Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Azamgarh Ulema, residents charter special train to Delhi to protest defaming town and linking Muslims with terror

Azamgarh, the place that gave birth to litterateurs like Shibli Nomani, Rahul Sankrityayan and Kaifi Azmi apart from innumerable other luminaries, has lately been associated with crime and terror.

Irresponsible reporting by channels like India TV that ran special programmes titled 'Aatank-garh' [House of Terror] have demonised the place.

Little did the sensationalists realise that Azamgarh is not a mere City or a town, it's a district that has scores of towns and hundreds of villages.

In fact, Azamgarh is the third most populous districts in Uttar Pradesh (UP). It's population was 40 lakh (4 million) as per the last census (2001). Though the Azamgarh town has barely a population of over 1 lakh.

Today the residents [not just Muslims of Azamgarh] of the district are angry. Irrespective of their religion, they share this anger. Any youth belonging to this district can't find an accommodation in Lucknow or any other City of UP, let alone other states. Either he has to lie or just forget getting a place to live on rent, unless it's a very close friend or relative.

Such is the situation that policemen interrogate and pick normal youths in trains and during bus journeys just in case the ticket shows that their destination is Azamgarh or because they belong to that place. It has sadly become Azamgarhi=Criminal.

Youths from Azamgarh are randomly caught across the country and kept under illegal detentions. Nobody disputes that a criminal or an accused should be caught.

But the branding of the town has hurt the citizens. Incidentally, it is believed that Azamgarh has a Muslim majority.

In fact, it doesn't have a higher percentage of Muslims. The district has around 13% Muslim populace, which is less than the average Muslim population in UP that stands at 19%.

However, in Sarai Meer, Azamgarh, Sanjarpur and other towns in the district, Muslims do form a large population, often in majority in these places.

The mafia that has active in Eastern UP has flourished due to the contracts of PWD and railway. Lack of development kept this region poorer. Mafias like Ramakant Yadav, Abu Salem and Harishankar Tiwari have been active in this region.

The rise of Mahant Aditya Nath and his Hindu Vahini Sena has also led to counter communalisation. After the Ijtima congregation that was held in Azamgarh, the saffron organisations targeted Azamgarh. No doubt, the gangsters, criminals and sharp-shooters of Azamgarh have brought notoriety to this place. After the Batla House encounter, the place almost became notorious.

Now hundreds of Muslim youths under the banner of Ulema Council is reaching New Delhi to raise their voice against the branding of Azamgarh as a den of terrorism and criminals. They also want inquiry into the Batla House encounter that took place last year.

Recently, Talha, the son of Maulana Amir Rashdi Madani, was arrested in Nagpur. Midway on the train journey he was detained and taken away. After several days, it was revealed that he was in police custody and when he was released, he was reporteldy warned not to make any statement or go to the media.

He works with a private company in Bangalore and the police had earlier claimed that he was the fourth 'terrorist' who escaped during the Jamia Nagar's encounter. Later the court let him go due to lack of any evidence.

Such incidents have been quite common. It is to protest this generalisation that the chartered train is taken to Delhi. A demonstration will be held at Jantar Mantar where the clerics and Azmagarh residents will speak out over the alleged mistreatment, common citizens are subjected to, lately.

Read and Watch Azamgarh Speaks, an extraordinary special series on Twocircles.Net that reveals the various aspects of Azamgarh and Muslims.

Friday, January 23, 2009

BJP's failure to become national party despite Congress' weakness and disenchantment of Muslims

Despite the hoopla and the advertising blitz projecting Lal Krishna Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate, it seems difficult that the BJP will be able to form a government at the Centre on its own.

It's current tally in the parliament is a mere 138 and even if it manages to reach it's zenith (which was 182 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was active and campaigned extensively) it will have to search for coalition partners to somehow reach the magic figure of 272. Isn't that odd for a party that promises an alternative to the old and weary Congress?

The reasons are many. But let's see how the BJP has failed to get Muslim vote:

1. After Babri Masjid demolition, Muslims were angry with the BJP but they were not happy with Congress either. The wounds took time to heal and by late-90s there was a small minority of Muslims that had begun voting for BJP in some constituencies.

2. Then occurred the Gujarat carnage. Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister did ask Narendra Modi to perform his 'Raj Dharma', but that was an eyewash and aimed at keeping his image of a more inclusive and comparatively secular politician intact.

3. Six years down the line, Muslims haven't forgotten Gujarat, but they also know that innumerable riots occurred in India during Congress regimes. The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute occurred due to some Congress leaders who had reignited the controversy with the the shilanyas in 1986 and that the social condition of Muslims reached its nadir during 40 years of Congress rule at the Centre and states.

How BJP could have got Muslim votes:

Now, BJP could have still managed to get some Muslim vote. Had it simply said that:

We will not provide any reservation or any preferential treatment to Muslims but will ensure that like rest of the citizens, their lives and property would be safeguarded, riots will be checked effectively and we'll open schools, dispensaries and hospitals in Muslim concentrated areas.

Is this too much an expectation from a national party? This is something basic any responsible political party should say. But the BJP doesn't make even such a promise. What holds it back: Kyaa niyat kharab hai?

BJP claims to be the national alternative to Congress but it doesn't address nearly 175 million Muslims and Christians. It doesn't even treat them properly. At the ground level, its cadre is the same as that of VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS. And in riots, it allows its workers to run amok when it is running a state government.

Unlike other parties the BJP has to be content with mostly non-minority votes in states other than Punjab. So, effectively it has to get more votes from lesser number of electorates. While a candidate belonging to any other party including Congress can expect votes from all sections, the BJP candidate stars with a disadvantage.

If in a multi-cornered contest, a candidate generally wins if he secures over 30% votes (obviously out of 100), but the BJP candidate has to get his 30% from less than 85% (minus Muslims).

If one looks at the chart showing BJP's vote percent, it's quite clear that it hovers around 22%. If it snatches just a section of Muslims (13.4% of India's population) from Congress, then it can easily beat the Congress.

But many Muslim leaders who joined the BJP later felt that the party was just not interested in the welfare of the community. Its middle-level leaders are often from such background that when in states they head departments like Waqf Board, Urdu Academy, Madarsa Board or Haj Committee, they further damage these institutions by cutting grants and trying to impede their functioning.

This negative thinking forces Muslims to either go to Samajwadi Party, RJD, Leftist (Communist Parties) and even JD (U) in states where the third front exists or back to Congress due to the TINA factor (There Is No Alternative). Thus BJP refuses to become an alternative to Congress. Though LK Advani's website now has an appeal for Urdu-speakers (Muslims)also. The Urdu content has been added recently.

Aakar Patel on How Indian People's Party (BJP) treats Muslims:

Senior journalist Aakar Patel has summed it up quite well. He writes that the party that claims to be Indian People's Party governs six states with a population of 190 million (19 crore) that has tens of millions of Muslims but neither it has a Muslim minister (or MLA) in Gujarat, nor in Madhya Pradesh. In Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarkhand also it has no Muslim minister in the cabinet. In Karnataka there is one Muslim minister to manage the Waqf and Minority affairs.

Of its 38 national office holders, just one (Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi) is a Muslim and of the 26 national general secretaries none is a Muslim. Patel further writes that the BJP is a national party, but its constituency is Hindu. The BJP's problem is that the majority of Hindus actually don't vote for the BJP. Only one in four Indian voters prefers it, and this has not changed in the last 20 years. Link

Can BJP fill the void:

There is a void in Indian politics. People who are fed up with Congress and want to teach it a lesson, don't know what to do. BJP could have filled the space. It talks about appeasement all the time, but when it comes to power, it appeases the right-wing Hindutva constituency and forgets that inclusivity is essential to run a nation.

It can start gettting Muslim votes just by taking the community in confidence and promising them that there will be no injustice or step-motherly treatment. But it stops far short of that. And that's the tragedy of our national politics that the only national alternative to Congress is afraid to promise protection and respect to a section of its citizens.

The general elections are just a few months away and we will know whether Advani manages to get to the post of Prime Minister or leaves the field for the next generation of BJP.

Read an earliest post on this blog:
When burqa gets saffron band: Bharatiya Janata Party and Muslims

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Assam, Hubli blasts: Nagraj's arrest & The 'other' terror

1. I am writing this post a few days after the recent revelation that the Hubli court blast and the planting of bombs on National Highway-4 [Belgaum-Dharwad] were carried out by Nagraj Jambagi's 'module' rather than any Lashkar or SIMI group.

This hasn't been adequately reported in media though immediately after the blast, it was blamed on 'Islamic' terror groups. Nagraj is known to have links with Sri Ram Sena, a radical* organisation that was involved in attacks on Churches in Karnataka.

During the recent elections, the BJP had used it in its campaign. But now when it turned out Nagraj confessed his involvement, the few newspapers that carried the report of the press confernece reported that it was 'not a terror attack'.

Why? Is it because there was no Muslim involved? Just a few papers who at least reported it, gave it a twist like the Midday headline 'Hubli court blast no terror attack'. It's not a joke but it has been made a joke.

One should never use terms like Islamic or any other form of terrorism but it is used and when it is found that there is no Muslim angle, the act goes out of the definition of terrorism. Isn't it strange?

What if it was an act by a Muslim criminal whose name, one can imagine, as an Abu X or Abu Y. Would the media have later described him as a dacoit involved in gangwar [to take off the terrorist tag] as Indian Express reported it later, rather than terrorism?

A few English papers in Southern India reported it [Link to Rediff news report]and also the fact that the bombs were similar to those used in Mecca Masjid blasts, but nothing appeared on TV. Especially mainstream North Indian papers ignored it. These things need to be highlighted, discussed and answered. reports that the aim of Nagaraj's men was to take revenge and attack SIMI members who were brought to courts.

2. In the last three months, Assam was thrice targeted by terrorists--the first strike in October last year claimed 90 lives. The recent two bomb strikes including the one on January 1 got little attention in mainstream media though several persons died.

Surpisingly the third blast that occurred on January 9 almost got unreported in the mainstream media. As I write it today, I can see a blast in Afghanistan getting far more coverage, as if Assam is not part of the country.

When the first of the recent series of three blasts occurred, self-styled media's terror experts suggested the names of obscure and known organisation with Arabic sounding names. Within a day, it disappared from frontpage of newspapers and channels as it always happens in the case of Assam or Naxalite infested areas.

But investigation was pointing towards Ranjan Daimari alias Nabla. He is leader of the separatist pro-Christian Bodoland movement 'National Democratic Front of Bodoland'. However, as in other cases we didn't get to see the photographs of Nabla, because he was suspected, on TV channels.

Ultimately it was Pranjal Deka, who emerged as the main mastermind of the blasts. Just a week or two back he has been killed in a cross-fire in Assam. Pranjal Deka alias Biju Sarania, was one of the three ULFA militants, who had planted three bombs that rocked Guwahati on Januar 1, was killed in an encounter with security forces, writes Samudra Gupta Kashyap in the story in Indian Express. Just one question, why Dekha is described as a Militant and not a Terrorist?

Again, it is not Jambagi, DR Nabla, Pranjal Deka or many others whose faces we never get to see on TV or papers though they also appear in press conferences and get produced in courts.

3. We live in a so-called enlightened era. We know it is extremely insensitive and risky to brand entire communities. We all know and more than us it is media that should know. As we write and read this, LTTE, a predominantly Hindu organisation fights to retain its base in Buddhist-dominated Sri Lanka. It's not Muslims who are fighting there either.

Still, what seems to sell on papers and media is 'Muslim faces' and 'Islamic terror'. The dreaded-ness probably increases when the photo of a Muslim 'Abu X, Y, Z' appears rather than a Pranjal Deka, as the beard or a skullcap gets fitted on the head. This makes him look bad as popular imagination has been fed over the years in this manner.

[To some whose comments on past posts have been moderated: *Anybody can appropriate any religious name and this is not limited to just the Islamic organisations. The Jaish and Lashkar use this to malign Islam just like Bajrang Dal is not performing anything to make a devotee of Lord Hanuman proud of the organisation's actions or for that matter Shiv Sena.]

Related posts that appeared earlier on this blog:
1. Linking Muslims with Terrorism even as Maoists kill 12, Manipur militants kill 17
2. IBN 7: Journalism or preaching prejudices
3. Branding community and critising terrorism
4. Terrorism and bomb blasts in India: Hindus, Muslims, Communalism and other issues
5. State's softness on radical Hindutva organisations

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Hindu Ascetic, A Muslim Mystic: Communal Harmony Project-9

It was a dull winter day last month when I had first seen these two men--one wearing a saffron robe, the other in a green garb, sitting together in a park.

I just wanted to be with myself and had decided to go to a park all alone, staying away from office, Internet and the never-ending works.

It was then that I saw the duo sitting leisurely. It was around a week later that I again visited the same park and saw them. A vendor was selling traditional salted white papads that are made of rice along with 'Gur-laiya ke laddoos'.

I bought them and sat with the duo, offering them the laddoos. The conversation began. Bhagat Ji looks after the samadhi of his guru while Baba is caretaker of a mazaar and a Khanqah (hospice) near it. Sick of endless debates over communalism and politics after the Mumbai terror attacks, it was a relief to meet the duo--who sit at the same place every day in the afternoon.

Bhagat Ji has interesting tales to tell. He speaks about his guru and his last moments when he took samadhi. He also told me story about a Nawab who had later become a Sufi and after his death, still seen walking around his mazaar where he comes to attend the weekly Thursday night assembly of 'murshads'.

But more than their mysticism, it is the harmony of their beliefs, that pulls you. They are totally at peace with themselves and the world around.

And what strikes me more is the 'naked non-bookish wisdom', the ability to see that the history of wars and strifes have been as old as human life on this planet.

That they don't get charged up and take positions on the basis of their religions. Both believe in God and see no contradiction in each others' beliefs.

padshahi se hai faqiirii ka paaya baala
boriyaa chhoD kyuuN takht-e-SulemaaN manguuN

It is this Indian tolerance and mysticism that has driven this nation though toughest periods in history, not the 'spirit' preached on hysterical TV channels. We see amplified images of every emotion, forgetting that our true strengh and resilience lies in our millions of towns and villages and the countless--Bhagat Jis and Khanqah Wale Babas, who live side by side and in perfect harmony.

Though they had invited me, I couldn't go to see the Tazia taken out in the locality. They are closely involved with the making of tazia and the accompanying riutals. Incidentally, that Tazia is also taken out by descendants of a Hindu family.

In fact, it is these people who give you the glimpse of the real India and the beliefs of the ordinary Indians who remain unaffected by rabble-rousers. They are so close to us but we just don't see them as we are stuck in the rot of our lifestyles where we see every thing through TV and newspapers.

They are not like self-styled godmen who preach against materialism on TV but want both disciples and dough. Rather, they are satisfied in their lives, quietly.The educated may fight like cats and dogs but they smoke with the same 'chilam'. Bhagat Ji passes it to Baba who leaves a thick fog of smoke, as I left.

Sheikh Kaaba ho ke poNhcha, ham kanisht-e-dil meN ho ke
Dard! Manzil ek thii Tuk raah hii kaa pher thaa

[Harmony exists all around us but is often ignored. Instead, stories of hate, discord and communalism get spread easily.

There are a million examples in our daily lives across India but they don't get promoted, hence, news of hate and discord gets heard more. Let's change it, now. This is a small attempt to change it through Communal Harmony Project]

For reading similar reports on this blog, Click the link HERE and also find out more about Communal Harmony Project

#communalharmony #communalharmonyproject #india

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jews suffered holocaust, now inflict the same on Palestinians: Israel acts like Nazi state

[No race suffered as much as the Jews in human history. They were killed, tortured, gassed, kept in concentration camps, but today as Israel bombs Palestians, killing innocent children, Israel has become a Nazi state, for us.

Israel, the country of the persecuted, is behaving exactly, the way Germany under Hitler, acted against them. Hitler believed that he was right. Today, the state of Israel refuses to believe that they are oppressors, involved in the most brutal acts, and in no way less in magnitude than the Nazis.

Would those survived or died in Holocaust, would have ever in their wildest dream, imagined or believed that one day their state, would perform similar atrocities and persecute another group with the same vengeance. It is not war. Israel may not be willing to see in the mirror but the reality is that the state of Israel has more in common with Hitler's Germany today. I say it with sadness.]

Now read it, why?

As a child I had read about the horrors of Holocaust, the mass killings of Jews by Eichmann and Hitler, their persecution and also read the 'Diary of Anne Frank'. It was all disbelieving how such massacres could happen.

Despite the Muslim world's suspicion of the Jewish state [more so it is Zionism], the story of Jews evokes empathy. But isn't it the irony that the people, who suffered the most in human history, for being a minority and were the worst sufferers of genocides and discrimination, have resorted to the same crime when they got their homeland.

They forgot that how the same Muslim world had treated them better and gave asylum whenever Europe persecuted the Jews. Today the same Jews whose forefathers lived in concentration camps and were gassed to death, force another minority, the Palestinians to live in concentration camps, bomb them, kill them and use gases & chemicals that cause miscarriages of women. I just don't understand!

Now please read this and I request you guys to comment only after reading the whole post. This is just a brief, very brief, summary of what Jews have endured for 2,000 years:

1. Due to the belief that Jews collectively killed Jesus. They were frequently massacred, exiled, persecuted and during crusades they were most brutally attacked and forced out of European countries in lakhs. [after 1000 AD]

2. They were held responsible for epidemics like plague and were set afire. No less than 900 were burnt alive in one City, Strasbourg, alone. In India they lived in peace but when Portuguese reached, they persecuted them here also.

3. Through out 12th, 13,th, 14th, 15th...till 18th century this continued. During inquisition they were burnt and killed in thousands, the children separated from families and were forcibly baptised. In Europe, Jews were forced to live in ghettoes, special taxes were meant only for them and at several places that had to wear particular dress or badges that would distinguish them from the rest and it invited extreme ridicule.

4. There was the King Friedrich who ordered that all Jews be converted.

The myths that Jews had pact with Devil and that they had magical powers and caused deaths of children, were spread in medieval England and Europe.

5. Then came the Holocaust of the 20th century and the mass killings of Jews in Hitler's Germany.

The horrors of this holocaust are known and well documented. It was after this that post-World Wars, 'enlightened' Europe shed its moral guilt and shifted 'their problem' from Europe to the Middle-East (in Asia) and got rid of the trouble. There were collective suicides, of jews and burning of entire villages happening as late as 20th century.

6. Now Jews had got their homeland and they forgot all enmity, all past persecution and the Arabs were also soon ready to believe that Jews were there eternal enemy.

Today Jews and Zionists have forgotten all. I don't say that Arabs have been great. My blood doesn't boil because Arabs are Muslims.

I am just sick of seeing innocent children who ought to be in the crib or play games, lying in blood and kept in stretchers or taken to grave yards. This is sickening. They have turned Gaza into concentration camp.

Still, after this saga of colossal persecution, they didn't learn and the state of Israel is today symbolising Hitler and outdoing him in his actions.

O Israel, what you learnt from Holocaust. In seven decades, you have become the same monster. Today, Israel is a Nazi state. Yes, it is a Nazi state, a terrorist state. 

Shame on Arab leaders for failing to buy peace or force Israel to stop
Shame on Zionists, the state of Israel and the United Nations.

[First photo courtesy BBC website: Jewish child wearing a yellow star in Europe in the early 20th century. Link] The other photo shows a medieval painting of Jews being set afire in Cologne. The last photo is of a concentration camp of Jewish citizens during the Holocaust in Germany.

[This post was originally written in 2009. It has been updated in 2014, as Israel again targets Gaza, killing hundreds of innocents.]

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Who should be blamed for the plight of Palestinians: Arab states or Israel?

The photograph shows boxes of bangles that are sent to various Arab countries to shame their governments for their inaction* and deliver the message that they are useless cowards.

[Though I consider it sexist, as women are much stronger and better than men as they don't wage wars and shed blood of innocents, especially children.]

But in Indian and South Asian tradition bangles are historically sent to a person who has shown cowardice like running away from battlefield. It was meant an insult on the person and often this prompted him to act and be a man (sic).

But the Mumbai protesters who are sending these boxes through embassies of these countries, perhaps knew of no other way to send their message across. *Action doesn't mean war, it can be buying peace or making peace or anything that can stop senseless killing. And Arab states seem incapable of anything.

Now coming to Israeli attack on Palestine

I am avoiding watching TV and reading news about Gaza.

It isn't that I am not disturbed by the Israeli offensive on Palestine and the sheer brutality of the attack that has now killed near 500 persons including women and children, mostly civilians during the last week.

I'm as shaken as I am whenever there is a humanitarian tragedy, whenever innocents get killed, irrespective of their country or religion. It is the most heart-rending sight on earth to see children, as small as few months old, lying in the hospital beds, and to see the faces of infants disfigured in the air-strikes and bombings.

But who should we blame? And what purpose will it serve? International community keeps condemning Israel and there are protests but there is no effort on part of the Arab states to take any concrete steps to put to end the misery of the Palestinians.

After every such round of bombings, the jokers [OIC and representatives of Arab states] rush for 'emergency meetings' and devise strategies to stop the Israeli aggression but end up issuing useless statements.

The fact is that Arab countries are not serious and not concerned. Let alone rulers, even the citizens don't appear concerned. We see the mass protests in East Asia, Europe and South Asia but the Arab street remains silent. People claim that they can't hold protests in their countries.

If there is real anger on the street, the government, howsoever stubborn it may be, does succumb. There are military ruled countries where protests are held because the citizens are motivated. When ordinary Palestinians give their lives, some Arab citizens should also be ready to pay the price.

Why we don't see any Aung Sun Suu Kyi or Nelson Mandela rise in Middle-East ? The dictatorial regimes are simply interested their own survival. The rulers love America for letting them run their countries like medieval states.

Women don't have equal rights, there is no right to freedom of speech and criticism of the governments is unimaginable. Protests and demonstrations are unheard of. The non-Arabs are not treated at par. Yes, the oil-rich states have given jobs to tens of thousands but it might have been the same situation had there been democratic regimes.

Many Arab countries have accepted Israel and have diplomatic relations while some of them don't openly accept but have secret links with the Jewish state. No harm in that. It is better to have open relations than hypocrisy.

The Arab states are not just useless because they have neither proper words nor action to take when a country like Iraq is attacked or when Israel strikes in Gaza. But they are really pathetic because when there was a genocide in Bosnia, it was USA that acted.

There are cycles of violence and hate. Arabs can't fight Israel. So they better accept the reality. Yes, Palestinians may not in near future forgive Israel but Arab countries can together make some sort of peace and force Israel to stop this bloodshed.

They should stop using the name of Islam and it's time to dissolve the OIC. One should feel angry for injustice and for killing of innocents. If these states claim that they are angry because the bombings are on fellow Arabs or fellow Muslims, it is an extreme narrow vision (though this also doesn't prompt them to act and exposes them further).

It should be pure humanitarian cause. But we are not living in a Utopian world where everybody fights for justice of the other. The people of Gaza have been living in a virtual hell, a prison, for a long time and the governments think over 'opening borders' now. Pay the price whatever it is but stop the killings of innocent citizens.

But the so-called monarchs and the heads of other so-called Muslim leaders have no interest in either Islam or justice. Islam! Huh! If it was Islam, they wouldn't have changed the name of Prophet's Arab, the Hijaz, to Saudi Arabia. Today it is Saudi Arabia, named after the Family of Saud.

The bunch of so many Arab states has no bargaining power, no voice. Pathetic. But who are we and our voice? Watching and reading about killings of innocents makes you upset. You can't make a difference either. So isn't it better to shut off from all. So mean but there is no option, I guess.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

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.