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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 31, New Delhi, July 17, 2021

Business of Othering | Humra Quraishi

Friday 16 July 2021, by Humra Quraishi


MUSINGS 14 July 2021

With more and more communal characters on the prowl, can we declare communalism, or to put it along the desi strain ‘communal-pan’, as a full-fledged disease or disorder of the day! Yes, it ought to be termed and notified as a disease or disorder, which is growing and spreading out in our country, un-checked and un-controlled! Today the Right-Wing brigades and Fascist lobbies are expanding and with that out to destroy structures, human and otherwise.

In these recent months hundreds of news reports focusing on the communal attacks and assaults on men and women from the minority community. New ways to hound and harass. So much so that till about recently there was a website blatantly indulging in the online ‘auctioning’ of Muslim women. And if the Love Jihad alibi wasn’t enough there’s come up the conversion alibi to arrest young men. At first it was the Christian missionaries and activists who were accused of trying to convert and now similar tactics are used to hound Muslim men...Talk to Muslim families residing in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and Haryana, and they will tell you there’s so much of scare around that they are petrified to move out of their mohallas and bastis. Let me hasten to add, that the scare is because of the State unleashed terror tactics. It seems that the political mafia has joined hands with those who are manning the very system!

And last week it was shocking to read news reports that the top brass of Dehradun’s prestigious school, Welham Boys’ School, faced a tough time with accusations from the Right-Wing brigades. Why? Because the school authorities had called for tenders for ‘Halaal’ meat for the school mess. Questions were raised: why not ‘Jhatka’ meat? In turn relaying that since ‘Halaal’ meat was associated with the Muslims, and so off with it! No Halaal meat for the school students.

In fact, few years back a controversy had erupted in the kitchens of yet another Dehradun based school, Doon school. This time the controversy centred around: whether the meat served to the Doon boys ought to be ’Halaal’ or ’Jhatka.’

Do we even know the difference between Halaal and Jhatka? Amidst all the communal frenzy spreading around it gets significant to know the difference between ‘Halaal’ and ‘ Jhatka’. Why do meat consumers opt for the Halaal meat? In fact, last evening I got in touch with Fauzan Alavi, who is heading APEDA (All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association of India ). And he explained that the Halaal meat could be termed more hygienic and disease-free, as during the slow-mode of cutting the animal’s neck /zeebah, all the blood flows out and with that less chances of infections. In contrast is the Jhatka mode of cutting where the blood remains in the animal’s body. He also explained that much against the perception that the meat industry is one of those Muslim dominated industries, a large percentage of its workers and suppliers and consumers are non-Muslims. Also, out of the six top meat exporting companies in India, four are manned/ owned by non-Muslims. Here are the details to them – Al Kabeer Exports Pvt. Ltd (owners Satish and Atul Sabharwal, Mumbai), Arabian Exports Pvt .Ltd (owner Sunil Kapoor, Mumbai), MKR Frozen Food Exports (owner – Madan Abbott, New Delhi) , PML Industries (owner A.S. Bindra, Chandigarh). Incidentally, A.S. Bindra happens to be the father of ace shooter Abhinav Bindra.

It also gets significant to highlight another dismal ‘development’ related to Halaal-Jhatka. Meat consumers are now noticing that even big grocery suppliers and chains like the Big Basket and Grofers have dropped the Halaal prefix to their meat list! Why? After all, isn’t it significant to tell the consumer whether it is the Halaal or Jhatka meat that is getting supplied. To go a step further, isn’t it important for the consumer to detail his or her meat preferences!

Shocking that even big-bodied suppliers seem overtaken or subdued by Right-Wing dictates! Where are we heading! Nowhere …but towards communal frenzy along the Right-Wing agenda to divide us ever so ruthlessly, till hatred for the ‘other’ spreads out in that uncontrolled way. And to add to the chaos are wrong perceptions and notions about the ‘other’.

In fact, to club the Muslim community with gosht/meat has been a well-planned and well-executed strategy of the Right-Wing. They want to portray the Muslims as Cannibals or Adamkhors, and with that further the ‘barbaric’ image to the Muslims…In fact, fascist lobbies have been using every single ploy and cooked up alibis, to portray the Muslims community in all possible negative shades. Making the Muslims feel apologetic even if they are preparing mutton biryani. Ironically, the Right-Wing ministers from the North East talk so very openly and confidently about their beef eating and cooking traditions. And get away with it. Double standards all the way!

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Persons Who Have Been Trying To Reach Out…

I have been planning to focus on individuals who have done their bit during this entire Coronavirus stretch…those who reached out through their verse and works; at times even changing the entire course of their focus.

This week focusing on the New Delhi based - Sushil Chaudhary - the man behind ‘ Picture Time’. As the coronavirus hit hundreds and thousands he converted the ‘Picture Time’ infra structure, to hospital wards for those hit by the Coronavirus.

Over four years back I had first interviewed Sushil Chaudhary when he had first come up with ‘Picture Time’ concept. Taking entertainment to the people living the rural belts of India; taking films right at their doorstep in a remarkably affordable way. As he had explained: “India is a severely under screened nation and the high real estate prices and cumbersome regulatory process to set up the cinema theatre pushed me to think beyond. Hence the product DigiPlex came to being. I wanted to have portable, real estate independent, low on regulatory compliances and ready to have new release films platform and Picture Time is a solution to the above...If you look at the current screen density in India, it is very low. And the numbers have come down drastically from 25,000 screens to around 11,000 at present. While cable television and digital revolution played their role in this decline, the main reason in my view was that single screen cinema theatre business could not adapt itself to the changing times. Particularly so in rural India, the ’tambu talkies’ format started dying. While multiplexes have taken over the market in the metros and mini metros, it’s not penetrated rural India which is deprived of the grand cinematic experience. With the mobile DigiPlex concept I am attempting to revive the cinema experience in every town and village in the remotest part of India…Picture Time has already started screening films in the rural belts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan.”

Well, all that now stands in the past , as now the portable tents of Picture Time, which were earlier used for screening films for the rural audience, stand converted to hospital wards for hundreds of our fellow citizens.

What a change!

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