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Indian Press on Love Jihad, Constitution Day, Artificial Intelligence and Srinagar: New Age Islam's Selection, 27 November 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Desk

27 November 2020

•  Love Jihad Is An Excuse For Inefficiency

By Markandey Katju

• Ambedkar's Fears Of 'War On Muslims' Have Come True. So Why Celebrate Constitution Day?

By S.N. Sahu

• Has Srinagar Lost Its Sheen?

By Abid Rashid Baba

• Can Artificial Intelligence Outsmart Humans?

By Dr Mohammad Amin Malik

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Love Jihad Is An Excuse For Inefficiency

By Markandey Katju

7 November 2020

 

There is a lot of talk of “love jihad” these days in the country. The Uttar Pradesh (UP) Government has approved an Ordinance against it, providing for long jail sentences as well as heavy fines, and a Bill called the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversions Bill, 2020 is proposed to be introduced in the UP Legislature shortly. The hilly States of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand already have such laws and the Madhya Pradesh Government, too, has said that marriages to enable “forcible religious conversions” would invite an imprisonment of up to 10 years, extending the proposed period of maximum punishment for the alleged offence from the five years announced earlier. There is also a requirement to take the District Magistrate’s permission for converting to marry in UP. The Haryana Government, too, is proposing to bring a law against it.

The expressions “love jihad” and “forced conversion” are vague and liable to any number of interpretations. India is largely a conservative country, and most parents want their children (particularly women) to marry within their own religion. So, when the latter fall in love with someone who belongs to another religion, the parents often file a police report, alleging that their daughter was beguiled and abducted.

Whatever the term “love jihad” may mean, my experience as a lawyer for 20 years and a judge for another 20 is that in most cases, there is no such thing as a “forced conversion.” In many of the cases which came before me as a Supreme Court judge, the FIR was usually filed by the family or the father of the woman alleging that the woman/daughter had been duped and hoodwinked, and/or abducted and forced to marry by a man from a different religion. But when I summoned the woman (and I was satisfied that she was above 18 years of age) she invariably told me that she had married the young man of her own free will and there was no coercion.

It is alleged by Right wing elements that “love jihad” is different from love marriage. According to them, a love marriage takes place  because the couple genuinely love each other, whereas “love jihad” is not motivated by love but is a conversion conspiracy by Muslims. It is alleged that Muslim men often conceal their names and other particulars and beguile and dupe girls from different religions, particularly Hindus, into marriage with false allurement. To my mind, this is a bogus claim and never in my judicial experience have I found any basis for it.

I submit that “love jihad” is only a gimmick, intended to divert public attention from the steep decline in India’s economy, appalling rise in child malnourishment, steep rise in prices of foodstuff and fuel, continuing farmers’ distress, rapes, acid attacks, rise in other crimes, corruption, pollution, major issues on the country’s borders vis-a-vis the standoff with China and frequent skirmishes with Pakistan. Amid all these pressing issues of national importance, a false narrative and hue and cry has been created that young women are deceived, enticed and forcibly converted to Islam for marriage. There may be a few such stray instances (though not to my knowledge), but my belief, on the basis of my long judicial experience, is that almost all inter-religious marriages are voluntary love marriages. Also, no data is given of Muslim women marrying Hindu men, which is of course regarded as “ghar wapasi (a homecoming).”

I need not go into the legal validity of such “love jihad” marriages though the Supreme Court in the Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India  case (2018), the Arumugam Servai vs. State of Tamil Nadu case (2011), Lata Singh vs. State of UP case (2006), and in the recent Division Bench decision of the Allahabad High Court, held inter-religious marriages valid.

But the big question is how many of such marriages take place in the country? In India’s population of 138 crore people, one can count them on one’s fingertips. So it is not that hordes of Hindu girls or women from other communities are clamouring to tie the knot with Muslim men. It is not as if such marriages are threatening to change India’s demography and make it a Muslim-majority country, as is portrayed by some people.

The real issues before the country right now are widespread poverty, starvation deaths, the raging pandemic, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, record, rising unemployment, lack of opportunities and so on. Since the Government has no idea how to resolve these, it does what all other populist governments have done in the past. It seeks to divert public attention and create a bogeyman, resorting to gimmicks and stunts. “Love jihad” is the latest one (the earlier ones being abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act and so on.)

This bogey has the advantage of further polarising society on religious lines, which admirably serves some vested interests and also translates into votes for others. It gives a handle to vigilante groups to harass and attack couples. “Honour killings”, which are already a menace, will become more common as the days go by.

The Roman emperors used to say, “If you cannot give the people bread, give them circuses”, and Queen Marie Antoinette of France reportedly said, “If the people do not have bread, let them eat cake.” Our own emperors say, “Since we cannot give the people bread or employment, we must give them the apparition of ‘love jihad’”.

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Markandey Katju  is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India

https://www.dailypioneer.com/2020/columnists/love-jihad-is-an-excuse-for-inefficiency.html

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Ambedkar's Fears of 'War on Muslims' Have Come True, So Why Celebrate Constitution Day?

By S.N. Sahu

27 November 2020

 

Women protesters at Jamia Millia Islamia during the anti-CAA and NRC protests. Photo: Ismat Ara

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It is indeed paradoxical that the celebration of the Constitution Day on November 26 every year – made possible by an announcement by the Narendra Modi government in 2015 – is accompanied by an unleashing of forces and creation of conditions by the NDA government for the all-around assault on the constitution itself.

The ominous developments in this regard are best represented by vicious and violent targeting of those who dissent and protest against numerous policies and legislations compromising the rights enshrined in the constitution, and particularly the rights of minorities and Muslims to lead a dignified life.

The strategy to polarise society by employing majoritarianism and slogans invoking majoritarian images and sentiments grimly remind warnings of Dr B.R. Ambedkar that India would face calamities if the idea of ‘Hindu rashtra’ were to become a reality. He, therefore, advocated measures to resist and defeat the idea of Hindu rashtra.

Distorting Hindu-Muslim relations

On this Constitution Day, while recalling the historic and revolutionary significance of the adoption of the constitution on November 26, 1949, one is reminded of the words of Ambedkar who referred to the alarming articulations of leaders who spoke of waging a war against Muslims, and thought of giving it a spin as a war against Britishers. These remarks relate to Ambedkar made during the discussion on December 17, 1946, on the Objectives Resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly.

He sternly cautioned that “…if war comes in this country and if that war has any relation to the issue with which we are confronted today, it will not be a war on the British. It will be a war on the Muslims”.

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Voicing anxiety and fear that “…if there is anybody who has in his mind the project of solving the Hindu-Muslim problem by force, which is another name of solving it by war… in order that the Muslims may be subjugated”, he feared in such context ” [t]his country would be involved in perpetually conquering, them”.

Muslim ‘othering’, reminiscent of pre-Partition days

From 2014 onwards numerous attempts have been made to project Muslims as the ‘other’ and to spread poison in the society to disturb communal amity, deliberately promoting discord in the society.

Many of them have been lynched for their so-called ‘beef-eating’ habits. They have been targeted violently for their dress and even some people of other faiths have also faced violence from police just because they sported a beard and ‘looked like’ Muslims.

The use of the term “termite” by none other than the home minister of India to describe illegal people entering India from across the border has the subtext of pointing an accusing finger at the Muslims of our country.

And now, the criminalisation of love of an interfaith couple, especially that of Hindu and Muslim communities, by invoking Love Jihad in spite of the overwhelming absence of evidence to corroborate such manufactured toxicity clearly constitutes an attack on the life and liberty, which are at the core of the constitution.

Attacking Muslims relentlessly to make them feel that they are not equal citizens is nothing but a war that has to be continued on a sustained basis, and in the words of Ambedkar, ” to perpetually conquering them”.

Such an approach is manifested in the menacing statement of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath who said that Muslim men would have to “embrace death” in case the Hindu women they marry converts to Islam.

A few days back he said, “I warn those who conceal their identity and play with our sisters’ respect – if you don’t mend your ways, your Ram naam saty‘ (invocation of Lord Ram’s name when a dead body is taken for cremation) journey will begin.”

The chilling death threat is evocative of a declaration of war which Ambedkar had seen unfolding in the pre-partition days of 1946. Such hateful utterances of an elected chief minister 71 years after the adoption of the constitution is a replay of tragic times when the Constituent Assembly had just embarked on the audacious adventure of framing the constitution. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi saw in the work of constitution-making a remedy to the problem of communalism.

The draconian ordinance Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion, 2020, promulgated just a few days before the Constitution Day this year has the sole intention of criminalising interfaith marriage and love. This is a direct assault on Article 21 of the constitution, which guarantees the fundamental right to life and liberty. Many other BJP-ruled states have declared that such legislations would be introduced to counter Love Jihad.

Equally tragic is to dub the selection of students professing Islamic faith to civil service based on merit and rational criteria being described by a TV channel as UPSC Jihad. Thankfully courts have imposed restrictions on the telecast of such programmes, while the Centre did not impose any ban despite pointing out the objectionable content.

Calls for revenge

When protests erupted against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) involving Muslims and people of various faiths across the country including Uttar Pradesh, it was quite bizarre to note the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh vowing to take revenge against protestors. Such calls of retribution for exercising the constitutional right of protest is a war on people, and therefore, war on the constitution itself.

Ambedkar had expressed consternation in 1946 in the Constituent Assembly by saying that “I am appalled at the idea that anybody in this country should think of solving the political problems of this country by the method of war”.

He would have been more appalled and outraged at the way in which elected leaders and occupants of high constitutional offices in India of 2020 are waging war against the constitution by violently targeting Muslims, students, and those who question the government.

Use of force condemned

It would be instructive to note that Ambedkar had invoked Edmund Burke who disapproved of the British efforts to apply force against the rebellious colonies of the United States to forcibly bring them under their hegemony.

Burke had said, “First, … permit me to observe, that the use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment, but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.”

He continued, ” My next objection is its uncertainty. Terror is not always the effect of force, an amendment is not a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without resource for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left. Power and authority are sometimes bought by kindness; but they can never be begged as alms by impoverished and defeated violence….”

Ambedkar’s sage counsel on power

Those words of Burke quoted by Ambedkar in the constituent assembly in 1946 assume deeper relevance for our time marked by a pursuit of aggressive majoritarianism by those who have the mandate to govern the country based on the constitution.

Further drawing on Burke, Ambedkar further said, “It is easy to give power, it is difficult to give wisdom.” Therefore, Ambedkar reminded the constituent assembly that sovereign power should be exercised with wisdom.

He then asserted, “That is the only way by which we which we can carry with us all sections of the country. There is no other way that can lead us to unity.”

Those with the mandate to govern the country by following the constitution and constitutional methods should ask themselves if the majoritarian approach followed by them is consistent with the exercise of power with wisdom.

Their entire muscular method of treating Muslims as the ‘other’ is unconstitutional and would not help them to carry all sections of the country with them. The sage counsel of Ambedkar to combine power with wisdom for governance means to uphold the constitution eschewing retribution in the name of religion or any other identity.

Let the powers that be in 21st first century India be guided by that vision of Ambedkar by steering clear of Love Jihad and other divisive agenda. That would be a fitting tribute to the constitution on Constitution Day to defend the idea of India.

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S.N. Sahu served as an officer on special duty and press secretary to former President of India, K.R. Narayanan.

https://thewire.in/communalism/ambedkars-fears-of-war-on-muslims-have-come-true-so-why-celebrate-constitution-day

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Has Srinagar Lost Its Sheen?

By Abid Rashid Baba

November 27, 2020

Cities talk, frown, smile, laugh, wail and rejoice, but their language can only be heard by those who care to listen. Srinagar is a suffocating place. It is shredded to pieces. The shards spread around-clinging and bleeding. Once called Venice of the east, it has ceased to exist. After witnessing countless promises and betrayals, it’s withered. It feels slow and somber. The sheen is gone. Blood-spilled on its streets has turned it crimson red. It wants to cleanse its stomach. Having cafés at every corner is not a sign of development, affordable housing in the city is. Shopping complex boom is hurting the ecology. It does no good to the city. No slums around water bodies should have been prioritized.

Srinagar is shrinking, stinking and stinging. It has lost the social value of being a city. Fresh streams, roaring rivulets, lovely lakes-all chocked. It presents a ghostly look. It haunts. City is supposed to be free and fair. With no night life, it is no less than a cage. If chirping of birds, Shikara ride and houseboat stay is picture-perfect; curfew, cordon, crackdown taints the image.  Mushrooming of constructions on flood channels, illegal and irregular sand-mining of Jhelum, coils of concertina worsen the mess. This city is pathless. Walkways have been invaded. The pavements meant for pedestrians are occupied by concertina wires. The fate of this city seems tangled in a cobweb. It may take a lifetime to unwind knots of the noose.

The projection, profile and placement of this Nagar is not taken care of. From municipal committees to development authorities, Srinagar seems waiting for Godot to repair its damage.  Who owns this city is again an uncomfortable question for many of its residents. As alterations in demography are visible from skies, the dwellers seem lost and smiles seem evaporating from its air. The air quality index of Srinagar will worsen as the air will also be full of particulate matter after some time. From congested roads and lanes to silent and lonely colonies, the city seems breathless. The liveliness has faded. It is an urban chaos now.

The Economically Weaker Section (EWS) struggle to meet ends. People used to rush to Srinagar to find work, which is now getting scarce. The condition of migrants has worsened. The change in living conditions has pressed people to adopt the traditional means in various sectors. With handful of manufacturing units, will setting up of industries help generate employment? It is yet unknown if this dream can be translated into reality? Sans consultations with urban planners, the city continues to expand without any roadmap or any cap to its expansion. Srinagar’s power corridor is equally helpless. There is basically no vision of the way you want this city to grow. People at the helm are clueless as to how we can make this city ecologically resilient.

Transportation is a nightmare in Srinagar. No smooth rides. At any given time, you are stuck in a gridlock. 2019 Action draft plan on Solid Waste Management reveals that Srinagar produces 400 metric tons of waste each day. Ideally, it should be dumped in a scientific landfill site. But there is none. Achan- located in the heart of the city is being polluted under the very nose of the administration. Stench emanating from the miscellaneous waste, which is not segregated, keeps the residents away. Where will the tourists go? It was admitted by former Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on the floor of the assembly. For the last 15 years, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is in search of a scientific landfill site but they are not able to get the land.

Heritage houses are crumbling under the heavy weight of master plan for this not-so-smart city! Srinagar is going waterless. Protest falls on deaf ears. Who to blame? Otherwise blessed with raw and organic beauty, Srinagar is getting dirtier with passing time.  Packs of canines have become a source of fright. Srinagar has sixty thousand stray dogs. Increase in canine attacks is no shocker.

In 2018, Srinagar was listed as the tenth worst polluted city in the world according to WHO’s global urban air pollution database. Urban Local Body and Municipal Corporation can be held accountable for what they have done to this haphazard city.  And what do they intend to do with it now? Why is the Pollution Control Board (PCB) mute when we seek answers to pressing questions concerning the city? Garbage is being thrown into rivers in bulk. Why is no action being taken? Even National Green Tribunal (NGT) is slow.

The cries, shrieks, howls of this sad city are ear-piercing. Listen to the woes of the residents, we learn that they are looking for an escape but they don’t have an option. Cities entertain unlike Srinagar. Calling it an unlivable place is not a hyperbole. Mushrooming of private vehicles honking endlessly, traffic gridlocks at crucial junctions are just adding insult to the injury. Moving on from the overview, to the anatomy of the city. The old, historical markets are dusty, lanes are choked, drains are defunct, houses are huge but roads are rough. Bus-stops and parking spaces are a rarity. The Entertainment industry died three decades ago, so there is hardly any source of recreation, if any, and activities are scarce. It is a dull, dreary city.

Famous playgrounds of Srinagar have been encroached by locals long ago. The administration has left no stone unturned either into turning this key-space for children, into parks and government departments. Womenfolk have always been the worst sufferers in downtown. They don’t own spaces. Women shape the identity of the urban. But conflict has snatched this right from them in this part of the globe. From shop-fronts to coffee-shops, it is all dominated by men. As an Urban Fellow, when I toss these queries to people about women owning spaces, I get cold looks. What is the source of recreation for the “other half” of the city? People feign ignorance. For them, it has become forbidden.

With markets unorganized, walkways invaded by vendors, messy traffic snarls, obsolete mini-buses, Srinagar presents an unwelcome look. So, what is there to boast about this city?

What is so historic about it, now? Unless some radical steps are taken to resuscitate  it, the city is already dying a silent death. Will even the Smart City Mission be of any help?

https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/has-srinagar-lost-its-sheen/

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Can Artificial Intelligence Outsmart Humans?

By Dr Mohammad Amin Malik

November 27, 2020

If you tell someone that your brain is like a computer, he/she might bubble over with excitement. This is in effect a compliment for being quick, fast and accurate. The computers are known for storing vast amount of information, processing and retrieving data to solve problems with much higher speed and accuracy. But look at the kind of work the scientists are doing over the last couple of decades. They are trying hard to make computers think like human brains! The big question is, can computers think like humans? Can these machines become smarter and more intelligent than humans? This has been the subject of debate for philosophers and computer scientists alike over the past several decades and presents an ultimate challenge to the field of computer science. Unlike computers, brain has an evolutionary past and is perhaps the most complex object that is endowed with intelligence. But the technology is changing quickly; the machines are becoming smarter at an astonishing pace benefiting humankind in every possible measure. Never before in our history has such profound changes been seen so close. The idea that ordinary humans will someday be overtaken by artificially intelligent machines has moved from the realm of science fiction to a serious scientific debate.

Alan Turing was a genius British Mathematician and Logician who broke Germany’s most secret codes during the World War-II. For his contributions, Winston Churchill had possibly said that war was shortened by nearly two years which saved millions of lives. While most people still don’t know Turing, the Time Magazine in 1999, listed him among the 20th century’s hundred most influential scientists like Albert Einstein, Alexander Fleming. In 1950 he wrote a seminal paper entitled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” published in the philosophical journal ‘Mind’ where he asked a question ‘Can Machines Think’. He proposed a simple test which came to be known as “Turing Test”. This was a time when the first general purpose computers had just been built and the term AI had not even been coined until in 1956 by John McCarthy, two years after Alan’s untimely tragic death. Nevertheless, Turing’s ideas created a new field. As the name employs, AI is the creation of human-like intelligence in machines. It is the technology that enables machines to mimic human behavior. As a subject, AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks which normally require human intelligence. The tasks are visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, reasoning and translation between languages. It is accomplished by studying how human brain works and then using the outcomes as a basis for developing intelligent software systems.

AI has become a buzzword in the world of science, technology and Industry today. It is already there in our computers, mobile phones and other devices when we are online. The applications based on AI are already visible in industries, in health, education, transportation, entertainment and has the potential to be a new engine for economic growth. A simple example of AI is the thermostat that controls the temperature of devices automatically. AI adds intelligence to the products much like the Google Assistant was added as a feature to a new generation of mobile phones. The Voice Assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Amazon, Apple etc are much more than convenient tools and they use speech recognition software to answer your questions. AI has made it possible for machines to learn from experience and perform human-like tasks. It is impacting e-mail filtering, fraud detection where softwares are used to detect strange activity on your account. Robots are taking over human jobs like hotel waiters; policemen etc, traffic is managed automatically, doctors are performing tele-robotic surgeries. The self-driving cars do not require any human effort, move safely at high speeds. These are all real applications of AI that is increasingly becoming integral part of our lives. The ultimate luxury would be an Assistant who waits for your calls and demands, anticipates your needs and takes action when necessary. That luxury is now available, thanks to AI.

Human brain is the most powerful super computer in the world. It has been the main source of inspiration for AI. To go further with AI we need to know more about human brain and take inspiration from the nature as well. Neural networks, deep learning and machine learning concepts are big topics in Computer Science. Neural Network is a biological representation of neurons in the brain and it deals with all the connections and chemical reactions in the brain. A typical brain contains hundreds of billions of neurons interconnected in a complex way, the equivalent in a computer are the billion transistors on a chip connected in a simple way. The Artificial Neural Network is one of the machine learning algorithms which has proved useful for studying the brain. While machine learning uses algorithms to parse data, learn from that data to make decisions, the deep learning is a subset of machine learning that configures computers to learn from deep layers of large amounts of data and perform tasks through experience. Deep learning is a key concept to perform classification tasks directly from images, text or sound and the main technology behind driverless cars etc. As the algorithms are growing increasingly sophisticated in simulating the human intelligence making AI a rapidly developing field and as it is progressing and getting more in our lives, there would be super-intelligent machines in the market controlling everything around.

The experts are predicting the term “technological singularity”-a hypothetical point which refers that AI smarter than humans will be created in the future that will solve every kind of human problem. The intelligence will be able to figure out genetic engineering, solve every problem of disease whereby humans would be able to live much longer. If the intelligence has the ability to improve itself, the humans would lose the autonomy. This has been worrying for many experts   who also believe that singularity could come about in the middle of the present century which may result in unforeseeable changes to the human civilization. However, many scientists also believe that machines are good at pattern matching and the humans have the ability to learn unlimited patterns honed by millions of years of their evolution, they would learn how to harness computing to augment their own native capabilities and thus will always be smarter than AI. The situation thus presents both an existential opportunity as well as existential threat for humanity to transcend its limitations and we need to imagine both possibilities. Whether the AI is rising on a wave of hype, the robots can control a society or act as witness or as a tool for committing various crimes, the technology is bound to have unmanageable implications. As we move forward, we have to make it sure that its impact is positive, the countries including India need to be legally prepared to regulate this disruptive technology.

https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/can-artificial-intelligence-outsmart-humans/

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