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

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

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. dtn/dawa_ norbu_info. htm

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