Saturday, February 16, 2019

Phulwama terror attack has enraged the nation


 Phulwama terror attack has enraged the nation
    
   Syed  Ali  Mujtaba 


The terror attack on the CRPF convoy at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir is the most ghastly among all such attacks that so far has happened in the restive state.  Every Indian’s heart goes out to the families of the security personnel who were killed or injured in that dastardly attack. The family members of the victims of this barbaric terror attack deserve deepest condolences from every Indian.

No doubt the Phulwama terror attack has shaken the nation and the mood of the country is the perpetrators of terror should be brought to justice and punished. Having said that, there are several opinions floating in the social media on Indian response to such terror attack and all have the attraction to get carried away. However, as a mature Indian we should weigh the pros and cons before getting into the hate mongers trap.

The first idea making rounds is to go to war with Pakistan. War is not picnic where we can go unprepared. It is not as easy as it sounds and lot of preparation is required for doing that. India after the Parliament attack in 2001 had launched operation ‘Prakarm.’ The Indian Army was positioned in confrontation position for many days with the resolve to go all out war. However, given the implications of war, better sense prevailed among the leadership and Army was finally pulled back from the forward position of the line of control. So such war mongers should not be given any space and should be kept in abeyance.

The second idea making round is to respond to such terror attack is to go again for surgical strike. Well this ‘ACE’ India have already used in 2016 when our government carried out the surgical strike on 29 September 2016. We all know the results; terror attack has increased almost 90% in the last four years. Pakistan is now in a much better position to tackle any such surprise strike. It may have plucked all such gaps by now and India may not have the advantage of surprise in any such surgical strike this time.

There are also views that India should unilaterally abrogate the Indus water treaty and should stop water supply to Pakistan. But such ideas have huge international ramification. The fall out of such action will be difficult for India to manage. In any such case, if China blocks ‘Brahmputra’ water flow to India then what will happen? Can India go to war with China and Pakistan at the same time? So such idea has to be rubbished at once.

Another idea being circulated is to go for genocide of the Kashmiri Muslims.  The logic behind is since all Kashmiris Muslims are terrorists, so best solution to get rid of such people is to do their genocide or mass killing. India already has seven lakhs security personal the territory and executing such idea is a matter of a government order. This is most diabolic of all the ideas that are being floated on the social media. How India is going to handle the fall out of such mass murder? Imagination fails to fathom its depth. Such idea has all the trappings to make Kashmir a Syria.  So such idea is simply insane thinking.   

The next idea that’s afloat is to ban the cricketers and artists and other such people from visiting India. It includes doing any business with Pakistan. Well this idea is already in place and further India has revoked the most favored nation to Pakistan. However, even by doing all this we have not got any favorable results? And extending it further may not stop such terror attacks in future.  

Another idea that played upon is the Hindu vs Muslim card. The Hindu community is being egged to blame the Muslim community for such terrorists attack in Kashmir. This is the most heinous idea of all, because Indian Muslims have nothing to do with Kashmir. They are head and shoulders standing behind the nation. Those who are arguing on such lines are actually enemy of the nation. Both Hindu and Muslim communities should debunk such idea. They should   show maturity on de-linking the terrorists as they have no religion and are bunch of murders.

Here it could to be pointed that instead of showing helplessness on the terrorists attack and blaming Pakistani terror group, we should inquire into the security lapses that have led to such large scale terror strike. There are many security agencies in the country that are responsible for our inland security and they are accountable for such lapses. After proper investigation accountability has to be fixed on them and heads should roll of those found negligent in their duty.

Further, in such case blaming “Aman ki Asha” or hope for peace will not hold any ground. It is a testing time for the entire country. Such terror strike has taken place because of the absence of peace process and not because of those who are striving for peace in the region. The terror attack has happened because peace talks have been stalled for long time in Kashmir. The mature way to move ahead should be to open up peace negation with the people of Kashmir and win their confidence.  

Last but not the least terror attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama, is a gross failure of the central government's policy towards Jammu and Kashmir. While government celebrated the surgical strike of 29 September 2016, it failed to control the counter terrorists attack in its aftermath. India demonstrated that it has got the wherewithal to cross the LOC, but in its aftermath it has shown its own vulnerability, getting repeated pounding on its own turf. The current Pulwama terror attack shows that we cannot protect ourselves.

A responsible government should have acknowledged its lapses and taken the blame of the killing of its security personnel. However government of the day does not have any such moral courage. Instead of admitting its failure the government is blaming the Pakistani terror outfit and showing its helplessness. At the end of the day the government reduced to a caricature to condemn the terror attack. It is shedding crocodile tears over death of security forces and doing no more.

Well it is a time of grief for the entire nation as more than forty security forces has lost their lives in the terror attack.  However the question remains that is Pakistan alone responsible for such incident or India too has a role? Well it won’t be incorrect to say that our own government’s ill-conceived Kashmir policy is the main reason for the loss of the lives of our security personals? The fact remains that the loss of our brave soldiers is due to the failure of our government to evolve a sound Kashmir policy that could win the trust of the people.

Since there is going to be election time soon in the country, it should be warmed that there should not be any politics over such terror attacks. Any such blame game would divert attention of the people and the focus of the problem would be lost.  The political parties, the intelligentsia and the think tanks should come together and suggest the ways and means to nip problem in the bud so that no such situation never ever happen in future.  

As peace activists, my prescription is; talks alone could lead a solution for any such problem. Notwithstanding the fact it needs to be reiterated that the entire country stands united behind the current government in handling such tense situation.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He is the founder and moderator of the South Asia Contact Group. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com




Monday, February 11, 2019

India Remains a Corrupt Country Under Modi Rule

India Remains a Corrupt Country Under Modi Rule 

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The damaging report published by The Hindu Newspaper provides the clinching evidence that PMO was hobnobbing with the negotiations in the purchase of Rafael aircraft from France. In other words it’s the PM who was presiding over the act of corruption using his high office. 

‘The Hindu’ reportage by N. Ram that “Government waived anti-corruption clauses in Rafale deal” and “Defence Ministry protested against PMO undermining Rafale negotiations,” conclusively has given the proof  that this government is corrupt and has misled the nation on Rafale deal.

Now the ball is in the BJP’s court to provide equally powerful documentary evidences to claim the moral high ground that it has provided a corruption free government. Its denial in media or public forum won’t convince the nation. This is no small issue and cannot be brushed under the carpet. It involves the PMO, the highest executive office of the country that is indicted on corruption charges.

This new evidences provided by ‘The Hindu’ is a fit case to be heard by the Supreme Court that can reopen the case on  the Rafale deal where it has already given a clean chit to the government. Now there is a new twist in this case and the highest office of the country is mired in corruption. As such the intervention of the Supreme Court is must because it undermines the entire edifice of governance of the country.

Will the apex court reopen the Rafale deal case and call the investigation as to who is misleading the nation. Can it ask the PMO to stand in the dock and deny the allegations? Will the PMO wash its dirty linen in the Supreme Court?  It’s a testing time for the entire nation.

If that happens then an interesting tussle between the judiciary and the executive is bound to be witnessed as to who is higher of the two democratic symbols.  So now after the new findings the pendulum has shifted to the judiciary and it remains to be seen how it further handles the Rafale deal case.

The American business magazine ‘Forbes’ has published an article giving graphic account of how corruption is still thriving under Modi's regime. It says five years ago, people in India gave Narendra Modi the chance to realize his big promise to clean up corruption in the country. But today, Modi’s promise remains a promise and corruption is still thriving in all the usual places in India.

The reputed magazine says the erstwhile Congress-led UPA-II dispensation at the end of its tenure, had acquired a reputation of being mired in many corrupt deeds and it’s the same "odium" that is now being attached to the Modi government.  

The magazine cites evidences of high profile corruption cases that has shook Modi’s administration. To name a few is the murky Rs 60, 000 crore weapons deal with France to purchase 36 Rafale fighter planes. Then the Rs 200 crore bank fraud uncovered last year at the Punjab National Bank. These two are just a tip in the iceberg of scandals that has shaken the nation under Modi regime.  

Meanwhile, a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) states that India is ranked among the "worst offenders," in terms of graft and press freedom in the Asia Pacific region in 2017. This is another damaging report on Modi government performance since it had come to power with the plank to free India from corruption.

Similarly, the 'Transparency International' (TI) a leading non political, independent, non-governmental anti-corruption organisatio has documented corruption under Modi regime ranking India at 78 out of 175 countries. The recent ranking is worse than its 2015 ranking of India. These findings have surprised Indians because Prime Minister Modi has come to power with a promise to free India from the vice of corruption.

After coming to power Narander Modi made some bold moves to control corruption. He banned 500 and 1000 rupee notes to get rid of “black money.”  However this measure miserably failed to achieve any tangible results. The government could recover fake currency only to the tune of Rs. 41 crore that accounted for only 0.0027 per cent of the total currency that came back into the system following notes ban.

At the fag end of the BJP government’s tenure in office it appears that that PM Modi was fighting corruption among the country’s poor but was maintaining stock silence corruption in the high places, especially among the rich of the country. The Rafael deal and the Punjab National bank cases are examples to this trend.

Whatever may be the government’s statistics on the GDP growth rate or on the developmental index, India remains a breeding ground of corruption.  The Modi government had failed to spread the benefits of economic growth to the masses and on the contrary he encouraged a narrow elite to thrive under his regime giving rise to crony capitalism.

If we look back, the corruption allegation against the Congress-led UPA-II had reached its crescendo by 2014 and its reverberation facilitated the current BJP government to come to power. The incumbent PM personified the aspirations of the millions of Indians when he gave the assurance that neither he will indulge in corruption nor allow anyone else to do that. His assurance to rid the country of corruption raised him to the level of the pied piper of Hamlin that had lulled the rats to the river through his music. In this case, the nation responded to the music of bringing good days (Ache Din), by giving a thumping majority to Narandera Modi.

However, nothing has changed under the Modi rule. A random survey of Indians to measure the change in their life style, would surely end up in negativity with the majority saying their lives have not all changed and some may even respond that it has become worse under Modi regime        

India’s situation under Modi rule is neither new nor unique. Every successive government aspiring for power make populists promises like ending poverty and bringing prosperity etc.  However, after coming to power the incumbent government becomes a breeding ground for corruption. This is exactly what has happened under the Modi regime.  He came to the office with the promise to change the situation of the people but what he actually did is to change the rules and regulation that may help only few elites while the masses continue to reel under misery.  

Now, it’s the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi that is doing the same. The Congress President is selling the dream that he would change the face of the country, once it’s voted to power. His promises are so lofty that it has made social activist, Madhu Kishwar to wit through his tweet 'Wait Till Rahul Gandhi Promises Free Sex for Every Adult Indian.’

Indian journey since seventy years or so has been abysmally a low speed train ride. Who, How, When it will change only God knows. Indian politicians have a jolly good time after hoodwinking the people.  As a silent spectator the people by and large are a witness to the inchoate images of changing India.
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com  


Friday, February 8, 2019

Inayat Khan, IAS Officer, Inspires Indian Muslim Girls


 IAS Officer,  Inayat Khan,Inspires Indian Muslim Girls 

Syed Ali Mujtaba

She is dynamic, young, upright, energetic, flamboyant, IAS officer Ms Inayat Khan,  the new District Magistrate (DM) of Shiekhpura district, of Bihar state. She is a 2012 batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre. The 31 years old new district collector of Shiekhpura represents the aspiration of modern Indian Muslim middle class girl. She had cracked UPSC Civil Services Examination in 2011 and got the rank of 176 and secured IAS ranking along with Bihar Cadre.

Inayat is basically from Agra Uttar Pradesh. After completing her school education, she took admission in Anand Engineering College AEC, Agra. She completed B. Tech in 2007 with Electronics Engineering and started to work with a software consultancy company.

But after one year, she realized that she is getting no satisfaction from the current job. She resigned and came to Delhi for the preparation of Civil Services exam. She took a room at Gandhi Vihar, near Mukherji Nagar, quite close to Delhi University and started the preparation for the exam.

Inayat wrote the Civil Service exam first time in 2009. She qualified Prelims and Mains but could not find her name in the Interview list. Thereafter in 2010 she qualified the Gramin Bank exam but she did not joined the job and moved to Delhi for the preparation of the Civil Service exam. Inayat cracked the prestigious exam in 2011 and secured IAS ranking and Bihar cadre. Bihar is adjacent to her home state UP.

The young IAS officer came to Bihar when she was just 25 years old. She came to limelight during her probation period when she was sent to field for 6 months training program.

It was the election year. She took notice that there was no excitement among rural people about the election. She wrote few plays about election and convinced many folk artists to enact her plays. She organized plays in the rural area and her hard work was well appreciated and she hogged the limelight of the media.

Then her first posting was as the BDO of Pandarak, Patna District.  After that she was got transferred to Rajgir, where she worked as the SDO. Then she got transferred to Bhojpur District where she worked as a District Development Commissioner DDC.  Here, she work hard to transform the face of MNREGA project. This employment scheme was deemed as a failure in Bhojpur but Inayat ensured that people get benefit of this social sector initiative. Her tireless and transparent work resulted in the huge increase in the completion of MNREGA project.

That is not enough, she was constantly working in a very praiseworthy manner. She is
responsible for installing CCTV camera and bio matrix machine to register in and out timing of the staff members in each circle offices of Bhojpur.  She also use to go for inspection every now and then and catch officer who are negligent of their duties.  Many a time she was seen parking her vehicle and walking around with officials for assessing the ongoing development projects.

Inayat Khan is widely regarded as an honest officer who is working tirelessly for the development of the society. There is lot of expectation by the people of Shiekhpura that she will do wanders for this backward district.

Every Indian Muslim should proud of officer like Inayat Kan. This dynamic officer whose date of birth is 17th May, 1987.  She is expected to reach greater heights of the glory of Civil Service Administration of India. She serves as a role model for the Muslim girls of our country. It is expected that more and more Muslim girls should take inspiration from Inyat Khan and aspire to join the Civil Services of India.   

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from a farming family of Shiekhpura. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com 

 

 


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Revamp Faith Based Mental Care Healing Centers in India


Revamp Faith Based Mental Care Healing Centers in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The news of Supreme Court’s intervention in freeing some twenty two mentally-ill persons chained at a faith-based mental center in a Dargah in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh is bit surprising.  

Surprising not because the mentally ill people were freed at the orders of the Supreme Court but because the Apex Court has jumped the gun without going into the merits of chaining and taking into account only the human rights angle.   

Here, the important thing to consider is the symptoms of mentally diseased and the treatment available to cure them. Sometimes mentally ill patients suffer from mood disorder, bipolar affctive disorder, anxiety, depression, hypertension and schizophrenia.  In such symptoms some patients are violent and uncontrollable and have to be kept in chain to administer them medical treatment.

The Badaun district authorities acting on the Supreme Court’s observations freed the 22 mentally-ill patients and handed them over to their family members. They never considered that these patients were brought by their family members to such a healing centre because they were unfit to live in the society as they were creating social tension. The mental asylums after admitting the patients had put them in chains because that’s the only way they can start the healing process.

So before pronouncing judgment on such cases, SC may have a thought how best such mentally ill patients could have been treated and in such context may have underscored the utility of faith based mental healing centre and have suggested ways and means to improve the mental health care treatment.

The Badaun Dargah is one among many much mental care spiritual centres in India. The Erwadi Dargah is another such mental health care center in Tamil Nadu.  This faith based mental center hogged the limelight in 2001, where fire broke out there, burning alive some 40 mentally ill patients who were chained and unable to escape the flames.  

The Erwadi Dargah is 200 years old faith based healing centre for mentally ill patients in Tamil Nadu. It is the abode of Hazrat Sultan Syed Ibrahim Saeed who died in 1792.

The Erwadi Dargah incident was one of the most horrifying tragedies in the recent times. However, much water has flown down the bridge since then and now. The Tamil Nadu government has totally revamped the treatment pattern of the mentally ill at the Dargah, while still maintaining the sanctity of the spiritual based healing process.

The Tamil Nadu government in 2013 launched Mental Health Programme at Eawadi Dargah and launched a comprehensive mental healthcare scheme called the ‘Dawa-Dua’ programme. The government while acknowledging the spiritual healing power of the Daragah, opened a psychiatric clinic to scientifically treat the patients within the Dargah premises, 

Initially there was some resistance for setting up the clinic in the dargah as some people believed that mental illness is due to the evil spirits captivating the body and can be freed by prayers for forgiveness by the spiritual healers.

However, after some persuasion such people  were convinced that the medicines can work inside the dargah premises more better because its power may magnify by the blessings of the holy ‘Saint,’ who lies buried in the shrine.   

Soon after the setting up of the psychiatric clinic under ‘Dawa-Dua’ programme, the tarnished fame of the healing power of the Erwadi Dargah increased many fold. The news of the astonishing treatment under clinical and spiritual guidance sunk well among the people who started flocking in the Erwadi Dargah once again.

The shrine receives 1000 visitors each day some being mentally ill patients. Those having violent symptoms are chained within the dargah's premises after that they receive treatment at new psychiatric clinic, “Dawa-Dua”.  Its only after their nerves get cooled they are set free to carry out the rest of the treatment till they are fully cured. There are reports that more than 1,000 patients have so far been cured since the launch of the launch of the “Dawa-Dua” programme. 

So successful is the programme that it has sparked interest among other religious community especially Christian faith and they are visiting the Erwadi Dargha to study the programme to replicate in their own religious establishment. 

Boyed by the successful implementation of the ‘Dawa-Dua’ programme, the state government has earmarked an additional Rs 7.5 lakh to build a 50-bed psychiatric hospital at the dargah premises.

The faith based mental centers especially the Muslim shrine are dotting the Indian landscape. In such places, the arguments over faith versus science do not work. Mostly destitute and poor flocks to the Dargah to get cured through the spiritual healing process as they believe that the evil spirit from their body can be warded off only through faith based healing process. 

So one can say what one want about such faith based healing system but the fact remains that the results clearly explains that it is inexplicable and to which modern science have no answers.

It is due to the social pull factor of the Erwadi dargah that the Tamil Nadu government has established a psychiatric clinic there. The mentally ill here get psychotherapy treatment and also spiritual healing at the Dargah premises.

It would be in fit of things if the Supreme Court had ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to revamp the mental centre at the Badaun Dargah on the lines of Earwadi Dargah. Even, it could have passed a suo motto order that all such faith based healing centres should be upgraded as faith and science healing centers.

However, euphemistically one can say that just like the statue of justice that is blind folded, the learned seers of justice have delivered the judgment missing the trunk from the branches of the tree.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Muzaffarpur Shame Exposes Governments dependence on NGOs for Welfare Responsibilities

Muzaffarpur Shame Exposes Governments dependence on NGOs for Welfare Responsibilities


Syed Ali Mujtaba

The horrifying news from a state sponsored shelter home at Muzafarpur town in Bihar has lowered the national esteem beyond imagination. All over the country, there has been shock and dismay at this shameful news. No one could believed that such kind of ghastly act can take place even in a state run shelter home.

Now, when the heat and dust of over such monumental shame is settling down, it is time to take stock of the situation. This should begin with acknowledgment of those who are the prime movers of this news into the public domain.

First mover of this news is the 'Team Koshish' (field-action programme of Tata Institute of Social Sciences) that conducted the ‘Social Audit’ of the Muzafarpur shelter home and brought out the shocking irregularities happening there. The ‘ Team Koshish' is worthy of praise because they have worked in an extremely hostile situation and brought out the graphic details of physical injustices happening on the marginalized girls who actually were destitute, homeless and beggars living in that shelter home. .

Even as all the members of the ‘Team Koshish' deserve accolade, the special one must go to Mohammad Tarique (an Ashoka Fellow) who led the team with great passion. He selflessly supervised the audit team and helped in the preparation of the report in an extremely tight time frame is commendable.

The third kudos goes to Atul Prasad, Principal Secretary, ‘Social Welfare Department’ government of Bihar for envisioning such an unprecedented social audit by impartial organization i.e Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). He deserves the bigger accolade for accepting the truth and publishing the report and thus making it public. Had the TISS report not been made public, the truth may have remained buried in the files of Social Welfare Department of Bihar. 

The third person who deserves honor of accolade is Ms. Harpreet Kaur, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Muzaffarpur. It is her investigation that made skeletons tumble out. She showed great sense of courage in lodging the FIR against the key accused and promptly arrested them. She has shown that what an upright police officer can do if allowed to handle such sensitive cases like this.

The case so far and where it’s heading? A nationally reputed organization Tata Institute of Social Science carried out a social audit of a state-run shelter home that was based on evidence of the ‘inmates’ reported instances sexual assault on them.

The TISS submitted the report to the social welfare department of Bihar that not only accepted the report but went ahead to make it public. Following which the Superintendent of police Muzafarpur, carried out investigation and video-graphed evidence based on statements of the victims. After that  an FIR was lodged against the accused and the culprits were booked.  Following that an independent medical board from the reputed medical college did medical examination of the victim and corroborated the report that 34 out of 44 girls of the shelter home were raped.

There was a public hue and cry for speedy disposal of the case and demand of exemplary punishment for those found guilty. After which, the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar handed over the case to the CBI for investigation. He declared that no culprit, however powerful will be spared.

Now it is likely that the CBI will carry out further investigation of this case and collect more clinching evidence to make it a water tight case against the accused. After that the charge-sheet will be framed and the case will be heard in the CBI court and justice is expected to be delivered in a time frame.

It is now clear that most of the rape victims were minors and falls within the jurisdiction of Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act 2012. Under the new provision of POSCO Act that was amended in 2018 after 'Kathua rape case.'  “all accused are guilty till proven innocent.” This is a significant shift from the previous position “all accused are innocent till proven guilty.”

This Muzaffarpur shelter home case is a rarest of the rare case, where the new provision of POSCO Act 2018 can come into effect and the accused can be given the death sentence for raping minors below 12 years of age. It is expected that maximum punishment will be given to the pathological criminals found guilty of committing such heinous crime.

Muzaffarpur shelter home expose has blown over the lid of such horrific crime happening in state sponsored shelter home. The National Human Right Commission reports testify the fact that such sexual abuse of girls and women are more of a norm than the exception in government run mental hospitals, shelter homes run by NGOs.

After Muzafarpur shame a similar case was reported from, another shelter home in Deoria, in UP.  It is high time that all such government run shelter homes in the country should be scrutinized through social audit. An honest audit by the bunch of committed youth like those of ‘ Team Koshish’ can deliver the desired results. Such social audit should have full state support and be made public.  The various reforms suggested in such audit report should be implemented expeditiously and monitored periodically by the government.

Another concern is how to reorganize all such rehabilitation programmes of the government. The girls in the shelter homes were victims of the social and psychological malaise of the society. They have been protected in the shelter homes to escape further humiliation from the society. Now in such protected homes, they were physically and psychologically tortured.  This is a matter of great concern and poses a big challenge to the governments.

The need of the hour is a full proof rehabilitation programme of all such social victims who are living in protected homes.  The heart of the matter is that governments are absolving themselves from the welfare responsibilities and handing it over to some non-governmental organisations. This is the biggest revelation from this story.

There is no quick fix solution to such national shame. This malaise will not be set right unless the governments become proactive in discharging its social duties. This is a very serious issue and the response to it should be in proportion to the pandemonium that is created in the country.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai.

Friday, July 20, 2018

‘Fake News’ is turning India into ‘Lynchocracy’

 ‘Fake News’ is turning India into ‘Lynchocracy’

Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is spate of lynching incidents reported from different parts of India. Many of them are attributed to fake news that is discovered much after the damage is being done.

The Supreme Court of India has become agog to such frightening reality and had ordered the Centre and the State governments to take immediate steps to stop the dissemination of misinformation causing mortal harms to the individuals.

This phenomenon is reaching alarming levels forcing the government to direct the social media to control its fake content. It’s even contemplating to make legislation to arrest this growing trend.

The phenomenon of fake news which  is caught in the cesspool of blame game. The court is asking the government, the government is asking the state governments and social media and the social media is putting the onus on the public.

In this blame game, fake news is having a fields day. The civil society is a spectator to the lynch mobs that is on prowl at the drop a hat taking innocent lives.  It appears the phenomenon of fake news has acquired persuasive power with a tendency to whip up mob frenzy. It appears Indian democracy is being converted into mobocracy and lynchocracy. This is a serious issue and has to be dealt with all the seriousness it deserves.   

The very concept of fake news is the intentional spreading of misinformation. There are many sources of fake news. This can be individuals, lobbies, groups and even governments.  Invariable, all have their own selfish axe to grind. The motive behind fake news is to whip up emotions and reap the benefits of its cascading effects.

Fake news can be extremely dangerous if one cynical believe it to be true. The mother of all ‘fake news’ was the 2003 Iraq War, when the fake news was circulated that the then Iraqi dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction. Never in recent memory such chicanery of fake news was created that caused so much havoc in the world.  This misinformation lured the Bush administration to go to war with Iraq. And we all know what happened in its aftermath.

In hindsight, if the then US administration had bothered to check the reliability of such information and have not blindly have become susceptible to such fake news, perhaps world would have been a better place to live.  

Here, one wonders what would have been the trajectory of events, if social media, which are now considered to be the biggest carriers of fake news, was present at that point of time. Could it have exacerbated that fake news or it had deflated.

Well that is past, let’s talk about the pros and cons of the Supreme Court’s order to the governments  to find ways and means to control this horrifying trend. The government can either make legislation with punitive action to punish the culprits of the fake news or strengthen its vigilance over social media. 

The fear is any legislation made the government to control “fake news” could prove to be counterproductive. It may be used to target its critics and penalties in such case may stifle legitimate social discourse and divergent opinions. Many a time the governments itself are the chief source of fake news. In such case can governments be entrusted with the responsibility to control the fake news?  

Notwithstanding the facts,  it’s now an accepted fact that the social media platforms are the biggest source of ‘fake news’ generation.  This is because the online news industry is facing stiff competition  and the digital media revenues are dwindling. Unable to shore up its revenue Social Media are dishing out fake content to attract more page views.

This is a survival tactics of the online news industry which have adopted a certain kind of approach towards journalism that thrives on flashy ‘click-bait’ stories.Aimed at shoring up advertisements, it is creating contents that can go viral and can create maximum amount of page views. As a result, fake news have become a necessity on the social media platforms.

Thanks to the US President Donald Trump who has blown the lid over the fake news industry. Now this problem has acquired a global dimension and countries are waking up to this reality. Each country in their own way are trying to grapple with this menace but have yet to find a tangible solution to this problem.

Since a great deal of fake news is disseminated on social media platforms, the onus is on the social media outlets to control the intentional misinformation. The focus should be more at the tech platforms like Google, Apple and Facebook, where a great deal of information is generated. These tech platforms have the technical capacity to identify and delete inappropriate contents. Closing bogus accounts, blocking obvious offensive content and expanding third-party fact-checking are some options available to them.

People‘s expectation is since these tech companies control smart-phone operating systems they can reinvigorate  their commitment to creating built-in opportunities for affirmative creation of civically useful news. 

Further, there is need to educate people how to consume news and to report abuse, or stories that are fake or disputed. The social media platform needs to educate users to identify disinformation and to block them making use of their filters.

Lastly, all stakeholders have to bear a personal responsibility for the dissemination of truthful information, including governments, the traditional press, the new media and the citizens at large. The ultimate defense against fake news is the people who have to develop critical thinking and to be vigilant against fake news.  

The issue of fake news has created another problem in its wake and that is restoring public trust in the news itself. This is a huge issue that has cropped up since the advent of social media. So there is a big challenge before the news media industry to build public trust and living up to the expectation of news consumers.

In order to restore rebuild public trust, there is need to re-evaluate the way the  content strategies is being made, how a story is built, how the news is formulated and how its formatted, and what are the mechanism to distribute the news.


The need of the hour is instead creating fake news content, the focus should be on content generation that that is civically useful. The news outlets should take a fresh look at what they should have that’s valuable to its readers.

For this there is a need to have better understanding of its readers. The best possible way to win over public trust is to be relevant in the new era of information communication technology. It requires a vigorous re-evaluation of the content development and news production. Perhaps that's the only possible way to go forward to tackle the problem of fake news. 

As far as India is concerned, two websites; AltNews.in and SMHoaxSlayer are doing a huge service to fight the menace of fake news.  However, the task is monumental and all the stakeholders should generate greater amount of resolve to address this issue.  

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com



 

 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Movie ‘Sanju’- A Fascinating Real Life Story


Movie ‘Sanju’- A Fascinating Real Life Story

Syed Ali Mujtaba

‘Sanju,’ the movie based on the real life story of actor Sanjay Dutt, is so far the best release of the year 2018. Producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra and director Rajkumar Hirani, the big names in Hindi film industry, have done a commendable job. ‘Sanju,’ is undoubtedly an exciting, entertaining and gripping movie.

Ranbir Kapoor’s stupendous performance as Sanjay Dutt and rookie, Vicky Kaushal as Kumar Gurav, (Sanjay Dutt’s real life best friend) has made the movie reach to some dazzling heights.

‘Sanju’ is based on colourful lifestyle of the actor Sanjay Dutt. It depicts the tale of the trail and tribulation of stars son born with silver spoon. Sunjay Dutt is son of iconic star couple Nargis and Sunil Dutt. He has hogged the limelight since he is born and his life story that is an open book that millions of his fans envy and relish.

Sanjay Dutt was launched as hero by his father Sunil Dutt in the movie ‘Rocky’ (1976). It took quite a while for him to get out of the shadow of his star parents and he had to struggle a lot to carve out his own place in Hindi cinema. His films like; Sajan, Kalnayak, Vastaw, Munna Bhai, all are known for his stellar performances.

Since the beginning, Sanjay Dutt has been a cynosure of all eyes. When he was an adolescent and growing to be a young man, he lived a lifestyle of a drug addict and alcoholic. His wayward lifestyle made into headlines and his freaky tales filled the gossip columns.

Sanjay Dutt’s connection with underworld was a much talked about topic in the media. That was a time when many film stars had to develop connection with Mumbai’s underworld to remain safe because they held sway over the Hindi film industry. However, it was Sanjay Dutt’s connection that was more talked about amongst all.

As Sanjay Dutt was climbing his ladder of success in the Hindi flim industry, his father Sunil Dutt, entered into politics. He became Member of Parliament on Congress ticket. Since then the Hindu right wing political elements started targeting him. This was because Sunil Dutt married, ‘Nargis’ a Muslim and his secular ideals were not received well the Hindu right elements.

When all this was taking place, then some of the most tragic moments gripped India. The ‘Babari masjid’ was demolished in Ayodhya, UP in 1992. This triggered a wave of Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai. Muslims were targeted in a pre-planned manner in those riots. Sunil Dutt came out to help the riot victims of Mumbai and he was targeted by the Hindu group as they viewed him as pro Muslim.

.In this atmosphere of hate and revenge, some members of underworld group in Mumbai, engineered a series of bomb blasts to counter in the city to the mosque demolition and the subsequent riots.

The Mumbai bomb blasts which took many innocent lives not only shook the megapolis of western India but the entire country. What followed in its aftermath were arrests of the criminals and enemies of the nation.

In this whirlpool of real time hatred and revenge drama, Sanjay Dutt was sucked into it quite innocently. He and his father were under the life threat from Hindu fanatics. In order to protect himself and his family, Sanjay Dutt procured unlicensed “assault rifle” from Mumbai’s underworld. This revelation came when the criminals made confessional statements AND Sanjay Dutt’s folly came to limelight. The national media branded him as terrorist. He was arrested imprisoned and lived in jail like a hard core criminal.

When Sanjay Dutt, was out on bail many film makers cashed on his new found image. Movies like ‘Khalnayak’ and ‘Vastav’ etc cashed on his negative image.

This chapter of Sanjay Dutt’s life ended when the Supreme Court exonerated him from all criminal charges, except the gun possessing case. And for that he had to serve three years in jail, He is now a freeman absolved of all such charges.

This story of Sanjay Dutt is a real potboiler. There is lot of drama, conflict and internal trauma in this real life story. A biopic on him is something that was long overdue. Rajkumar Hirani, exactly did what people were expecting from him.

Hirani in his movie ‘PK’ attacked the fake ‘Godman,’ and in ‘Sanju’ he trained his gun the fake news. He has taken the problem head-on and by narrating the story of Sanjay Dutt, he exposed the nefarious designs of the unscrupulous media. How media can go to any length to manufacture fake news is the larger point that Hirani makes while telling the story ‘Sanju.’

Even though the movie ‘Sanju’ has tried to paint a positive image of actor Sanjay Dutt, the point of difference is, it has deliberately tried to cloak him as a playboy, to sell the movie, which in fact not true about Dutt’s real life.

Another piece of Sanjay Dutt is his marital life’s that is totally ignored in this movie. The mercurial actor is a victim of his own fate, when it comes to having his life partner. His first wife Richa Sharma (1987–1996) died of cancer leaving behind a daughter. His second wife Rhea Pillai (1998–2008) took divorce to marry Leander Paes. Sanjay Dutt at last found marital bliss in Manyata, his third partner with whom he has two children.

The narration of the story in the movie ‘Sanju’ is flawless and gripping. The screenplay and dialogues is of top notch. The technique of flash back and flash forward is conveniently used as its Hirani’s forte.

A sizable portion of the film is shot in America as Sanjay Dutt’s real life association with that country. This have given the look and feel to the movie and has made it look grand.

Performances wise, Ranbir Kapoor has proven the point that he is chip of the old block, and his acting genes comes from his great grandfather, Pirthvi Raj Kapoor.

Vicky Kaushal who enacted the role of Kumar Gaurav, (Sanjay Dutt’s real life best friend) has put a life in this character. Anuska Sharma and Sonam Kapoor are visual delights.

The only weak point of the film is Parash Raval. He is unable to fit into the character of Sunil Dutt and looks more like himself than Sunil Dutt. If the filmmakers had done more brainstorming on finalising a suitable cast for Sunil Dutt’s role, the movie ‘Sanju’ still could have been more gripping.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com