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

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!

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

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.

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

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.


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