Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bihar Postal Series- Syed Mahmud most Conspicuous Omission

Bihar Postal Series- Syed Mahmud most Conspicuous Omission 
By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The Postal Department of India, recently has commemorated great deeds and achievements of eight personalities of Bihar by releasing stamps on them. However, the most conspicuous by its absence in this list is  Dr Syed Mahmud, one of the foremost freedom fighters from Bihar.

The eight stamps released on December 26, 2016 to remember freedom fighters of Bihar are: 1) Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha 2) Karpoori Thakur 3) Dashrath Manjhi 4) Vidyapati 5) Kailashpati Mishra 6) Kunwar Singh 7) Phanishwar Nath Renu 8) Sri Krishna Sinha.

The omission of Syed Mahmud from this list is most glaring. The presumption is, whoever has prepared the list of Bihar postal stamp series, is either ignorant about Syed Mahmud’s contribution to India’s freedom struggle, or the usual communal mindset that prevails in such selections and omissions process.

Mahmud was educated at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and as student attended the 1905 session of the Indian National Congress. He was one of those students who opposed the pro-British loyalties of the All India Muslim League.

After being expelled from AMU for his political activities, Mahmud traveled to England and studied Law at Cambridge University before going on to study at Lincoln's Inn to become a barrister. While in London, he came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi and J.L. Nehru in 1909.

He obtained Ph.D. from Germany and came back to India in 1912. It was from 1913 he started his legal profession in Patna under the able guidance of Mazharul Haq. After practicing law for a few years in Patna, he was drawn into the freedom struggle and movement for India's independence.

Syed Mahmud was one of the young Muslim leaders who played a role in crafting the  Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the Muslim League in1916. Under the influence and leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, he participated in the Indian Home Rule Movement and in the Non-cooperation movement and the Khilafat movement. 

In 1923 he was elected to the post of deputy general secretary of the All India Congress Committee along with Jawaharlal Nehru which resulted in close friendship between the two leaders. Nehru signed as witness at the 'Nikahnama' marriage of Syed Mahmud's daughter.

In 1930, along with M.L. Nehru and J.L. Nehru he was imprisoned in the Naini Jail of Allahabad, for his participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

After the sweeping Congress victory in the 1937 central and provincial elections, Syed Mahmud became Minister for Education, Development and Planning in Sri Krishna Sinha led cabinet in Bihar.

This development had its own share of controversy, Syed Mahmud was considered one of the leading prospective candidates to serve as Chief Minister of Bihar but instead Shri Krishna Sinha was made the Chief Minister.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his book “India wins freedom” talks at length about this controversy and blames Nehru for not making him the first CM of Bihar. Perhaps, Mahmud’s Muslim identity came in the way of his selection in that communally charged atmosphere and Nehru chose Sri Krishna Sinha to placate the Hindu lobby within the Congress party in Bihar.

While, serving as education minister in Bihar Mahmud’s emphasis was on providing primary education to largest possible number of people. He worked for revision of curricula, appointed Urdu teachers in the Patna University. He fought for raising the proportion of Muslims in the government jobs and in the local bodies in Bihar.

Syed Mahmud was one of the members of the Congress Working Committee that endorsed the 1942 Quit India movement, calling for an immediate end to British rule. He went to jail along with other freedom fighters for being part off the Quit India agitation.

After India's independence, Syed Mahmud was elected to the first Lok Sabha from the Champaran-East constituency and second Lok Sabha from the Gopalganj constituency.
He served as Minister of State for External Affairs between 1954 and 1957. He participated in the historic Bandung Conference (1955), where the Panchsheel was spelled out. As a mister of external affairs he played remarkable roles in India's useful diplomatic relations with the Gulf countries.

Syed Mahmud was one of the secular Muslim leaders who opposed the Muslim League's demand for the creation of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. He was pained with communal partition of India.

Syed Mahmud authored several books. “The Khilafat & England” was one among them. He wrote another book, "A Plan of Provincial Reconstruction (1939)". His book on Hindu Muslim Accord (1949), celebrating the `Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb of India,' is widely quoted. He launched a bilingual (Urdu; Hindi) newspaper called “Raushni” to mitigate the Hindi-Urdu tension.

Mahmud's standing with Indian nationalist’s leaders was second to none. The postal department by omitting Mahmood’s name from the postal series on Bihar has belittled the contributions of a giant freedom fighter from Bihar.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar and can be contacted at

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Movie Review Dangal… A Must Watch for Every Indian

Movie Review
Dangal… A Must Watch for Every Indian
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I saw the movie Dangal, meaning wresting competition last night. My first reaction was Aamir khan has evolved as an actor from QSQT to this movie Dangal. Watching him in Dangal as aged, overweight ordinary Indian was a delight as it was doing so while watching the chocolate hero in QSQT in 1988.

Watch.. Aamir Khan in QSQT….

Watch….. him in Dangal…

Dangal is a movie that has an intense and griping plot and its emotional quotients are maintained all through the movie. It’s a serious film with little entertainment value; it holds the audience to their seats all through the film.

If Lagan was about cricket, Dangal is about wrestling. In the age of cricket, making a movie on insignificant sports like wrestling is a bold attempt and a welcome change to the viewers.

One thing emerges out clearly in this movie is that foreign locations and glamour looks alone cannot guarantee the success of the film. The story line, the narration, the acting and the overall presentation alone can help in the success of a movie. Dangal excels in all of such departments.

Well Aamir Khan has a habit of coming with something completely new and different in each of his movie. We have seen it in ‘Lagan’, ‘Three Idiots’ and ‘PK’, all of them had different plots. So is the actor’s panache of looking different.

In each of the movies his looks are different. So is the case with Dangal. In order to look aged and an ordinary man, Aamir Khan has increased his weight quite a bit in Dangal. In spite of looking simpleton and de glam, Aamir carries his weight in this movie. In true sense he is still the 'Raja
Hindustani,’ of India.

In the age of item numbers and skin shows and exotic locations, Dangal is placed in a totally different. The movie showcases a dirty village of Haryana and is successful in portraying a true reflection of a piece of Indian society and culture.

Everything about this movie is natural and everyone in this film tries to look dirty and de glam and yet has its own appeal. This is the unique selling proposition USP of the movie Dangal.

The movie Dangal has not only entertainment and information and education value but also has a mass communication quotient attached to it. It tries to give the message those girls too can do what supposedly men’s domain is i.e. wrestling.

As such the movie has a huge mass appeal. It’s targeted at the most ordinary Indians and therefore should be watched by every Indian.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Similarities and Distinctiveness of Christmas Celebrations in India

Similarities and Distinctiveness of Christmas Celebrations in India 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Christmas festival, which marks the birthday of Jesus Christ, is celebrated in almost all parts of India. Christmas is a national festival and called ‘Bara Din’ or Big Day, courtesy the legacy of the British ‘Raj’ in India. There are many unique features about Christmas celebrations in India.

As the Christmas approaches, the entire country is in a festive mood and people from different faiths, ethnicity and backgrounds come together and take part in Christmas celebrations.

The Christmas celebrations in the cities of India are almost a replica of the global culture. The shops are decorated with Bells and Santa Claus that symbolizes Christmas marking the beginning of the festive season.

Christmas fairs and Christmas parades are the integral part of the Christmas festivities in the urban life. Christian’s houses are decorated with lights and Christmas trees.

During this time carol services are held in the churches and carol singers making appearances at the door steps during late night. During this time Santa Claus, th
e special character of Christmas is most sought after person by the children of all faiths.

In the rural India, the Christmas celebrations is little different. One of the special features of rural Christmas celebration is that instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a well decorated banana or mango tree is kept in the house.

 This is because Christmas tree is not readily available in the villages. Some people use mango leaves to decorate their homes in rural areas during Christmas. The houses have ‘diya’ or candle lit at its entranced.  Village Churches are decorated with flowers and colorful lights and colorful candles are lit at its entrance door.

The major concentration of Christian populations is in the Southern Indian state of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and in the state of Goa on the west Coast. Northeastern states euphemistically called the seven sisters have the largest concentration of Christian population in India.

India's smallest state, Goa which is on the west coast has about 26% Christian population. Christian homes hang out giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, on top of their houses and as one walk
down the road, the stars float above you in rows. Christmas Trees are put up in every Christian house.

 Here people like to go carol singing around their neighbors for about a week before Christmas. The Christmas cake is baked with traditional rich fruit and lots of local sweets are also made during the Christmas festival in Goa.

In Southern state of Kerala where there are 22% Christian population. Like Goa, here too Christmas is celebrated with huge religious fervor. Traditional Catholics fast from 1st to 24th of December, until the midnight service. Every house is decorated with new variety of Christmas stars and has well decorated Christmas tree.  Here some Christians put small oil burning clay lamps on the roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.

The northeast states of India; Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram have high Christian population. Over 5.3 million Christians live in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur, while there are a significant number of Christians in the other northeastern states of Tripura, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. One of the special features of the Christmas celebration here is Christian customs are mixed with the individual tribal customs.

The Western Indian metropolis Mumbai has one of the largest urban Christian populations. Many of the Christians in Mumbai have roots in Goa and so they follow the Christmas traditions of Goa like putting up the star lanterns and the depiction of the best of the nativity scenes at their homes.

In the eastern metropolitan city of Kolkata the annual Kolkata Christmas Festival (KCF) starts a week ahead with food stalls and live bands performing in the open space. The Christmas season begins with a fun-filled Christmas parade at Park Street whose decoration resembles the Oxford Street of London. There are other sots like Bow Barracks in Kolkata that comes alive during Christmas.

The rural space of central India which dominated by the tribal Christians mostly of the Bhil tribe has Christmas celebrations with its own local flavor which is more tribal in nature.  Here Bhils go out in nigh a week before Christmas to sing carols in their own language. They also tell the Christmas stories to the surrounding villages in singing and dancing format.

Anglo Indians are very unique Christian community in India.  They celebrate Christmas in very European style.  With jam session and all dancing Anglo Indians a English touch to the Christmas celebrations.  Cake, wine, dance and get-together are part and parcel of Anglo Indian Christmas celebration.

The Christmas celebration at Anglo Indian homes begins about 60 days before December 25 and continues for at least 12 days after it. Their customs are as bright and complex as a festively-knotted ribbon around their Christmas present.

On the Christmas Eve, the Midnight Mass service at the churches is a very important event and Christians attends it in large numbers. The families walk to the church for the midnight mass and when the service is over at the stroke of midnight, the church bells starts ringing and fire crackers are burst to announce that Christmas Day has arrived.

Some greet each other saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in English, others use the local expression in different languages spoken in India. The day that follows is Christmas and it is filled with massive feast that goes on with the giving and receiving of presents throughout the day.

The proverbial Santa Claus who delivers presents to children from a horse cart is integral part of Christmas festivity in India. He is known by various names in different Indian languages. In the Hindi he is called ‘Christmas Baba' or Father Christmas, in  Tamil and Telgu languages, he is  known as 'Christmas Thaathaa' or Christmas old man. In Malayalam he is known as 'Christmas Papa'. In Marathi he is called ‘Natal Bua' or Christmas Elder Man.

Christianity is the third-largest religion in India. With approximately 27.8 million followers, Christians constitutes about 2.3 percent of the total Indian population. Indian Christians have the highest ratio of women to men among the various religious communities in India.

Christians are found all across India and are visible in all walks of life. Indian Christians have contributed significantly to India’s development and are well represented in various spheres of life.  Indian Christians are Indian in language, dress, food habits, customs and tradition and are not European in any sense. This is the unique feature about the Christian community in India.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Movie Review … 'Ae Dil Hai Mushki'

Movie Review … 'Ae Dil Hai Mushki'

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

KJO Diwali cracker 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil' is love 'Aaj Kal' with a difference. The film maker has done double PhD, in researching the Hindi cinema, since K L Saigal’s Devdas hit the silver screen in 1935.

Since then, Love, Prem or Ishaq has been the dominant theme of the Bollywood films. There is no other recipe than ‘Payar Keye Ja’ that Bollywood specializes in selling and does that repeatedly minting pots of money.

How, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, is different from other love riots is it tries to explore the difference between love and friendship. It even suggests that friendship is permanent, love is temporary.

It tries to preach that love should not be converted into relationship and the ideal male female relationship should be friendship alone. These are some philosophical questions that this film raises.

The film maker tries some bold attempts by twisting the theme of friendship and love but fails to convince the final point of view. The film may have bombed if it suggested anything else other than ‘Payar keye ja.’ It plays safe and ends with Bollywood’s tried and tasted ending ‘they lived happily ending.’

The film tries to explore sexuality as its current interpretation in terms of the male female relationship. Bollywood films have traveled a distance when two sunflowers were shown blooming in the rose garden or two birds taking a flight, when the hero and heroine fall in love.

The modern day concept of friendship and love that rides on the 4 G wave is very well choreographed in this movie.  The films tell that touching fondling and kissing of human anatomy is the way of life in love Aaj Kal.

Then the film tries to say that only URDU language can do justice to the theme of Love, Prem or Ishaq. A very strong of Urdu vocabulary is used asserting that this language may not be dying till Bollywood sells its dream of love.

Hindi cinema has moved from Delhi and Mumbai to London and this movie is set on this location. With NRI, being the main consumer of Bollywood film, the western locations are deliberately chosen to set up to weave an Indian story. While Lucknow do figure in the movie, but then it’s just to connect with the Indian audience.

 The high point of the film is its screenplay and its dialogues. It has borrowed the Aj Tak news channel’s style of narration and has produced some very top quality conversation.
The brilliant conversation on the mystery of friendship and love has put spirit and soul into the narration and has sets the pace of the film.
Anuska Sharma has done an exceptional portrayal of her character and so does Ranbir Kapoor. With SRK in cameo, Ranbir make the point that he has arrived as new ‘Bazigar’ in the B town.

Ashwariya Rai Bachan does a guest appearance and fits the space very well. However, she is no more the Dhoom girl and age is catching up on the yummy mummy.

 Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, who was the center of the controversy, has essayed his role with ease and calm. He is a modern protagonist in the puzzle of love 'Aj Kal'.

Pritam Da has scored another hit tracks and the song ‘Murshid Tera,’ of Bulae Shah Fame, is enthralling. A few other numbers too catches the ears, but the song ‘Buliya’ stands tall in the six packs format of the Hindi film music.

Finally, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ the new cracker from KJO is a must to watch those who love Bollywood films. At times, it is sloppy and bores with moral preaching but then its witty dialogue covers that up and high voltage music gives the much needed emotional relief.

 I may recommend this to those who are looking for watching a Hindi movie after some gap.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Travelogue...Saluting the Legacies of the RAJ

Travelogue... Saluting the Legacies of the  RAJ
 By Syed Ali Mujtaba

This is a note on my recent family vacation to Ooty from October Nine to Eleven 2016. I begin this by saluting the colonial rulers of India whose road engineering work is a marvel of art. They have constructed the motorable road to 8000 feet above the sea level. Here, not only the cars but even mini vans can easily climb the top most peak of the Niligris hill.

Second is the con
struction of the mountain railway that is another engineering feat attained by the British.  The toy train that runs from Otty to Metupalyam in the plain is a world heritage. I was relishing how the roadways and railways construction may have been done at that with primitive tools that was prevalent at that of point. Undoubtedly, it was the Indian laborers toil of sweat that has achieved such a glory.

The other attraction of the place is the tea plantation which is spread to thousands of hectors of land. This is another gift of the Raj. The Nilgris hills and Darjeeling hills are the two places in the country, where British introduced this cash crop of tea plantation. The entire mountain slopes decked with lush green tea leaves makes a picturesque sight.  

The entire Cooner hills which is 30 KM from Otty is dotted by the tea estates. Now most of the tea gardens are owned by wealthy Indians. Many of them are film stars. The tea garden where I am standing belongs to yesteryear
actor Mumtaz’s husband Mayur Madhvani. Now it has come to Fardeen Khan who has married their daughter. Another big name living here is the film director Mansoor Khan, of QSQT, Qayamat se Qyamat Tak fame.

The palatial houses or bunglos of the tea estate owners is another legacy of the Raj. Each of them is competing with the other in terms of their upkeep. Many of the owners come here only for short visits and only their staff maintains the well furnished living space.

The Wellington cantonment in Coonoor is another legacy of the Raj. The officer’s academy, the bomb factory and the barracks of Madras regiment was established by the British before the World War 1.  Wellington is the foremost military establishment in the country even now.

Well Otty is little England in many ways. Charring Cross, the famous landmark of London is the center point of Otty. With day temperature of about 10 to 12 degree C in the day and 3 to 4 degree C in night, it is typical English weather now. It m
akes look more the same with cloud and sun playing hide and seek through out the day.

In many ways Otty reminded me of England. I have lived in London and I got the feeling that I am back there. I saw one building that was same to same that I saw in London. Even the roof and the windows of the structure was exactly its replica.  The fountain at the Charring Cross constructed in 1880, is still operational.

The Otty botanical garden is another marvel of the Raj and so is the Rose garden. The churches in Otty are another fine specimen of British architecture. The side paths with flowers and the lamppost there reminded me of little England.

One thing that is missed now is the presence of White people there. At this point of time mostly inland tourists dotted the scene and the place was full with holiday crowd from neighboring states of Tamil Nadu.

Last but not the least; Otty is completely free from the vices that are synonymous with many tourist destinations of the world. There are no high profile bars or pubs; there are no discotheques or night joints, no drugs, no casinos, no prostitutes which is a common sight in such places.

The environment is clean so are the roads that are not littered with garbage or rubbishes. On the whole my three days sojourn at Otty was wonderful opportunity for recouping from the daily mundane work in Chennai. It is worth a visit for those who are planning a vacation at Otty also known as queen of hills.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The World that would be in Coming Years…

The World that would be in Coming Years…
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution.  Welcome to the Exponential Age.  There are some interesting facts and figures that predict the future lifestyle and the shape of the unfolding world. The Artificial Intelligence, health, self-driving and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs  are going to have huge importance to each of us and each of them are pointers to the things to come.  We have to give a considerable thought to them if we like to negotiate future life style. Here is a sneak preview of the world that would be in coming years.  

Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on film again? In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they were bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years and most people don’t see it coming.

Uber is just a software tool. They don’t own any cars, but they are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. By 2030, computers will have become ‘more intelligent’ than humans.
In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. This is because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice, (so far for more or less basic stuff), within seconds. With 90% accuracy, compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you are studying law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer generalist lawyers in the future; only specialists will be needed. Further ‘Watson’ already helps nurses diagnose cancer, four times more accurately than doctors.

70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear that there will be enough new jobs in such a short time. Many currencies will be abandoned. Bitcoin will become the mainstream this year and might even become the future default reserve currency.

In 2018 the first self-driving cars will be offered to the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You won’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car on your phone; it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You only pay for the driven distance and you can be productive whilst driving. You will not need to park it and we can transform former parking spaces into parks.
At present, 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 kms. With autonomous driving, that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.  Insurance companies will have massive trouble, because without accidents, the insurance will become 100 times cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Electric cars will become the mainstream vehicle around after 2020. Cities will be cleaner and much less noisy because all cars will run on electricity, which will become much cheaper.

Most traditional car companies may become bankrupt by taking the evolutionary approach and just building better cars; while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will take the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. The engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are terrified of Tesla.

 Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for our future needs.

Real estate values based on proximity to work-places, schools, etc. will change, because if you can work effectively from anywhere or be productive while you commute, people will move out of cities to live in a more rural surroundings.

Solar energy production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but only now is having a big impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that almost all coal mining companies will be out of business by 2025.

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places; we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if everyone can have as much clean water as they want, for virtually no cost.

The Tricorder X price will be announced this year - a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and your breath. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any diseases. It will be cheap, so in a few years, everyone on this planet will have access to world class, low cost, medicine.

The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from 18,000$ to 400$ within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started printing 3D shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D-printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to need in the past.

At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they have already 3D-printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D-printed.

There will be a 100$ agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of working in them all day. Aeroponics will need much less water. The first veal produced in a petri dish is now available. It will be cheaper than cow- produced veal in 2018.

Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces are used for rearing cattle. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several start-ups which will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

As far as health is concerned right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span was 79 years, now it is 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than a one-year increase per year. So we all might live for a long, long time, probably way beyond 100.

There is already an app called “moodies” which can tell the mood you are in. By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where we know whether the participants are telling the truth and when not!

Further afield, the software has been launched in Indonesia and will be released it in Arabic, Swahili and Chinese this summer. The English app will be offered free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half a year. Software and operating platforms will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

The cheapest smartphones already sell at 10$ in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smartphone. That means everyone will have much the same access to world class education. Every child can use Khan Academy for everything he needs to learn at schools in First World countries.

If you think of a niche you want to enter, ask yourself: “In the future, do you think we will have that?” And if the answer is yes, then work on how you can make that happen sooner. If it doesn’t work via your phone, forget the idea. And any idea that was designed for success in the 20th century is probably doomed to fail in the 21st century.

There are many more exciting things waiting to happen. Are we prepared to handle such future shock? If not the future will overtake you and you maybe repenting not being prepared for the future?
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at The author does not claim any responsibility of the content but feel that this needs to be circulated in the larger public interest.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

India and the Sub Nationalism Debate

India and the Sub Nationalism Debate
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is on boil, the Nero’s of Delhi durbar are playing ‘Vade Matram’ orchestra, and in that cacophony making the noise of regional and linguistic exclusiveness sound a whimper.

The current rulers of Hindustan have unleashed a region of terror using pellet guns over unarmed people and feel happy that they have found solution to tame such human resistance.

They may be in for a surprise if the same situation erupts up in as many as 14 other locations in the country, all waiting to have a distinct entity of its own.

If that happens, will the Nero’s of Hindustan continue to play ‘Vade Matram’ orchestra to defuse any such crisis or give it a realistic thought address such genuine aspiration of the people?

The answer is difficult because a policy paralysis has gripped the current dispensation and its arrogance and ignorance is apparent in dealing with the situation of carnage and rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian government's hard-line approach has so far taken 68 human lives.

The tinder box is simmering below the surface in as many as 14 locations of the country; four in UP, three in Assam, two in Bihar, one each in Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. All of them are carving for separate identity and human resistance is waiting to be ignited.

In India, since 1956, the reorganization of states has been happening from time to time, but the sore point is, efforts in this direction is made when there is a huge people’s movement built and many  have to give blood to the cause.  We have seen this with regard to the creation of Jharkhand, Uttrakhand and Chatisgarh states. All of them came into existence after long drawn out human protests.The people’s movement in these states are littered with blood and only after a long struggle the government has succumb to their demand.

The same can be said about Telngana, where people’s movement goes back to 1970 and even earlier, but the statehood was possible only in 2014, when the government finally relented to the people’s aspirations.

The fundamental point here is why the successive governments are peeve over the creation of the new states which could be based on the geographical, linguistic or cultural entities? Why the government is stifling the natural growth of a particular region and acting shy to its developmental goal? There are no logical answers to it and it’s beyond comprehension for ordinary mortals to gauge the Nero’s mind.

We all know the orchestra of 'Vande Matram' was the swan song during the freedom struggle; it served its purpose well, and got us independence. However, after 69 years of independence, the relevance of this brand of nationalism is now being questioned. How long the demand of sub nationalism under larger umbrella of nationalism can be bottled up?  

India has become much stronger over the years and this does not mean that this issue can be wished away by appealing to nationalism and maintaining peace under the shadow of the gun. It is seen in the people’s movement in Jammu and Kashmir that is showing the searchlight and pricking many minds and this could be the proverbial lull before the storm.

India’s is an administrative maze and no one had comprehended it better than the colonial rulers of Hindustan. When they established the contours of Indian administrative set up, linking localities with blocks, blocks with subdivisions and subdivision with districts and districts with a province, they established the modern edifice of governance in India.

Given the colonial nature, the British rulers were keen to have an administrative setup in place for governance and had no interest in the developmental demand of any geographical region, linguistic or cultural entities.

Thus British efforts to reorganize the Indian states on governance plank though kindled the nationalistic aspirations among the people but in the process subsumed sub nationalistic sentiments that has long been nourished from time immemorial. The colonial created imbalances continued to drift as so, even 70 years after independence.

The states like Uttar Pardesh (Northern Province) and Madhya Pradesh (Central Province) are colonial legacies. These states do not have any rational basis, if we apply the yardsticks of regional, linguistic and cultural entities as the basis of formation of states. Even though there is huge necessity to reorganize them to address their developmental goals, they are allowed to continue as so in the independent India.

In fact, in the last general assembly election of UP, Ms Mayawati, the BSP chief had suggested creating at least four states from this linguistically, culturally and geographical diverse landmass of Uttar Pradesh. However, her words of wisdom were seen as a cry of someone who has lost the election.

Going by the facts on records, the pending demands for the creation of new states in UP are for ‘Harith Pradesh’ in the areas of Western UP, ‘Awadh state’ in the areas of central UP, ‘Purvanchal’ in the eastern UP and the ‘Budelkhand state’ in the areas bordering UP and MP.

In the eastern state of Assam, as many as three people’s movement is simmering. The first is Karbi Anglong, second is Kamatapur state, and third the Bodoland state.

The Karbis living in the central part of Assam in the autonomous districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao that are put in the sixth schedule are demanding a separate state.

Similarly, the Koch Rajbhongshis demand for Kamatapur state. Here, protest is for granting Cooch Behar the status as Kamatapur state is heard quite often.

It may be recalled that in 1949, Cooch Behar merged with India as C category state. In 1956, all the C category regions got Union Territory status and some even got statehood later, but Cooch Behar's regional identity was extinguished and some of it's district was given autonomous status within Assam.
The demand for the Bodoland state is heard through violent noises for a long time now.  The Bodos want their present sixth schedule territorial autonomous council area in Kokrajha region that covers four districts of Assam to be made a separate Bodoland state. The consistent denial of their demand is fuelling armed rebellion there, which controlled by the counter insurgency methods.

In Andhra Pradesh, after the creation Telangana, there seems to be a quite atmosphere, but the demand for the creation of Rayalaseema state is very much on the cards. The distinct regional identity here wants to be nurtured from Tirupati and not from Amravati.

Similarly, in Gujarat, the demand to create the Saurashtra state is pending for long, so is the demand for Vidarbha state in Maharashtra.

In Karnataka, the demand for Kodagu state is simmering for long and so is the cry for the Gorkhaland state in the northern regions of West Bengal. The creation of Kosal state in Odisa is too hidden below the surface, waiting to be ignited.

Bihar is another case of linguistic and geographical incongruity. Here the demand for the creation of the Mithlancal state based on common Maithli language is long overdue.

Similarly, the Bhojpuri language and common culture that forms a vast tract of linguistic and geographical landmass between UP and Bihar, too nurses the aspiration for the creation of a Bohjpur state.

In sum, the reorganization and reconstruction of the distinctive regional identities poses a huge challenge to the country. The successive governments have tried to keep a lid on them harping to maintain a national identity. It is time debate whether such policy is doing more harm than good to the national cause.

If right steps are taken by the government in such direction and bottled aspirations are carefully opened, it can pre-empt the situation that we now witness in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at