Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reliance to open barber shops, pan kiosks & shamshaans!

Reliance's future foray in opening cobbler shops, barber shops, tea kiosks, bangler salons, pan corners and construction of 'shamshaans', that's what says an innovative poster in Indore.

Did you notice that 'kharabpati' has been deliberately missplet as 'kharaabpati'. It is put up at the historic Rajwada in Indore.

Taking a dig at India's first ever trillionaire Mukesh Ambani and his company's entry in small business including opening of Reliance Fresh (Sabzi ki Dukaan).

The vegetable vendors are opposing it and there have been attacks on Fresh shops in several places like Ranchi (Jharkhand).

Farmers and small businessmen are anxious about the prospects. Upper-Class and Upper-Middle class people are not sure, many feel buying vegetables in AC would be a good idea. They are not worried about 'kunjra' and the castes traditionally associated with vegetable business.

Consumer ban kar sochna theek har jagah theek nahin, kabhi to insaan ban kar bhi socho, says somebody.

Monday, May 28, 2007

'Blasphemous' Urdu couplets: Poor understanding of poetry or growing intolerance in society

First read the two Urdu couplets:

dair-o-haram meN mil na sakaa hai agar Khudaa
hogaa vahaan zaruur chalo maikade chaleN

dil ko sukuuN milegaa kahaaN soch lijiye
masjid hai ghar se duur chalo maikade chaleN

These are two couplets of poet Afzal Manglori that have caused a controversy in Western UP. Voices for Manglori's boycott are growing shriller apart from little-known organisations issuing statements that term his poetry as un-Islamic.

There are allegations that in his ghazals, he has mocked at Ulema. First of all, there is nothing objectionable about these couplets. Such thoughts abound in Urdu poetry. In fact, Urdu poetry has been historically liberal and only those with no understanding of literature can make such a hue and cry over these couplets.

Meer, Ghalib and other greats took much greater liberty with religion. Had they been in our times they would have been labelled as 'mushrik/mulhid' innumerable times and God knows what would have happened to them.

What surprises me is that this is just a non-issue and there is hardly anything worth a protest in these couplets. Now Manglori is showing his divan to all and sundry to prove that he is not anti-Muslim. As far as Ulema is concerned, the Sheikh/Naseh/Waaez has always been a target in poetry.

Manglori says that his family has been associated with the dargaah at Kaliar Sharif and affirms that he believes in Islam.

With these couplets here on the left, he proves his credentials. In fact, they could also be used to accuse him of blasphemy.

He should also realise that these are no less dangerous because many people would not know that the metaphors of intoxication are commonly used to express devotion to the beloved who can be anyone including a holy person.

Yes, even these couplets, who knows, might provoke those who don't understand an iota of literature and poetry but when it comes to criticism they are always ready to jump the gun. I wish those who protest like organisations of Bijnore, Najibabad and Rampur, would have done this kind of 'bayaanbaazi and akhbaarbaazi' for victims of Hashimpura or some other cause.

Or, at least, they should read classical poetry and improve their Urdu.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Religions, Culture, Stereotyping: Is he a Hindu or Muslim?


Saffron is generally associated with the Hinduism these days but it is the traditional colour of Muslim Sufis as well, at least in the Indian sub-continent.

Here is a Muslim Baba in the photograph on the left. I surmise that this is the pose in the state of 'haal' [when a man gets spiritually possessed due to devotion], at the shrine of 17th century Sufi Saint in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Or he may just be a mendicant or wandering Sufi. The shrine of Shah Latif Bari Qadri, known as Bari Imam, during the five-day annual Urs, attracts thousands of devotees from all over the Pakistan and even outside.

Unfortunately, colours have also been associated with religions. I have no photographs of an 'Azaad' sufis, whom I have seen at many hospices and shrines. With their long conical 'topis' and style attracted me from childhood. Lately I haven't seen them.

At an Urs [Sufi saint's anniversary] sometime ago I saw a group of 'Azaads' standing near the 'mehfil-e-Qul'. They would loudly say 'Ya Haq' but before I could get my camera, they had vanished. 

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Behzad Lakhnavi: A Great Urdu poet of Yore

Behzad Lakhnavi is one of my favourite poets. I fell in love with his poetry after watching Merchant Ivory's film 'In Custody' [titled Muhafiz in Urdu], when I was in my early teens.

Apart from Faiz Ahmad Faiz' poetry, the film also had Behzad's ghazals used as lyrics. It was a beautiful movie set in Bhopal. Shashi Kapoor had played the role of Urdu poet Noor Shahjehanabadi.

Shabana Azmi played the role of his younger wife. Om Puri was the protagonist, a Hindi speaking man, who is a fan of the famed Urdu poet.

hameN kis tarah bhuul paayegii duniyaa
ki DhuunDhe se hamsaa na paayegii duniyaa

qayaamat kii duniyaa meN hai dil-farebii
qayaamat meN bhii yaad aayegii duniyaa

What is the purpose of life? It intrigues all of us. So much effort man makes on this earth but isn't it all futile in a way. The poets and writers leave behind their works and wonder what will happen to them?

Will their writings help the future generations in understanding the world better. Poets and authors derive satisfaction from the fact that words written by them would guide and inspire the coming generations and immortalise the writer.

Read the ghazal in Urdu, Hindi and Roman scripts here Click

I especially like this ghazal, which I have earlier posted on this blog.

Aye jazba-e-dil gar main chahuuN har chiiz muqaabil aa jaye
Manzil ke liye do gaam chaluun aur saamne manzil aa jaye

Read it here Click

Another ghazal of Behzad Lakhnawi is as follows:

diivaanaa banaanaa hai to diivaanaa banaa de
varnaa kahiiN taqdiir tamaashaa na banaa de

aye dekhne vaaloN mujhe haNs haNs ke na dekho
tum ko bhii mohabbat kahiiN mujh saa na banaa de

maiN DhuuNDh rahaa huuN merii vo shamaa kahaaN hai
jo bazm kii har chiiz ko parwaanaa banaa de

Essentially a poet of love, Bahzad is also remembered for his 'naats' [poetry praising Prophet Muhammad]. I have heard from elders that his naats were daily broadcast on radio, early in the morning, in the decades of 60s and 70s.

As his name suggests, he hailed from Lucknow. He, however, later migrated to Pakistan, after partition, and he died there. Yet another ghazal has the following couplets:

mujhe kar ataa sirf baar-e-mohabbat
maiN bandaa huuN parvardigaar-e-mohabbat

maiN ek but* ko Khud hii Khudaa kah rahaa huuN
ajab chiiz hai aitbaar-e-muhabbat

[but=idol, बुत]

Monday, May 21, 2007

Firing on Muslims: The ugly pattern from Delhi to Hyderabad

Already a lot has been written about the police firing in Hyderabad but I could feel the sense of dejection among Muslims elsewhere. In hotels and eateries in Muslim dominated areas in two cities, I could hear angry voices.

The pattern is similar. Protesting Muslims or gathering of Muslims where there is a trouble of any sort, are fired at readily compared to gatherings of other communities with much more unrest, said people in chai-khanas. (Apart from Muslims, the gatherings of Dalits and tribals have also seen similar police excesses)

In July last year, this happened in Bhiwandi where Muslims were killed in police firing (Click to read). The story was similar at Vadodara where cops were seen on television set, aiming at Muslims (Click to read). The bullets invariably hit Muslims in chests.

And just a few months back the same treatment was meted out to Muslims in Seelampur locality on ceiling issue. Nowhere else bullets were fired though Delhi remained on boil for several days and there were many violent protests. But on September 22, three Muslims were killed in firing (Click to read).

Water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas are not considered. And when bullets are fired, they are hit at chests, never at legs. The argument of cops is often that in 'surcharged circumstances' the firing becomes inevitable. Really! At least in the recent firing in Hyderabad, everybody is aware and we have seen on TV screens how people were targeted and murdered by this brute police force.

Now it's Hyderabad where after the bomb blast in Mecca Masjid, the angry and shocked Muslims, were shot dead. (Click to read). But do the politicians (about Muslim leadership one hardly expects them to take up the issue seriously) have an iota of interest in this alleged communalisation of police and ways to deal with this malaise.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why exit polls failed & Most Muslim MLAs ever in UP but not a single Congressman among them

The psephologists and the exit polls have once against lost credibility. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati emerged victorious on her own.

Time and again it has been proved that exist polls can't read the mind of Indian voter, who considers vote as his secret weapon and may not always disclose it to the pollster that for whom he has pressed the EVM button.

A Dalit who returns from the booth after voting for BSP may claim that he voted for BJP because he doesn't want to be identified as 'Dalit' and a Muslim might say that he voted for Congress though he hasn't voted for the party in decades. It is not as easy as UK or USA where there are at the most 2-3 parties and electorate are quite frank about their choice.

Here often the swing starts just a few hours before polling and entire 'biradiris' decide to vote en-bloc at the eleventh hour. And as I have humbly maintained again and again on this blog that psephologists have always been heavily biased against both SP and BSP who have mass base in rural areas compared to national parties.

Meanwhile, what about the Rahul Gandhi charisma. As many as 55 Muslims (or is it 56!) Muslims have won in the election for Uttar Pradesh assembly and not one of them is a Congressman. The TV channels were proclaiming that 'Muslims are returning to Congress in UP'. Now what? (I had written about reasons for anger of Muslims with Congress especially in UP here just a fortnight back).

Even in the last Assembly there were Muslim MLAs of Congress but not once this occasion. Of the 55-odd Muslims who won the break up is 28(BSP), 21 (SP), 3 (RLD), 1 (UDF) and 2 independents. The representation of Muslims in this assembly is highest ever in the history of the state and comes at around 13%, roughly the proportion of Muslims in India.

So many instances I remember about this anti-Congress mood which I gathered while speaking to Muslims, cutting across the cross-section before the results came (during my visit to UP). A youth astonished me by saying 'Congress to har*&zaadi hai, koi aaye Congress na aaye, chaahe BJP aa jaaye, khula dushman behtar hai, chhupe dushman se'.

Why the TV channels couldn't understand it or it was just plain hype created for Rahul Baba. Anyway. The fact is that Mayavati will now rule Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India with a population of 18-20 crore people. It is not that Muslims didn't vote for SP. They did vote but they also voted, though not overwhelmingly, for Muslim candidates of BSP. Of course, BSP had an edge when it started with a 22% Dalits who are its committed voters compared to 10-11% Yadavas. With shift of Brahmin votes, BSP clearly got the edge and also voters who were undecided sensed that elephant was ahead and voted for it.

For Muslims:

Good that Congress that has no administrative structure in UP remains out. The "communal" BJP and its boastful leaders have been cut to size.

So at least there would not be Hindu-Muslim tension, the Mandir-Masjid dispute and the riots. What I expect is that the law-and-order would be maintained and in a riot-free atmosphere, like all other sections of the society, Muslims should also earn their livelihood and aspire for good education and upliftment of their social status rather than looking for sops.

Poor Ajit Singh. It is a classic case of how he lost everything. His habit of changing allies spelt doom for him as he lost credibility with electorate. And Mr Bukhari. He should now understand that Muslims don't listen to him before they vote. Not a single Muslim candidate of UDF could win (except Haji Yaqub who has his own following and won due to the large population of the Qureshi biradari). Across the state the UDF put up candidates and at most places they couldn't must more than a few hundred votes.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Don't make it a Hindu-Muslim issue: Gujarat, Vanzara and Sohrabuddin

We are an emotional nation and most of us are so prompt in taking sides! On websites and blogs, the jingoists are already defending Vanzara and of course there are others blaming the entire police force of Gujarat.

Vanzara is a rogue cop. Not courageous but an allegedly corrupt officer. And also there are police officers like Geeta Johari (and Rajneesh Rai) who must be saluted for their courage. Yes, Geeta was instrumental in arresting dreaded underworld don Latif as per law and not Vanzara, who had to hatch a conspracy to kill just a goon.

That's (Geeta) the sort of police officers we need, for whom law is sacrosanct. Geetha Jauhari had the guts to bring to books Latif and also the moral authority to catch the corrupt officers who bring a bad name to the Indian police and amass property worth hundreds of crores. And their supporters then cry that there is no way to teach these militants but 'encounters'!

It is people like us, emotional people, who are quick to take sides, who are responsible for sabotaging the system. Emotions aside, biases apart, we must ensure that law is upheld. Those who can't present a proper case in the court against a person with a dozen criminal cases registered against him, should resign if they can't prove the charges in court.

They fail to ensure that the case diary is propery written, charge sheet is presented and incriminating evidences produced in the case. They can do it but their energies are mostly spent in other things 'amassing wealth, 'implicating and framing persons' and 'getting into the good books of their political masters'.

All of us must ensure that India remains a civilised society, which is governed by law and where neither money nor muscle can sabotage the system. But this doesn't happen. Those who are supporting Vanzara and those of his ilk, ignore the threat to society by such policemen.

They don't realise that when such a cop will reach them, they will have nobody to defend. Forunately we still have a judiciary, which can take up such cases otherwise nobody, neither journalists nor politicians (opposition) had the gall to fight the Rogue Cop backed by the State government, who had grown so powerful that he could twist the system.(That is why our politicians love to hate Indian judiciary and remind the judges of their lakshman rekha).

Coming back to the Rogue Cops, I challenge the supporters of Vanzara in blogosphere, who are hailing him as a patriot of highest order, to try and just get an FIR register in any police station (even in the pettiest case if their cell phone is lost or their pocked picked) without paying money or using a source.

Believe me, most of the bloggers/comment writers lauding Vanzara would never have confronted the Indian police inside the police station. You may be a victim or just a complainant, nothing will change the attitude of police and the cop will most surely welcome you with a choicest expletive.

Leave a few select-police stations (like say Juhu in Mumbai where things could be apparently different) but the most basic thing, registration of FIR, which is your constitutional right, in case of any complaint, remains a dream. I have seen the most highly educated persons, going to police stations, happily returning with the feeling that their FIR was registered only to realise later that it was just a plain paper on which their application was taken, which has no legal status, and the momen the person departs, it is in dustbin.

So don't flex your jingoistic muscle for a cause, that harms the nation and its law. We keep fighting on Hindu-Muslim issues and the nonsensical emotive things and let the system be hijacked. And when it will come upon you, you are ready to pay a bribe to get your work done.

Law should be fair and equal to all the citizens. Who is this Sohrabudding Sheikh? The 'efficient Gujarat police' worked so hard to bring like-minded cops of four states in to kill him. Had it worked that hard without any ulterior motive, it could have really put a dozen most dreaded criminal elements in jail.

Once your religion is 'money', nothing matters. Vanzara's key informers were all Muslims. We have heard enough of Javed Hero but the other informers of Vanzara who took part in the operation were all Muslim. So it is not a Hindu-Muslim thing. It is just a criminal act. Men in uniform working like hardened criminals and having no repsect in thee law and constitution.

An example of how the police functions:

A friend of mine, who is an RSS sympathiser, was fed up of excessive extortion from the police when he started hisbusiness, though his own party was in the government. He tried to fight them but could do nothing as there was an entire chain. He was humiliated and became so wary of Khaki that he lost all confidence.

But a few years later when I met him, he told me 'It's so easy to 'control' the cops'. He told me that he had developed the habit of drinking with cops and would often give them (the constables, a few hundred rupee notes) and was now so much in control that they were ready to do anything for him. He narrated incidents when he used the cops for illegal detention of his opponents and every conceivable unlawful thing just with a few green currency notes. 'ab to police walon ka phone aata hai, bhai sahab bohat din se koi kaam nahin bataaya...', he said with a beaming face.

What a shame! There are hundreds of atrocities on common Indian citizens everyday who is insulted and made to suffer by the rogue cops. There are good cops amongst them also. But we are all responsible when it comes to this rot. We keep fighting amongst each other and inadvertently subvert the system.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fahmida knew Jaffer had AIDS but still married her

Jaffer Inamdar was just 17 when he wast old that he had AIDS in 1997 but a decade later he is not only happily married to his sweet heart, Fahmida, but also runs an organisation Positive Lives Goa for people living with HIV apart from planning to adopt a baby soon.

This tremendous story has been told by Anuradha Mascarenhas. Inamdar was the first person in Goa to disclose his HIV status. Like anyother girl, Fahmida was also devastated when she was told by him that he had AIDS.

The world came crashing down for them. Surely it was a tough decision for any girl. But she still married him. 'I couldn't imagine marrying somebody else', she says. An HIV negative girl marrying an HIV positive man, they are a happy couple in every sense.

They practise safe sex and extend a helping hand to hundreds of others. Mascarenhas reports that the couple plans to start a marriage bureau for People living with HIV. Read Jafar Inamdar and Fahmeeda's fascinating story here.