Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Dhu'l Qadah 1424 H
January 2004
Volume 17-01 No : 205
Camps/Workshops

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Community Round-Up


Ten Thousand Tales of Lost Childhood
Police Play 'House House' Game
School Contributes to Save Girl's Thumb
Concern Over Spread of Qadiyani Belief
Muslims Protest CAT Circular
Supreme Court resolves Beard Controversy
National Commission Calls for Peace
"Partition was the Worst Blunder"- Rafiq Zakaria

Ten Thousand Tales of Lost Childhood

The pathetic lives of little Muslim children employed in zari workshops in the dusty by-lanes of Mumbai should compel the community to take positive steps to bring hope to these children

By Mohammed Hanif Lakdawala

Unorganised, unaware of their rights and underpaid, children buried in the dusty by- lanes of Dharavi have over 10,000 tales of lost childhood. Here, children work for over 15 hours in the 250-odd zari workshops. Many of them are under 14.

Salim (11), who works in a zari workshop, came to Mumbai two years ago from Darbangha district in Bihar. After two years, he is still waiting for his first salary. "I will start earning only after I become a 'karigar' for which I need to work faster and put longer hours to start earning. I am still learning,'' he says. He works from 8 am till midnight. Ten-year-old Sajid gets Rs 50 a week and he speaks about managing accounts with adult-like maturity. "We have to be careful in spending this money,'' he says. They have to buy needles (costing Rs 12 each) if they break it. They usually end up buying two in a week. He keeps Rs 2 aside for breakfast- a cup of tea and two biscuits. He gets lunch and dinner at the workshop, which is largely dal and rice.

The colossal zari industry remains inconspicuous in the Dharavi slum pocket and remains hidden from the law-keeper's eye. Rusted iron staircases lead you to these embroiders' dens, most of which are on the first floors of grocery stores and tailor shops. The workshops look similar, barely 10 feet by 10 feet or smaller in size, with no ventilation, and fine fabric spread out on wooden planks where the workers sit.

Their living condition can best be described as inhuman. One such unit is home to 40 children. They sleep, work and bathe in the same room. The employer, after the recent Govandi raid where 14 children were rescued from one such unit, insists that these children are getting a good deal. But the lean bodies and tired expressions of these children tell a different story.

This could be anywhere in Jogeshwari, Dharavi, Govandi, Cheetah Camp or Kurla. It's a fiercely guarded secret. Every stranger on the street is followed by a dozen eyes. This correspondent from Islamic Voice made several clandestine visits to these places.

In one unit at Kurla, thirty children-between the ages of six to 15-are sitting in rows on the floor, working zari into saris stretched on wooden stands. There is no conversation. Even when the children look up with their yellow eyes, the hands don't stop-fast fingers deftly pick up the metal spirals, kazab (gold wire) and golden stars from a bag and tack them on to the fabric.

There is a window on the far side with a projecting grill, which touches the grill of another sweat-shop with another 30 children across the street. It's like a scene that multiplies itself in a movie.

The workers are black with dirt and perspiration that the four fans on the ceiling do not dry. Their abnormally knobby bodies are covered with glitter from the zardozi work.

Ask the one, who has not even looked up, his name, and he stares blankly. He's not shy; he chooses not to reply. A child's curiosity doesn't live here. The employer is not in the room, but his fear is. They have to finish the intricate zardozi sari in three days; and every minute counts.

Rehan 7,who works in one such unit, wakes up at 7 am and works for up to 18 hours. At 1 am, he unhooks the saris from the stands and brings down his bed sheets from a shelf, stretches out on the floor between the stands and falls sleep.

Shaheed 9, who works in a Dharavi unit, said that they have a bath once a week. If you get them to spread their fingers, in the webs of the hand, you can see the path, mites have taken-a textbook case of scabies. Most suffer from skin infections. In other karkhanas, as these sweat-shops are known, there is evidence of leprosy.

For the employer, water is an avoidable expense. Food is an avoidable expense as well. Most of the kids chew on zarda, an addictive substance that kills hunger. For the first two months, zarda is free, after that, the employer takes a cut from the child's salary. Boarding and lodging is free.

Yes, the workers do get a salary after their year-long unpaid traineeship is over. Salaries begin at Rs 10 a week (but you pay out of your own pocket if you break the Rs 3-4 zari needle), Rs 1,000 a year. By the time he turns 14, the legal age in the country for children to work, he is already sending back to his parents in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal, a sum of Rs 10,000-a year. Rs 10,000 is the average price at which the employer sells a zardozi sari or Kurta.

Eleven years, and the government policy on child labour boils down to a knee-jerk reaction: Raid. Johnson Fernandes of Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), who has made a film on zari workers titled Dastaan Nanhe Haton Ki is categorical: ''Raids are not a solution. The magnitude of the problem is very large. There have to be very concrete plans for rehabilitation. At the moment, there are none at all.''

Asked about the government's policy beyond raids, P T Jagtap, additional commissioner of labour, admitted there is none. ''Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should come forward and, personally, I think the parents should be punished, '' he neatly passes the buck. Of late, these children have begun getting a 30-minute break when they can get to study. This break comes on the initiative of Pratham, an NGO co-founded by Farida Lambay vice-principal of Nirmala Niketan. The NG0 is making an attempt at giving some kind of education to these children.

Mohammad Hakim (9) is one of those who is benefitting from the programme. He sits huddled in a corner, writing his name, erasing it and rewriting it. For Hakil, who has never been to school, the written word is as fascinating as a new toy.

Despite these odds, these children have learnt not to complain. But the truth comes tumbling out when asked about their lives back home. Yes, they miss their village, their parents, the freedom. None of these children ever play or go out. But, the work is not bad, insists Salim. When asked whether he would want his brother to join him, he says, "No. I wrote to my parents not to send him here. He should study. This is not life.''

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Police Play 'House House' Game

 

New Delhi: Several Muslim leaders and intellectuals have strongly deplored the UGC’s latest circular prohibiting Muslim educational institutions from taking admission test for the professional courses. They have termed the move as another attempt to cut the number of Muslims students entering the professional streams and demanded the exemption of minority institution from the scheme of ‘Common Admission Tests’. The UGC in a latest circular asked the minority institutions, particularly the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jamia Hamdard , not to take admission test on its own and not to advertise for the admission. The HRD ministry will take the admission at an all-India level and it will provide students to these institutions too. Talking to this correspondent, the chancellor of Jamia Hamdard, Sayid Hamid termed the move as ‘harmful for the minorities’. “The Muslims should jointly fight for repeal of the new circular,” he said. President of Jamiat-ul-Ulema -e-Hind, Maulana Asad Madani has dubbed the move as a part of conspiracy against the minorities, particularly the Muslims. “The common Admission test will cut the number of Muslims students entering the professional streams which will be a hindrance in their progress,” he said.

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School Contributes to Save Girl's Thumb

 

Mumbai:Five-year-old Alfia Shaikh will remember her school and teachers for life. Having almost lost her right thumb when a dog bit her, the senior kindergarten student of Anjuman-E-Islam School, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, is all set for a surgery, thanks to the money collected by the teaching, non-teaching staff and parents of students of the school. On November 25, Alfia was taken to Bombay Hospital after a dog bit her outside her home in Sonapur Street, Chira Bazaar. Her thumb had been so badly bitten that doctors there said there were two options: either it would have to be amputated or saved by a surgery that would cost Rs 1 lakh. Alfia’s parents, Rafiq and Shabana were shocked to hear it would take Rs 1 lakh to save their daughter’s thumb. The parents, who are unemployed, lost all hope till the school staff decided to contribute towards her surgery. “Both the teaching and non-teaching staff contributed money to save the child’s thumb,” said headmistress Zakya Shaikh. “The contribution was voluntary. We did not want students to pay. But parents agreed to collect money for Alfia,” said Shaikh. “The operation wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the school,” said her mother Shabana. If only all the organisations and individuals become as sensitive and caring as this, the world would be a better place to live.

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Concern Over Spread of Qadiyani Belief

Mysore: Concern was expressed by a body of ulema over the campaign by Qadiyanis to convert innocent Muslims to Qadiyani faith in rural areas of Karnataka. A meeting held at the Khakhi Shah Mosque here on December 18, 2003, resolved to check the tide by running an awareness campaign about the corruptions introduced by the Qadiyanis with their base in Qadiyan, a village in Punjab. Maulana Khalid of Tumkur presented a host of documents that showed that the Qaidyanis were appointing their activists in mosques where there are no imams. He told the gathering that Qadiyanis were taking women to Punjab for a trip and brainwashing them into signing documents that declare their conversion to Qadiyani faith. He produced the list of names from reservation charts of trains, several posters recovered from such ‘imams’ and the brochures and leaflets being circulated by them. He said the Qadiyani activists were active in villages of Davangere, Chitradurga, Pavagada taluk of Tumkur, Belgaum, Hubli-Dharwad, slums of Bangalore and Mysore and Gonikoppa and Virajpet areas of Coorg. He said such conversion documents had so far been signed by thousands of Muslims in Karnataka. Khalid said Qadiyanis were also plotting to create an “Ahmadistan” in Punjab and had prepared a map, flag and currency designs for the purpose of secession and warned of associating with such a secessionist movement. He said designs of Qadiyanis must be brought to the notice of law and order administration and should be properly dealt with. Journalist, M. A. Siraj who spoke on the occasion, said any community that ignores poverty, overlooks the material needs for promoting education, employment, health etc ultimately falls prey to all such machinations, be it Qadiyaniat, Deendar movement, missionaries and other corruptive movements. He said poverty makes people vulnerable to the extent that imams denied of basic necessities also come to be handy tools for such pervert movements. He quoted instances where women discarded or unfairly divorced by their husbands, members of the community who are left uncared, became their victims. He said the larger socio-economic realities should be taken into consideration, women’s education and empowerment, provision of decent livelihood to imams, registration of birth, death and marriage and residents in mosque registers is the need of the hour in order to impart a sense of a community among Muslims. Mysore MLA, Tanveer Sait and Maulana Abdus Salam also spoke at the occasion. Deputy Mayor of Mysore Mohammad Ayub and large number of ulema and social activists attended the meeting.

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Muslims Protest CAT Circular

By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: Several Muslim leaders and intellectuals have strongly deplored the UGC’s latest circular prohibiting Muslim educational institutions from taking admission test for the professional courses. They have termed the move as another attempt to cut the number of Muslims students entering the professional streams and demanded the exemption of minority institution from the scheme of ‘Common Admission Tests’. The UGC in a latest circular asked the minority institutions, particularly the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jamia Hamdard , not to take admission test on its own and not to advertise for the admission. The HRD ministry will take the admission at an all-India level and it will provide students to these institutions too. Talking to this correspondent, the chancellor of Jamia Hamdard, Sayid Hamid termed the move as ‘harmful for the minorities’. “The Muslims should jointly fight for repeal of the new circular,” he said. President of Jamiat-ul-Ulema -e-Hind, Maulana Asad Madani has dubbed the move as a part of conspiracy against the minorities, particularly the Muslims. “The common Admission test will cut the number of Muslims students entering the professional streams which will be a hindrance in their progress,” he said

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Supreme Court resolves Beard Controversy

New Delhi: At the time when secular France has prohibited Muslim girls from wearing headscarf, the Supreme Court in India has given impetus to secularism in the country. In a latest ruling, the Supreme Court resolved the controversy over right of Muslims to keep beard while serving in the various uniformed forces. The Supreme Court asked the central government to re-instate Assam Rifles’ Jawan, Haider Ali and pay his due since he was sacked in 1997 from the force for abiding by his religious faith to keep beard. Haider Ali invoked the constitutional provision guaranteeing right to religion and challenged his dismissal order before the Delhi High Court. The judges, justice B A Khan and C K Mahajan, relied on the Allahabad High Court decision on a similar matter and noted: “there is no rule which provides that one cannot keep a beard. Our country is governed by the rule of law and matters are to be decided according to the law and not likes and dislikes of an individual officer, however high position he may be holding”. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

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National Commission Calls for Peace

New Delhi: Noted journalist and parliamentarian, Kuldip Nayar said that the gap between the majority community and the minority community in the country has been increasing in recent times and there is an urgent need to curb this trend. He was speaking at seminar organized by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on the occasion of UN day for minorities’ rights here. He said the majority community should treat the minority as its brother and treat them with respect. He said the commission reports of various communal riots since independence indicate partiality of police forces, but no action has been taken so far. Speaking on the occasion, senior journalist Sayeed Naqvi said the communal situation has improved in the country in the recent past. The chairman of the NCM, Tarlochan Singh said the Commission has taken the initiative to bridge the gap between the two communities and the process will go on. “For the progress of the nation, the unity among all sections of the society is a must,” he said

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Partition was the Worst Blunder"- Rafiq Zakaria

Bangalore: “ The greatest calamity that befell Indian Muslims was the Partition of our country. Our forefathers committed the worst blunder in demanding it. Partition has created the biggest divide between Hindus and Muslims and generated the worst kind of ill-will against one another,” said Dr Rafiq Zakaria, senior journalist, known international scholar and former Cabinet minister of Maharashtra, while delivering the The Hazarath Tippu Sultan Shaheed Menorial Lecture last month. The lecture organised by the Al-Ameen Educational Society, Bangalore, is an annual event and this time the topic was “Future of Indian Muslims.” The Governor of Karnataka, T.N. Chaturvedi who was the guest of honour on this occasion stressed on the need for widening the knowledge base that Hindus and Muslims have about each other. He appealed to the Hindus and the Muslims to read more about the scriptures and history of both Islam and Hinduism so that there is better understanding and harmony between both the communities. The lecture was presided over by S.S. Peeran, chairman, Al-Ameen Educational Society.

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News Community Roundup Editorial Letters to the Editor Features Reflections Appeal Transformations Shades Of Life Opinion Issues Children's Corner Globe Quran Speaks to You Hadith Guidelines Our Dialogue Dr. Zakir Naik- Question Hour Special Space Arab News The Other Side Men Missions & Machines Communal Harmony Bakrid Journey To Islam Matrimonial
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