addressed the need to move away from politics of difference
and back to politics of ideas
Chicago, IL, June 01, 2008
The fourth National Convention of the Indian Muslim Council -
USA , an advocacy group dedicated to protecting the rights of
minorities and promoting pluralism, was a huge success.
The event focused on the theme, "The Idea of India: Challenges
& Prospects," and was held in Chicago , IL on 31st May,
2008. It was attended by over 450 people. The speakers included
activists from different ethnic and religious communities as well
as experts and leaders from Human Rights groups. The keynote address
was given by Tarun Tejpal, CEO of Tehelka Newsmagazine.
US Congressman Mr. Keith Ellison (D-MN), addressed the audience
in a video message. He described the struggle of Indian Muslims
as parallel to the struggle of other groups in United States who
have fought for civil rights. He reminded that India and US are
the two biggest democracies in the world, and the example of these
two democracies can flourish and help inspire the rest of the
Father Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit Priest and Human Rights activist
in Gujarat , extended his message of support for the convention.
The convention showcased documentary screenings on the theme
of “Impunity: A Roadblock to Justice.” This included
the “The Widow Colony” on survivors of 1984 Anti-Sikh
massacres, a documentary on Dalits, another documentary titled
“Encountered on Saffron Agenda?” about staged encounter
killings of Muslims, and "In The Name of God" that discussed
attacks on Christians in Orissa , India . This was followed by
a panel discussion by Munaf Zeena, Chairman of Council on Indian
Muslims in UK, Harpreet Kaur and Manmeet Singh of Sach Productions,
Dr. Rahul Deepanker who is an Indian American Buddhist leader
and Dr. Angana Chatterji, activist and Associate Professor at
California Institute of Integral Studies.
Another panel on “Strengthening India's Secular Democracy,”
was held with panelists that included Robin Phillips, Executive
Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, Dr. Angana Chatterji
and Dr.Omar Khalidi, scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and the author of Muslims in Indian Economy. The speakers exchanged
concepts and ideas to formulate advocacy work towards bettering
India ’s democratic and secular fabric.
The banquet session started with a dinner and award presentation
that recognized the remarkable contributions of many Indian activists.
IMC-USA presented the Moulana Muhammad Ali Johar Award in Journalism
to Mr. Tarun Tejpal, the Khwaja Altaf Hussain Hali Award in Humanitarian
work to Dr. Khursheed Malik, the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award in Humanitarian
work to Help Handicap Foundation and the Tipu Sultan Award for
Courageously Serving India to Dr. Angana Chatterji.
The session was also addressed by Nishrin Hussain,
daughter of former Member of Parliament, Ahsan Jafri, who recounted
the atrocities, suffered by minorities in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom,
and exhorted the audience to work towards preventing such injustices
from occurring again.
Tarun Tejpal with Ms. Nishrin Hussain ( daughter of late MP
Ahsan Jafri) and Ms. Zakia Jafri (Widow of late MP Ahsan Jafri).
Ms. Zakia Jafri presented the IMC Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar Award
in Journalism to Mr. Tarun Tejpal
The session ended with a very inspiring key note address
by Tarun Tejpal, journalist and CEO of Tehelka magazine. Tarun
noted that many minority groups in India , including the Dalits,
the tribals and the Christians, along with Muslims were being
oppressed in different ways. He criticized the politics of victim
hood and stated that, “ India is a free country and it is
incumbent upon us to stand up for our rights and get them, and
that is the beauty of the foundation principles of this country.”
He criticized the politics of differences being practiced in India
that feed on dissent and suppress politics of ideas and of social
change. He recommended a return to the idea of India , as was
first enjoined and enshrined for us by the founding fathers of
India . Tarun’s speech was received with a standing ovation
and the audience was moved by the symbolic gesture of the award
to Tarun Tejpal being presented by Mrs Zakia Jafri, widow of Ahsan
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