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.

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

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 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.


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

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.

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