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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sangh Parivar: Cultural Nationalism, Hardline Hindutva or Terrorism?

If persons linked to the Sangh Parivar were involved in planning and executing the terrorist attack on Ajmer Dargah, a Sufi shrine that symbolises the unique blend of Hindu-Muslim culture that evolved in India over a period of centuries, it should send the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in a serious introspective mode.

Denial, blame game or terming it a political move won't help. It is very clear that RSS' activists, workers, pracharaks and even godmen have been involved in series of attacks on Muslim shrines including mosque, Islamic gatherings, Muslim-dominated pockets and other places.

The chief conspirators even include Sadhus [or Sants] like the absconding Terror Swami Aseemanand who allegedly planned the attacks or Dayanand Pandey who is in jail. In case of Pragya Thakur, the Parivar first defended her and later disowned her.

Even if a majority of Sangh Parivar activists join the group due to their belief in cultural nationalism, somewhere there is a tendency to drift towards fanaticism which later takes them to anti-national activities and subsequently towards terrorism. If a 'patriotic' organisation gives birth to such individuals, shouldn't this be a cause of worry for Nagpur-based mandarins?

So if there were some Muslims involved in terrorism, there are now several Hindus and that too from a rashtravadi or 'nationalist' organisation. So isn't it more serious for RSS that the nation-builders are turning the destructors?

When Samir Kulkarni's name appeared, the RSS leaders said that he was a hardliner and that was the reason that he had been expelled. But the fact remains that he had been associated with RSS for long. Soon names began appearing one after the other.

Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsangra, Devendra Gupta, Sandeep Dange, Rakesh Dhawade, Lokesh Sharma et al. Either it's rogue elements of Bajrang Dal, Sadhus linked to VHP, shooters like Sudhakar Rao Maratha or ideologues like Indresh, the RSS can no longer shun its responsibility.

If it has evaded terror tag, the reason is that the Parivar has expanded hugely in the last couple of decades. It has over a hundred active branches working in almost all sections and it has managed to get sympathisers in almost all walks of life.

But this is no longer enough to keep its name clean. The growing number of fanatics in Sangh Parivar and its affiliate groups should be a cause of concern for the group. The top leaders now express surprise at the development though they must be aware of the trend.

Forget blasts or terrorist attacks, leave aside VHP's rioting in Gujarat or anti-Christian violene in Karnataka & Orissa, even ignore the role of the RSS prior to independence and the charges on it during Mahatma Gandhi's killings, there are enough cases even other wise to prove the involvement of its cadre in subversive activities.

In 1992, the death of a Sangh Parivar worker during blast in the VHP office in Neemuch where bombs were being assembled, is hardly mentioned in media. But many would recall the blast during bomb-making in Kanpur when two Bajrang Dal workers had died a couple of years back.

Or for that matter the blast in Tamil Nadu's Tenkasi. With the arrest of three RSS workers, the TN police had cracked the case and said that the aim was to spark communal rioting. See story in The Hindu. The modus operandi was similar in parts of Malwa and Maharashtra.

Likewise in Nanded, the police had recovered fake beards and skullcaps from the house of RSS worker. This case was closed but reopened later by ATS under Hemant Karkare. Later during Malegaon and Modasa blasts also the motorcycle with Islamic stickers was placed deliberately to give a false impression that Muslim youths were behind the blast.

Besides, organisations ranging from Sanatan Sanstha to Abhinav Bharat who were alleged involved in blasts in Goa, Modasa, Thane, Nanded, Parbhani, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid at Hyderabad, Samjhata Express and a host of other places, are ideologically close to Sangh Parivar with RSS activists' role found in these cases.

What next? Will RSS take a drastic action? With such a huge cadre, it can do a lot of good ranging from anti-corruption drives to forging inter-religious harmony. Why is it letting its cadre go astray and turn anti-national?

[Photos courtesy: Dalip Singh's cover page story in Mail Today and Poornima Joshi's story 'RSS to disown activists if terror links are proved']

Monday, October 18, 2010

Zee Salaam: Another Urdu TV channel from India

Zee Salaam:
Urdu channel or Islamic channel!
Early this year the pioneer TV group in India, Zee, launched Zee Salaam, a channel directed at the Urdu speaking populace.

It was the third* Urdu channel in India after ETV Urdu and DD Urdu. ETV Urdu has successfully completed ten years and is quite popular in India and abroad.

Doordarshan's Urdu channel DD Urdu, which was launched a couple of years back, is also doing well though the cable operators don't relay it everywhere.

With one of the oldest TV media groups in the country, Zee, starting a channel, one expected that it would bring original and high quality content to the viewers.

Though the channel looked promising in its initial avatar, Zee Salaam has lately been resembling more of an Islamic channel than an Urdu channel. Hardly any effort is visible in programmes.

Of course, there is a large section that likes religious programmes but Zee Salaam more and more looks like a copy of QTV or similar other religious channels. They don't need to spend much when devotional programmes are to be aired through out the day.

Perhaps, the idea is that when you can run a channel with few Maulanas, why waste your funds and energy. So there is hardly any news, discussions or infotainment and mostly its clerics who are visible on the shows from morning till late evening.

Once in while you may get to see a programme on movie songs or English learning. Unfortunately, Zee group, that has a wide range of channels and can get reports from its language channels across India, seems to be giving little attention to the channel.

While ETV's programmes particularly Khas Baat, Alami Manzar, serials and shows for women, are quite popular, Zee Salam is yet to make a mark. Urdu is not about poetry alone, it is the language that is understood by almost everybody who speaks Hindi, Punjabi or other dialects.

Zee group should make use of the opportunity and must telecast original content by making use of their correspondents across the world, to strengthen the channel. They can target at least 100 million homes with ease in India alone.

Unfortunately, they seem to have abandoned the channel in the beginning. The Sahara group has been planning to start its Urdu channel for several years and now it seems the channel would be finally on air soon.

Zee Salaam needs to improve and decide whether it wants to run a professional news & infotainment channel or would remain happy competing with the other Islamic channels. [*Some other 'international' Urdu channels were launched but they closed without leaving much impact]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Born in 1890, Going for Haj in 2010: India's Munni Begum ready for pilgrimage

Munni Begum is 120 year old and is all set to go for Haj, after special permission as her name didn't figure in the draw of lots.

The old woman who gave birth to eight sons and daughters, heads a huge family that lives in Kho Nagorian locality of Jaipur.

Family members say that Munni Begum was born in August 1890. She has 52 grandsons and granddaughters apart from 96-odd great grandsons and great granddaughters other than two dozen great-great-grandchildren [and even their kids].

The elderly woman has seen three centuries. And now she is all set for the pilgrimage she has waited for all her life. On Saturday she reached the office of Haj Committee to fill the form. The Central Haj Committee officials from Delhi gave her special permission.

The Rajasthan Haj Welfare Society has requested the Saudia Arabia government that special attention should be paid to her because of Munni's age.

Munni Begum is perhaps the oldest woman on record to embark for the holy journey. She says that she had the wish to go for Haj ever since she was married in her teenage, and thus her wish is going to be fulfilled after over a century.
One wonders if there is a tendency among the Rajasthanis, particularly, the Jaipur residents to live longer.

Earlier, Habib Miyan had gone for Haj at the age of 134. He had suddenly drawn international attention after it was found that he had been drawing pension for over 65 years.

Habib Miyan had retired in 1938. He went for Haj in 2004 when he was 134. Though birth certificates were unknown in the olden days, the bank records proved his age.

As per the pension papers, Habib Miyan was drawing pension since 1938. The documents clearly showed him as born in 1878 and this made him the world's oldest man alive until his death at the age of 138 in 2008. The bank officers delivered his pension at his home.

Now it's Munni Begum's turn though she is not a 'Munni' in the literary sense. [Munni means little in Urdu] In India, it was the tradition that mostly older persons went for Haj, after they had fulfilled their worldly responsibilities.

In recent years the pilgrims have begun going at a comparatively younger age, still a large number of Indians who go to Hejaz [Arabia] are over sixty. And Munni Begum clearly beats them as well. One hopes that along with other Hajis, she also manages to perform the Haj and returns safely. Amen.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Fanatic 'anti-Muslim' shooter Sudhakar Rao's arrest ignored

The near-total blackout of the news regarding arrest of one of the most fanatic and religio-maniac killers, Sudhakar Rao, by the national media is intriguing.

Media persons, security agencies, intelligence-wallahs were all aware of the shadowy Hindutva-inspired sharpshooter known for target killings and 'eliminating' Muslims, local-level particular leaders and those who were into inter-religious marriages.

It has been agreed upon that terrorism has no colour--neither Green nor Saffron-- and it should be treated as crime against humanity but the question is why such cases get unusually less coverage. 

Sudhakar apparently turned radical after his sister eloped with a Muslim youth. He killed his 'brother-in-law' and later committed a series of murders including that of Congress leader RR Khan. Incidentally in this case the police framed one, Gulfam, though Rao has now confessed the crime.

It is all too known that Malwa region [around Indore] in Madhya Pradesh has been the hotbed of both Hindu militants as well as Muslim extremists. It was here that bomb blasts in Modassa, Malegaon, Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid Hyderabad and Ajmer dargah and several other case of bombings. In Malwa, the entire SIMI leadership arrested.

Sudhakar Rao whom police call Sudhakar Rao Maratha was close to ex-RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, the hardliner and breakway group leader who was involved in series of terrorist acts and was later found murdered. The National Investigative Agency (NIA) is investigating the case after MP ATS 'duly' closed it.

In Madhya Pradesh, Anti-Terrorist Squad has yet to catch any right-wing militant though one of the first such cases of terrorism, the failed attempts to bomb Ijtima gathering was planned here way back in the year 2002-2003.

In this case also, it was UP ATS arrested him and handed it over to Special Task Force (STF) and as a result MP police had to accept him. The 'prized catch' didn't enthuse police officials and unlike even petty criminals on whose arrest press conferences are held, in this case a strange hush fell over the officials.

With the exception of a few local newspapers, who published the story, even most of the Hindi publications blacked out the news or it was just a single column news.

In the past, even arrest of a person with a Muslim ex-member of SIMI with no crimes registered against him, the headlines like 'Dreaded terrorist caught' have been splashed.

On this occasion, national media also looked askance. The fact that all these years when Sudhakar Rao was absconding, a senior BJP leader in Madhya Pradesh was in constant touch with him. The cell phone records prove it.  But again, there will be no action or probe regarding the leader's links with the man.

Crime should be treated with the same contempt whether it is linked to a fanatic Muslim group or a fundamentalist Hindu group and irrespetive of whether it originates in Azamgarh or Indore. However, ignoring hardliners of one group is a disservice to the nation, as creates wrong image among the viewers who don't get to see the entire picture and it leads to biased perception.

Is it a deliberate attempt or it happens unknowingly? Either ways it's wrong and media must be fair. Why else there is such a hue and cry when Rahul Gandhi equates RSS with SIMI. The former has been accused of Gandhi' assassination apart from its cadre's role in communal riots as also open involvement of its sister organisations including VHP and Bajrang Dal in rioting in several states.

See past links about Indore's terror connection on this blog here.

[On the top left, is the news published in local Hindi newspaper about Sudhakar murdering five Muslim leaders by shooting them dead. The other photograph on the right is about the crimes committed by him. Apart from these cases, he was wanted in nine other major criminal cases in Madhya Pradesh. He was also wanted in Rajasthan and had a reward on his arrest announced in both states.]

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Anisa Sayyed: From Ticket Checker to Shooting Champion

Anisa Sayyed has shot to fame with the gold medal which she won along with Rahi in the shooting event at Commonwealth Games.

It has not been an easy journey for the shooter who hails from Pune. She was employed with the Indian Railways and checked  passenger tickets at Vile Parle station in Mumbai, but despite her pleas railway officials had refused to give her transfer to Delhi after her husband's posting to the national capital.

Determined that she would pursue her passion, Anisa quit the job and left for Delhi. Anisa, who hails from middle-class Muslim family, lived in a small quarter in Pune. It was well over a decade ago that she decided to take up pistol shooting as a professional sport and the medal is a result of her daily toil for almost 12 years.

Micky Aigner reports that how her patience and her coach Ghani Sheikh's able guidance brought the girl to national sporting scene. Anisa won gold at the South Asian Federation Medal in 2004 and has also broken the national record with her score of 585/600 which is better than her commonwealth show 574/600.

Not everybody is born with a silverspoon in the mouth like say Abhinav Bindra [no question of belittling his contribution] whose multi-millionaire father provided him all possible infrastructure and facilities to practise. Rahi Sarnobat and Aneesa Sayyed have battled against all odds, against the system, against unhelpful authorities and then won.

The Indian shooters defeated the Australians 1158-1148 in the 25 m pistol shooting on the second day of Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Rahi Sarnobat is also a small-town girl hailing from Kolhapur. Anisa [her surname has also been spelt as Sayed and Saeed] regrets that all her pleas for transfer fell on deaf years despite all her efforts for two years.

"I am grateful to my husband's company that gave me sponsorship", she tells Ajai Masand in this report. However, she stands vindicated as her former organisation, the Railways, have now announced a reward for her achievement.

Isn't it strange that it's only now that we hear of her after she along with Rahi Sarnobat won the gold. There is no dearth of talent in the country, however, we remain focused mostly on cricket and sports that have glamour attached to them like tennis at the cost of other sports. [Photo: Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed]

Congratulations to the Maharashtra girls, Anisa and Rahi, for their performance that took Indian medal tally up. Such success stories will certainly inspire more and more girls to take up sports and bring laurels to the country.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Rajanikanth's Robot rocks: Movie mania sweeps across India [Endhiran Film review]

Rajnikanth’s latest flick, Robot, is truly a mind-boggling movie that has been made on a scale hitherto unseen in Indian movies. It entertains the audience with such special effects and stunts that surpass even some of the Hollywood movies.

Just a few initial scenes were enough to convince the guy sitting next to me that Salman Khan, whose Dabangg was released recently, now appeared nothing but a toddler after seeing the incredible action scenes in Robot [Hindi version, while it is released as Endhiran in Tamil].

Rajni’s persona and the way he carries himself as a scientist in love with Aishwarya and also the friendly robot built by him in the first half of the movie apart from the evil Chitti [robot’s name] in the second half, is laudable.

Enough has been written about the story. The fact is that Shankar has done a marvellous job. The stunts and fight scenes inside the train, atop it and the animations through out the movie are simply spectacular. The story is also original and not a lift or Hollywood adaptation.

A friend’s jaw remained dropped for most part of the film. While cine-goers in South are familiar with superhuman stunts, it might dazzle the North Indian audience at some point. However the way script moves ahead and it’s ‘Rajini the Robot’ who performs the action scenes and not the scientist, which make them somewhat credible.

It’s difficult to believe that a 61-year-old actor is in the midst of this breathtaking action. While Rahman’s music and the songs didn’t leave much of an impression, Rajinikant [as spelt in Tamil] with his tremendous screen presence and star value pulled the film all alone.

In process, he has also given a fresh lease of life to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s career that was in doldrums. It is undoubtedly Indian cinema’s major leap in terms of stunts as also animation.

There are interesting scenes, fun and also emotion. Dr Vasikaran, the scientist creates the robot, Chitti, which later gets emotions and falls in love with his own maker’s ladylove. A tale of rebellion with science fiction and fantasy unfolds thereafter. Even the robo’s end is no less dramatic.

Perhaps the climax is a bit outlandish though it has also been praised lavishly by some critics. It’s a rather longish movie, almost three hours. Most of the audience seemed either transfixed or at least impressed but there was a guy who complained of slight headache in the end.

Though there is a difference in taste of movie-goers in North and South considering which certain comedy scenes were cut for North Indian version, the film is all set to succeed across the country.

I loved it. It is advisable to watch Robot in the cinema hall. I am sure Bollywood directors and actors would shed the belief that theirs is the cinema which represents India.

What I like about the actor is that he is quite down to earth in real life. He behaves like an ordinary man and wears no makeup or wig to appear in public, unlike the rest of our super stars. But when he is on celluloid, he rules the screen like none else and fans get hysteric.

The Maharashtra-born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad alias Rajanikanth acted in his first movie in 1975, almost the same era when Amitabh Bachchan arrived on the scene. Thirty five years after, Rajani still rules and plays the hero while all of his contemporaries have other retired or been cast in side roles.

For years we have tried to unravel the mystery named Rajanikant. He is a cult in Southern India and Rajini mania is nothing short of religion. He had charged a whopping Rs 260 million [26 crore] for his last movie, Sivaji, the highest rate in Asia, and his films are hit in Japan and Malaysia.

For Robot he is reportedly getting aorund Rs 45 crore, which is three to four times what Shahrukh Khan or Amir Khan charge. Isn't this amazing, especially when in North India we remember him more for Andha Qanoon, Hum and Chalbaaz and consider him a regional star?

Perhaps after watching this movie, this phenomenon could be demystified in North India also. Despite being a super fantasy, Robot—the costliest film ever made in India, succeeds in holding you hooked till the end. My verdict is out. Superstar Rajni rocks.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Reaction of Urdu newspapers, Indian Muslims on Babri Masjid-Ram Temple verdict

The Urdu newspapers have reacted to the Ayodhya verdict in a much balanced manner than in the past.

In fact, hardly any paper gave emotional headlines and the reporting has stuck to facts so that there is no feeling of loss or dejection among the readers [read Muslims].

Roznama Sahara's headline said that disputed site had been split in three parts and the in the main report, the newspaper termed the judgment as 'historic'.

Siasat's front lead suggested that the case was again got caught in legal wrangles while the second headline said 'darmiyani gumbad ka hissa Bhagwan Ram ki jaae-paidaish'. It must be noted that the usage was Bhagwan Ram and not Ramchandra Ji.

Masoom Moradabadi's Jadid Khabar reported about  division while Kashmir's daily Roshni said that the High court has come up with a reconciliatory solution to the communal conflict.

Munsif also restrict itself to reporting bare facts and no opinion. The top lead said that the site will be equally shared. Mumbai-based Sahafat also mentioned that the status quo will remain for three months. However, its another edition reported that 'Faith gets precedence, site to be shared'.

Inquilab, which is owned by Jagran group, expressed a bit of disappointment with the headline about verdict being 'unexpected' and less satisfactory. Hamara Maqsad headline screamed 'tarikh-saaz faisla' or historic judgment.

Several papers had urged readers to stay calm and special editorials were penned on page in some newspapers. A positive thing was that neither in reports nor in columns, there was any sense of hurt or frustration.

It was a clear sign of maturity as journalists and writers had probably understood that in any case it was not possible to shift the idol, so the judges tried to take a proactive line which may not be by the book, but was aimed at resolving this dispute.

Even more, while some Hindi newspaper and other vernacular press printed photos of Babri Masjid being demolished, Urdu papers didn't print the old photographs of Kar Sevaks atop the domes of the mosque. While a few politicians on TV appeared to show their disappointment openly, the coverage of the Lucknow bench's order was a reflection of Indian Muslim society.

Mood among Muslims: Sign of maturity on the Indian Muslim street

Certainly, everybody has the right to interpret the judgment. However, Muslim street has seen enough violence and communal riots in the past. Muslims have understood how unnecessary emotionalism has cost the community.

Frankly, courts in Uttar Pradesh have delivered several judgments in the past 60 years which had apparently stunned the Muslims.

This has not happened as much in other states. Either it's the judgment over Aligarh Muslim University [AMU], the cancellation of notification of appointment of 10,000 Urdu teachers or the Allahabad high court verdict [just a few years ago] declaring that Muslims were no longer or a minority, Muslims have seen it all. .

After the idol had appeared in the site, the Faizabad court's verdict in 1951 that first allowed worship and in turn sanctified that it was a temple, have been known to us. Then the mosque  turned disputed and was locked. Then a court had in 1986 allowed to open doors for shilanyas. At least, 2010 verdict is far ahead of the past decisions and its spirit should be seen.

One of the visitors to this blog, Dr Salahuddin, wrote to me that, "FOR ALLAH'S SAKE FORWARD IT TO Babri Musjid Action comettee. PLEASE READ IT ALLAH HAS GIVEN US AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOME GOOD THING FOR GENERATION TO COME. SUMMERY: Do settlement with BJP. Give them piece of land even 1/3rd with respect and dignity.....". I don't know him but such comments represent the realisation that how eager Muslims are for settling this issue and move over. He even sent his cell number and said that he wants to talk to Babri Masjid Action Committee leaders to urge him in this regard.

There are pressing problems rather than this dispute. None of the leaders who make fiery speeches have attempted to solve the national issue of Muslims being refused homes [on rent or even purchase in colonies] across urban India. Have we seen these self-styled Muslim leaders who suddenly emerge during such disputes either take legal path or reach out to Hindus to solve this problem which today affects innumerable Muslim youths and families.

Energies are needed for communal harmony, socio-economical development of Muslims apart from creation of institutions ranging from orphanages to colleges. It's heartening to see that rabblerousers of the past are increasingly been shunned. Now it's time to take concrete steps for harmony.