Thursday, February 12, 2015

Discarded Batteries Can Help Light Up India

Discarded Batteries Can Help Light Up India 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

India is power starved country. There are ways and means being searched to get round this problem. In the high profile visit of the US president Brack Obama, Prime Minister Narander Modi told the nation that a breakthrough in nuclear energy has been made. The   Civil -Nuclear deal with the US is soon on anvil and India will become a power surplus nation.

There was all round applause and clap from the countrymen on this achievement. But soon it turned out to be a case where the distance between the cup and the lip has to be traveled. Soon the energy euphoria paled into oblivion.

Unfazed by such hype and hoopla about creating alternative to power shortage, a band of researchers from IBM India has demonstrated a low-cost solution to solve the problem of unavailable electrical power in the country.

The researches have demonstrated lighting solution using discarded laptop batteries and claim their device “UrJar” can lighten urban slums and rural areas for about four hours each day. UrJar has the capacity to last for more than a year.The researchers found that 70 percent of discarded batteries had enough power to keep a LED light lighted at least few hours in the night everyday.

The IBM group, working with a hardware Research and Development firm RadioStudio, opened the discarded laptop battery packaging and extracted individual storage units called cells.They tested 35 cells individually to pick out the good ones and recombined them to form refurbished battery packs.

After adding charging dongles as well as circuitry to prevent overheating, the researchers gave them to users in Bangalore city who lived in slums or operated sidewalk carts.

Three months later, the street vendors that used the light powered refurbished battery cells, said the battery packs were working very well. Similarly, other users too extolled the performance of the device and were happy about its usage. However, the main request from all them was, to have rat-resistant wires and much brighter bulbs. The IBM team is now testing on the revised setup and coming up with new refurbished Urjar devise.

The IBM team that created the device UrJar, uses lithium-ion cells from the old batteries to power low-energy devices such as a light. The combination of LED lights with solar panels and rechargeable batteries using discarded batteries has made the device much cheaper. The researchers estimate that if UrJar is made in large volume, it can be priced at about 600 rupees per unit.

UrJar provides a cleaner and potentially cheaper alternative than burning kerosene.  Using discarded batteries is cheaper than the existing power options. This could be the cheapest means to meet the lighting requirements because the most costly component is the battery, and here it’s taken from trash that is free.

UrJar provides a means to utilize the latent residual capacity in laptop batteries, which would otherwise be wasted. It helps deal with the mounting electronic-waste problem in the country.  UrJar has the potential to channel e-waste towards the lessening of energy poverty.

E-waste is a major problem particularly in the developing country like India. With a booming IT market, India is generating huge amount of e-waste of its own. This is estimated to be around 32 tons a day. Apart from this, India receives a lot of e-waste from other countries.

Many of the estimated 50 million lithium-ion laptop batteries discarded every year could provide electricity storage sufficient to light homes of the poor in the country.

In India alone, about 400 million people lack grid-connected electricity. Millions of batteries discarded with computers have more than enough life to solve the problem of lighting home in the country.

IBM is not considering this as a business proposition but says the technology could be offered free to poor of the country living in slums and other places.

Indians cannot wait for Civil – Nuclear deal to fructify. Now they have options in hand. UrJar only needs a bit of government support.  Can Prime Minister Narander Modi adopt this made in India invention in his Make in India vision? If he does so, it may be quicker way to lighten homes in the country.

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


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bihar’s Capital should be shifted out of Patna


Bihar’s Capital should be shifted out of Patna 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Just back from the ‘republic of Bihar,’ visiting its capital Patna, in the freezing winters of the Christmas holidays of 2014. Very great feeling to be back home and nostalgia and fond memories of childhood haunted all through my stay there.

 I have been visiting Patna since 70s, when there existed ‘Soda Fountain,’ D Paul and the lush green lawn called Gandhi Maidan.  Over the years the city has changed exponentially. I see both good and bad things prevailing and it is hard to choose between them.

As far as positives are concerned, the city has become the bazaar or the marketplace for the whole Bihar. You name the brand, it exists there. There are large numbers of shops of all around the city. The old Patna market is just a brick on the wall. There are malls and other shopping complexes that have sprung up. The hawkers have taken over the pavements. The wealth of the city is reflected through the goods being sold there.  It appears that the whole city is a shopkeeper’s paradise.

The second noticeable thing is the variety of cars seen on the city road. You name the car and its there on Patna roads. It appears Patna from no angle is the capital of India’s one of the poorer state. There is enormous amount of wealth concentrated in the city. This facet is glaring.

The high rise residential complexes are another startling feature. The old houses have given way to multi-stories housing flats.  The way cities residential area has expanded suggests that a huge migration rural population has taken place over the recent years. The real estate prices are booming almost on par with the metropolis of India.

This whole city is buzzing with life. Patna is no more what the Mughals had left or what the British had developed. The city is crossing all the boundaries. The urban boundaries are redrawn many times and are still expanding. Anyone who is visiting the city after a long time maybe surprised about the gigantic developments taking place.

The flip side of Patna is, it’s bursting at its seams. A sea of humanity seems to be swamping all over the urban space. Patna junction and ‘Ashok Raj Path’ are chocking points and remains overcrowded areas in most part of the day.

 The ‘Patna lawn’ or Gandhi Maidan, in the middle of the town, once known for a huge green space, now looks like a ‘Thar’ desert. As a child I still remember seeing polo matches being played there. Now it is a place for political rallies and public protests.

Patna traffic system is appalling. The stick wielding British era vintage policemen regulate the chaotic traffic system there. They do not have any bacon lights and no one heeds to their hand signals.  There are no traffic rules in this city. The red light signals do not work. With pavements  being over taken by the hawkers; people have no other option other than to walk on the road.

The roads which were meant for 4-5 lakh people are now being used by more than 50 lakh persons. There are cars, lorries, peddle rickshaw, auto rickshaw, cycle, pedestrian, all using the same road. The two way traffic in that shrinking space is a nightmare. The road from Patna to Patna city is a classic example of traffic chaos.

Traffic jam is common feature on Patna roads. Its daily mayhem there and road outrage often becomes bloody. Recently, someone I know died due to road accident. His auto-rickshaw over turned near Gandhi Maidan. He was traveling from one part of city to another doing his daily mundane chorus of life.

The filth and garbage is littered all over Patna. There is no mechanism for garbage collection. The garbage invariably is littered on the city roads. With flies and mosquitoes, pigs and cows wading in that garbage, the foul stench prevails all over the place. Men urinating in that garbage are not an uncommon sight in Patna.

The much touted ‘Sulabh Shauchnalay’ or ‘public toilets’ which the state has given to the world is nowhere seen operational in the city. The adage “India is moving anarchy” figuratively comes true   in Patna in its personified form. This city certainly is the dirtiest capital in the entire country more than any other place needs “Sawatch Bharat Abhiyan.”

There are few categories of people who caught my attention while I roamed in the city for a week. Bihar is a politically charged state and politics is the favorite pastime there. First of course  were those who looked like politicians. These Netas sitting inside the big car SUVs in shotgun Sinha style were the eye catchers. There were then party workers roaming aimlessly on the streets. With such people dwelling in the urban space,  public protest, procession, rallies are daily routine in Patna.

The second category was the ‘Doctors.’ I was amazed to see the astronomical numbers of private hospitals, nursing homes springing up in the city. This phenomenon was much marked on the new bypass road where the new bus stand has come up. Someone told me that Patna doctors have amassed huge amount of wealth that may match corporate income. Come rainy season and disease proliferates, they make killing out of the sick people.  Someone told, after the rainy season’s earning, Patna doctors leave to Europe or America for holidaying.

The third category was those running educational coaching institutes.  The Bari Path, once a quite lane has become synonymous for this business. I know someone running coaching centers is minting money in this trade. He often goes to Europe and there he drives a car traveling to various countries.  I have overheard him saying how he had put his car in the ferry when traveled from Italy to France. He has many such stories to tell about his driving stint in Europe. There is always an audience to his parables.

The other thing that caught my fancy was the ad campaign of the coaching center on the Patna roads. Huge cutouts of the coaching institutes with the trainer’s pictures were displayed on the auto rickshaw tops.  The achievements of the institute and its trainer are announced on loudspeakers. This looked more like film publicity campaign with the trainers donning the hero’s role.

Along with the coaching institutes, there is a plethora of educational institution from primary to higher education operating in Patna. The Director of Higher education gave me a summary of the growth of educational institutions in Bihar, impressing the idea of achieving literacy target.

Patna seems to be bubbling with students. It looks like all the students of Bihar have descended in its capital. There are any number of hostels, lodges both for girls and boys in the city. Mostly the students roam around the Ashok Raj Path searching competitive bookshops or on Bari Path which has many coaching centers. Some act as Romeos looking for their Juliet to sit on their flashy bikes.

The last category is the common man. A visit to Patna is recommended if any one likes to have a glimpse of the real common of India. The poverty and hunger on many faces is glaring there. I was approached by one such person, saying he had no food since the morning. When I gave him 20 rupees, his brimming face suggesting relief on from hungry that is something I cannot describe in words.

Any description about Patna cannot be completed without the mention of Patna city. Patna is divided between Patna city and Patna. City is the older area of habitation and Patna is an extension to it. Patna city is essentially the place where Muslim landed aristocracy once resided. Still there are remains of huge palatial buildings that tell the story of the Muslim splendor.

I visited one such Haveli, in Patna city which is still in spic and span condition. It is near “noon ka chowraha.” Its occupants are elderly couple who are run an English school in their premises. With the money earned, they seem to be maintaining their ancestral dwelling. Their children live in the US and the couple abhors the idea of their house being dismantled or sold. There are many such 'havelis' that still survives in Patna city.

Patna city has now become Patna Sahib. With coming up of the grudawara, it’s now a Sikh pilgrimage center. There is a sizable Sikh population there mostly Partition immigrants, occupying Muslim evacuee homes. Nonetheless, Patna city still maintains its old charm. With its narrow lanes and by lanes life moves on in this overcrowded Muslim enclave.

Patna has quite a few landmarks; one such is the “Golghar,” the granary built by the British during World War II. It has circular shape with stairs to climb on its top. As a child I remember seeing entire Patna from that vintage point. Now very little could be seen from “Golghar,” number of high-rise buildings are sore point for the eyesight.

The other landmarks are the Museum; Secretariat, High Court, Khuda Bux Khan Library, Tu Tu Imam’s mansion, St Xavier, St Michael and Mount Caramel schools etc. All remains the same as it was some 40 years ago. Later additions are Patna zoo, Golf club, Moniul Haq stadium, Birla planetarium and Buddha Park etc.

There is an urgent need to de-congest the Patna in order to bring sanity to the madness there. No amount of urban planning like building flyovers or artery roads or metro rail project or even creating satellite towns will de-congest Patna.

The only remedy to ease the human pressure from Patna is to shift the capital elsewhere from its present location. The entire administrative paraphernalia has to be relocated. This could be the only way to make the people of Patna breathe easy.

A suggestion would be that the new capital can be built at Rajgir which not far from Patna. Rajgir is prominently located and connected with the roadways and railways. It’s very close to the famed Nalanda University. The place has a picturesque hills and rope ways of ‘Johnny Mera Nam’ fame.

A Chandigarh kind of township could be a feast for landscape developers. The new capital if equipped with all modern facilities could be bait for all those who have migrated out of Bihar in search of livelihood and modern day’s comfort of life. A true “Ghar Vapasi,” or return home, for such sons of the soil.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar.  He can be contacted at

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

India- Palk dialogue- How soon is the question?

India- Palk dialogue- How soon is the question?
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Prime Minister Narandra Modi reading newspaper while Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif going to the podium to deliver his Saarc speech in Kathmandu tells million words.  It was in Dulikhel retreat, the reluctant Indian Prime Minster offered the handshake to his Pakistani counterpart that saved the summit; courtesy Nepalese hosts who did not wanted to sour the broth.

PM Modi was giving the impression that there may be no Indo-Pak dialogue as long as he is in power. His opinion remains entangled in the cobweb of terrorism and Kashmir issue.

He is nursing the dream that Pakistan will forfeit its claim on Kashmir and relinquish terrorism once and forever. Every Indian says Insha-Allah to it and hopes and prays that such dream may come true.

However there are many disagreeing souls in the country who feel that stonewalling Pakistan is the biggest blunder that Mr Modi is making. In the process he may be inviting another HUDHUD whose consequences may be hard to control.

It is therefore in the interest of the country to engage Pakistan as it is the only way forward. And for this Indo- Pak dialogue has to happen sooner than later.

Everything is not lost as far India –Pak dialogue is concerned. Overtly, there may be posturing by the Prime Minister, but covertly Modi has given his consent to keep alive the track -2 diplomacy.

An India-Pak delegation was recently allowed to have an informal meeting in New Delhi. Indian side was represented by Mani Shanker Iyer and Salman khurshid and Pakistani side was led by its former foreign minister. There were 15 members on each side. This kindles hope of the revival of Indo- Pak talks.

The other indication is Modi has not ordered the discontinuation of the Aghaz- e – Dosti initiative by Delhi based NGO Bhartiyan Mission. They young Turks continue to silently do their job, connecting youngsters from India and Pakistan.

Recently, they had video conferencing and the students from both sides interacted freely with each other.
The third indication is; Modi has not ordered to take off from the air, the TV Channel Zindagi that brings Pakistani TV dramas to the Indian homes. The channel is a big draw in India and the Indian Ad content during the serial suggests its popularity among Indian viewers.

These factors suggest that even before the so called international community nudges Modi, to shun his posturing, it is likely the dialogue may resume soon. How soon is the question, the answer is wait and watch.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Memoirs of Mysore and Srirangapatanam

Memoirs of Mysore and Srirangapatanam
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Here is my travelogue of the Mysore visit on 19th November 2014. This is my fourth visit to Mysore and the historical places around it but it was most memorable of them all because it was with Hena, my wife and Ismail, my son.
My first stop was at Karnataka State Open University where I had official work. The new building that has opened recently was the place where I spent some time in meetings and negotiations.

Then we headed to Srirangapattam and went to the tomb of Hyder Ali, his wife and Tipu Sultan . It has a magnificent Gumbaz or dome and that has a great art work. The place has a mosque where 5 times prayers are held daily.  It has lots of graves of the family members of Tipu sultan.
After the fall of Srirangapattam fort, members of the Tipu family were killed and brought here and buried in the courtyard outside the tomb and beyond.

Hyder Ali who was commander-in-chief to Krishnaraja Wodeyar wrested power from him 1761 and became independent ruler. After his death in 1784, his son Tipu ruled Mysore till 1799. After the fall of Tipu, Wodeyars, returned power and ruled from Mysore under British protection. Mirza Ismail Beg was the famous Diwan, of the Wodeyars and credited to have built the dam over river Kaveri and famous Brindaban garden by its side.      

The next stop was Daria –Daulat palace or the summer palace of Tipu Sultan. Tippu Sultan built this palace in 1784. The palace is built in the Indo-Sarcenic style in mostly made of teakwood. The most stunning feature of the palace is that all the space available on the walls, pillars, canopies and arches have colorful frescoes in the style of Mysore paintings.

The building is a nice structure with ornate and intricate work.  It’s a museum now and has various artifacts at display. It has a collection of Tippu memorabilia, European paintings and Persian manuscripts.  There are paintings on the wall that depicts the procession scene.

Then we headed to the Srirangapatanam fort, a massive place, which is now taken over by the local people who have built their houses and living there. The exterior has the entry gate to the fort, and some of its parapet is still intact reminding of the structure that may have stood 200 years ago. Now it’s a thriving locality with a sizable population.

The only remaining memory of Tipu Sultan is the Jama Masjid inside the fort of Srirangapattam fort. It has more south East Asian features then the mosques of north India. Instead of four minarets, it has two minarets starting from the ground level and going up high. The ground floor of the mosque has Madarsa and the first floor has the prayer chamber with the usual dome. It’s a magnificent structure that survives the day.  

Inside the fort there is the exact spot where Tipu Sultan’s body was found dead. He was killed during the battle, dismounting from the horse and indulging in sword fight.

The historic Ranganathaswamy Temple inside the fort is other great structure that survives to this date. It’s built of Nagra style and resembles many south Indian temples. There was a beeline of local tourist visiting the temple.

While inside the fort of Srirangapatanam, a stream of thought flew into my funnel. My first brush with Srirangapatnam was reading the history lesson in the school. Then it was reading modern Indian history at Irfan Habib’s class in AMU, Aligarh. Gidwani book on Tipu Sultan gives a graphic description of the siege of the fort of Srirangapatnam the British that took months to finally breach it and that too by the internal connivance of the insiders.

During my visit to London museum, I saw a separate gallery on Tipu Sultan, which has his horse stirrup, cloths, sword and the tiger, his symbol. The museum has the famous painting "Storming of Srirangapattanam" an oil painting by Sir Robert Ker Porter made in 1800. This historical painting depicts the final fall of Srirangapatana on 4 May 1799. Tippu's men are seen giving stiff resistance to the British army and many British officers are clearly visible in the painting.  The military might of the British that rested on Indian foot soldiers were on full display in the canvas. There were other paintings that depicts the final moments of Tipu sultan. It is in this fort that Tippu died fighting the British.

I was trying to compare that huge canvas of Srirngapatnam fort with the latest structure on the ground right. There are only remains of it left today. The British looted and destroyed all the structures inside the fort. Tippu's Palace, the Lal Mahal lies in ruins and there is no trace of it.    

My next halt was Sailm Ali Bird observatory. It is a nice place and the birds are placed in its natural habitat. We had a boat ride and saw the birds sitting on trees and flying around. There were crocodiles in the lake but were at a distance and did not disturbed anyone.  It’s a very scenic environment and the company of birds made it chipper.

We returned back to Mysore city and headed to the historic Chamundi hill shrine that is over 3000 feet from ground. Mysore city view from the Chamundi hill was amazing. One can see the entire Mysore city from the hill top. The famous Dassarah procession that starts from Mysore palace every year concludes in this hill shrine. I found a plaque depicting Muslim names that has contributed to the building of some structure in the
shrine complex. This was something amusing.    

We then visited St. Philomena's church, a Catholic church built in honor of St. Philomena. It was constructed in 1936 using a Neo Gothic style and its architecture was inspired by the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. It is a very impressive structure indeed.

Our last stop was Mysore palace also known as the Amba Vilas Palace. It is the official residence and seat of the Wodeyars — the Maharajas of Mysore.  The palace houses two durbar halls and incorporates a mesmerizing and gigantic array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings. The palace is in the central region of inner Mysore, facing the Chamundi Hills eastward. Mysore Palace is now one of the most famous tourist attractions in India, after the Taj Mahal, and has more than 3 million visitors annually.

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Unending story of Hyderabad State

The Unending story of Hyderabad State
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The annexation of the Princely state of Hyderabad which took place amidst high drama on 17th September 1948 continues to hog limelight even today. Every year the communal forces in Hyderabad rake up this issue of the ‘Liberation Day’ to tease the Muslim community which is now in its third generation.

Normally, this day is celebrated quietly in party headquarters but this time it was planned at differently. This is because it was the first Telangana Liberation Day after formation of separate Telangana state. The Telegu Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) government which currently rules the new state had rejected the demand of the BJP and the Communist parties to officially celebrate the day.

However, communal forces tried to breach the peace. Tension prevailed at the Golconda Fort as police arrested some activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trying to hoist the national flag to celebrate Telangana Liberation Day on September 17.

The TRS government had denied permission to the BJP to unfurl the national flag at the historic fort. Police prevented BJP workers from entering the fort with the national flag and foiled the attempt to spread communal hatred in the city.

The response from the BJP leader Kishan Reddy, was pithy to this. In an obvious reference to Muslims of Hyderabad, he said that "Telengana Chief Minister should decide whether he wants razakars or people of Telangana."

This statement was rebutted by the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), which fought for the new  Telangana state  cautioned the people
against those who were trying to distort the Deccan history and make September 17, an issue to spread communal hatred. It called upon people to observe the day as merger to Indian union and not view as victory of people of one faith over those of other and give it a communal color.

It was on September 17, 1948 that then princely state of Hyderabad merged with the Indian Union following the ‘police action’ of the Indian army against Nizam's army and Razakars' (volunteers) came to an end. There are some people in Hyderabad who still recall the terror unleashed by Razakars and thugs like Qasim Rizvi and they say their atrocities were unimaginable.

There is no denying the fact that the razakars or volunteers which sprung up from nowhere in the high noon of princely states in India to defend the Nizam’s rule in Hyderabad was quite a menace. However all the Muslims of Hyderabad were not razakars. There were Muslims in all sorts of organizations that were present at that time. A large of Muslims had nothing to do with the developments of the princely state and they were mere fence sitters.

The statement of BJP leader Kishan Reddy, equating Razakar with Muslims is nothing but hate mongering. What he actually was trying was sowing communal seeds and brainwashing the current generation by making such outlandish statements. It is such kind of people who are poising the minds of current generation that should be dealt with utmost firmness.

The stories what Razakars did and the revenge carried out against them after the fall of Hyderabad are equally chilling. The Sunderlal report is testimony to these fact (  At this point of time what purpose does it serve debating whether the atrocities of razakars or that of the Indian army were gorier. How can we grade those crimes, the crime of razakars or the Indian army, who scored over whom?

Does such debate serve any purpose in 2014? We should bury all these tales as dead. History good or bad is behind us and there is no purpose to glorify its wrongs.  In the general good of the society anything that disturbs communal peace should never be encouraged.

The last ruler of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan was a person born to rule a kingdom. He was like any ruler of the 565 Princely states that existed in the country. Many say, Nizam VII was a secular ruler who extended financial aid to many Hindu temples. However, there were forces that were working against him during the end of his rule and he tried to cling on to power as long as colonial ruler presided over his suzerainty.

The seventh Nizam was actually a ceremonial head of the biggest princely state of India who had all responsibilities but no powers. He had long ago lost all his powers of governance to the British residency stationed in Hyderabad.

Some allege that during the last days of his rule, he was financing the Razakars. This is a controversial point and historians agree to disagree on this.

The princely ruler’s entire life should not be judged with his conduct of last days of rule that was engaged to prevent its fall. In a sense of desperation 1945, the ruler even contemplated buying Goa from the Portuguese and wanted Muslim population of Hyderabad to shift to Goa. If this would have happened the act of Muhammad bin Tuglak may have been repeated.

However, the Muslims of Hyderabad whom the BJP leader has calls as razakars refused to entertain any such idea and wanted to live and die in Hyderabad. A similar comment about Indian Muslims is made by Narendra Modi, the current ruler of the country.

A caveat to this development was the incident of 1932, when Muslim league leader Mohmmad Ali Jinnah came to meet him in Hyderabad.  The ruler shouted at the top of his voice and asked ‘Qaid’ to leave at once and not to show his face. Obviously he did not like to entertain any separatist ideas.

It is another story the same ruler in 1947, transferred 10,07,940 pounds sterling and nine shillings in the name of then Pakistan high commissioner in London H.I. Rahimtoola in the National Westminster Bank, which is now called Royal Bank of Scotland.

India raised an objection to the transfer, saying the Nizam was not an independent ruler and prevailed upon the bank to freeze the account. Since then the matter is hanging fire. The money is now estimated to have multiplied to 30 million pounds (Rs.3 billion).

There are many tales to tell about the princely rule of Hyderabad but to wrap this discussion, in the interest of the society, sometimes it’s better to forget past history and build a future where each one can live in perfect harmony with their religion, caste and creed intact.    

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Some Tales from Here and There

Some Tales from Here and There

Syed Ali Mujtaba

In South Asia Contact Group that I moderate a debate has set been set into motion on issues like religious conversion, Muslim- Hindus marriages, opposition to them, branding them as love jihad and the issue of Bangladeshi infiltration in northeast India particularly West Bengal where there is a fear of change in the demographic profile. Reading the views of the learned members, a plethora of thoughts are flowing into my funnel and I like to randomly pen them down for the consideration of my readers.

The first point that’s debated is the historical antecedents of Muslim conversion in India. The Sword theory is being belted out keeping the Boat theory under the wraps. Well Muslims were found in India roughly two decades after the birth of Islam in Arabia. Historical records say that the first mosque came up in Kerala barely 30 years after the death of prophet of Islam. A few decades later a sprinkling of Muslim population was found in the Hindus holy city Beneras. Did they emerge through the sword of Islam? The conversion to Islamic faith in India began with the arrival of boats from Arabia to the Malabar Coast. All this was some five centuries before the Muslim’s conquest of Hindustan.

If at all the Sword theory comes into play its only in the 12th century AD, precisely after 1162 AD when Slauddin Gohri opened the flood gates of India to usher in the Muslim rule in India. There is no recorded history that the marching Muslim armies played any role in conversion of the local people to Islamic faith using the strong arm tactics of sword of Islam.

Historical recorded of the chroniclers of that time say that along with the Muslim armies a stream of Muslim Sufi saints came to India on a mission to provide solace to the teeming millions. Their graves dot the entire length and breadth of the country and testify their geographical spread. It’s a matter of fact that the number of graves of Muslim Sufi saints far outnumber of the graves of the Muslim rulers in India.

The Muslim Sufi saints by the conduct of their daily life and various practices won the hearts of the Indian population. The people of the country held them in much higher reverence then the rulers of the day. Their worldly abode was frequented by the rulers of the day who made a beeline to get their wishes fulfilled. The stories of conversion to Islamic faith in India are attributed to such noble souls who lived into the people’s hearts and they came to them voluntarily to be taken under their wings. The change of faith came from the call of the consciousness and not from the sword of Islam at least that’s what the chroniclers have recorded history.

The testimony to this fact is while the graves of the Muslim ruler’s are just monumental symbols in India, the grave of Sufi saints are living temples in the country. The resting place of the Muslim Sufi saints is visited more by the Hindus then Muslims is an undeniable fact is the country.

In the conversation debate hidden is the human bondage theory. The number of people who been librated from bondage of human tyranny by the Islamic faith reflects upon the Muslim population in India, the second largest in the world. This facet of the human story is hidden from the multitude because it paints Hindu faith in grey color.

In order to counter the bondage theory a canard of sword theory is spread by some misguided elements to generate hatred against the Muslims and to unite the Hindu folks in the country. This diabolic propaganda has seeped into the minds of the countrymen many Hindu brethren remain ignorant about this historical truth.

Another debate in the South Asia Contact Group is the concern towards inter-religious marriage taking place in contemporary India. There are two facets to this phenomenon. One is religious, other is temporal. While religion is clear in its definition, the temporal part is case specific. Many Muslims have apathy towards marrying Hindus because their religion forbids them to do so. This fact that religion cannot be tempered with, and in such cases it is the individuals who have to adjust to the temporal reality. The opposition of Hindu- Muslim families are valid in religious sense but they have to willingly or unwilling accept the facts as facts. There are instances where such unions are forcibly separated and in some cases results in honor killings are something that has to be looked upon by the society and peaceful coexistence has to be practiced.

In this context two cases needs mention, one a Hindu girl marrying a Muslim boy and other the reverse case. The Hindu girl who is happily married to a Muslim boy, it’s easy for her to adjust in the Muslim household, while its extremely difficult for the Muslim girl to adjust in Hindu household due to elaborate rituals being practiced. The Muslim girl has to leave husband’s house because she was not able to adjust with the religious practices in that household. She had to ask her husband to choose between her and his family, and she walked out when her husband preferred his family.

The case of Rizwanur Rehman is a classic example on such developments in the country. In the TV programme Styamev Jeatye, Rizwan’s mother gave a graphic account of his son’s death. Many hearts moved hearing her tale where a Hindu family opposed the marriage of their daughter to a Muslim boy and even went to the extent to take his life. Well this one account of inter-religious marriages, there are many successful marriages happing with their lives moving at their own pace.

Added to it is the love Jihad theory, another canard that is being spread in the country to perpetrate Hindu-Muslim divide. Those who are unable to come to terms with the social reality are spreading such story of love jihad. This diabolic propaganda has again seeped into the minds of many Hindu brethren. They are unable to adjust with the social change and cannot accept modernization of the tradition taking place in the country.

Adding on to the communal overtones is the issue of Bangladeshi infiltration in northeastern part of India. Bangladeshis entering into Assam, west Bengal Tripura is a national concern. The problem has historical, geographical, social, political and economical in nature but there is no religious angle to it. However, the propaganda that Bangladeshis Muslim infiltrators are going to change the demographic profile of India is being done to polarize the Indian society on religious lines. This is the funniest of all anti Muslim propaganda spread in the country. What Indian Muslims has to do If Bangladeshi Muslims coming to India? Why Indian Muslims are put under pressure for the acts of foreign nationals? The BJP-RSS government that is currently saddled in power has to address this national concern and put the controversy to rest once and for all.

It’s an irony of sorts that in 1905 when the Partition of Bengal took place, the Hindu Bengalis tooth and nail opposed that Partition evoking nationalist feelings. This was because they wanted to lord over the Muslim peasantries who served as their surfs. With the twist of history, when Bengal again got partitioned on communal lines, the same folks do not want their linguistic halves entering their side of the border. Now they are dubbed as Muslim infiltrators who are coming to change their demography.

Even though there is no official statistics on changing demography, this diabolic propaganda has seeped into the minds of many Hindu brethren. They view it in communal terms.

One wonders if East and West Bengal again gets united by any chance, how this theory of Bangladeshi infiltrators changing the demographic profile of United Bengal will unfold itself. The footnote to this could be suggestive reading on the Hindu peasantry’s conversion to Islamic faith in East Bengal. This will negate the sword theory and establish the supremacy of the liberation of human bondage up the ladder.


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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Popular Culture and Indian Cartoon Characters
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Popular culture is something that cannot be ignored. I remember reading chanda mama, bikram vaital, chacha chuddary, akbar birbal etc, the print cartoon characters available at that time. There was no TV medium at that time so print only occupied the cartoon space.
Now several cartoon characters are available on the television and today’s kids are glued to the TV sets watching their favorite programme. One such programme is chota bheem on Pogo channel. The programme is a huge success among the children in the entire country.

I could foresee the popularity of the cartoon characters when a mall in Chennai organized an exhibition of chota bheen and his friends over the weekend. A crowed of over 500 kids had assembled to have a glimpse of their icons.

The show was a grand success in terms of sheer numbers that had turned for meeting and greeting chota bheem and its gang. The kids were crazy watching their favorite characters dressed up like orginal avatars. The kids never had thought they could see their icons other than their television screens. It was a celebration of these cartoon character. The kids enjoyed moments of applause, cheers and thrill with sheer madness.  There was Chota Bheem, Chutki and Jaggu in the stage.

The event was huge commercial success as only those who have made a purchase of over Rs 3000 rupees at the mall could only enter the enclosed arena to have have a photo session of their kids with the dressed up cartoon characters on the stage.

The makeshift shop selling memorabilia of chota bheem and others was doing brisk business. There were accessories like, towels, bed sheets and whole lot of other things that depicted the cartoon characters. The excitement among the tiny tots towards the chota beem artifacts was unbelievable.

This event was a true representation of popular culture. All of the kids belonged to different background but they all had one thing in common, the love for chota bheem.
While Micky Mouse, Donald Duck, Tom and Jerry, Noddy may be the international brand of cartoons, around which global kids rally around, to watch a local brand of chota bheem competing with them was something amazing.  

In the TRP ratings, the programme ‘chota bheem’ is giving a run for money to many TV serials in the country.  Some trade analyst of the television programmes has acknowledged the success of chota bheem. This suggests that in the age of globalization, national products too have the wherewithal to hold its ground.

It was amazing to watch such a popular culture unfolding itself. This popular culture needs a more thoughtful study by trained sociologists….