Sunday, May 29, 2016

Witness to the working of the lower judicial system in India

 Witness to  the working of the lower judicial system in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I have been witness to the functioning of the lower judiciary in the district court of Shiekhpura, Bihar and was appalled with the way things are there. The court premise is a world on its own and the working of the lower judiciary at the premises of the district court gave me the impression that it is a big thug house.

There are two sets of people I found roaming around. One the aggrieved ones, who have been subjected to some sort of injustices, and had come to seek legal remedy, the other ones those who are preying on them and ready to rob of their money by hook or crook.

In these two sets one is of foolish people and other is of crooks that think are intelligent. They intelligent there go by the adage that as long as foolish live, they wont go hungry.

To me money was raining that premises. The aggrieved one has no option than to cough off money and those preying on them are ever ready to live on it.

The earning of a clerk in the judicial court maybe not less than thousand rupees a day, while the ‘peshkar’ who is the in charge of the office and considered to be close to the judge could be much higher in daily terms.

Most of the aggrieved are first timers and are being fleeced left write and centre. The lawyers are biggest thugs in such system. Most of them who cannot write a straight sentence but some how got the degree to wear black court are making a killing by charging extra ordinary fee and giving all kinds of hope.

In this system the judges too are hand in glove. They have a habit of prolonging the cases for many years. In the end some even demand a price for writing the judgment.

The main sufferer in this system is the litigant who has to run from pillar to post and has to empty his pocket each time he visits the court. It appears there is little reform happening in such sphere of activity.

The most puzzling thing is from where the reform process has to start. Every one seems to be happy trying to live in that system. There appears to be a perfect balance being established there. No one wants to stick its neck in such challenging task.

The other thing that disturbed me was to find the handcuffing of the criminals when they were brought to be produced in the courts. It seems that the practice of British Raj is still continuing there even today.

I found the criminals just like dogs being handcuffed and tied with a rope and taken to the courts and the police personal. Most of the so called criminals were over aged and the law for senior citizen does not seem to work here.

 Most of them look to be victim of enmity and by their face did not looked hardened criminals. Most of them were poor who cannot afford legal help.

The over burden of the cases in the court and the long time being taken in the disposal of the cases were denying justice to such criminals, most of them booked for petty crimes.

The human dignity was definitely being denied to such criminals and they were treated like animals. I wondered where NGOs were and other such organizations that work on such issues are hiding in that part of the world. There seems to be hardly anyone raise their voices and push for reforms.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar and recently had visited his native place Shiekhpura and based on his observation prepared this report. He can be contacted at

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tales from Secular India- Unity in Diversity Remains Impregnable Fort

Tales from Secular India- Unity in Diversity Remains Impregnable Fort
 Syed Ali Mujtaba

There lives an old man called Ishaq Baba, in the village Barai, in Sheikhpura district of Bihar. He is about 80 years old but still leads a very active life. It’s more than 30 year’s o so he uses to ply,

‘Tonga’ or horse cart from Shiekhpura to Chewara and back and forth.  As a result he is a popular face travelling on that part of the world. Several generations has seen this ‘tongawala’ in this format of life and had been ferried by him at some time or other.

Ishaq Baba is a devout Muslim and never misses the daily prayers even while at work. It uses to be a common sight that at the call of the praying time, he will park his Tonga under a tree and spread his turban on the road and bowing down facing the west to pray while his passengers waiting for him to finish his prayer.

Ishaq baba is also known for his peculiar gait. He is 6 feet tall and has athletic looks. Except for his black glasses he remains in all white looks. He sports a white beard, wears white ‘lungi,’ a white shirt and covers his head with a white turban.

The young man though is uneducated but has seen several decades of time and all the seasons of life. He is now leading a retired life as his sons have grown up to fend him and he need not work anymore.

This time on my trip to Shiekhpura, my native place I caught up with Ishaq baba and engaged him in lively conversation to gather his thoughts of the passing time.

I began asking him to comment on the communal situation or more precisely about the Hindu – Muslim relationship around him. He was candid that, the situation on the ground is really disturbing but then its long years of cohabitation that is disallowing the social fabric to rupture.

Ishaq Baba narrated a true story to make his point. ‘Once I was travelling from capital Patna to Shiekhpura and had taken a bus that dropped me at Biharsharif, as it was going somewhere else.  I had to catch another bus to reach my destination and I was walking on the road chanting Allah Hoo, Allah Hoo, towards the next bus stand.’

‘As I was in myself, unmindful of the world when I heard the sound of some females yelling ‘molvi saab’, ‘moli saab’, that broke my thoughts. I turned back to find a bunch of village females with children trying to catch my attention.’

‘I stopped and asked them, what the matter is, one lady told me that they are from Shiekhpura and know him very well enjoying his ‘Tonga,’ ride several times. They all were in tears and needed my help as they had caught a wrong bus and were offloaded on the way. They wanted to return home but did not know way to catch the bus or train,’ Ishaq baba said.    

‘Without asking any further question, I told the ladies to follow him and need not worry and feel safe.  We walked a mile to reach the bus stand and I asked the females to sit under the shed as he will go to look for the bus that may take them ‘home,’ the young man continued his narration.

‘Even before I could do so, one crowded bus arrived on the boarding place, with its conductor shouting ‘Sheikhpura’, ‘Sheikhpura.’ I approached the conductor asking him whether he can provide seats to   the women and children accompanying him.’

‘As I was talking to the conductor the women with me too got near to the conductor. The conductor tried to trick the women, saying get inside the bus and they may find the seat along the way. I told the ladies not to board this bus in this hot weather and they may be in great discomfort since it will be very claustrophobic inside.’

‘Even before the females could make any judgment, the conductor, tried to convince them with the ‘slur,’ against me that deeply hurt me inside.  The conductor said; ‘mothers, will you believe me or the words of this Muslim.’

‘His words left me in rage and even before I could gather strength to retort back to that manly beast, to my surprise, I was stunned to find that one of the female, got  more infuriated than me, and in her rage, gave a tight slap on the face of the conductor.’

Abusing the conductor with choicest abuse, the lady said, ‘you don’t know who he is? He is like my father and we are her children who have grown up seeing him. How dare you can speak ill of him.’
 ‘When the conductor tried to get manly with her, the lady dared to touch her, and shouted to book him on rape charges with several witnesses around.

‘As the crowd started assembling and the brawl looked to get uglier, the conductor preferred hasty retreat from the scene signaling the driver to move there. My eyes got moist and tears rolled on my cheeks, the women who were equally overwhelmed consoled me seeing my plight,’ Ishaq baba said.

‘After wiping out my emotional outburst and I again asked the females to go and sit under the bus shed. I then walked to the parking area, where the buses were parked and located a bus that was to leave for Shiekhpura. I boarded that bus and spread my turban to hold the seats for the females, and sat on other seat to accommodate the rest.’

‘When the bus reached boarding area I yelled at my acquaintances to get inside and have their seats. The ladies sat on the seat were on I had my turban spread and the children sat next to me and some even on my lap as we hit the road to get home.’

‘When the bus reached Shiekhpura, all the females had their own wings as they knew now how to go and where to go. My acquaintances did so but not before encircling me and touching my feet. It was emotional moment for me,’ Ishaq baba concluded his tale.

I promised Ishaq Baba, that I will put this story for a larger audience, because such stories do not find space in media these days. The lesson I could draw that there are such stories happing reminding the secular nature of India and the concept of Unity in Diversity remains an impregnable fort.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar and recently had visited his native place Shiekhpura. He can be contacted at

Tales from Secular India Azhar, Banvari and Rabani….

Tales from Secular India  Azhar, Banvari  and Rabbani…. 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Interfaith relationship or Hindu-Muslim relationship is a topic that often remains in circulation for wrong reasons. However, there are stories of communal harmony that are happening silently and re mains unreported by the so called vibrant media.

Recently I traveled to my native village ‘Manay’ in Chakandra, Panchayt Chewara Anchal of Shekhpura in Bihar. I like to chronicle my first hand account of observation of peaceful coexistence that is being practiced in that part of the world.

There is a Muslim priest named Hafiz Azharuddin who is in charge of the mosque in the Manay village. He is about 20 years of age and his job is to call give ‘Azan’ or call for prayers five times every day. After that he lead the prayers those who come to the mosque to pray.

Hafiz Azhar gives the first call for prayer at dawn called ‘Fajir’, second in the afternoon called ‘Zohar’, then evening called ‘Asar,’  the dusk prayer called ‘Magrib’ and finally  the night prayer called ‘Isha.’

Azhar has become Hafiz or the one who has memorized all the thirty chapters of the holy Quran by heart at the age of 16. Since then he has taken up the job of pesh-imam or priest at the mosque in Manay village.

Hafiz Azhar also runs a ‘Madarsa’ in the mosque teaching the Muslim boys and girls to read Quran and the way to pray. He has made a number of children to read the entire chapters of the holy book.
Hafiz Azhar, is a popular figure in the entire village. Every one seems to be friendly with him and they respect him for being a priest.  Every evening during the dusk prayers, a number of Hindus will be seen lining up outside the mosque, with a glass of water, that Hafiz Azhar, would ‘pooh’ after reciting some verses of the holy Quran.

This water will then be carried to the sick person in the house and would give for medicinal purposes. It is said that such faith healing medicine brings relief, therefore people queue up to the mosque each day.

The other side of Hafiz Azhar is, he is also a cricketer and member of the village cricket team. He is star batsman of the village team and no matches are played without him.
Hafiz Azhar’s date of birth coincides with the reign of the iconic Mohmmad Azharuddin who captioned Indian team.  The guess is, this village priest, when he was born, was named after the cricketing legend.  

The village boys usually line up in front of the mosque to take Hafiz Azhar to play the matches that happens in the empty paddy fields during summers.

During the afternoon or evening prayers, if the match is going on, the boys will take Hafiz Azhar on the bike to the mosque to perform his religious duty. The cricketer will have a bath and then call the ‘Azan,’ lead the prayer and again change to cricket gears to be back in to the play ground.

 ‘If the match finishes, early then I am relaxed for the prayers but then sometimes when it prolongs, I have to perform the duel task,’ said Hafiz Azhar smilingly in a leisurely conversation.

Well this is a fine example of interfaith harmony working on ground. The Hindu zealots may like to rupture this harmony through their bigotry, but it appears denting such peaceful coexistence is not an easy task.

The counterpart of Hafiz Azhar, in the village Manay is Pandit Banvari the Hindu priest at the temple. He is a pious man and commands respect from all the people in the village. He is highly religious but equally a secular person.

The 72 year Hindu priest begins his day at the dawn when he takes bath at the village pond and then enters the temple and does its cleaning and other religious activity.

I engaged Banvariji in a conversation on Hindu – Muslim relations. I asked him what he thinks about this subject. He was candid saying its too deep bond and cannot be broken easily.

‘Here Hindus pray to the local deity (devta) called ‘Miaji’ who is a Muslim and on ceremonial occasions they sacrifice goats in this devta’s name.’

‘Even this temple is built on personal land and money given by the Muslim landlords of the village’, Banvariji said giving examples of communal harmony.  

 He goes on; ‘the Harijan locality in this village is on the personal land of the Muslim landlords. When they lived far away from village, they were chased away by the thieves and it’s the Muslim landlords who gave them shelter and allowed them to make houses on their land. Even they constructed the village road that connects with the main road at Kamalgarh on their personal land.’

I drew Banvariji’s attention to the caste and religious based politics practiced in Bihar and asked him what he thinks about BJP’s brand of politics. He said, ‘I do not endorse the religious exclusiveness idea of politics. This may work for short term gains, but its results in long term could be freighting’, Banvariji who reads the daily Hindi newspaper said.

I asked Banvariji, about the last assembly election in Bihar and the reasons of the defeat of the BJP and the victory of the caste based parties like RJD and JDU.

‘Actually the last assembly election was a referendum on supremacy of religion over caste Banvariji said and added; ‘the BJP had put every thing on stake to establish the supremacy of religion, they put every thing on the electoral mat, even their ‘langot’ (inner wear) for winning the election. The results, proved them wrong and they had to run showing their back.’

The other tale in this series is of Gulam Rabbani who was a contestant at the gram panchayt election that was being held. He was a candidate for the ‘Mukhiya’s post.

This is the most coveted post in the local body election because there is about 5 crore rupees of fund that the government gives to each Mukhiya for the doing the development activities of the villages in the Panchayat.  No wonder, the battle for the lions share for Panchayt head is fiercely fought.

There were fourteen candidates for the ‘Mukhiya’ post and among them was Gulam Rabani.  Rabani is a highly popular candidate who has been contesting this post many times unsuccessfully. This time too he tried his luck but failed.

However, the most spectacular part about Rabani is he is highly popular among young boys who have not even reached the voting age.  Once Rabbani comes to the village, the young lads runs out of the village to greet him. They carry him on their shoulders to give him an entry like a celebrity in the village.

The young boys will gather around him and  shout the slogan; ‘Rabani – Rabani - bijli (electricity), paani (water) – Rabani, - thanda  panni ( cold water) – Rabani – Rabani  – our beloved leader Rabani- we all love Rabbani’, and so on...

It’s quite a spectacle. I have never seen such kind of enthusiasm for any candidate and all that seem to be selfless, without any material gains. I asked Rabani the reasons of his popularity among the youth.
He said, ‘I am the only candidate who work 24x7 365 days a year. Whenever anyone calls me, I am there on the spot. When this village had problem of electricity because its transformer got conked off, I took immediate steps to get it replaced, Rabani said when he came to me for canvassing.

He goes on; when there was scarcity of water in the village I got the hand pumps installed in each of the locality of the village. Now they drink the cold water from the hand pump and can take bath. They all like me because no one bothers to visit the village till the next election, Rabani concluded his boasting.

The sad news is, Rabani has lost the election again. The candidate who won had more numbers of his caste vote. Rabani undoubtedly was the most popular candidate but elections are not won on sheer popularity as other factors too count as well.

However, the fact remains is that characters like Rabani, reminds nature of Indian society that is based on communal harmony. Its people like him who are holding the flag of secular India aloft.

Well these are some tales of silver linings in the otherwise growing atmosphere of communal strife in India. These anecdotes are pointers that interfaith harmony is still being practiced in some parts of India.

Such positive stories needs to be told to remind that peaceful co existence is the only way to make India internally strong and move forward.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar and recently had visited his native place Shiekhpura and based on his observation prepared this report. He can be contacted at