Archive for February 28th, 2009

Muslims in revolt – By Farzand Ahmed – INDIA TODAY

February 28, 2009


Muslims in revolt


Ulema council participants at their meeting

Ulema council participants at their meeting


Come election season and the M-word begins to resonate in the nation’s political mindscape. This time around, the poll dynamics of the community have gone into overdrive after the new-found friendship between ‘Maulvi’ Mulayam Singh Yadav and ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (emperor of Hindu hearts) Kalyan Singh triggered the mushrooming of political outfits across the nation. 

Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, founder of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) which won 13 seats in the 2005 Assam polls, came to Delhi to announce a pan-India Muslim party, the first since Independence, with units in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. 

An alumnus of Deoband, he has the backing of the Dar-ul-Uloom, Jamaat-ul-Ulema Hind, Jamaat-I-Islami Hind and Nadwat-ul-Tameer. The AUDF seems set to contest 20 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Maharashtra and nine in Assam.


Similarly, the month-old Ulema Council (UC), created to fight “state terrorism against Azamgarh’s innocent youth” and to demand a judicial inquiry into the Batla House shootout, declared it would ‘bury’ Mayawati’s elephant and ‘puncture’ Mulayam’s bicycle in this election. 

Its February 20 rally at Lucknow reflected the mood of the Muslims who feel they are the victims of political gamesmanship. Sonia Gandhi was referred to as sunehri nagin (golden serpent) and Mayawati kali nagin (black serpent). 

Mufti Abdullah Phoolpuri, one of UC’s top leaders, said it would field its own candidates as most leaders forget the community once elected.


The launch of another front

The launch of another front


Meanwhile, Salim Peerzada, president of the Parcham Party of India (PPI), which has been contesting elections since 2002, has cobbled together a new front consisting of PPI, the All India Muslim Masjid and the National Loktantrik Party (NLP)—all of who have contested elections. 

“We want to create a 21st-century party, a secular-democratic outfit. Our objective is to help create a third front of Muslim-led, leftist, secular and centrist parties. We want to live in a democratic set-up and get our due, but not by extra-constitutional means,” says Peerzada. 

The trend is clearly national. Tamil Nadu, for instance, has seen a new Muslim-based political party Manidaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK). According to M.H. Jawahirullah, coordinator, MMK, the party will establish “a strong India… As a Muslim, it is our fundamental duty to strive for the development of our nation.”


While much of the political churning has to do with Uttar Pradesh, the parties are of significance considering the importance of the Muslim vote. Muslims form more than 30 per cent of the electorate in 42 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies in the country. 

West Bengal accounts for 10 of them; Uttar Pradesh and Kerala come next with eight each while Assam and J&K account for five each. However, in constituencies where their percentage is between 20 and 30 per cent, the number of seats rises to a staggering 140, including 20 in Uttar Pradesh. 

The highest concentration of Muslims (between 10 and 20 per cent) is in Uttar Pradesh (42 constituencies), West Bengal (20), Bihar (17), Assam, Karnataka and Kerala (8 each), Maharashtra (7), J&K, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh (6 each). 

New political alliances could rework the electoral calculus

New political alliances could rework the electoral calculus

In any Lok Sabha poll calculus, Uttar Pradesh—and consequently the Muslim vote—is the key. In the 1998 Lok Sabha polls only 7 per cent of Muslims voted for the BSP and 61 per cent voted for the SP, and in the 2007 Assembly polls, 32 per cent voted for the BSP and 40 per cent for the SP. Mayawati’s plan to turn the division in her favour could well upset Mulayam’s calculations. 

The Mulayam camp believes their leader would regain the confidence of Muslims once candidates and alliances are in place. 

So what impact would the new Muslim-oriented groupings have on traditional poll arithmetic? Analysts believe new parties like the UC might end up helping the BJP. 

“Its provocative slogans and posturing would polarise voters in favour of the BJP,” said Muslim Majlis vice-president Bader Kazmi. Others think that Uttar Pradesh already has seen a number of Muslim outfits that fell by the wayside. 

 Latest alliances

  • Feb 23, 2009: UP Milli Mahaz — Formed by three existing parties—PPI, AIMM and NLP, all of which have fought elections. Wants to create a secular democratic outfit and a third front of Muslim-led parties. The AIMM is a known party since 1968 and the other two have their own areas of influence
  • Feb 19: Ulema Council — Held rallies in Delhi and Lucknow and plans to contest 8 seats in Uttar Pradesh. May help polarise votes in favour of the BJP.
  • Feb 16: Secular Ekta Party — Formed by Haji Shahid Akhlaque, after denial of ticket by SP. He was BSP’s Lok Sabha MP in 2004 and later joined the SP. May create an impact in Meerut with former minister Haji Yaqoob.
  • Feb 8: MMK — Launched in Chennai to strive for the development of the nation, welfare of minorities and the underprivileged sections.
    MMK coordinator M.H.Jawahirullah says the party was launched with a view to establish “a strong India through service to the society.”New in the political arena and just a beginner.
  • Feb 2, 2009: United Democratic Front –Launched by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal of AUDF which won 13 seats in the 2005 Assam polls. Called the MUDF in Maharashtra, the party, along with other outfits, can affect the BSP and SP in western Uttar Pradesh.
  • Feb 10, 2008: Peace Party of India — Launched by surgeon Dr Mohammad Ayub to unite Dalits, Muslims and the backward classes. May have an impact in pockets of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Existing Muslim parties include Salauddin Khan’s People’s Democratic Front (PDF), the Peace Party of India led by surgeon Mohammad Ayub, the Majlis-e-Mashawart and the National Loktantrik Party. There is also the Insaan Dosti Party, led by former director-general of police S.M. Naseem. But most don’t last. 

The 2007 Assembly polls in the state saw the PDF, supported by CPI (ML) and the late V.P. Singh’s Jan Morcha, and Shahi Imam Ahmad Bukhari’s United Democratic Front (UDF) making waves but later their leaders were won over by Mulayam or just disappeared. Other states have well established Muslim parties. 

These including the India Union Muslim League of Kerala and the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Musalmeen in Andhra Pradesh.What is more relevant in the Muslim context is the sociological profile. Muslims in southern and western India are better off because the wealthy among them stayed back during Partition whereas most of the educated and wealthy Muslims in the north migrated to Pakistan. 

Then there is caste, which does not exist in theory but divides the community into three groups—Ashraf, Ajlaf, and Arzal. The Ashraf are upper-class Muslims, while the Ajlaf are Hindu converts. The Arzal are considered converts from the lowest Hindu castes. 

This complex sociological structure is prone to being upset by shifting poll alliances, especially in Uttar Pradesh. The coming together of Mulayam and Kalyan has already disturbed the poll arithmetic in the state. 

Veteran leaders, including former minister Mohammad Azam Khan, and influential MPs like Saleem Shervani, Shafiq-ur-Rahman Barq, Afzal Ansari and Shahid Akhlaque have rebelled against Mulayam and, barring Azam Khan, one of the creators of the SP, have walked out on him.

Other controversial leaders—Atiq Ahmad and Mukhtar Ansari, in jail, and Rizwan Zahir— have shifted to Mayawati. “Mulayam’s alliance with Kalyan has created revulsion among Muslims. He will have to pay dearly,” said state Nationalist Congress Party chief Ramesh Dixit. 

Indeed, the ‘revulsion’ runs so deep that SP national general secretary Amar Singh was turned away from the seminaries of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband and Dar-ul-Uloom (Waqf) when he tried to explain that the deal with Kalyan was to weaken the BJP. 

In Lucknow, Mulayam invited over 100 religious leaders to discuss his political moves but failed to convince them. Kalyan’s record in Uttar Pradesh makes matters worse, apart from his role in the Babri Masjid demolition. 

After quitting the BJP, he formed his own regional party, helped Mulayam form a government in 2003 and in the bargain got ministerial berths for his son Rajbir and confidante Kusum Rai. Later, on the eve of the 2004 general elections, he dumped Mulayam and returned to the BJP.

“He is a four-ticket leader. He will go with any party which would give tickets to Kusum, his son, his daughter-in-law and him,” says Dixit.

Now, he is the cause of the Muslim revolt against Mulayam by seasoned politicians— many of who were looking at the BSP after Mulayam either changed their constituencies or denied them tickets. SP leaders believe, however, that it could well be a knee-jerk reaction.

All India Babri Masjid Action Committee chief Zafaryab Jilani says: “Except for shaking hands with Kalyan, Mulayam has not yet done any harm to Muslims, so the damage is not irreparable.”

At the root of the controversy is vote share. While Mulayam wants to get the Lodh vote (2.5 per cent) in central Uttar Pradesh to add to the Muslim (18.5 per cent), Yadav (8.61 per cent) and Thakur (12.78 per cent) vote, Mayawati wants to corner Muslim votes and add them to the Dalit (21 per cent), Brahmin (13.82 per cent) and Vaish (3.91 per cent) vote.

The emergence of new Muslim groupings may not amount to significant vote shifts in the coming polls, but the political churning does indicate that the Muslim vote cannot be taken for granted. The battle to win the Hindi heartland and Muslim minds has been joined.

Israel responsible for Darfur crisis: Gadhafi (JTA)

February 28, 2009



Gadhafi: Israel responsible for Darfur crisis

February 24, 2009

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi said Israel is to
blame for the crisis in Darfur.

Gadhafi, president of the African Union, said Tuesday that “foreign
forces,” including Israel, are to blame for the genocide in the Sudan

“We discovered that some of the main leaders of the Darfur rebels
have opened offices in Tel Aviv and hold meetings with the military
there to add fuel to the conflict fire,” the Libyan state news agency
Jana quoted Gadhafi as saying, Ha’aretz reported.

Gadhafi urged the International Criminal Court to stop proceedings to
decide whether to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President
Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of masterminding the genocide.

“Why do we have to hold President Bashir or the Sudanese government
responsible when the Darfur problem was caused by outside parties, and
Tel Aviv, for example, is behind the Darfur crisis?” he said.


Analyzing Darfur’s Conflict of Definitions 
Interview With Professor Mahmood Mamdani 
By Isma’il Kushkush 
IOL Correspondent — Sudan 

If you define it as a “war of liberation”, you have a different attitude to it… If you define “violence” as “self-defense” or as “aggression” you have a different attitude to that violence. (PiD Team) 

“How you define the [Darfur] problem shapes the solution,” says a world renowned Africa specialist in an interview with 

Professor Mahmood Mamdani of Columbia University, US believes that defining the conflict as Arab against African is inaccurate and says much more about the potency of race in the West rather than the relevance of the notion in Darfur. He believes that estimates of 400,000 dead in Darfur are inflated, irresponsible and unrealistic.

Mamdani, who was named as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by the US magazine Foreign Affairs in 2008, is from Uganda, and is the current chair of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Dakar, Senegal.

He is the author of numerous books and articles, including the book Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. His upcoming book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, politics and the War on Terror will be published in English by Pantheon (Random House, New York) on March 17, 2009 and by Verso (London) a month later.

Following is the full interview conducted by IOL correspondent in Khartoum, Sudan, Isma’il Kushkush.

• “Black Africans” Against “Arabs”?
• Media Usage of African vs. Arab
• A “Genocide”?
• “Genocide” vs. “Counter-insurgency”
• “Dead” vs. “Killed” Controversy
• Contrast in Numbers of Dead
• “Right” vs. “Wrong” to Avoid Political Complexity
• Darfur’s Terminology: Of Importance? (IOL): The conflict in Darfur is often described in the media and by activists as a war pitting “black Africans” against “Arabs”. How accurate do you think this description is?

Prof. Mahmood Mamdani: Even if you take the terms for granted, the majority of the “Arabs” in Darfur — the southern Rozayqat [Arab clans] — are not involved in the conflict. If you narrow the focus to those who are involved in the conflict, which is the northern Rozayqat, the Fur, the Masaleet, and the Zaghawah, then you realize that the distinction which best captures the difference between them is that the northern Rozayqat are those tribes in Darfur who received no [tribal] homeland, no “dar”, in the colonial dispensation, because the colonial dispensation did not give a tribal homeland to those who were fully nomadic and were thus without settled villages. At the same time, the colonial dispensation gave the largest homelands to peasant tribes with settled villages… Please continue reading the full answer for this question here

Media Usage of African vs. Arab

IOL: Why do you think that activists and the media, especially the Western, define the conflict in Darfur in such a simplified manner: African vs. Arab?

Mamdani: Well, I think it is political. You can make sense of it not by focusing on those they are defining, but on their audience. Whereas the former live in Darfur, their audience is in the West. They understand that the Western audience would be quick to grasp a racialized distinction and would be easy to mobilize around it. It says much more about the potency of the history of race in the West rather than the relevance of the notion of race in Darfur.

A “Genocide”?

IOL: The conflict in Darfur is described in some corners as “genocide”, while others reject that term and use “civil war”. Can you comment on the usage of the term “genocide”; is it accurate to describe conflict in Darfur as “genocide”?

Mamdani: If you read the two international reports on Darfur, one from the UN Commission on Darfur and the other from the International Criminal Court (ICC), you will find no great disagreement over how many people have died. The real disagreement is on what to call it. The UN Commission says that this is a “counter-insurgency”. They say the killings took place as a consequence of an effort to militarily defeat an insurgency. The ICC says no, this is evidence of a larger intention to kill the groups in question, the Fur, the Masaleet, and the Zaghawah.

How do you prove it? The claim is not made on the basis of those that have actually been killed; the claim is that they would be killed if the conflict went on because that is the intention of the perpetrators. From this point of view, the only way to arrest the killing is to arrest the political leadership of Sudan, and not to urge the two sides to negotiate. The UN Commission was arguing the reverse; that all efforts should be invested in negotiations and in stopping the conflict. The ICC seems to be arguing the opposite; that negotiations would only appease and give time to those who are bent on genocide. It seems to me that the ICC is responding not to what is going on in Darfur but to a particular constituency in the West.

“Genocide” vs. “Counter-insurgency”

Only if you call Darfur “genocide” you can justify an external intervention; if you call it “counter-insurgency”, intervention becomes an “invasion” of Darfur. 
IOL: Why do you think the term “genocide” has been used to describe the conflict in Darfur but not in Congo or Iraq despite the similarities in the conflicts that pit the “state” against an “insurgency”? 

Mamdani: The conflicts in Congo and Iraq are different; the scale of killings is much higher. In Congo it is said to be four to five million. In Iraq it is said to have exceeded a million. So from that point of view, these conflicts are much worse than that in Darfur. The conflict in Iraq arises from an occupation and resistance to an occupation. The conflict in Darfur started as a civil war between tribes in Darfur, 1987 and 1989, and the government was not involved at all. The government became involved, first in 1995 and then 2003, but it is still not an occupation, it is an internal conflict.

So why would what’s happening in Darfur be described as “genocide” while the numbers involved are less than in Iraq and when the conflict began as a civil war between tribes internal to Darfur and only then developed into an insurgency against the central government, followed by a counter-insurgency in response to that insurgency? Why?

The answer is basically that in international law “counter-insurgency” is considered a legitimate response by a government to an “insurgency”; “genocide” is not. Only if you call Darfur “genocide” you can justify an external intervention in Darfur. If you call it “counter-insurgency”, intervention becomes an “invasion” of Darfur. That’s the reason.

“Dead” vs. “Killed” Controversy

IOL: The number of “dead” in Darfur has been an issue of controversy. Can you comment on the studies made on this topic and is there a distinction between the terms “dead” and “killed” in Darfur?

Mamdani: We are fortunate that there was actually a review of all the major studies estimating the mortality in Darfur. The review was in 2006 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is an audit agency of the US government. The GAO was asked to review six different studies of mortality in Darfur, including a study sponsored by the US state department estimating nearly 400,000 dead over eighteen months in 2003-2004, at the high end, and at the low end a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating 70,000 dead over roughly the same period.

The WHO study made a distinction between those “dead” and those “killed”. It said that roughly 80% of these 70,000 had died from malnutrition, dysentery, from the effects of drought and desertification, and 20% from violence.

The GAO got together with and asked the American Academy of Sciences (AAS) to nominate a team of twelve experts. These experts went over the six studies, and they concluded that the high end studies were totally unreliable in terms of methodology, in terms of projection. Their findings are on the These were sent to the US State Department — which agreed with the GAO in writing — and to Congress, and then to the media, which basically ignored it. I find it quite amazing that it did not have any impact on the public debate in the United States or in the West. The public debate continued to be dominated by the Save Darfur Coalition and its totally inflated, irresponsible, and unrealistic estimates of 400,000 dead. The problem is that this is a very politicized movement which has had no effective counter-response.

Contrast in Numbers of Dead

There is refusal to acknowledge that people are also dying from other causes, drought and desertification. So instead of a debate on how many could have been saved had there been no conflict, there is simply silence. (Reuters Photo) 
IOL: Whatever the real numbers of dead in Darfur are, no one can deny a tragedy has occurred. But why do you think there is a contrast in the numbers of dead used by activist groups, the media, and even governments? 

Mamdani: I think the answer is two fold: One, there is a legitimate debate. Let’s say, take the WHO figures, 70,000 died. 20,000 roughly died from violence, 50,000 roughly died from non-violent causes, mainly children dying from dysentery, things like that. Now the debate is this: One group says those who died from violence are the only ones who died from the conflict. The other groups say: Not really. Many of those who died from non-violent causes like dysentery really died from indirect effects of the conflict because the conflict stopped supplies from coming in. From this point of view, those who could have been rescued died, they died of dysentery, but really, had it not been because of the conflict, they would have been saved. That is a legitimate debate. It is a debate that appears in all cases like in the case of the American Indians who died in the Indian genocide you will find many died from diseases, like smallpox, which they did not have to die from. That is a legitimate debate.

There is a second debate that is not legitimate, which is entirely political. The best example is the Save Darfur Coalition and their figures of 400,000. Here you find two things: One you find an extrapolation which is completely unjustifiable and unwarranted. The GAO showed that they [Save Darfur Coalition] extrapolated from deaths in refugee camps in Chad without taking into account any local variations.

They also extrapolate from death rates from 2003, 2004, when the conflict was at its highest, by assuming that the same rate continued in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. This is how the UN got its figure of 300,000 [last year] when Holmes, the undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs said: “It was 200,000 in 2005 therefore it must be 300,000 now”. “Therefore”, meaning, if the same rate continues which is patently absurd, because the UN’s own people on the ground showed that the mortality rates — not just deaths from killings — dropped low in Darfur starting January 2005. It was less than 200 per month, in other words, less than it would take to call Darfur an “emergency”. So this kind of presumption, that nothing has changed, and therefore you just extrapolate from pre-existing rates, is totally unjustifiable.

Also unjustifiable is the Save Darfur Coalition’s refusal to acknowledge that people are also dying from another cause, drought and desertification. So instead of a debate on how many of those could have been saved had there been no conflict, there is simply silence. This too is a deliberate denial to acknowledge a developed catalogued by the UN’s own agency.

“Right” vs. “Wrong” to Avoid Political Complexity

IOL: The conflict in Darfur is portrayed sometimes as a “moral issue”; one that pits “right” against “wrong” as opposed to a “political issue” with its various complications. Can you comment on that, and why do think it is portrayed as such?

Mamdani: It is very important how you define the conflict. In retrospect, one can see that none of those who were involved in this conflict when it began in 1987-1989 as a civil war — the northern Rozayqat one side, the Fur, the Masaleet, and the Zaghawah on the other side — really had control over the issues that triggered the conflict. The issues were no doubt complex.

The really long term issues stemmed from how the British redesigned the hakura [land] system that came out of the Sultanate of Darfur. It eliminated individual ownership and re-divided all the land as “tribal land” with larger hakuras for peasant tribes, smaller ones for semi-nomadic tribes with cattle and no hakuras for fully nomadic tribes with camels. That was one issue. 

The second trigger was ecological, the expanding desert, pushing the tribes in the north down south, leading to the conflict around Jebal Marra. In 1995, the government tried to solve this conflict by giving land to tribes without hakura, but they should have realized that since all the land in Darfur was already divided up, to do it by taking lands from tribes with hakura would restart the conflict, as indeed happened.

In 2003/2004 when the insurgency began, the government responded to it with a purely security framework with no regards for the issues that had led to this conflict with no attempt to solve the basic problem. Because the rebel movements are anchored in those tribes with hakuras, they are not raising the question of land; the question that pushed the hakura-less tribes into the conflict. The government is simply looking at the security question and the issues being raised by the rebels which is the marginalization of Darfur, but not looking at the issues internal to Darfur which created the conflict in the first place. So, the government has a very narrow vision. The government does not seem to have a Darfur vision. It is evident that Darfur is marginal. There don’t seem to be people with a Darfur vision in the government.

Those outside of Sudan, the Save Darfur movement in the US, are looking at it from their own vantage point which is not simply a global vantage point or a West-centered one, but worse, it’s the vantage point of the most reactionary circles in the US, those waging the “war on terror”. They are painting this conflict not as a conflict over questions of land, not a conflict over questions of law and order, an insurgency/counter-insurgency — which is how the Government of Sudan is seeing it —, but as a conflict between “Arab” and “African”; they’ve racialized the conflict completely. They are partly responsible for the conflict being racialized. Consider the fact that it is a much more racialized conflict now than it was five years ago.

When the Save Darfur movement claims that this violence is African versus Arab its explanation is not historical or political. Its explanation basically is that the Arabs are “race-intoxicated” and they are just trying to wipe out the Africans. The Save Darfur movement does not educate the people they mobilize about the history of Darfur. It does not educate them about what issues drive the conflict. So they know nothing about the politics of Darfur, the history of Darfur, the history of the conflict. All they know is that Darfur is a place where “Arabs” are trying to eliminate “Africans”. That’s all. Darfur is a place where “evil lives”, so they have completely “moralized” the conflict and presented it as a struggle against evil. This evil is thus portrayed as ahistorical, or trans-historical, living outside of history — except that evil is said to live in this place called Darfur and Sudan.

The conclusion means of course that you have to eliminate this “evil”. There is no settlement to a conflict like that. You can’t settle it, you can’t negotiate, there is only one way to have peace and which is to eliminate the evil. So ironically they are trying to create that which they say they are combating.

Darfur’s Terminology: Of Importance?

IOL: We’ve discussed the issue of terminology in the Darfur conflict: “genocide” vs. “counter-insurgency”; “African” vs. “Arab”; “killed” vs. “died”; “moral issue” vs. “political issue”. Some would argue that it really does not make a difference if we make these distinctions. How important is it to have a correct understanding of these terms to reach a solution for the Darfur conflict?

Mamdani: How you define the problem shapes the solution. If you define it as a “war of liberation”, you have a different attitude to it. If you define it as “terror”, you have a different attitude to it. If you define the person as a “terrorist” or as a “liberator” you have totally opposite attitudes to that person. If you define “violence” as “self-defense” or as “aggression” you have a different attitude to that violence. If you explain the issues behind the violence you are more likely to address the issues to stop the violence. But if you portray the violence as “senseless” without any reason, with no issues, with no backgrounds, then you are likely to think that the only way to stop the violence is to target those involved in it.

So “definition” is crucial. “Definition” tells you what the problem is. And in a way, the entire debate rightly should be about what the problem is. Every doctor knows that diagnosis is at the heart of medicine; not prescription. Wrong diagnosis, wrong prescription, and the patient will die. The heart of medicine lies in the analysis.

Isma’il Kamal Kushkush is a Sudanese-American freelance writer currently based in Khartoum, Sudan.