Monday, October 27, 2008

Greetings on Diwali: Jashn-e-Chiraghan Mubarak

Diwali is no longer a festival confined to India and South Asia. Now with Indians living across the world, the celebrations are reported from across the globe.

This year I'm in my City among friends. Last year I had written the post about my feelings 'Celeberating Diwali in an alien land' when I was away.

As most of us know, the homecoming of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years and his victory over Ravana is celebrated as Diwali. The crackers are much more costlier this year, even 30-50% costlier compared to last year.

In my childhood, the rockets, anaars, charkhis (chakri) and the exploding crackers used to be the biggest draw. There used to a sense of awe about families that bought most crackers and their kids would continue bursting them even for days after Dipawali.

Now many of my friends say that they don't buy any crackers at all. I find it strange a bit. Just like those who say that they don't splash colours on Holi. At least, a few phuljhadis and anaars that don't make much noise or pollution, can be bought even if you belong to the ultra-green group and too concerned about decibel levels.

Diwali Greeting Card. The message in Urdu.
After all, the manufacturers and sellers wait for the entire year for this time to sell these fireworks. Meanwhile, the kids in my apartment are busy making rangoli. Utensils were bought on dhanteras yesterday and preparation are in full swing for the festival of lights (termed as Jashn-e-Chiraagan in Urdu).

Let's forget all our differences and eat the sweets together. Barack O'bama has already extended his greetings on the occasion. Mine are a bit late than him but more timely. Happy Diwali & Shubh Diwali to all of you. May this year brings you all, more prosperity, joy and happiness.

Deepawali Mubarak.

More Diwali posts on this blog earlier:
1. Muslim boys celebrating Diwali
2. Diwali in Pakistan: Muslim league ministers celebrate the festival
3. No gujhias & diyas: Diwali in an alien land

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Linking Muslims with Terrorism: 12 cops killed by Maoists in Chhattisgarh, 17 die in blasts in Impal

Why only Muslims are called terrorists?

It may seem a rant or that I am over-reacting but in 24 hrs, India braved two major terrorist strikes: In the first, Naxalites killed 12 CRPF policemen in Chhattisgarh and in other incident, 18 persons killed in Manipur in blasts by suspected People Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PRPK). Ironically they were not considered terrorist strikes.

Not one inspector MC Sharma, here 12 central policemen were killed but how much coverage did the deaths get in national media? Chhattisgarh could be far from Delhi but even a blast that kills one person in any other City, gets much more coverage.

The 18 deaths in Imphal didn't send the electronic media guys crazy. Of course, PRPK [or the KCP Military Council that has claimed role in blasts] can't be a story as it has no Muslim-sounding names. Isn't Imphal in India? Had it been in Assam, it may have got a wider coverage.

But the main issue is not the lack of adequate coverage of these tragic events. It is about how and why the killers in Chhattisgarh and in Manipur are never called TERRORISTS. They are called militants or Maoists or rebels or ultra-leftists.

I don't even rue the coverage of these blasts in newspapers [in case of blasts where Muslims are suspects, the headlines are always like 'India Attacked' and special articles on edit pages follow for days] or the comparison to blasts in Bangalore, Delhi, Malegaon or any other City.

What worries me is that these killers are not even referred to as terrorists. As if a Muslim-sounding name is necessary for that. This is a major grievance. I don't say that you should associate these acts with the religion, language or the cause or even these groups.

But, by not referring to them as terrorists, and simply terming PERPK radicals, Naga fighters, KCPC militants or Maoist rebels, the media and our politicians are doing a great discrimination. However, in case of Muslims, the branding is easiy: They are not just terrorists but also insensitively termed 'Islamic terrorists'.

Is it innocence? That's what Muslims ask. But they don't get any answers. After every other blast that happen in mainland apart from Naxal-infested areas, Muslims are asked to introspect. We do. But what about you? Will you--politicians and media introspect?


Just a few hours after I wrote this post, the police have spoken about the role of Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) in the recent blasts in Malegaon and Modasa (Gujarat) ahead of Eid. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and a few others have been arrested.

After Nanded, Parbhani, Tamil Nadu's Tenkasi, Kanpur and several other places where activists of Bajrang Dal or similar organisations were found involved in similar acts. There are often, small sub-groups, that can get more radical and extremist. Once again, I would say Terror has no Religion.

The Sadhvi's arrest

The first reaction to the arrest of Sadhvi was of shock. Some sections even termed it as a political stunt. The truth is that Congress is not going to gain from the arrests, as it will lead to further polarisation, so it is ridiculous to say that they hae been framed.

And there must have been hard evidences otherwise, it was not easy to arrest a religious person, epecially a woman, who had links with top politicians. It is childish to believe that a particular person can't do it. For the last three years, there were evidences that 'ultra-right wing Hindu organisations were involved in such activities'.

Once again, it is wrong to term any person who has not been tried in the court of law as yet, as terrorist. It is equally wrong to link the actions with religion. But there are fanatics in all religions. Many Sadhvis spewed venom against Muslims during the turbulent period of mid-80s to early 90s.

It is also a dangerous phenomenon to see many right-wing Hindu organisations, already claiming that she is framed, and even offering her legal aid. Some have even justified 'this form of terrorism', as a reply to the 'other kind of terror'.

There has been involvement of such organisations in blasts in various cities of Maharashtra, MP, UP, Tamil Nadu and other states. Even more worrying are the reports that retired armymen were involved in some ways to these groups.

I am more surprised that many people openly express surprise at the arrests and say that 'those associated with the RSS can't do it'. Sangh is surely involved in some charitable activities but it is an organisation that has a different vision of India and it's history has never been of a tolerant group.

Its cadres have played a role in riots and carnages. And it is quite possible for a smaller group within a radical organisation to grow more radical. So let's not brand any particular religion or group, stop justification of any form of violence through Newton's principles and wait for the courts to decide.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Role of Roznama Rashtriya Sahara

The growth of the Urdu daily from Sahara group has been astonishing. The paper has also begun to shape public opinion, especially among the Muslim masses of North India.

It is for the first time since independence that an Urdu paper is writing critically against the establishment (either Congress or BJP), raising tough questions & issues like corruption in Muslim organisations, is taking up causes and also asking Muslims to introspect through insightful articles.

It amazes me no end to see the tremendous success of Sahara. The ongoing series of editor Aziz Burney on the conditon of Muslims titled 'Indian Muslims: Past, Present and Future', that is now running into its 50th part and is published as special frontpage editorial has struck a chord with readers. It is not just an emotional outpouring but a reflection of seasoned journalism that pricks, that forces one to think and be self-critical also.
Further, often the paper publishes important stories in devnagari (Hindi) script on the same page and accompanied by English translation, that is also a unique idea. Though rivals, the subsequent birth of quality papers like Hindustan Express (Daily), Aag, Sahafat and others have led to a renaissance of Urdu journalism. The questions that make political leadership uncomfortable are now being asked. Not just politics, there are issues like health, lack of hospitals and dispsensaries, poor roads and other issues that are being raised in all these papers.

Until ten years back the situation was different. People wanted to ask these questions but their leaders kept mum in parliament. Now they are forced to do it. The Urdu papers of Delhi like Milap and Pratap that were owned by families associated with Arya Samaj, targeted the eldery Hindu and Sikh populace that could read the script. By mid-80s, even the generation of Urdu knowing non-Muslims was on the decline.
No business house was willing to finance an Urdu paper, as it was considered a non-profitable venture. The pro-Congress Qaumi Awaz was printed on black and white paper and did command a sizable circulation. But it couldn't write a line critical of Congress.

Around mid-90s, the Urdu press saw another phase of decline. Qaumi Awaz stopped publication from Lucknow. Unlike Hindi papers of other states that do raise issues of Muslims, the papers of UP like Dainik Jagran, Aaj and Amar Ujala were bitterly communal. [When six persons were killed in Ayodhya, these papers had published figures of deaths of Kar Sewaks to 500 and given headlines like 'Ayodhya Khun Se Nahai' ].

No wonder that Muslims felt voiceless. It was felt that Urdu journalism would get confined to Hyderabad and to an extent Mumbai. It was then that Sahara group decided to come up with Urdu weekly and later the Roznama. Today this paper is published from ten locations: Delhi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Patna and with more editions to open soon.

Thanks are due to Subrata Roy Sahara and his group for investing in Urdu. Today this paper is full of advertisements. In a small period, it has achieved a lot and succeeded in getting a circulation that was once considered unthinkable for an Urdu paper in India.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No outrage over DMK's pro-LTTE stance

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is one of the most dangerous terrorist organisations in the world.

Even the ultra-liberal would find it difficult to term them as fighters, as the organisation has been responsible for the assassination of a Prime Minister of our country.

In this context, it is strange to see the audacity of DMK, which is forcing the Centre to act and intervene. The Sri Lankan army offensive seems to have pushed LTTE to the wall.

And we hear that the militant group has suffered severe damages and may be completely wiped out (though it is doubtful).

However, DMK MPs have been threatening the UPA government on the issue. It wants India to intervene in the matter. Isn't it outrageous?

Firstly, it tantatmounts to interfere in the internal affairs of another sovereign country where we have burnt our fingers badly int he past. Secondly, it was barely 17 years ago when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a LTTE suicide bomber.

Of course, Centre can make an appeal (as we have done along with other countries) to Colombo to ensure that civilians (Tamils) shouldn't bear the brunt of the attack on LTTE.

But, the amount of pressure exerted on the Congress-led government by the party, is unwarranted and unethical. The Tamil Nadu government wants the military operations against LTTE to stop as the army is closing in on Kilinochi, the rebel capital and stronghold of Eelam.

The Kalaignar [DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi] thunders that 'we can go to any extent to stop the annihilation of the Tamil race' and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears acquiesing. Pranab Mukherjee is also going to reach Lanka for urging for 'negotations' as the UPA feels that 'there is no military solution to the issue'.

Can you believe it, what our government says. External Affairs Minister has already expresse 'grave concern' over the situation. PM told Sri Lanka president Rajapksa on phone that 'there is no military solution to this conflict and there should be political negotiations for a peacefully negotiated settlement, reports said. That's Congress speaking!

In normal circumstances any such incident, could have caused an outrage and led to questions over commitment to country and patriotism, but it seems that media also lets Dravidian parties go to absurd lengths in furthering their political ends, even if that goes against the national interest.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Congress and Communal riots in India

The anti-Christian violence in Orissa claimed 35 lives but not one person died in the riots in Karnataka.

Still, the UPA has issued warnings to both the state governments under the Article 355 of Indian constitution--a rare thing.

In sharp contrast, Assam where Congress is the ruling party, no action was taken though the figure of death went past 60 and 150,000 people had to fled their homes.

The riots at Rabori and later the Dhule communal clash which claimed dozens of lives, didn't stir the Centre [which was quite perturbed over Karnataka violence]. The riot in Congress-ruled AP's Adilabad where an entire family was burnt alive is also a case in the point.

Isn't it strange that 27 mosques were attacked and vandalised in Dhule* and over 20,000 people living in refugee camps but the UPA didn't issue any warning to Vilas Rao Deshmukh's government?

True, Muslim countries don't put up pressure [for good, though] the way France and Germany embarrassed our Prime Minister by taking up the issue of Kandhamal. But isn't it the clearly hypocrisy of Congress.

Its clear bias when it rebukes Karnataka CM but doesn't bother about the dance of death in Bhainsa town of Adilabad [Andhra Pradesh] where Congress government rules the state apart from similar incidents in Maharashtra and Assam.

It is quite a fashion to brand the BJP as communal, but I must say that the Congress is solely responsible for the situation where communal riots are not treated seriously. Except the short breaks in the last twenty years, Congress has ruled the nation for most the time since independence and its attitude has been the same.

Terming a BJP leader as murderer is okay. But what the Congress' role is? That of Nero! Our bureaucracy turned immune to riots during Congress regimes. As a result, today town in four States in various parts of the country are witnessing the deaths of innocents--Burhanpur (Madhya Pradesh), Adilabad (AP), Assam and Dhule (Maharashtra).

[*The horror tales of Dhule didn't get proper mention in the media also. Apparently, a state like Karnataka that has been identified with software gets attention at the slightest incident but massacres in far-flung rural areas get ignored.]

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Djinns and the mosque: Scary stories about the jinns, the legends and nostalgia

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The tales of Djinns are fascinating and scary at the same time.

In childhood, I heard numerous tales about the djinns [jinns] and their powers.

The photo shows the Jizyagarhi mosque, near Lucknow.

We heard umpteen stories of the djinns living in this ancient mosque.

People would say that when they entered the mosque there would be not a single soul but when they started praying, suddenly dozens of persons in spotless white dress would appear in the front, side and back rows. 

Or that when sat for ablutions before namaz, a hand would bring the tumbler full of water. These are just some of the tales. But when I walk past the old palaces, kothis, mosques and the particular trees in my hometown, a chill still runs down my spine. 

I don't know if the djinns any longer come to study in the local madarsa, as per the old legends.  I didn't ask anybody either but I'm sure the stories won't have vanished. Legends just keep growing.

Stories heard in the childhood have a great impact on one's mind. The friendly jinns who loved to eat coal and bones and in return gave away 'asharfis' and also the ones who fell in love with beautiful girls who never got married as they got possessed.

There were also the 'shararti jinns' who never harmed anyone, except occasional mischief. They would frighten elderly women by picking up something kept far away--by extending their hand up to a distance of 15-30 feet. 

On my recent visit, I ventured towards the mosque but didn't step inside. It was not that I feared that a hand would come from nowhere to pat me and ask to leave but I walked away after taking a photograph. We grew up to the stories of not just jinns but the 'baram-rakhas' or 'agiya betal' too. More about djinns in later posts.

Monday, October 06, 2008

IBN7 Hindi News Channel: Journalism or preaching prejudices!

It is no longer a joke if you say that 24 hr TV channel is a monster. Firstly, it has to telecast something round the clock and then also ensure that the TRPs don't fall. But one does expect some basic ethics of journalism to be followed even in the process of grabbing eyeballs.

Ironically, IBN7, a Hindi News channel, seems to have lost all sense of propriety even though it is headed by a senior journalist Ashutosh, who has a credibility.

I am forced to write, as for weeks I have been witnessing how the 'opinionated reporters and anchors' of this channel are trying to poison the minds of people and fan communal hatred.

On Monday, I was shocked to hear the views of the anchor Sandeep Chaudhary in the discussion programme 'Mudda'. Though a seasoned journalist, he appeared convinced when he thundered that why 'liberal Indian Muslims don't speak up against terrorism'.

Doesn't he know that we do hold innumerable protests but not one does his channel show. When Chhamman Miyan holds protest, it is not mentioned. We don't own newspapers and channels and so blogs and sites are our sole media to express our anguish.

After every act of terrorism, on umpteen blogs, Muslims condemn it. Dozens of times I have written on my blog and every other guy is doing it. Can't you see it. When lakhs of Muslims sent curse to terrorists in an extraordinary event, you don't report it.

What do we do? Chaudhary Sahab, besides the fact that you are not aware and don't bother to read, you are doing great injustice by spreading canards and repeating the allegations of right-wing groups. Your attitude during the whole debate clearly showed that you are not at all receptive, not ready to listen and asked questions that were bordering on hatespeak: that's unfair journalism.

You have a power, so you should act responsibly. Delhi alone has half-a-dozen Urdu papers and I wonder you ever get a copy at your office. You can have a translator and get the reports translated to know, how much Muslims are anguished by the terrorism, as we find it most difficult to get a house or job after such events.

The irony is that a same set of panelists appear on these shows. It's not for diverse views but for 'heated exchanges' so that the TRPs soar. Whenever the anchor is uncomfortable, he will force the guy to stop and ask another person to reply or simply fire a fresh question, jump to another topic or say, 'let's meet after break'. He has no accountability.

You can see the show at the website of IBN 7 at IBN Khabar.

It is strange to see how the anchors are speaking the language of BJP and VHP. 'Vote bank politics'. Isn't every politics about votes? Doesn't BJP do it, when it aims to fan communal feelings, as it wants polarisation and in turn aims at 'Hindu vote bank'?

Then there was the same issue of madarsas (though now it seems techies are involved). Yaa, for godsake understand that if one madarsa guy is involved you can't simply demonize the lakhs of madarsas in India, just because you have borrowed the terminology of United States. The topic of the debate in the programme Mudda was 'Aatankvad and Musalman'. Again linking Islam directly to terror.

Even in coutries of Europe where Muslims haven't been living for over a century, there is much sensitivity. Bhai, sab ko gaali doge to kyaa faida hoga. I am writing on blog, the guy who doesn't have a blog and is equally anguished will stop watching TV, get more cynical as his letter to paper may not be published and lose faith in media.

If you are doing an analysis, you can still write that. But when you say it news that 'No stricter laws because of vote bank politics', you simply put the blame on entire Indian Muslim community, as if they are soft on terror.

And this was what IBN 7's Shirish Srivastava was emphatically doing just ten days back. I have got nothing against you or your channel. But the fact that millions watch your channel and such prejudiced views lead to increased communalism and hatred in society.

People trust media and when mediamen air such prejudiced views, it hurts the nation. Yes, Muslims are doing inward looking and are condemning terror and also ready to fight it, but don't judge the 150 million Indian Muslim community on the basis of the actions of a few or pronounce a verdict.

It is unfortunate that a news channel needs this lecture. In times of turbulence we ought to be more careful but it seems you are getting swayed away faster than the common man.

Though I am nobody. I can ask much tough questions but I don't. You guys should also do an inward looking and introspection that what service you are doing to nation by airing such views that only end up hurting a community by your stereotypes and biased charges.

Where has objectivity got lost? Even Ashutosh's post on this subject on his blog on IBN7 website isn't mature enough. He also airs the same views and praised his anchor, who only airs one-sided views.[Jamia Milia Islamia professor Aalam Anwar has meanwhile written a reply to Ashutosh's blog post, which has been published on CNN-IBN (English) channel's website.]

Thank God, the channel doesn't reach entire rural India else they could have ran riots by the reporting. When such programmes get repeated, and are shown all the time with similar biased views, even the most unbiased ordinary person will get affected.

Maun ham nahi saadh rahe. Aap pura sach nahi bol rahe.

Post script:
News channels like Aajtak, Star News and others are again playing up the 'votebank' issue over statements of politicians demanding judicial inquiry.

No one is belittling the death of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, but the fact remains that these TV channels are so upset that a martyr [shaheed] is being dragged in controversy after death, but have no concern that by this repetition of votebank theory they are defaming 150 million Indian Muslims each and every day, round the clock.

Ever thought of it? If you don't like a politician's statement, castigate him but don't brand Muslims again, and give the impression that they are soft on terror.