religious matters

Atheists too have a right to live in this world, say kin of murdered Coimbatore man

H Farook, who was hacked to death last week, had received threatening calls over his Facebook posts about his views on religion, said his family members.

The murder of H Farook, a self-professed atheist who discussed his rationalist views on social media platforms, has shaken up Coimbatore and raised concerns about growing religious fundamentalism.

Farook, 31, was a scrap dealer and a member of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, a political party dedicated to social reform based on activist and Dravidian leader Periyar EV Ramaswamy’s ideology. His body was found near the Coimbatore Corporation’s sewage complex on on Thursday night.

The police suspect that Farook was killed because of his efforts to spread rationalist thought and his campaign against religious fundamentalism.

According to the police, four people waylaid him and hacked him to death. While M Arshad, a realtor, turned himself into the police on Friday, another suspect, Saddam Hussein, surrendered on Monday. Two more accused are in police custody.

The police could not confirm reports that they were investigating the involvement of a banned group in the attack.

The murder comes at a time when Tamil Nadu’s textile city had been inching back to normalcy after incidents of violence and communal tensionin the wake of the murder of Hindu Munnani leader C Sasikumar in September.

Farook’s relatives refused to collect his body from the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital on Friday, insisting they will take it for burial only after the police have arrested the killers.

‘Right to live’

Farook, a resident of Bilal Nagar in Ukkadam South in Coimbatore, is survived by his wife, Rasheeda and two children, 13-year-old Afrith and six-year-old Anafa.

Farook was a voracious reader. Friends fondly remembered him someone who stood against all forms of religious fundamentalism.

In a Facebook post on March 13, Farook had said: “I am an enemy of god, enemy of religion and enemy of caste. But I am not an enemy of humans who believe in humanity.”

On her sixth birthday on December 6, Farook had asked his daughter, Anafa to hold up a placard which said Kadavul illai – there is no god. He posted the photo on Facebook.

His family said Farook had received many threatening calls from unknown numbers after this post. Though he took firm stand against religion, his relatives said Farook never tried to force his views on others.

Struggling to hold back tears, Farook’s father, Hameed, told this reporter, “I am a Muslim. I knew my son was an atheist. But he didn’t hate anyone. I believe that atheists too have a right to live in this world.”

Farook’s brother-in-law, Shahjahan, said that though their religious beliefs were different, this was not a source of contention in the family. “All members in our family, except Farook, are practising Muslims,” he said. “He never taunted us nor questioned our belief. He was fond of talking to me on religious issues. Since I am a God-fearing person I decided to stop it some eight months ago. From then on, we discussed mostly family matters,”

Shahjahan said he was sure this was a planned murder and a big gang was responsible for it. “The threat messages he received on his mobile phone were a precursor to this,” he said. “I hope the police will look into the conspiracy angle too.”

A family member, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the accused were good friends with Farook till a year ago but they fell out as they disagreed over his atheism.

Rising fanaticism

Kolathur Mani, state president of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, who knew Farook for seven years, described him as a “true humanist” and said his death pointed to a growing religious fanaticism. “I have noticed youngsters are becoming intolerant in Islamic society,” he said. “It is a dangerous sign. But I am relieved to hear that Muslim religious leaders and political party leaders have condemned the killing.”

K Ramakrishnan of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, of which Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, also blamed religious fundamentalistn for the murder. “Religious fanatics are creating trouble all over India,” he said. “They are the curse of the nation. I request the police should bring the conspiracy angle in Farook’s murder.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

How sustainable farming practices can secure India's food for the future

India is home to 15% of the world’s undernourished population.

Food security is a pressing problem in India and in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), it is estimated that over 190 million people go hungry every day in the country.

Evidence for India’s food challenge can be found in the fact that the yield per hectare of rice, one of India’s principal crops, is 2177 kgs per hectare, lagging behind countries such as China and Brazil that have yield rates of 4263 kgs/hectare and 3265 kgs/hectare respectively. The cereal yield per hectare in the country is also 2,981 kgs per hectare, lagging far behind countries such as China, Japan and the US.

The slow growth of agricultural production in India can be attributed to an inefficient rural transport system, lack of awareness about the treatment of crops, limited access to modern farming technology and the shrinking agricultural land due to urbanization. Add to that, an irregular monsoon and the fact that 63% of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall further increase the difficulties we face.

Despite these odds, there is huge potential for India to increase its agricultural productivity to meet the food requirements of its growing population.

The good news is that experience in India and other countries shows that the adoption of sustainable farming practices can increase both productivity and reduce ecological harm.

Sustainable agriculture techniques enable higher resource efficiency – they help produce greater agricultural output while using lesser land, water and energy, ensuring profitability for the farmer. These essentially include methods that, among other things, protect and enhance the crops and the soil, improve water absorption and use efficient seed treatments. While Indian farmers have traditionally followed these principles, new technology now makes them more effective.

For example, for soil enhancement, certified biodegradable mulch films are now available. A mulch film is a layer of protective material applied to soil to conserve moisture and fertility. Most mulch films used in agriculture today are made of polyethylene (PE), which has the unwanted overhead of disposal. It is a labour intensive and time-consuming process to remove the PE mulch film after usage. If not done, it affects soil quality and hence, crop yield. An independently certified biodegradable mulch film, on the other hand, is directly absorbed by the microorganisms in the soil. It conserves the soil properties, eliminates soil contamination, and saves the labor cost that comes with PE mulch films.

The other perpetual challenge for India’s farms is the availability of water. Many food crops like rice and sugarcane have a high-water requirement. In a country like India, where majority of the agricultural land is rain-fed, low rainfall years can wreak havoc for crops and cause a slew of other problems - a surge in crop prices and a reduction in access to essential food items. Again, Indian farmers have long experience in water conservation that can now be enhanced through technology.

Seeds can now be treated with enhancements that help them improve their root systems. This leads to more efficient water absorption.

In addition to soil and water management, the third big factor, better seed treatment, can also significantly improve crop health and boost productivity. These solutions include application of fungicides and insecticides that protect the seed from unwanted fungi and parasites that can damage crops or hinder growth, and increase productivity.

While sustainable agriculture through soil, water and seed management can increase crop yields, an efficient warehousing and distribution system is also necessary to ensure that the output reaches the consumers. According to a study by CIPHET, Indian government’s harvest-research body, up to 67 million tons of food get wasted every year — a quantity equivalent to that consumed by the entire state of Bihar in a year. Perishables, such as fruits and vegetables, end up rotting in store houses or during transportation due to pests, erratic weather and the lack of modern storage facilities. In fact, simply bringing down food wastage and increasing the efficiency in distribution alone can significantly help improve food security. Innovations such as special tarpaulins, that keep perishables cool during transit, and more efficient insulation solutions can reduce rotting and reduce energy usage in cold storage.

Thus, all three aspects — production, storage, and distribution — need to be optimized if India is to feed its ever-growing population.

One company working to drive increased sustainability down the entire agriculture value chain is BASF. For example, the company offers cutting edge seed treatments that protect crops from disease and provide plant health benefits such as enhanced vitality and better tolerance for stress and cold. In addition, BASF has developed a biodegradable mulch film from its ecovio® bioplastic that is certified compostable – meaning farmers can reap the benefits of better soil without risk of contamination or increased labor costs. These and more of the company’s innovations are helping farmers in India achieve higher and more sustainable yields.

Of course, products are only one part of the solution. The company also recognizes the importance of training farmers in sustainable farming practices and in the safe use of its products. To this end, BASF engaged in a widespread farmer outreach program called Samruddhi from 2007 to 2014. Their ‘Suraksha Hamesha’ (safety always) program reached over 23,000 farmers and 4,000 spray men across India in 2016 alone. In addition to training, the company also offers a ‘Sanrakshan® Kit’ to farmers that includes personal protection tools and equipment. All these efforts serve to spread awareness about the sustainable and responsible use of crop protection products – ensuring that farmers stay safe while producing good quality food.

Interested in learning more about BASF’s work in sustainable agriculture? See here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.