Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Indian Females Prefer Men without Moustaches

Why Indian Females Prefer Men without Moustaches
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Remember, if you like to kiss your girlfriend then first thing you got to do is to shave your moustaches. The hairs above your lips may epitomize a macho persona but it does not appeal the Indian females. Most Indian females like their men clean-shaven.

The mustaches may no way come in way of lip locking, but then females have their own preferences to mooch. A survey found though 36% of men nationwide sport moustaches, but 27% of women find that style of facial hair old-fashioned.

A survey conducted by AC Nielsen with more than 1,000 men and women in eight Indian cities revealed while Indian men love their mustache, women in urban India prefer clean shaven men.

Women in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bangalore and Patna have spoken on how they prefer their men. A whopping 72% women respondent in Mumbai and an even greater 83% of female respondents in Chennai are more likely to kiss a shaved man. The majority of respondents in Delhi and Kolkata concur with this idea.

However, women don’t seem to mind stubble. In Mumbai, 64% of women say stubble increases the sex appeal of a man, revealed the survey.

As far as shaving is concerned though 90% men prefer to be clean-shaven, only 55% actually shave. A greater number of men in Mumbai (72%), Delhi (82%) and Ahmedabad (79%) shave than in other cities.

The most quoted reason for shaving in urban India is that the face looks clean. However in Chennai, as many as 56% men have a moustache. Men in Chennai and Bangalore say moustaches looks well on them. South Indian customs makes it mandatory to sport moustaches till the persons father is alive and can be shaven only once he is no more.

Indians’ shaving frequency is less than thrice a week. While the average shaving time is between six and 15 minutes, men in Chennai and Bangalore are the slowest shavers, taking at least 30 minutes while those in Lucknow finish the same job in 25 minutes.

The frequent shaver also has his reasons. In Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad, men shave to look younger; in Lucknow and Patna men do so for good hygiene. Gujaratis and Tamils do it to fit in with their peers.

More men in Ahmedabad and Bangalore cut themselves each time they shave, majority of men in Mumbai and Kolkata do not hurt them while shaving.

Across Asia, men and women frown on the full-bearded look. Indian and men favor moustaches and stubble, but the most desired style in India is the clean-shaven look or a goatee.

Historically the handlebar moustache has been part of Indian culture. Before the 18th century, when the caste system was prevalent in India, only high caste men were allowed to keep moustaches. Lower caste men were either clean shaven sported a beard.

During the period from 1850 to 1950, men kept moustaches as a symbol of power and to display of their robust personality. During the 1930s, Mahatma Gandhi's Swadeshi Movement against British rulers advised Indians to have beards so that imported shavers and blades could be stopped.

As a college student at AMU, Aligarh I have seen its Chancellor Nawab of Chattrari, the first Indian to be Governor of the United Provinces and the Prime Minister of erstwhile Hyderabad princely state, with his majestic grey mustaches that covered half his face. His grand mustaches provided an aura to his personality and remained unparallel in those times.

A book "Hair India - A Guide to the Bizarre Beards and Magnificent Moustaches of Hindustan" says that India's extravagant beards and moustaches - proudly sported by generations of Indian men - are being trimmed as the country becomes more clean-shaven and urban.

Its author Richard McCallum says that clean chins are becoming more commonplace among younger people who no longer have role models sporting beards or moustaches.

He points out most well-known Indian cricket players no longer have facial hair, while many in Bollywood have opted instead for token designer stubble.

The book categorizes beards according to bristle-design. There is the "the chin strap", "the soup strainer", "the wing commander" and "the walrus".
'Out of favour'

What is claimed to be the world's longest beard, measuring 1.6 meters (five ft) and the world's longest moustache also feature in the book.

But the emphasis is on ordinary stall-owners and rickshaw drivers displaying moustaches and beards that are cut, dyed, waxed and preened in various shapes and sizes. One of the few professions where it remains a mandatory requirement is among doormen of five-star hotels.

The book says beards and moustaches tell the story of modern India - how it is becoming a more westernized, homogenised place, but also how the great traditions and the love of display still exist.

In spite the fact that that clean-shaven men stand to score more then who sport a mustache, eighty percent of south Indian men prefer to sport moustaches while their counter parts in north India refer to be clean shaven.

There is no doubt that trend of keeping moustaches is on decline in India but its more to do with hygiene and cleanliness than to pander to the preferences of the women folk. Majority of those in teen and twenties prefer to sport moustaches but as they add on to years may like to shave it off. Its individual choice and that’s hard to generalize.

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

An Old Man and Sleaze Tape - ND Tiwari Saga

An Old Man and Sleaze Tape - ND Tiwari Saga
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The conduct of Andhra Pradesh Governor Narayan Dutt Tiwari on a video grab seen on a bed with young women has shocked the Indian nation. The footages aired by a TV channel if true, has disgraced this veteran Congress leader who is on the twilight years of his life has indulged in such an immoral and unethical act.

The video grab shows three women aged between 17 and 25 and an elderly man - which ABN Andhra Jyothi, the Telugu TV channel that aired the story claimed to be was Tiwari who is without pajamas and the his ladies accomplices without a shred of clothing - engaging in sexual acts.

The tape also shows the old man doing all kind of nasty things right from massages to ‘BJ’s and there was no hint of awkwardness and it seems the man was clearly enjoying himself on a king size bed.

With the editor of ABN Andhra Jyothi claiming that there is little truth in the allegation of pictures being doctored as they were taken from spy camera and are genuine leaves little for imagination.

The expose brought the Andhra Governor on dock who under pressure from political parties and women’s organizations resigned from his post bringing to an end to his 26-month long gubernatorial tenure. A press communiqué issued by the Raj Bhavan said, ‘Mr. Tiwari submitted his resignation to President Pratibha Patil citing health reasons’.

After submitting his resignation Tiwari apologized to the nation but maintained have done no wrong. He called it a political conspiracy and said have been framed. ‘It is baseless, fake... Anyone can make an allegation. It is 100 percent wrong allegation… 'I am not disturbed. I have participated in the freedom struggle and will fight it out,' he said.

He linked the allegations against him to the ongoing campaign for a separate Telangana state. 'The Telangana fight is going on ... The president was to come there… I have been framed because of the Telangana issue,' he said.

Earlier a press release from Raj Bhavan asserted that the “alleged story against the Governor of Andhra Ptadesh is nothing but a tissue of lies. Mr. Tiwari is 86-years-old and in the evening of his life. The office of Governor is constantly under public scrutiny and entirely above board. It’s sad and unfortunate that constitutional functionaries are dragged into needless controversy with utter disregard to propriety. ”

The statement leaves one guessing as there are few basic postulates that remain unanswered in this story. First the timing of the sting operation when Telenhana and united Andhra agitation are on peak and second if we view this in relation to similar allegation made against Sankracharya of Kamkotti Sri Sri Gayanender Swarsati, that later turned out to be untrue an iota of doubt emerges accepting the peddled story.

In Sankracharya case too a video tape had emerged from somewhere and a woman appeared alleging that the revered Swamy had sexual liaison with her. At that point of time I had interviewed the counsel of the Sankracharya who was seething with anger and said much malicious charge is more serious than that of Shankeraman murder case.

He explained that at certain age man’s reproductive organ becomes defunct and serves only urinary purposes, this totally rubbishes the story and without going into such veracity the allegation is being lapped up tarnishing the image of his client.

This hypothesis could even be applied on Narayan Dutt Tiwari who has held high profile political posts in his long and illustrations career. Born in 1925 in Nanital, Tiwari has taken activity part in the freedom struggle. He got elected as M.L.A. in 1952. Later he went on to become thrice the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He has held the position of Minister several times in the union cabinet. Tiwari was the main contender for the post of Prime Minister with Narasimha Rao. He became the Chief Minister of e Uttarakhand in 2002. He expressed desire to retire from politics but Congress party in 2007 assigned him the post of Governorship of Andhra Pradesh.

When allegation of such nature against a politician of such caliber is made it’s hard to believe and some analysis can be attempted to present the other side of this story. This could be done only in the background of the rift between Telegana and Andra regions that seems to be on boil over the issue of creation of separate state and both sides are in no mood to reconcile.

The united Andhra supporters were unhappy when the ruling Congress party announced its decision to create Telengana state caring out from the Andhra Pradesh. This evoked widespread agitation in the entire Andhra region against this decision.

This compelled the Congress party to flip flop on the issue and tried to put its decision to create a separate state on hold for some time. It took refuge on the pretext that a resolution to this effect should be passed in the state assembly first, knowing fully well that the supporters of Telengana are in a minority and no such resolution can ever be passed.

The Congress leadership also absolved its responsibility of using its residual powers that it had used earlier to create six new states in the north eastern region of India and the state of Goa in the west.

This attitude of the Congress party triggered a wide spread agitation in Telegana region that assumed the proportion of civil unrest and seemingly unstoppable.

The union government again did a flip flop and announced that it’s not going back on its promise to create the separate state of Telangana.

This had made the supporters of united Andhra to eat a humble pie and they seem to evolve a new tactics to divert the attention from the Telengana agitation.

The sting operation against N.D Tiwari by ABN Andhra Jyothi, if seen in this backdrop make some sense it has the potential to divert the attention from the widespread agitation for separate Telanga agitation and tarnish the image of the Congress party.

However, these arguments fall flat if we see the video grab of the old man indulging in such an immoral and indecent act. If that’s Mr. Tiwari then it’s really a shameful act. The man in the sleaze tape is definitely indulging in unethical and immoral act and seems enjoying itself.

To put an end to the controversy of such nature it would be prudent to constitute an impartial inquiry to establish the veracity of such allegation and place the facts before the public.

If found guilty, Mr. Tiwari be given exemplary punishment for brining disrepute to the office of the Governor. The punishment should set an example that none can dare to repeat.

What ever is the fact some one must answer. We talk about security. Where was the Security when the whole drama was taking place in the private chambers of the Raj Bhavan? If the girls were smuggled in through some contacts, where was the security? Also the sting operation would have involved some planning and all in the High Security Zone of the Governor's residence? Where was the security? All this could be walk in the park if we replace the sting operators with militants and if that had happened then the rant of Lasker –e- Taiba and Jaish-e- Mohammad may have been making rounds and not the story of an old man and his sleaze tape.

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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Miss India Contest with a Difference

A Miss India Contest with a Difference
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Kareena Shaline of Mumbai, Romi of Manipur and Padmini of Coimbatore, Tamilnadu were declared first, second and third at MISS INDIA contest for the Transgender Community held in Chennai on December 19, 2009.

In a well attended function, the Miss India title was awarded to the successful contestants by Ms. G. Jayalakshmi, Deputy Director, Women Welfare, Directorate of Social Welfare.

Around 800 Transgender community members and representatives working for transgender community across the country participated in the program. The event created an opportunity to discuss about stigma, discrimination, violence, marginalization, ill treatment, denial of treatment, privacy, quality of life, access to the medical facilitates for the Transgender Community.

Around 120 Transgender took part in the Miss India Contest. They represented different states like Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Manipur.

Competitions were organized for Miss Beautiful Hair, Miss Beautiful Walk, Miss Beautiful Eyes, and Miss Best Skin. The Miss Beautiful Eyes Title was awarded by Ms. Yogini and Ms. Sanya, Cine Artists. Miss Beautiful Hair Title was awarded by Ms.Malaika, Miss Chennai Transgender and Ms. Jeyalakshmi, Cine Artist. Miss Beautiful Skin Title was awarded by Ms. Kavithalakshmi and Ms. Lavanya, Cine Artists. The Miss Beautiful Walk Title was awarded by Mr. Kolangal Sreedhar and Mr. Kovai Babu, Cine Artists.

The contest was inaugurated by Mr. M. Ravi, Additional Commissioner of Police, Chennai, Mr. Alex Parimalam, Joint Director – IEC, Tamilnadu State AIDS Control society – TNSACS, Mr.A.Sathiyanaaraayanan, Consultant, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Retd) and Ms. Esther Mariaselvam, Program Manager, Actionaid India, Chennai Region.

Mr. M.Ravi, Additional Commissioner of Police, Chennai said he has no qualms in saying that the police department treats Transgenders badly and there is a need to change such attitude. He however cautioned that Trangenders should not create problems for the police.

Mr. Alex Parimalavan, Joint Director – IEC, Tamilnadu State AIDS Control society – TNSACS said that he do not approve the idea of beauty contest because it focuses on color and stature and secondly, they are conducted for commercial reasons. However beauty contest of transgender makes sense because they have beauty within and outside and such competition is not for commercial purposes. It’s more relevant as many things could be achieved for them through such means.

“This program is happening today to create a National platform for discussing the issues and rights of the Transgnders. Transgenders have their rights for their housing, shelter provision of voter ID card, ration card and many other such rights. She pleaded that the rights of Transgenders should not be deprived and civic society need to work towards it,” said Esther Mariaselvam, Program Manager, Actionaid India,Chennai Region in her speech.

Mr.Sathiyanarayan, Consultant, Deputy Commissioner of Police ( Retd) said he felt very proud of participating in this program as he attended one such beauty contest in Villupuram in 1998 where Transgenders were abused. Now what we see here is an acceptance of Transgender community by the civic society. He called for the formation of Transgender Self help groups and seek financial help from the government for their welfare.

Mr.A.J.Hariharan, Founder Secretary, ICWO, told that Awareness has been created with regards to attitudes concerning people with gender-atypical appearance or behavior also assumptions about transgender people’s sexual orientation, desire for surgical or hormonal treatment, or other aspects of their identity or transition plans awareness has been created. The lines of communication have been open with the transgender person among the general public. Information to the general public has been reached about the living status of Transgender and Educated on transgender issues.

The event was organized by Indian Community Welfare Organization (ICWO) a non profit, Non Governmental Organization and supported by TANSACS, UNAIDS and ACTIONAID. This event has also gained support groups from family, friends, and significant others of transgender people. There was Release of Poster which was an important feature of the program.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Movie ‘Kurban’ portray Islamic terrorism and the US

Movie ‘Kurban’ portray Islamic terrorism and the US
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Real life couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor comes together in a highly intense melodrama ‘Kurban’ centering around the global theme Islamic terrorism and the US.

Bolywood of late have been catching up with global terrorism and this one is the series on the same theme. While earlier release ‘New York’ tells about how Muslims were targeted in the post 9/11 America, this ones tells the seething anger and frustration that continues to burn in many hearts among the Muslims residing in the US.

The most fundamental statement the movie wants to make is about ones identity. It underscores the point that the debate on religion verses nationalism is still not settled. Opinions are divided on the issue and both sides are equally true in telling the truth.

Kurban’s story revolves around Avantika (Kareena Kapoor) a Hindu and Ehsaan (Saif Ali Khan) a Muslim. Both are working professionals, they fall in love, marry and move to the US.

All’s good, until Avantika discovers her husband works for a terror sleeper cell and along with others, is planning an attack similar to 9/11. She is put under house arrest by her husband and his associates and her only hope is a journalist Riaz Masud (Vivek Oberoi) a Muslim, who is also on a mission to take his revenge on the terrorists, who were responsible for the death of his girlfriend (Dia Mirza).

Riaz’s character breaks the clichés that not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims. He is firm believer that terrorism cannot be the answer to the Muslims problems rather it complicates and aggravates them. He also holds the view that national identity is as much important as religious identity.

Aided by a powerful screenplay, the movie has managed to keep the intensity level going throughout. Dialogues are very effective, especially those written for Ehsaan and Riaz Masud. Also there aren’t any unwanted scenes or excessive melodrama, due to which the pace remains very consistent. Although there is no much scope for music but the scores by Salim Suleman is of top notch, especially ‘Shukran’ and Ali Maula deserve mention.

The first half is extremely gripping. The second half though, does get a bit heavy with the cold-blooded characters involving themselves in well scripted plotline raises the pace of the movie.

Family audiences may not enjoy a few sequences because as the movie progresses, it does get too heavy and there is a decent amount of blood and gore into it. The climax is shocking and may not be universally accepted.

The most gripping scenes are when Avantika gets to know the ’shocking’ truth that her husband is a terrorist. The other one when Riaz Masud has to undergo the test to shoot the white chef at a burger shop. The goriest of them all was when Avantika cuts open the wound to remove the bullet off Ehsaan’s chest.

The much discussed love making scene featuring Avantika and Ehsaan has loads of skin show and has attracted the ire of moral policemen in India. The Shiv Saniks have reported to have sent ‘Sari’ to Kareena Kapoor to cover herself.

My pick is the last scene when Avantika asks Ehsaan his real name and was told its Khalid. In disbelief she walks back in dismay and agony and hears the gun shot. She realizes Ehsaan has killed himself and she kneels on the platform crestfallen.

Surprisingly, there are no Jhatkas and Matkas of the usual Bolywood style in this movie. In fact there not a moment of relief, till the credits roll on, a good 2 hours 40 minutes later. At the end all one carries is the debate whether those Muslim characters were right or the Americans in this movie?

What makes Kurbaan a must watch is the superlative performance from the entire cast, right from the lead stars to those FBI sleuths played by foreign actors.

Technically the film is brilliant. The movie is high on production value, and there are many action scenes that have been shot with great attention to every small detail.

Kurbaan tends to suggest the gap between Bollywood and Hollywood in movie making department is narrowing slowly. There are elements of truth about it while watching this movie.

Watching Kurban, one can get a feel of the pace of life in New York. This one excels all the Hindi movies that have so far been trying to portray this theme.

No publicity is bad publicity and has only helped raise the curiosity level about the movie. The Shiv Sen protest just before its release has added to it. Infact Saniks protest has worked in favour of the movie and the jam packed audience watching this contemporary global theme is a testimony to this fact.

Overall, Kurbaan is a fascinating film to watch. There is little to compare with earlier movie New York on the same theme. There absolutely no doubt that this one is much better!

Watch the promo on U tube-
Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

India: Environmentalists to Campaign ‘Ride A Cycle’

India: Environmentalists to Campaign ‘Ride A Cycle’
Syed Ali Mujtaba

As the campaign for climate change is gaining momentum and talks to cut down carbon emission is reaching its crescendo, a humble attempt is being made in southern India to push the cause of the good old peddle bicycle.

Come December 2009 and 70 cyclists will set off on a 900-km-long tour from Bangalore to the beautiful Nilgiris Mountains in Tamil Nadu, to promote the cause of environmental concern.

The Nilgiris are popularly known as the Blue Mountains in the Western Ghats of India. The Nilgiris are a set of 24 peaks located in the western parts of Tamil Nadu, and borders Karnataka and Kerala.

The eight-day tour of Nilgiris will beginning December 15 and pass through Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan, Mercara, Irupu, Sultanbathery and Ooty. The entire stretch is soaking in not just in natural beauty but also has rich dose of heritage, culture and cuisine.

'The success of the tour of Nilgiris in 2008 has ensured that more people want to go out for cycling creating awareness about the multiple benefits of commuting by the most humble mode of transport - the cycle says Ravi Ranjan (RR), founding trustee of the ‘Ride A Cycle Foundation’ - the NGO organizing the event.

As compared to the first edition of the tour of Nilgiris in December 2008 that saw 56 participants, this year 70 participants have been selected out of 300 entries received to take part in the event. Those selected come from various parts of the country, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and even from the US.

The group will cover an average distance of 120 km a day. 'On some days because of the sharp inclines, the riding will be tough. But the challenge is worth taking up. Most people will cycle for about 7 to 10 hours a day, starting each morning at 6 a.m.,' said R.R.

'No one can ride beyond 4 p.m. Once it is 4 p.m., riders must wait where they are for the sweeper truck to pick them up and take them to the end point.’

Giving details of the kind of assistance being provided to the participants R.R said, a support team of 20 people will also be on the tour. A doctor, a fitness consultant, and a fully equipped vehicle to manage emergencies will accompany the cyclists during the event,' he said.

'In addition, every single hospital and police station along the route is being alerted about the tour. They would be intimated again a day before the cyclist will be riding through their neighborhood. This way the hospitals will be prepared for an emergency,' added R.R.

The journey will give riders not only a great deal of adventure and view of the breathtaking natural beauty of southern India but a chance to promote the cause of the environmental concern, says the Foundation.

‘Ride A Cycle Foundation’ is a Bangalore-based not-for-profit organization advocating the cause of environmentally friendly sustainable mode of transportation.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oppression on Mobile, Email goes Unnoticed

Oppression on Mobile, Email goes Unnoticed
Syed Ali Mujtaba

For long mankind has known oppressions of various kinds. In the long list two more variety has been added in recent times. One is the oppression on your mobile phone and second on your internet mail box. Both of them have added a new dimension to word oppression but essentially in the tone tenure and character it remains the treatise that Karl Marx so laboriously built up in his magnum opus ‘Das Capital.’

Let me first talk about those telemarketing people who may call right at the time of some important meeting and try to sell the idea of home loan, easy finance, credit card, health insurance and some policies and plan. They have no concern at to what the person whom they are calling would be doing and they are least bothered to courteous enough to ask whether you are willing to spare some time for them. All they relish is to barge into the privacy of your tele-space and bombard you with their product and services. The mobile phone has really stated becoming an instrument of oppression and people are silently suffering from this menace.

Recently I traveled from Chennai to New Delhi to attend a conference for three days. To my surprise the telemarketers from Chennai doubled their efforts to bombard me with their calls. I was disturbing others in the conference halls who were listening to important deliberations on climate change. I had to keep going out to pick up the call to find out who was making the call. Since my profession demands to be accessible all the time I don’t switch off my mobile and the telemarketers taking advantage of such liberty for doing their business. Such menace has been reported in the courts and judgment has been passed against such practice but still there is no end to such unwanted calls. So far there is no mechanism evolved to check this menace and many like me are suffering from such kind of oppression is continuing unabated.

The other kind of oppression is through email box, again this is a big nuisance that’s developed since the internet e mail come in vogue. There are junk mails that could be filtered or deleted but then there are others that are unsolicited asking to answer them why I one is doing such thing and commanding what should one must do. Such characters do not have the audacity to identify them, nor to do they provide genuine address and telephone number and the kind of profession they are engaged. What they are interested is in shooting email demanding explanation for ones general conduct. Such characters are keen to pass judgment and issue character certificates. Such self righteous person wants their judgment to be accepted without making any whimper. This is the most oppressive kind of oppression that is making rounds on the cyber space and people like me are silently suffering from it.

People do have the right to express their viewpoint and are entitled to hold them to no matter how outlandish they maybe. If someone do not subscribe to them they may politely and due courtesy clarify their doubts. If still not satisfied have a choice to disassociate.

However, there characters that do not choose to do. They feel they are the only repository of wisdom and try to intrude into the privacy of the e mail box trying to tell what they feel is right and is wrong. Such oppression is continuing unchecked and it’s demeaning the goodness of the cyber space.

I am writing this because I moderate a intellectual forum called South Asia Contact on the Yahoo groups. Recently I have received an email from one reader who is not part of the group but who has taken upon the mantel to cast judgment on the activities of this group. He has collected e mails of some members of this group and has sent them personal emails tarnishing their image. In a mud slinging exercise this person has questioned the aim and purpose of this group and has tried to pass a judgment that are of his likings. This person has nothing to say about himself then his name. He has got some supporters who were expelled from the group since they were indulging in vilification campaign, degrading religious sentiments of the members of this group.

My take on this is there is no need to respond to such unsolicited mails as they are not worthy of comments. In this context, I may like to know if any action could be intimated against such kind of persons who are indulging in character assassination and sending mails to such effect. I would be happy to chase such characters so that they don’t harm others and if they do so, do not get away as free masqueraders in their self righteous campaign. Unfortunately I don’t know any such mechanism to check such kind of menace and as a result I am suffering from such kind of oppression in stoke silence. Notwithstanding, in a humble way I am trying to build the bridge of peace, among various sections of society, communities and nations in this strife torn world.


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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Climate Change -Time Ticking for Copenhagen Summit

Climate Change -Time Ticking for Copenhagen Summit
Syed Ali Mujtaba

It’s less than five weeks for the crucial Copenhagen summit for climate change. It’s a deadline for a deal to stop the climate catastrophe. The issue involved is developing countries won't join in a climate deal unless rich countries, which created the climate crisis, pay to fix it.

The Copenhagen summit will have more than 100 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. While the talk will be about the environment, the substance will be about money. Developing nations say that if rich nations want them to stop burning coal or cutting down forests, they should be willing to pay them.

The price tag of a fair, ambitious and binding global treaty is $150 billion a year in funding to help poorer countries to adapt and cut emissions. So far only a fraction of that is pledged by the developed country.

The finance ministers of the world’s 20 biggest economies are meeting prior to that to discuss these issues but its learnt the funding proposal isn’t even on the agenda for such meeting.

The Copenhagen summit could collapse without a funding plan as $150 billion a year is needed by 2020 to invest in low-carbon development and the green economies of the future

There’s no shortage of bold and practical ideas for how the funds could be raised. Experts suggest levies to close the tax-free loophole on aviation and shipping fuels or a charge on financial speculation could raise tens of billions each.

Activities are putting up ads and campaigns that Europe must raise their offer, and other rich countries need to join them. European Union must set a precedent by starting to put money on the table is said in the campaign.

However, so far the US has not pledged any funds to deal with climate issues. Although it’s going ahead to participate at the Copenhagen summit, but its still not clear how much funds it may pledge and on what conditions. Its learnt that US wants to put a rider for releasing the funds with which the developing countries are not so comfortable with. Its certain that if the US is not a party to the global treaty on climate change, the summit at Copenhagen would have no meaning.

As far as India’s stand on this issue is concerned its of the view that any attempt to address the problem of climate change must take into account the imperatives of poverty reduction and economic progress in developing countries and the responsibility of the developed countries.

New Delhi maintains that any long-term goal or conditionalities being set towards lessening the effects of climate change “should always take into account the centrality of the need of the developing countries in this regard.”

India's defiance on the issue of climate change came during U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's visit to India in July 2009, when India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, publicly asserted that "India's position is clear and categorical that New Delhi simply is not in a position to take any legally binding emissions reduction."

There is no doubt that the world is sitting on the climate catastrophe. If the world has to be saved from this imminent danger, a consensus has to evolve how to fund this problem in a comprehensive way.

To me the entire debate on climate change is going on the lines of Gandhian campaign in India. There is a total disconnect between what is being preached and practiced.

There is north and south divide on this issue. The rich countries want the developing countries to adopt austerities measure to help save the planet, while they may like to continue with their pace of life. They may agree to some funds to the developing countries and may even allow some cheap technology transfer but are not willing to compromise on their lifestyle.

This means the developing countries should cease to develop and remain in poverty trap for years to come. It is one of the most complex puzzles that is being spun at the backdrop of climate catastrophe.

Within the rich countries there are differences, particularly between European Union and US. The Europe has one line of thought, the US has other. Within Europe there are differences as well.
Even the developing countries are not a unified house. There are urban and rural divide on this issue. The argument of the north is extended by the urban centers with which the rural centers are not so comfortable. Those living in the urban centers want the rural people to live in the primitive stage to address the issues of climate change while they may like to continue with their sedentary lifestyles. This is the most ludicrous part of the campaign on the climate change.

As the time ticking for the Copenhagen summit and even though there is a consensus on this issue that’s its extremely essential to sustain the campaign to save the planet from the perils of climate change but the camps are divided.

One school of thought led by the developing countries say “no deal is better than an unfair deal.” They want to abide by their agenda and not ready to compromise, a proposition that could spoil the deal.

“Seal the deal” is another campaign that is being lunched by the developing countries ahead of the Copenhagen Summit. It says if we have to move forward on the issue of climate change, a it’s essential to “Seal the deal”

Arguments and counter arguments are put forward before the Copenhagen summit. The house of hope and despair are equally divided. The skeptics’ view that this talk shop may fail to kick off for want of consensus, the optimist argue, it will roll on in fit and starts because it’s a question of survival of human mankind.

As largest-ever gathering of world leaders at Copenhagen gets underway, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed that there is an urgent need for collective action to save the planet. He has called upon the civil society, faith groups, businesses and governments to join forces to combat climate change.

The sliver lining in the black cloud is that India and China have signed a memorandum of understanding on the issue. It shows that the two world's major players are serious about finding an alternative path alongside trying to attain sustainable development.

Not withstanding, how this story plays itself out, the fact remains that Copenhagen summit on climate change is turning out to be a basket case of ‘now or never.’

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He recently in New Delhi to attended a conference on climate change organized by International Federation of Environment Journalist. He can be contacted at

Sunday, October 25, 2009

‘Love Jihad’ controversy rages in India

‘Love Jihad’ controversy rages in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Indian mass-media insinuating reportage under the suggestive heading “Love Jihad” is yet another example of bad journalism in the largest democracy of the world.

The term ‘Love Jihad’ was used by local media in southern state of Kerala to label inter-religious relationships, allegedly aimed at converting women to Islam, has done more harm then good to the multicultural Indian society.

These sort of inter-religious marriages have been taking place throughout India since several thousands years both ways. There had been thousands of Muslim boys and girls who have taken Hindu spouses and Vice-Versa. Some have changed their religion other live without any change in religion in a state of matrimonial bliss. Indian constitution allows and legalizes inter-caste and inter-religious marriages aiming at greater integration of Indian society.

The usage ‘Love Jihad’ was coined by the local press when two Hindu girls, both MBA students, married two Muslim boys Shahen Shah and Sirajudheen, natives of Pathanamthitta village in Kerala, apparently on their own wish as were adults. These girls were living with their husbands, when their parents filed habeas corpus in the Kerala High Court.

The girls, in response to the summon appeared in the court wearing traditional Muslim Burqa and reportedly asked the court’s permission to live with their husbands, as they would not be able to live according to their religious faith when with parents.

The court however turned their request and sent them to live with the parents, directing the parents to provide all help for the girls to follow their new religion.

A twist in the tale emerges when the girls were presented in the court next time, where they retracted their early version and said that the boys had forcefully converted them to Islam.

A hell broke loose and local media lapped this up with screaming headline ‘Love Jihad’ on the prowl. It was on the basis of the confessional statements of the girls and due to media trial that the two Muslim youth were arrested on charges of having feigned love and marriage to convert to the Hindu girls to Islam.

The Kerala High Court while considering the bail applications of Shahen Shah and Sirajudheen, the two accused in Love Jihad controversy ordered inquiry into the matter. The court asked the state police to submit a report on the occurrence of compulsive religious love based conversions that have taken place in Kerala during the last three years. It also raised questions like to find if there was a movement called “Love Jihad” functioning in the state

The police after initiating an inquiry submitted its report to the court where it said that it has found no organization or movement in the name of “Love Jihad” functioning in Kerala.

The report submitted by Mr Jacob Punnoose, Director General of Police, in the Kerala High Court, says no evidence has been found regarding the functioning of any such organization dealing with forced conversion in the state.

The report further says that there was no evidence for such activities getting funds from abroad and no proof for such activities being connected to counterfeiting, smuggling, and drug trafficking and terrorist activities. It found no evidence for such activities going on in other parts of the country.

The report further reiterates that except for the two cases under consideration in the court, there have not been any cases regarding forced conversions based on love. The police had registered complaints and were actively investigating the matter in the two cases mentioned.

The report submitted by the DGP mentions that there have been allegations from many corners that such activities were going on in the state for the past few years but after investigation it was found that there are no reasons to suspect the existence of concerted attempts to force girls into conversion.

As evident that there was enough juice in the story and the local media went gaga with damning headline of ‘Love Jihad’ never considering the consequences such reportage would have on the society, especially if such story is put in the garbage bin by the court and the police.

In related development, Shahen Shah and Sirajudheen, the accused boys, have decided to withdraw their bail applications submitted at the Kerala High Court as they reportedly felt were not sure of getting justice in the prevailing circumstances. They are widely hunted by the media in the “Love Jihad” controversy and may not lead normal life if they come out on bail.

The ‘Love Jihad’ story is a glaring example of irresponsible journalism that’s going on in the country particularly at the regional centers. The media instead of highlighting the fact that the girls in question could have easily told the judge in their first appearance that they had undergone forced conversion, but instead asserted were convinced converts but later retracted their version, is something that’s intriguing and needs to be investigated. Instead, it simply tried to peddle the gig “Love Jihad” to sensationalize a simple story that had a human face.

It’s a fact that such biased reportage crops up with impunity in the country and until and unless, some mechanism is evolved to check them sternly, Indian society may continue to be poisoned by such irresponsible journalism.

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

On Sat, 24/10/09, prasanth lal wrote:

From: prasanth lal
Subject: Facts about Love Jihad
To: syedalimujtaba@
Date: Saturday, 24 October, 2009, 4:09 AM

On your article about "Love Jihad" looks like you have conveniently ignored certain parts of Kerala DGP's report also you have given factually incorrect information. Kerala DGP said that though there are no organisation called "Love Jijhad"- ofcourse its a media coined name- there is scope for suspicion that an organized racket is working towards "loving women and converting them " to Islam and this matter needs to be further probed. DGP clearly said that, "from different sources he has confirmation about the existence of such a racket and hence it need to be probed. Now, if you look at the cases, both the MBA students from kerala was going through a conversion process in a center in Malapuuram. On a separate incident a girl from Mangalore was also eloped with her muslim BF and was going through same process in the same center. (Rings a BELL????) Its all organized and the boys are getting financially rewarded from middle eastern sources. Have you heard about the "Coptic Christian conversrion" scheme in Egypt in 80s and 90? It was well documented and reported that a saundi funded proffessional organisation was paying Egyptian men to convert Coptic Crhistian girls in Egypt after pretending to love them. Ofcourse, you are biased hence would be closed to the facts. You might even argue that 9/11 was a hindu/jew conspiracy.. ... may allah save your ilk.


My dear reader, I thank you for reading my article and caring to write to me your reactions. I don’t want to reply to you on the impression you have formed about me and also what I have conceptualized about you, but let me first tell you, my article was not on the details of the story but on the evils of sensational journalism, a profession to which I belong, and I feel I must speak against such irresponsible representation. It was the journalist in me that was dominating but I guess the readers mind got carried away my name. Well I really can not do much about this, as everyone has freedom of choice and to form opinion.

Now coming to the content of the story, I based my submission on the DGP’s report that was the actual findings and the conclusion.. In journalism there is no place for MAYBE and so there is no need to highlight what remains in the relearn of conjecture and suspicion. The DGP clearly says that there was no evidence to prove that such thing is part of organized crime and this closes the argument. His conjectures s it is does not have any locus-standi. I get the impression that you are more carried away by the DGP's conjuncture then his actual findings. Well again I don’t have any issues on that as you have freedom of choices.

In modern age no one can impose ones faith on other. The girls in question were not minor and uneducated who can be tricked. They were adult and have chosen to go into the wedlock on their on sweet wish. Same holds true of the change their faith that was out of conviction rather than forced conversion. If they were forced tp change the faith, they could have filed a case under Sections 304B and 498a that empowers women specially those who are married. However, it seems when they went to the parents, they changed their stand perhaps were brainwashed and forced to retract from their earlier stand. This is matter of investigation and truth will come out once the case is disposed. Any conclusion drawn on this again is a matter of choice.

I write this because this diabolic design of the RSS are making rounds for long and poisoning the Indian society. There were similar reports from Bhopal where a Muslim youth married a Hindu girl and it created a furor in the society. It was seen as part of the 'love jihad theory. However investigation later revealed that it was concocted story spread by the Sangh Privar that prey on the Hindu sentiments to create WE verses THEY divide.

I wonder why does not the RSS and its subscribers take up the case of “love jihad” and frame Sharukh Khan, Amir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Mansoor Ali Khan, Naseeruddin Shah Etc into this conspiracy theory. I wish if that happens it will be a party time for media 24x7. If I remember rightly, there was a diktat from the RSS that Hindus should refrain from seeing movies where a Muslim acts as a heroes. If any one has taken this seriously, the Bollywood hunks may by have been out of business by now.

Well the purpose of my article was to expose the fallacies of non ethical journalism and also to set the records right as many reports have tried to highlight the conjecture part of the DGP’s report, underplaying the facts of his findings. It was also to debunk the make believe theory that demonize Muslim community and unleash a reign of terror against innocent Muslim youth ( read Rizwan's case) who are smitten by love, the gospel Bollywood preaches day in and day out.

As I have written, inter religious marriages are happening in the country from time immemorial. The only difference now is its process has accelerated due to the modernization and westernization of the society. The age of communication revolution has facilitated the process of meeting and interaction with the cross section of the society, and the freedom of choices to pickup a partner has increased many fold. Today;s youth are not ready remain under the shackles and ready to break any boundaries. This has to be accepted as a reality of the contemporary Indian society. Those who construe such development as organized crime, are sick persons, and need counseling how to grapple with the stark realties of time. - SAM

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Journalists to discuss issues of ‘Climate Change’

Journalists to discuss issues of ‘Climate Change’
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The UN convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009 (the COP15), negotiations on a post 2012 agreement have greatly intensified. However, there is absolutely no consensus even within and between industrial countries on these issues, while the divide between industrial and developing countries has grown wide.

In addition to commitments on targets and deadlines for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), issues such as adaptation, technology and finance are also on the table.

It is with this objective International Federation of Environmental Journalist (IFEJ) are meeting at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, October 28-30, 2009, to participate in a media Congress on the theme “Bridging North-South Differences in Reporting Climate Change: Journalists’ Role in Reaching an Agreement at COP15 in Copenhagen.”

Although in recent years climate change has received a great deal of coverage in the media, particularly following the 4th assessment report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, there are major differences in the way the media in the global North and South report climate change.

For example, the New York Times recently carried a long article on what is popularly known as “the Asian Brown Cloud”, which describes how poor women are using inefficient cook stoves which pollute the atmosphere and cause global warming.

Instead of blaming poor consumers around the world for worsening the global situation, such media exposure can help find ways of solving both problems at one time.

The ethical issue of industrial countries being responsible for global warming while developing countries face the brunt has still not received the media attention it deserves in some developed countries, even while some industrial countries are now calling upon big emerging economies like China, India and Brazil to cap their emissions by the time UNFCCC meets in Copenhagen this December.

Furthermore, media attention in the North, which often sets the agenda for the rest of the globe, particularly with global news channels, has by and large been confined to the mitigation of greenhouse gases through a range of restrictions, market mechanisms and the like. It has largely ignored reporting on adaptation, which will affect countries in the South far more adversely.

Developing countries are already reeling under the impacts of droughts and floods. The risk of communicable diseases emerging with climate change is, again, first felt by developing countries.

South Asia has received scant attention in the reporting on climate change in the North and, for that matter, other countries in the global South.

In South Asia, as many as 210 million people directly in the Himalaya and 1.3 billion downstream in the Indo-Gangetic agrarian belt – one-fifth of the world’s population - are already facing the threat of the receding glaciers which will eventually lead to crippling droughts.

In terms of numbers of people affected in one region, this is the largest number anywhere in the world. One can add several tens of millions living in the low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh, who will have to be evacuated as ocean levels rise.

It is expected that media can play a seminal role to bridge this divide by providing information on global, regional and local issues. For instance, the action developing countries take to mitigate and adapt to climate change at home – as part of their global commitment or as ongoing development activities – can be reported much more comprehensively to counter the impression that developing countries have been reluctant to take steps to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions.

Similarly, media can analyze trends and issues to help opinion-makers like parliamentarians, government officials and NGOs in both the global North and South aware of the complexities of the problem and come to a more reasoned conclusion, based on such analysis. Furthermore, the role of the private sector in addressing such issues also needs to be highlighted.

The IFEJ Congress in New Delhi promises to be a humble step in bridging the gap that exists on this issue between North and South. The participants in Congress come from both industrial and developing countries and will be able to air their viewpoints and this may lead to greater insights into this most crucial problem affecting the entire planet.

The Congress is supported by Denmark, the COP15 host country. The Society of Environmental Journalists in the US, which has some 1,900 members, is also collaborating with IFEJ in organizing this Congress. The IFEJ was formed in Dresden, Germany in 1993 and this seventeen year old body now has journalists from some 70 countries as its members.

The Congress, which will be held concurrently with the 5th CMS VATAVARAN – Environment and Wildlife Film Festival 2009, will also be followed by an exciting six-day all-expenses-paid field trip to Leh in Ladakh from October 31 to November 5, offering journalists an exclusive opportunity to film, photograph and write on Himalayan glacial melt.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He is participating in the New Delhi media Congress; “Bridging North-South Differences in Reporting Climate Change: Journalists’ Role in Reaching an Agreement at COP15 in Copenhagen.” He can be contacted at

Monday, October 19, 2009

A bike journey with a social message

A bike journey with a social message
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai, Oct 19, 2009: A young technocrat on an all-India trip to voice the issues of the marginalized met people living with HIV/AIDS and other most vulnerable section of the society, in this southern metropolis today.

Prabhu S, a software engineer who has covered over 6500 kilometer journey on his bike to reach Chennai interacted with people living with HIV/AIDS and those most vulnerable to it, like sex workers and sexual minorities, who welcomed him and shared their stories of success amidst the challenges.

“Over 200 million Indians live on less than one dollar a day, yet many of the country’s youth are oblivious to this reality,” says this young social worker who has embarked on a three week journey across India to sensitize ‘generation next’ to the critical issue of poverty and lack of access for poor families to education, jobs, health and housing.

“It is unfortunate that while rest of the world knows so much about India’s poverty levels, my generation seems to be oblivious to those living below the poverty line,” says Prabhu, who seems determined to nudge this grim reality of the country.

During his 6,500 kilometer bike ride, Prabhu meet HIV positive single mothers, HIV positive children, urban poor, railway kids, orphans, women who are fighting for land and livelihood and spoke to them of their rights to be counted as citizens.

“Having covered quite a bit of the country and meeting people from a variety of communities, I am shaken by the number of issues that need to be addressed,” says Prabhu.

“I am also struck by the strength and persistence of the people who face such struggles in their daily lives,” he adds.

The young social worker has urged the government to help those communities, which are the most invisible and marginalized having no access basic rights like food and social security schemes etc.

He cited the example of Transgender Welfare Board that has been functional since almost two years but lacks basic citizenship rights like identity cards and food and livelihood rights.

For this trip, Prabhu joined hands with an NGO to highlight the issue of poverty and struggle of communities living with it.

“I learnt about it from the Internet, while searching for NGO’s working with the poor and found their national reach and rights-based approach very appealing,” adds Prabhu.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Celebrating a Colorful Diwali with a difference

Celebrating a Colorful Diwali with a difference
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai, Oct 16, 2009: Diwali, the festival of light has never been as colorful to me like today. As memory serves, I have always celebrated this Hindu festival with my friends amidst sound of fire crackers, lights and mouth watering sweets and other delicacies.

Today was different. I was with over 200 children infected and affected by HIV who had gathered for a fun filled colorful Diwali celebration along with their parents on the lawns of a hotel in the city.

Children were entertained with a variety of cultural programmes. A special musical event was performed by Isai Mottukal, a musical group where most of the singers were young children that gave a scintillating performance. There was also a dance number by a transgender group and a hip hop dance and a comedy performance to provide recreational support.

The excitements of HIV infected children showed no bounds and were seen dancing and clapping their hands. They were on cloud nine, when sweets and crackers were distributed to them.

“This is a great day in my life and I was so happy to see my other friends, I want to become a doctor and I know I will soon be a doctor to serve the society” said Raja, one of the children who had come for the programme playing with light stick.

Tamil Nadu trust for Children affected by HIV/AIDS” (TNTCAA) in partnership with the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, organized this celebration.

Chennai Corporation Mayor Mr.M.Subramaniam, TANSACS Project Director S.Vijayakumar, Bimal Charles, APAC Project Director, in order to show their solidarity for the cause participated in the programme.

There are approximately 7500 children living with HIV in Tamil Nadu. In addition to this there are orphan children who have lost either one or both the parents to HIV. In order to address there issues, the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society along with the Government of Tamil Nadu, formed Tamil Nadu trust for Children affected by HIV/AIDS (TNTCAA).

This trust is the first of its kind in the entire country that ensures safety, security and protection of children living with HIV. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has allotted Rs.5 Crore for this trust and efforts are being made to reach out to the private and corporate organizations to mobilize more funds.

“This is a celebration and expression of the children’s gratitude to the Chief Minister who initiated a Trust for the orphaned and vulnerable children” said Mayor Chennai Corporation Mr.M.Subramaniam in his speech.

“The objectives and the goal of the trust has been conceived with the support and inputs provided by the officials from the respective departments, Networks of people living with HIV, Medical officers and NGO representatives,” he said.

The trust will cater services to HIV infected children between the age group of 5 to 18 support their education, nutrition, health and financial support. The trust provides an opportunity for the children by giving proper education and shelter so that it will enable them to compete with other children.

“The upliftment of the infected children is not possible until these children receive the social recognition,” said the Chennai Mayor adding that “this celebration is an effort taken by the state AIDS Control society, to prevent the stigma and discrimination that is exists in the society towards the HIV infected.”

The Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control is also providing support through the Community care centers to support these children in education, nutrition and health, the family environment and social security.

It is running 35 anti-retroviral therapy centers in Tamil Nadu covering all the districts. So far over 35000 HIV positive people have undergone treatment at these centers including 2784 children. TANSACS has requested those interested can fill in the application for the programme and submit it to the District Collector in order to benefit of this programme.

According to AJ Hariharan, Director of ICWO, a NGO working on several social issues, Chennai city alone needs a supply of 11,111 condoms a day, 3, 33,350 in a month, and 40,00,200 in a year, as an interventionist measure to overpower the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Tamil Film Actors and Journalist at Loggerheads

Tamil Film Actors and Journalist at Loggerheads

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The furor between Tamil Nadu's film industry and local media over a sleaze story, which led to the arrest and subsequent release of a journalist, has opened up a virtual Pandora's box of issues.

The story alleged that many south Indian actresses were running sex shops in the city, invited a strong reaction from south Indian film chamber leading to the arrest of B. Lenin (43) news editor of Tamil daily Dinamalar, which in turn triggered instant protests from the journalists.

The editor though was released on unconditional bail within forty eight hours; this episode has opened up a Pandora box of issues. However, before going into them, let’s first look at the sequence of events that brought the journalists and the cine stars on a collision path.

All this started with the arrest of Tamil actress Bhuvaneswari running a sex shop with many female models from various states. Bhuvaneswari has acted in many Tamil and Telugu films and also in many TV serials. She was earlier arrested in 2002 for prostitution but was released for want of evidences.

However, this time police made some elaborate arrangement to bring her into its dragnet. The anti vice squad of Chennai police executed a sting operation on the basis of secret information received.

The squad sent a policeman as decoy in civil cloths to strike a deal with Bhuvaneswari who handed her the agreed amount after doing some bargaining. The decoy was then taken to a house in posh Adayar locality that housed two female models from Mumbai.

The decoy alerted the anti vice squad which swooped on the house and arrested the actress under the sections of Immoral trafficking Act of Tamil Nadu. They confiscated her mobile phone and memory chip having details of her clients.

The anti vice squad presented the confined girls before the magistrate and sent them to the government rehabilitation home in Mylapore locality of the city.

The Tamil daily ‘Dinamalar’ as a follow up to this news published a report saying the arrested actress in police custody has confessed of involvement of several popular Tamil and Telgue actresses engaged in sex service.

The newspaper claimed that Bhuvaneswari had given the detailed list of top Kollywood and Tollywood actresses involved in this business. The newspaper said the police officials were shocked looking at the Bhuvaneswari’s list that had some of the top actors, politicians and even policemen visiting actress of Tamil and Telgue cinema involved in this unlawful act.

According to the newspaper the names of the actresses involved in sex service and running sex shops are; Seetha, Nalini, Anju, Shakeela, Manjula Vijayakumar, SriPriya and Namitha and others. The daily added that even some of the married actresses too were involved in this profession.

According to the newspaper, Bhuvaneswari reportedly told the actresses charged somewhere Rs 10,000 (S$300) and Rs 100,000 for sexual favors and this may even increase this amount on their mood and clients paying capacity.

The arrested actress reportedly claimed having substantial evidence against those she named and added having evidences in support. She also claimed some top police officers were her customers and alleged giving her enough trouble, some even cheated her many times on payments.

Though the newspaper quickly retracted the October 5 report, and carried a regret note, it brought an avalanche in the Tamil film industry. Leading stars including South Indian Film Artistes Association President and Secretary met Chennai City Police Commissioner and lodged a FIR against the newspaper.

They also convened a protest meeting in which they made inflammatory speeches against the media and, according to reports, the profession of journalism itself. This led to the arrest of the news editor under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Women Harassment (Prevention) Act.

The arrest evoked a sharp reaction from various media outfits that held a protest meeting. More than 200 journalists attended a emergency meet where video clippings showing speeches made by some actors at the South Indian Artistes Association meeting were screened.

The journalists staged a road agitation demanding the release of the news editor saying the arrest was totally uncalled for as there was no need for custodial interrogation when the material needed to make out a case was the news report published in the daily.

They said the editor of the newspaper had already expressed regret for the report and invoking the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Harassment of Women Act, instead of the usual defamation law for arrest under a non-billable section, showed that the police had acted under some pressure.

This episode is an eye opener in many sense and few lessons could be drawn form of it. The first and foremost the subject of improving the quality of media professional manning various outlets, more particularly the regional press.

There is little doubt that the publication of the names and photographs of prominent public figures based on confessional statement is not good journalism. The report as it was published clearly offended those associated with the cine world and went against ethics of good journalism.

This issue can be addressed through having good Journalism schools and the message of ethical journalism could be hammered to the working journalists through training and workshops on this issue.

The second aspect is that of infringement on the rights of expression and the muzzling of the freedom of press. The use of criminal law mechanisms to arrest the news editor reminded the dark days of National Emergency of 1975. The arrest was arbitrary and entirely unnecessary. The law enforcing agencies could have mediated in such disputes and pacified both the sides to avoid any confrontation. Their acting in a high handed manner do not auger well for Indian democracy.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He has done a detailed survey profiles the grey world of sex workers in Madras.He can be contacted at


Monday, October 5, 2009

Indian democracy eaten by termites of family rule

Indian democracy eaten by termites of family rule
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The present kind of dynastic politics is nothing new to India, as common men have been used from time immemorial to the rule by kings who would groom their sons and daughters to ascend the throne. What we see today is a return to the times when kings and queens ruled the Indian subcontinent.

The large section of Indian population who are still not well educated, do not understand the basic concept of democracy and they think that such hereditary succession to the throne is nothing unusual or unethical.

The magic of pedigree work in India because an established name in politics is the political equivalent of a commercial brand. From educated to the illiterate, from rich to the poor, everyone appears to fall under the spell of the aggressive marketing of the brand image.

There are hardly any politicians in India whose other family members are not in politics. With parent being the political leader, it is easier access for the family members to get the party’s ticket than a non family member.

In the case of several political parties today, sons, daughters, niece and nephews of top political leaders take over the reign of the party early in life. They are groomed by the older politicians and are launched into the political scene by well orchestrated strategic media campaign, portraying them as “yuvraaj”. Media help in grooming the image of the family members of the politicians in India.

There appears to be a general feeling amongst section of population that someone from a political family has the right connections and resources to get things done. It is obvious that such ideas stem from ignorance.

It is true that political competence does not come about by conventional education alone, but it certainly does not come by mere acquaintance or association as well. A competent political leader’s wife, son or daughter need not be equally competent.

It can be welcomed, if political heirs are capable enough to provide quality leadership to the country but the overall experience shows that under the control of families over political power, the institution of democracy is taking a big beating.

Right from the local self government to the national level, political dynasties are everywhere enjoying the fruits of power and prestige. Once patriarch succeeds in attaining political power, he does not want to lose his bear clasp over it and lets his near and dear ones to come in the line, so that the power would not go outside the family lineage.

The king maker parent will never lose his sense of power by projecting his son or daughter, as the face of the future ensures a lifetime of political clout for himself. The dynasties ensure that the door to the top slot is available to none but to the family members alone.

Instead of an open and transparent political party being accountable to the public at large, the political parties in India are close family structures that breed corruption. They ensure that no outsider of the family and insider in the party dares voice dissent.

The control of political parties by families inevitably lead to several undesirable consequences, such as money power, muscle power and caste factors playing in the electoral process.

The family politics is not only increasing corruption but also making the government biased, towards a particular section, caste and region to which the family belongs, to get more votes.

Family rule provide greater possibility of producing crooks who will loot the country and its people for their own personal gain, as it is evident in many cases now.

Political families have made India a make believe kind of democracy. Citizens who are more talented and have more enthusiasm to work for the public cause but with less family background, find it hard to compete in the elections, let alone make it to the assemblies and parliament.

The menace of political families is comparable to that of termites eating into the roots of the huge tree of democracy depriving of nutrients of fresh political thoughts.

If this present trend of dominance by political families in Indian democracy would continue, we will have the emergence of a political caste-a sort of brahminical caste. Indian democracy will cease to be participatory and it will cease to be a way of empowering people.

The continuance of political dynasties indicates that Indian society has not yet become free of feudal mindset. With the casteist, feudalistic mindset, the Indian public continues to vote for families instead of ideologies. It would not be possible to undo the political dynasties in Indian democracy without changing this mindset.

A cursory look at the family trees of politicians will make it clear that politics is a family business in India. Let us face it, politics in India is a business.

While much fuss is made about money’s influence on politics, another form of privilege, blood or marriage s taken for granted. It is extremely distressing that one billion plus population is being controlled by a few families today.

With the reigns of power largely in the hands of family members who manage to get into power without having the quality of mind or merit, there is a serious doubt regarding the future of Indian democracy.

If the present scenario is allowed to continue, each state will become “a princely state” ruled by the dynasties of political leaders who promote their own kith and kin and the public will become mere spectators.

Elections would be made a mockery by the entry of incompetent or business minded family members. Several of them without the knowledge or vision would not care to represent anyone once they would get elected to assemblies and parliament.

The assumption that a member of political family need not have any record of service to the nation to get into power is an insult to the concept of democracy.

The only way out is that the people should raise their voice. The public awareness is the panacea to treat the nearly sick but apparently healthy institution of Indian democracy.

Media provides hopes. There is strong concept of citizen journalism being built in the country. This is perhaps the purest and deepest form of journalism, which can improve the quality of public thinking towards improving the quality of democracy in this country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jaswant Singh saga would haunt for long

Jaswant Singh saga would haunt for long
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Jaswant Singh’s book 'Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence' that interprets events leading to India’s independence and Partition differently than the official NCERT version has triggered a huge debate in the country.

The book praises Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and calls him a secular Indian. This is contrary to the popular in the country that holds Jinnah solely responsible for the Partition of India, The book equally holds Congress leaders Sardar Valbhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru responsible for India’s Partition. The 71-year-old ex officer in Indian Army also asserts in his book that Indian Muslims are treated as ‘aliens,’ in the country, a fact unacceptable to many Indians.

The Bhartya Janata Party, to which the author belonged as member for three decades, called his formulations ‘hearsay’ that went against the core ideology of the party and expelled Singh from its primary membership. The Gujarat Chief Minister Nrander Modi took this matter a step further and banned his book in this BJP ruled state, after burning some of its copies.

All this has once again opened the Pandora box of the debate that has been in circulation for time now in India. The issues involved are tolerance towards academic freedom, plurality of thought, breaking the stereotypes, the guts to circulate new ideas and so on and so forth.

Its not long ago, this debate ranted the air when a section of Muslim community protested Salman Rushdie’s book Satanic Verses, Taslima Nasreen’s controversial writings and caricature cartoon of Prophet Mohammad by a Danish newspaper.

A large number of liberal and enlightened souls in the country rebuked at those whose beliefs were sullied by irreverence of some adventurers. They called the protestors; bigots, reactionaries, non liberal, non tolerant people belonging to a particular community.

In this bandwagon were a large number of Saffron activists that took a pot shot against the believers of Islamic faith and sided with the liberals who were beating their chest at the murder of freedom of expression.

In an ironical twist of tale, Jaswant Singh’s book has turned the tables against those ‘kettles’ who called the ‘pot black’. There was hardly any distinction between the two and behaved in the same fashion when it came to negotiate with any plurality of thought. However, the former could get away with their protest under the nationalist cloak, the later could never remove the stigma of being religious bigots.

Let’s leave this matter and come to point, what does Jaswant Singh’s book try to signify? The most important message he tries to convey goes beyond the demolishing many stereotypes in circulation for long in India.

One of it is that he denounces demonizing Jinah, and calls it a conspiracy hatched by Nehru and Patel to put the entire blame on Muslims for Partition of India. This is so as to project Muslims a hallucination for unifying the divergent Hindu society.

The Congress was successful in this venture and kept Muslims under psychological fear so that they would resign themselves to their subordinate status in Indian polity. It was the reason of this ugly legacy that political assertion by Muslims has always been construed as communalism.

The Congress experiment was so successful that different so-called political parties which emerged during the course of time including the BJP also deliberately followed this experiment so as to perpetuate this myth and reduced the status of Indian Muslims as mere vote bank.

Its impact was so pernicious that the whole concept of ‘secularism’ in India has come to revolve around Muslims communal identity, and the community has remained content with the false promises of ‘security’ and safety. For Muslims parties may come and go and they may rush from one to another, their fortune did not changed except for getting a few doles grants.

It is precisely for this Mr. Jaswant Singh deserves all the praise. He is the first political leader in India that too from the party of Muslim baiters, who has brought to the fore the grave reality of the alienation of Indian Muslims perpetuated since the Partition of the country. He deserves a special place in the annals of Indian political history.

Now lets divert the attention and compare BJP’s response to Jaswant Singh’s book with Varun Gandhi's hate speech against Muslims during the last Lok Sabha elections.

In case of Varun Gandhi, the BJP without associating with his speech backed him to the hilt and did not oppose him or accused him of disturbing communal peace in the country. Whereas in case of Jaswant Singh’s book that narrated some historical facts, the BJP members were up in arms and even without reading the content of the book, distanced with its author, who happen to be party member for 30 yrs and had served it with distinction.

While in BJP’s Ayodha plot, Varun Gandhi was not even a ‘Ram Biriksh’, Jaswant Singh, was hailed as ‘Hanuman’ of the party. Like the mythical ‘Hanuman,’ Singh had gone to Kandhar and save the lives of many innocent Indians held hostage by the terrorists in the high-jacked Indian Airlines plane. Yet when it came to evaluating the services of the two characters, the BJP leadership rejoiced at Vaun Gandhi’s speech, its blood boiled at Jaswant Singh’s book.

Singh who was one of the founding members of the BJP in 1980 was not even considered to give explanation nor was asked to go through the motion of trial by the party that swears by democracy. In his case the BJP simply donned the fascist mantel and summarily sacked from the primary membership of the party.

Why such special favors were bestowed to a rabble rouser and why a Muslim sympathizer was shown the door? It is because Varun Gandhi;s speech synced with the Muslim bashing ideology of the BJP, and the objective assessment of historical facts by Jaswant Singh was considered as against the core ideology of the party.

What does the BJP wanted to convey sacking Jaswant Singh? Does it mean that it is going to rule this country from Dashrath’s throne at Ayodhya, or its wants to alter the democratic framework of the country?

The people of India have given the mandate time and again not to alter the secular and democratic character of the country. Even the BJP’s strident campaign for Hindutva to alter the core characteristics could not gave it a majority to rule the country. This truthful reality of Indian politics has been conveyed through 15 parliamentary elections spread over a time frame of 60 years in the country.

Even while every Indian is convinced about the composite character of Indian politics, the aging BJP leadership does not seemed to be charmed by this point of view. They continue to believe of coming to power on the anti Muslim plank with the help of Hindu votes that constitute 80 per cent of the Indian population.

It seems these make believe world view is rattled by Jaswant Singh’s book 'Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence.' Jaswant Singh’s saga would definitely linger on and would haunt the Indian politics for time to come.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He is also author of the book “The Demand for India’s Partition.” He can be contacted at