Monday, January 05, 2015

Top rights activist objects to Gujarat PUCL organising celebration of Prophet Mohammad's birthday

Shabnam Hashmi
By Our Representative
There is no end to controversy surrounding well-known human rights organization, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), in Gujarat. If earlier it drew attention from top Gujarat activists for praising RSS mouthpiece in Gujarat, “Sadhana” for its “fearless” journalism (click HERE to read), now it has invited disapproval over a recent plea it made to NGOs, individuals and mediapersons to be present in a programme to "celebrate" Prophet Mohammad’s birthday on January 4 in Ahmedabad in the name of communal harmony.
Eyebrows were raised, as one of the chief organizers of the programme happened to be Gujarat PUCL chief Gautam Thaker, who forwarded the invitation of what, apparently, was a religious function. 
Of all persons, well-known human rights activist, known for her sustained anti-Narendra Modi campaigns, Shabnam Hashmi, has emailed a rejoinder to Thaker telling him that there is already “considerable overdose of religion all around”, adding, “If civil society also starts doing this then whatever little spaces are left for debate and discussion will also vanish.”
Hashmi, interestingly, has not just send her objection by email to Thaker alone, but forwarded it to about 100 others, including scribes, to whom Thaker had forwarded the invitation to celebrate Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.
Among invitees were Mirza Hajibhai Cementwala, a municipal councilor, Haji Zaid Ahmedabad, and Haji A Rehman Mithaiwala. The invitation said the programme would be held off Juhupara, near Muskan Garden, Vejalpur, Ahmedabad, and among those who would participate would be “society’s intellectuals, voluntary organizations, leaders of social organizations and social workers”. The main idea of the programme was to promote “communal harmony”, it added.
Housing more than two lakh people, Juhapura is one of India’s largest Muslim ghettos, set up following frequent communal riots in Ahmedabad.
Gautam Thaker
Hashmi’s objection followed an email by a person who was asked by Thaker, to be present at the programme – Yogesh Kamdar or the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Mumbai. Karmdar, in his email, again sent out to all the persons to whom Thaker had invited, acknowledged and thanked for forwarding the invitation. But at the same time, he asked Thaker to hold such type of “communal harmony programmes” on Christmas, Buddha Jayanti, Khordad Sal (birth anniversary of Zoroaster), Mahavir Jayanti, Ram Navmi, and Shiv Jayanti.”
If the invite is any guide, the programme to celebrate Prophet Mohammad’s birthday was to be presided over by Congress leader of opposition in the Gujarat state assembly, Shankarsinh Vaghela, and “main guests” were to include the Mahant of Lord Jagannath Temple, Ahmedabad, Gyani Ratan Singh of Gurudwara Govinddham on Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway, Milli Council’s Mufti Rizwan, Father Rajeev of St Xavier Social Service Society, Indukumar Jani, editor, Nayamarg, among others.
What appears to have particularly upset Hashmi, who is known to be closely associated with civil society activists across India, including those in Gujarat, is that among the organizers of the religious event was representative of India’s topmost civil rights organization, PUCL, operating in Gujarat under Thaker. Other organizers included a Sarvodayist, Rajnibhai Dave, of the Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal, apart from a few other social organizations.

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