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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Was 2008 worst year in Indian history post-independence?


The year 2008 was bad for the country. There is no doubt about that. Apart from Mumbai, there were terror strikes in Ahmedabad and Jaipur, serial blasts in Bangalore, Delhi and other major militant strikes in Assam & Manipur (which many forget).

And if this was not enough, there was every possible kind of conflict one can imagine--casteist, ethnic, cultural (linguistic) and communal, that the nation witnessed in the bygone year:

* Caste conflicts like the Gujjar-Meena rift paralysed parts of Northern India for long.
* Amarnath Yatra, a great tradition was communalised.
* The Bajrang Dal-VHP cadre targeted Christians in Orissa, Churches attacked in Karanataka
* Raj Thackeray's MNS let loose its cadre on non-Marathis, a form of politics that threatens to divide the country and hurts the nation from within. For a time, even speaking Hindi had become a crime and even Amitabh Bachchan was ridiculed. The issue of immigrants even brought publicity to a film, Deshdrohi. On a lighter note, the promos of which were amusing.
* Malegaon case investigation brought to fore the involvement of Hindutva extremists in bomb blasts. Sadhvi Pragya became the face of this form of terror, and TV channels loved it. Some Shiv Sena leaders even sort of justified the 'reaction'.

1. This was apart from the natural calamities like the change in the course of Kosi river in Bihar that affected the lives of millions. Two million were displaced and the figure of deaths can only be a guess.

2. Though the year had started well for India. The great unifier, the common religion, cricket had brought cheers when India outperformed Australia. The launch of Nano was announced. There was enthusiasm over nuclear deal among middle class and US presidency [Barack Obama]interesting Indians like never before. Lot of good news was coming.

But as the year progressed terrorism reared its head and by year end the November 26 terror strikes brought a sense of gloom and anger. Union Home Minister and the Maharashtra CM had to bear the brunt. The meltdown and the loss of jobs added to the prevailing atmosphere.

3. As bad as 1948, 1984 and 1992?

Historian Ramchandra Guha wonders in his essay in Outlook whether it was as bad a year as 1948 when post-partition riots had occurred taking lives of thousands and Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead or 1984 when anti-Sikh riots claimed the lives of 4,000 in Delhi alone and 3,000 had died in Bhopal in the worst industrial disaster of the world apart from Indira Gandhi's assassination.

Or 1992 when Babri Masjid was demolished and riots had spread across the length and breadth of Hindustan. In 1984, I was a kid and have memories of those turbulent times but we only had DD then. The situation wasn't too different in 1992 though BBC were aired by then. Now we have a 24/7 Electronic media that can shock and scare us as hell and also make us forget a tragedy the very next day.

4. Comparison is the job of historian but for an ordinary person like me, the year 2008 was definitely a terrible dream. As I go to sleep, I wish the new year will see lesser conflicts, our netas will be less irresponsible and our bureaucracy (intelligence agencies) will work more efficiently.

As sun rises on January 1, let's hope that 2009 will bring peace and security to all of us. Apart from the above-mentioned conflicts, we have battles which are fought daily--poverty, abysmal health care system, rampant corruption and the widening gulf between the poor and the middle-class.

Due to commercialisation of education, the era has come when it is becoming increasingly difficult for a child born in a poor family to get higher education and dream of a great career. I wish that there is national discussion on these issues also. Cynicism is useless. So let's be hopeful and wishing you a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jammu & Kashmir elections: The rise of BJP, return of National Conference

The electorate of Jammu and Kashmir have thrown an interesting verdict. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the biggest gainer. Though it will sit in the opposition, the large number of party MLAs from Jammu, will change the complexion of the Assembly.

It will also give a strong voice to the people of Jammu. Though the party improved is performance at the cost of Congress and PDP over a issue that polarised people on communal lines, it would hopefully end the feeling of voicelessness among the residents of Jammu and the persecution complex that they are ignored at the cost of Valley.

The seven phase election that was held in the backdrop of the Shree Amarnath Shrine Board land controversy and that witnessed escalating tension between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai terrorist attack, was conducted without any major violence. The turnout was historic.

Apart from the four major parties, National Conference (NC), People's Democratic Party (PDP), Congress and BJP, the independents and others also appear all set to garner a chunk of seats in the 87 member house. Congress had to pay for the mistakes of Ghulam Nabi Azad government.

It is most likely that Farooq Abdullah-Omar Abdullah's NC will form the government with the support of Congress. Though nothing is impossible in politics, Mufti Mohammed Saeed and his daughter Mahbooba are likely to sit in the opposition as they were bitter rivals with NC and may not have a truck with them.

With a strong Jammu-based BJP speaking on behalf of Kashmiri Pundits, Hindus and Sikhs, and another strong party [PDP] representing the Valley, also sitting in the opposition, it will not be easy for the ruling coalition to get away on crucial issues easily. The BJP hasn't done much except lip-service to the cause of migrant pundits and it has an opportunity now. All parties can now mull over ways to solve this issue.

One hopes that the next Assembly that is reflective of all sections of J&K would be a place to discuss developmental issues rather than divisive politics and communal agenda. Most of us pray that violence and bloodshed would end, the voice of the Kashmiri Hindus also gets heard and there are steps to redress the issues of migrant Hindus and Pandit families as well as efforts to create jobs for youths in Kashmir.

Earlier posts on J&K on this blog this year:
1. The Amarnath shrine board controversy
2. Muslims support Hindu stand on Amarnath issue

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sania Mirza: The Fall of a Tennis Star & Controversies Surrounding Her


Sania Mirza's star was on the ascendant till last year. Even if she was not winning tournaments, the Indian tennis sensation was creating records and occasionally defeating players ranked much higher to her in the WTA rankings.

She had even reached a career high of 27, which was almost unbelievable in a sport as competitive as tennis that is played in over a 100 countries. Then what went wrong for Sania in the year 2008?

Away from court for a long time, she seems to have lost the touch and though she is still making news--either it's because of her new Mercedez Benz for which she has purchased a special number (ending in 786 from Transport Authority) to the doctorate degree conferred on her, tennis doesn't figure much. [Now she is Dr Sania Mirza]

Such has been her fast decline that Mirza is now out of the Top 100 players. Though senior players publicly say that she may bounce back, the truth is that tennis fraternity feels Sania hasn't been as focused on the game lately and she frittered away whatever she had earned after much hard work over the years.

There is a feeling that she has became a sort of glam-doll and her interest is fading in the game. Nobody can belittle her contribution to the Indian tennis but the fact that the nation had high hopes from her, as she had the potential to be the world-beater and get into the top 10.

She was getting noticed after winning junior Wimbledon. Already in 2006 she had beaten Williams sisters in a doubles match, while pairing with Kim Clijsters, bagged the WTA newcomer of the year award and also received the honour of Padma Shree.

The shy girl who once had a crush on the 'Temperamental Tatar' Marat Safin and had befriended his sister Dinara Safina, to know him better, was coming of age. She was recognised on the international circuit.

It all started the last year. In October 2007, Sania was ranked as high as 29. She had become a media darling by then. However, it was the time when there were initial murmurs about her attitude.

She was getting lots of advertising offers and had become brand ambassador for several companies. That was the time when her friendship with Shahid Kapoor also got reported for the first time.

Once she walked out of a press conference over a non-issue, shouting and angry. Controversies had also started chasing her. The issue of disrespect to flag was also raised though earlier she had got praise for refusing to play in a match outside India when she found that the tricolour was not hoisted properly.

It was probably a camera trick that showed her feet towards the flag. As is the normal practice, those hungry to get publicity filed law suits of disrespect to flag against her, to get cheap publicity. This apparently made Mirza upset and angry.

But that was just the first such incident though earlier there was a 'fatwa' against her dress and a needless controversy was created. Sania was getting too touchy and irked by every such incident.

Her statement on AIDS and premarital sex were apparently twisted. By now she was fed up of controversies. It was her unwise decision of not playing in India for a while, that created a furore. Even tennis legends like Vijay Amritraj disapproved it.

As a celebrity she should have known the price of her being a star in a nation that has seen few women players who have shone at the international arena. She had talent and the glamour quotient turned all eyes on her.

The Hyderabadi girl shut herself from the media. An injury was the last thing she would have wanted at that juncture and she was away from the sport as well. When she returned Sania found it hard to match the expectations.

Sometime later she had admitted that one point of time she even thought of quitting tennis. Isn't it lack of mental toughness? She skipped major tournaments and when she played, she looked under pressure an was not the same player. By December 2008, Sania's ranking slipped down to 102.

She was struggling to make her way past the first round. However, she was still making news with her statements and moves off the court. Her 'friendship' with Telugu film star Navdeep and other off-court activities made headlines.

There was even talk about her acting in a movie that was planned on her. Has Sania Mirza really lost the touch. Or has she simply lost the drive and interest in the game, feeling that it's time she enjoys her life rather than hardwork on the circuit that deprived her of a normal adolescence.

It has been a fairy tale story for Sania so far. Tennis is a competitive sport that requires both physical and mental toughness and she hasn't shown the commitment to bounce back for quite sometime.

It has been difficult to make a return, even for greater players in the past, when they came back to the court afer a hiatus. One wishes that Sania saga will not end in near futre. But the yar 2009 will be crucial for her. If she doesn't succeed in getting her touch back, it will probably be too difficult for her later.

The Success Story of Saina Nehwal

Saina Nehwal, India's ace badminton player, has almost lived in the shadow of Sania Mirza till now. Both have been from Hyderabad and the comparisons were inevitable.

Though Sania Mirza can't be written off, the Indian media and public hasn't done justie to Saina Nehwal. She is poised to achieve greater heights and has already reached the Top 10.

But it has all been admired, never celebrated. When she returns after winning a title, Saina has no autograph hunters and no queues to catch her glimpse.

She featured in the top 10 of the World Badminton Federation, no mean achievement. But neither any of her match is shown generally on TV channels nor she gets the publicity.

At least in the good old days of Doordarshan, we had an occasional match of Table Tennis, Badminton and even Volleyball to watch. In fact, the glamour associated with tennis and the image of a sex symbol has helped Mirza

But the comparatiely quiet and cool-headed Haryana-born Hyderabadi shuttler [Nehwal'] hasn't got her due share of acclaim. This is a sad aspect that our society doesn't the due credit to heroes of sports other than tennis and cricket.

Update [2009]:

Sania marrying childhood friend Sohrab Mirza

Sania's career seems on an upswing again. After a spate of good performances recently, the news from personal front is also interesting for her fans.

She is tying the knot with Mohammad Sohrab Mirza, a Hyderabadi youth, who studied with him at the same school. Sohrab is barely 24 and runs the family business. He plans to go to United Kingdom for his MBA.

The good news is that Sania is not going to stop playing tennis. Her father Imran Mirza recently set all speculations to rest when he announced that the dates of nikaah would be announced in near future. On the left is the photograph showing the couple--Sania and Sohrab.

Update [2010]:

Sania Mirza and her 'childhood lover' parted ways. The engagement was broken a few months back and now Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik enters her life. The media is informed that they are now going to marry and she will settle in Dubai after the walima in Lahore.

Despite traditional hostility with Pakistan, Indians aren't angry. The glamour girl has every right. So what if she couldn't find a suitable Indian boy. Surprisingly, Sania chose Shoaib who is currently banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board, though on his earlier visits to Hyderabad his name was linked to a girl, Ayesha Siddiqui.

Ayesha breaks silence and police swings into action. She says that Shoaib married her over phone. But Malik flatly denies that his telephonic nikaah. First calls her 'Aapa' and a few days later agrees to give divorce to her.

TV channels have found a juicy story. Hyderabadi Muslims are sad. First Azharuddin gave it away and now Sania. Shouldn't she have handled it gracefully and acted carefully. One wishes she learnt something from her idol, Sachin Tendulkar, who has more than a billion fans but remained focused on game and showed the world how to handle fame.

One does feel tempted to ask what was the hurry to marry. Shouldn't she have waited. She showed immaturity in choosing life partners [first Sohrab, now Shoaib] and in dealing with the entire episode.

Let's hope that the marriage brings her bliss. However, this may not be the end of Sania saga.

Update

On April 12, Sania Mirza became Mrs Sania Malik as she married Shoaib Malik at Hotel Taj Krishna. The nikaah was solemnised in the presence of Imran Mirza's close family members and relatives. On the right is the wedding photo. The couple on the stage looks happy posing for the photograph.

Best of Luck.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Conspiracy theory about Karkare's death: Farooq Mapkar's battle for justice may explain it


This post first deals with an ordinary person, Farooq Mapkar, who was described by Jyoti Punwani as the 'Peon who took on the government' for his struggle to seek justice.

And it also attempts to describe why Hemant Karkare symbolised hope for Muslims and why his death has given way to conspiracy theories.

Mapkar, who was in the news two days back, was a young man when policemen had barged inside the Hari Masjid near Wadala in Mumbai and resorted to unprovoked firing on the Namazis.

Seven persons were killed and Mapkar had also been critically injured with the bullets. Worse, those who didn't die in the firing, were charged by the police of rioting and murder. This extraordinarily heinous crime of police has been reported widely in the past but justice eluded the victims.

The constables, the DCP's driver and other officials apart from residents had testified that Kapse for reasons known to him only, entered the mosque and shot those in the prayers, though there was absolute peace in the area.

The Sri Krishna Commission had also found that there were Hindu houses and properties around the mosque and they were neither harmed nor touched. It was an unbelievable case of hate crime.

For 15 years, Mapkar has been waiting to see the group of policemen led by Sub-Inspector Nikhil Kapse get punished for the crime (rather he got promoted sometime back). Even FIR was not registered for the death of these seven persons while 57 persons including the injured were booked for 'rioting'.

Over the years, all efforts were made by successive governments including the Congress to bury cases like the Hari Masjid firing. The Sri Krishna Commission report was shelved and despite repeated assurances by the Congress leaders, whenever the party came in power it ignored the recommendations.

However, this week Mapkar's long battle seems to have begun showing results now. This week the High Court ordered the case to he handed over to CBI. Such was the delay in compliance  that the Court had to warn the State government of contempt proceedings if the case was not handed over by state police to CBI.

The Bombay High Court has now rejected the Additional Solicitor General's plea that FIR could be registered only after an inquiry, and has ordered the CBI to first register a case and then conduct the investigations.

The court had earlier said that it was the case that "affects the very soul of India" and held that it should be investigated "for the rule of law to survive". The CBI now has six months to investigate and file a charge sheet against Kapse and his men.

Why ATS chief Hemant Karkare's death becomes a rallying point

The case of Hari Masjid is not the first such incident. In the past, unprovoked killings by the notorious Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of UP, in Meerut's Hashimpura-Maliana village where youths were picked up, bundled, killed and thrown in Hindon river, in the pre-TV channels era, never saw justice. [Link to a later followup report on Hashimpura killings in Indian Express]

In fact, in several cases it was never a Hindu-Muslim riot. Rather, a police-Muslim clash. In Kanpur, it became the norm for decades. However, in later riots of 90s, as the Army was sent the riots would stop immediately with both communities welcoming the army.

Former IPS officer Vibhuti Narayan Rai has written extensively on this subject and his book has now been made a part of the curriculum of the Police Academy. Police in parts of the country has been heavily communalised and the situation was too bad in the past.

It is in this backdrop that Karkare became the symbol of hope and justice for Muslims. Who (among the investigative agencies, policy makers and journos) was not aware of the Nanded blasts-Parbhani mosque attacks-Jalna-Malegaon blasts?

The fact that there were blasts on Shab-e-Barat and before that fake beards and topis were recovered from the house of Bajrang Dal and RSS workers. But the cases were never properly looked into.

Just like many Muslims refuse to believe that 'a Muslim can do it', there is a vast number of Hindus who believe that 'How can a Hindu do it?'.

Though it is these Hindus and Muslims who produce criminals, mass murders and all sorts of offenders that include child rapists but this irrational belief is present among police as well (including politicians and journalists).

Karkare led the same ATS, which never worked on these Nanded-Parbhani-Malegaon leads under the past ATS heads including KP Raghuvanshi. Karkare went on arresting a number of persons and such was his integrity that retired IPS officers including RSS sympathisers personally told the Sangh leaders that he was not someone who would 'frame or falsely implicate anybody withour proper evidence'.

In this backdrop, when the trio of three exceptional officers Karkare-Salaskar-Kampte was eliminated after reaching from one place to another and later at Cama Hospital abruptly, the 'persecuted' Muslim mind did think of theories like 'elimination by some hardcore fanatic RSS shooter or even a cop or an accomplice of the gang of Pragya Thakur-Dayanand Pandey'.

Is it so weird? It is not if one considers it in this old backdrop. A Chief Minister like Congress' Sudhakar Rao Naik or the BJP's Narendra Modi saw hunreds killed in their regimes and the outcome of cases or their accountability was almost nil.

Very few victims could get justice. However, Karkare was breaking a myth that it is only the 'Muslim who can be a terrorist'. In the last 20 year or so RSS has so strongly captured the imagination of middle-class that it has become a near equivalent of nationalism. But it is also has hardcore fanatics just like any other such organisation.

Antulay's statement, which I termed irresponsible but not anti-national, on this blog earlier, was blown up. It was made to appear that he implied that the terrorists were not responsible for the attacks. 'Karkare ki shahadat ka apmaan', were headlines in Hindi papers echoeing the line of the same Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, VHP groups that were earlier baying for his blood and even asking his 'narco-analysis'.

Even after Mumbai terror strikes, there are signature campaigns in Cities like Indore to demand the 'release of Pragya Thakur' as a 'Hindu can't be a terrorist'. By the same logic is it not anti-national. So whither justice?

It is not at all a question in every Muslim's mind but there was the thought among those who have seen justice denied for decade. They wondered why the 'demand for an inquiry' into the three sudden deaths, has been termed as anti-national.

At the blog, India's National Interest, Rohit has raised valid points and written on the issue.

[Photo of Hari Masjid courtesy Shashi Ashiwal for Frontline]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Antulay's controversial comments: Reaction, over-reaction and hysteria


AR Antulay's comments have caused a major controversy and there is tremendous anger [more among anchors and news readers] that how he 'dared utter such a thing'.

I know it's rather risky to write about it but I feel compelled. There is no way to find out whether it was Antulay's real suspicion over the issue which came out due to a slip of tongue or whether it was calculated-mischievous move.

Yes, it could be termed as irresponsible as it comes from a minister. Antulay can't expect Congress to reward him and neither it will make Muslims happy. But one thing is certain, the reaction of media has been extreme and poses the danger of ours becoming an Orwellian state where anything which is slightly 'politically incorrect' or 'not in sync with what is expected of you' is termed as anti-national.

But isn't it good that he spoke his mind and we know what he was thinking? And at least, he is firm on his views, howsoever weird or absurd they may be, and says that he doesn't owe explanation. "I have not met Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh and I stand by what I said", said the former Maharashtra CM.

Still, what Antulay has said is nothing in comparison to what many others including historian Amaresh Misra have been saying like the Marathi-speaking persons involved in the shootout and that Siamin sect of Zionist Jews who go to any extent to sacrifice their lives for Mossad's grand plans. Personally I don't have any regard for conspiracy theories like the ones propagated by Misra, who is known for his 10-volume work on 1857 struggle.

But the 'anti-national' tag given to Antulay by our war-mongering electronic media is also an over-reaction. What did he exactly say? In the context of Hemant Karkare's death, he had said that the slain officer was victim of 'terrorism or terrorism plus something. I do not know'. Later he said that he wanted to know who had sent him 'in the wrong direction' towards Cama hospital instead of Taj or Oberoi hotels or Nariman House, which were on fire.

The media has played up the issue and said that his statement has been damaging to our case. Though it is not. Misra has given interviews to international TV channels and his theory is quite far-reaching and it is this theory which is doing the rounds in Pakistan. So labelling Antulay [specifically mentioning him as Abdur Rahman Antulay at places] anti-national and saying that he is 'speaking the language of Pakistan' is another extreme.

Misra is termed crackpot and dimissed but Antulay is termed anti-national! Yes, he has raised a doubt (even if it is mischievous, or for a moment accept that he is genuinely having doubts), the latter is called anti-national for not saying anything remotely close to it in comparison.

Abdur Rahman Antulay is a seasoned politician and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He is currently a Union Minister heading the Minority Affairs' Ministry. Antulay has asked for an inquiry into the killings. Expressing doubt should be okay. Why is asking for an inquiry termed anti-national. Wasn't he [Karkare] the man who was receiving threats and calls that his house would be burnt? Let us not be hypocritical. TV is always ready to play up statements of the society for the sake of TRP.

Idealistically speaking, being anti-establishment doesn't mean one is anti-national. And he is himself part of the government, which makes him appear foolish. He has raised questions about the particular three deaths. He was not anti-establishment.

Times of India group's Economic Times turned hysterical when it gave a headline 'Meet Kasab's attorney Antulay'. Whose war is being waged on newspaper? Antulay either mischievously or innocently suggests that there was something bizarre the way the three officers rushed from one site to another and ended up getting killed 'so easily'.

If you read between the lines, it is like 'some hardcored disgruntled RSS-Bajrang Dal-Shiv Sena guy took advantage of the situation and eliminated the trio. Perhaps this is what he suggests. Or he meant that terrorist killed them but there was inefficiency on part of the Control Room or the officials who were sending them from one place to another. Whatever.

May be, it is weird. However, where does Kasab gets into picture? But the hysteria over the statement is equally disturbing. Whether there is investigation or not, and whether questions like 'which bullet was recovered from the bodies of the three officers or the record of cell phones to find out the last call from the officers who asked them to reach those places'.

Or if the politician has erred and said something which is politically incorrect, it is not the first such occasion. Politicians have let us down so many times. Who said that LK Advani was anti-national when he was crying for the torture of Sadhvi Pragya.

After all, when it is the norm to term anybody accused of terror, as terrorist then Abu Bashar is equally a terrorist as Waliullah as Pragya Bharti and as Lt Col Purohit. Advani went to the extent to talking to Prime Minister over the issue. Such was dishonesty of BJP, Shiv Sena, VHP and a host of other organisations, that they had termed Karkare as 'anti-national'.

Alas, Nationalism seems to have been appropriated by RSS. There was demand that he should be arrested and even hard-core organisations wanted ATS chief to be put under narco analysis. There were much more vicious and dirty things said.

Rationalism never took root and objectivity has no place in society now. There are always guys on the fringe who raise theories and are suspicious. So shouldn't we have a few of them?

In the past there have been worst examples of hatespeak, communal, casteist divide and statements on riots of 1984 to 2002. When was the national media so incensed that it called some politician anti-national? Even Raj Thackery was let off with admonition. Or this tag is reserved for Muslims!When does asking for an inquiry become a crime?Criticise Antualy or Forgive him. Open up things to silence or just shut him upt.

But calling him pro-Pakistani (even ISI agent) is non-serious. Asking questions should not be considered wrong in any democracy.The anger against Antule is worrying. He didn't say such a highly objectionable thing. But the public anger fueled by electronic media, has created such a situation that you can't utter word.

However, it was the same Karkare against whom Priests and Hindutva leaders had ganged up. They had demanded narco test of Karkare and there was no outrage then. A senior journalist and columnist wrote in the article 'that he has been insensitive. Wasn't RR Patil more insensitive. Patil had termed the entire tragedy of terror attack as a minor thing in a big city.

Antulay has perhaps made a fool of himself by his statement Let him and his party suffer but we should not be hysterical in our approach. Speaking out and making a point should not be a crime. Let them speak. Silencing is not healthy in democracy.

UPDATE
"Karkare wasn't killed by Hindus, he was shot by terrorists", said a Muslim fruit seller in Mumbai's Bhind Bazaar. Another Muslim vendor, Rafiq Sheikh rubbished the conspiracy theory. Haroon Sheikh, a shopkeeper on Mohammad Ali Road, termed the comments as ones that would bring trouble for Muslims and 'immature'. Read Kiran Tare's story in DNA. That's street voice and among elite, Javed Akhtar, Javed Anand and a host of others have criticised him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Builders' boycott: Pushing Indian Muslims into ghettoes

When 300 real estate brokers held a meeting in Surat and decided to stop buying, selling or renting any property to Muslim, it was not an ordinary event.

Further, those renting their shops to Muslims have been asked to get them vacated. They took out a rally and an oath was also taken. The fact that they were 'passionate' enough to hold a conclave and take the pledge that they would henceforth not deal with Muslims, illustrates the growing problem of communal segregation in India.

It's more serious than lot of other frivolous issues, which the national media keeps discussing. It is something that ought to be taken up in Parliament. It's again a hate crime and more than that it is anti-national and divisive activity.

It was more extraordinary that they had the audacity to publicly spell out their prejudice. So what's their problem with the Muslims? Because the name of Muslims of India are similar to those involved in terror activities from the other side of the border.

Is it rational. Who they are taking their revenge upon? It's on India. Across North, Central and Western India, builders and real estate agents are busy making colonies that are 'free of Muslims'.

This is fast creating a social imbalance in urban India. When Muslims are pushed into ghettoes, it helps neither the Muslims nor the non-Muslims. Even RSS wouldn't want it.

They are at least smart enough to know that when you push Muslims in a particular area in every City then it means concentrating their population. They are suspicious of Muslims and don't like them but this form of hate is a relatively new phenomenon witnesses since 1992-93.

Once again, I feel, education doesn't necessarily bring you any knowledge or wisdom. People keep reiterating that education is the key to solving lot of problems. Unfortunately, it doesn't enlighten.

Sections of 'educated' urban Indian populace now want their buildings, societies and campuses without any Muslim. This is an issue that requires an urgent attention. Our leaders, courts, media, activists and all of us should focus on it.

Indian Express writes an editorial on the builders' boycott of Muslims.

We are all united against terror. We should be united against this bigotry as well. Are we heading for a Nazi Germany era when Jews lived in their ghettos. Muslim are too numerous in India and such isolation will be extremely devastating for the nation and will have far-reaching implications in inter-community relations. We need to be alarmed but we aren't.

I reallly don't know how we can stop such criminal acts of social discrimination unless government, police and administration (also the society) become sensitive to it and enforce the existing laws to deal with such elements sternly. Or we will just keep writing about it, discussing and forgetting. Will Supreme Court entertain a PIL in this regard!

Demand for action against builders

The Sarva Dharma Utsava Samiti (SDUS) has condemned the decision of real-estate agents and demanded the government to take action against them. The organisation chief Dhansukh Rajput has urged the police commissioner to file case such agents and brokers under section 153 (A) and (B) for anti-national activities.

Earlier posts on this subject:

1. No house for Muslims in Mumbai localities and Shabana Azmi's comments.
2. What about ghettoes of vegetarians, Gujaratis and other caste groups?
3. At last, a bank for Juhapura [Ahmedabad]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is it the end of Uma Bharti's political career?

Even Uma Bharti's opponents would never have imagined that that the Sadhvi could ever lose an election in Madhya Pradesh.

But the unimaginable has happened and Bharti is now left in the lurch with her party, Bharatiya Janshakti not able to get past five seats in the Assembly and she herself losing the election from her hometurf Tikamgarh.

Though one can't write off any politician, especially someone like Uma Bharti. The temperamental politician is as much known for her antics and bizarre acts as much for her oratory.

She had first shot to limelight in the 80s when the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid movement was at its peak. Her fiery speeches that were directed against the 'Descendants of Babar' [Indian Muslims], led to communal polarisation and gave an impetus to LK Advani's Rath Yatra.

People remember Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in a joyous embrace after the demolition of Babri Masjid. Many claimed that she was not as communal and anti-Muslim as she was believed and many confused Sadhvi Ritambhara's speeches with Bharati's.

However, the colourful Uma Bharti was always a unique politician. Someone who not only brought the most massive mandate ever for BJP in Madhya Pradesh in 2003 but also dared to take on LK Advani by walking out of party's national conclave shouting at the top of her voice, in front of TV cameras.

She was a mass leader and leaders like Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan and Rajnath Singh are said to have feared her. As Chief Minister she was uncomfortable due to the cameras following her every move.

Cameramen and photographers were thrashed for taking photos of her personal moments. On way to meetings she would suddenly stop her cavalcades to mollycoddle a calf or offer roti to a cow. Breaking a law was never an issue for her.

She stopped trains at stations where there were no halts and would board the train engine rather than getting into the compartment. Else, she would dislodge a senior politician from his seat and force him to leave.

Though she claimed that she was a Sadhvi, her colourful dresses and certain other aspects of her lifestyle that were earlier hidden, raised eyebrows. She was blamed to have let her kin run the entire administration.

Govindacharya was the friend, philosopher and guide forever but he couldn't do much. She was unstable and simply uncontrollable. People feared her as she could say anything (humiliating) to anybody publicly.

Her legendary antics caused embarrassment and the leadership used the issue of court case in Hubli and made her vacate the chair. But she was never allowed to return.

Uma Bharti had the sympathy of public but would every now and then get angry and create a scene. The latest act was slapping a senior party worker in full public view during the campaign and then kissing him though he ultimately left the party.

The politician whose 'mud Holi' and offering cake to Lord Hanuman are just a few of the incidents we remember, was now out of the BJP. Her party failed to make any impact despite the anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh against the ruling BJP.

The myth of Lodhi vote bank was also busted. Uma Bharti had earlier said that if she didn't come to power on her, she would take sanyas and go to Badrinath but now she says that she has not lost rather it was the conspiracy of BJP and Congress to keep her out.

One can't write off any politician in this country, especially when we are talking about a leader like Uma Bharti, the self-styled Sadhvi, who knows the art of staying in the news and is still a mass leader despite her defeat.

Uma Bharti's political journey makes an interesting study case. She has been called 'sexy sanyasin' in the past. She has been at the centre of numerous controversies and has been minister in the centre as well as Chief Minister of MP.

Nobody knows what the future holds for Uma Bharati. She may bounce back once again or remain on the fringe of Indian politics just because of her feisty ways. The truth is that even she doesn't know what she wants to do, in personal life and politics.

She rose from a very modest background and her family profited at her expense when she started giving discourses at a very young age. She blames her brother for being selfish. The late Vijayraje Scindia had taken her under her wings and brought the girl from rural background into the mainstream political life.

Born in an area with one of the lowest Muslim concentration in India, she remained suspicious of the community. But it is equally true that unlike many suave BJP leaders, she never held a grudge against them when she became the Chief Minister.

Early in the life she earned money for her family by travelling across India and outside as a child prodigy deliving religious discourses. Bharti's tale is sad in a way as she had an unusual kind of asceticism thrust on her with which she was never comfortable.

Once the hate-spewing, rabble-rousing, all-powerful Uma Bharti was the mascot of militant Hindutva, today she stands alone and blames them for all ills. A mercurial soul, the daughter of Bundelkhand, remains an intriguing figure for everybody.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Converting to Islam for Marriage: Chander Mohan alias Chand Mohammed faces Ulema's ire


1. The son of Haryana's seasoned politician Bhajan Lal decided to convert to Islam. The conversion was apparently not because of his strong faith but for getting married for the second time.

So Chander Mohan became Chand Mohammed and his lady love, lawyer & former Asstt Advocate General, Anuradha Bali appeared as Fiza. It has all the making of a Bollywood potboiler and even goes beyond. Chander Mohan was mysteriously missing for a month and suddenly appeared on TV screen.

Ensconced on the rear seat of a car with a lady wearing goggles, the Haryana Deputy Chief Minister said that he was 'studying Islam' and had faith in the religion. In the same breath when asked about future, he said 'sab bhagwan ke haath mein hai'. He realised it and later used the word 'Allah'. He kept mentioning how much he loved the lady and was ready to forsake anything for her.

Though it is abuse of the system once again. Just like actor Dharmendra who married Hema Malini and many others in public life who become a Muslim just to get married for the second time and avoid legal hassles. As per Hindu law, one can't marry when he is already married

No wonder, Muslims and Hindus are equally against it. Ulema have condemned it. The influential Ludhiana Jama Masjid's Shahi Imam Habibur Rahman Sani Ludhianvi has issued a fatwa against him and termed the wedlock as 'fraud'. He has asked for arrest of the politician.

In the past there have been several occasions when politicians and celebrities married twice or even thrice. Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan illegally keeps two wives. Many others simply marry at a temple and don't bothe about consequences or legalising the matrimony at any cost. The marriage may be unethical but who cares about ethics.

Had he not married and just kept Anuradha Bali alias Fiza around and been moving with her, he wouldn't have faced any problem. A case in point is the episode involving Amrinder Singh, the former Punjab CM, who kept the Pakistani lady journo with him but there was no major issue about it.

Ishq ka Bhoot

4. However, it was perhaps the conversion (to Islam, more shocking) and a bit of drama in this episode which led to the sacking. Chander Mohan, at least, deserves praise on one count. He risked his job and also lost the post. These days nobody wants to lose the chair, even if it is a corporator's post, let alone Deputy CM. Chandra Mohan's father, the veteran Bhajan Lal, has disowned his son and the political career of the man seems in jeopardy.

5. Ishq. He said he had enough of money and other things. And was now concerned about other things like love that would give him satisfaction. The happiness index does differ from person to person. Seasoned politicians hardly care about 'promises' and keep having flings. He, at least, married and paid a price. That's the only silverlining out of the episode. Of course, TV channels got interesting drama to run for a couple of days.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Teacher calls an Indian Muslim student, 'Pakistani'


A teacher who was upset with a Muslim girl in a Delhi convent school, called her 'Pakistani' in front of the entire class. That's one of the instances mentioned in Zia Haq's story that was published in Hindustan Times and this is immensely disturbing.

If you pick up fight with somebody on the street because you don't like him or hit him just because you hate his caste or religion or his political views, I don't find it that disturbing because the other person has the option to hit back and protest.

But when a teacher terms the student a Pakistani* and termed a traitor for no fault of hers and the student's religion is termed undesirable in that particular group, it is the worst of all crimes. The scars like this (on the mind) take ages to heal.

The story has mentioned a few other incidents like AIMPLB member Qasim Rasool Ilyasi's daughter whose friend told her that her father asked her not to befriend Muslims. There are other such incidents mentioned in the report that occurred soon after the Mumbai terrorist attack.

Again, it is the incident involving the teacher that is really disturbing. I wish it is taken seriously. The story says that when the girl replied back, 'Excuse me, Ma'am, I'm not a Pakistani' and complained to the Principal, who just said, 'the teacher will be spoken to'. All of us know it is more than an abuse to call an Indian Muslim, 'Pakistani'.

It hurts terribly. And when a teacher says that in front of a class full of impressionable students, it is criminal. She couldn't say it to a Muslim on the street but the vulnerable kid for whom a teacher is all powerful, can be subjected to this treatment. It is not that the teacher may be from a right-wing hardliner background. Perhaps, she was simply airing the sort of views, our society often forms about the 'other'.

Unfortunately this form of crime is not considered heinous enough in this nation. Rationalism doesn't took root in our society and biases are openly aired. Either it is the comments like 'Ye Jhuggi-Jhopdi wale' or about 'These SC/ST' or 'These XYZ' depending on regional background of a person, it all reflects a kind of 'public sanction to this form of racist comments against any minority--be South Indians or Norther Eastern people in Rest of India or a Bhaiyya in Maharashtra or even casteist notions. This includes biases of men towards women who are not 'cast in the mould' or gays.

I hope that the school takes a tough action against the teacher. Else the student's parents should approach the authorities (police, human rights commission, education department and the Church that runs the convent school) and book her for spreading hatred.

This is because everybody is biased to an extent but when a teacher, whose job is sacred and is supposed to enlighten students, spreads bigotry and hate, it should not be treated as a minor slip.

There is enough hate in the world. Today's children will grow up and get their own biases. They will acquire prejudices. But let's not pollute their minds from our side, at least, this is not expected from a teacher.

[Photo: Sam Mason, sacked by BBC for reported off-air comments about Asians]

I too have experiences of my childhood, some of which I couldn't forget. There was the history teacher who openly said that there was no need to teach about any Muslim personality (Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Maulana Azad and others) in history books or the teacher who hated me so much that everybody around sensed it.

And another man who said that a Muslim can become only a 'driver, tailor or mechanic'. That was all much before Babri Masjid demolition. Even in college, a senior professor used to ask Muslim students the logic of Namaz and spoke disrespectfully to some students about Islam. I know that in schools, often bright Muslim students escape the generalisation or such remarks but others get to hear harsh words like 'tum log to criminal hi banoge'.

Every individual fights it in his (or her) own ways. Some forgive the person, a few talk back, others fight. But I think, it is time we all realise that this should not be tolerated. No innocent child should be made to suffer or made to be felt like a criminal for something he has no control over--being born in a religion or family. We have to learn a lot from other countries in this regard.

After all, we, in India, celebrate when BBC sacks a programme anchor Miss Sam Mason, who had just told a firm that she would appreciate if they don't send 'an Asian driver' and she didn't say it in front of a group and the target group was also not very specific.

But was immediately sacked. BBC spokesperson had said, that though the comments were not made on air, it was unacceptable and she no longer works for her. In India Simi Garewal can openly question Indian Muslims' patriotism (she did it at NDTV's We the People programme) though a day later apologised due to criticism.

We are a great nation. We have certain issues also. We should make pledge to sort them out and make the country even better. We must learn to accept diversity as a beauty of this country and celebrate it. Let's aim for a better society free of biases and pledge that there should not be any tolerane for such acts. Don't let it happen to our kids. They are our future. [Link to December 6 HT story: Muslims feel the heat of 26/11]

*[Calling Pakistani hurts an Indian Muslim more because here the term Pakistani is euphemism for the word 'traitor' and it questions the person's loyalty to the nation and accuses him of harbouring feelings for the other country with which India has fought three wars. The bloddy baggage of partition.]

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

No burial of terrorists on the sacred soil of Hindustan


1. Eminent Islamic clerics have already refused to give permission to bury the bodies of the terrorists responsible for the carnage in Mumbai. A host of Muslim organisations and Ulema categorically said that the bodies can be sent to whichever country they might belong to but they wouldn't be buried in India.

The clergy has said that they can't permit the burial in the cemeteries as having a Muslim name doesn't mean a person is Muslim especially when the conduct of these persons shamed humanity. Though there were a few voices that bodies shouldn't allowed to rot from outside Muslim community but Islamic scholars refused to 'give an inch' to the terrorists.

2. The pilgrims going for Haj from various Cities tied a black band on their arms to express their outrage over the dastardly attacks. They observed a minute silence before leaving for Mumbai from where the Hajis take the direct flight to Jeddah.

3. Also, clerics have asked Muslims to wear black ribbon and have a low-key celebration on the occasion of Idul Azha [Baqrid] that is drawing nearer. The Id is just a week from now and it would be to show the grief and express solidarity with the Mumbaiites and the rest of the Indians over the terror strike. The All India organisation of Imams of Mosques has urged the Muslims in this regard.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Darul Uloom Deoband, the prestigious Islamic seminary, has asked Muslims not to slaughter cows on the occasion of Baqr Id as it hurts the sentiments of Hindu brethren. Though this is not a new call and it has been issued in the past also. In certain parts of the country including Southern and Eastern regions (as also tribal dominated pockets) cow slaughter is not uncommon. However, Muslims generally avoid it. In some states, officially it is prohibited.