Saturday, December 28, 2013

Spreading humanism, respect for other religions through children's magazines in India


On the left is the photograph of the title of a recent issue of Urdu magazine for kids, 'Bachchon ki Dunia'.

The front page has photo of fireworks with the line, 'Diwali Mubarak' written below it. The issue had come out when the festival was being celebrated.

Inside, the editorial and other columns also informed children about the festival. There is also a long article about 'Sikhism', which tells children in lucid language about Sikhs, their gurus and the religion.

The article is quite engaging and informative. An earlier issue had focused on Jainism. I am mentioning this because despite the fact that over 90% readership of the magazine is in Muslim households, they are sensitive enough and for this the editorial staff must be congratulated.

Firstly, children must get information about the world. They should know the customs of other religious groups and people across the world. It is important to inculcate certain values among kids, especially, the respect for all religions and the message of communal amity and harmony.

'Parag' set the standards among Hindi children's magazines

In the decade of seventies and eighties, it was common among certain Hindi magazines to carry stories during Id, Christmas or other festivals.

Especially, Parag, under the editorship of Kanhaiyalal Nandan and Harikrishna Devsare, ensured that were at least a few stories or message for readers belonging to other communities during their festivals.

On Id and Ramzan, there were such stories, that struck a chord with the readers.

There were amazing stories that told reader about the message behind Ramzan and fasting. What you read in childhood has lasting impact on your mind. I read entire Hindu mythology in Chandamama and Nandan, which ignored other religions.

English magazines Tinkle, Champak fare badly on this count

Certain other magazines like Kukkut and Balbharti were often more accommodating. Today, there are many magazines in different languages.

In English, magazines like Tinkle, Magicpot and Champak are quite popular. Tinkle's publishers were never known to be sensitive to this aspect.

A small message or a short story adds variety to the magazine and also earns goodwill. Hope, the publishers of these magazines realise the need for being attentive towards all sections of the society.

It just shows your maturity and sensitivity.

Read earlier posts on the same issue:

1. Secularism in India: Lessons on communal harmony, religious tolerance from the ground
2. Communal Vs Secular comic strips, magazines in India

Thursday, December 19, 2013

No dearth of standard literary magazines in Urdu: Dozens of monthlies, periodicals published in India

These are just a few Urdu magazines lying on my study table.

Among them, the four literary magazines include 'Shair' published from Mumbai, Rang-o-Bu from Hyderabad, Kitabnuma from Delhi, Abjad from Araria (Bihar) and Bebak from Malegaon.

Also, visible are [non-literary] weekly Gawah and Span. In fact, for someone interested in literature, these are wonderful times in India.

Right now, there are at least, 30 standard literary Urdu magazines. I am not talking about the non-literary magazines i.e. social, political, women's digests or other periodicals.

I often hear people complaining about lack of magazines or fewer readers. The fact is that if you are interested, if you buy magazines, if you have a circle where people read, then you will have ample magazines and periodicals to satiate your literary thirst.

But, if you aren't interested in reading, you will repeat he same old lines, 'where are the magazines, who reads these days?'.

There are unique magazines like one that fits in your palm, and another which is too big that you need both hands to hold it.

Now take a look at the other photo that shows another group of 'adabi' magazines.

This has magazines like Imkan, which is published from Lucknow, Takmil [Mumbai], Zehn-e-Jadid [Delhi], Sabras [Hyderabad].

All these are magazines of high standard and are well-known across the Urdu speakers in India and also in Pakistan.

In fact, I haven't talked about the main and most popular literary magazines in the language as yet. 

They are Ajkal, Aiwan-e-Urdu, Kitabnuma, Naya Daur, Urdu Dunia, Naya Waraq, Esbat, Sabaq-e-Urdu, Aamad, Intesab et al.

The third photograph shows magazines that are equally important. Terhiri-e-Nau, Tarseel and Insha [Kolkata].

And I haven't mentioned the names of half of the literary magazines even now.

There are dozens of Urdu magazines published from Delhi, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, even Gujarat and Haryana.

The scene in Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka and Orissa is also quite encouraging.

Also, the Urdu Academies in most states publish their own magazines too.

Mind you, I am talking about just literary magazines. Compared to many other languages in India, the situation is much better in Urdu.

Doesn't the Urdu publishing scene rocks? Surely, it does. There is no question of any pessimism at all.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remembering Hemant Karkare on his birth anniversary: Salute to the brave police officer who was killed by terrorists

The brave police officer, Hemant Karkare, who headed the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in Mumbai [Maharashtra], would have been 60 today.

Unfortunately, five years ago, when terrorists from Pakistan launched an attack on Indian soil, Karkare, 55, and two other brave officials, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte, were killed.

Karkare is remembered for investigating the role of right-wing radicals in terror attacks. From 2002-2003, there were many incidents when the police and intelligence agencies got clue that these extremists were involved.

In many cases like blasts at Parbhani, Nanded and Purna, investigation slowed down after sometime and the perpetrators were not hunted.

In Ajmer, Malegaon, Mecca Masjid [Hyderabad], Samjhauta Express attacks also, there were enough clues, but investigation was halted somehow or just the usual suspects were quizzed and made to 'confess'. It is not easy to look at the other side. Especially, when everyone expects you to just look at a particular angle.

Then, there are forces--visible and invisible, which make attempts to thwart investigation when it gets 'uncomfortable'. It is also not easy to accuse members of organisations that are linked to one of the two big mainstream political parties in the country.

In certain states, due to political party in power, such probes were hushed up. Mostly, officers who seemed 'enthusiastic' got the message through different ways. In Maharashtra, KP Raghuvanshi earlier headed the ATS. But after Karkare-led ATS cracked the Malegaon case, it exposed a lot of groups and people.

Not just the seven above-mentioned cases, but similar incidents including blasts or foiled bids in Modasa, Kanpur, Bhopal, Goa or explosions at cinema halls in Vashi, Panvel, Thane [Mumbai] and Nagraj Jambagi's module in Karnataka, were seen with a fresh eye.

Officers who didn't dare to venture into this territory, were now looking into possibility of the 'other side'.
In fact, the list is quite long. Cases in which Hindutva-linked organisation's role came to fore, number more than a dozen.

But after Pakistani terrorists entered India and the brave officers were killed, the investigation in different cases suffered.Pragya Thakur and his group had been nailed by then. But the nexus of the men in uniform and many other similar cases were not investigated later on.

It took barely four years, and the popular narrative became similar to what it was before 2008. Once again, probe in every blast turned to single direction.No denying the role of Muslim extremists in terrorist acts in India. But the possibility that in a case, there can be a different angle--Left-wing [Naxals] or Right-wing, is just not given a thought. In many cases, there were leads but they were not considered at all.

The role of a section of media has been questionable. [Link to a recent report in Caravan magazine]. Blasts near Koodankulam nuclear plant were just not considered big news. Killing of over 50 politicians and policemen in a single strike by Maoists in Chhattisgarh this year was not termed 'terror attack'.

The one-sided reporting goes on along with linking Muslims with the word Terror. No wonder, Hemant Karkare is remembered and loved by large section of the society, because he dared to tread the path, few take. He was criticised and even got threats.

There have been many decorated officials in Indian Police Service (IPS) before him and after him. But none like him. The slain made the force proud. He will always be remembered for his impartiality and fair investigation. A martyr, he duly got the Ashok Chakra. A big salute to him on his 60th birthday.

[This is the strength of India that despite allegations of biases, there are honest officials at different levels who take stand and don't succumb to pressure. While on one hand there are fake encounters and innocents getting framed but on the other hand, there are also investigators who refuse to toe the popular line and act impartially.]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

MP Muslims preferring BJP's 'riot-free' rule over 'secular' regimes that fail to check communal riots in other states


BJP's landslide victory in Madhya Pradesh is more surprising because Shivraj Singh Chouhan led the party to victory after two successive terms.

In Rajasthan, BJP was out of power. In Chhattisgarh also, the BJP has got the third term but the victory is not as one-sided.

In MP, the win is important because after ten years of BJP rule, the party managed to override the anti-incumbency factor.

It is a fact that Chouhan, who belongs to the backward Kirar community (OBC), has established a connect with electorate in the state.

Chouhan is soft-spoken and humble unlike many other politicians. Also, people from outside Madhya Pradesh find it surprising that he is quite popular among of Muslims.

The constituency wise analysis clearly shows that Muslim mohallas have also voted for BJP across the state. BJP legislators in Bhopal and several other Muslim majority areas, know it well, and hence they don't rake up controversial issues anymore.

In fact, either it is BJP leaders like Vishwas Sarang or district president and legislator Surendra Nath Singh, they have strong Muslim support. Their close associates are Muslims too. For Muslims in other parts of the country, who still think that it is a taboo to get close to BJP, this is strange phenomenon.

How? I am no BJP fan. But Chouhan does have certain qualities that his rivals lack, and it must be admitted. Firstly, Chouhan's pet scheme 'CM Kanyadan Yojana' under which state government conducts mass marriages, is also extended for Muslims and 'nikaahs' are also performed. See the LINK

Poor get benefited as the expenditure is borne by administration, and the newly wedded couples get cash apart from utensils and other basic utility gift items. The Ladli Laxmi scheme is aimed all the girls across the state. This scheme has also brought him enormous goodwill.

No wonder, there can be anger with party or MLAs but move around the state and nobody would criticise the Chief Minister. While Hindus from all the districts are sent to pilgrimages on government money, elderly Muslims also go to Ajmer under the MP government scheme.

Not just Congress leaders but other politicians can also learn a lot from Shivraj's soft-spoken, humble style. There is no arrogance and this is in sharp contrast with the other politicians. One of the most important reason is that communal violence is tackled with an iron-hand.

Muslims appreciate how he has dealt with communal elements, especially, in the second tenure. All IGs, SPs know that CM doesn't want any communal trouble. In case there is a riot-like situation developing, force from neighbouring districts is rushed to control it.

Wearing 'topi' not important, inclusive welfare schemes, controlling riots has earned him goodwill
It is a fact that if government is tough and CS-DGP know it well, then everybody from top to the bottom, speak the same language.

Hence, communal violence has been rare and if it occurred, then it was controlled in the beginning.

Congress ruled Assam saw large-scale riots sometime back. Rajasthan witnessed the Gopalgarh killings* and numerous other incidents of communal tension.

Instead, the Gehlot government didn't take swift action. Tainted officers including policemen who fired without provocation were let off easily.

In the 'secular' Samajwadi Party (SP) government's rule in Uttar Pradesh (UP), over a dozen riots have taken place in less than two years. The handling of the Muzaffarnagar riots has has alarmed the Muslims across the country.

The SP government appeared trying to hush up the entire issue. From forcing the people to vacate camps to not registering FIRs of the victims, the people are witness how riots have been occurring repeatedly and yet parties that claim to be pro-Muslim, fail on this front.

Yes, Shivraj has no issue wearing a 'skullcap' (topi) or going to Idgah to greet Muslims on the occasion of Eid or holding 'iftaar' during Razman at his residence. An alumnus of Bhopal's Hamidia College, Shivraj has his own brand of inclusive politics.

Thank God, no Assam, UP, Rajasthan like riots in MP
On Raksha Bandhan, when large number of 'burqa'-clad women reach CM House to tie rakhi on his wrist, it is not just for the sake of photograph or publicity.

It is not that the BJP has changed totally. But the administration isn't overtly communal. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is very much in control.

Despite his image of being fair towards minorities, the State government may time and again push for implementing the Sangh's agenda. It is natural. It happened in the past. If the protests are huge, then there is a rollback. Else, certain things are implemented silently.

But the MP experiment shows, that it doesn't take much to keep Muslims in good humour. 'Riot-free' is the recipe along with a basic good governance with no open bias or discrimination. On the other hand, there are parties that do nothing for Muslims, can't even stop riots, and yet, get the tag of 'appeasing minorities'.

Of course, there is other side too. Corruption is rampant in Madhya Pradesh. The investment didn't come. Roads are slightly better than they were during Digvijay Singh's rule. But employment hasn't been generated. In fact, there are shortcomings and a lot to disagree with.

This blog has quite often been critical of BJP [Congress as well]. The good steps must be appreciated. When there is such a massive mandate, it means the citizens are happy with the government. Chouhan presented himself as a 'common man' and hence, he been rewarded.

No wonder, the positive aspects should be highlighted too.

*In Rajasthan, Muslims were so disgusted with Congress' leadership and its attitude in the aftermath of Gopalgarh killings that they heavily voted for BSP, BJP. Read senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani's report.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Ten recent terror attacks hushed up in media: Double standards, glaring biases in reporting acts of terrorism

It is unbelievable but true. At least, ten major acts of terrorism occurred recently that were either ignored or hushed up in media. At the end of this post, there is a list of all these incidents.

None of them were carried prominently in newspapers and TV channels. Forget, hours of debates in studios or follow-ups for days in print media, some of these cases were not considered to be worth a 'flash' in Electronic media.

It is not just about news from North East getting neglected. Some of these incidents occurred in big states like Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh. In fact, one of the incident was near Chief Minister's bungalow. But did you even see a 'ticker' on your TV screen?

Six persons were killed in blasts near Nuclear plant at Koodankulam. Imagine, what can be bigger in terms of threat to national security? But it failed to interest TV channels. Papers didn't carry it on Page 1. Further, more explosives were found during the search later. 

But there was attempt to even report this news. For a country that has witnessed horrors of an industrial disaster like Bhopal gas tragedy, it was surely very serious. But the few papers that carried news on inside pages, diluted by terming bombs as 'low-intensity' even though six persons had been killed.

Often incidents in which no one has died is termed 'terror attack' but these incidents were not dubbed as 'aatanki hamla'. In the reports in newspapers, the words were carefully chosen. Often words like 'militant' were also missing.

Instead, one could find 'rebel' or 'insurgent'. In sharp contrast, there are incidents, when even 'suspected persons' were arrested for a possible crime, but they were termed Terrorist. Why? Just because in these cases, none of the extremist outfit had any Muslim connection? These are double standards in media that are really worrying.

Unfortunately, other incidents in which a Muslim person is either involved or suspected to be involved, are repeated for day. There is immense speculative reporting, followups and so much coverage--real and imaginary about links of suspects, that it creates scare in the mid of citizens.

No wonder, the image of one community is affected badly. Propaganda does a lot of harm. It injects hate in society.

The majority of the people form their opinion on the basis of what they see.

All terror acts must evoke similar reaction, should be treated with the same contempt and stern action.

There should not be any differentiation in reporting on 'blasts'. But this practice of not calling an incident as 'terror' and not the other even if the magnitude of latter is similar or higher, is unfortunate.

The stereotype of a particular group or section being terrorist is reinforced.
Can our media introspect? Will citizens realise it?

If an incident is repeated for days on TV and a scare is created, [while others hushed up] then it is also wrong. It helps the terrorists as their aim is always to divide society and create panic.

Unfortunately, the politicians-executive-courts-activists haven't taken note of these dubious practices in Indian journalism. What gets reported is seen and is believed. When other destructive acts are diluted, hushed up or ignored, then in public perception is clearly being manipulated--knowing or unknowingly, I don't know.


1. Five policemen were killed when the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) 'rebels' 'ambushed' a police vehicle in South Garo hills. A group of 25 militants lobbed hand grenades before opening fire at police. Now what was the headline: 'Cops shot dead in Garo Hills'. [November 5] See the LINK

2. Six persons were killed in Assam when 'militants' opened fire on a group of people on the day of Diwali. The incident occurred in Assam's Goalpara. The 'armed insurgents' swooped...and randomly fired with automatic weapons. The names of the victims is Bhola Nath, Amarendra, Jayanta, Puran, Kalpanath and L Rabha. [November 4]

3. Twin blasts occurred near Chief Minister's residence in Imphal, the capital of Manipur. Initial reports said that two persons died and seven others injured. Later, the figure of deaths went up to t hree These were IED blasts. The newspaper reports said that no 'insurgent' outfit has taken responsibility. [October 31]. LINK

4. Five persons injured in blast near a market complex in Manipur [October 30]

5. Seven persons were killed in a blast by suspected Maoists in Aurangabad in Bihar. A private vehicle in which they were travelling was blown up by a landmine. [October 17]

6. Three commandos killed and four others injured in a blats that was followed by indiscriminate firing by suspected left-wing extremists in Gadhchiroli in Maharashtra. [October 17]

7. Two BSF jawans and a civilian driver were killed when Maoists blew up their vehicles in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh

8. In an audacious incident, three GRP jawans were shot dead and two others injured, in attack on a running train in Bihar's Munger district [November 30]

9. SIX killed in blasts near nuclear plant at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. LINK

10. Maoists massacred seven police officials in a landmine explosion in Bihar [December 3]

There are many other incidents like Naxalites issuing open threat to kill BJP leadeship in Bihar. Just think, how other such threats or even anonymous emails get attention in media. LINK

[I have written a lot of posts on this issue earlier also on this issue, HERE]

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Media black out of protests during Narendra Modi's visit to Karnataka signals bad for Indian media, opposing views must not be muzzled

BJP leader Narendra Modi was recently in Karnataka as part of his ongoing nationwide tours to address rallies in different parts of the country.

No doubt, there was enthusiasm among Modi's fans in Bangalore [now Bengaluru]. He does have a strong support among sections of the society.

Definitely, as a Prime Minister [PM] aspirant, he should get the due coverage.

But surprisingly, TV channels and newspapers turned a blind eye towards the demonstrations against him. These protests were also quite colourful. Some people had dressed in black as a mark of protest and some others had placards in their hands with messages in English [ like Modi, Go Back] and Kannada.

While his rally was reported at length in print and electronic media, the dozen odd groups and organisations ranging from farmers to Dalits, communists to Karnataka's local organisations, which held the demonstrations, were not shown at all.

That's not fair journalism. Ignoring protesters who are against Narendra Modi's politics or BJP, should have been given a few seconds in the TV coverage.

Even just a photo or a single column news in English or vernacular newspapers would have shown that journalists are showing both sides.

But this near total blackout raises serious questions. Its not healthy for our society either. Fortunately, among the 25-30 channels, there are still one or two which show the OTHER SIDE. Else, we don't get the view of those who are NOT IN LINE.

I must say that there were lakhs at the venue to hear Modi speak. But the hundreds or few thousands with an alternative voice should also be heard and seen. There was nothing in the news on the particular day about these protests.

I waited, even the next day, nothing came out in print or on TV. Journalists shouldn't take sides. They should report things and present both the sides of the picture. Already, there are disturbing reports about how owners in certain TV channels have told their employers to stop doing 'critical stories' about Modi.

At a recent rally in another state capital, the attendance was thin. Barely, 10% of the ground was full. Still, TV cameras just focused on the portion that had crowd. It was Narendra Modi rally and hence they didn't apparently want to show the lack of crowd.

Why? Isn't that a news? The next day some journalists did write about it on blogs and papers. But it was strange to see how cameramen didn't focus on the empty ground or talking about just 5,000-7,000 participants in the public meeting.

There is also clear instruction in this regard to Editorial staff in certain major TV channels.

If Indian citizens want to vote for him, they will surely do this. But media mustn't lose its objectivity. If there is a wave, it will be visible.

Journalists don't need to create it or stop reporting the opposing views. That's why media is considered a pillar of democracy. Isn't it?

[These are photographs of the protests against Narendra Modi in Bengaluri, Karnataka on the day of his rally]