Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: General

Sarabjit and Surjeet

On 26/6/2012 around 7 p.m. news broke out that Sarabjit Singh was to be released as Asif Ali Zardari was to commute his death sentence to life which he had already completed as he was in prison for over 14 years he had spent 22 years in jail. Sarabjit Singh was in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. The news was too good to be true. The decision would have been unpopular in Pakistan.

Ansar Burney, Asma Jehangir and Awaiz Sheikh had tried for Sarabjit’s release. After the news broke out some Maulvis demonstrated outside Lahore Press Club against the release.

There were celebrations in Sarabjit Singh’s family. Markandey Katju, who was out of news for a long time, wrote a letter to Asif Ali Zardari thanking him for the pardon.

Something changed during the night. Around 1 a.m. came the news that Surjeet Singh will be released and not Sarabjit Singh. There was miscommunication. Sarabjit Singh’s family members felt it was a cruel joke. Some said it was a diversionary tactic meant to divert attention from the arrest of Abu Jundal wanted in 26/11 case. Surjeet Singh’s family celebrated at unexpected good news.

This is a lesson for TV channels who get into Breaking News quoting sources. Some channels cancel their regular programmes to run such reports without official word from government.

Khalil Chisti got bail and went to Pakistan. Some hoped Pakistan will release Sarabjit. Pakistan released Surjeet. Previously Pakistan had released Gopal Dass and Kashmir Singh. We do not know how many Indians are in Pakistani jails with no one pleading for their release.

AITA and politicians

The role of politicians in the controversy surrounding the selection of tennis players for London Olympics has not been debated much. The debate has been mostly about players and AITA.

AITA selectors picked Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati for men’s doubles. Mahesh refused. He should have been banned for life for refusing to play for India and asked to refund the amount spent on him. That would have sent a message to all players that AITA will not tolerate players dictating terms to AITA. AITA did not do that. They selected Rohan Bopanna. Rohan also refused. Mahesh and Rohan wanted to play as a pair and said two teams could be sent.

AITA wanted to send one team because there are no two teams. There are three top doubles players. Leander being No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 player had to play with him. Since Mahesh and Rohan both refused AITA wanted to drop them and select someone else to play with Leander.

At this time sports minister Ajay Maken interfered and took the side of Mahesh and Bopanna. AITA officials met Ajay. They should have been clear that they will not send two teams. Instead they presented five options one of them being sending two teams. Ajay justified his interference saying government gives money to AITA. Then he said AITA will decide. Then S. M. Krishna, external affairs minister and honorary president of AITA, interfered.

Leander said he would withdraw if Mahesh and Bhupati are sent as a pair but pair with Vishnu Vardhan if they are the only pair. On 20/6/2012 around 11 p.m. Anil Khanna, president of AITA, said only one team will be sent and Leander being the best will play.

Something changed after that. Next day Anil Khanna said two men’s doubles teams will be sent and Leander will partner Sania Mirza if she got wild card. Leander wanted written commitment from Sania that she will partner him. He was not happy about two teams and did not confirm participation.

Political pressure made AITA change its decision. Anil Khanna should resign as president. Selectors should resign. The country is greater than Olympic medals. No tennis player or team should be sent to Olympics.

Burkha ban in college

St. Aloysius’ College is in news for its rule that students should show their faces in class rooms. Students who come wearing burkha have to show their faces. The rule is in prospectus. Some have called it Burkha ban. Muslim clergy is said to be opposed to the rule.

St. Aloysius’ College has come to the rescue of Muslim female students who are under pressure from Muslim male students to wear burkha. Muslim female students don’t want to wear burkha. Parents of those female students don’t want their daughters to wear burkha.

In West Bengal, Muslim male students had made life difficult for a Muslim female lecturer. She defied them. The management had succumbed to pressure from that Taliban and had transferred the lecturer to some other place.

Colleges have a right to make rules. Students who want to study there must follow the rules. Some years back a college in Bantwal faced such a problem. A Muslim student came to college wearing burkha. Some Hindu students protested and said they too would come wearing religious dress. The Muslim student was asked to stop wearing burkha. A female Muslim lecturer tried to make that Muslim student understand and give up burkha in college but the student did not agree. She stopped attending college. The college management faced hostile questioning by TV channels. Then came Nicolas Sarkozy’s statement “Burkha is not welcome in France.” That flummoxed TV journalists.

Islam does not say a woman should cover her face. Islam says a woman should be modestly dressed. Recently Emir of Qatar visited India. His wife did not cover her face. There is no violation of freedom of religion when Muslim female students are told not to cover their faces in college. Muslim clerics who want Muslim female students to cover their faces should start colleges for them. Muslims have Yenepoya Medical College in Mangalore. They can have other colleges. It is not for Muslims to dictate the rules in Christian colleges.

Till some years back St. Aloysius’ college was a boys’ college.

Sections of population are getting talibanised. Some years back there were no such problems from Muslim female students.

Covering a face by wearing burkha is different from a Sikh wearing turban or a nun wearing her habit. In both cases there is no covering of face. Many Hindu women cover their faces in different ways. The college rule prohibits covering faces and applies to all female students irrespective of religion. There was a report that St. Edward’s School in Simla has banned turbans.

If students come wearing burkha lecturers cannot be sure of the identity of the students. Instead of one student somebody else may be present.

Burkha is a security issue. Terrorists can come wearing burkha. That happened in Kabul. Three men wore burkha and came in a car and got inside the compound of Indian guest house and shot people. In Australia bank robbers used burkha. In three cases babies were stolen by women wearing burkha.

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