Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chennai Open Tennis Tournament Growing Bigger

Chennai Open Tennis Tournament Growing Bigger
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai Dec 31, 2008: Chennai is all decked up for Chennai Open, India's first and only ATP International Series Tennis tournament from 5 to 11 January 2009 at the SDAT Nungambakkam Stadium. The tournament now in its 14th year has put India firmly on the global tennis map.

Chennai Open with every passing year is growing bigger and spreading wider. This year it will be telecast through the strong TV broadcast network of 18 top international TV channels reaching more than one billion households across 140 countries worldwide.

The matches of Chennai Open 2009 will be telecast on Zee Sports TV channel in the Indian sub continent. IMG, who owns and organizes Chennai Open, has awarded the telecast rights to this premier broadcaster at a whopping cost of US$ 450,000.

Chennai Open has become the most sought after sporting destination for tennis players across the globe. This year two players who have been in Top 10 and 7 players who are in the Top 50 during the year 2008 will be seen in action.

Also, as many as 15 players who are in top 100 players list will feature in this tournament. World No 5, Nikolay Davydenko (Russia), World No 13 (No 9 in June 2008), Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland), World No 23, Marin Cilic (Croatia), World No 26, Ivo Karlovic (Croatia), World No 33, Rainer Schuettler (Germany) and Former World No 1 and World No 42, Carlos Moya (Spain) are few notable names to be watched.

The Indian contingent comprises of Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj who will feature in the singles draw. Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes with their respective partners are in the doubles draw. Indian young tennis star, Yuki Bhambri and a Davis Cup regular for India, Harsh Mankad will be other players looking to hog limelight.

Chennai Open 2009 seems to creating new record of sorts. This tournament has been awarded with prestigious awards like ATP Award for excellence-1997 and 1999, ATP Award for best promoted tournament (International group) in 1998 and ATP's Player Services Award of Excellence - 2006 and ATP's Best Marketing Award -2008.

The tournament has also become a great platform for major brands to reach out to different demographic pockets. As many as 24 brands, have partnered with Chennai Open 2009, providing the financial muscle and some exciting off-court action.

“Chennai Open 2009 promises to showcase world class tennis for its fans across the world with its impressive roster of Indian and international stars," says Tournament Director, Fernando Soler.

“The tremendous response and support that we receive from our partners indicates that the tournament is growing,” he adds.

Ravi Krishnan, Advisor, IMG expresses similar views. "Chennai Open has set the pace of organizing tournaments in India of International standards. An impressive player field, high voltage tennis action and professional execution of the tournament year after year, truly demonstrates the strength of Chennai Open and its position as the premiere tennis event,” he says.

There is little doubt Chennai Open is a week-long sports festivity in this southern Indian metropolis. It has acquired the status of a much sought-after tennis event for both players and fans alike. It presents an opportunity for them to move beyond their television sets and catch the action live.

There are more off court action and the whole stadium remains abuzz with not only sports enthusiasts but many other celebrities who turn out there for annual glimpses.

No wonder every Chennaite is looking forward with great enthusiasm for this tennis carnival to begin next week.
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

Monday, December 29, 2008

What a beautiful sight that would be!

What a beautiful sight that would be!
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The entire peace loving people of the world found expression at the shoe throwing incident on the US President George W Bush in Iraq. I followed this incident through the radio at my father’s farm in the province called Bihar, the so called cradle of the Indian civilization. As I walked past the paddy fields of my father's farm, this news made me smile for a while and I upped my ears to listen it with great enthusiasm to follow its graphic details.

Stream of thoughts jogged the memory lane and the famous punch lime of the out going US president made shortly after 9/11that he will smoke out Osama Bin Laden from the face of earth rang my ears.

This was because I met few `rat eaters' who were busy fanning a hole in the paddy field near which I stood listed the radio BBC English service. These folks knew me and greeted me with a courtesy salute. I acknowledged their gesture raising my hand and nodding my head and I stopped by them to observe their activities in some details.

These guys had found a hole in the paddy field and were preying on the rats holed up there. They had dug up another hole close to the first one where they had put fire and were fanning it up making the smoke to come out from the next hole.

I watched the entire operation with patience and saw suffocated rats coming out from the other hole. These guys immediately pounced on their prey and held it in hand to bang it on floor hard enough to kill.

One guy who was a holding a stick tied tail of the rats on one end of the stick and kept it on his shoulder. All together they had five catch that was hanging as items of display. It demonstrated these folks were going to have a nice meal that day.

I am not writing this to tell how some people in India feed. Its also not to highlight the plight of this particular caste within the schedule caste who still live in stone age and relish rat meat.

The story is to connect with the pledge that has gone into smokes after eight years of world terror in the name of war on terror. The entire peace loving people of the world is rejoicing at the exit of one of the most hated man on earth. There could not be a more befitting finale then the shoe throwing incident at the greatest spoiler of peace.

I am wondering if a world crime tribunal sends him to the gallows, will this brave heart face the noose barefaced with the Bible in hand and with TV cameras catching his every expression beaming it live into many homes – I am sure some may definitely quip, what a beautiful sight that would be!

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

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mumbai Attack- Blame Game Moving in Circles

Mumbai Attack- Blame Game Moving in Circles
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The November 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed nearly 190 people is the most recent episode in long string of high-profile terrorist attacks in India.

India has plethora of disgruntled elements, all planning million mutinies now and the story of grappling with the scourge terrorism is quite long. To cut it short, even then there is no long term vision yet prepared how to tackle this menace in a time bound sustained manner.

As it happens after every terrorists attack, the moment the dusts settles down, the blame game begins and this time the blame for Mumbai attack is centering on three broad themes. The first is of course Pakistan, the epic center of terrorism in South Asia. The second is Indian politicians, incurring the wrath of the common people. The third is the intelligence agencies, that has repeatedly failed to protect the lives of the people.

India’s blame game of Pakistan is as old as the age of that country itself. Pakistan is a convenient scapegoat for every security related problem of India. It seems there is no vision in the blame game and it follows the snake and ladder story. In the wake of security challenges, blame game begins by stoking temperature and peace prospects are put on the backburner. Then the thread of coexistence is picked up all over again. No one knows how long this story will keep playing itself, how many generations would remain victim of this.

There is some thinking within the country emerging demanding to put an end to this blame game in a in a civilized manner. However there are not many takers to it as it requires a great deal of political courage to set the record straight, and no one like to risk their political ambition. This leads to the continuation of the blame game to take on Pakistan but no one knows how to move forward and there logjam over this issue.

At another level the blame game is being directed towards the politicians and its being said they often shy away from taking tough decisions for fear of angering their constituents. This again seems to another story that’s moving in circles.

But what is the tough decision that’s being talked about. It actually pertains to bring back Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). This empowers the security agencies to keep terror suspects in custody without bringing them to trial. This counter terrorism measures have often been used to target a particular community and several human rights organizations have appealed that many innocents have become victims of this draconian law.

Interestingly the debate over the tough measures suddenly vanished into the blue, when the ugly face of Hindu terrorism came to limelight with the arrests made in the Malegoan blast case. The Hindutva leaders went hammer and tongs against any tough measures in wake of the arrest of a Shadvi (female religious leader) and few other persons that included an India Army personal. They warned that such measures should not be used to target Hindu community that according to them cannot be terrorists.

However, the saffron toads have once again started croaking for tough measures in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack. It may be recalled that in 2002 when the BJP led NDA government was in power, it passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act. What actually happened was in the name counter terrorism measures this act was use to target a particular community and met with stiff opposition. It was repealed in 2004 when the Congress led NDA government came to power. Now after the recent Mumbai attack, the call for POTA has again started making rounds.

The question is can such tough laws put an end to the scourge of terrorism. Was terrorism on wane when this law was in place and did it gained momentum after being repealed? There again seem to be no long term vision involved in this and what seems to dominate this debate is some muddle headed thinking.

The Mumbai attack is blamed on the failure of the country's intelligence community but no one has given a thought, what needs to be done about the organizational structure that’s unable to cope up with the new security pressures.

As of now a number of intelligence, military, and police organizations within the Indian government contribute to counter terrorism efforts. These include state-run police forces, special security forces, and paramilitary forces that patrol the borders and assist the police when necessary. The army usually participates in counter terrorism operations as a last resort.

India's Ministry of Home Affairs heads the homeland security and oversees national police, paramilitaries, and domestic intelligence gathering agencies. The Intelligence Bureau (IB), a division of the Home Affairs Ministry, collects intelligence inside India. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is the external intelligence agency. A Joint Intelligence Committee analyzes intelligence data from RAW and IB as well as from a handful of military intelligence agencies. The IB oversees an inter-agency counter terrorism center. The Ministry of External Affairs oversees its own counter terrorism body.

The big question is whether these monumental apparatus armed with sub organizational structure are good enough to handle the security demands of the country or do they require an overlook.

Opinions are again divided on this issue. Some feel India’s intelligence agencies are performing well and there is no need for restructuring. Contrary to it there is pressing demand that the entire intelligence gathering format should be rehauled and be made accountable and result oriented. This debate again seems to be showing no sign of playing itself out. There are no signals of any immediate sweeping changes to be taking place in counter terrorism measures in India.

So where do we go from here. It seems India has a higher tolerance for collateral damage than working out any long term vision plan to get rid of it. This is because many of the conflicts are self created and vested interests are working overtime to keep them afloat. The net result is India keeps on getting deep wounds periodically and no one seem to know how to get past it.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

India must learn lessons from the Mumbai Attack

India must learn lessons from the Mumbai Attack

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Thank God, the crime against humanity that was on display for sixty hours on our television sets from Mumbai since 26 to 28 November 20008 has at last got over. The entire nation pays heartfelt condolences to those bereaved families that have lost their near and dear ones in this diabolic act of terror. The Mumbai attack was unprecedented of its kind and it could have happened to any city of the world and the response too may have been the same. So there is no point to belittle the sacrifices made by the security forces to bring peace to this panic stricken city. The entire nation salutes those brave soldiers who have brought back the normalcy to the commercial hub of India.

The way the attack on Mumbai was executed suggests that the entire operations must have been meticulous planed for months together. The terrorists were highly novitiate youth; they were “Fidayeen” who had come with a mission to die. So Mumbai attack was not the handiwork of any ordinary terror group and the needle of suspicion falls on few groups that are in the business of terror.

Given the terror profile of such magnitude the fingers obviously points towards Al Qida, the premier terror outfit in the world today. India has been on the hit list of Al Qida, for long. They have chosen Mumbai because they knew India cannot muster global response and they can easily get away by inflicting the maximum damage. The mission was to demonstrate the capability of Al Qida as a terrorist outfit in the world.

The second suspicion falls on Lasker- e –Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohmmad, the two terror outfits based in Pakistan. They are engaged in anti India activity and their focus is to liberate Kashmir through armed militancy. They have been involved into terror activities before like breaching into Ayodhya security cordon, entering into Akshardham temple, and laying an attack on Indian Parliament. This group is highly motivated with well trained youth ready to commit any act of terror at any moment of time. These are the groups which are the spoilers of India- Pakistan peace party. Every time when the two countries try to come close to each other, these groups takes upon the task to play the spoilsports. They have vested interest in keeping the India and Pakistan at the loggerhead because their entire terror network thrives on anti- India bogey. They run a risk of getting dismantled if the India- Pakistan peace process gets back on the rails. This group has precedents of unleashing terror attack in India before and in all probability they could be behind the deadly attack on Mumbai.

There some people who are pointing fingers at saffron terror that has of late come to limelight in India. They argue that the Mumbai carnage was hatched to divert the attention from the Malegoan blast case that was on final stages and could have unmasked a different face of Indian terrorism. They further argue that the terror act was planned to silence those investigating the Malegoan blast case and they have succeeded in eliminating many top ATS official probing the case.

Notwithstanding the sentiments behind such argument, the fact remains that this does not stand to the test of logic. It’s well known that the saffron terror operates at mob level; they can unleash mayhem only in groups, as they did in Gujarat, they have no precedent to take guns and run amok. Secondly the Mumbai attack was an assault on India and given the blinkered patriotism such saffron outfits display, it’s hard to link them with terror operation of such magnitude. So at the end of the days it would be off the mark to blame the saffron outfits for Mumbai carnage.

If the Muslim groups are blaming on the saffron terror, the Hindu groups are pointing fingers towards Indian Mujahadin, the Muslim terror group that has paned up of late in India. Again this argument looks weak because given the kind of weapons the terrorist used and the kind of professionalism they showed, it did not suggests they could be local youth who picks up a brawl on the streets. So no matter how much of anger may be seething in the veins of the Muslim youths of this country, it’s unlikely they could plan such a high level terror operation.

There was an interesting report in the Times of India that linked Mumbai attack to shore up the cause of the liberation of Hyderabad that was integrated into India after police action in 1948. It points towards the e mail purportedly sent by Deccan Mujahideen, a new terror outfit that has sprung up and owes the responsibility of the terror attack on Mumbai. This idea was debunked by the security experts and they say the e mail from Deccan Mujahideen was a divisionary tactics to confuse about the main suspects.

The most intriguing aspect about the Mumbai attack is to ascertain its motive. None of the terrorist demanded any ransom to be paid, no one called to free any of their accomplices locked up in the Indian jails, and no one shouted any slogan for the freedom of Kashmir. All one can say perhaps they desired to celebrate the act of terror and succeeded in gaining global media attention for about sixty hours.

What ever may be the motive behind the Mumbai attack, one thing that comes out very clearly is that the terrorists surely succeeded to bring back Muslim militancy on the centre stage. The Malegoan blast was changing the perception of terrorism in India but the Mumbai terror carnage whitewashed that image. It succeeded to reinforce the stereotype that ‘all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.’

The history of India is littered with the security gaps and innumerable invasion of the country has taken place because of the inadequate security arrangement to defend its borders. The Mumbai terror act has once again exposed the chinks in the security arrangement in the country. A few days ago we all were celebrating the heroics of the Indian navy sinking a Thai trawler, in the Gulf of Aden believed to be having pirates. After this there were talks about Indian navy gaining the blue water capabilities. And then came the news that the terrorists took the sea route to disembark on the gateway of India and every one started talking how did the terrorist got into Mumbai, what happened to the fabled Indian Navy and the Coastguard?

If the security at the sea is pathetic then those on the mainland is still worse. A police officer speaking in a TV pogramme was heard saying that in his 37 years of police service he did not have the training to fire even ten times. The entire police force in India is just for ornament, he was saying and lamented that policeman carry vintage variety of rifles and by the time they can load the bullets and make it ready to fire, the terrorist must have fled a long way from them. His summery was the police force was totally inadequate to meet the security challenges of modern India.

So what are the lessons the Mumbai attack teaches? The first and foremost is that the country requires a rehauling of the entire security apparatus. This is both at the mainland and also of the coastline. The second lesson it teaches is the need for community policing. This is required in each and every locality of the country. The final lesson it conveys is; wake up India how long you want to bleed. If every Indian remains vigilant and united no terror outfit can take the liberty to commit such terrible crime of such magnitude as it happened in Mumbai.

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Significance of Michael Jackson’s Conversion to Islam

Significance of Michael Jackson’s Conversion to Islam
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Pop star Michael Jackson has converted to Islam at a ceremony in Los Angeles recently. Jackson , whose once amazing career has been eclipsed in recent years, is said to have changed his name to Mikaeel, one of the angels of Allah name and taken the ‘Shahada’ or a declaration to believe in Islam.
The iconic star continued to be in news for legal and financial troubles. His career seems to be on wane since the news for his bizarre behavior led to the accusation of child molestation. He however was acquitted from all charges in this case after a Jury gave the verdict in his favor at the end of a sensational trial that lasted for 14 weeks in Santa Maria, CA in 2005. Some say this was the turning point in Jackson’s life.

According to a report, the legendry rock star showed interest in Islam after discussing the religion with a music producer and a songwriter on his new album. The duo started talking to him about their new beliefs to which they had converted recently and how they thought they had become better human being thereafter. It’s after that Michael began warming the idea on Islam and after being convinced about this faith, he finally went through the motion of its declaration as his belief.

The report says, the 50-year old legend wore the traditional Islamic attire as he pledged his allegiance to the Koran at a friend's home in Los Angeles. The religious ceremony took place at the Hollywood Hills home of Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro, who composed music for Jackson’s iconic "Thriller" album. The function was attended by legendry Yousef Islam, a.k.a, Cat Stevens, another pop icon of the sixties.

When I heard about the news I was wondering whether there could be any connect between pop star Michael Jackson and the celebrated Urdu poet Mohammad Iqbal.

Iqbal penned the India’s unofficial national anthem “Sare Jahan Se Accha”... whereas Michael Jackson gave to the world - 'Just beat it'!

When we analyze the news of conversion Michael Jackson to Islam and its impact on his new faith, especially in the context of the controversies that has been erupting time and again since The Satanic Verses and running through the Danish Cartoons that maligned and denigrated the Islamic faith then the poet Iqbal gets connected with Michael Jackson episode.

Iqbal says: “Kuch Baat hai ke hasthi mithe nahi hamari, saadyon raha hai dushmane daure jamma hamara”…… ‘There is something in my religion that it fails to die; people have remained its enemy from centuries.’

These lines actually were art of "Sare Jahan's" poem, but the poet modified it later to convey the message of preeminence of Islam in the world.

The significance of Michael Jackson’s conversion to Islam could be ascertained from the fact that in recent past a series of writers have mushroomed that thrive on spreading the canard against Islam. There whole effort is to belittle a religion that’s faith of majority of people in fifty two countries of the world.

The trend of anti- Islam writers continue to grow since Sir Salman Rushdee wrote The Satanic Verses. The master story teller assumed iconic status by denigrating the religion whose name he continues parade even after making a killing out of mocking at it in his figment of imagination.

Back home, another author Taslima Nasreen became a celebrated figure after writing abuses against Islam. Her basic argument is Muslims should stop reading Koran and stop believing in Islam as its inhuman outdated religion. However, she too continues to parade her Muslim identity and never tried to set an example of her progressive beliefs and ideas.

There is another subtext to Michael Jackson episode especially for those who are busy spreading the canard that “All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorist are Muslims.” This has become a fancy catch phrase since the 9/11 and to justify the war on terror and target a particular community.

The Michael Jackson episode has also ramification on the conversion debate raging in India. The Hindu extremists are accusing the Christians of using fair and foul means for doing conversion activities. The change of faith by Michael Jackson suggests that conversion is a voluntary decision of an individual person and no amount of incentives can change anyone’s heart.
Well whatever may be reason for the conversion of faith of Michael Jackson, the fact remains that the world adores him as a singer, dancer and a performer par excellence. As Mikaeel, he would continue to receive the same warmth of love and affection when he comes on stage to regale the world once again.

The entire world looks forward for this musical genius new album after he has changed his faith. The expectations are; Michael Jackson would reach to greater musical heights as Mikaeel, the angel of Allah.

After all did not Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, became phenomena after becoming Mohmmad Ali. Did not Dilip become a rage in India after becoming Allah Rakha Rehman.

The significance of Michael Jackson’s conversion would definitely change the perception about Islam and provide an answer to all those who are busy in running a campaign against it. Its here poet Iqbal’s prophecy comes true.

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

India: Sale of party tickets is democratic order

India: Sale of party tickets is democratic order

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The allegation by the senior Congress leaders Margaret Alva and Yogendra Makwana regarding the sale of party tickets have brought the functional dynamics of the Indian democracy into open, purportedly touted as the largest in the world.

Each ticket was supposedly sold at a premium of 80 lakh to 1 crore rupees. A cheap bargain described a witty scribe when he heard the rates and said in actual practice the price tag are much higher.

The selling of the tickets is an established practice among the southern Indian parties particularly those in Tamil Nadu. Most of these parties are personal fiefdom or proprietorship of a particular person or a family and they run the operations of the party as a private business.

Come every election, and an action packed high voltage drama erupts for the distribution of the ticket. All criterions that are mentioned in the rule books of democracy are put on stacks and it’s the commercial entrepreneurship alone that comes into play.

The criterion that’s normally considered for the distribution of the tickets is; caste factor, muscle power, but the most important of all is the capacity of the candidate to buy the ticket.

This is quite a huge source of revenue to the parties and anyone who aspires to be a politician has to be prepared with the financial muscle to buy the ticket on a premium price. This premium keeps going up with every elections keep in mind the inflation rate that’s growing every year.

This practice is in vogue from a long time and there is nothing secret about it. The model code of conduct that comes into force after the announcement of the election hardly pays any attention to such kind of fraudulent practices. The election commission turn a blind eye to this travesty of democracy.

It seems now this virus has even reached to the national parties as well. The allegation made by the senior Congress party leaders like Margaret Alva and Yogendra Makwana has blown the lid out of the working of the Congress party.

Marget Alva had alleged that in the last Karnataka state election, the Congress party had sold the tickets to the highest bidder. She has come out in open because her son was denied the ticket who refused to pay the money being the progeny of one of the most senior leaders of the party.

There was something fishy going on in Karnatka Congress when senior Congress leader Jafer Sharif had announced to sit on hunger strike, when his grandson was denied ticket during the election. The veteran leader had taken up the matter to Delhi and had met the party president to show his resentement. Since then there has been some rumors about the sale of party tickets.

Now when senior Congress leader Margaret Alva and Yogendra Makwana has blown the whistle the rumors are taken for truth. Alva is believed to have sent her resignation as Congress general secretary to Sonia Gandhi in protest of this issue.

The seriousness of this allegations could be ascertained from the fact that similar charges are beginning to resound from other quarters of the Congress camp as well.

Another party functionary, Yogendra Makwana, who headed the AICC's scheduled caste department has come out in support of Margret Alva. Makwana says there must be "something substantial" in Alva's remarks and demanded an inquiry into her charges.

Makwana without mentioning names charged that at least two SC women aspirants for tickets from Rajasthan had made a similar complaint to him. He alleged that an AICC leader demanded Rs 80 lakh for a ticket from a candidate from Bara constituency in Rajasthan. Another candidate from Alwar complained to him to have asked for Rs 40 lakh for a ticket. Makwana says not one of the 30 names he proposed for the Rajasthan assembly polls was accepted.

The Congress party in a damage-control exercise has rejected the allegations of tickets sale and ruled out a probe into it. Party spokesperson, Jayanti Natarajan has said "there is no truth in the allegations so the question of a probe does not arise."

However, there are not many takers to Congress defense, allegations are flying thick and fast that a coterie has over taken over the Congress and some unscrupulous people are making fortune by the sale of party tickets. Its also said that many senior leaders in the Congress are feeling suffocated as they are gradually being sidelined. Their allegation of sale of tickets has blown the lid over the functioning of the Congress party.

Every one knows that Rajya Sabha seats are sold to the industrialist and business houses from a long time. The money bags buy them because they feel becoming Member of Parliament would add on their status. They also can do some wheeling and dealing to expand their business empire.

However, even this interest is loosing sheen. Now many see becoming an MP a waste of time. To come round the problem recently a money-bag had bought Jharkhand RS ticket for its company’s manager. This person was suppose to look after his business interest in Parliament.

The pronouncement by senior Congress leaders like Margaret Alva and Yogendra Makwana have have confirmed that the practice of the selling of the tickets in the state assembly is an accepted practice in Indian democracy. Its logical deduction points that the same practice could be at work for the Lok Sabha seat as well. If this is so then this is the most disgusting part about the functioning of Indian democracy one can imagine.

This dark side of Indian democracy which had been at work for long but no one wanted to talk about it is now unmasked by the utterances of the senior Congress leaders. Hats off them. After sixty years of independence this is a new level to which Indian democracy has stooped to and his brings us to the big question - Is India on sale? Well your guess is as good as mine!

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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

High Drama at Indian Designer’s Trial in the US


High Drama at Indian Designer’s Trial in the US

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Well I do feel for people whom I interviewed in my journalistic career and my days of reckoning for such persons become much more profound when they are caught up in some unimaginable mire and hog the limelight for the wrong reasons. I am talking about ace Indian fashion designer Anand Jon who is jailed in the US on rape charges and his trail is getting huge media attention and referred by LA Weekly as "supercharged with sexual content."
Recently Anand Jon trial has had two strange moments, one involving web giant Google and other the Government of India. According to LA Weekly... Judge David Wesley was ready to issue an arrest warrant for Google's custodian of records, since the search-engine giant hadn't responded to defense requests to cough up email records related to Amanda C, who alleges that fashion designer sexually assaulted her. Later, Google did fax over the records and that’s eventually the warrant was quashed. The trial is all set to go to the jury after the closing arguments.

The supporters of Anand Jon leaked an email by Government of India that was sent out on October 18 reflecting upon an India citizen facing trail in the US . The e mail reads: “The Government of India have noted media reports of judicial proceedings which indicate instances where exculpatory evidence was either destroyed or withheld from the defendant. While in no way wishing to interfere with the judicial process, the Government of India is concerned at the lack of adequate information and opportunity to an Indian citizen to defend himself.”

Its reported that under instructions from the Government of India, the Consul General of India in San Francisco called on the Attorney General of the State of California, Mr. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., on 16 October 2008, to express the concern of the Government of India at the publicly reported omissions and commissions in the due judicial process and to request the Attorney General to ensure that Anand Jon, an Indian citizen, is given every opportunity to defend himself to the fullest extent provided under the US laws.

Anand burst into the US fashion bubble in 2000 after New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani selected him as one of the top 75 designers in the world and his hand-painted Medusa Jeans retailed for a whopping $720.
Anand Jon and his designer sister Sanjana Jon were in Chennai in 2002 on a personal visit. The celebrities actually are Keralite, who grew up in Chennai. Ananad went to city’s famous Padama Sehadri School but was drop out at high school level. He went to the US and became a big name in fashion designing.

At that time I was working with the Sun TV and I had invited Anand for the breakfast show. The designer accepted my request and flaunting his long hairs over his shoulders he was dot on time for the interview. He looked a jolly good fella who had become Yank. He was laughing and cutting jokes in garbled Tamil. Talking about his life and times in America , Anand gave a peek of dress sense of many bold and beautiful American celebrities. I had a good chat with him and his sister after the interview was over. During the pleasantries the celebrity gave me his black visiting card ‘Anand Jon’ that I still preserve in my card box.

I remember taking Anand and his sister Sanjana to the portico of Anna Ariwlyam where Sun TV was located and ushered them for the waiting car. In the moving lift, I had asked Anand the batch he was in at the Padama Sehadri School in Chennai. I could see a bit of embracement on this question at the designer’s face, but he overcame quickly giving me a winking smile. With all grace and aplomb he retorted; “Oh that was long time ago…you journalists dig out bones looking for meat."

When I read that Indian fashion designer Anand Jon was arrested in the US on rape charges and a cane of worms of his sexual exploits littered the newspapers, his last word that he told me sitting in the car –‘Chalo, C ya again’ ringed into my ears.
To recall for those who haven’t followed Anand Jon case, the celebrated Indian fashion designer was arrested in the US on 15 March, 2007. It was reported that Anand allegedly committed a variety of horrific acts on four separate victims between October 2004 and March 5, 2007. He was arrested after one of his accusers came forward and complained to the authorities and further investigation uncovered some other potential victims.

Anand camp maintains that the fashion designer is innocent. They expect that he will be exonerated by the court and all the accusations against him are false. Anand’s sister, Sanjana too believes that his brother was trapped. She reportedly have said, “Many people were jealous at Anand’s rapid rise and were waiting for a chance to pull him down.”

Anand graduated from the Parsons School of Design in 1998 in the US . He had a meteoric rise went on to become an ace fashion designer and many of his clients were rich and famous. He is said to have dressed celebrities such as Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Ivanka Trump, Elizabeth Jagger and Bruce Springsteen.

When I read the news that Anand Jon arrested on rape charges, my encounter with the celebrated designer started haunted me. Since then I am following his trial very avidly. It’s very hard for me to cast a judgment on personal life of anyone still harder to do so in case of Anand Jon whom I had met very briefly and that too very professionally.

I believe that a person is innocent till proven guilty and this applies to Anand Jon as well. As an Indian I hope and pray that he gets a fair trial in the US and justice is never denied to him. However, whatever may be the final judgment in this case, the memory of the fashion designer whom I had met and interviewed would continue to linger forever in my mind.
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com


Post Script from The Los Angeles Times:

Thirty-four-year-old fashion designer Anand Jon, once among the most prominent Indians on the New York fashion and social scenes, was convicted of rape and other crimes.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for seven days before finding Anand Jon Alexander guilty of one count of rape and 15 counts of sexual assault and other charges.

The designer, who goes by the professional name of Anand Jon, sat silently in court wearing a light gray suit and yellow tie as the court clerk announced the jury's verdicts. Behind him, his sister Sanjana Jon sobbed as she sat with friends and family in the crowded downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

Prosecutors said Jon, 34, faces a sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 13. He will be eligible for parole after 67 years.

Speaking on behalf of Jon's defense team of four lawyers during the press conference, Leonard Levin declared that they were "obviously disappointed" with the jury's verdicts but vowed to file an appeal on Jon's behalf.

"This case is not over by a long shot," he said.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sri Lanka issue: Will Manmohan Singh’s Government Fall

Sri Lanka issue: Will Manmohan Singh’s Government Fall
Syed Ali Mujtaba


The ultimatum given by the ruling DMK government in Tamil Nadu to pull down the UPA government has once again brought the India’s Sri Lanka policy on the center stage of Indian politics. The way Tamil Nadu politicians are clamoring to stop the ethic war in Sri Lanka, its likely that in case if they pull out from the ruling coalition, the ruling UPA government will soon be reduced to minority. The million dollar question is, will the New Delhi bend to the demand of the Tamil Nadu politicians, and will the DMK and its will allies really pull out from the UPA government?

One has to be clear that there exists two policies in India as far as India –Srilanka relations are concerned. One policy is guided from Chennai and other from New Delhi. Both operate independently as both addresses separate constituencies. There is always divergence and convergence between the two policies. There are times when Chennai’s policy dominates the New Delhi and when New Delhi over rules the Chennai policy. Whenever there is weak coalition government in New Delhi that depends on the support of Tamil Nadu allies, the Chennai policy prevails over the New Delhi and the vice versa.

Now if we see the current political situation in Sri Lanka and analyze the two Indian policies, the picture may become somewhat clear. The compulsion of the Tamil Nadu politics is to side with the Tamils who are taking a heavy beating in Sri Lanka. This is a huge political issue in Tamil Nadu and no political party can go against supporting the Tamil cause. In Tamil Nadu people do get motivated on the ethnic imbroglio in Sri Lanka and the political parties play to the galleries on this to keep their vote bank intact and to enlist more supporters to their camp.

It has also to be made clear here that there is no unity on the Sri Lankan issue among the political parties in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK which is second most important political block in the state is opposed to the resolution adopted by the DMK and its allies. If the situation arises Jayalalitha can easily fill the DMKs position. The Tamil Nadu Congress chief Thangabalu has made it clear that he will follow the party high commands orders and would not toe the DMK line.

If this being the case, can Tamil Nadu politician arm twist New Delhi to ask the Sri Lankan government to halt the war. My answer is NO. Why? Well the general election in India is due in March. If the DMK and its allies pull out of the UPA alliance, and in case the UPA government is reduced to minority, the government will declare for general elections. In that case the ruling dispensation will assume the role of a care take government and no policy decision during that period is possible and this may continue till April next year.

Now, the whole question is whether the DMK and its allies would pull out from the UPA government. This again is very unlikely. The election in Tamil Nadu is still far away and ruling DMK would not like to sacrifice its government at this stage. As such the ruling coalition is not so stable in the state. The PMK is out of the state alliance. The left parties are keeping distance. The DMK government survives with the Congress support and if the DMK-Congress alliance breaks in New Delhi, then Congress will walk out of the state alliance and this would reduce the DMK government into a minority.

So in that case what we can infer from the resignation drama going on in Tamil Nadu. That only means the resignation threat by the DMK MPs is only an act of political posturing. It can also be construed to divert the people's attention from serious state issues such as power cut and price rise.

If that is the case what would be the India’s policy towards Sri Lanka? The New Delhi has made up its mind that it is going to maintain hands-off policy towards Sri Lanka. Now it sees LTTE as a terrorist’s organization and cannot come in front to officially support it even though it has once groomed and nurtured it. It means India is supporting a unitary Sri Lankan state and that in reality translates to a Sinhala Buddhist state. This is in tune with the New Delhi’s outlook of soft saffron Indian state, where religious minorities are destined to play a second fiddle and subservient role. In this framework on the alter of democracy, the Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka are being sacrificed and left on the lurch, like the case of religious minorities in India.

So whatever Tamil Nadu’s compulsion be towards the Tamil Elam cause, in the current context it would hardly be successful to arm twist New Delhi as it can not rock the UPA boat for the fear of digging its own grave.

So, where we do go from here? Well the Sinhala Buddhist forces have over six months to overwhelm the Hindu Tamil side, if it can do so, it will be able to bring a lull into the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka. If it can’t, then if the New Delhi’s policy gets dependent on Tamil Nadu would decide the future course of events after the next general elections.

As of now the Sri Lankan issue has provided a heaven sent opportunity to the UPA government. It has come handy to the Manmohan Singhji who has been shying from the opposition and to face them in Parliament. He can use the Sri Lankan issue as a diversionary tactic from addressing other issues facing the country. It seems, the climax scene of the ethnic war in Sri Lanka is clearly scripted. The likely course would be; while the New Delhi talk’s tough with Sri Lanka, it can look the other way when the Sri Lankan forces zero in on LTTE strongholds.
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

Friday, October 17, 2008

Remembering Professor Dawa Norbu

Remembering Professor Dawa Norbu
Syed Ali Mujtaba


I am writing this as I have to unburden myself with the task of penning an obituary note about someone who is very dear to my heart. I owe to this man a great amount intellectual debt for interactions with him in the formative stage of my academic life. Well I am referring about Professor Dawa Norbu whom I had mentioned in the preface of my M.phil dissertation a friend, philosopher and guide and death has snatched away some two years ago.


Well some one had mentioned to me about this news earlier and since then shock and disbelieve had rattled my nerves. They were calmed when I met Pofessor Ganga Nath Jah at in Tiirupati for an international seminar and he gave me blow by blow account of the untimely demise of a very learned man and a noble soul.

Well Professor Dawa Norbu was a Tibetian, born and brought up in India . He had gone to St Stephens College in Delhi where as a student he wrote his first book “Red Star over Tibet .” He went to Berkley , Californian for PhD and spent a considerable time there. There he was in relationship with a white lady and had a girl child with her. After completing his PhD he taught there for sometime but having no permanent position had to shift to India.

He had told me it was a very hard decision , his friend did not wanted come to India and he did not like to stay there jobless or do some non-academic job. He taught first in North Bengal University and then came to JNU where Late Professor Mateen Zubari (disarmament expert) spotted him and gave him a teaching position.

It was at this point of time I was starting my M.phil/PhD work and met Professor Dawa Norbu. A Mongoloid looking person who always always wore boyish look, a great guy indeed. He use to laugh aloud so high that no one thought he was a professor. He was very well mannered and extremely popular with the students. I use to enjoy long walks with him discussing various issues. He was always seen smoking pipe and was a wondering and thinking person. A fine schloar he very quickly produced few books and one of them i remember was published by Rutledge.

At this point of time he got a wife from Dhramshala, a young Tibetan lady who knew no English and just bits of Hindi. I was there when they had their first son and Professor Norbu nick named him Lalu, after the politician Lalu Prasad Yadav. I left JNU at this point of time in 1994 and lost contact with Professor Norbu. I use to regularly inquire about him when I use to meet someone from the JNU. I was told even after getting full Professorship he remains at his jovial best. I was told he had added one more child in his family.

Now at Tirupati, when I met Professor Ganga Nath Jah who was one of Professor Norbu's great friends, I got the complete picture of his death mystery. It seems Professor Norbu had gone alone to Berkley to teach for two years on a sabbatical leave. There his old girl friend joined him with their daughter they started living together. It seems when he returned from US, he was completely a changed man.

A person who cannot shut his mouth use to remain silent, he seemed to be heavily drugged, Professor Jha said adding that whenever he use to visit Norbu's house, he saw him sitting in his room alone smoking cigar. He stopped coming to the department and after sometime confined himself to his house. His wife too seems to unable to understand his abnormal behavior.

Here I can relate an account of one of my friend who told me that once he had called Professor Norbu inviting him for a seminar and his wife who picked up the phone shouted at him slamming the phone. Well I know his Tibetan wife was a simple woman and was quite incapable to understand all his metal problem. I wondered why Professor Norbu was not taken to any sanitarium by his colleagues and given medical attention. Professor Ganga Nath Jah simply told me that one day when Professor Norbu was sitting in his room he had a massive heart attack and he passed away.
Well how cruel death can be and how tragic this end was. I am writing this note because I know what a fine human being, Professor Norbu was. I can only pay my respect and tribute to this high caliber person saying; His life was gentle, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world, This was a Man! Professor Norbu May your soul rest in peace. Amen



Please check these links on him


http://tibetan. review.to/ dtn/dawa_ norbu_info. htm



http://tibetan. review.to/ dtn/d_norbu_ profile.htm



http://www.phayul. com/news/ article.aspx? id=13010&t=1&c=1



http://www.phayul. com/news/ article.aspx? id=12714&t=1&c=1

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Last Word on India-US Nuclear Deal

The Last Word on India-US Nuclear Deal
Syed Ali Mujtaba
At a ceremony in the East Room of White House the US President George W Bush signed the India – US civil nuclear deal and shortly after that made the following remarks: "By undertaking new cooperation on civil nuclear energy, India will be able to count on a reliable fuel supply for its civilian reactors, meet the energy demands of its people, and reduce its independence on fossil fuels. For our part, the United States will gain access to a growing market for civilian nuclear technologies and materials that will help American businesses create more jobs for our people here at home."

However, there are some moral questions involved here. The way our parliament passed this deal suggests that national consensus is not a criterion for future negotiations. It has set a precedent that numerical majority alone counts in Indian democracy. I wonder using the same method can India be sold to some buyer in future!

‘Singh is King’ is on record to say; “India is not for sale.” Can’t someone remove the word NOT and put up a board seeking a global tender, and then buy off the MPs from the kick bags obtained in the proves and auction this country. What as Indian we will do if our Independence slips away that way? Stayagrah!
No coming back to the deal, there are still many questions that remain unanswered. The two vital ones; is it to facilitate the trade, if so whose trade we are talking about, whether India is a seller or a buyer in this trade. If it means India is going to buy uranium and other things to run its nuclear plants from different countries of the world, then is this taking the country in the right direction? It’s natural that such trade would generate its own momentum would give a damn for national consensus in future.

The other vital question is of energy security. I am aware that as far India is concerned, that’s the essence of the deal. Its on this issue I support the nuclear deal. The sanctions are now lifted and India can do business with rest of the world on nuclear trade.

However, sometime I wonder, the price that’s being paid for our energy security, is all that worth it? We can’t have truck with Iran, a nation with which we have contacts since Indus valley civilization.

In case of Chinese rolling its tanks from 100 fronts we can not detonate new bombs and have to wait for the 7th fleet to come, and end up delivering the famous line of General Yahya Khan; we have lost the battle but the war is on!

So can’t we have some other way to have our energy security? Mr Mani Shankar Iyer, had his own vision on this but every one knows how he was booted out of office for his day dreaming.

Well the slow down of the US economy first and now the Wall Street collapse has made it think of new business strategies. The destruction construction business model has not given any business as far as Afghanistan and Iraq war is concerned. The ambitious plan to invade Iran for getting more business to pump up the US economy has gone haywire. So such kind of deals is developed as new business model to sustain its staggering economy.

The grapevines are churning out Cheek by Jowl theory to justify the deal. The Indic civilization that faces the threat by living under the soft belly of the Islamic arc would henceforth breathe in peace after this deal. They are calling it an ‘Alliance of Civilizations’ with Judah Christian world. However, when with put this into operation and judge with the displacement of 50,000 Indian Christians in Orssia, gang rape of the Catholic nun, the organized progrom against the Christian minorities in India, then Mr. Huntington theory of ‘Clash of Civilization’ sounds more closer to the logic than those propounding alliance of civilizations.

Anyway, at the moment the civil nuclear deal is in a very confusing scenario. We need to wait till the operational part of the deal does get on ground. Till then it’s difficult to cast a judgment on this deal but if and when one does so, it will be of only academic interests.

Can it be renegotiated? Some political parties in India are cashing on the nationalistic sentiments and are saying that when we come to power we will renegotiate the deal. Anyone who lives in Tamil Nadu can equate it with the Kachitivue Island that was conceded by India to Sri Lanka through the negotiated settlement between the two countries. This was done in opposition to consensus in Tamil Nadu that the island has a vital importance for the Indian fishermen venturing into the Palk Bay. Any number of politicians has led a battle cry to retrieve the Island from Sri Lanka. The opposition leader and AIADMK superomo J Jayalaitha is on record to announce from the ramparts of the St Fort George, that if the Indian government remains silent, she will command a Tamil Nadu army and attack Sri Lanka to get back the Kachitive Island. Now all this sounds music to the eras when its election time in India and such fiery speeches are meant for playing to the gallery, but every knows that once a agreement is signed between two countries, it final and cannot be alerted even if there is consensus built on it. So what does all this mean in simple words? Well a deal is a deal, its final. Any tampering of it by any successive government would definitely be fraught with some consequences.

However, I don’t like to stop over here. I may add on to say; if I break my national boundaries and see this deal as a South Asian citizen; I feel it has come to cement the cold war logic in the region. The regional unity that we have been dreaming since 1990s looks to remain elusive for times to come.

I am still more concerned as a global citizen. It has put question marks on the plans of global disarmament. Where are Michael Kaprons and their disarmament theories?

In the end I hope and pray that the Chanakyas and Chandergupts of new Bharat are taking our nation on the right track, a track that protects our national interest.
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stop “Chalta Hai – Chalnedo” Attitude


Stop “Chalta Hai – Chalnedo” Attitude


Syed Ali Mujtaba

As far as the current spate of terror related activities in the country I have been speculating for long that there are two gangs operating in India; one the Hindu variety and other of Muslim reactionaries, both feeding on each other, both tying to teach each others a lesson, both trying to run down the other to assert their position. There could be several divisions among these two groups ideologically both seem to be united on religious lines.


The Malegoan blast, the Mecca Masjid blast, the Samjuhuta express blast were all directed to kill the Muslims of the country. Similarly, the Varanasi temple blast, the Mumbai train blast and Delhi blast do fit into the pattern of competitive religious terrorism in the country.

The irony is instead of looking at the home grown terrorists, judgment is cast minutes after every blast and the chatting of Lasker – Tayaba, Jaish Mohammad, HUJI, SIMI AL Quida begins on our TV sets. All these follow the similar pattern as if they are for a Bollywood script that every Indians loves to watch again and again. The moment its “The End,” every one wants to forget that story and gets back to that mood once again when this melodrama starts once again our TV sets. No one seems to share pain and agony of those who have become victims of the blast for no fault of theirs. This conspiracy of silence reflects the narcissist character that lay hidden in each of us as Indians.


This new form of terrorism that is developing in India is reminds me of the Congress - Muslim league variety of competitive politics that was seen in run up to our Independence and Partition. Congress riding on the high horse of ballot box majority, in practice constructed a soft saffron variety of nationalism that wanted the entire specificities to subsume their identity in India. This game plan was well thought out and carefully executed. When this started telling upon those who started feeling the pinch of such politics, several attempts were made to iron out the differences. However, the contending parties failed to reach an agreement and led to the division of the country. Well the rest as they say is history.


It’s since the early 1990s when India come to terms with its identity and started rapidly growing as a developing nation; the same kind of politics has started taking shape that demanded adjustment of other specificities with the dominant ballot box ideology of the country. The wounds of the Partition were being unstitched and once again the climate of mistrust and suspicion started vitiating the social fabric of the country.

It is in this context an inclusive brand of politics emerged that was based on subversion and coercion of other specificities in India namely Muslims and Christians. The script writers of such variety of politics started social service and engaged in charitable activities in order to build up humane their image. Simultaneously they also started building overt and covert modules of storm troopers terrorism to assert their position and terrorize the minorities.


It’s in repose to all these developments; there emerged the resistance from the aggrieved groups. They tried to take up the cudgels in their own way. Some took to democratic means of Stayagrah and Ahimsa. Others sought to seek the remedy in the constitutional and judicial system. But then every one can not as patient as others and those who felt the heat unbearable found their own remedy.

The irony is while one group that has been unleashing a rein of terror is called nationalist and others who actually fighting such repression are branded as anti-national and terrorists. This is a dangerous development that’s continuing unabated in this country. Until and unless we break this cycle and banish it from our body politics, no countrymen can live in peace.

The symptoms are well understood and its remedies have to be though out. There has to be a political consensus that no one should indulge in hate mongering and prey on other specificities. Unless this inclusive politics at the expense of others is not banished, I don’t really see an end to this madness.


I wonder whether this realization will ever dawn upon those who are power hungry and thrive on mob arrogance. I equally wonder those who live in siege mentality could be convinced to seek the remedies other than through violent means.

At the moment every one seems to be in the “Chalta Hai – Chalnedo” mood. Every one wants to take solace in the cop and robber story and assume that the long arms of law would prevail in the end. This is a dangerous mind set and it’s going to ruin our country.

One thing that has to be hammered upon the Indian minds that the idea of unity in diversity is alone a workable model in this country. Any one who wants to rewrite the history of the country by peddling its own script are terrorists and anti- national of this country.

The way forward is to do a great deal of introspection to develop compassion and magnanimity to build a climate of trust and cooperation among communities in India. It is only then those who are trying to disrupt the atmosphere of peace and harmony through violent means could be isolated.

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

Friday, September 12, 2008

India – Surrogacy, Adoption and Cyber Crime

India – Surrogacy, Adoption and Cyber Crime
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The din and clatter of the political news that dominates the Indian newspapers pages, often undermines many fascinating stories. Many of them are social relevant themes and need a great deal of attention as they tell about the real social change taking place in India. I have tried to pick up few random themes to project a different face of India. They are about the practice of surrogacy that’s assuming a business like proposition, international adoption racket that’s clandestinely being carried out in India and last but not the least, the cyber crime that’s assuming alarming proposition. All of them give a fascinating account of India, quite contrary to what’s being marketed as; shining India, India on roll and Chuck De India.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy in India is estimated to be a $445 million business with the country becoming a leading service provider in this human issue. This is because of the low cost of treatment and the ready availability of women willing to rent their wombs. In comparison to USA where surrogacy cost is about $70, 000, it costs only $12,000 in India.

The issue had shot into limelight when a surrogate mother in Gujarat gave birth to a girl ‘Manji’. The baby's parents, Ikufumi, 45, and his wife Yuki, 41, came to India a year ago and hired the service of a surrogate mother from Anand town in Gujarat. However, before the baby was born the couple separated and then divorced.

Manji's father claimed the custody of the child but Indian laws do not permit this and the issue got entangled in legal battle. The Supreme Court finally granted Manji's custody to her 74-year-old grandmother but this was contested by an NGO named ‘Satya’ claiming that Manji was an abandoned baby. This made the Supreme Court to ask the central government to clarify its stand on issues related to surrogacy, particularly parentage and citizenship.

Even though there is still no clarity on this issue, this case has kicked of a debate in India. The, British and American laws forbid surrogate mothers to charge a childless couple, where as in India there is no such law. It raises the question whether surrogate mothers should be allowed to charge a fee. The opinion seems to be building for having relevant laws in this matter that should not only protect the surrogate mothers, but also check the foreigners who come to India looking for renting wombs. Well when such law may come into existence it’s only a matter of guess.

Adoption

The other interesting story is about adoption racket that was exposed some three years back in Chennai and now again doing rounds as interest peaked in this case when Time magazine published a report that at least 30 children brought to Australia from India were victims of human trafficking.

A CBI investigation in 2005 had found that many of the children adopted by foreign couples from the Tamil Nadu were kidnapped and sold to adoption agencies by gangs anywhere between 500 and 10,000 rupees. One such adoption agency, Malaysian Social Service in Chennai, was believed to have sent 120 children for adoption to affluent childless families’ world over and had received money as donation from them.

When in Queensland, Australia, a couple who had adopted a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl from Chennai in 1998 heard of this racket, it conducted a personal investigation into the background of the children and traced the biological mother of one of them. The couple requested the Queensland government to conduct a thorough probe into this matter and help connect with the biological parents of the children. The Queensland government started communication in this matter and this has made the CBI to send a request to interview the foster parents of the child.

The renewed interest in adoption story has led to many tongues wagging; how these adoption agencies could send children to foreign countries even as government guidelines mandate a preference for in-country adoptions? Why for an ordinary Indian couple adoption is a cumbersome process, where as for foreigners it’s just a price tag? Given the complex human issues in such cases it remains to be seen whether these children could ever be repatriated to India.

Cyber Crime

There is no denying the fact that cyber crime is on rise and India cannot remain immune to this. An interesting story came to light recently in Chennai when a girl lodged a complaint with the cyber crime cell, after she was bombarded with calls on her mobile phone from strangers asking for sexual favors. Apparently, this girl's photograph and phone number was put up on a networking site describing her as service girl.

The cyber crime cell got active and in no time picked up a manager of a private firm who admitted his crime. The victim and offender were onetime friends but had fallen apart. They cyber cell issued a stern warning to such offenders that if they believe t they can remain anonymous in cyberspace, they are wrong, their crime in can easily get detected and they can be caught in no time.

The cyber crime cell said that instances of misuse of photographs of women are on the rise on the Internet and it receives at least two such complaints every month and the Sometimes photographs are morphed and used with obscene content, at times even genuine photographs are used for that. The cyber cell has advised the public, especially girls against sharing of photographs, even among best friends.

All these three tales of India carries a message of its own. While surrogacy is complex human call, it’s a crime to allow it to grow into a business proposition. There is need for clear law on such issues and this practice should be strongly discouraged. Similarly, the issue of adoption has to treated with a great deal of sincerity and the childless Indian couples who wish to go for adoption should be encouraged and there should not be any procedural hindrance for that. However, the foreign couple who come for such purposes should be allowed to proceed in this matter only through proper channels. As far as cyber crime concerned it is something that has come to stay with us. The use of cyberspace is a boon to mankind and its benefits far exceeds to its perils. A great deal of social disciplining and effective surveillance can keep this in check.

Well these tales from India is an effort to construct a better picture of India and a sequel to my earlier write-up ‘Sex, Kidney and More.’ Please check: http://mujtabas-musings.blogspot.com/2008/02/tales-from-india-sex-kidney-and-more.html
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Syed Ali Mujaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goodbye Ahmed Faraz, You live in our hearts

Goodbye Ahmed Faraz, You live in our hearts
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Ahmed Faraz, one of the greatest urdu poet of contemporary times is no more. When I heard the news of his demise, first thing I did was to go to the U tube and heard his immortal lyrics Rangish hi sahi, dil hi dukhane ne ke leye aa….. over and over again. So much was the intensity of his feelings, that I heard this poem from five different singers, all of international repute. Well I had the pleasure of seeing Ahmed Faraz. It was in early eighties when I just joined as an undergraduate student at Aligarh Muslim University. Some of my friends told me that Ahmed Faraz had come from Pakistan and is attending a poetry session organized by the engineering college student there. At that I had little interest in Urdu poets and their poetry. I was even unaware who was Ahmed Faraz and what kind of poetry he writes. Since my friends insisted me to come so more due to peer affiliation and less to the charm for the poet, I went and attended his poetic session. The hall was jam-packed, and I could just have a glimpse of Ahmed Faraz from a distance. He looked more like a professor than a Urdu poet, bellying all imagination that we have of such persons in the Hindi movies. He was sitting along with two other great stalwarts of Urdu poetry. At that point of time of life I had no clue that who were the other two gentlemen. One was Mr Gulam Rabani Taaban and other Anand Naryan Mullah. When I had entered the hall, it was Mr Mullah who was reciting the poetry and Fraz seem to be enjoying every bit of it. The crowd was more focused on Faraz who seems to have memorized Mulla’s poetry and was preempting his words before he recited them. While watching Mr. Mullah, who dressed like a Nawab, I had a feeling what this Hindu man was doing with Urdu literature. I had no clue that he was a revered man in Urdu literature. About Gulam Rabani Taban, I can only say, my friend whispered in my ears that he is great poet and father of my teacher Prof Iqthidar Alam Khan. So I looked at him from the angle of father figure than a poet who had a following of its own. Coming back to Ahmed Faraz, well he had a gracious personality and the most striking thing was that he was smoking the Dunhill cigarette. I still remember the red color pack kept by his side and the cigarette in his hand. There was some different kind of charm and grace in this man that was beyond Urdu poets. The aura of his personality was very different and from no angle he represented the tribe Urdu poets. When I heard the news of his demise the flash back of this event started haunting me. I regretted why I did not sit through that entire poetic session and heard him recite his poems. As I silently prayed for the departed soul listening to his immortal lyrics Ranjish….I felt may his words come true and he gets back into this world once more even for hurting our hearts and then leave again!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sri Lankan Refugees in India and the Elam War

Sri Lankan Refugees in India and the Elam War
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The Elam war in Sri Lanka is entering a decisive phase. A string of defeats by the Liberation of the Tamil Elam has exposed the venerability of the LTTE to sustain the Elam war for a long time to come. On the other hand, some spectacular victories by the Sri Lankan armed forces suggest that the Northern provinces would soon be amalgamated into the Sri Lankan state. If and when that happens, it remains to be seen what kind of devolution of power the Sinhala government offers to its Tamil citizens that have been waging a war for it for more than twenty years now.


As far as India is concerned, its hands-off policy towards Sri Lanka has led the Elam War to drift towards the one nation state concept. However, India has stakes in the welfare of the Sri Lanka Tamils because the disturbed conditions in the Island nation have ominous portents on the Indian soil. One among them being the presence of large number of Tamil refugees living in camps spread across Tamil Nadu and Orissa. It would be in India’s interest to have them repatriated at the earliest into Sri Lanka so that the burden on the government’s exchequer could be eased to some extent.

Sri Lankan Tamil refugees that are residing in Tamil Nadu could be classified into four categories. One, those who are living in the camps set up by the Tamil Nadu government. Second, those staying with their relatives, friends or even independently, third, those who are security threats and are kept in the special camps. Fourth, those who come with valid travel document but continue to stay renewing their visas.
Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have arrived in Tamil Nadu in several phases. The first phase was from 1983-87 when one lakh 48,000 refugees arrived in Tamil Nadu. These refuges started coming in the aftermath of the Colombo riots that broke out in 1983. Many among them left Tamil Nadu following the India- Sri Lanka accord of 1887.

The second batch of refugees came during 1989 – 91. This was following the return of the IPKF from Sri Lanka and the resumption of hostilities in the Island nation. During this phase nearly one lakh 22 thousand refugees came to Tamil Nadu.

In the third phase; 1996-2005 about 22,000 refugees came to Tamil Nadu. In 2006, when the hostilities escalated about 18,600 more Tamil refuges arrived in Tamil Nadu.

In the aftermath of the India-Sri Lanka accord that’s during 1987 to 89, some 25,000 refugees voluntarily returned to the Island. However, many stayed back during that period and some left for Europe and other countries.

After assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during 1992 to 95, then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha ordered the closure of 50 camps in the state and forcibly sent 52,180 refugees to Sri Lanka.

After the ceasefire agreement in 2002 between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, about six thousand refuges left Tamil Nadu for Sri Laka.

Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are staying in 123 camps located in different spots of Tamil Nadu. There are two camps set up in Orissa for them. They house those who supported the IPKF and after its withdrawal too had to leave Sri Lanka.

There are 71,600 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees staying in camps as of now. It’s estimated that the total number of Sri Lankan refugees living out side the camp could vary from 20,000 to 100,000.

Refugees face lot of hardship while traveling from their place to Tamil Nadu. They pay huge money to be dropped near the Indian waters from where they are picked up by the India fishermen who clandestinely ferry them to the knee deep waters of the Indian shores.

Sometimes the Sri Lankan refugees are dropped on the sand dunes that emerge in water during low tide. Those who could not be picked up from there get washed away in the sea during the high tides that that inundates the sand dunes.

On an average, a journey from Sri Lanka to India would cost about 30,000 to 50,000 rupees plus discomforts, humiliation and many more such hardships.

After the arrival the refugees have to undergo the arduous task as they have to undergo a mandatory police screening. This is extremely essential because the LTTE exploit the situation and infiltrate into India through the refugees channel. The police say that the large influx of the refugees makes it very difficult to segregate the genuine one with those connected with the LTTE. They justify the exercise citing the example of six of the accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case belonging to those living in the camps.

Except Mandapam camp in Rameswaran where there is an inbuilt infrastructure since the British days as it housed the enchanted laborers meant to be sent to Sri Lankan plantation areas, none of the other camps have adequate amenities and are in a pathetic state. There is no infrastructure, hygiene facilities and very little medical care facilities are made available to them.

All the adult Sri Lankan refugees get Rs 800. The government has recently hiked this amount from Rs 400 to Rs 800 per month. The Sri Lankan refugees residing in camps are allowed to take up employment and can take up work between 10 AM to 6 PM. Most of them work on the railway track that’s being converted from meter gauge to the broad gauge between Rameswaram and Madurai. Some of them work at brick kilning, others lay cables, make baskets and do painting.

Education is a major problem for the children living in these camps. There is inadequate primary and secondary education facility available. However, the situation on this front has improved a lot for better since these camps were set up. The Tamil Nadu government has recently announced five seats for the children of these refugees in the state run professional colleges. It has also directed the government aided colleges to enroll the students who have refugee status.

In spite of ethnic and cultural proximity the refugees have no interaction with local public. Outsiders are not allowed to visit the camps. Incidence of broken family leads to many social issues in these camps. The strict police vigilance make these camps look like open prison.
There is no doubt the Sri Lankan refuges are much better lot when compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the country. However, their sheer presence has thrown up many challenges before the Indian government. In wake of the plethora of problem that country faces in wake of it, India should formulate its own policies with regard to the refugees and how to shelter in the country. India should sign the refuges convention and allow the UNCHR and NGOs to play a role in dealing with the refugees. India may only look at the refugee issue from the humanitarian consideration and not as leverage meant for its foreign policy consideration. As far Tamil refugees are concerned, India should initiate a security dialogue with Sri Lanka in this regard and see their early repatriation.

The discussion would not be complete without mentioning that in the aftermath of the Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1985, there was massive upsurge against the Sikh community in Delhi and else in the country. However, on contrary to that in the wake of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1989, not a single Sri Lankan Tamil refugee camp was touched in Tamil Nadu. This in spite of the fact that six person involved in the killing of the Indian Prime Minister were registered members of the refugee camps. This perhaps is a reflection on the character of the people that live cross the Vindhyachal Mountain in our country.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rampant Corruption in India: Who is responsible?

Rampant Corruption in India: Who is responsible?
Syed Ali Mujtaba

A wise man that lived in Madras presidency narrated an anecdote that a tax collector (Tahsildar) who was very corrupt was punished and deputed to sit on the shores of the Corramandel coast and was given the job to count the waves. This man even in this found an opportunity to make money and started collecting tax from the ships that crossed the waves that he was suppose to count.

The moral of the story is corruption is an age old phenomena that’s evolving over a period of time. Earlier corruption used to be confined to certain section of society and large sections of them remained untouched. Now it’s a different story and corruption has percolated to each and every section of the society. It’s hard to point out where corruption is not present. We have been regularly fed media report on corruption;. Bofors, fodder scam, MPLAD scheme, coffin scam, hawala, match-fixing, Harshad Mehta, Ketan Prikh, George Fernandez Bagarau Laxman, Joyti Kumaran, Nuke deal trust vote, the list is endless. Every new report pales previous one into insignificance. All of them scream that corruption is growing at an alarming pace in India and if it goes unchecked, the peril of our nation is imminent.

In order to have introspection to the problem of corruption, a Chennai based NGO Nandini- Voice for the Deprived, organized anti corruption meeting on 15th August 2008 (Independence Day) at Chennai. The meeting was attended by over 250 participants consisting of former IAS officers, NGOs, professionals and large number of people from lower income group. The most noteworthy among them was Mr Kalyanam, now 88 years of age and who had served as personal assistant to Mahatma Gandhi.

Mr. N. Vittal, Former Central Vigilance Commissioner, of India delivered the keynote speech and began by saying that corruption has been defined by the World Bank as the ‘use of public office for private profit.’ In our country, there are five major players on the corruption scene, interdependent, strengthening and supportive of the vicious cycle. They are the corrupt politician (Neta); the corrupt bureaucrat (Babu); the corrupting businessman (Lala); the corrupt NGO ( Jhola); and the criminals (Dada).

He added that corruption flourishes in our system because of five basic reasons. (i) scarcity of goods and services; (ii) red tape and complicated rules and procedures; (iii) lack of transparency in decision-making; (iv) legal cushions of safety for the corrupt under the ‘healthy’ principle that everyone is innocent till proved guilty; and (v) tribalism among the corrupt who protect each other.

He further said corruption is a two-way street. For every bribe taker, there is a bribe giver. While the debate on corruption in our country has focused on the demand side of corruption, there has been a thundering silence on the supply side who bribes the public servants and politicians.

The former Central Vigilance Commissioner suggested a three-point plan to check corruption; first simplification of rules and procedures, second is empowering the public and bringing in greater transparency and third is effective punishment.

The important aspect of the meeting was that ahead of it, fifteen colleges from all over India took part in an essay competition “Rampant Corruption in India: Who is responsible.” Eleven college students among them won prizes and were awarded certificates and cash prizes during the meeting. Five of the students were allowed to speak and present their views on corruption in India.

One of them said corruption follows a vicious cycle, but the root cause is the corruption of the political system. The nexus between corrupt politicians and corrupt bureaucrats makes it look that any fight against corruption is the fight against the government itself, he said.

As long as the work is done, it is fine – this attitude of the people could be another cause for the rampant corruption in India. We have a tendency to blame the politicians, government employees or higher authorities in any sector for putting money in their pockets. But, have we ever introspected how true we are as citizens, with regard to the issue of corruption? How many of us do not look for “contact” for getting our children in good school or college, said another student.

The other underlying cause of corruption could be tolerance of the people, almost complete lack of intense public outcry against corruption and the absence of strong and effective public forum to oppose corruption allow it to reign over people.

Another student was intrigued about why that even the well informed people in India have carried this corruption burden for so long and why have they not revolted against it? Is this linked to an unflinching faith in karma theory or is it a reflection simply of utter helplessness, he asked? Even the efforts of great fighters like Anna Hazare have not made a dent into breaking the evil of corruption, and even the educated people are not supporting such efforts adequately, he said.

One speaker said we need a second freedom struggle and the fight against corruption must begin at home. Family and schools are the twin indispensable social institutions which must be activated to fight for value system in life. Functioning of these institutions at high ethical level can usher in a revolution to change the mind set of both the giver and the taker. The pressure must come from the public by agitating against corrupt practices. The youth can make a difference if there are role models for them, he said.


An interesting view was that most people who talk about corruption and ethics today appear to be of plus sixty. Most of them had been part of the corrupt system in public life in one way or the other earlier and had not fought against the issues when they had the power and energy. At sixty when they preach, they do not inspire confidence amongst the youth.

Alarm bell rang when some one said; one would shudder to think as to what would happen to the peace of the society, if the common men whose interests are defeated by the forces of corruption, would feel helpless and take to violence as the only option available to them to tackle corruption. He was obliquely pointing to the rise of the Maoist in India.

Another speaker pointed that if the corruption would continue at the present pace, it may lead to a situation where the corrupt people (both the givers and takers) would become shameless and even a sense of shame would not deter them from indulging in nefarious activities. This situation should not be allowed to deteriorate further and the corrupt forces in the country should be defeated at any cost, he advocated.

Use of modern gadgets like cell phones with cameras to expose corrupt officials was stressed by one speaker. Everyone can become a citizen journalist and make use of modern gadgets to expose the corrupt practices. Sting operation on corrupt official will certainly help reduce corruption to a great extent, he said.

N.S.Venkataraman, Trustee of the NGO, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, and the main organizer of the meeting concluded saying the root cause of corruption is greed and how to overcome it is the biggest challenge before us. He stressed that efforts should be made to develop hatred against corrupt practices and corrupt elements in our society.

Normally on Independence Day, the entire nation remains in a holiday mood. There is little time for anyone on this day to brood over such ticklish issues. Given this fact, efforts made towards organizing such a purposeful public meeting where there was involvement of large section of the society is something laudable. The organizers of this meeting definitely deserve a word of praise.

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