and could easily repay them back. In return, Salim was required to iron out minor software glitches for them.
“Before I could realise I had taken a few lakh rupees from them to buy a high-end laptop and smartphone. I was still without a job. One day I was asked to come for a small gathering to ‘discuss’ about Kashmir. And that day changed my life for ever,” Salim said as he tried to fight the tears that had welled up in his eyes. I thought of myself as a Ghazi who was fighting for Kashmir’s Azadi so as to create an Islamic Caliphate, he added.
Instead of the laptop’s keyboard, his fingers now moved on the triggers of automatic rifles.
Salim was arrested by the Indian security forces from Gulmarg and had to serve a four-year sentence on various charges. His father abandoned him saying he brought disgrace to the family.
Does he think of going back to the life of guns and rejoin the Islamic struggle? “There was nothing Islamic about Kashmir struggle. What we were told before joining ranks and what we actually did was completely different. The foreign mercenaries who joined us in our Kashmir struggle were interested only in money and in women. They expected us to work as pimps for them. Is this an Islamic struggle?” he blurted out a volley of expletives in Kashmiri for his ex-comrades in arms.
Different terrorist groups active in Kashmir Valley receive funds in the name of Islam and so they have a vested interest to keep this Kashmir issue alive. I understood all this only after I fell into their trap, Salim explained further.
The terrorist groups with whom Salim worked earlier have since put him on their hit list as they consider him to be a threat to themselves. He explained that different names of terrorist groups are mere covers and all groups share a common agenda. Salim changes his address quite often and over the last couple of years has changed close to twenty homes.
This is tough considering that he is married and has two children. His requirements are simple: A job, a house and a decent school for his children. Yet, this is extremely difficult for him.
Salim’s eyes were fixed on a family sitting right across our table. After a brief pause he said that young boys at an impressionable age fall easily to the glib talk about Kashmir’s Azadi and think of themselves as a part of global Islamic struggle. “At a young age you hardly know much about history and politics. All you have is loads of energy, passion and a romantic desire. They know how to use and harvest your passion. They just use the cover of Islam to further their devious designs. A gun in our hands at a young age gives a sense of immense power and then there’s the pride associated with being a part of the struggle to establish Islamic Caliphate. I have understood their games very well. I have been through hell and I know their reality.”
Who are these ‘they’ you refer to? I was curious to know.
‘They’ are our handlers. These people could be from Pakistan or their agents in Kashmir often known as over ground workers, Salim explained. I later asked Salim about the defining moment when truth about armed struggle in Kashmir dawned upon him.
“After some time I was asked to commit robberies and shoot at my innocent Kashmiri brethren who refused to believe in Kashmir’s Azadi. At this time I realised that I am a petty criminal and not a Ghazi as I had believed myself to be. I was lucky to be arrested and get a chance to start afresh.”
Did he kill any innocent Kashmiri? Salim stayed mum to this question and stared blankly at the ground. A minute later he only said every moment I repent about my sins to Allah. “Not every terrorist is as lucky as me. Once they join ranks they are stuck till they get killed.”
(this column first appeared in Times of India blogs.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Chip in the Madrasa: A Novel that unravels how Wahhabis maintain vice-like grip on Muslim Minds

"Chip in the Madrasa" is the story of a learned and progressive Maulvi Saheb who wants to teach mathematics, science and computers at his madrasa in an Indian village.

Maulvi Saheb, the protagonist of Chip in the Madrasa, is a devout Muslim and Islam for him is a religion and not a tool to fulfil political ambitions. But Maulvi Saheb's progressive move rattles the Wahhabis who are hell-bent upon using Islam as a political tool. The Wahhabi Clerics and Sheikhs sitting pretty in Saudi Arabia want to use local politicians and their proxies in India to establish Wahhabism as the only version of Islam. These local politicians and a major political party that receive huge funds from Wahhabis unleash a vicious game to break the spirit of Maulvi Saheb and other rational Muslims. They even foster a womanizer and crook as a knowledgeable Islamic cleric who issues Fatwas by the day but indulges in wine and women at night. A game is unleashed to establish the narrative around Wahhabi version of Islam and decimate Muslim rationalists led by Maulvi Saheb.
So, will Maulvi Saheb be able to withstand pressure of the powerful men who are backed by petrodollars and have the muscle power?
"Chip in the Madrasa" is an insightful tale that unravels how the Wahhabis play their vicious games and continue to maintain their vice-like grip on Muslim minds across the globe.
This Novel is now available for purchase across all Amazon online stores in India, UK, US, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Vivek Sinha, the author of Chip in the Madrasa, is a Journalist and a Film Maker. He has been writing news commentaries for over a decade and over the last several years he has written news reports for leading newspapers of India such as The Times of India and Hindustan Times. He now writes opinion columns. Apart from writing, Vivek is also passionate about films and has made several short films and documentaries.
Please read the selected excerpts from the Novel published in www.NewAgeIslam.com 

Extracts from the Novel: Chip in the Madrasa

A couple of days back Jamil had entrusted Afroz with an important task. This task was to somehow overtake the day-to-day workings of Basera’s madrasa and then the adjoining mosque. It was precisely for this reason that Afroz had called for an emergency meeting of the madrasa management committee.
Earlier in the morning that day Afroz had tried to push his agenda at the madrasa management committee meeting. He was under the impression that since his father had taken the initiative to build the Basera madrasa other committee members will not go against him. But his efforts to corner Maulvi Saheb had failed as all committee members sided with Maulvi Saheb. He was rather worried that his inability to execute a simple task entrusted by Jamil will, in effect, put his nascent political career in doldrums.
He was in a pensive mood after the light lunch and was staring at the courtyard through the living room window. Rashid and his family were cleaning up the mess that had been left behind after yesterday night’s get-together at his bungalow. Afroz sniffed an opportunity when he saw Rashid create a ruckus at the news of Rukhsana clearing the exams for admission at Delhi. He carefully observed Rashid’s behaviour and broke into a wide grin when Rashid took out his slippers to hit Abdul, Maulvi Saheb’s son. All was not lost for him and there still was a ray of hope. Rashid was this hope.
‘I’d been trying to light up fire in a pile of wet logs when dry wood is readily available in my own courtyard,’ Afroz said to himself as he sneered at Rashid who was admonishing his wife and daughter. ‘Just a little spark and this man will turn into a rolling inferno,’ Afroz scoffed as he looked towards Rashid. He had then promptly asked for Rashid.
On their part, Jamil and Afroz had increased their influence. They had been pumping money into Basera and adjoining villages. So, Chacha’s tea shop now had a fridge and the makeshift shanty had been replaced with a well laid out concrete structure. Chacha now sold branded food packets, had four boys as helpers and had bought moulded plastic chairs for the customers.
Rashid had replaced his rusty old bicycle with a motorbike. He had also bought a new buffalo at his home, but his wife and daughters continued to do petty work in neighbouring houses for daily sustenance. Jamil had resumed his iftar parties at his bungalow and Afroz threw some crumbs for labourers brought in by Chacha and Rashid in the name of their Muslim brethren. Despite this, not a single soul in Basera could claim that their lives had transformed due to Jamil or Afroz’s initiatives. In fact, it was never meant to be that way.
This was a well thought over strategy. Keep the Muslims ignorant and keep them deprived. When there’s a dire need, give some scrap here and a speck there to make Jamil look like the saviour, and constantly harp on the victimisation of Muslims in the country.
Initially there were no takers for Rashid and Chacha’s brand of Islam but gradually through the lure of money they built a loyal fan base among the people who were at the lowest rung of social strata. They would often pay for the cuppa or buy a bottle of cheap rum for the daily wage labourers, occasionally they also paid for their food at road side eatery joints. Bit by bit and step by step these acts had helped them win friends over their side.
The educated and rational Muslims like Maulvi Saheb, Aftab Saheb, Maqbool and Naseem Bhai were strategically side-lined in this narrative so there was hardly anyone left to question this vicious but well thought-out propaganda.
Middle class is the conscience keeper of any society and Basera was no exception. It’s the educated and rational mind of middle class members in a society that has the potential to analyse the finer nuances of the rich and powerful elite. Basera’s middle class, led by Maulvi Saheb that had successfully staved off devious designs of the likes of Jamil had now withdrawn itself into a shell.
The lower strata, which is too engrossed in earning and fending for themselves and their family, are mentally ill-equipped to see through these deceitful stratagems. These are the most vulnerable groups to fall for the glib talks of politicians. Jamil, rather his handlers in Saudi Arabia, were smart enough to exploit this.
Gradually, the daily wage earners, masons, carpenters, blacksmith and butchers started to buy the argument put forth by Jamil and Afroz that they had to toil hard only because the entire system was anti-Muslim. They had begun to accept that all miseries of their life was a result of the systematic atrocities being committed on them due to their religious beliefs as a Muslim. The Muslim identity was gradually evolving. An increasing number of villagers were identifying themselves with the ‘Muslim as the victim’ notion and buying into the arguments put forth by Jamil & Co.
Rashid was an over-enthusiastic foot soldier of this game. His mandate was to bring these vulnerable Muslims within the network and thereafter the likes of Chacha, Bilal, Anwar and others took the indoctrination process forward. Almost always the discussions focussed about atrocities on Muslims in the name of Islam. Oftentimes they obliged this ‘vulnerable Muslim’ with some money or helped him bag some petty work, which the beneficiary looked upon as a help from his Muslim brethren whereas Jamil looked upon this as an investment that would offer rewards at the time of elections.
In return, they were expected to take active part in spreading the word about brutality on Muslims and how only a true Muslim like Jamil Bhai helped them.
Over the next phase these new recruits were instilled about the need and importance of following Sharia law, and how their ills were present only because the villagers did not follow Islamic rule of law. In proverbial terms, while the left hand created artificial scarcity of food the right hand threw some morsels and the mouth sang paeans about the right hand, hailing it as the benefactor.
“Aakash Bhai is this Maulvi, his madrasa and these computers this big a threat for us and our plans?” Afroz asked with a childlike expression. He looked towards Aakash and Jamil for answers. Jamil looked towards Aakash as if endorsing Afroz’s question.
Aakash was still engrossed in his thoughts. His discussions with Maulvi Saheb played like a record player in his mind as he grappled for a solution. Maulvi Saheb’s words still echoed in his mind when Afroz shot his question. Aakash sighed and leaned forward. He waved towards Anwar and Bilal standing near the door to come near and listen to him.
“All of you need to understand certain things very clearly. You win an election only when you are able to occupy the mind space of individuals. The Muslim minorities vote only for those whom they consider as their saviours and who they think would offer some benefits. So, in order to win an election we first create a fear psychosis among the minds of Muslims, and then project ourselves as the saviour of Islam and of Muslims. The Muslims then come and vote en masse ensuring victory for us in every elections. Anybody or anything that has the potential to free Muslims from this fear psychosis is a threat for us…” Aakash explained. He then turned towards Afroz.
“…the answer specifically to your question is a big yes. So, yes this Maulvi is indeed a big threat for us because he is working to occupy the mind space of Muslims in this village and other villages. His plans to introduce computers is the most dangerous as this will make information available to all. We will no longer be able to control the flow of information. An informed person thinks and his thoughts are guided according to the available sources of information… and since we will not control the information-flow, his thoughts will be beyond our control. All our plans to create a fear psychosis amongst the Muslims of this village and other adjoining villages will go haywire and with it our chances to win elections…”
“…this Maulvi and his plans to introduce computers at the madrasa is a deadly spark, and this spark has the potential to graduate into an inferno. It is better and easier to douse a spark than to smother an inferno. Just don’t underestimate this Maulvi and his plans,” Aakash said in a firm voice as everyone in the room listened to him with earnest attention.
A series of articles written by Maulvi Saheb and Aftab Saheb had denounced Wahhabism and its school of thought. Maulvi Saheb had even put a question mark on Wahhabism’s authenticity and had termed it as un-Islamic. He had explained the origins of Wahhabism as a tool into the hands of power hungry monarchs of Saudi Arabia during the eighteenth century and how this has been continuing till this day. He had warned the Muslims to stay away from the Wahhabi influencers. Written in chaste Urdu it was being widely shared on social media networks. Several of such articles were translated into Arabic and re-posted on social media networks that had reached the Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia. Late last evening the burly Wahhabi cleric from Saudi Arabia had called Nadeem.
“Why do you think we pump in billions of dollars every year in the name of Islam? Why do you think we suckle and feed businessmen like you?” the Wahhabi cleric had asked Nadeem. Without waiting for Nadeem’s response the cleric had himself answered, “…it’s only to cement our ideology in the Muslim minds. The billions of dollars continue to pour in only to erase all other competing versions and interpretations of Islam for Muslims, and for the rest of the world. These funds are put into the laps of shady businessmen like you so that you expunge all other interpretations and establish that Wahhabism is the only version of Islam. And yet you have allowed a petty village Maulvi and his madrasa to continue to rant against Wahhabism? And this has been happening right under your nose? Please remember Nadeem Khan that we are under no obligation to continue to fund your businesses…if need be we can replace you with somebody more efficient,” the Wahhabi cleric had said firmly. He did not shout, neither did he raise his voice but his cold and calculated words sent shivers down the spine of Nadeem. He felt weak in his knees and had meekly asked for a few days’ time to be able to set things right.
These are the excerpts from the Novel: Chip in the Madrasa. It was first published in NewAgeIslam.com
The Novel is available across all online stores of Amazon in India, US, UK, Europe, Asia-Pacific and on Flipkart.

Chip in the Madrasa: A Novel

The Novel "Chip in the Madrasa" has been published by Kautilya Books. Its priced at Rs 299/- and is available for purchase on...