Tarun Tejpal addressed the need to move away from politics of difference and back to politics of ideas.
Chicago, IL, June 1st, 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 world. 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.
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 Jafri. Contact: Asim Khan, Convention Co-Chair, Indian Muslim Council-USA; 6321 W. Dempster St., Suite# 295; Morton Grove , IL 60053-2848; Phone: 1-800-839-7270; info@imc-usa. org.