Sunday, March 23, 2008

India: Check Sexual Assaults on Foreign Tourists

India: Check Sexual Assaults on Foreign Tourists

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The death of a British girl Scarlett Keeling, 15, on a Goa’s beach, suspected to be of 'foul play' has once again caught the attention of the nation towards the growing crime against foreign tourists in India. Thanks to the media, the darker side of incredible India is at full display on our TV sets.

Scarlett’s case is not the first of its kind. Newspaper columns are often filled with reports of alleged sexual assaults on the foreign tourists from different parts of the country.

Earlier, a 32-year-old British woman was raped in Goa while two more from the same country were sexually assaulted there. Another report says a British freelance journalist was raped by a guesthouse owner in Udaipur. An American woman was molested at a temple in Pushkar. Two Japanese were gang-raped in Agra. A South Korean was raped near Manali. Two teenage girls from Canada were sexually assaulted by security guards at a hotel in Kerala.

One can add on to the list but suffice would be to say that these cases are assuming alarming proportion. If one tries to do the psychoanalysis of them, the common thread among all such cases is that most of the victim happens to be fair complexioned. Not a single report of sexual assault has been reported against any black female. Why?

Sudhir Kakar, an authority on human behavior says Indian men prefer fair skin to the dusky ones. And there is nothing fairer than white. If one needs to be convinced on this point, one has to turn to the matrimonial pages to find that all the potential brides are fair complexioned!

Kakar says there are very wrong impressions that some Indian men carry about the white females. They are widely regarded as promiscuous who treat sex as casually as shaking hands. So, if an Indian youth bothers a white woman walking alone on the street, there is nothing abnormal about it. Seeing such sight, it’s the psychic disorder that comes into play.

Notwithstanding such pithy comments, one has to accept the fact that the tourists are a vulnerable lot anywhere in the world and India is no exception. They usually haven't been long enough and their ignorance leads to their exploitation. Their polite responses what seems to be a helpful, friendly gesture are often construed as something else. Their ignorance to distinguish between the right and wrong signals can easily make them fall prey to the criminals. This is the most important factor that makes the western tourists vulnerable in India.

The Government seems to be seized of the matter and had reviewed the security measures with the tourism ministers of different states. The state governments were reminded of their commitment to deploy tourists’ police to all the important sites. However, so far only ten states have complied with the government order.

The problem of sexual assault on foreign tourists is not as simple as to the issuing of the orders or raising the tourist police force. There are five million foreign tourists expected to visit the country this and their security issues needs to be given a serious thought. It’s high time that the Indian Tourists Development Corporation ITDC should play a much proactive role in this regard. The ITDC offices which has a presence in almost all the tourists locations have to assume more roles and responsibilities to handle the tourists and their related problems.

Since the tourists can connect with the ITDC much more, than the police stations the tourists offices should be made the nodal point to register cases by the tourists. It can then take such cases with the local police and pursue them long after the tourists are gone.

The tourists’ body should also see to it that the airports are cleaned up from the touts and the taxi drivers that fleece the tourists’ right since the time of the arrival. It should man the separate tourist’s counter of pre paid taxi system at the airports, railways and bus stations. The ITDC should also look into it that tourists face no discomfort at the place of their stay or at the shops they may frequent for purchases.

Unfortunately, the ITDC offices are functioning like a white elephant in India. They have work with little responsibility. They are of little help to the tourists except in few cases. One need to find out from the tourists themselves how much ITDC has been of really assistance to them and what they expect from it.

The grey area of security of the tourists needs to considerable attention if tourism has to be promoted in a big way in our country. What is seen is when ever there is some hue and cry is made in the media, the situation improves for a while, and thereafter its business as usual after some time.

The onus of the security of the tourists also rest on the other stake holders in the hospitality sector. They must realize that the tourists are “gooses that lay golden eggs,” if they maltreat them or fleece them, they may be risking their own livelihood. The tour operators, the hoteliers, the cab drivers, the guides, the shopkeepers and all those involved in the hospitality sector should act as a watchdog to ensure that tourists have a pleasant stay in the country.

Unfortunately, this is not happening. There are some unwanted elements within the hospitality sector that are denting India’s reputation as a safe and easygoing tourist destination. It’s high time the stakeholders should act as watchdog against the black sheep who are spoiling the name of this growing industry. They should identify such people, who are basically criminals operating under the cloak of hospitality sector, and report them to the police. They should take up the cases against the tourists and see to it that the criminals are brought to justice.

The stakeholders must also realize that all the white tourists are not ‘money bags.’ Many of them could be less wealthy then the average Indians. They are here not to throw their wealth but to see this beautiful country and its people. So, a great deal of understanding is required in dealing with them.

Last but not the least, the tourists themselves has to take precaution rather becoming victim of any unsavory incident. The Lonely Planet guide has cautioned the female tourists of the dangers of traveling alone in India. It advises them to refrain from wearing sleeveless blouses; tight-fitting clothing or to present any bare dare look.

The Lonely Planet says; "Getting constantly stared at is something you'll simply have to get used to in India. Just walk confidently and refrain from returning male stares, as this may be considered a ‘come-on’. Try freezing someone who is too persistent in his attentions or getting uncomfortably familiar, and walk in a manner that puts out a clear signal: ‘don't mess with me.’ Don't accept invitations for a drink or a movie or a ride from men they do not know.”

The Scarlett Keeling case is not the first incident of its kind that has taken place in this country. It definitely would not be the last. However, it has highlighted the problem that is continuing unabated. If such incidents of national shame are not checked immediately, there is little meaning to the high profile advertising campaign ‘Incredible India!”


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

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mr Jinnah to sit in Indian Parliament

Mr Jinnah to sit in Indian Parliament
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: Indian Parliament will soon have Mr Jinnah as one its members. The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu has cleared his name of A.A. Jinnah along with another nominee Vasanthi Stanley as its party’s nominee.

Six Rajya Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu are falling vacant this month. The DMK will send two members, its ally Congress two, the PMK and the CPI (M) one each. The opposition AIADMK will have only one member this time.

In the event of a contest the date of polls is March 26 but in all likelihood those who are nominated by their respective party are likely to be elected unopposed.

So it’s a foregone conclusion that Amir Ali Jinnah, the DMK party headquarters counsel, would be one of the two new DMK members who will sit in the upper house of India's parliament.

There is not much to tell about A.A. Jinnah. He has a very low profile in the corridors of the DMK power politics.

Mr.Jinnah who is 67 years old was born in Tiruvarur, the native place of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. He is an advocate and has been practicing law in the Madras High Court since 1970.

Mr.Jinnah was imprisoned for a year for his participation in the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu in the late 1970s.

He was a Trustee at the Chennai Port Trust and member of the Regional Film Censor Board, Chennai.

The preference of Mr Jinnah, considered a dark horse in DMK party functionaries has surprised many, says Mr. Mhendran, a senior journalist who works for a Tamil News Channel.

‘The DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi has picked him up out of turn from among many big names from minority community within his party organization is something that needs to be pondered.’
‘The only reason I can attribute to his nomination is Mr Karunanidhi’s affiliation with him as both belong to the same place. The other reason could be sympathies for Mr. Jinnah for his active role during the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu’ says Mhendran.

‘The salient point that comes out of this is the DMK patriarch has not forgotten the sacrifices of a common party functionary some forty years ago and chose to reward him now,’ concludes Mhendran.

What ever may be the reason of Mr Jinnah’s nomination for the seat of Rajya Sabha but his name definitely would create ripples when he sit in the upper house of the Indian Parliament.

The very fact the Amir Ali Jinnah’s name has close resemblance with the Mohmmad Ali Jinnah, the president of the Muslim League who piloted the concept of Pakistan and both share the same profession is something that would be talked about in the days to come.

Mr AA Jinnah would also hog the limelight of the media in Pakistan for the coincidence of his name with the country’s founder is something that seems to be on cards.

Well call it a luck, fate or destiny, Mr AA Jinnah case is sometimes names do propel one to limelight if not to reckoning.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sagarika - A Case of Sword vs Shield

Sagarika - A Case of Sword vs Shield
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The test firing of Sagarika a nuclear-capable missile fired from underwater have several messages to convey. The first one advocates nationalism prioritizing defence spending to protect our national boundaries from any adversaries. The second one tries to convey the necessity of defence R&D for the development of country’s military establishment. However, I feel the basic point that has been missed out is the debate between defence spending verses human development. In the last sixty year or so all the South Asian nations have neglected the people’s development at the expense of protecting its national boundaries. The real or imagined threat perceptions and resultant insecurity have drawn them into rat race of building new Swords and new Shields. Pakistan spends over 50 per cent of its national budget on this exercise. The Chinese and Pakistani swords compel India to build its own shield. In this regard Sagarika is the latest addition. Similarly, Bangladesh, Nepal Sri Lanka all are sucked into the game of shield building. As the sword gets bigger the shield has to follow suit. This is a mindless game that’s going on this region for quite a while and it’s high time we should do some introspection over it. To stock pile the military arsenal by keeping the countrymen hungry is not nationalism but an act of crime against its own people. Here I do not advocate “Ahimsa” or for a defenseless country but pleading to have a minimum security apparatus in place and then divert the funds for the human development. Unfortunately this is not happening and the message that Sagarika tends to convey is that our nation is in no mood to scale down the defence expenses. On the contrary as reflected in the national budget, it wants to keep hiking defence budget for protecting the national boundaries. I really wonder when and where all this will end up. I would like to question the wisdom of keeping the differences alive and hiking the defence expenditure in the name of national defence. Why cant the South Asian nations to understand the cost benefits of ironing out their differences and scale down the defence expenses and utilize them for the welfare of the vast sea of humanity that exists here. I am one who is of the view that if any modicum of human development has to take place in this region then this crystallized mindset on mindless defence spending by the of South Asia n nations has to be broken.

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

Monday, March 3, 2008

Nagaland - Dreamers under the Dark Tunnel

Nagaland - Dreamers under the Dark Tunnel

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Nagaland is back on national radar for the simple reason that elections are being held there. I was seeing a long news clip that brought out different facets of this state. One that makes me to comment on this issue is about the youth of Nagaland who to me seem look like belonging more to the globalize world than to any tiny geographical entity that’s sandwiched between India and Burma.

Thanks to the work done by American Christian missionary the head hunting people of Nagaland are socially and culturally much more civilized then their counterparts ie the tribal population in Indian mainland. I was amazed to find the high level of spoken English expertise that exists there and that makes me feel that these guys can be comfortable anywhere in the world. I also heard some of the compositions of their pop bands and can not hold myself relishing at their high quality. Their music videos were very impressive. I was wondering if they are marketed by the big labels they have all the trappings to become chart busters.

Among such youth I could feel the yearning to break the shackles of geographical boundaries and become part of the globalize world. However, their dream seems to be blossoming in vacuum, in isolation. The very fact that they continue to dream big that’s something that needs to be admired.

The other facet of the same issue is the open declaration by the leadership of the Nagaland that they do not recognize the constitution of India. They want the entire Naga inhabited area that falls deep into the adjoining states, including those that lye in Burma, to be merged together and a greater Nagaland be created. They want to have a separate constitution of their own. Its after that they want to have an honorable settlement with India. To realize their demand they have been waging an armed struggle since last 60 years or so. They have two armed groups NSC (IM) and NSC (K). The first one is based in India, the other in Burma. A sizable number of youth of Nagaland are sucked in as fighting force of these groups. There is another group that has come up recently and is called Unity group that too commands some following.

India has been negotiating with the Naga leadership since the independence of the country and has signed number of agreements with them. It has been able to sign a ceasefire agreement with the rebel groups and that’s being ratified every six months. India’s problem is it cannot accept Nagaland to be out of the preview of its constitution. It can not break the geographical boundaries of its other states in the northeast region for the creation of greater Nagaland. India also cannot reclaim the Naga inhabited areas that lies in Burma.

India has been able to maintain its sway over Nagaland through many channels. One ofcourse is very heavy deployment of the security forces. Second is creating factions that would neutralize the other groups. The Congress party in Nagaland is quite formidable and often comes to power through the periodic elections that’s held there despite boycott calls by many groups. India is also playing upon the tribal divisions that exist in Nagaland to maintain its supremacy. All this has been able to keep this restive state under check but then they are hardly permanent solution to the actual problem.

India’s interlocutor Mr Padmanabhia who has been negotiating with the Naga leadership since many years has been enjoying his post retirement benefits engaging in this exercise. The national security advisor MK Naryanan who was recently in Nagaland, reportedly said that India is willing to give Nagaland maximum autonomy within the Indian constitution. In his election speech Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too talked about having honorable settlement with Nagaland.

However, all these talks has not been able to dilute the actual demand.The two sides remain firm on their actual positions. It appears there hardly seems to be any light at the end of the tunnel. Imagination seems to blinker when one thinks when and how this problem is going to be resolved.

I do not want to bring John Lennon here but can’t help citing his ‘dream lines’ that seems to inspire the generation next of Nagaland. They seem to nurse the belief that all their issues would be resolved one day, when a global village is established without national boundaries. They are the dreamers but are not the only ones. #


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