On 13th of June, I received an email from a National Secretary of the Students’ Islamic Organization (SIO) of India, Thouseef Madikeri, with an invitation to an International Conference on Communal Harmony & Nation Building. The conference that was scheduled for 15 – 16th June 2015 at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), was jointly organized by the University’s Political Science Department and SIO. “The main objective of the conference is to help students to focus on Communal Harmony & Nation Building by giving them a better understanding of Plural India,” read the invitation, adding “(The) conference will bring together the educationists, religious leaders, students, youth leaders, teachers & other interest groups.” And “the conference sessions will focus on the role of individual in peace building, conflict resolution theory & comparative religion.”
The chief guest in the plenary session was HRD Minister (Higher Education), R S Kheteria, while Narendra Modi’s guru Vishwesha Theertha Swamy of Pejawar Mutt, Udupi (Karnakata) was going to be another star speaker. Among the prominent speakers were the Vice Chancellor of BHU, Girish Chandra Tripathi, Swami Sarvanand Saraswati from Bhartisreepeeetham University, New Delhi and Maulana Iqbal Mulla of Jamaat e Islami Hind. Among the lesser-known names were one Maulana (Dr.) Enayatullah Subhani of Uttar Pradesh, Rev. Father Dr M.D. Thomas and Paramjit Singh Chandok of Sikh Academy, Delhi, apart from staff members of SIO and BHU. However, they were projected in a way as if they were the ‘who’s who’ of the peace and communal harmony discourse, movement and activism in India, if not, of the world.
But this was not the end of the story. There was one more name in the list of speakers mentioned in the invitation circulated by SIO of India: Indresh Kumar, to deliver the valedictory remarks. Indresh Kumar, who? “Social Activist, Delhi,” read the invitation. For many of us who have lived and worked in Delhi for long (in my case, almost 15 years), the existence of an Indresh Kumar who was a Delhi based social activist, was indeed “news”. We knew only one Indresh Kumar, who was associated with the RSS and was named by Swami Aseemanand in his confession about Hindutva Terror networks. My efforts of searching online for this other Indresh Kumar who was a Delhi based social activist, brought the same results – Indresh Kumar, RSS Pracharak.
However, giving them the benefit of doubt, I thought of seeking a clarification about him from the person who sent me the invitation. Hence, I wrote an e-mail to Thouseef Madikeri seeking his response. This is what I wrote:
“I will be happy to know that I am mistaken and you have not invited the same Indresh Kumar as you have been telling our common friends (copied in this mail)…If that is the case, I would request you to share the profile and bio of Mr. Kumar. I am sure, you and your co-organiser must have done a background check before giving him such an important duty in you conference”.
Simultaneously, I also contacted many people who are and have been associated with SIO and its parent body, Jamaat e Islami Hind. Barring a few, no one replied to my mail or returned my call.
The response that I received next day (14th June) from Laeeq Ahmed Khan Aqil
National Secretary (PR), Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) reads thus, “Indresh Kumar from Netherland, Basically he is from Bombay, completed education in Netherland, he was a professor at Netherland presently stays in Delhi”.
With this response from a national secretary of SIO, I started another round of search for this Indresh Kumar from Netherland. But once again it didn’t fetch anything new, apart from the information that I already had. For a moment, I assumed that something could have been wrong with my way of searching and thus sought help from friends, who came up with the same information—“There is no other social activist Indresh Kumar” and, “Bhai, I could not find anything by the name of Indresh Kuamr from Netherland”.
Meanwhile, I received a call from a journalist friend who was aware of my earlier association with SIO. “ye sab kya ho raha hai, bhai?, he asked (What is happening, brother?). I briefed him about my interaction and the information that I had. He further asked me to check with the BHU staff members because Prof. Koushal Kishore Mishra, Head of Political Science Department and one of the conveners of the conference, had told journalist and Editor of TwoCircles.net (Hindi), Siddhant Mohan that this Indresh Kumar was none other than the RSS Pracharak. And Siddhant had a recording of his conversation with Prof. Mishra. To be on the safer side and to double check, I called on Prof Mishra’s mobile number and confirmed that this was the same Indresh Kumar who had been invited. When I asked him that people from the SIO were saying that this Indresh Kumar was a different person who used to be based in Netherland, he said “Haan bhai, inn Indresh ji ka bhi videsh mein kaam hai (Yes, this Mr. Indresh also has his work abroad).
It was only after all this that I decided to go public. But, before going public, I still sent another mail (on 14th June) to SIO of India, informing them of my conversation with Prof. Mishra. And then I wrote on my Facebook profile:
“And it’s official now. Contrary to #SIO of India’s claims, according to Dr. K K Mishra, HoD Pol Science, BHU, who is also one of the conveners of the conference, this Mr. #IndreshKumar is none other than the same #RSSPracharak. SIO of India, Shame on you for inviting Mr. Kumar and lying about it!”
This post broke hell for me. A barrage of abuses started coming in. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, this was no different from Sanghi trolls. Members, sympathizers and apologists of SIO and Jamaat started calling me Commie, Opportunist, Dal Badlu (since once I was part of SIO), Bakch*d, sold out, rumor monger and later, aasteen ke saanp, and insisted that I should apologize for my mistake.
Mistake? What was my mistake?
According to them, I was spreading rumor and misleading people, and indulging in defaming the organization. The basis of their claim about me lay in a report in TwoCircles.net-English (that was put up after my post) stating that the person invited was a different Indresh Kumar. The report read:
“Indresh Kumar, invited in the programme, is not the same person, however. He is a “reputed academician who taught at the Vivekananda Academy, Netherlands”, the organisers told TCN, who after retirement “works on social harmony” and is based in Varanasi. . . Speaking to TwoCirlces.net, Dr Koushal Kishore Mishra of the Political Science Department of BHU, termed the controversy unwarranted, adding that they have not invited Indresh Kumar of RSS, but a reputed professor, who works on social harmony.”
When contacted, the author of the report, M Reyaz said that since he was informed by both the organisers about this Indresh Kumar was from Netherlands, and had hence incorporated their version, while also mentioning (in his report) that I had mocked publically about the event. I said to myself, fair enough. It was quite simple. I wrote what I was told and he wrote what he was told. However, he added that, “even I could not find a single information about this Indresh Kumar of Netherland fame”. So, all the claims that I had not contacted the SIO were nothing but plain falsehood.
Abuses and name calling kept pouring on my wall and in my inbox. Not only me, but who so ever tried making a point was called a stooge of the left and equally abused. Some even hinted that I was being a Congress stooge. They also claimed that I was just being arrogant and trying to settle some old score or that I had some personal agenda. This precisely reminded me of a campaign that some of us had launched Jagdish Tytler being awarded the Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar Award. Back then we were called BJP’s stooges and that we doing this for some personal reasons. Interestingly, like in the previous instance, the case was the other way around. In this case, Abubakr Sabbaq’s (who was in fore front of hurling abuses and justifying SIO’s move) father, Maulana (Dr.) Enayatullah Subhani was one of the lead speakers at the conference. Once again, I was reminded of an old song, “Choron ko saare nazar aate hain chor”… A thief sees everyone else as a thief too.
What was even more interesting is that Mr. Abubakr Sabbaq, who is an advocate and claims to be associated with human rights work, kept bashing secularism, democracy, the left and civil society organizations. He went on to claim that the BJP was much better than the Congress. Following is a sample of his argument.
You must by now be wondering what had finally happened of Mr. Indresh Kumar of Netherland fame. Did he turn up? The answer is a big no. Even the organizers kept completely mum about him after the programme. Why? According to a report by the TwoCircles.net Hindi editor, Thouseef of SIO told him that, “He was not going to attend it anyway and we came to know two days ago that he had declined to come”. But when he asked them why this was not informed to the participants, he was told that they had forgotten to inform them! Here is the must read story in Hindi on the entire fiasco, written by Siddhant Mohan.
Coming to the end, I must confess that I was not going to apologise in any case because whatever I had said on the issue was based on facts. On the other hand, the SIO is yet to come clean about this other Indresh Kumar. Once again, I ask the organisers to share the details (contact number, email id, CV, some of writings since he was professor) about the Indresh Kumar of Netherland fame. I am not being sarcastic, but I would love to meet him personally, given his commitment to peace and communal harmony.
Oh, but Wait. There is an anti-Climax as well.
While Indresh Kumar of Netherlands fame did not turn up at the Conference, BJP UP State President Lakshmikant Bajpai was present at the event as the chief guest and he spoke at length, even though his name was not mentioned anywhere on the invitation. One may ask about his contribution for the promotion of communal harmony and peace building. Here is a sample of his efforts when victims of Muzaffarnagar violence were crying for justice:
“In our state, 71 of 100 crimes are against women,” Bajpai said. “It is shocking but true that 99.99% of the accused in these crimes are Muslims. The UP government is defending ‘love jehadis’ while victims are murdered or harassed by the police. The BJP aims to stop this and save the country,” said the BJP leader at the conference which was convened to gear up the party for the challenge of UP elections.”
On the same day of his lecture at the BHU conference, he was reported to have famously said that “Not Yogis but Ulema stink”
Well, what should I say, Communal Harmony ka janaza hai zara dhoom se nikle !
First published on TwoCircles.net on 18th June. Also read response by a SIO member here.