Thursday, February 26, 2009

India- Pakistan Peace Process should be strengthened

India- Pakistan Peace Process should be strengthened
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: The key to achieving peace in South Asian region lay in the resolving of the India-Pakistan imbroglio, says Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed, Pakistan born, Swedish National, delivering a talk on “Making South Asia a Region of Peace and Prosperity: What Needs to be Done?”

The event was organized by the Chennai Chapter of the East West Center Alumni Association in association with the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies and the Department of English and Foreign Languages of the University of Madras and the Stella Maris College, Chennai, at the Hotel GRT Grand, Chennai on February 20, 2009.

Professor Ahmed said India and Pakistan should identify aspects of commonality to promote the idea of peace.Both the countries should make efforts to play down the areas of differences and play up on the areas of commonalities. Similarly, there could be more of collaborations in the areas of trade and commerce, permitting free travel and exchange of ideas for better bonding of the ties between these countries.

Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow, South Asian Studies Programme of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University, Singapore.

Mr. Fred Kaplan, Consul Public Affairs of the American Consulate General Chennai, presided over the function. He focused on the role played by Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi in bringing the non-violent movement to the centre stage of socio-political activities of the USA and India. He also talked about how their achievements could inspire the present day efforts to bring about peace in South Asia. Mr. Fred Kaplan stressed the need for countries of the region to enhance trade relations among themselves, as that would increase the prospects for improved relations.

Mr. P. M. Belliappa, the President of the EWCA Chennai Chapter welcomed the guest speakers, the alumni of EWCA Chennai Chapter, the distinguished academia and the gathering of other friends. He stressed on the relevance of the topic of the talk and said it matches the objectives of the EWC to promote better understanding and goodwill between the peoples of the world.

The programme was well attended by the students, alumni, academics and other invitees. Each of them keenly participated in the discussions that followed the talks. Several questions fielded by the participants aand the learned speakers ably answered them all.

The vote of thanks was proposed by Mr. P. Subramaniyam, Vice - President of the EWCA Chennai Chapter. The event was followed by a sumptuous lunch.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He is also an alumni of East West Center. Hawaii. He can be contacted at

India: Citizens and Watchdogs can strive for Good Governance

India: Citizens and Watchdogs can strive for Good Governance

Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is an electrifying atmosphere in India with the announcement of the 15th parliamentary elections to be held in April-May, 2009. This time as many as 671 million people are eligible for vote for 543 seats of the lower house of the Parliament.

The announcement of the Lok Sabha elections has given yet another opportunity to the citizens of India to give itself a good government. However the challenge remains whether the citizens of the country can clean the parliament from the tainted, criminals, rapist, bluff masters who sneak into the central hall through the democratic means. The nation is confronted with this problem as how to stop these undesirable elements from staging yet another democratic coup.

One of the biggest anomalies of the Indian parliamentary democracy is, it has been unable to prevent people of criminal background to get elected to parliament. A number of media reports highlight the fact that there is considerable number of persons with criminal background in the outgoing parliament, some of them even facing murder charges.

The national concern is what would happen to our country and its governance, if the present conditions are allowed to continue, where parliament becomes a sanctuary for large number of criminals. Will that would not make Indian parliament a mock exercise?

Since considerable percentage of electorates are illiterate and are not well informed, persons with tainted records use money power to hoodwink the voters to get elected. How can the country get quality governance when people with corrupt and dishonest background sit in the Parliament?

Necessarily, some method has to be found out to ensure that the people with criminal background and those facing charges of corruption and murder would not be allowed to contest the next parliamentary elections. The forthcoming parliamentary election would not serve any purpose if the criminal elements are allowed to contest the polls.

However, the rule of the game is; only a convicted person can be debarred from contesting elections. All the charge-sheeted persons are assumed to be innocent till found guilty. This allows even the criminals, rapists, murderers to context election. No one can do anything about it.

Take the case of J Jayalalitha, ex Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who is facing innumerable charges in disproportionate assets case. Some how she has been able to doge the judiciary and no judgment has been pronounced on her finding guilty so far. The cases against her are going on for more than ten years. In order to have impartiality her were transferred out of the state and special courts were constituted in Bangalore but this does not changed the pace of the hearing of her cases. No one knows how long this would go on. The end result is such elements continue to remain in political circulation.

There are only three ways to get round of this problem. One those charge-sheeted should be debarred from contesting polls. One may argue that this can happen if the citizens can put pressure on this issue. But do the citizens have any power to do so? Even if they had, who will they put pressure on, same old politician. Now which politicians would like to sign it death warrant.

The other way could be trial of such cases in fast track courts for speedy delivery of justice. Again we know this is not deliverable as we have seen in spite of the creation of special courts no justice is forthcoming even after ten years of the filing of the charges in Jayalalitha’s case. It’s obvious that the political class have so much clout in India that they can successfully stymie the judiciary process. There are however exception to the rule.

The third way could be that political parties should stop issuing tickets to the tainted politician. But one wonders which political party would do so, for them winning is more important than anything else. Such tainted characters are most probable wining candidates and no political party could dissociate with them. This would mean they must harp on the bogey; ‘a person is innocent till found guilty.’

As far as citizens are concerned they can only voice their concerns but those who wield the authority, power and responsibility and such agencies should act and respond to the concern of the citizens.

In this context the role of Election Commission is very important. This body has to rise up to the occasion and meet the expectations by examining how the existing rules and regulations could be more effectively put to use to prevent the criminals from contesting the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

If necessary, the Chief Election Commissioner should invite suggestions and guidance from the citizens as to how to effectively prevent the criminals from contesting parliamentary elections within the ambit of the existing rules and regulations. There is certainly scope for progressive and forward looking interpretations of existing rules and regulations in this regard. The original and fruitful ideas could be implemented from the coming general elections.

However one wonders if the election commission can do anything about this issue. Such ideas have to be ratified by the parliament r the Supreme Court. It’s a vicious circle and there are little choices to put a full stop to it.

So how can we really get rid of this problem? Well for me we need some kind of JP movement to handle this issue. If mass scale awareness is created on this issue, the political parties would be forced to purge such tainted persons from contesting the polls.

In this the role of media and NGOs are very important. Some may question which media or NGO may like to bell the cat. Well this is something debatable. I may argue there are still any numbers of media that speak truth with conviction and they cannot be easily bought over.

My final point is; hope for good governance lays in the hands of the concerned citizens and the watchdogs of the country.


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

Monday, February 16, 2009

Will India Internationalize Sri Lakan Tamil Case

Will India Internationalize Sri Lakan Tamil Case
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils is a new initiative taken up by the ruling DMK government in Tamil Nadu to ensure an honorable settlement of Tamil question in Sri Lanka.

The Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils comprises several parties, including the ruling DMK's main ally the Congress. This forum’s aim is to pressurize the Union government to internationalize the sufferings of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and rope in the international community to hammer out a negotiated settlement of the Tamil problem.

However, the moot question is; will the Indian government take up the case of Sri Lankan Tamils to the international forum, if it does so at the behest of its trusted ally the DMK, then what will be its stand on the issue of internationalizing the Kashmir issue.

Since last sixty years India is skirting the Kashmir case, using its diplomatic prowess to avoid any international arbitrator, even though its lap dog Pakistan has been barking at it on its face, the mother of terrorism in South Asia.

The other question is, will the DMK would continue its honeymoon with the UPA still holding on to its constituency that’s seething with anger over the Tamil question. The state has reported a few suicides and several protests have been reported from different place of Tamil Nadu over this issue. The situation is so grave the state government has order closure of colleges anticipating more protests and issue warning if needed protestors could be arrested under the National Security Act.

With the announcement of the general elections in April, all these developments do not auger well for the ruling DMK government and so it has decided to float the Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils to tell it cares for the Tamil cause. However the question remains how effective this mechanism would be to serve its purpose. Skeptics feel that it’s an evasive tactics meant to distract the surging emotions seething in the state and the DMK has to make a choice soon.

In the meantime a sub-committee has been formed to assist the Forum for Welfare and Rights of Lankan Tamils with state PWD Minister Durai Murugan its organizer. Union Minister for Communications A. Raja, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi and Dravidar Kazhagam president K.Veeramani are secretaries. Other members include former judges; S. Mohan, P.R. Gokulakrishnan, A.K. Rajan, and Samidurai.

The sub-committee so far had held two meetings and chalked out a plan of action for ensuring the safety of Sri Lankan Tamils. It adopted a resolution calling upon the Centre to take speedy steps to implement the proposal made by Indian President Pratibha Patil calling for a negotiated political settlement to the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis.

The sub-committee also urged the Centre to move the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council to ensure immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka, restore peace and stop the “genocide” of the Tamils.

The committee members have decided to meet the President, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to explain the need to approach the United Nations under 11 (2) of the Charter of UN in this matter.

The committee has also prepared a memorandum asking India to appeal for deploying International Peace Keeping Forces under article 24 (1) to maintain peace and security and secure civil and political rights for the Tamils under article 41 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Besides, it wants the Central government to appeal to the SAARC nations to call upon the Sri Lankan government to give equal rights to the Tamils.

The committee is pondering whether to take up the issue legally and a drafting committee is formed to prepare the memorandum to be submitted to the international bodies.

The committee has decided to meet Ambassadors and High Commissioners of various countries either in New Delhi and Chennai and submit them a memorandum detailing “sufferings” of the Tamils.

Given the complexity of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, one wonders internationalizing would serve India’s purpose or will it weaken its Kashmir case. In order to placate its electoral partner that too with just month to go for general election, India would like to eat the cake and have it too.

While the union government having a Hobson’s choice over this issue, the DMK has little to choose. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has already expressed his unhappiness about the central government's actions in this matter. He says: "While the DMK is far from satisfied at the centre's approach, in my opinion (External Affairs Minister) Pranab Mukherjee is not happy at the turn of events. India should back a UN sponsored ceasefire in Sri Lanka," he said

The DMK president has also expressed his irritation at repeated criticism of the different political parties against the state government on this issue. "The continued politicization of the Sri Lankan Tamils' suffering through violence is an obvious sign of a conspiracy to dislodge the DMK government. Our forum will hold public meetings throughout the state to educate the masses in the matter and press for meaningful devolution of power and the honorable existence of Tamils in Sri Lanka," Karunanidhi said.

In the given crunch situation, it would not be a happy sailing for the DMK in the coming lok sabha polls. It can’t sail in the UPA boat if it wants to keep its constituency intact.

There are already many political parties crowding the political space in Tamil Nadu, and one wrong move would trip the DMK patriarch from its tight rope walk. This is an interesting situation in the Indian political circus. It needs to be watched how this story would play itself out.


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

Friday, February 13, 2009

‘Justice Rocks series’- A Musical Journey for Social Change

‘Justice Rocks series’- A Musical Journey for Social Change
Syed Ali Mujtaba

A flurry of activity is going on the musical scene in Chennai. Last month the city was abuzz with Tamil Sangamam, where folk artists performed in every nook and corner of the city, giving musical touch to the harvest festivity of “Pongal.”

Hardly, the drum beats of the Sangamam artists could dry up, a Chennai based ‘Youth for Social Change’ organized ‘1000 Bhopals’ concert under the banner ‘Justice Rocks’ series on 7 and 8 February, 2009 at the Bucks Theatre, YMCA grounds.

‘1000 Bhopals’ concert was the brainchild of few youngsters who had earlier organised the ‘No More Bhopals’ concert on 7 December 2008 in Chennai, in support of the 24th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster.

“The 1000 Bhopals concert is to highlight the fact that Bhopal is not merely the place where a dreadful disaster took place 24 years ago, it can happen anywhere because of the pollution caused by the industries,” said Jeny Dolly, member of the forum, ‘Youth for Social Change.’

Proceeds from the concert will be forwarded to Bhopal gas tragedy survivors, she added.

The concert featured 14 college and school bands, with three professional bands Yodhaka, Rainbow Bridge and Karnatriix. The concert was amalgamation of all genres of music; Jazz, rock, classical, experimental music, fusion and Tamil folk.

This was the second concert of its kind under the banner ‘Justice Rocks series.’ The first was ‘Lever Fever’ in March 2008, to highlight the issue of Unilever's thermometer production plant in Kodaikanal polluting the environment.

Youth for Social Change was formed two years ago, with the thought that musical concerts are a perfect way to reach out to schools and colleges within Chennai.

It’s organizing Justice Rocks series of concerts targeting the youth to convey the message of social justice through music. It aims at exposing youngsters to contemporary issues through music of different genres.

“When we hear music, it registers in our mind and is an apt instrument to spread awareness. Spreading a social message through music is less aggressive and more inclusive and is of interest to listeners, says Jeny Dolly, member of the forum.”

“Youth for social change sticks to its stand of ‘No corporate funding’ and their concerts are funded with voluntary contributions, by musicians, audience, activists and small businesses,” said Sidharth, a musician and organizer of the concert.

“We are trying to establish an alternative culture in Chennai and youngsters chip in with money to conduct concerts. The bands perform free, the sound systems come with a concession, the venues are available free, it is a voluntary initiative and the chain reaction is happening,” he added.

A pool of amazing musical talent was on display spread over two evenings. The most interesting and unconventional band was that of Sofi, who wore “Burqa” and red necktie and regaled the youth crowd with her Islamic rap.
It was an amazing contrast to see girls wearing hot pants and micro mini skirts, slapping their bare legs for mosquito bites watching a performer wearing “Burqa” on stage.

Go buy a “Burqa,” Sofi yelled to her friends in the crowd suggesting them how to save themselves from the mosquito bites.

There were stalls set up on the entrance along with the food court that sold T shirts and badges, headbands with all kinds of slogans along with those on Bhopal.

Many political statements were made by the performers. Sofi condemned terrorism and debunked it as Jihad. There was a worldly duel between her and other boy, one being DOW Union Carbide and other the victims voice. There was a solo guitar performance with the lyrics based on the sufferings of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

The highlight of the musical concert was participation of over with fifty youth and their parents who had come from Bhopal to grace the occasion. Many of the adults were wearing dark glasses and a few children born after the gas tragedy looked physically challenged.

‘Justice Rocks series’ is definitely a great initiative by the ‘Youth for Social Change.’ Their bold political statement through the musical journo is something that needs to be not only appreciated but also applauded.

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

India: All is not well on Valentine Day

India: All is not well on Valentine Day
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The Valentine Day celebration in India on February 14 is turning out to be an interesting event to be watched. A flurry of activities is taking place on in both the camps for and those against the V Day celebrations and clash looks imminent by the kind of posturing that are going on in the run up to it.

The Sri Ram Sene has taken up the responsibility of moral policing the society and has issued statements against this western concept and is preparing to distribute Mangalsutra, Rakhi and Sari, to stress the point of preserving Indian culture.

The young brigade who are “waiting for a chance for Oh Alice,” and are all set to “break free” on that day has come up with idea to distribute “Pink underwear’s” to the watchdogs of Indian society.

Normally, around this time every year, the Shiv Sena in Mumbai comes out into open and starts issuing warnings against February 14 celebration. Its foot solider spread across the country take upon the mantel of oral policing and would normally create raucous, vandalizing shops selling V Day cards and gift items to hog the limelight of being the moral policemen of India.

Surprisingly, this time the theater of this activity has shifted to Bangalore and other cities of Karnataka. Here the Sri Ram Sene has taken the responsibility of moral policing and has warned to slap back to sanity all those deviating from the Indian culture.

The Sri Ram Sene that was on forefront of the moral policing by attacking pubs in Mangalore, has announced that its activists would be making rounds in the public places in Bangalore and other places looking for couples celebrating Valentines day. Their foot soldiers would be armed with Mangalsutra and Rakhi giving the couple a choice between the two.

Mangalsutra is a necklace that is worn by married woman in India and normally the husband ties around her neck at the time of the marriage. Rakhi on the other hand is a wrist band that a sister ties to the wrist of her brother on the occasion of this festival.

The Sri Ram Sene has announced that it will compel the couple choose between the two and if they want to be lovers, then the boy has to put the Mangalsutra round the girl’s neck and solemnize the marriage ceremony. If the couple has aversion towards it, then the girl would ask to tie the Rakhi on the wrist of the boy and accept each other as brother and sister.

A new twist to this controversy has emerged, as young brigade have organized themselves through the social networking sites like face book and Orkut and have plans to combat the Sri Ram Sene’s threat on the V Day.

In just few days a new Group has emerged on the Internet and people from all parts of the country are getting enthused to join the campaign for the V day celebrations.

With over 3,000 members, the Group has bloomed into a full-fledged campaign and has decided to give Pink underwear to the Sri Ram Sene activists who may come to disturb the V Day celebration.

Nisha Susan, one of the founders of the Group says they have decided to hit back against those who were capitalizing on fear. “It has been a very hectic time since last few days and there is unexpected surge of interest in our campaign. We are organizing a press conference in Banglore on Friday 13th February 2009, and at least 500 pink under wears, would be on display as a mark of our protest against the so called moral policemen. Asked why Pink? The reply came it symbolizes being “Gay.”

The Sri Ram Sene camp seems to be unperturbed of the activities against it and bent to be in a combative mood. They are planning to display Sari, to counter pink under wear campaign calling it a symbol of traditional Indian wear for women.

One of the members of Sri Ram Sene has reportedly said, “Sari symbolizes woman of Indian culture and they would be distributing it to those girls who would turn out that day dressed in western attires.”

Given the strident campaign building up for and against the Valentine Day celebrations in India, one can see the storm brewing up below the social surface. The posturing and counter posturing is giving sleepless night to the security force. The Karnataka police have issued a strict warning to all those who are bent to disturb public peace. It has warned the Hindu extremist group that they would be sternly dealt with if they create any problems on the valentine day.

Notwithstanding the facts that elaborate security arrangements have been made for the V day celebrations, there is a lurking fear that mob violence erupting in some places in the country. It is certain that all is not well on Valentine Day in India.

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

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Love Story of Chand Mohmmad and Fiza

A Love Story of Chand Mohmmad and Fiza

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The story of Chand Mohmmad and Fiza that had hit the headlines recently undoubtedly has lent a romantic color to the otherwise dull Indian political scene. This however has also opened up a debate on complex human relationship that transcends into the domain of conversion and polygamy.

Whereas Muslim clerics have called the idea of converting to Islam to get married second time, “a deplorable act” the Hindutva brigade is maintaining a stoke silence in this case.

The main question that this case has thrown up is fundamentally two; one why Chander Mohan and Anuradha Bali have to become Chand Mohmmad and Fiza to legalize their love affair. Second, why can’t they find the happiness within the boundaries of their own religion?

This also exposes the hypocrisy of a nation that preaches the Krishna, Radha and Mira type of relationship but when it comes to actual reality it disapproves such relationship leading to resort to fair and foul means.

In order to understand this human dilemma, one has to recall the story of Chander Mohan, the eldest son of former Haryana chief minister, Bhajan Lal.

Chander Mohan is a sitting four-time Congress legislator from the Kalka assembly seat in Haryana. He has two teenaged children from his first wife and one of his sons died last year after prolonged illness. He got to know a lady by the name of Anuradha Bali, a divorcee and former Assistant Advocate General in Punjab.

The duo after a courtship of about five years appeared at a TV station on December 7, 2009, to announce that they had converted to Islam and had subsequently got married according to Islamic law.

Chander Mohan said his new name is Chand Muhammad and Anuradha Bali said she has taken up the name Fiza, the title of a popular Hindi movie staring Karishma Kapoor.

“We are not teenagers to take an impulsive decision and we have made up our mind to convert to Islam and get married after a lot of thought,” Chand Mohmmad reportedly said in a camera interview.

His father, former Haryana CM Bhajan Lal disowned his son for his second marriage saying it to be a "shameless act".

Subsequently, Chand Mohammad and Fiza have lost their high profile jobs apparently for their much hyped marriage. Chand lost his Deputy Chief Minister post for being absent and neglecting his work while Fiza was sacked form assistant attorney general post for the same reasons.

The family tiff between newly wed couple surfaced when Fiza accused her husband’s brother and his first wife of abducting Chand since they had not approved their marriage. Fiza said the Bhajan Lal family was adopting double standards.

“When Kuldip Bishnoi (Chander Mohan's younger brother) was caught with a girl at a Delhi disco, no one disowned him. I can vouch that 95 percent of the people in Haryana politics have a double life. My only crime is I have come out and accepted it,” Fiza reported to have said.

The missing husband was traced in New Delhi when he called up a TV channel to say he was safe. However, his prolonged his stay in the national capital that led to speculation that every thing is not well between love loran couple.

This love story took new turn when Fiza tried to commit suicide consuming blood pressure tablets and in an unconscious state was rushed to a hospital. Later she rubbished reports about her suicide and even rejected of any rift with her husband.

The fate of this love story hangs in balance as now Chand Mohmmad is unable to makeup his mind to go back to his Fiza. He is reported to have said, he is missing his first wife and his children. This fairy tale is poised for a very interesting climax.

Meanwhile, Fiza has claimed that a very bad game has been played with her life and she has been betrayed in true love.

"I don't know what my status is today. I don't even know if I am his wife or not. He has not spoken to me directly. I don't even know whether he is now Chander Mohan or Chand Mohammed."

Stating that she had not embraced Islam to get married, Fiza said, "I respect all religions but I will remain a Muslim now.”

The story of Chand Mohmmad and Fiza should not be sarcastically castigated as a union for satisfying the baser instinct of mankind. It also should not be brushed under the carpet by moral policing on such cases.

As the Indian society is evolving from feudal to modern age, these are complex challenges thrown up in human relationship. It is time that the country should make the process of divorce much easier and simpler than what it is today.

At the moment it’s completely impossible for a Hindus and Christians to get out of one relationship and enter into another. This has destroyed many homes and happiness is being sought in some other way. This case provides enough food for thought as to how to get round to this human problem.

This case has also brought out into open the blatant misuse of conversion for meeting selfish ends. Conversion to Islam is a long drawn out process that is purely based on the sound knowledge of the religion. The corner stone is the act of “Sahada.” Any one who takes a short cut to this should not be encouraged for conversion.

There should be some designated authority who should issue certificate for those who have converted to other faith and it should again be made simpler and easier. Such formulation to some extent would mellow down the conversion debate.

The third issue this case has brought out is the practice of polygamy. In this age, there is no place for such feudal practice. Those who are practicing such archaic way of life should be given exemplary punished.

Well getting back to Chand Mohmmad and Fiza love story, every one wants this to end in Dil Wale Dulanhiya Le Gayne Gey style, but in case if that does not happen, one can only say, it’s Raab Dee Merzi.

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