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Press Coverage

 


http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/jul/31inter1.htm


‘We are defensive against
terrorism’

The Rediff Interview 

Mahant
Veer Bhadra Mishra, Sankat Mochan Temple

July 31,
2006
 

A
rationalist, he is the head priest of one of the most ancient and holy
Hindu temples in the world. A hydraulic engineer, he teaches subjects such
as fluid mechanics at one of India’s oldest universities. He is also an
ardent environmentalist who is as dedicated to the cleaning of the Ganga
as much as he is devoted to Tulsi Das or Lord Hanuman.

 

Meet Veer
Bhadra Mishra, the mahant of the Sankat Mochan temple, Varanasi,
and the head of the department of civil engineering, Banaras Hindu
University.

“Whenever I
say I teach at the Banaras Hindu University, people ask me, ‘Philosophy or
Sanskrit?’ It comes as sort of a shock for them to learn that I teach
civil engineering,” says Mishra, who was in Mumbai last week to honour
those citizens who helped victims of the serial blasts in

Mumbai’s suburban trains
.

 

In the wake
of the

Sankat Mochan temple blasts
, the 66-year-old Mishra is said to have
played a major role in maintaining peace and harmony in that town.

In an
interview with Krishna Kumar, Mishra, who took over as
mahant
of the temple when he was 14 and has been campaigning for 25
years to save the Ganga, talks about terror, the role of society and how
politicians should get their act together in tackling terrorism.

 

How do
you see the spate of terror attacks across the country?

This is not
good. Terrorism must be curbed and controlled at all costs. It is
undermining the nation. Terror spreads fear and hatred. It is creating a
rift in the society.

 

How do
you think we as a society should react to — or contribute in tackling —
terrorism?

Right now,
we are taking a defensive line. We have to be careful and alert. It is a
global phenomenon.

 

What do
you mean when you say, ‘we are taking a defensive line’?

Look at the
way people have reacted. We are right now in a position where we are
explaining to each other that this is not something based on religion.
Even in a place as diverse as Mumbai, we are talking about the need to
preserve harmony. It should not have come this far. It should not have
been a religion-based issue at all. We wait till something happens, and
then hope that it doesn’t spiral into a religious issue. We, as a nation
that has a long history and great culture of coexistence, should be more
proactive.

 

By
proactive, I mean we have to be more observant, vigilant and alert. These
terrorists have not jumped from the skies. They have been — at least most
of them — here with us for a long time. If we had kept our eyes open to
things happening around us, we would not have been in such a situation
now.

 


What do you have to say about the opposition charge that the government
has been soft on terror?

Politicians
have not acted firmly. It is the same case with all politicians from all
parties, without exception, which is not good.

The way
they have been acting, it has to be stopped. Yes, they may stand to lose
something due to the decisions they take, but they have to face it. I
would say that is the occupational hazard of politics. You face the
situation in every profession… there are hazards. Likewise politicians
should also very carefully examine their actions.

 


What about the issue of India lacking a strong anti-terror law that will
deter terrorists?

These are
not questions that I can answer, but still, I would say whatever laws we
have are sufficient to tackle terror if they are used forcefully and with
conviction.

 

What do
you think are the reasons for these acts of terror?

There are
some nations that will stand to benefit if a big power like India is
shattered.

And the
terrorists are trying to do exactly that by destabilising India.

 

Why do
you think places of worship are being targeted?

As I said,
their motive is to destabilise our country. Targeting places of worship
will create tension among people. Also, for the reasons I mentioned
earlier — to spread fear and hatred — terrorists target places wherever
there are large number of people. A place of worship is also like that.

 

What is
your advice to people when such attacks take place?

We have
already given a good account of ourselves. We can be more watchful and not
be guided by fear and hatred, which will defeat the motive of the
terrorists.

 

How
is it that a temple as conservative as the Sankat Mochan temple does not
discriminate against persons of any faith?

It is true
that the temple does not discriminate against anybody. It has been the
case from the time of Tulsi Das.

 

How did
various communities in your city handle the blasts?

The day
after the blasts, the people of Varanasi called for a total shutdown in
the city.

Accordingly, the entire city shut down. It was unique. Muslims did not
ignore the call and were there, participating in the hartal. It was
a unique show of unity. Even my house… If you had seen it the day after
the blasts, you would have mistaken it for a Muslim neighbourhood. There
were so many Muslims worried about the situation.

 

As
much as these things are good, there still are temples in the country that
do not allow people of other faith or for that matter some that do not
even allow women. What can one do about these places?

First and
foremost, one must respect the beliefs of such places. But at the same
time, we must also remember that India is a plural and diverse society. I
have faith that these things will change in due course. Just give them
some time.

 


http://www.asianage.com/

Religious leaders issue fatwa
on terror

 7/28/2006
11:45:54 PM – By Venkat Parsa

New Delhi, July
28
: Mahant Veerbhadra Mishra of the Sankat Mochan Mandir of
Varanasi and Mufti Fazal-ur-Rehman Hilal Usmani, the Mufri-e-Azam of
Punjab, came together on a common platform in Mumbai to jointly declare
jihad against their respective co-religionists, who preach hatred and
perpetrate violence against innocent citizens.

According to a release of
the Citizens for Justice and Peace, by issuing a fatwa against terror, the
mufti proclaimed that a religion that expressly prohibits any targeting of
unarmed civilians and others places of worship can never sanction
terrorist activities.

“In Islam, as in every
other civilised social order, acts of terror are nothing but heinous and
despicable crimes,” declared the mufti.

“Hindu dharm mein ghrina
aur krodh ke liye koi sthan nahin ho sakti (There can be no place for
hatred and rage in Hinduism),” said the mahant.

In an obvious reference
to the propaganda that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists
are Muslims”, the mahant recited shlokas from the Ramayana to point out
that Ravana was “the original terrorist”.



http://www.hindu.com/2006/07/28/stories/2006072819812300.htm

Fatwa
against terror, advice from mahant

 

Meena Menon

153 citizens, who lent a
helping hand to victims of Mumbai serial blasts, honoured

MUMBAI: “There is a world
of difference between Islamic jihad and terrorism,” proclaims Mufti
Fuzail-ur-Rahman Hilal Usmani of the Darus Salam Islamic Centre, Punjab.

 

Addressing a public
meeting on Citizens against Terror, organised by the Citizens for Justice
and Peace (CJP) and other groups here on Thursday, the Mufti said that in
Islam, a jihad is that ultimate stage when you give your life to break the
shackles of slavery so that human beings can be free.

 

“In total contrast to
this, terrorism is aimed at terrorising people, at creating a climate of
terror that snatches away from people their right to life,” said Mr.
Usmani, also Mufti of the Darul Uloom, Deoband, dispelling some commonly
held beliefs on jihad.

 

“Every human life is
precious in Islam and the killing of even one innocent person is akin to
the massacre of all humankind. In Islam as in any other civilised social
order, acts of terror are heinous and despicable crimes,” said the Mufti
in this unusual fatwa.

 

Message of peace

The message that went out
from this well-attended meeting from every one of the speakers, which
included Veer Bhadra Mishra, the Mahant of the Sankat Mochan temple in
Varanasi which was attacked in March this year, was one of peace and the
need to remain united in the face of terror. The CJP and others also
honoured 153 citizens of Mumbai who helped the victims of the July 11
serial blasts in Mumbai.

 

Dr. Mishra, who is no
stranger to bomb blasts, spoke of how he had enforced calm after the
attack on March 7 and brought back a semblance of peace. Nothing should be
done in hatred and fear, he said, adding that people should be alert about
what was happening around them. Don’t look at what was happening in
isolation, he warned. Recent events had to be examined in the context of
what was taking place in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

 

Mumbai is an important
nerve centre and its people must be vigilant so that the situation does
not worsen, he said. No support should be given to those who indulge in
terrorism. Politicians should not play games to divide people on communal
lines and communities must think ahead and stop the spread of such actions
stemming from hate, he added.

 

Mumbai’s citizens like
Vijay Shukla were among those honoured for their role in saving the
victims of the blasts. Mr. Shukla said that even though he was scared
after seeing the bodies and mutilated people, he and his friends worked
hard to get the injured to hospital. Usman Wakharia too spoke about the
hideous scenes he witnessed after the blast and how he tried to help
people. “I want to ask who has done this crime and what did they want to
achieve? Anyway they have not been able to break our unity,” he said.

 

Free treatment

Pramod Patil from Mira
Road said that he and his friends decided to ensure that people got their
dues from the government and they approached the authorities to make sure
people were treated free of cost. There were people who were not even on
the list of injured and not entitled to compensation. “We made sure we did
all that,” he said.

 

Ravindra Raghuvanshi from
the Bhakti Vedanta Hospital Health Forum said t rickshawallahs helped the
most by taking people to hospitals. At the Bhakti Vedanta Hospital, Mira
Road, people were treated free of cost.

 

Mukhtar Khan spoke of how
he went to the smaller clinics and hospitals preparing a list of victims
and making sure they were treated free of cost.

 

People like Salim
Qureishi from the Al Hind Ekta Society and his friend Mohamed Yusuf jumped
onto the tracks and helped take commuters to hospitals.

 


http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=194575

‘Jihad secures for
people their basic rights and freedoms, terrorism snatches away these very
rightsÂ’

 

At meeting, PunjabÂ’s
chief mufti reads out fatwa against terror; Varanasi priest, others salute
Mumbai

Express News Service

 

Mumbai, July 27: WHAT is
the place of terror in Islam?Â’Â’ It was in response to this question by
poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, a few days after the serial blasts on MumbaiÂ’s
local trains, that Fuzail-ur-Rahman Usmani, PunjabÂ’s chief mufti, issued a
fatwa against Terrible TuesdayÂ’s terror.

 

 Â‘‘ThereÂ’s a world of
difference between Islamic jihad and terrorism,Â’Â’ said Usmani, reading out
the page-long fatwa at ‘Citizens Against Terror’, a public meeting held at
K C College on Thursday evening. ‘‘A jihad secures for people their basic
rights and freedoms while terrorism snatches away these very rights and
freedoms.Â’Â’

 

Organisers of the event
will translate and distribute UsmaniÂ’s fatwa in the coming days.

 

At the meeting, Usmani
and Veer Bhadra Mishra, the priest of VaranasiÂ’s Sankatmochan temple that
was bombed on March 7 last year, saluted the cityÂ’s courage in the face of
terror and urged Mumbai to maintain religious unity and ensure thereÂ’s no
repeat of the 1993 communal riots.

 

As investigators assert
that Islamic militant groups are behind the 7/11 bombings after arresting
eight persons connected to the Lashkar-e-Toiba so far, speakers at the
event were at pains to urge that Islam, indeed no religion, permitted the
taking of lives.

 

An emotionally charged
Akhtar told the gathering: ‘‘When I think of the train blasts, I ask
myself, what do the people who do these acts look like? Did they see the
faces of the people who came and sat in the train beside the bombs they
had placed? Did they go home that night and play with their children, talk
to their parents, smile at their wives? Could they sleep at night?Â’Â’

 

Mishra recalled the day
of the blasts at Sankatmochan temple and the efforts of hardline groups to
exploit the resultant outrage to create rift. ‘‘It is clear that each
religious community will have to address its own hardline fringe,Â’Â’ he
said. ‘‘Hindus must talk to Hindus and Muslims to Muslims. We are heirs to
a great civilization. We cannot give in to terror.Â’Â’

 

A host of anonymous
citizens, largely people who live and work by the train tracks who helped
rush the injured to hospitals and retrieved mutilated bodies from the
wreckage of the trains, also recalled scenes from 7/11.

 

‘‘When we helped the
people affected by the bombs, nobody thought what community they belonged
to,Â’Â’ said Usman Wakaria, who runs a workshop near the Jogeshwari rail
tracks. ‘‘Our only message to terrorists is that Indians are one and they
cannot win against us by sowing seeds of discord.Â’Â’

 

Teesta Setalvad said that
while nabbing the guilty was important, it was only necessary to ensure
that innocents do not suffer at the hands of the state that acted through
crude tactics like combing operations. ‘‘An entire community cannot be
held guilty for the acts of a deplorable few,Â’Â’ she said.

 


http://www.indianexpress.com/story/9458.html

At 7/11 memorial, a
fatwa against terror

 

Express News Service

MUMBAI, JULY 27:What is
the place of terror in Islam?Â’Â’ It was in response to this question by
poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, a few days after the serial blasts on MumbaiÂ’s
local trains, that Fuzail-ur-Rahman Usmani, PunjabÂ’s chief mufti, issued a
fatwa against Terrible TuesdayÂ’s terror.

 

‘‘There’s a world of
difference between Islamic jihad and terrorism,Â’Â’ said Usmani, reading out
the page-long fatwa at ‘Citizens Against Terror’, a public meeting held at
K C College on Thursday evening. ‘‘A jihad secures for people their basic
rights and freedoms while terrorism snatches away these very rights and
freedoms.Â’Â’ Organisers of the event will translate and distribute UsmaniÂ’s
fatwa in the coming days.

 

At the meeting, Usmani
and Veer Bhadra Mishra, the priest of VaranasiÂ’s Sankatmochan temple that
was bombed on March 7 last year, saluted the cityÂ’s courage in the face of
terror and urged Mumbaikars to maintain religious unity and ensure thereÂ’s
no repeat of the 1993 communal riots.

 

As investigators assert
that Islamic militant groups are behind the 7/11 bombings so far, speakers
at the event were at pains to urge that Islam, indeed no religion,
permitted the taking of lives.

 

An emotionally charged
Akhtar told the gathering: ‘‘When I think of the train blasts, I ask
myself, what do the people who do these acts look like? Did they see the
faces of the people who came and sat in the train beside the bombs they
had placed? Did they go home that night and play with their children, talk
to their parents, smile at their wives? Could they sleep at night?Â’Â’

 

Mishra recalled the day
of the blasts at Sankatmochan temple and the efforts of hardline groups to
exploit the resultant outrage to create religious rift. ‘‘It is clear that
each religious community will have to address its own hardline fringe,Â’Â’
he said. ‘‘Hindus must talk to Hindus and Muslims to Muslims. We are heirs
to a great civilisation. We cannot give in to terror.Â’Â’

 

A host of anonymous
citizens, largely people who live and work by the train tracks who helped
rush the injured to hospitals and retrieved mutilated bodies from the
wreckage of the trains, also recalled scenes from 7/11.

 

‘‘When we helped the
people affected by the bombs, nobody thought what community they belonged
to,Â’Â’ said Usman Wakaria, who runs a workshop near the Jogeshwari rail
tracks. ‘‘Our only message to terrorists is that Indians are one and they
cannot win against us by sowing seeds of discord.Â’Â’

 

Teesta Setalvaad said
that while nabbing the guilty was important, it was only necessary to
ensure that innocents do not suffer at the hands of the state that acted
through crude tactics like combing operations. ‘‘An entire community
cannot be held guilty for the acts of a deplorable few,Â’Â’ she said.

 

 


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1820782.cms

Punjab chief mufti
issues fatwa against terrorism

 

MUMBAI: An eminent mufti
from north India has issued a fatwa against terrorism, calling such acts
an antithesis of Islam. Condemning the so-called ‘jehadis’, who were
waging war in the name of Islam, Punjab chief mufti Fuzail-ur-Rahman Hilal
Usmani said on Thursday, “Jehad is for reformation and to establish
enduring peace.”

 

The grand mufti was
speaking at a public meeting called ‘Citizens Against Terror’ in
Churchgate. “Jehad secures for people their basic rights but terrorism
snatches away these very rights,” said the septuagenarian cleric, a
teacher at Islamic seminary Darul Uloom at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh.

 

Iterating Islam’s
emphasis on restraint and tolerance even during war, he said, “Islam
expressly forbids targeting others’ places of worship, innocent civilians,
chopping of trees and poisoning water sources.”

 

Varanasi’s Sankat Mochan
temple mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra shared the stage with the mufti.
Columnist Anil Dharker and poet-writer Hasan Kamal were also present.

 

“Both Hindus and Muslims
joined hands to maintain peace in Varanasi after the March 7 blasts at
Sankat Mochan,” the mahant said.

 

Earlier, poet-lyricist
Javed Akhtar, in a speech laced with literary flourishes, called the
perpetrators of 7/11 attacks “barbaric”.

 

“How could man do this to
another man? Didn’t they think that these innocent people had their loved
ones waiting for them at home? The cruel devils not only kill people, they
try to destroy dreams.

 

But, out of the tragedy,
also came some shining examples of courage,” Akhtar said. Some of the 7/11
do-gooders, like Vijay Shukla and Usman Wakhiya from Jogeshwari, recalled
their horrendous experiences that evening.

 

Meanwhile, Muslim
organisations and the Urdu media said the method of large-scale
detentions, violating the law, was fuelling anger and fear in the
community. Community leaders said the entire community should not be
demonised.

 

Muslim leaders questioned
the way hundreds of innocent people in Malad and Mahim were picked up and
herded into police statitons. A group of ulema (relgious leaders) met
chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, apprising him of the community’s fear on
Wednesday.

 

“Many Muslims visit
Pakistan to meet their relatives. Many go to Iran for business or
pilgrimage. That doesn’t mean all of them have terror links,” said Gulzar
Azmi of the the Jamiat-ul Ulema Hind.


 

 


 

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