Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bloggers in Chennai had a field day

Bloggers in Chennai had a field day
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: The Chennai Bloggers meet organized by the Indiblogger and sponsored by the Univercell Communication on 20th March 2010, was a red letter day for the Blogging fraternity in this southern metropolis city of India.

More than two hundred bloggers had assembled for four hours Bloggers meet held at the GRT Convention Center, a star hotel in the city. This was the second meeting of the IndiBlogger in the city as it had held similar meeting in June 2008.

It was good to see a large number young enthusiastic Bloggers assembled at one place again, said Reneie Ravin, web architect for IndiClicker and an organizer of the event.

The event started with registration on the arrival of the participating in the meeting. This was followed by the welcome message from the sponsors, Univercell.

Every Blogger after that had an opportunity for self introduction for about 30 seconds. As they introduced, the IndiBlogger team flashed their blog and photograph on the screen thorough LCD projector. As each Blogger stood up for introduction, there was loud applause from the audience.

Then there was a video presentation on blogging and this was patiently watched by the enthusiastic Bloggers gathered at the event.

There was a mingling session where all the bloggers had to wear a chart paper round their neck that was rolled on their back and had to collect signatures and comments from the fellow Bloggers.

This was a fun session and many young and not so young Bloggers made rounds of each other, to collect signatures and comments besides introducing themselves. The one who had collected maximum number of signatures and comments was given a prize.

Then there was a session on Traditional Media verses Blogging where many journalists and Bloggers actively participated.

A journalist from Zee Tamil, one from NDTV-Hindu, a Chennai correspondent from an Australian broadcast participated in the discussion. This discussion centered on integration of traditional media with emerging media like blogging.

The representative of UnivercelL talked about the high cost of advertisement in the traditional media and mooted the idea to give ads to the bloggers who have high traffic to their sites.

The Univercell also announced that they are looking for bloggers to be part of their blog (about mobile phones) to be launched by them soon. It also announced that it is planning to conduct a contest to identify the right bloggers through the IndiBlogger meets at Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi and Bangalore.

The meeting was followed by more interaction with Bloggers during the Hi Tea. Many Bloggers were seen interacting with each other and enjoying sandwiches and Ice Creams!

The fun filled session came to an end when each Blogger received an IndiBlogger T-shirt, as gift.

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Business of Terrorism Flourishes Unabated

The Business of Terrorism Flourishes Unabated
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is no stopping to the business of terrorism brandishing Muslims as terrorist. Now this idea has caught the imagination of those who conceptualize games for the children.

The latest news comes from GVK-1 Shopping Mall in Hyderabad, Deccan where a franchise of an US company named "FUN ZONE" has put up a shooting game stall for children called "Killing a Terrorist."

The inquisitive kids are given a gun and asked to shoot two statues put up in the stall resembling Muslim characters. There dress naturally identifies them as Muslims. One of the statutes wore turban and a long beard and other had skull cap, with clean mustaches and long beard.

This inflamed the sentiments of some Muslims in Hyderabad and Majlish (read Muslim!) Bachao Tahreek (MBT) took up the matter with the owner of the games stall. MBT leader Mr. Amjed Ullah Khan, Corporater Azampura Ward, asked the games owner of the franchise, why he has chosen only Muslim characters for the shooting game "Killing a Terrorist."

Mr. Balasubramanyam, the owner of the games stall defended himself saying the concept of these characters were designed in the US and he had no role in dressing them look like Muslim characters. .

The agitating the MBT workers however were not convinced and launched a complaint against the owner of games franchise at Panjagutta police station in the heart of the city of pearls.

Following this, the police to swing into action and removed the statues from the stall and arrested its owner Mr. Balasubramanyam on charges of breaching communal harmony.

Well this could be an isolated event in a small town of India. However, this episode poses a larger question, how does one cope up with a situation when the world continues to brand Muslims as terrorist?

Does not it provide ammunition to those muddle headed folks who may jump up to exclaim, didn´t I say; there is no place for logic and rationality in the lexicon of the self appointed rulers of the world. They are almighty lord of the universe and can demonize anyone whom they choose to do so. The choices are limited either to bow before the lord or to hit it back and teach a lesson.

This debate is endless. Where to begin; from the provocateurs or the provoked? Such canard is entrenched in action and reaction syndrome. Can´t there be any sanity into this madness?

There are numerous such instances when such provocative stuff is dished out in the market and there is people´s uproar to such products. One wonders why this has happened in this case of "FUN ZONE" and this product is allowed to sell its franchise worldwide.

In a multicultural society like India, such provocation are detected and some remedy being thought of but imagine in homogeneous societies where a dominant color and creed exists, what kind of havoc such game may create among the young minds.

It seems that global agenda to fight terrorism is drifting apart and the business of terrorism is busy making hay while sun shines. The buzz word is to create terrorist first and then launch a campaign to lead fight against terrorism! It seems this business is turning out to be billions of dolor industry, and there are could be many stake holders in building this industry.

It´s a vicious circle, where people have lost the beginning of the plot of terrorism and there is no end to it in sight. Each looking at the symptoms of it and none interested in curing the disease. This makes one ponder whether "Killing a Terrorist" may solve the issue of terrorism from the face of the earth?

I think there is no ready made answer to this scourge facing the humanity. The irony is no one is trying to find out answers to it and creating a space where peace and harmony can gain precedence over, conflict and barbarism.

In such vacuum, what is happening is, there is no stopping to the peddlers of the idea hate. The propaganda mill is busy leading the campaign that "all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims," no matter how much the voices of sanity delivers the punch line; ´My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist´!

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

Indian Army faces Massive Shortage of Officers

Indian Army faces Massive Shortage of Officers
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The approval of the Union Government to open a second Officers' Training Academy (OTA) at Gaya in Bihar marks a major step to solve the problem of shortage of officers in the country.

The new academy will function on the similar lines as one that exists in Chennai. Initially the new Officers Training Academy at Gaya will commence the training of 250 cadets, but in due course of time it will be upgraded to its full design capacity to train 750 short-service commission officers annually.

At present the Indian Army has two training institutions; one, at the Indian Military Academy,(IMA) Dehradun that annually churns out permanent commission officers. The other is Short Service Commission officers that are produced at the Officers Training Academy at Chennai.

IMA gets its cadets from the tri-Service National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla, which is open to youngsters after class XII, as well as through the `direct entry' route open to college graduates.

The Officers Training Academy at Chennai is open to college graduates only are also struggling for students. In both the institutions students have to clear a very comprehensive test and this include physical endurance test as well.

As part of their force-restructuring to maintain a young profile and attract bright youngsters to their fold, the armed forces are gradually moving towards substantially increasing the number of short service commission officers in their ranks. The change in intake pattern will eventually lead to one is to two ratio, for Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission officers.

India Military Academy at Dehradun currently has a capacity to train 950 officers per year, while the Officers Training Academy at Chennai trains around 500 officers. The capacity at both these academies is also being expanded to train an additional 100 cadets each every year.

However, the National Defence Academy that enlists high school graduates and turns them into officers for the Navy, Air Force and also the Army, is struggling for students. The defence ministry records show just 190 students signed up this month against the academy's sanctioned strength of 300.

Incidentally, almost all the three wings of the armed forces in the country are short of officers. The Indian Army is short of around 11,400 officers. The Indian Navy is short of about 1,500 officers. The Indian Air Forces grapple with a shortage of about 1,400 officers.

The shortage of the Indian defence force officers becomes conspicuous when we cross check shortages of the officers with those of its prescribed strength.

The Indian Army has an authorized strength of 46,614 officers. The authorized strength of Indian Air Force is 12,136, whereas the Indian Navy has an authorized strength of 8,797 officers.

India's army, the world's fourth largest, is failing to attract enough youngsters with "officer-like qualities'' for its 1.13-million strong Army. The second is Indian Army is facing a massive exodus from its ranks, with more and more officers opting for premature retirement. The shortage of officers in the Indian defence forces is blamed on stress, low pay, slow promotions and the military's tough lifestyle.

Even though the salaries of armed forces have substantially increased after the 6th Pay Commission, the youngsters still find them less compared to the private sector. This consideration is put forth especially is one takes into the account of the life of a soldier which is tough and risky.

Then army has severe promotional bottlenecks. After entering the army, an entry level officer must wait up to 10 years before donning the flashes of a lieutenant-colonel. But even at that level the monthly basic salary does not exceed much. The other contributing factors are poor promotional avenues and frequent transfers that disrupt family life of the officers.

The traditional catchments area like; Punjab and Rajasthan for recruitment of Army officers have gone dry. Most of the families that have strong soldiers background have stopped sending their wards to the Amy schools and are keen to send them abroad have hampered the steady flow of the officers in the Indian Military service.

Added to it is the lack of interest of the Anglo- Indian and Muslim communities in joining the Indian Army that has resulted into the shortage of the officers in the armed forces. If we check the old records and compare with the recent ones the total desertions of these two communities from the armed forces is glaring.

We may like it or not, corruption has entered into the armed forces as well. Many talented recruits feel patriotism and valor the two cardinal features of the deference services are compromised with corruption coming into its ranks. This has resulted in keeping them away from the defense services.

Indian Army faces a dire shortage of officers because the booming private sector is recruiting the best talent. The private sector, which has been luring away India's best talent by offering hefty wages and generous perks and the government and the services, simply cannot compete in matters of salary and perks with the corporate world.

The Indian Armed forces has enormous opportunities available outside the services. According to the defence ministry's Directorate of Resettlement, a third of the 3,000 officers who retire annually enlist in top Indian business schools. And the corporate world welcomes retiring military recruits with open arms.

This has left the military with poor pickings. Most of those applying are not the right material. Experts feel that the deficiencies should not be met by lowering the quality standards of the world's largest voluntary army.

India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan and a bloody border skirmish with China since its 1947 independence, has never turned to compulsory recruitment but such a move could be an option in future to meet the demand of the shortage of officers.

Compulsory military service could be one of the avenues before the government but at moment it’s not given much thought but sometime in the future such possibilities cannot to be ruled out.

However, skeptics feel that conscription is not the answer to the problem because it may lead to indiscipline, waywardness and desertions.

Nonetheless the recruitment issue has become an urgent priority for the army after 3,000 mid-level commanders recently sought early retirement on top of an existing shortage of 11,200 officers. The army needs a total of 46,615 officers.

How this anomaly is going to be resolved needs to be seen in the new policies that are going to be evolved by the government in the course of time. The only good news is thanks to India's billion-plus population and high unemployment, the 1.23-million-strong army has no shortages in the lower ranks.

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reaction to Swami Nithyanand's Sex Tapes Truth and Lies

1- --- On Sat, 13/3/10, wrote:

Subject: Swami Nithyananda's Sex Tapes...3-6-10
Date: Saturday, 13 March, 2010, 4:15 AM

Hi Syed,

Read your even-handed and objective article Swami Nithyanand's Sex Tapes Truth and Lies March 6, 2010 and offer here a viewpoint different from the Western thought upon which it was predicated.

Lets take a look at the conceptual mystical aspect of all personal situations. We create the environment around us. All people do this, not just godmen.

The issues of whether the videotapes were doctored or what degree of involvement the Tamil actress had with Nithyananda, or who tried to frame him are mystically irrelevant. The karma that Nithyananda created that brought about these material conditions has relevancy for godmen do not create negative karma. It took a considerable amount of negative karma to bring about this scandal.

My awareness of the teachings of Swami Nithyananda did not begin with the hubbub about the current sex scandal but started in New York City about a year ago. After meeting with one of his Swamis I read Nithyananda’s book Guaranteed Solutions for Sex, Worry, Fear, Jealousy, Attention-need, Ego and Discontent. The title was what one would expect in the huckstering self-help section of a bookstore rather than one associated with the teachings of a swami.

The monthly magazine of Life Bliss is a glossy multi-colored publication containing offerings of books written by the swami and the promotion of a variety of seminars here and abroad including one for women living independently (I didn’t notice any seminars books or fliers promoting family). The magazine also contains a variety of commercial advertisements.

In addition to reading his materials, and attending a couple of his introductory seminars, I had the opportunity to meet the Swami and be blessed by him at a temple in Flushing, New York after hearing him expound on the teachings of Patanjali.

While his knowledge of matters spiritual did impress me as did his stage presence, I had an underlying feeling that his values were too worldly for a spiritual master and did my utmost to dissuade and elderly women from taking her last dollar to attend the three month seminar in India that culminated at the Ashram at which the scandal took place.

In light of the above, the scandal that occurred at the Bengaluru Ashram does not surprise me. I am not questioning the ability of Nithyananda or his motives, but the high level promotional nature of his activities run contrary to the spiritual approach of the true godman, and they produced negative results.

If you review Ninthananda's materials he exhibits no understanding of the universal principle of gender—the yin and yang from which all life flows—and the natural patriarchal structure necessary to develop and maintain family, the fundamental unit of society. I point this out to you because I received an email from someone yesterday about a subject unrelated to the Nithyananda scandal that contained the following:

India has now strictest feminist laws, angry wife can kick out his whole family and take the house, land and animals. And Indians are demonstrating a bit, and then they will accept the fate. They are equal wimps as Americans. I don't want they accept that fate. I don't want anyone accepts feminist rule.

I had a call from a Muslim friend in Turkey who expressed similar thoughts of what was happening in Turkish society.

You are witnessing the Westernization of the world. Western society is unbalanced; it is feminine and materialistic. It deals with the seen and has no ethics; therefore, it requires laws and penalties in its attempt to maintain societal order and functioning. The only source of ethics comes from men who understand that the purpose of human existence is the propagation and preservation of the species while on its spiritual journey. Ethics are unseen, and it is the unseen that controls the seen. Western society attempts to operate contrary to this principle and is imploding.

When you look upon society as a balance between the seen (the feminine aspect) and the unseen (the masculine aspect) you will understand the patriarchal nature of the universe. Once the gender relationship becomes unbalanced society implodes until balance is restored.

All the valid points you made in your article are but symptoms of the underlying cause, the breakdown of the natural patriarchal structure of society. You can learn more about this message on

I thank you for your consideration.

Elder George


2- I'm afraid I'm a kind of Westerner to find the ashram-business amusing, in the great seriousness of persons going to India NOT to mix with people, or to study or try to understand something or other, or to learn what their religious beliefs might be, but for Answers that may or may not be applicable in the cultures and societies to which they belong.

Some DO find the genuine article, often in an ordinary soul who does not advertise, request $$$, or promise the moon.

All part of a cycle whose saddest, and important manifestation seems the last years' need to invoke laws against pretend saddhus and all others preying upon village superstition. A spate of incidents in MA, AP, UP and beyond have involved artificial holy men offering every kind of appealing promise in return for funds most villagers cannot possibly afford.

The law in MA descends from colonial law of the same strain enforced in times of especial hardship; reports of such charlatans appearing more often, or just having more appeal to the poor. In MA as in AP, if I have it straight, such individuals are to be held responsible for whatever they instruct a person to do...

Returning to the former, in the many occidentals seeking the divine in peculiar corners, I seem to remember a kindly remark by Aubrey Menon... on South Asians going to America expecting money to grow on trees, as Westerners go to India anticipating the Divine. Both kinds of human beings are usually disappointed.

The recent scandal, sex tapes, etc. seems part of a long saga. Indians are to be credited for a philosophical, often chuckling attitude... Lord knows how many legions of Westerners or others they've politely accepted, in their arch Seriousness, interruptions of traffic, long monologues, and yes, the odd scandal, too... am sure the same rough combinations, five centuries ago.

They're not Dull.

Megan S. Mills PHD
198 St Helen's
Toronto CDA M6H 4A1

3 - On Mon, 8/3/10, Ganesh Nagarajan wrote:

From: Ganesh Nagarajan
Subject: Your post on Swamy Nithyananda....
Date: Monday, 8 March, 2010, 6:58 AM

Your post is one of the most insightful, balanced and critical I have read. As I was reading one sensational report after another, I felt sick to my stomach at such unbalanced reporting.

You raise a good point about Yellow Journalism motivated by politics. We are not new to such efforts by corridors of power, especially in Tamil Nadu. I hope there is some forum which could do the required analysis and investigation.

I am neither a fan or a detractor of the said God Man, my sympathies are with the common folks, who seem to be getting it from all the sides, Economy, Politics, and pretend spiritual leaders, all throwing them taxes, expenses and guilt. But such egregious violation of basic journalistic process makes me question the bonafides of the messenger, while being disgusted by the message, which, if true, does untold damage to the fabric of religious society.

Ganesh Nagarajan

4--- On Mon, 8/3/10, manomani manoo wrote:

From: manomani manoo
Subject: Thanks for the article in Ground Report
Date: Monday, 8 March, 2010, 3:31 PM

Hi there,

Yours is the only and most intelligent report that I've read.
The queries and analysis are legitimate.
I'm a devotee, but I sure like to know what is actually happening. When I read your article it feels comfortable.
There is no undue accusations and no, for or against him.
Juz ........the bare facts .
Thanks for your good job.
Justice and truth whatever it may be will prevail.
Good jounalism.

In nithyanandam
Aananda Manohari

5 - On Wed, 10/3/10, sunaag suresh wrote:

From: sunaag suresh
Subject: Nityananda Scandal
Date: Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 1:13 AM

Hi Syed,

I read your artilcle one internet. Really liked it. Very well balanced. In my subject I referred that person as Nityananda, not Swamy Nityananda. Let him come out clean, if he is. It is pathetic to any relegious sentiments if he does not. He is sitting one crores of rupees on the name of relegion which is tax free. He is diploma holder which itself is controversial. Yes there is privacy which can not be penetrated by any one. No one can put camera in a bedroom which is private. In ashram there is no concept of bed room, people are supposed to sleep in hall, to accommadate more people shelter. There is one TV in the so called bed room, who paid for that? I had to work for almost 7 years to buy a TV. This is all donated by people TAX FREE. Blackmoney has become seed of so called godmen.

I am very sad to see the press conference held by Ashram people. Journalist came with written questions and ashram people came with written answer. Journalists should have asked some particular questions with them, Does swamy have 2 beds in his bedroom? which they know. Does he have TV in his bed room? if yes why? Swamy's give long lecture against TV. That press conference was waste of public money. Who set that fire there? Is it for distroying evidence? Nothing was asked. Why swamy is so particular about kumbhmela this time? do all swamy's visit kumbhmela everytime? Nothing relevant asked Nothing has been answered properly. Why Ashram people are taking questions when theie answer is same as what they spoke where their speach was well prepared.

We need to address real issues. If one has evidence go to court with the evedence then make it a news. No one has filed a case. Police are taking actions without a formal complaint. Are we fools? Where is the FIR? who has lodged on whom?

There is provision for PIL. This kind of practice should be abolished and stopped. Responsible people, be it Ashram or Media can not bypass legal procedures. If a journalists sees one person murdering other, what should be his duty? try to call police? or just engage in recording? then sell it?

Any responsible individual can not shy away from his primary duty in this democratic environment. If he does, he should be punished.

We had a lesson called "The Malefactor" in our school(English Subject). IAn innocent farmer(I think) steals bolts of railway track. He was caught and brought to court. He innocently pleads but court says he should be punished. Then the rule came ignorance of law is not an excuse. You must be knowing this story better.

This is my thinking, I wrote to you because I liked your article, making lots of senses.


6 - From "nahtan abas"

THANKS FOR A very good piece of balanced journalism among the gossip and innuendos propagated by many in the media on this subject.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Swami Nithyanand’s Sex Tapes Truth and Lies

Swami Nithyanand’s Sex Tapes Truth and Lies
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The alleged video tape of Sawami Nithyanand Paramhamsa caught in sexual act with a leading Tamil actress has provided a huge sensational and entertainment value. However, once the initial euphoria is over this episode has triggered a debate, answers to it are hard to piece together.

The debate roughly centers around; Are most god man conman? What were the reasons for the sting operation? Is this tape genuine? Do media have the license to enter into the privacy of an individual? Can bedrooms be protected from the lens eyes? Where the media is heading in this digital age?

Swami Nithyanand Paramhamsa, 32, is a young god man who claim to have 45 lakh devotees spread over to 17 countries. In India most of his followers come from the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

On March 2, 2010, a popular TV channel Sun TV in Chennai repeatedly telecast Swami Nithyanand’s alleged bedroom acts with a Tamil actress in a very sensational manner. The tape tends to suggest that this Swami is debauch and hedonistic. To make this point the actress was sleeping with the Swami on the bed and feeding the god man from hand. There are more explicit visuals in this tape that shows the Swami, in a very compromising position on the bed.

Ever since the tape of Swami Nithyananda’s sex acts was broadcast on TV channel, this news spread like wild fire on the internet and hundreds of websites started writing showing the tapes in streamed format. Next day some Tamil print publication like Dinakaran, Tamil Murasu and Nakkeeran also published this story with much spice and juice.

The god men who are called Swamys are supposedly celibates or ‘Brahmacharis.’ They are not expected to indulge in worldly pleasures like sex. Such people are epitome of high moral integrity and supposedly to have godly characteristics. It’s because of such virtues people get attracted towards them and shows their faith towards them and worships them. There are so many such Swami in the country each having a huge following.

However, the faith of the people was completely shaken when the TV Channel beamed the sex romp of Swami Nithyanand with an actress. The tape showing the Swami in a compromising position enraged his devotees around the country. People came out to the streets, burned his effigies, pull down his posters and even vandalized his ashram. The incensed villagers residing in the vicinity of his sprawling ashram Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam near Bidadi in Karnataka and they attacked the devotees staying there. There were also protest reported from several other places in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Even though this case is not the first of its kind, it has tarnished the image of all the god men or swami and seen as conmen corrupting society and indulging in acts that do not commemorate to their holy status.

After the sex scandal, two cases have been filed against the Swami Nithyananda in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for cheating and offending religious sentiments of the people. The Tamil Nadu and Karnataka government has ordered a high level of inquiry into the matter after consulting state representatives from various religious trusts and institutions.

Is the tape genuine?

After the initial euphoria is over, the basic question that’s doing rounds is the tape genuine? Advocate M Shreedhar, who is representing the god man in Madras High Court, questions the veracity of the tape. He asserts that the clippings in the video are morphed, and the image of the actress is faked. The woman in the clippings always has her neck covered, which is typical of a morphed video, besides, her bindi is intact in all the scenes. The bedroom too is brightly lit, he says and adds that it appears that the whole sting operation is nothing but trick of multimedia and graphics, rumor and conspiracy.

There are other missing links about the Swami’s sex tapes. The TV channel has not given the time and date of video on which it was shot. It has not run any interview of the alleged actress whose pictures it has morphed, speaking against the Swami’s alleged nefarious activities.

Who is the actress in the sex tape?

Who is the renowned Tamil actress found in bed with the Swami Nithyananda? The popular gossip is that she is Tamil actress Ranjitha. It’s reported that the film star started visiting the ashram to overcome depression caused by a failed marriage and soon became a devotee of the Swami. After the breaking off the scandal no one knows the whereabouts of the actress. She has not appeared in public not said anything for or against to come clean. This leads to speculation whether the girl who appeared in the video is actually Ranjitha? Will she ever come to public on this issue, or she will be forced to file a complaint against the swami is something that’s being speculated.

What are the reasons for sting operation?

There are several theories doing rounds that prompted this sting operation. According to some, ego clash among inmates in the ashram have resulted in the making of the video. It’s alleged that one of the inmates of the ashram, Premananda alias Lenin Karuppan, with an intention to defame Swami Nithyanand has used the information technology had morphed his face and released the video clippings. Some argue after Nithyanand’s rival was exposed a day before, this tape appeared in public and in both the cases an insidious connection is seen.

Some say money had a major role to play in the making of the sex tapes. The loose talk is that those who made the video and the TV channel that aired the scandal had a struck a deal. A huge sum has changed for airing of the sex tape.

The other theory that is doing round is the TV channel with huge political clout had demanded Rs 50 crore from Swami Nithyanand, but when that was refused, the sting operation was planned with the help a female decoy. Another theory is the sex tape might be result of property dispute. There is no end to gossip mongering.

The episode of Swami Nithyananda is eye opener in much sense. If the sex tape is true, then he is a slur on the face of not only god man but on the entire religious belief system. After going through the motion of due procedure of law, he be given exemplary punishment. One the contrary, if the tape is fake, fabricated and tells lies; the channel that has indulged in character assassination should be heavily penalized along with other media outlets that have joined the party in the slandering exercise. Of late, media is acting in most irresponsible manner; it’s high time to rein those who prey on sensationalism. In any case, an example has to be set to put such controversies to rest, if not for long but maybe for short time.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Journalists Views on Islam in Media

Journalists Views on Islam in Media
Syed Ali Mujtaba

We often hear that Islam being misrepresented in the media and the Muslim community is subjected to bad press in India. Recently some Muslim journalist held a discussion over this subject in New Delhi and made some interesting observation on this issue that needs to be highlighted.

The basic reason of misrepresentation of Islam in the media was ignorance but in some cases deliberate intention could not be ruled out, said Syed Liyaquat Husain, Senior Editor, Arab News.

According to him, the role of the desk was very vital in shaping a news item. The stories that are finalized passes through various levels and through subbing and editing it is scrutinized. In this process the news gets the headlines and other sugar coatings, keeping the policy of the media house in view. Some particular terms like "Islamic terrorism" or "political Islam" were generally added by the desk. So it’s important the copy at the news desk is handled responsibly.

Mr Wasimul Haque, Editor, Akhbaar-e-Mashrique said the need of the hour was participation of Muslims in a substantial number having knowledge about their religion and issues of the community, besides comprehensive general knowledge.

Dr S Q R Ilyas, editor, Afkaar-e-Milli, highlighting media's coverage of Muslim issues, stressed on the fact that the Muslim community should pay attention towards taking up media as a profession to address the issue of biases and misrepresentation against them.

The issue of coverage of Islam and Muslim problems was of utmost importance, said Suhail Anjum, correspondent Voice of America, New Delhi.

Such issues get a little space and those that get covered were generally ill-informed and superficial. The reporters and correspondents were sometimes handicapped of facts and figures about the issues related to Islam and Muslims, he said.

Dr M Manzoor Alam, Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies said it is the responsibility of the Muslim community to manage a data bank on Islam and Muslim issues in India and added that his institute is making efforts in that direction.

Parwaaz Rahmani, Chief Editor, Sehroza Dawat, urged the Muslim community to keep in touch with what's reported in the media and write rejoinders and letters to the editors of different newspapers and periodicals on the issues that concerns them.

According to him sometimes the coverage of events depended upon the view of the organizers. This has happened in the coverage of “Deoband Conclave” when the world only came to know through the media that Muslims had now condemned terrorism. He made it clear that the Muslim community like any other community never supported terrorism and Islam had nothing to do with terrorism. The concept of Jihad meant 'struggle' against injustice but it had been mistaken as an armed war against non-Islam, he said.


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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reactions on MF Hussain Episode -

From: Kumara Swamy"

Dear sir,

Although we haven't been in touch for a long long time, but I have been following your posts almost everyday, and more often than not, I agree with almost all of them. But I must disagree on this.

Indian Hindu Talibans have been handed a victory by MF Husain himself rather than they scoring one. Had he come back to India and tested the waters here with the government assuring him full protection rather than taking the Qatari citizenship, he would have been a greater hero for all of us.

Why did he not trust the government?? ? wasn't Shahrukh Khan protected when he was threatened? Wasn't Amitabh Bachchan protected? There are so many individuals who have been given protection by the government..

MF Husain has failed secularism of this country by not testing its strength. He has failed a majority of Indians who would have stood by him.

No matter what, I am inclined to believe that it was his fear and the possible ill effects on commerical committments that came in the way of his return to India. I would have been very ashamed had he died as an Indian outside his country. I would have been ashamed had he not been provided with foolproof security in this country on his return. But with what he has done now, I think we shouldn't be blaming ourselves.

More than India failing MFN, he has failed India by taking up he Qatari citizenship.

Kumara Swamy

1- From: Vernon Ram scorpio.vernon@

Dear Syed Ali Mujtaba

As an old friend of MFH since his days in Delhi, where he executed the mural for the WHO in the 1950s, I fully endorse your comments: India's talibans, regrettably, have won to India's eternal loss. I last met Husain when he participated in a charity painting exhibition in Hong Kong around 1990s at the Academy for Performing Arts. He couldn't stay until the auctions because he had a flight to catch for Calcutta, but the proceeds from the sale, a not inconsiderable sum, went to a worthwhile charity. The barefoot maestro is one of a kind and I have one of his Hanuman watercolour sketches to remind me of our lifelong friendship! Please keep in touch. Warmest regards.

Vernon Ram
85 Taipeng Village
North Lamma Island
Hong Kong SAR, China
chandran@netvigator .com

2- Sampath sampathkumariyangar

It is an act of war by Qatar against India to honour the fugitive! He is wanted by several `honourable' courts of world's largest democracy (!) to stand trial. He is guilty of violating divine rights of far-right Hindutva mob, which nurtures the country's ruling and opposition parties. It is only natural that both consider divine rights (and cow rights) as more sacrosanct than human rights. Although BJP's Ahluwalia has formally given an NOC to the painter to become a Qatari, it is possible that Congress-ruled New Delhi would go for a novel tit for tat. After all, it is not practicable to go to war with or threaten Qatar! One should not be surprised if India offers citizenship to Slobodan Milosevic, even if posthumously, to snub Qatar. Going by the 'repentence' by the two political circuses to our own pogroms of 1984 and 2002, the decision should be unanimous!

3- From mramtanu@verizon. net

Mujtaba Saab: The very premise of your article "that one of the most celebrated artists of India, Maqbool Fida Hussain has taken up the nationality of Qatar to escape from the Hindu zealots..." could be wrong. But you did not leave any room for such dispute. As far as I am concerned, Husain has many more admirers in the West -- that is Europe and North America, and yet he chose Qatar as his new country. It could be, just could be that he chose Qatar because it is a tax haven. No income tax. Husain, despite his claim to fame, is also very commercial, which is nothing wrong either. Ask any one who dealt with him, and you will know.

I am not happy that he left India, but he is an Indian first, Muslim second. If he chose to abandon his primary identity to adopt Qatari identity, and then some others try to make it a religious issue, it is their choice, but somewhat unfortunate. I fully believe that all "Hindus" who get persecuted in Islamic countries became victims not because they were Hindus, but because they broke the law of that land. You may dislike those laws of that land, but that hardly makes a difference.

Husain, if he had wanted to defend himself, should have stayed back. It is his country, as it is the country of all other Indians-- brown, black, white,yellow, Muslim,. Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, tribal, or whatever. He did not. Instead, he chose to give it a religious color and then settle in a country which he does not know, but provides him a tax haven.
There is nothing much else to talk about this "genius."

With the best
Ramtanu Maitra

4 - Sampath" sampathkumariyangar

First, Doha is going to have a special museum and Husain had already
been commissioned to do a prestigious project - History of Arab
Civilization - by the First Lady of Qatar. The project 'History of
Indian Civilization' may take the back seat - courtesy you know who.
Second, there is no reason for anyone to be unhappy that "he chose to
abandon his primary identity to adopt Qatari identity." How many tens
of thousands of people are waiting for their turn to 'abandon the
primary identity'? unlike Husain, they are mainly from the top layer of
the society who enjoy a much better life than the bottom three-quarters.
An important revenue stream for the ministers/ judges/ big bureaucrats
of India consists of enabling them get out - even if clandestinely - as
the first step towards that. Ironically, the maximum noise cheering the
'great country' to become a nuke-wielding superpower lording over the
region comes out of these people!

5- "mmrc hyd" mmrchyd@yahoo.

the govt earning and how much m f is earning? that is the reason he chose to quatar

2. He is coward and is running awmr.mujtaba

i have read your artic accepted the quatar citizenship for organising an exhibition worth 60 million dollars? how much is ay from the cases filed against him in the court of law. If he is right he should have stayed and fought the cases till he is cleared of his name. by fleeing the country he has become a criminal and on his rle on m f hussain where you have put those forces who are against the paintings of m f husssain to taliban... let me answer to your heavily biased and coloured views:

1. are you aware that m f hussain haseturn he should be immediately arrested and put behind bars

3. At the age of 94, he has proved that he is also a comodity and can be purchased llike any other artist who has price
4. Secularism comes with a responsibiity, and minorities cannot take their place for granted. They have to follow the law of the land.

5. Even if one hindu is hurt due to nude paintings of m f hussain, he should be taken to law. he is no right to insult the religion of the majority. he has to pay for his faults.

6. M F is not a government servant, and therefore government is not responsible for his leaving the country on his own free will and wish. You cannot ask the government to give him security for an act which goes against the law of the land.

7. if he is the most accomplished artist in india, he should behave like one and not take law in his hand and behave irresponsibly. He has betrayed the country who has given him name fame and food for 94 years.... can you trust such people any more? They are definitely desh drohi's and should never be allowed to enter the country again

8. The minorities cannot bring pressure on the government and clear him of his misdeeds. he is answerable to the court of law and to the millions of hindus whose sentiments have been hurt.

9. will he paint the gods of muslims or christians,or jews ,sikhs in nude? and if he does so will muslims, christians or the jews or sikhs keep quite?that is why 900 cases have been filed. they are not taliban as you say, they are filed through the democratic process of law. if they were behaving like tailban, by this time he would have been killed.

10. So, ascertain the facts, and then write what you wish to write.

abhay ekbote

6- From: Jagan Chandra jaggie_c@yahoo. com

You wrote about Indian Taliban etc., etc., crap in your blog. You seem to have conveniently forgotten that the same Taliban treats the people like Shahrukh Khan, Abdul Kalam, Azharuddin etc., as Gods!. Just show one such person that is a non-muslim in your countries.

You bigots ensured to drive your own person Salman Rushdie just because he wrote about Quoran. Think about some non-muslim doing the same in your country!. Here is this muslim fanatic called MF Hussain that deliberately tried to denigrate the country that made him prominent. I will be very happy to see your reaction if he chose to draw naked portraits of your prophet!.

7 - From:Ravi Munshi

Dear Dr. Mujtaba,

I read with interest your article titled "Indian Talibans have triumphed". I must acknowledge that I enjoyed the style in which you write, and was wondering if you have, either written or have ever been inclined to write about the plight of citizens of India that have been rendered refugees in their own homeland.

I am referring to Kashmiri Pandit community from Kashmir - a minuscule and peaceful community that, unlike others, yields no clout or vote bank. They have been living in almost sub-human conditions since 1989. Yet, they are a bunch of proud Indians that would not relinquish their citizenship at any cost. It seems journalists like you may be able help their cause.

I do not condone the actions of Hindu zealots. Revenge is not a Hindu trait. As true Hindus, they should have forgiven Mr. Hussain despite the expression of his deliberate insensitivity to the sentiments of a segment of Indian Hindus. It is said one's deep-rooted sentiments get reflected in one's work.

As for talented journalists like you, it would serve a broader purpose if they could assume leadership roles and debate issues surrounding hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits, not just one, Mr. Hussain, who decided to take an easy way out.

I will be eagerly looking forward to your composition on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, should you determine that to be any value to your readership.



8 - From Bavin Patel

Please let me know how the minority community (Muslim) in India would act if he painted Muhammad in a negative way? I don’t know if you are following current events but the minority community went on a rampage in Kannnada because Taslima Nasreen’s article on the Burqa was published.
You my friend are also a Bigot!

M.F. Husain Episode: Indian Fascists have triumphed

M.F. Husain Episode: Indian Fascists have triumphed
Syed Ali Mujtaba

When I learnt that one of the most celebrated artists of India, Maqbool Fida Hussain has taken up the nationality of Qatar to escape from the Hindu zealots who have been gunning for his life, there was a feeling of remorse. It was not because he was known to me or I am an admirer of his paintings, but simply because, he has been such a colorful personality. He epitomized ‘Dil to bacha hai jee’ (heart is always a child) in his fling (Ishqiya) with Madhuri Dixit. I have practically grown up reading about his eccentricities. Now when I realize he will no more be gossiped in the media columns, a stream of thought flows my memory lane at various points of my life.

It was exactly 1980, when I first saw M.F Hussain. That was when I was an undergraduate student in AMU, Aligarh. Hussain had come there to finalize the huge cutouts to adore the front entrance of the geography department. The campus was abuzz with the news of his arrival and we rushed from the arts block to the Kennedy Hall, where his older work greets the visitors. I had a chance to see him in real flesh and blood. He was wearing white kurta- pajama and sported long white beard. The only intriguing part of his personality was he was bare footed! As usual it happens in AMU such personalities are mobbed by the students and Hussain was no exception. I saw him waving hands as he was escorted into a car that drove him out of the campus.

My second encounter with MF Hussain was at JNU, New Delhi. That was sometime in 1987 where I was a PhD student. This again was just a coincidence when one evening I saw Hussain walking with few Professors outside the Kaveri hostel. This time he had trimmed his beard and had short hairs. In fact, I was walking from the opposite side but could not realize who he was. Again, his trademark, the barefooted man, rang bells into my ears. By the time I realized he was MF Hussain, I saw him driving a car, and moving out of my sight.

I saw Hussain for the third time. This time it was in 1995 when I was in Hyderabad working as a city reporter. One evening after attending a press conference at the Hyderabad secretariat, I was returning to my Secundrabad office in a bus when it got flat tires. Since, it was an important assignment, and I had to reach my office quickly and so I decided to walk the bridge over the Hussain Sagar Lake. It was a breezy evening, and I was enjoying my stroll. Suddenly from somewhere, when I was on the middle of the Bridge, I saw a Mercedes Benz very slowly moving by my side. In the back seat, I saw a man wearing white Kurta- Pajama sporting a white beard. The car was so slow, that I was almost walking with it. My mind was racing, searching the memory files to locate this character sitting on the back seat. By the time I could realize he was MF Hussain, his car sped past me. I was seeing from the rear glass of that car the image of M.F Hussain fading out of my sight.

Well that was the last time I saw the man who is called the Picasso of India. Since then his images use to adorn my sight through the pages on magazines and newspapers and I could feel he was there somewhere a part and parcel of the Indian social life.

Now when I realize he is been hounded out the country and forced to take citizenship of another country, I feel I may not be able follow him as before. The forces of bigotry and intimidation have won against those who hold liberal views. In simple words the Indian fascists have got the trophy, while their counterparts from across the border are busy making the headlines for the newspapers.

It’s ironical that a country, whose religious art often portrays nudity and even overt sexuality, as in the case of the Khajuraho sculptures and the murals and frescoes of south Indian temples, has grown so intolerant as to drive into permanent exile its most famous artist, compelling him to forego his Indian citizenship.

Hussain’s time of troubles started since 1996, when a Hindi monthly published an inflammatory article on his paintings done in 1970s. This led to a slew of criminal cases, filed against him alleging that the artist has hurt the Hindus sentiments. The painter was harassed by the fanatical mobs; the exhibitions of his work were vandalized, and about 900 cases filed against him.

The magnitude of the protest against MF Hussain suggests the organized and entrenched strength of the Hindutva forces is in this country. This makes me ponder how long those who uphold the secular, plural and democratic values will allow such forces to have a free run? How long we may be delegating the responsibility to government to keep such elements under check? To me, its time those opposing such regressive forces, have to be equally organized if we want to make India an oasis of peace and harmony.

With this episode what seems apparent is the ninety-five years old painter of India is heading to become another Bahadur Shah Zafar who once bemoaned from Rangoon that he could not get even two meters of land in his own motherland for his burial.

MF Hussain’s son Owais Husain, a filmmaker-writer-painter, rationalizes the predicament of his father. ‘My father is older than modern independent India. As a child he struggled to make ends meet. During British India he painted slogans against the colonial rulers. In independent India, he painted pictures that sold for astronomical sums of money. He didn't plan any of this. He didn't plan his exile in Dubai and now his citizenship in Qatar. His life has been charted by destiny.’

Some have argued that many undeserving individuals in the country have been given red level security, why not MF Hussain? It’s the duty of the government to provide security to its national icon. To this there runs a counter argument; why should a creative person be living in captivity watched by hosts of security guards. How can he work in such a claustrophobic atmosphere? Hussain is justified for his action because is important at this stage of his life to have a sense of belongingness. There are others who feel that a national campaign should be launched to request the distinguished artist to return home.

Notwithstanding this, the fact remains that M F Hussein undoubtedly is one of the top most celebrities in the field of painting that India has produced in modern times. The irony is, even after being acknowledged so, he is haunted out of the country, forced to live in exile, and eventually have to take a foreign nationality.

His crime is to draw paintings that supposedly to be of Hindu deities that has allegedly hurt the sentiments of some Hindu brethrens. Is Hussein the first person to have committed such irreverence? Isn’t Indian history is littered with such visual images that are now considered as India’s treasure trove. Then why such hypocritical attitude is shown against him? Perhaps because Hussein bears a Muslim sounding name and does not fit into the stereotype of ‘ours’ image, and therefore cannot be accepted as ones own.

Indian courts have tried to educate those who claim to been hurt. It observes; “A painter has his own perspective of looking at things and it cannot be the basis of initiating criminal proceedings against him. In India, a new Puritanism is being carried out in the name of cultural purity and a host of ignorant people are vandalizing art and pushing us towards the pre-renaissance era. A painter at 90s deserves to be sitting at his home and painting his canvas [rather than living in exile].” Another ruling says: “There are so many such subjects, photographs and publications. Will you [complainant] file cases against all of them?” It is art. If you don’t want to see it, then don’t see it. There are so many such art forms in the [Hindu] temple structures.”

However, these arguments do not placate those who maintain their distinct line of thought and like to compete with the Talibans from across the border in such matters. It’s a major victory for them as they have forced MF Hussein to accept a foreign nationality. It’s a real shame for those who uphold liberal, secular, plural and democratic values that failed to keep its national icon in its motherland.

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