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Faith, Freedom and Phobia

(published in The Companion November 2012)

Omair Anas, Freie University, Berlin

Freedom is one of the biggest achievements of the human civilizations over the centuries and huge prices and sacrifices have been paid to secure and sustain it. No strange that the freedom is best valued today by the nations who have colonized many countries. However the freedom has been a contested value and no country or individual wishes to keep a stop on his freedom. For example, Jammu and Kashmir in India cannot be portrayed by cartoon, film, or text as separate entity from Indian Territory. In Europe, challenging certain perceptions on Holocaust is still prohibited and many laws to control anti-Semitic crimes are just used like blasphemy laws in any Muslim country. United States has stopped many Muslim scholars including Tariq Ramadan, Shite Indian scholar Kalbe Sadiq and in recent years the United Kingdom has banned entry of Dr. Zakir Naik, a famous Islamic debater because they were perceived to be hate preachers. This is not much different from Saudi Arabiya’s ban on many websites and Chinese government’s decision to censor Google and YouTube and restrict Facebook. Western governments’ contradictory position defending freedom of expression for current insulting film and their decisions to stop Islamic scholars and to ban certain televisions suggest that they want to be only exporter of “hatemongering”. The common thing among all countries from china to India, Saudi Arabiya to the United States is that they all have their versions of freedom different from each other. Freedom couldn’t be a universally accepted value. Current practice on freedom of expression is based on country specific laws, be it of the United States, the United Kingdom or India. For centuries, western governments have controlled fate of many countries through their colonial designs and have not given freedom without violent or nonviolent resistance. Newly independent countries have been struggling to maintain their independent and sovereign status amid extreme power polarization and western governments have enjoyed greater say in all global affairs without challenge. Western societies and the United States in particular have largely failed to educate their people to respect freedom of other people, cultures and religions in the world. Despite the fact that Asian societies are more diverse and divided on religious, cultural and linguistic lines; there is rarely a cartoon or movie from any sect against other which is unfortunately becoming fashion in the western societies. In the current controversy over the American movie, freedom of expression has once again came up as an important issue and Muslims countries have been accused of restricting this freedom and some analysts on Western televisions have even anticipated of derailing Arab Spring. President Barack Obama has defended freedom of making such movies in the recent UN General Assembly in New York.

But these allegations and counter allegations about freedom are often missing some important factors in the increasingly globalized world. First, constitutions of most of the Muslim countries and constitution of Western states were made in two different political environments. Constitutions of Muslim or Asian countries were made under supervision of their colonial masters after they are freed. In the wake of nationalism, countries often tended to secure their borders from any possible external threat. Most of the constitutions of Western governments were made either before or during their colonial control on the major parts of the world. There was no such pressure and perception of external threat to these countries. Also being predominantly Christian nations, their religious freedom was never as such threatened. Second, freedom of expression in Western societies was discussed largely in the context of religion vs. secular discourses and a big intellectual fight ensued to secure this freedom. But in most of the Asian and Muslim countries, religious authorities and religious symbols are also national symbol and religions have been part of their independence struggle against colonial masters. Any attack on religion is often considered attack on nation and national symbols. Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, famous Islamic scholar wrote in 1943 that Arab nationalism is incomplete unless Prophet Mohamed is accepted as its leader. From Hindusim also, many religious leaders like Swami Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others are also faces of Indian nationalism. Indian nationalism is woven around Hindu and Muslim religious faces and symbols. In recently, a Russian court tried to ban Geeta, a Hindu religious book but the Indian government along with many Hindu and Muslim organizations protested together against such ban. India’s official position on turban of Sikh religious groups is to protect and defend their religious identity even it is beyond their jurisdiction. Third factor is common to both of Muslim and Western societies that technology has simply broken national borders through virtual uneven connectivity. Youtube as well Facebook have not only created controversies but also made historical awareness among uprising people of the Arab world. Neither the United States nor the Egyptian governments were able to restrict Youtube and Facebook. But the implication of technology’s omnipresence has different implications for both societies. Western societies are not used to deal with different religions, sects, contesting identities in just one locality which is quite common scene in Indian subcontinent and also in some parts of the Arab world. How to talk to a different culture, a different religion, and a different civilization is an art of successful multicultural living in today’s interconnected world. There is difference between art and insult. Perhaps Asian and Islamic societies are not that much inexperienced of critical art as many of Western leaders try to undermine. Technology has brought all diversities of humankind under one click. India’s Supreme Court had recently summoned Youtube and Facebook for some insulting posts and the plea was filed by both Hindu and Muslim communities.

These three factors are important to define and advocate freedom as a universal value. Western discourse alone cannot be allowed to dictate and hijack discourse of freedom in today’s world. Western societies must have to realize that firstly, colonial era is over, second, they have to deal with other societies in mutual respect and third a common understanding should be evolved to advocate for freedom of expression. Making an insulting movies or cartoons cannot be considered parallel to freedom for a newspaper. There is justified anger against the United States because the United States didn’t play a constructive role. United States should try that its soil should not be used as launching pad for Islamophobia and hate mongering. No other that United States has overwhelming power on technology to monitor, censor, restrict or even distort virtual information world and it has refused to share this power with other countries at all which has led many countries particularly China to make their own virtual world. Western government would have taken any action against such videos had they been violating their laws to prevent anti-Semitic crimes. This means that the Western governments need some laws defining Islamophobia as a crime. The proposal is already discussed by Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

With this discussion, it is clear that solution for such controversial and disgusting works of insult is difficult without international coordination and America’s support for an international regime to define, penalize crimes of Islamophobia. The international community must have to recognize that constitutions of individual states alone are not able to prevent many crimes. Freedom of one country must not hijack freedom of another country. Also control and administration of internet services is today matter of every country and its administration should be handed over to a transnational regime so that many crimes can be restricted before they make situation out of control. This has become essential so that the freedom of expression in the West be not hijacked by bunch of extremists and islomophobists as well as the Asian or Islamic countries also cannot use their anti-democratic laws to throttle freedom of their people. This is important to differentiate between art and provocation, creativity and insult.

Omair Anas is visiting fellow at Institute of Media and Communication Studies, Freie University, Berlin. He can be contacted at omairanas@zedat.fu-berlin.de


Third World’s Syrian Conundrum

(Originally published in ORSAM, Ankara, Turkey 9th December 2011)

Neither the history has come to an end nor has the Death of West yet come to happen. Arab Spring has created serious challenges before the world which was expecting changes in their own conditions. Third world countries particularly leading nations of the BRICS (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) have preferred abstaining from all important voting in the United Security Council against Libya and Syria. China and Russia have vetoed UNSC resolution which ‘would have warned of options for action to be considered against the Government of President Bashar al-Assad if the unfolding situation warranted, including measures under the section of the United Nations Charter that allowed sanctions’.  Veto and abstaining have different sets of motives and interests and reservations on Western plans. Perhaps veto power nations China and Russia are clearer in their interests than India and Brazil. It can’t be said that India is following a principle line of non-intervention in a foreign country. Tunisia and Egypt didn’t pose much challenge as the revolution took very brief way to settle down. But international intervention in Libya and call for similar adventures in Syria has divided the world. Even NATO member Turkey itself joined the chorus of military intervention in Libya very lately. India’s position at best can be described as ‘wait and watch’. Both India and Brazil and South Africa have little to do anything on ground. India’s main problem of foreign policy is its historical baggage of non-Alignment and its ambition to become strategic partner of Israel and the United States. China and Russian federations are also aware of rapidly changing public opinions and have tried to position themselves within these changing dynamics. China is stressing for resolving the crisis within Arab League while Arab League itself is strongly willing to go beyond. Russians have blamed on external forces for creating a civil war like situation. One Russian delegate after visiting Syria recently commented that the Arab League disliked Syria’s liberal policy: hardline Islamists wanted to gain control over Syria. Fundamentalist religious fanatics had been financed and armed to stage an uprising against the administration. He even called that the “opposition” does not enjoy support amongst the people.  However many of these fears and predictions of instability are based on calculated exaggeration and civil war discourse is being used as pre-emptive excuse for systematic killing of opposition groups and people. With this position, public opinion in these countries is suspicious of NATO’s and Western intentions in Libya as well as in Syria. Secular state institutions and culture, women’s status and protection of minority rights and Palestinian cause will be among badly affected had Bashar Al Assad regime been ousted. However most of the excuses are unfounded and exaggeration is aimed to create more confusions rather than recognizing the change.

Regional Stability

Syrian president has issued warning of earthquake in the region if west intervenes in Syria. “Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region. Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistan?”   The USS George Washington (CVN-72) is already sent to in Syrian coast. In reaction, Russia has also sent a warship to signal seriousness of its commitment to not allow any Libya styled intervention. The region’s vulnerable security may become an excuse for Assad to prevent revolution. However Both Russia and China have vetoed October 4 proposal at UNSC which “would have warned of options for action to be considered against the Government of President Bashar al-Assad if the unfolding situation warranted.  The representative of the Russian Federation warned UNSC while exercising veto that the collapse of President Assad’s Government could destabilize the entire region.  But the two countries are doing little to engage President Bashar Al Assad to respond opposition’s demand and open the way for democracy. The two countries have also responsibility to stop violent crackdown on protests. Protesters are being killed and a situation like 1982 massacre in Homs is slowly being repeated. Syrian regime has declined to respond initiatives of Arab League, GCC as well as requests from OIC members which have demanded to end violent suppression of protesters. To create an earthquake, it is highly doubtful that Syrian army will join Bashar Al Assad’s any military adventure plans. Iranian leadership is also said to be considering options beyond Bashar Al Assad as change seems imminent. Also Iran has an opportunity to review its fragile relations with Arab states by engaging with Arab League and regional powers like Egypt and Turkey.

Rise of Islamism and threat to secularism

Rise of Islamists, following the Arab spring, is projected as worst scenario by many commentators. Columnists in Indian media and other countries are suggesting that ‘Islamic Winter’ may allow hardline Islamists to take over the charge and turn the region in Taliban ruled Afghanistan. The Economist on 22 October offered its unreserved apology to Rachid Ghannauchi for reporting false statements on his behalf saying that his Nahdha Party will oppose Tunisia’s liberal code of individual rights and other laws. “If the Islamic spectrum goes from Bin Laden to Erdogan, which of them is Islam? Why are we put in the same place as a model that is far from our thought” says Ghannauchi. Noted thinker and writer on Islam John L. Esposito has always been warning for not mistaking Islam. Israelis were projecting emergence of National Islamism in Syria with help of Hamas and Hizbullah and Iran which intends to wipe out Israel.  Now the same chorus is being tuned by pro Assad camps citing Assad’s ‘reliable secular credentials’ and justifying his survival for the sake of gains made by Syria’s secular state institutions and culture.  Denying Muslim Brotherhood from Syrian politics is not going to work. Both Islam and Muslim Brotherhood are part of Syrian politics and culture. Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition figures have been systematically harassed by Asad regimes and Bashar Al Assad has missed the opportunity to set any preconditions for national dialogue and has lost legitimacy to dictate whom to be invited. He must allow Syrian people to decide whether Muslim Brotherhood deserves their support or not.

Palestinian problem

Syrian diplomats are also defending Syrian regime because of its commitment to Palestinian conflict and its consistent struggle against Israeli occupation in Golan Heights. Though Syria’s efforts for Palestine are recognized but failure of Arabs to get Palestinian issue resolved is a collective failure which many Arab states are trying to solve at bilateral level. Syria like many other Arab states was secretly involved in Turkish mediated negotiation with Israel United States. In absence of any desirable outcome, Syria has preferred maintaining status quo. There are opinions that Syria’s frustration has originated from its failure to implement the so called Assad Doctrine which aimed at creating Greater Syria having parts of Palestinian territories under Syrian control. The principle that Arab nations could extract maximum concessions from Israel only by acting in concert, has actually not worked rather it has failed over the decades. Palestinian factions including Fatah and Hamas have not come in open support of Bashar Al Assad. Given opposition parties’ earlier take on Palestine, there is no possibility that settlement of Palestinian problem will go against the interests of Syrian and Palestinian people. Rather, grammar of peace talk is likely to change and American desperation to engage with Islamic political parties, as Chinese commentator Tian Wenlin rightly observes, is to avoid becoming the biggest loser in the “Wave of the Middle East”.   Syrian people are enough competent to protect Palestinian interests without help of Bashar Al Assad and his tactic to play Palestinian card is not going to work.


Following the series of sanctions from Arab Leagues, Turkey and European Union which have banned all senior Syrian officials from travelling to member states of Arab League and ban on major commercial and economic transactions has narrowed options before Bashar Al Assad. There is no doubt that Arab League, OIC and United Security Council is very serious about the crisis and the crisis may not be allowed to prolong.  Every day Bashar Al Assad is losing his support and control on his power. He has also ignored most of the suggestions from his international friends like Iran and China and many other friends like India are sceptic about the future of current regime and are in “wait and watch” mode.

Turkey has greatest stake in Syria as it has longest border with Syria, military intervention in Turkey’s another neighbourhood will certainly weaken Turkey’s security environment and hence Turkish officials are not ready for any such option. Since last five years Turkey was advocating Zero Problem policy with neighbours. Turkey has emerged as key player in the Arab Spring and its soft power is enhanced by its ‘Zero Problem’ policy and moderate Islamic parties are actively subscribing Turkey’s ruling party model of balancing Islam and politics. Formation of Syrian National Council in Turkey reflects Turkey’s desire to allow all possible voices from Syrian political landscape to be included in the forum so that dialogue for national consensus be formed within Syria, instead of being imposed from outside. At this point, China and Russia should commit for peaceful change in Syria and their cooperation with Turkey to avoid all bad scenarios will indeed be of historical outcomes. All major third world countries along with Russia, China and India have greater stakes in the Arab world. Neither they can sustain west’s hegemony over the energy rich region nor can they ignore people’s aspirations for change in the wake of Arab Uprising.  Leaving the Syrian theatre to Western directors is not a good choice. Partnership with Turkey and the Arab League may avoid bad scenarios particularly the Libya styled military intervention.

Omair Anas is New Delhi based researcher of Arab Media and politics. He can be contacted on omairanas@gmail.com


Interview with Omair Anas by ORSAM, Ankara, Turkey

An Interview with Omair Anas from Jawaharlal Nehru University

ORSAM: Mr Omair, could you introduce yourself please?

Omair Anas: Thank you very much; I have come from India to attend ATCOSS conference 2010. I’m working as a PhD candidate at School of International Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. I hold masters in International Relations as well as in Arabic literature. I study International Relations theories mainly Globalization, Regionalism, transnational media culture, media affairs and civil society in West Asian region. Turkey is always our first attraction when we are encountered with West Asian issues where lot of current developments have signified foreign policy shifts. This was my first opportunity to visit Turkey and interact with Turkish academia and I spoke on Turkey’s Soft Power in the Arab World.

ORSAM: How do you assess Turkey’s foreign policy in the Middle East as an academic?

Omari Anas: I’m looking Turkish foreign policy as a third person. I’m neither Arab nor a Turk. I can see so many variables that are working in the current Turkish foreign policy. If you ask me to evaluate, there is some sort of disconnection from the past foreign policy. The traditional foreign policy in the pre-AKP era was like living without Arabs. Now there is a tendency among AKP officials that they are saying “We are going to live with Arabs”. The new opening towards Arabs is a new initiative, and this is a new subject, which is being studied in Turkish foreign policy. There are larger impacts on regional and international politics because of this shift in Turkish foreign policy. First because there is much traffic of international and regional players in the Arab region United States of America, European Union, Russia, Japan, Iran, China and India all are very active in this region. In the presence of so many players, Turkey has reopened a window which it has closed some decades after undertaking a pro west look.

After this long period, Turkey’s role didn’t remain unchallenged as it was during Ottoman era. Its new role in the region will also be defined and will be set by ambitions of other states which have come there in the absence of Turkey. In this background, I understand that Turkish foreign policy towards the Arab world is not very easy. Iran and Israel are both close friends of Turkey which have bitter relations with Arab states. Turkey’s close friendship with Israel or Iran does not soothe Arabs. In my opinion as an academic, I find that this new opening is going to be a challenge for Turkey where it has to set a different tone with Israel which I think Turkey has adopted in recent months.

ORSAM: You said that Turkey’s new foreign policy will be challenging in the coming days. Turkey wants to mediate some conflicts in the Middle East; you speak on Israel and Iran. Is there a chance for Turkey to act for the resolution of those conflicts?

Omair Anas: Of course, there is a chance for successful mediation, but the problem is that we are living in a world where the US has transnational political power. In simple terms we are in uni-polar world where US can still dictate terms of peace and war. I doubt that America welcome Turkey’s mediation initiatives particularly between Iran and west and between Arabs and Israel. This recent initiative brokered by Turkey with Brazil and Iran was just rejected by the US. United States did not accept Turkey Brazil joint initiative on Iran. If the United States is not agreed with the role which Turkey aspires to play in the region, mediation initiatives may not result into final settlement though it will force other countries to be part of the process. With this view I think that Turkey has to pay attention to get broader international and regional support for its efforts. Israel has also not shown any respect to Turkish mediation efforts for peace process.

ORSAM: You say that reaction of the superpower in the region that has interest in the Middle East is important. Could you explain your observation on how the Middle Eastern states react to Turkey’s foreign policy?

Omair Anas: In simple terms, for example Saudi Arabia’s and other Gulf states’ crucial interests are attached with the US. The United States is very important for their internal as well as external security which means that the US is basically the guarantor of security for Arab Gulf States. America is also supporting Egypt and giving assistance. Jordan is also dependent on the US aid. Can Turkey replace United States, European Union, China or India? Arab Gulf States and North African Arab states do not expect Turkey’s role beyond a Typical European country. One role which Turkey is increasingly being expected is to be a counter-player of Iran. So, in my opinion recent Arab governments are not welcoming so many interventions by Turkey unless they have full backing from other international players.

ORSAM: I want to ask you the view from India. Is India’s Middle East policy clash with Turkey? Is there a competition or cooperation?

Omair Anas: India is an emerging global power. This is a cliché we use in diplomacy and academia. Indian interests in the Arab world are two sided. One is for business transactions and second is about Indian people working in the Arab world. The third priority is coming from India’s expected candidacy for permanent membership for United Nations’ Security Council for which India needs Arab support. However this is not immediate interest. India unlike Turkey does not have any direct security and defence issues with Arab states. Rather India has become Israel’s largest defence partner after Russia. You can see opposite trends in their policy towards Israel. Unlike India, Turkey is reviewing its approach towards Israel. With this, I would say that Arab states may prefer engagement with Turkey in all fields. Arab investment in Turkey is rapidly growing up. But India’s vast market is always promising for Arab government which they wish to explore. Current scenario suggests that India Turkey relation have not entered in either competitive or cooperative stage.

ORSAM: I want to ask a question about the Gulf Cooperation Council. The GCC and India are making a free trade agreement. The process is going slowly but how will it be in the future?

Omair Anas: in 2008, India GCC trade has reached 28 billion second after the United States. They may touch 40 billion volumes. Given this volume of cooperation, India and the GCC signed a framework of agreement on trade and cooperation to enter in a Free Trade Area. I think that the GCC countries are selectively ready to open free trade with India. But for some specific countries, their individual interest might not be favorable for free trade particularly for those which have huge petrochemical production. India needs safeguards for its petroleum and petroleum products which is major issue to be resolved in current negotiations. The last thing between the GCC and India is Pakistan, Kashmir and India’s closer relation with Israel. Observers have correctly found that there is little progress possible in finalizing the FTA with pending issues of petrochemical products.

ORSAM: Lastly, you said that Iran and Turkey’s ambitions in the Middle East are similar to each other, they are in cooperation, but, in your opinion what might come in the future?

Omair Anas: If you see the profile of the two countries, Iran and Turkey, they have almost the same number of population which means they require similar amount of resources. Despite being petro rich country, Iran’s economy has deteriorated in the last five years mainly because of sanctions and international isolation. But Turkey’s economy continues to grow. Both countries have economic relations with the Arab states. What Iran is trying to do is to reduce its isolation in the international community. For this, Iran needs the help of Turkey. Iran is trying to get Turkey to help reduce Iran’s isolation. That’s why you will find friendly gestures between Iran and Turkey. Turkey’s key concern is Iran’s nuclear ambition which Turkey want to make assure that Iran do not have nuclear weapon. Also another war in Turkey’s second border will hit Turkey’s security. With this, Turkey has advanced Zero Problem Policy at neighbours by engaging them in meaningful talk. Turkey is becoming more reliable partner for Arabs than Iran. I think that current Iran Turkey cooperation trends do not constitute major possibility for long term strategic partnership. Given their hostile history, sectarian differences and same area of influence, Turkey needs to explore solid grounds for long term partnership with Iran.

Interview: Nebahat Tanrıverdi O; ORSAM Middle East Research Assistant

Studying International Relations and Area Studies in Indian Universities

(Originally published in The Companion November 2011)


Human societies, like individuals, are social plus political animals and their politics towards each other is called politics among nations. Nations were best term to be used to represent groups of human societies divided in geographical, linguistic and cultural boundaries. However boundaries were none melting and were enough distant to meet except a few at a time. This is why Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh once said “‘we can choose our friends… not our neighbours”[1] Today most of the countries are nations and some countries are group of nations and some nations are without state or divided in more than one states like Palestine, Xinjiang, Kashmir, Kurdistan and so on.

Political theorist like Morgenthau says that each nation state thinks and act like a selfish human being whose prime concern is security and survival of himself or herself. Each state is an entity to represent which is made only to serve its primary interest first and then other interest. The theory is called as realism whose major assumption is that states’ behaviour is shaped by “forces inherent in human nature’. There are many who idealize the states’ behaviour and their benefits to the world communities. Liberalism and its offshoot theories have proposed many new frameworks to rethink and rebuild the “politics among nations” through creating new institutions and networks to maximize peace and minimize insecurity. However there is more than that and ideologies based on historical materialism and Islamic Caliphate have also played vital role in our understanding of international politics. Marxists worldview is based on relation between producers and labour as major source of tensions and solidarity among human individuals and their groups while Islamic Politics or political Islam is based on its belief on unity of God, unity of humanity and consequent unity of system under the control of Caliph, a representative body of God’s divine guidance.

Today’s world brings more realities beyond theories, in fact theories are still in the process of making and unmaking as the world goes to unknown process of transformation allowing new tensions and new possibilities. History didn’t end and the last man entered in post human future in search of escape from tensions between human ideas and technology.  Whole range of debate on war, peace, diplomacy, conflict, development and human relation itself are under rapid transformation and hence the discourse on their politics is also on move. Despite all these changes, basic needs of human societies have not and will not change. Energy, food, health, human security and freedom from all sources of conflicts are driving forces of diplomatic engagement. There is apparent competition and rivalry among nations-states to control maximum resources on behalf of their people. With their requirements, present position on development index, and their potentials to compete, we can easily identify and differentiate one state from other along with their sphere of influences, alliance and competitors. Understanding states behaviour and their drivers is the main subject of area studies which is an expanded course of international relations. We are familiar most of the areas like West Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, Latin America and Europe etc. There are organizations comprising many nations to protect their specific mutual interests be they are business interests as in WTO, security like the NATO, regional cooperation like EU and ASEAN or the umbrella organization of the UNO. Area studies cover from foreign policy to the domestic politics of a nation, economic and commercial interest to security interests, cultural industry to ideological and intellectual trends.

Ability to build and predict correct scenarios, detect patterns of behavior its possible outcomes, failure and achievements of organizations, movements, countries in their regional, international contexts is all that a scholar of area studies or international relations is expected. This ability helps not only the countries’ policy makers, foreign ministries, but also common people’s approach towards their own governments and political parties who tend to build up pressure for a specific foreign policy formulation. Art of politics is not just art of critic; it is also art of possibilities and alternatives. One’s ability to propose new models, alternative frameworks for resolving conflicts and settling peace and stability is also subject of the discipline.  This can be seen in case of growing pro-Palestinian global opinion, protests against wars and environmental problems. Since many of the problems are not limited to nation states, global and transnational networks of people, NGOs, organizations and business groups have also emerged which sometimes play more powerful role than the governments.

With increased role of non-government parties like NGOs, social and environmental movements, ideological campaigners, militant groups and media as their main tool, role of such scholars and experts has increased. Number of think tanks, research organizations and policy research institutions are being established in cities. In India, we can see many newly established think tanks like Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, Centre for Asian Strategic Studies-India, (CASS-India), New Delhi, Indian Council on Global Relations- Mumbai, The Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), New Delhi, The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CPR) – New Delhi, Strategic Foresight Group, Mumbai, Delhi Policy Group (DPG), New Delhi, National Foundation for India, New Delhi, Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai,  Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), Centre for Civil Society (CCS), Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations (Gateway House), Mumbai, South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG), National Maritime Foundation (NMF), New Delhi, The Takshashila Institution, Chennai, International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies and the government sponsored Indian Council for Word Affairs (ICWA) New Delhi, Study and Research Centre, Hyderbad. There are many more other organizations and association of scholars of various areas which are promoting scholarship in their respective areas.

Research scholars generally join these research centres, or become faculty members in universities and colleges offering courses on political science and area studies or join media’s diplomatic and foreign affairs team. Independent researchers are no more isolated and they are very much recognized as they are approachable for common people, media and social media and concerned organizations.

International Relation is much more popular subject in Europe and the United States because their engagement with the world is very intensive and multisectoral given their colonial history and imperial designs. However Indian universities have just opened the discipline. First school of this kind was Indian School of International Studies (ISIS) established by ministry of external affairs and later on it was brought under Jawaharlal Nehru University. JNU’s SIS, Jadavpur University,  offer MA Political Science (with specialization in Internal Relations), MA Economics (with specialization in World Economy) and M.Phil/PhD courses in all major areas of the world like West Asia, South Asia, East Asia, Europe, international organizations, International Legal Studies International and Trade and Development. Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University, have also developed many centres offering such courses.

Despite the diversity of issues and areas covered by Area Studies, Indian universities do not offer verities of courses on international relations such as defence and security studies, geopolitics, Strategic Studies, energy studies, military, and other specialization courses are rarely available in Indian universities. Research level courses are available in many universities including JNU, DU, AMU and Mumbai University. Following centres and institutes are also offering research level courses. Centre for SAARC Studies, Andhra University, South Asia Studies Centre is established in Rajasthan University, Centre for the Study of Nepal, Banaras Hindu University, Centre for Southeast Asian and Pacific Studies, Sri Venkateswara University, Centre for South and South East Asian Studies, Madras University, Centre for South & Southeast Asian Studies, Calcutta University, Centre for  African Studies, University of Mumbai, Gulf Studies Program (JNU), Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai, Centre for Central Asian Studies, University of  Kashmir, Centre for Indian Ocean Studies, Osmania University, Centre for the Study of Indian Diaspora, University of Hyderabad, Centre for Canadian Studies, University of Kerala (also IN Mumbai University, University of Baroda, and DU), Centre for Latin American Studies, Goa University, Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, Centre for Federal Studies, Jamia Hamdard University. (Detail of the courses can be seen at http://www.ugc.ac.in/notices/ASCDirectory.pdf)

Precautionary Notice: Unless you love the discipline, there is no guarantee for personal or professional satisfaction.


Useful links:







Omair  Anas is PhD candidat eat the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, JNU New Delhi. He can be contacted at omairanas@gmail.com, He blogs on easternmedia.wordpress.com


[1] Economic Times, 29 August 2006

Mubarak Fails in the Last Test

(Originally published in The Companion March 2011)

Cairo calls Irhal Mubarak (i.e. Go Mubarak Go). People in Tahrir Square have successfully drawn world attention through their peaceful struggle for civil rights which were suspended for last 30 years by Hosni Mubarak under emergency law. Mubarak’s history as head of the state is not different from African oppressive regimes like Mugambe. His regime was extremely undemocratic and inhuman with record number of human rights violations. Despite commonly spread anti-Mubarak sentiments across Egypt, United States was guarantor of his long political life. He was more reliable for America and Israel than for its own people. People were arrested,
their political activities were banned as they were not citizens of the nation. However Hosni Mubarak rarely found an opportunity to feel public anger against him and remained isolated from people. He ‘won’ five elections which were rejected by opposition as rigged. The long suppressed anger spilled over in fibre lines of internet through twitter, facebook and blogger’s every day painful stories about Egypt. My friend Abdalla Erfan from Cairo University wrote on 26 January with immense proud  that “Egyptians are making new identity, creating new legitimacy, and new future with hope and happiness”. Sally who is far more active in all the protests, giving all the information about sites and routes of protests, requesting dos and don’ts of the agitation is just one Egyptian among thousands who are part of this articulate anger. Ahead of Friday Anger on 28th January she gave how should protesters behave on roads: don’t pelt stones, don’t make cheap slogans, don’t set anything on fire, don’t be harsh with anybody, don’t endanger our peace, don’t stop public services, don’t leave injured ones, don’t stop ambulance and fire brigade, don’t forget prayer, demand but don’t be greedy, stay assembled and together not scattered and alone, and ask all help from Allah” she wrote on Thursday 27 evening, the day before Mubarak regime suspended internet services. After 28th Facebook and Twitter and other social media were suspended which only shot back against Mubarak as youths felt themselves more powerless. Big media organizations like Al-Jazeera and BBC were not allowed access and sometimes their representatives were being targeted by Egyptian security forces. Many journalists have been beaten to death allegedly by Mubarak’s people. More than 150 people were killed by police force and thousands are injured so far. In an unfortunate way, Mubarak has asked his party members to disturb peaceful protests in Tahrir Square and defame the struggle. 

In coming days it proved that all tactics are part of his last tactics to overcome the crisis and secure his power. Day by day Mubarak emerged weak and helpless. He called army to control the Tahrir Square and reports say that he even asked army to use bullets against protesters but army openly rejected and said that they would not open fire on peaceful protesters. This proves that Mubarak’s control on army also loosened in the end. Protesters are raising pro military slogans, chanting national song and  praising their nation. Egyptian chief of the Staff who was in the United States shortened his visit came back to deal with situation. Egypt is fifth country which receives highest amount of US aid to counter ‘Islamic extremism’ in the region. This is the same aid given to Pakistan to kill its own people in the name of dealing with terrorism. Hosni Mubarak maintained full silence for initial three days of protests and appeared on government television on 28th January only to reassert his control. United States appears exhausted of Mubarak and it has openly asked Mubarak to respect people’s aspirations and to introduce political reforms without delay. European countries have also supported protesters. Among Muslim countries only Turkey has shown courage to ask Mubarak to listen to his people. Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz talked Barak Obama before his unequivocal support to Hosni Mubarak which means that United States and Saudi Arabia had difficult choices before them. Iran as expected has supported protesters and resembled this as Muslim Revival and Islamic Awakening which seems somewhat farfetched expectations. For Iran, Egypt is the main country which has never recognized Islamic revolution and currently the two countries do not maintain full diplomatic relations.

Hosni Mubarak’s failed to read his own people and was isolated in international community in the end. Under extreme pressure from protesters and international solidarity for them he announced that he would not contest the next presidential election to be held in September 2011. He reshuffled his cabinet and appointed new Prime Minister and changed Home Minister also. In a subtle gesture for power transfer in next election, Mubarak first time appointed a Vice President Omar Sulaiman a person who is equal share holder of Mubarak’s anti people brutalities using his intelligence agency Mukhabirat. Omar Sulaiman is main person who has close contacts with Israel’s notorious secret agency Mossad. Protesters have immediately rejected reshuffling and appointment of Vice President.

The key demand which protesters were making consistently was to end emergency imposed by Hosni Mubarak 30 years ago. The draconian emergency law gives Egyptian police rights to suspend individual’s political and individual freedom and to ban any association any time. On the other hand, Egyptian constitution as engineered by ruling National Democratic Party, has allowed multicandidate presidential election only in 2005. To become presidential candidate, one needs support of one third members of parliament which is impossible unless all parties are allowed to contests election freely and fairly. Muslim brotherhood has also supported Casablanca Call for political reforms. Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition parties have declared that Muhammed El-Baradei will be their candidate for president when Hosni Mubarak vacates the position.

It has become clear that Hosni Mubarak has failed in his last attempt to control power in Egypt unlimitedly. This was his last test which examined his best political skills to pacify protesters and secure larger and greater interests of Egyptian people. In this examination however he failed and was forced to leave the throne and since resignation he has not appeared before media. Egypt has a democratic constitution, people’s elected parliament and free and fair press, but all this will be guaranteed only by a government sans Hosni Mubarak and his partners, now with Hosni Mubarak out of the picture Egyptian people need to take steady steps towards democracy. Tyranny of a pharaoh must not be replaced with another. After all change of faces was not the objective of the revolution, it is change in societal conditions.

(Omair Anas is PhD candidate at Centre for West Asian Studies, Jawharlal Nehru University and he is also convener of Egypt Solidarity Forum. He can be contacted at omairanas@gmail.com)

Cairo Calls for Change: Omair Anas

(Originally published in ORSAM, Ankara Turkey on 16 February 2010)

Egyptian turmoil is no more only Egyptian. People in Tahrir Square have received world wide support and solidarity for their anti Mubarak protests from governments, people and NGOs. Their main demand is “Irhal Mubarak” Go Mubarak Go. In 1981, Hosni Mubarak had got the presidency without any free and fair electoral process from his predecessor Anwar Sadat. History is repeating itself. Anwar Sadat was also victim of unpopularity which he earned after signing peace accord with Israel on apparently undignified terms. Anwar Sadat’ policy to normalize relation with Israel was culmination of his alleged Open Door policy which later on proved Shift Door from Soviet Union to the United States. However Anwar Sadat was shot dead in a public meeting Cairo out of public outrage against his policies. Hosni Mubarak who was vice president, took the charge and become president of an unpopular government. Now Hosni Mubarak facing lowest level of unpopularity and his effigy has been hanged in public by protesters in Tahrir Square. He has appointed another unpopular, retired army officer and unelected person as his vice president who is supposed to be president if he is forced to leave the post.
Mubarak’s departure is now certain and but this time this departure is pushed by the people along with tremendous pressure to discontinue some of the worst policies adopted and continued by Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak regimes. Their image as ‘savoir of Israel’ is much more than savoir of Arab which was held by Gamal Abdul Nasser’s charismatic leadership. That’s’ why Mubarak’s departure bears serious policy implications for the regional and international politics. ‘Egypt is not Tunisia’, has been recognized by all policy makers, leaders and commentators. Egypt is not Tunisia in neither receiving nor delivering end. ‘Egypt’s potential to become Iran’ is a worrisome scenario for everyone. As a result there is lot of activity among anti Iranian alliance which unites America, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi King declared “no compromise on Egypt” which means no compromise on change of status quo in the regional politics. Iranians and Saudis are confronted neck to neck on the regime change prospects in Cairo. With Saudi King’s unequivocal support for Egypt’s longest and Arab world’s oldest dictator, Iranians are expecting victory for people’s aspirations and Islamic revival like Iran.

Barak Obama’s Cairo speech is going to be tested first time in Cairo itself where Obama had made many promises with Muslim peoples. Perhaps American administration was not well prepared to tackle this revolution. Obama’s first response came with a clear demand from Egyptian regime to respect so called ‘universal values’. It is historical that America has never paid price of democracy, human rights whenever and wherever. American has always supported dictators and despots if it doesn’t cost anything to America. Given the America’s concern that transparent and accountable democratic regime in Egypt may not be in consonance with its crucial interests in the Arab world, America’s call for “respect for universal values” stands suspected.

In an unexpected way, US said that “economic, political and military measures would be taken had Suez been blocked by new regime”. Also if Israeli’s right to exists is challenged, Israel may take serious actions for its prime national interest. America is also sceptical about the next regime in Egypt. Gradual transition was the only way to save American interest in the regions so that power may be transferred to loyal partners. From these calculations, Egyptian revolution is complete and protesters should accept the changes and announces made by Mr. Mubarak. Recent developments are indicating that military now take pro government position clamping down against protesters while protesters have already rejected recent changed of Mubarak and his announcement of not seeking office for next term.

Many in Cairo are feeling betrayed by United States at the time of crisis and Obama’s repeated pro-reform statements are irritating them so much so that they have openly rejected any external call for reforms as intervention in internal affairs of Egypt. However America’s pro reform statements have not stopped which means that America is thinking alternatively. America’s biggest problem in the Arab world is that it has limited channels of negotiations with Islamic movements which have larger and deeper bases in the Arab world. It is becoming clearer day by day that Muslim brother hood is going to play a leading role to decide future of Egypt. El-Baradei who is projected as presidential candidate of united opposition does need MB’s support.

In case of America’s preparedness for new regime in Egypt, America needs to engage with Muslim Brotherhood which they might have started by the time of writing these lines. El-Baradei’s assurance to Israel and America that they need not to worry in case of regime change has come to sooth American concerns. America’s major concerns in case of regime change are about Israel and Iran. Muslim brotherhood’s Israel policy is very clear which support is for Hamas and establishment of Palestinian state. But it is also fact that Hamas has better interaction with Saudi leadership which has agreed to support Saudi initiatives. In case of Iran, Muslim Brotherhood’s stand can not be called as pro Iranian. Yousuf Al-Qardhawi a leading scholar of Muslim Brotherhood has supported Saudi initiatives for unity and peace in Muslim world when he attend a Saudi sponsored international conference in Mecca in 2009. He had also demanded Iran to show more respect for Sunni concerns and respect for Arabs as well. Muslim brotherhood has not glorified Iranian revolution in its literature as Asian Islamic movements have glorified. That Muslim Brotherhood will support Saudi’s Iranian view is a big possibility than its alleged pro Iranian scenario.

It is very unusual that these protests are largely free from anti Israel and anti American slogans which indicate that there is an understanding that change should on internal front and mainly in political domain rather than foreign policy. It is an opportunity that world power take an assurance from revolutionaries in Cairo that they respect status quo in regional politics and do not immediately threat it. The change in Egypt will also change America’s image in the Muslim world from being an opportunist state to reliable partner. Any compromise on the change will increase more frustration and disappointment and subsequent deepening anti American and anti Israel politics in the Arab Islamic world.

*Omair Anas is PhD candidate at Centre for West Asian Studies, JNU New Delhi and he is convener of Egypt Solidarity Forum. He can be reached at omairanas@gmail.com

COMMENT: Peace roads beyond Cairo —Omair Anas

(First appeared on Daily Times, Pakistan on 3 November 2010)

After 2009, Obama’s popularity among Muslim populations has started sliding. Partial US withdrawal from Iraq has not helped Iraq stabilise and has, in fact, deepened the political crisis. Private security forces from the US are considered to control much of the security scenario in Iraq

On March 1, 2006, in New Delhi, President George W Bush was welcomed by a mammoth protest rally called by the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind and addressed by a gamut of Muslim and left party leaders. Bush finished his term in the White House after receiving a humiliating bite from an Iraqi journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi, who threw shoes at him during his visit to Iraq in 2008. The scenario has little changed in Obama’s presidency. No more protests are going to happen in India or in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world to be visited by Obama in his Asia tour. The offices of Indian Muslim organisations, this time, were calm and busy preparing for legal battle against a court verdict in the Babri Masjid case. No Muslim organisation has yet announced any protest programme against Barack Obama. Protests did not erupt even during his last visits to Egypt and Turkey in 2009.

What change has come from Bush to Obama? Peaceful and warm welcomes by Muslim heads of state for Obama is secured by public diplomacy strategies carved out by his expert team in the Muslim world. Recognising the problems ahead, Obama announced in his historical Cairo speech: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.” Recognition of major sources of tension has brought a sense of relief among the Muslim masses hoping for resolution. In Cairo, Obama addressed all the key problems between the Muslim world and the US, including Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, reforms, women’s rights and freedom. Obama chose to engage the Muslim world by all means necessary. He decided to give his first-ever interview after assuming office to Al-Arabiya, the largest Arab television channel after Al-Jazeera and tried to set his agenda for the Muslim world. This was the first time that a president directly talked with Arab and Muslim audiences. He has already visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey and has met majority Muslim heads of state on several occasions. In his Asia visit he will cover the most populous Muslim communities in India and Indonesia.

After 2009, Obama’s popularity among Muslim populations has started sliding. The Pew Research Centre poll results collected from 25,000 Muslim and Arab respondents in 22 countries have shown discouraging and disappointing trends. Things are changing fast against the US and Barak Obama. None of the issues he promised to resolve have shown any substantial progress. Partial US withdrawal from Iraq has not helped Iraq stabilise and has, in fact, deepened the political crisis. Private security forces from the US are considered to control much of the security scenario in Iraq. There will remain more than a 50,000 strong army to ensure the security of US interests in Iraq. Israeli settlements continue along with Israeli attacks such as the one on the Freedom Flotilla. There is a curb on other pro-Palestinian initiatives including entry denial for Noam Chomsky.

The peace process, initiated by the Obama administration, is almost on the brink of collapse. The Brazil-Turkish joint effort on the Iranian nuclear crisis was out rightly rejected by the US. A major source of tension in Asia is the Afghanistan crisis where there seems no hope for US and NATO missions. Drone attacks on civilians inside Pakistan have further opened a new theatre of tensions between Pakistan and the US. In the presence of these hard issues, there is less space left for those issues like democracy, freedom, women’s rights, economic development and opportunities mentioned in the Cairo speech.

There is another problem about the perception of the Muslim world within the American foreign policy regime. The Muslim world has been defined exclusively and is based on short-term interests and goals. There are no long-term engagement programmes to facilitate ‘mutual interest’ and ‘mutual respect.’ The Obama administration has tried to define the Muslim world in some broader terms and the appointment of many Asian faces like Rashad Hussain and Farah Pandith for US-Muslim world engagement is a step forward. Major pending issues remain disturbing for regional and international peace and security and thus require serious and positive resolution efforts. The US’s role in resolving issues like Kashmir, the Pattan kingdom in south Thailand, Moroland, Chechnya, Somalia and Darfur is not encouraging. Sources of tensions as recognised by President Barack Obama are not only international concerns but also a liability on those Muslim societies that want to live in a world without conflict and tension.

In India, Kashmir is not only a challenge for regional peace and security but also a problem for better communal understanding between Hindus and Muslims within India. Nationalist rhetoric in India has been offending the Muslim worldview, which often considers the situation in Kashmir to be a grave human rights violation. The US’s role in Kashmir is of great significance as both India and Pakistan heavily rely on it for their international standing. Sooner or later, the US has to face the issue of Kashmir. American public diplomacy in India has worked hard to ensure that no anti-US and anti-Obama protests take place and has approached a majority of the community leaders including separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. Although no protesting Muslim mobs in India or Indonesia are expected, it does not mean that the picture will remain the same. As global surveys show, there is increasing disappointment among Muslims in 2010. Disillusionment and scepticism emerged after the Cairo speech, and that is set to change to anger and disappointment should the Obama administration fail to materialise on the Cairo promises. The road beyond Cairo is still untraveled and President Obama has already received the world’s greatest honour — the Nobel Peace Prize for his unfinished peace assignments.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi. He can be reached at omairanas@gmail.com

US anti terror campaign should respect Indian sovereignty

With regular terror alert announcements from the United States embassy in New Delhi and government’s implied subscription of alert services is itself an alarming phenomenon. The way 26/11 investigation were dramatically influenced by arrest of David Headley, the notorious American double agent (recent interview of his uncle in interview in NDTV) have enough to rethink US involvement in India’s security affairs.
23 December 2009, 29 January 2010, 14 February 2010, 21 April 2010, and the recent one is the seventh terror alert by the United States embassy in India. Ostensibly USA’s alerts are more about their visiting citizens in the country, however the frequency of alerts needs to be taken in broader security perspective. Should embassies issue alerts before consulting the host state is itself a matter of our sovereignty. Perhaps United States’ security agencies have been allowed to be treated like national agencies by our government.

But there are certain issues which makes USA an unreliable partner in security issues.
Culprits of intelligence theft from extremely important offices have taken refuge in the United Stats. People dealing with serious issues of India and Pakistan are same and are not beyond suspicion. I accept the fact that Americans are best security managers but it is also a face that their best results came only in their home state only. See any country their especial security agreement have brought only instability, political problems and even endangered its survival. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the worst examples where American security agencies are deeply involved since last three decades. Our governments are not able to understand that best security environment in this region will come from friendly and reliable relation with neighbors not from the USA.

Maintaining conflict with Pakistan and Bangladesh are major source of security concern for our country. United States has greater trade off in perpetuated conflict in the region. The old quote ‘Divide and Rule’ has been practiced by political bigs. We have to take lessons from ASEAN where better relations have brought prosperity for entire region and its people without much relying on the United States. In my opinion, any external terror alert must be verified by our government before it is issued. It will not only protect our sovereignty as a independent nation state, it will also help us to cross verify sources and interests of issuing foreign agency. Can we blindly trust on people and the country whose standards are always different for ‘Ours’ and ‘Others’? India must not outsource its security problems to the United States. There are many concerns already expressed by many people’s representatives in Indian parliament and outside of it.

Omair Anas SIS JNU New Delhi

Book Review: Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization

Minority commission needs powers like human rights commission: Hamid Ansari

I have interviewed Hamid Ansari, now Vice President of India,  in the first week of March 2006 soon after he was appointed chairman of National Minority Commission. Perhaps it was first interview after his new assignment was announced. I, with my friend Irfan Ahmed (Editor Companion)  met him at his residence in IFS apartment Noida.  The interview first appeared in Radiance weekly in March 2006.

Hamid Ansari is among most distinguished intellectuals in India who, besides a career diplomat,  is a prolific writer. His important book is ‘Traveling through conflict: Essays on the Politics of West Asia, 2008. He has published many articles in India’s leading dailies and journals about India’s foreign policy. In his new responsibilities, he has been speaking of empowering poor, women, children and marginalized people in the course of development. He is enough vocal to voice for their rights and responsibilities and asking the governing authorities to pay attention to them.

Omair Anas, New Delhi

Vice President Hamid Ansari

Ambassador Hamid Ansari is a distinguished diplomat and former vice-chancellor of AMU has been appointed new chair man of National Commission for Minorities. He succeeded Sardar Tirlochan Singh who ends his term last week. Our special correspondent Omair Anas talked to him on range of issues related to minorities in India.

What are the major problems you see for minorities in India?

Minorities in India have been guaranteed full range of rights under the Constitution of India. The problems are in the realisation of those rights. That is the nutshell of the problem. The reasons for it are many. Somewhere it is the failure of state machinery, somewhere it is the failure of the society, and somewhere it is the failure of individual minority groups. And each of them is to be investigated pragmatically.

How far minorities are secure in India?
No general answer is relevant. After all we are talking that every fifth person in India is from minorities’ total population. So by and large minorities who are equal citizens of India live the same life as the rest of the country. But there have been some problems in relation with each of the minorities. There have been problems with Muslims; there have been problems with Christians and Sikh. So you have to investigate each case and then discover the findings. It is not that in the last 60 years everybody in India has been insecure. So large population is here; and many changes underwent. But periodically problems arise, sometimes to Sikhs, Muslims, Christian, and sometimes problems engulf the whole nation. So we have to investigate where the failure is and what is the remedy?

You have been a diplomat, academician and activist as well. What will be your role in this new responsibility as NCM chief?
Let me tell two things! One, the commission is for all minorities; secondly, the function of the commission has been clearly defined in the act of parliament. So the short answer of your question is that the commission must do what it requires to do by law. Perhaps commissions have not done so far; whatever reasons are there. I think power has been given by law and (you have to) discharge your duty. This is the simple thing. It does not need any interpretation. Law is clear, powers of commission are well explained – what it is supposed to do and what it can do.

Well, NCM has a long list of failures and achievements as well? How do you view these failures and achievements and where NCM stands?
It will not be better to comment on our predecessors. We have to see where we have to start from. History is not today and history is not tomorrow, so you won’t worry about history. I think there must be some failures. I have no confusion about my duties. There is no need of any external suggestion, order. Everything is written clearly. If the commission doesn’t perform its duties, it will be a mistake of the commission.

Don’t you think that the commission has not any constitutional rights like other commissions?
The deference between constitutional and legal bodies is only that a constitutional body is mentioned in the Constitution and NCM is not one such. But this commission has been established by an act of parliament. And it reports only to parliament. So legal position of NCM is clear and so are its duties. Well, human rights commission has more powers than NCM and that is because NHRC has investigative machinery that NCM hasn’t.

Would you go for demanding such investigative machinery to make NCM effective?
I think this is under discussion and there is going to be a change in the law and some of these things will be discussed in the parliament. But let parliament do its own duties, we cannot form or amend the laws. We can only suggest. It is decided that this issue will be raised before the Government.

What is your view about the budget of NCM?
Budget is limited; it needs to be increased. We will put the matter before the Government.

Some political parties are raising the issue of minorities and appeasement of minority?
I am neither an apolitical person nor member of any political party. I don’t know what they used to say. There is freedom of expression in our country but I know what the law is and what my duty that I am supposed to perform is. Minorityism as being raised by some parties is a meaningless word. You can coin any word. But there is no ism. Giving rights to citizens is legal obligation. It doesn’t need any ism.

Could you define the role and character of minorities in day-to-day life of the country?
Minorities are 20% population of the country. They have same rights and same duties as other citizens. They have right to benefit from the progress of state in the same measures as other citizens. They have a duty to contribute to that progress in the same measures. There are no relaxations in their duties and cut off in their rights as well.

Sikh riot victims have received their compensation but up to now, victims of Meerut, Gujarat, Bhagalpur, Mumbai and many other riots are not looked after. Why this discrimination?
Answer is clear. Sikhs got their stake because they represented their case consistently and in an organised manner. They had been struggling for 20 years but they had been single-minded about it. I think the answer to others is that, you just be organised and put your demand consistently.

If it means the Government will not give compensation to unorganised victims, will NCM not voice for them?
No, no. It is the nature of democracy. You see the commission is not only agency to voice for them. This mentality has to be changed. If I have any right, I must ask for it. This is part of democratic right. But you have to use all democratic means and cross all the required steps.

But democracy is always meant for majority, not for minorities as the real situation is before you?
No, I don’t think so. Democracy is also for minorities. You must not think like this. In my days at AMU I found that many Muslim students were not interested in UPSC exams because they used to think that they will not be selected at all. We must get rid of such thinking.

Now what do you say about discrimination in government offices. Even non-minority officers have same findings.
It is a fact. That is what Justice Sachar Committee has been established for. But we must understand that discrimination can be in military, police but not in exams like UPSC. As you are only a number for your examiners, they don’t know your name and identity unless you got listed for interview. Our job is to face exams and prove our ability. The real problem is our backwardness in education. Higher graph of dropout rate is real danger for us.

Then what do you say about the strong feeling of injustice and lack of equal opportunities? Feelings come from circumstances.
Feelings are physiological some times they are right and wrong. Let us investigate the feelings if they are right. In India you know, no one is denied access to higher education. Everyone can be admitted to any university of India if he has required eligibility.

There is blame of ghettoisation of Muslim mind. How do you see it?
If ghettos exist, let them be there. Ghetto is not a problem. Problem is how to live and how to think about us. People living in posh colonies are also in ghettos. They are living in fortified ghettos. Let us identify the real problem.

It is said Muslims are not in the mainstream of Indian society?
India is a mainstream; everybody is in mainstream. There is no such thing like mainstream and side stream. Muslims are from very Indian society.

Your last word to begin your new job?
I will try to do my job to the best of my ability. I hope I will be able to reach out to all sections of minority.¨

Originally appeared in Radiance Weekly a Delhi based English weekly.

Hamid Ansari’s articles and books: