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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Author-activist Noor Zaheer discusses India’s fight for secularism

Lecture on ‘India under Modi and the struggle for secularism,
women’s equality and workers’ rights’

Munir Pervaiz introducing the program and Noor Zaheer 
Noor Zaheer, an author, and a member of the Communist Party of India, is in Canada to inform people about the worsening human rights situation in India under the Narendra Modi government. The first lecture in the series was held at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga Saturday.

Forthright and frank in expressing her views, Noor Zaheer said the Modi government is determined to propagate its peculiar brand of right-wing Hindutva nationalism that is impervious of India’s inherently liberal democratic traditions. She said Modi’s government is not just against the minorities, but even the majority that differ with the Sangh Parivar on the fundamental issue of the basis of Indian

Analyzing the last two years of the BJP-led government in New Delhi, Noor Zaheer, who is the President of the Delhi unit of National Federation of Indian Women, and the Indian People’s Theatre Association, said that in addition to targeting the minorities, the government has targeted the farmers by several policy decisions aimed at cutting subsidies; the Adivasi (indigenous) population because it occupies lands rich in minerals that the government wants to parcel out to transnational corporations; and against the student community.

Delving deeper on the subject of persecution of the students, she said the determined manner in which Modi’s supporters have been attacking students in universities such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the Hyderabad University, and the Jadavpur University reveals that the ultra-right is determined to take control of the educational institutions and prevent democratic debate. Noor Zaheer said writers have a duty to raise their voices against such an oppressive regime.

Earlier, she traced the history of the Progressive Writers’ Association, of which her father Syed Sajjad Zaheer was one of the main founders. She said even writers who have no linkages with the left ideology have returned their government bestowed awards in protest of the Modi regime’s and the Sangh Parivar’s anti-minority actions.

The organizers of the program also launched the book Progressive Ideas and Ideals in Urdu Literature (with special reference to Syed Sibte Hassan and the Progressive Writers’ Association) edited by Khalid Sohail, Omar Latif and Abbas Syed.  Two of Noor Zaheer’s books Denied by Allah and My God is a Woman were also made available at the event.

My God is a Woman is a novel; Denied by Allah is a book that about “stories of women for whom even God does not seem to have mercy.” It “discusses medieval laws irrelevant in the 21st century sexist biases that pass for conventions, life impacting decisions made only by men which have denied women basic respect and protection; dignity and humaneness, often in the name of religion.”

Dr. Khalid Sohail introducing the book 'Ideas & Ideals...'
The program was organized with the support of the following organizations: Alternatives; Centre de recherché et d’action sociales; Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians; Family of the Heart; Hari Sharma Foundation for South Asian Advancement; GTA West Club Communist Party of Canada; Indo-Canadian Workers’ Association; Progressive Writers’ Association Canada; Writers’ Forum Canada, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy.

Photos by Meena Chopra

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