Tuesday, January 12, 2016

About: Syed Ali Mujtaba PhD

     Syed Ali Mujtaba PhD
1-  Current Position: Dr Syed is currently working as Head of the Department Visual Communication at Gurunanak College Chennai. He last worked as Principal, National College of Design, Chennai. www.ncdindia.com. Previously, he worked as Head of Department for Media Studies at  several institutions in Chennai; Media Arts and Science College (MASC), SSS. Jain College, Vels University, Manipal University etc. He has been visiting faculty at number of institutions in Chennai.
2-     Teaching career: Syed has been a full time media faculty for about ten  years now. He has taught papers in Journalism, Mass Communication, Visual Communication and Film Studies etc. 
3-     Education: Syed is MA, MA, M.Phil, and PhD & NET. He has bachelors and Master degree in History from AMU Aligarh, MA Journalism and Mass Communication from Alagappa University. He has taken M.Phil & PhD from School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
4-     Distinction: Syed has qualified National Education Test (NET), conducted by University Grant Commission, India.He was a Jeffeson Fellow in 2003. 
5-     Journalist Career: Syed spent about fifteen years in active Journalism working for several media organization in India and abroad. Hs career is spread over to print, television, internet and radio. As freelance he continues to write for several newspapers, news syndicates and websites and magazines.
6-     Jefferson Fellow: Syed earned the prestigious Jefferson Fellow media award at East West Center, Hawaii, in 2003.
7-     Documentary Filmmaker: Syed has made two documentary films. “Beyond Empires,” for Lamppost Media USA and “Making a Difference” on the street children of Chennai.
8-     Author:  Syed has authored two books, “The Demand for Partition of India and British Policy 1940-45,” Mittal Publisher (2002) and “Soundings on South Asia”, Sterling – New Dawn Publication (2005). He has contributed a chapter each to four edited volumes. His research papers have appeared in several reputed journals in India and abroad.
9-     Travel: As a Jefferson fellow he has travelled to several cities in the US, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore. He was in UK to pursue doctoral research. He was in Thailand twice to attend media conferences He also visited Nepal for academic purpose.
10-  Affiliations: Syed is a member of International Federation of Environmental Journalist Association (IFEJA) and Association of British Scholars, Chennai chapter. He is also member of East West Center Hawaii, Chennai Chapter and  member of Indibloger..
11-  Social Network:  Syed is the founder and moderator of South Asia Contact Group.  He can be searched at Google, U tube, facebook, twitter etc.
12-  Blog: http://mujtabas-musings.blogspot.com/. He is member of Indibloger.com
13-  Extracurricular: Syed was in the Aligarh Muslim University’s Football team.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cows are holy in India not Harjans

Cows are holy in India not Harjans

Traveling in a passenger train from my native place Shiekhpura to Gaya in Bihar last Saturday, I found some Harijan folks boarding the compartment at Nawada station, well there is Naveda in Texas too!

They were actually 6 of them, three men, three women and I think 6 or 7 kids, all below ten years of age. They sat on the floor of the compartment not because there was no seat but m
ore I guess because of their habit of squatting on the floor.

The kids stood on the widow, looking for the passing scenery enjoying the train ride. These folks were escorted by a contractor who was taking them to Ayodhya to make bricks.
 I was watching these people and hearing the foul language of the contractor who was loud and abusive at them.  The way he was talking, it seems that, these bunches of people were not human but herds of animal whom he owns.

I was tempted to talk to my fellow passengers and found that the contractor was representing some brick kiln chimney in Ayodhya and he was taking these laborers from Bihar on contract to work there to make bricks.

These folks will be put up in makeshift shed and have to toil day and night to make bricks. I saw a complete despondency on the faces of these folks, telling me about their uncertain future.

There are many promises being made by this contractor and we hope that we get enough food to eat and some place to sleep, said one of the laborers. While the adult were in a state of uncertainty, the faces of the children were brightly lit.

Looking at the passing meadows mountains and rivers, the kids with blowing noses were giggling and discovering the world. They seem unaware of their situation and just wanted to enjoy their travel.

I asked one of the folk, which caste they belong, one answered majhi, another answered mushar, the lady summed it up we are Harijan. I asked which caste the contractor belongs, Rajput was the reply.

The caste equation has not changed even, 68 years of independence and the lives of the Harijan remains the same.

A procession of memories was jogging in my funnel. I was recapping the Gandi vs Ambedkar debate and the Poona pact of 1932. I was contemplating, had Ambedkar left Gandhi die, perhaps the lives of these folks may not have been the same!

Well, I felt pity at the fate of my fellow travelers but at the same time I was incensed at the behavior of that contractor. In a country where Cows are made holy, human being are treated even worst then cattle.

My travel experience comes at a time when, government of the day has passed a bill on the atrocities against Harijan amendment bill 2015 in the Parliament. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Narendra Modi is no more a 'Holy Cow'

Narendra Modi is no more a 'Holy Cow'

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Prime Minister Modi’s personal human character has come to fore on the silence of the killing of the Kannada writer, scholar and rationalist Dr MM Kalburgi (77), the Dadri beef incident, and blacking of the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, a BJP luminary and LK Advani’s aid, in Mumbai.

The tech savy PM who shouts loud from his back mouth through his twitter handle, chose to shut it up for a long time on these many issues of Indian concern.

He tried to break silence after a very long time expressing regret but that was too little and too late. Perhaps it was the fear of the backlash that may dent his popularity prompted him to do so and made him open his gob.

It seems to Mr Modi, his Hindu identity is more important than his human identity. He tacit support to Hindutva zealots is explicitly clear in many cases. His seem to condone their blood thirsty activity and prefer to soft paddle them, when they are on prowl. He has done this during the Gujarat riots and is doing this again.

The question is raised do we need insensitive, inhuman Prime Minister who acts blind to the assaults being made on the very idea of being an Indian?

It seems a silent campaign is built in the country that is questioning Modi being a holy cow that needs not to be worshiped blindly. Some are even thinking about him as an unholy cow that has stopped giving milk, and is left with only its excreta value.

This campaign is led by the independent writers who are returning their awards in hordes feeling ashamed to see India going down the gutter with Hindu communal forces ruling the roost.

There are two narratives at work right now in India. One led by Nrander Modi who is talking about development, foreign investment and building global image of the country taking it to the Security Council with veto power.

The other is the forces among the Hindu religious identity who are shaming India and have become the enemies of peace and development of the country.

The current government is vocal of the first idea but at the same time it is giving the impression that it is tacitly supporting the activities of the Hindu zealots.

The two narratives appear to go hand in hand. The daily newspaper is the best place to have an account of them that they are running in tandem. It appears a huge effort is being made to make the twain to meet.

The question remains how both these forces can coexist? How can development take place in a country when there is internal turmoil?

India has become a global shame with the recent chain of communal events in the country. First, killing of a rationalist, then lynching of a Muslim over beef eating controversy, and then blackening of the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, playing host to a ex Pakistani Foreign Minister.

Where all this will end up? Where our Prime Minister Mr Modi is taking our country? His hype of development that is built by the media remains in paper only and the ground reality is quite different.

How can India grow at 7.3 percent, when its agriculture sector is in peril? More than 50 percent of the Indians are directly associated with agriculture which contributes 15 percent to the economy.

There is utter neglect by the current government of the farm sector. Cotton crop in Punjab is gone to dust due to whitefly and spurious pesticides. Farmers are committing suicide in Punjab.

In Maharashtra it is Nana Patekar and Akshey Kumar, who are coming to the aid of the farmers and not the government.

Modi’s ‘make in India’ is a non starter, his skill development project is ridden with corruption, and his Swatch Bharat campaign is just a talk shop and has not found its feet.

With two consecutive monsoon failures, the agriculture sector slowing down India’s growth rate, the diehard Modi followers are in a soul searching mission, asking, are they worshiping a "hawabazz."

The captains of Indian industry who all along have been backing Modi for his out of box economic solutions are rethinking their stand.

With external economic factors restricting the FDIs flow into the country, there is all probability that the 7.3 per cent growth rate is not going to hold ground and may slip still further down, in such case the "baniya" logic ruling roost, why to worship a false god who can give no money!

The writing on the wall is clear. The countrymen have to make some hard choices. Whether it may like to sacrifice their core values of the very idea that makes them an Indian?

Whether they may like to sell the core Indian values for few crumbs of material gain and move ahead in the path of development.

Or whether they want pluralism and inclusive growth, even if it means having to live with the Hindu growth rate, till the country regains its inner strength.

These are the battle of ideas that is embattling every Indian. It’s a mental game in which every sensitive Indian is engaged in right now.

As choices for getting narrower, their resentment is growing louder that Modi is not a holy cow.

[The writer is a senior journalist based in Chennai can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]




Why Bihar Election is Important for the Country

Why Bihar Election is Important for the Country

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Since the day Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced the date of the Bihar assembly elections and called it as “mother of all elections,” the entire country is keenly watching the developments in this poll bound state.

There are solid reasons for the anxiety because according to the reports, investors, both domestic and foreign, have pumped in more than Rs 70,000 crore in the next six months following the landslide victory of Nrander Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

This was probably the highest ever investment for any government in six-months after general election results in India. It’s reported that since the Delhi assembly results in February 2015 this cash flow has slowed down.

The other indicator, Sensex, the benchmark index of BSE had gained about 17 per cent to touch 28,000 marks in the next six months after Modi’s victory. This has now nose-dived to 25,602.03 where it currently stands.

Market experts say, Bihar election results may have an impact of five per cent on the Sensex at either side.

The other highlight is Bihar election is, whether the Modi government still enjoys popular mandate. After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Modi wave swept the country and NDA notched up string of victories in several states.

However, in the Delhi assembly election in February 2015, Nrander Modi’s political juggernaut was stopped by the Aam Admi party. Since then Modi’s popularity has never been tested on a political turf.

So, Bihar election is also keenly watched to judge Modi’s popularity graph. This may have impact on his leadership’s within the BJP and his influence over NDA partners.

Bihar poll is a referendum on the politics of secularism and inclusive development and those of communalism that excludes minorities. It’s Bihar that upheld the flag of secularism when the entire country was burning in Ayodhya Fire. The elections results may have impact on the nature of direction of change on the political outlook of the country.

The duel between the politics of caste and religion will be another aspect in Bihar election to be watched. The JDU, the RJD, all owes it existence on its caste constituents and profess to be champion of the backward caste. The BJP too has aligned with Paswan and Manjhi to woo the backward castes.

However, for the BJP its very difficult to break the stereotype of a party that epitome of representing the Tilak (Brahmin) Tarazoo ( Baniya) and Talwar ( Rajput), the three symbols of oppression since time immemorial.

Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the two states were responsible for thumping victory of the BJP in the 2014 polls. These two states added about 100 seats to the NDA’s kitty making the total tally of 336 seats.

Arithmetically, the NDA got thirty one percent of vote share in the Lok Sabha polls. This translated into an overwhelming number of seats because the opposition then was fragmented.

Since then the electoral map has considerably changed in the country. The opposition at center looks united flexing its muscle in the Lok Sabha and Modi government is backtracking on several issues. The 2015 political scenario is quite different from the 2014, when Modi’s ascendency was at its height.

In such situation will the BJP repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha performance in Bihar? The forecast is, even if does so, it will be difficult for it to have a majority in Bihar assembly. The only way is to give much better performance than the last Lok Sabha results.

The other forecast is, if the BJP looses Bihar election, then it is certain that there will be a new government at Center in 2019.

Broadly, there are two political formations in Bihar. One is the BJP-led NDA with the Lok Janshakti Party, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha as its partners. This formation looks broadly united at the moment.

On the other side is; JD (U), RJD and INC combine, led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has come together to form a Third Front.

It appears that the opposition to the BJP is in total disarray. They are united only on the surface, but behind it have lot of bickering. The anti incumbency factor is working against the ruling party. This gives the BJP some advantage and hope to win the battle royal of Bihar.

With optimism and pessimism ruing neck to neck, political fortunes can tilt either side in Bihar. It is in this context, Bihar is likely to see a very interesting political contest.

The other interesting aspect of Bihar poll is, if BJP led NDA comes to power, it will improve on its tally in Rajya Sabha, where it is currently in minority. NDA currently holds 60 seats in the 245-member upper House.

Bihar election is important because, before BJP’s current term ends in 2019, it can get 11 Rajya Sabha seats after re election from this state. This will vastly improve NDA’s position in upper House. It will push the reform agenda of the Modi government currently stalled due to lack of strength.

If the BJP looses Bihar, it is certain that its reform agenda at the center may go for a toss. The apprehension is a Delhi-like debacle for BJP in Bihar may have its ominous portents. The back counting Modi government may begin from November 8.

So, what is the most important for Bihar is to have a stable government that lasts five years term. A dramatic improvement in state-level governance is the cry of the people of the state. They want industrialization of the state at the breath neck pace. Bihar needs investments to push up industrialization efforts. It’s only a stable government that can bring large scale investment to the state.

So, one has to look at the Bihar election beyond the win or loss of the BJP led NDA. The election results should not have any bearing on the long term strategy of the state, irrespective of the political formation that comes to power. Even for the country its growth should not get stifled due to election results of a particular state.

The Election in Bihar would be held in five phases the dates of which are, 12 October, 16 October, 28 October, 1 November and 5 November. The results will be counted on November 8.

Bihar is divided into 9 divisions and 37 districts. There are 243 Assembly constituencies, out of which 47 are affected by left-wing extremism. The Election Commission has made adequate preparations for a free and fair election. Central paramilitary forces have been deployed, Election Voting Machines, carrying the photographs of the voters will be used. Political parties have started their fierce campaigns. It is definitely going to be ‘mother of all elections.’

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Senior Journalist

Monday, September 7, 2015

Caste Census 2011- Another Mandal Agitation Waiting to Happen

Caste Census 2011- Another Mandal Agitation Waiting to Happen 

I am really wondering how the caste census data of 2011 that is likely to be released by the government will be received by the people.

The ballot box democracy based on electoral roll calls has generated huge interests in symmetry of primordial loyalties and caste matrix provides as readymade glue for such alignment of identities.

To put it in simple words, the census data may reveal how many Brahims, Rajputs and Bhumiyars etc are there in our country? What is the level of their development and where they stand in social order today?

If that may be the case, this data may be something really startling and eye opener for the countrymen. It may lead to realignment of castes and set a new paradigm of electoral arithmetic in the country.

Living in Tamil Nadu, I have come across a person, who said, he belongs to the Yadav community and was lamenting his caste’s poor presence in the state. He said while in Bihar and UP this caste is ruling elite, it has no voice in TN.

Well this caste matrix in India is a huge puzzle and to peel each of its layers will generate its own allied layers. I really don’t know how the data will be interpreted by the countrymen.

Will the Kashmiri Brahmins, will be on the same page with Bhadralok or Aiyers and Ayangars?

According to reports the central government is waiting for the Bihar elections to open up this Pandora box. When they do so what will happen in the country?

I feel there is going to be a huge churning out process in the social matrix of the country. The whole country will be on boil engaged in solving the puzzle “Bule ki Jan Main Kaun.”

Being a student of India’s freedom struggle, I can say with some clarity that the British in the 1930’s wanted to organize India on the basis of its castes.

In their scheme of things India is made of jumble mumble societies a graveyard on nationalities and it’s the castes that make up India. Hence the development of caste categories can really develop India.

In their vision they wanted the caste identity to be solidified and the caste groups be allowed to be cemented into the electoral block for their real development of the people of the country.

Our freedom fighters negated this idea tooth and nail. They said any such ideas negated the Indian identity. There were some forces who differed from this idea and had their own interpretation of India. Well that’s another story.

The story in hand is how the caste census data of 2011 if and when released, will be taken up by the countrymen. How the politicians are going to use it for their own purposes.

My feeling is another round of Mandal agitation is waiting in the wings to happen with the release of census data on caste. It has all the ammunitions that can take team Indian ship in the mid ocean and ignite the fire on the board.

The Patel agitation in Gujarat has given a wakeup call on this issue. India is sure to burn at different places when the revelation of the caste identity is really known to the categories of the people.

In such case what will happen to vision and mission of our great Prime Minister His vision of Ram Raj.

Monday, August 31, 2015

WEI Event Lay Stress on Women Empowerment

WEI Event Lay Stress on Women Empowerment

Tiruchirappalli Aug 27: The swan song, women empowerment, left a huge impression at a women entrepreneurship seminar at Kolakkudipatti village, some forty five kilometer from this southern city.

The mega event was organized by Women Entrepreneurs International (WEI), an initiative of ROKITT Inc, a US-based tech startup. This was done in collaboration with Gramalaya, an NGO engaged in micro-financing for women.

It was an occasion for women from nearby villages to turn up in large numbers, to attend this day-long event.

Many started gathering since early morning. First they registered at the WEI stall, then sat under the huge tent or ‘shamiyana’ to watch the cultural show.

All eagerly waited to listen to the WEI top brass, who had specially flown in from US as well as from different places in India to attend this seminar on women entrepreneurship.

The WEI officials engaged the women participants, telling them the aims and objective of WEI and how this global initiative can change their lives through digital technology.

“Women Entrepreneurs International intends to expand the women’s empowerment’s initiative on a very large scale,” said Rohit Mahajan, the CEO and founder of Rokitt Inc.

 “WEI supports women in launching and running businesses and create a global market place for them” said Oksana Sokovlsky, President of Rokitt Inc.

“WEI offer services like how to build an effective business plan, securing funding, registering a company, legal and accounting services, launching a website, networking and many such initiatives that goes into able entrepreneurship,” she added.  

Mahalakshmi Sarvanan, WEI Head, India Chapter said ‘WEI benefits are numerous.’
‘We provide online tutorials, ‘how to do business,’ ‘webinars’, a tool to interact with industry specialists, ‘skills workshops’ on business subjects and specific crafts and many add-ons.’

The women entrepreneur seminar provided a platform to local women entrepreneurs to showcase their products.

Many locally produced products were put on display to attract their attention of the participants who were seen moving from one stall to other.

The objective of the seminar was to promote WEI commitment to creating jobs and income generation initiatives for women and making them financially independent.

It was also an occasion to champion social cause like, creating awareness about breast cancer, campaigning for toilets for women and their issues related to sanitation and hygiene.

Women Entrepreneur International (WEI) that aspires to empower more than one million women in next few years, used this occasion for its membership drive.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Army Dogs and Horses are Killed at Retirement

Army Dogs and Horses are Killed at Retirement
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Indian army shows no mercy at the dogs and horses that have dedicated their lives to serve them with distinction. The minute these animals grow old or fail a fitness test, they are simply shot and killed. However, the say they use euthanasia.

For years these animals were killed in secrecy, but now a Right to Information Act query has blew the lid off the army’s inhumane methods.

Army dogs are trained since they are puppies. It’s used in critical areas like explosive detection, guarding bases, and finding disaster victims. These brave animals regularly save citizens’ lives.

However, after a lifetime of saving lives, when these animals grow old, instead of being given service benefits they are awarded death sentences.

The law only allows killing animals under very ra
re circumstances such as an incurable disease.  But these army-owned animals are not covered under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act -- which is why the army gets away with their murder.

The logical reason Army gives is that the upkeep of such dogs with the kind of facilities they enjoyed while in service is too expensive and that they are exposed to severe sensitive locations while in service makes it unsafe to leave them in civilian hands.

The canines after a month of being declared unfit to work are euthanised as it is considered unsafe to leave them in civilian hands, say army sources in response to the RTI query.

"Army horses and dogs are evaluated for their fitness with respect to the performance of duties. The animals which are considered unfit for one month active service are disposed of by humane euthanasia," the army said in its response.

Many feel that these innocent and loyal animals who serve the Indian army day in and day out should be given a decent shelter once they are old and unfit and be cared rest of their lives.  These animals deserve the affection of individual soldiers who have served the nation and should not meet such sadistic fate.

This cruel and senseless policy, a legacy of colonial rule and need to be amended. Now when this fact is finally in the open, efforts be made to ensure these animals are treated well.

'Animals cannot be tossed away like empty ammunition shells. It is unfortunate that the dogs are euthanised,' says Poorva P Joshipura, PETA India CEO.

Indian Army mainly uses Labradors, German Shephard and Belgian Shephards for security services.
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com