Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hoardings in Harmony: Hindu, Muslim billboards in India

Hoardings catch my eyes just like interesting posters, banners, wall graffiti and nameplates.

I just spotted the two hoardings, one of a religious function on the eve of Milad-un-Nabi and the other of a politico-cultural event.

The first is organised by Muslim organisations and invites for a Jalsa and subsequent Juloos [procession]. It is in Urdu and Hindi.

The other hoarding calls for a massive Hindu gathering. One can identify the man visible in the hoarding. He is Keshav Bali Ram Hedgewar, the founder of RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.

RSS' core beliefs may not have changed but apparently there is a major difference from the Hedgewar or Golwalkar era. Now RSS leaders appear mild and no longer speak against Muslims [though VHP rabble-rousers do it now].

RSS functionaries sometimes attend Muslim conclaves and the ex-sarsanghchalak KC Sudarshan did interact with Muslim clergy, even taking up the cause of Waqf properties in the country, which had raised many an eyebrows.

None of the participants attending any of these events will go to the other programme but at least the hoardings stand together in perfect harmony.

Some other similar posts on this blog:

1. 'Hindu Motorcycle', Muslim Hand
2. Muslim Shop, Hindu God
3. Hindu Ascetic, Muslim Mystic
4. Hindu family taking out Tazia for 130 years
5. Chillas: 'Islamic shrines' in Deccan
6. Hindu Muslim prisoners hug outside jail
7. Is this man Hindu or Muslim?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blame the Bureaucrat, not just Politician: Corruption of IAS officers' ignored in India!

Chhattisgarh cadre civil servant BL Agarwal is just one among thousands of civil servants in India, but his name hit headlines briefly when the Income Tax department found that he had at least 220 bank accounts and had amassed wealth and assets to the tune of billions of rupees, yes billions, not millions.

He didn't even have a 'reputation' of being an extremely corrupt officer unlike some other IAS and IPS officers. Still, he had accumulated so much unaccounted wealth in a tribal-dominated state where large section of poverty stricken populace barely gets to eat salt with roti, and nobody was bothered about his deeds until the recent raid.

Even after the disclosures, Agarwal's name hasn't appeared much in national media. Or for that matter the names of MP's IAS officers couple Arvind and Tinu Joshi who had Rs 3 crore cash lying in their house. Do you ever wonder why?

Had it been a politician with a few millions recovered, it would have caused anger and outrage. But neither IAS associations uttered a word, nor the citizens feel any outrage. Is it that we accept that it is the right of bureaucrat to earn money and rob this country?

Politician can be voted out, not bureaucrat

The fact is that a politician can be voted out, he can be blamed and even abused. Opposition parties make accusations and there is much criticism in media. The truth is that Indian politician's house is always open and people belonging to the MP's constituency goes to their house and is often served food and tea or their rail tickets confirmed.

Even if they don't do anything, they meet the people and give them assurances. The bureaucrat who gets to rule this nation without getting into limelight, remains aloof, has devised a system where there is never an onus on him and if there is something wrong then the politician will be blamed. The Indian bureaucrat is mostly elitist, arrogant and inaccessible.A corrupt bureaucrat can't be booted out by citizens and will remain in service for at least 30-35 years.

The suave English-speaking bureaucrat, specially the IAS and the IPS, is rarely targeted by media as well. Journalists--including those who wished to become IAS officers but couldn't make it to civil services and turned to journalism or those who aren't paid well, remain in awe of the officials. Unlike politicians who are considered unsmart and mostly rural. Most of the IAS officers at whose residence, raids yielded millions and billions, won't even to pay much for their sins.

No action on corrupt civil servants

In a couple of days everybody will forget it. They will fight cases and in any case they are not terminated or dismissed. The Chhattisgarh government didn't even appear in a mood to take action against Agrawal and it took many days for the Raman Singh govt to take a decision.

What followed was mere suspension. Most of these bureaurats will be back in offices in a few months, at the most their CR would be affected but they would remain in service, keep working as secretaries, principal secretaries, MDs and eventually retire and draw pensions.

In any case, the departmental inqurires are headed by the babus who are lenient towards their own. The cadre cameraderie is another unique factor among Indian babus. Ironically, the bureacrats are supposed to be less corrupt as they are educated, work hard to crack examination and claim in interviews that they want to do something for the poor by joining the services.

Corruption of civil servants harms the nation more

The truth is that the crime of the corrupt IAS officers is much more serious in magnitude than politicians. Those familiar with the system know that often it is the official who tells the Minister how to siphon off funds, how to plan schemes and bring fund only to misappropriate it, how to award contracts to own contractors through their own pointsmen [or dalaal] and how to avoid getting caught.

Mostly, the officials are smart and the ministers, MLAs or minor corporators-councillors get caught. It is not that the less educated politician is a saint. But the bureaucrat mostly shows the way. If the top babus--IAS, IPS and IFS officers are honest, there is no way the subordinate or the minister can bungle the funds.

No responsibility: Will remain in service for over three decades

Strangle, in our democracy, the real blood-suckers who drain this nation aren't identified. Citizens' anger is never directed at them. They never realise that because medicines are not available in hospitals despite huge funds coming from WHO and Centre, nothing is available because of this nexus.

Even in mishaps, mishandling of law-and-order cases, riots, terror attacks and other tragedies, the officers who fail to take action are neither held responsible nor taken to task. The example is 9/11 when media went after Shivraj Patil but couldn't point out the real failure of the bureaucrats who have been with the ministry for years and are in the real charge of affairs, ranging from policy making to intelligence.

Corrupt bureaucrat gives the mantra

The bureaucrat shows the way, the politician plays along. One wonders when there will be enough awareness in this country that citizens would learn to question the 'civilised robbers', question them, fight them and fix them. Channels will be busy with Shiv Sena-MNIK or Hindu-Muslim debates or Cricket-Bollywood, while this nation is being robbed by those who are supposed to be guardians.
They are responsible to a large extent towards how India is today plagued with bad infrastructure, corruption and misgovernance despite rich natural resources. Some IAS officers are no doubt honest and work sincerely but overall Indian bureaucracy is a huge letdown and has failed the nation more than any other group or section.

May be, it will take a century to develop a sense of democracy among us.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

'My Name Is Khan' film review: A Bold and Emotional Movie With A Message

I just watched the Shahrukh Khan-Kajol starrer, My Name Is Khan [MNIK]. Firstly, it is definitely a bold movie and the film-makers must be credited for coming up with a movie that sends a very strong universal message.

MNIK is not an ordinary Bollywood flick. More than the innate goodness of the protagonist who suffers from Asperger's syndrome and has an innocent charm with which he wins his lady love and later goes on a journey across America, the film deals with civilisational and cultural faultlines to take a hugely moralistic stand.

Yes, 9/11 changed the world but entire communities couldn't be seen as suspects. All these years we have seen the stereotyping of Muslims, weird theories like clash of civilsations and the generalisations but this film takes on such bigotry. And the fact that this movie with an international message comes from India, is all the more heartwarming.

With such a tough subject and no usual street song-and-dance scenes, there was every possibility of the film getting dull. But to Karan Johar's credit, the movie has been handled well. Shahrukh-Kajol's on-screen chemistry is again striking.

The Story

MNIK is the story of Mandira [Kajol], a divorcee with a kid, and Rizvan Khan [Shahrukh] suffering from Asperger's syndrome, who fall in love and whose lives are terribly shattered after 9/11. There is a strong tragic turn in their marriage that forced them to part ways and Khan begins his journey.

Today there are millions of families in this country where the husband and wife belong to different communities and there is puja and namaz in the same house.

And though we don't acknowledge it as much and celebrate this multi-culturalism, the story of this inter-religious couple in the backdrop of Twin Tower attack has acquired another dimension.

The story takes several twists and turns. Khan is misunderstood, arrested by FBI and released. Meets a radical Muslim preacher and reaches a Black-dominated town in Georgia, which he returns to after hearing that the Katrina hurricane as ravaged it.

In the end, he keeps his promise. There are several scenes which might resonate in your ears after watching the movie. The movies makes strong statements against racial profiling and religious biases, but still it doesn't bore you.

The Movie and The Message

Shahrukh plays his part of perfection and despite the limitation of his character, not for once makes you feel that he has been cast as either a mildly disabled person.

The camerawork is fine and the songs beautiful but the movie has certainly scored because of the presence of Shahrukh and Kajol. Having said this, it's not easy to carry a movie just due to star presence.

It's surely not a movie that you watch for pure fun [or total entertainment] where you expect to come out of hall, laughing. The emotional scenes especially the tragic turn, which the movie takes after intermission, will stay with you for long. Afterwards, the film though ends on a happy note.

That this movie which has such a global message and was conceptualised in India, makes it all the more special. MNIK has its own flaws. It may fall short of becoming an epic movie but the fact that Karan Johar attempted to tell an epic tale, is really admirable.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Maharashtra Mess: Blame Congress' Politics, Not Just Shiv Sena-MNS

While Shiv Sena has been criticised from all quarters for dividing the society on linguistic and regionalistic lines, the role of the supposedly responsible Congress and its strategy hasn't got enough attention.

In fact, the party is again back to its old style of dangerous politics: Procrastinate, panic and pander.

Congress is at the helm at the Centre and in Maharashtra and no where elections are due in near future. But still, it has chosen to remain inactive.

Threats to Hindi speakers, North Indians, letters to cinema hall owners and actors are all in public domain. There are evidences sufficient to take action and prosecute the culprits who are dividing the society.

In case of any ordinary citizen issuing a mildly irresponsible statement, section 153 (A) of Indian Penal Code is applied. Ordinary citizen who breaks law a couple of times gets booked under NSA or is externed. 

Why no action has been taken against Sena? Who stops the Congress? The party is simply playing politics. Clearly, it enjoys the sight of Shiv Sena and MNS fighting and taking the fascistic rhetoric up in their tussle to score over each other, as it helps the party in the longer run.

Else, in a situation of such constitutional breakdown where MLAs are beaten up in Assembly for taking oath in Hindi and threats are openly issued, the government should have taken sternest measures. Both Raj and Uddhav should have been charged with such sections.

Two small parties, none of which is in power in a state, are running the state by proxy through terror and hooliganism. In a situation when even BJP has opposed Sena, Congress' silence could would shame any responsible political outfit.

Its chief minister, Ashok Chavan, recently issued a similar diktat about Marathi to taxi drivers. Though it was withdrawn after Delhi's intervention and Chavan 'clarified' what he meant, the truth is that Congress must get more blame for the crisis, than the small recalcitrant outfits--Sena or the MNS. What was the need for such a statement?

What the Maharashtra unit of party merely says is, 'we will take action'. Nonsense. What action and when. You can't provide security or lock up rowdies. Theatre owners themselves remove posters of Shahrukh Khan's movie, fearing trouble. So where is the government that was elected to provide security?

When the distrust among communities would reach a higher level and if things would take a nasty turn, it will start pandering to both sections. That will further create a divide. This has been the style of Congress until 90s. In Sonia Gandhi's first term, the party seemed changing the direction but now it's back to its old role.


Congress leader Digvijay Singh reached Azamgarh and said that he had his doubts about the Batla House encounter. It's again a similar story. Firstly, it was the Congress-led UPA government that was at the helm when the incident occurred.

In any case of police encounter, judicial inquiry is held. Congress is also the ruling party in Delhi. But the Delhi police affidavit in the court, contesting the demand for inquiry and the Lieutenant Governor's refusal to give nod for the probe, are proof of the party's position.

Doesn't the Delhi police function under Chief Minister Sheila Dixit? And because Muslims in UP have alternatives--BSP and SP, the party lets its national general secretary Digvijay Singh state that the encounter was held in suspicious circumstances.

It's crystal clear that the Congress is fast getting back to its old culture when it couldn't bear the sight of a communist government and got it toppled, when it didn't like the idea of Akalis ruling Punjab and in order to grab this small state created a frankenstein, Bhindranwale, and when the situation went out of hand, went for the unfortunate Operation Blue Star.

Don't redress the issue in the beginning and let the wounds fester until it reaches critical stage--that's the Congress style. Hindus were upset due to killings in Punjab, so the Ram temple issue was given a fresh lease of life.

As Muslims got angry, Congress tried to assuage their feelings in Shahbano case. Now Hindus were more angry. The party put India's social fabric at stake. It dind't want to take a blame. It neither fought Hindu right-wing movement, nor acepted its mistake. It didn't order firing or keeping the premises secure.

Ultimately BJP and Mulayam Singh Yadav became the aggressors and the defenders respectively while Congress cleverly exited the state. But the party and the country paid price. And it took it two decades to recover for Congress but once again, it's back to its past political style.

The party could have contained MNS in the beginning but it used Raj's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to cut into Sena's vote. Now both fight an ugly battle and India suffers. We blame Australians for the attacks on Indians in Oz.

But can we take action and keep our house in order? Sometimes one does feel that had there been no Gujarat carnage and the arrogance & non-repentence of party leadership in the state, Muslims won't have returned to the often-arrogant Congress' fold in such hurry.

In the end Congress remains Congress.