Saturday, December 17, 2011

Painting Between Strangeness and Familiarity

Painting Between Strangeness and Familiarity
Syed Ali Mujtaba

No part of art can express any emotion if there is no some part of reality mixed into it, Emil Schumacher, the famous German painter; a representative of abstract expressionism in post-war Germany is reported to have said.

Another German artist, Ruth Bisping, showcasing her work at the Cholamandal Cultural Center for Contemporary Art in Chennai dwells upon the same thought when she says, this irreducible element is a key to any work, however tiny, however imperceptible the indication might be. In other words, this element within the painting unlocks our mind, our body and our emotions’, she adds.

This hugely talented artist who now lives in Chennai shows her work from different periods of her stay in India. Ruth lives in Germany and France but lately since over a year she is living in Chennai.

In its modern version, painting is spontaneous reflection and interaction. What appears on the canvas is not preconceived or much determined by ‘real thing. The ‘real things’ are hidden in colors and shapes of imagination, they are there, but the creative artist’s projection rules over reality, that is how Ruth explains her work displayed at the art gallery in the Cholamandal artist’s village.

Calling her painting between strangeness and familiarity, Ruth goes on to say, ‘when a painter changes her physical environment, as radical and abrupt, as I did by moving to Chennai, the content and style of my painting is adoptive to whatever changes I have witnessed after coming over here.

Who ever has seen my work in Europe that unfortunately I could not bring them to Chennai, will see the difference put on the canvas here that is reflective of Indian environment, Ruth comments on her painting.

Her paintings reflect a dedication to vibrant fluent colors to raw materiality to spontaneous imagination. Her paintings have come up over a period of one year of hard work put up at her studio here in Chennai.

As one can see, the impulsive process of her paintings showcased at the exhibition there is a transformation of her very personal sensation of the moment on to the huge canvas right in front as one enters into the art gallery.

With her works, she lures us into the quest for traces of nativness, a search in the world completely regimented by the rules of a civilization. And to view it from another perspective, a search of an uncertainty, a freedom, to be felt in space and time, an unorganized strangeness rooted in each of us and with whom we all are so familiar.

Passing through Ruth Bisping’s painting one may experience this kind of uncertainty, continuously changing position and perspective, the beholder is exposed to permanently varying ways of viewing and possibly also experiencing similar feelings.

Her paintings are rooted in gestural and in tachisme painting. The styles are characterized by the spontaneous application of color fields on to the canvas.

Apparent are the elements, a scratch, a sign, and an iridescent surface that makes her artwork so legible. This element throws light upon her painting and its meaning.

The element reveals to us an aesthetic perception of the world, a thought which in terms of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, only ever existed in our minds, in our bodies and in our emotions.

Undoubtedly Ruth Bisping’s painting has roots in the tradition of Jean Fautrier, Alberto Burri, Antoni Tapies and certainly of Emil Schumacher.

Ruth Bisping studied at the College of Fine Arts in Braunschweig and Bielefeld in Germany. She has held solo shows of her work in Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Toronto, Bordeaux etc. She has participated in several group shows in Germany France, Lithuania, Italy and Canada. She took part at Biennale for Installation at Gera in 2011. Her work can be accessed at www.ruth-bisping.de

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


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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Agonizing Wait for Communal Violence Bill

Agonizing Wait for Communal Violence Bill
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There seems to be a conspiracy of silence when it comes to tackling Hindu- Muslim communal riots in India. Since the past sixty years or so a systematic annihilation of human population is going on but no one seems to be bothered as to how to address the issue.

The recent communal clash in Gopalgarh at Bharatpur district of Rajasthan on September 14, 2011, is one such incident that graphically narrates the horrifying aspect of this problem.

The riot actually broke out between Hindu Gujjars and Muslim Meos over a dispute for six bighas land near a Muslim graveyard. The land belonged to the Muslims that the Gujjars forcibly tried to capture and the turn of event took a communal color.

According to reports Muslims were praying in Gopalgarh town’s main mosque when a Gujjar mob entered the place of worship. The mob was accompanied by local police. It started indiscriminately on the praying worshipers.

According to eyewitnesses, rioters even poured the kerosene oil on the worshipers and set ablaze at least four of them. In this communal mayhem, nine Muslims lost their lives.

A fact finding groups from ANHAD and Jamiat Ulam-e Hind visited the place of violence the very next day. It reported that there were strong evidences to suggest, that police and the local administration in Gopalgarh acted in a partisan manner while dealing with the clash between Muslim Meos and Hindu Gujjars.

The fact finding team stated that the fighting had broken out due to a dispute over a small plot of land. This could have been controlled, if the police had taken firm action against the aggressor.

However instead of acting as upholder of law and order, the police reportedly joined the Gujjar community in gunning down the Muslim Meos. The police watched the burning of many Muslims alive inside the mosque.

The fact finding team reported that there are enough instances to prove that police and Gujjars tried to destroy evidences of the crimes committed against the Muslims.

This is not the first time that a communal riot of such a nature has taken place and one is also sure that this would the last time for the crime of such a nature.

However, one is appalled by the dead conscious of the people that even a crime of such a nature do not jolt them to wake and stand up and press upon the point that for god sake stop this madness once and for all.

Like any other riot, the plot at the Gopalgarh was the same, the script was the same, the aggressors were the same, and the victims were the same. The complicity of the security forces and the belligerent action of the dominant community has resulted in the butchering of helpless people.

Even such a cold blooded murder failed to attract hue and cry from the civil society and preferred to look the other way round, as if nothing has happened and every thing is fine.

The height of idiocentricity was when Congress leader Sachin Pilot refused to accept this event as a Hindu Muslim communal riot. Inspite the fact that the killing had taken place inside the mosque, the Congress Minister refused to accept it as a religious riot. He termed the event a ethnic clash between two communities of Rajasthan the Gujjars and the Meos.

The state government after the riot took some half-hearted actions action to sooth the anger of the victims but it was a case of too little and too late.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too visited the site of the violence and talked to the victims, but nothing has moved beyond such tokenism.

The main problem that is witnessed during every communal flare up is that it occur due inefficiency of the security forces in some cases due to their connivances with the rioters. In Gopalgarh riots, the land dispute was not new one.

Tension was building around it for long time. It was because of the preventive action of the security forces that it was kept under control.

However, this time this was not the case. The police force did not take any precautionary measures inspite knowing the fact that tension over the issue was brewing for long. On the contrary, the police played an active role in killing the Muslims, firing upon them indiscriminately even inside Mosque.

The incident is a pointer to the fact that repeatedly the problem starts with the fight over the graveyard land, the Eidgah land, processions near the Mosques and some other set situations. All along a conspiracy is hatched to punish the Muslims.

The aggressor come in large number accompanied by the police and launch a onslaught over the Muslim and any resistance results in their cold blooded murder.

Its really disturbing to see that even though communal peace is regularly being breached in this country but no action plan is yet in sight to deal with such events.

How long will this go on in this country? What a shame on a nation that boasts of unity in diversity, tolerance, pluralism and co existence and other such words.

One of the promises that the UPA Government had made in the first term in office was to bring an enactment of a legislation to prevent communal violence in the country.

The government did some half hearted attempt to bring such legislation. Contrary to meeting the expectations of the victims of the communal riot, the bill seemed to empower the police and the state machinery with draconian powers as a remedy to “control” riots.

There was no provision in the bill to bring to task of misuse of power by the police and punishing the guilty. There was no provision for the rehabilitation of the victims of targeted violence.

With all these glaring loopholes, the bill was hurriedly withdrawn with the promise to bringing it back in a much more comprehensive format. Its almost eight years to the promise and noting has materialized on the ground.

Now after some efforts and engagements with the authorities by various human rights organizations, the National Advisory Council (NAC) has proposed a bill entitled “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice And Reparations) Bill, 2011.”

The bill supposedly has taken into account the experience of the victims of the communal riots. It has also taken acognizance of the fact that the power invested in the police was either not used or are misused against the weaker sections of the society. The NAC has forwarded the Bill to the Government but so far no action is taken by the government .

The Muslims, Christians and the Dalits who have been suffering for a long time from the atrocities of the majority community are yearning for a legislation to put full stop to such cold blooded murder .

Their agonizing wait is reaching a saturating point. It’s high time that the government bring the much touted “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011.”

The Act will instill confidence among weaker section of the society and build a new rapport with the UPA government. It will be a step in the right direction if this bill is brought in this winter session of Parliament.

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

Participative Approach to Understanding Gender

Participative Approach to Understanding Gender

Syed Ali Mujtaba


The term gender is quite value loaded term. When we discuss this word, often the context happens to be women. Most often gender is being talked about in terms of discrimination faced by the fair sexes.

In order to create an understanding of the term gender, a workshop was organized by the All India Secular Forum (AISF) in Mumbai on October 30, 2011. The female participants from Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) and some students SNDT college, Mumbai took part in the workshop.

Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Dr. Ram Puniyani and Dr. Chandrakant Puri were the resource persons of this workshop.

The participants were divided into groups and were posed certain postulations were made and each group was asked to come up with their own understanding of the hypothesis. Some very interesting observations were made during the discussions that were moderated by the resource persons.

Following postulations made were put up for discussion; 1) Difference between gender and sexes 2) Biology makes women weaker than men 3) Women who dress or behave in culturally inappropriate ways are inviting assault 5) A woman who leaves the house because her husband beats her up is over reacting 6) Women are better care givers than men.

Difference between gender and Sexes

The explanation was given in repose to the understanding the term ‘gender and sexes were vague. Some said that gender is the sexes- male and female, some mentioned gender is the discrimination that women face, still other held the view that its discrimination faced by men and women differently.

The resource persons corrected the understanding of the term explaining that gender is a social construct and it’s essentially the roles, opportunities and the expectations of the society from the sexes. These can be changed. On the other hand, sex is a biological construct which is not changeable.

Biology makes women weaker than men

Some of the points that emerged during this discussion were; women are not biologically weaker than men. Some were of the opinion that women were ‘naturally’ more tolerant. They were made in a way that they get less angry and are calm. However, this view was challenged by the other participants and the trainer since this indicates towards bio determinism which is self destructive to feminism.

The point that was underlined was women and men are both inherently violent and tolerant. What makes women more tolerant or calm in certain situations is their socialization and upbringing which essentially discourages women to question or disobey making them submissive and meek.

Women who dress or behave in culturally inappropriate ways are inviting assault

In this, there were also two opinions. Some felt that it was not acceptable for women to outrage the sensitivity of her community and dress in an outrageous manner. Others felt that it may depend on the woman if she was comfortable in what she wore. This was also debated. The discussion led to the larger issue of control over the bodies of women and if deviance in any form is acceptable and if it’s acceptable to oppose this deviance through violence or assault. This discussion was enriched when the participants shared their personal experiences and insecurities and how they all at some level feel the city spaces to be unsafe for women.

A woman who leaves the house because her husband beats her up is over reacting

The next discussion saw less of debate where everyone accepted that violence against women in any form was unacceptable. Here interestingly, the general reactions of society and especially of the police were discussed.

A patriarchal society normalizes violence against women and thus mounts pressure on them to adjust with the abusive husband. Many factors are cited for convincing the woman to put up with violent husband like her economic dependence on the husband, no awareness of legal options, social stigma for the woman’s family etc.

Women are better care givers than men

The last discussion was on women were better care givers than men. There was general agreement on this theme but some participants challenged this notion as swell, One participant cited the example of her own husband who is often ridiculed by the neighbors for doing all household chores like cooking, cleaning, washing etc.

In this context the concepts of masculinity and femininity were explored and subsequently how patriarchy also deprives men of their choices was discussed.

The next session was the film screening of ‘Bol’ a film based on patriarchy in its various forms. The film depicts violence against women. The discussion that followed the screening of the film was very lively.

It was an emotionally charged atmosphere where most of the participants could relate to the oppression faced by the women characters in the film.

The discrimination faced by a girl child in a household in terms of education, opportunities and roles were discussed. It was agreed upon that such discrimination should be studied in order to understand gender based violence.

Also, how religious fundamentalism affects women adversely was discussed, citing examples from personal experiences.

The importance of questioning and critical outlook as well as listening or having an open mind to differences and other perspectives was sufficiently agreed upon during the discussions.

The issues how women are penalized due to deviance is in society was discussed. It was highlighted that women must have control on their bodies and reproductive functions. The participants gave examples of some of the cases they have witnessed where preference to male child is so prevalent that the women are compelled into having multiple pregnancies having detrimental effect on the health and choices of women.

This was the second workshop in the series to consolidate the understanding of communalism. The first workshop discussed the concepts like communalism, religion, identity politics and caste, etc

The next workshop will focus on the theme social identity. This topic will be further explored in terms of the understanding on gender issues and consolidate the understanding of patriarchy.

This report is prepared with the help of the inputs provided by the organizers of workshop who run a forum call secular perspective. Any quries regarding this workshop can be addressed to Mr Irfan Engineer (irfanengi@gmail.com) or to (secularperspective@googlegroups.com)

Needless to say that this is a very laudable attempt by some concerned members of the civil society in Mumbai to create peace and harmony in their city. This model is worth emulating in other parts of the country as well.

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cleanup Indian Politics of Criminal MPs

Cleanup Indian Politics of Criminal MPs
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Corruption and Criminalization are two distinctive features of the Indian politics. The crusade against corruption was loudly articulated by the social activist Anna Hazare however, there is little noise being made by the civil society about the criminalization of Indian politics.

As a matter of fact, one out of four MP in India face criminal charges. There are 162 MPs in the current Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament that has criminal records. Out of these, there are 76 MPs having serious charges against them.

The total number of criminal cases against the MPs is 522 and out of these 275 MPs face serious IPC sections charges against them.

The Bhartiya Janta Party has the highest number of criminal MPs that is 43, out of which 19 have serious criminal cases against them.

The Congress party comes next with 41 MPs having criminal cases, out of which 12 MPs face serious charges against them.

As compared to 2004, the number of MPs with pending criminal cases has gone up. There were 128 MPs with pending criminal cases against them in 2004 Lok Sabha out of which 58 had serious pending criminal cases. There is an increase of about 26% in MPs with pending criminal cases and 31% increase in the number of MPs with serious pending criminal cases.

Obviously, these are not the type of people that should represent we the people of India, but some how these heavy weight crooks have got themselves elected into the Parliament and have become part of the governing apparatus of the country by default.

The comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG) have lambasted the government on this declining trend. "Governance is at its lowest ebb. The morale of civil servants is low. The situation is too deleterious for the nation. There is too much at stake for too many in such a situation," CAG reportedly has said.

There has been an erosion of people's faith in government. Their confidence in public institutions has declined. National trust in bureaucracy including the police force has collapsed. The integrity and professionalism of civil servants is being questioned," it adds.

"We have chief ministers who have had to vacate their positions allegedly for graft, on whom courts and other judicial bodies have made adverse pronouncements. We have Members of Parliament who are being indicted by the judiciary for various acts including accepting cash for exercising their vote in Parliament." CAG concludes.

So in such a situation the principal issue is how to make it harder for those with criminal cases to contest elections. Obviously, there is an urgent need of electoral reforms in this country that bars any convicted person from holding office till they are finally acquitted by a court of law.

The current legal position relating to a person convicted of criminal charges is that if the criminal charge, and not just the sentence, is suspended on an appeal, he has the right to contest elections.

One has to understand the nuance in the law and that depends on what order the court gives. If the conviction is suspended, then one can fight elections, if the sentence is suspended, which means no jail, but conviction stands, until such time that the appeal is heard, then one can not fight elections.

Union Law Minister Salman Khursheed has drafted a bill that plugs the loopholes and it could make it impossible for any convicted politician to run for office.

At the moment, those convicted of criminal charges have three months to appeal but that will not be available if the structure of amendments prepared by the Minister goes through the motion and get passed. In such a case the convicted members will be immediately excluded from Parliament.

According to the draft bill if one is convicted, then he can not fight elections, irrespective of what the appeal order is, until he is finally acquitted by the court of law.

Another amendment that is proposed in the draft bill is; crimes committed under section 153 (A), which pertains to creating enmity between communities to be put under the category of heinous crimes, and if that happens, politicians convicted under this clause will not have the right to contest elections.

All this is fine. The big question is will these proposals be acceptable to all the political parties. In fact, there is already a law in place to rein in the corrupt MPs, but many of them have found loopholes into it and have got stay order on their conviction to contest election.

Even the proposed amendment bill is being challenged by some unscrupulous MPs. They have threatened to derail the new bill, if and when, it comes for discussion at the all party meeting.

It’s an argument by those who have something to hide and they will use all kinds of tactics to continue their domination in power.

What is needed is to build consensus around the proposed amended in the electoral process initiated by the Union Law Minister. We have seen with the Jan Lokpal movement that people power can force the government to sit up and make changes.

We need to use the same strategy and generate massive public opinion to clean up Indian politics of its criminal crooks.

Unlike the herculean task of weeding out corruption from the Indian system, the task of getting rid of politician facing criminal charges is much easy.

The redemption of Indian politics from all its banes is long haul and cleaning Indian politics of criminal MPs could be a way forward for good governance and betterment of the country.

We have to watch every move about this bill as it gets drafted, placed before the all party meeting and discussed in the in the Parliament.

Even all this happens we have to built a momentum on the lines of Jan Lokpal movement and send a strong signal to the political party bosses to have a consensus on the draft bill and pass it in this winter session of the Parliament.

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The figures quoted above are cited by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW).

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

Irom Sharmila solidarity campaign growing in India

Irom Sharmila solidarity campaign growing in India

Syed Ali Mujtaba


The iron lady of Manipur, Ms Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur is one of the civil rights activists in India better known for her relentless campaign for=
the the repealing of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Irom Sharmila has been on has been on hunger strike since November 2, 2000
demanding that the Indian government repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers
Act 1958 (AFSPA). She has refused food and water for more than 500 weeks,
making her the longest hunger striker in the world.

She caught the imagination of the nation on October 2, 2006, when she held
hunger strike at the historic Jantar Mantar, New Delhi and was joined by the students, human rights activists and other concerned citizens. She was arrested by the Delhi police for attempting suicide.

Since then support to her is growing steadfastly. On June 25, 2011, a candle light solidarity prayer was held at the Rajghat New Delhi where approximately 200 people participated from all walks of life.

It is part of this growing support that Irom Sharmila Solidarity Campaign is being launched in India and under it various programmes and action are being organized through out the country.

The programmes organized under the banner 'Irom Sharmila Solidarity Campaign. have already begun from Oct 2, ( Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi) across states of India and would culminate on Dec 10, 2011. As a part of this campaign a Srinagar to Imphal journey and national signature campaign is also being planned.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) continues to be the most potent repressive tool of the Indian state that empowers even a non commissioned officer of the armed forces to kill on mere suspicion and provide legal immunity from prosecution, thereby causing untold misery and agony among the peoples of the affected regions.

The imposition of AFSPA is synonymous to heavy militarization in the states
where it is promulgated leading to gross civil and political rights violations including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution, torture,
inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrest and detention.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a colonial legacy used against Mahatma Gandhi, was promulgated initially in the Naga areas of Assam (later divided between 4 states) and later in Mizoram, initially in parts of Manipur and later in all of Manipur.

The Ordinance after a brief discussion in the Parliament was endorsed and got the status of Act on August 18, 1958, despite stiff resistance from various quarters who challenged it as a martial and draconian law.


Since then it has been in force in one part or the other of the states of A=
runachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and
Jammu and Kashmir (since 1991).

Even though continuation of the 'disturbed area' status under the AFSPA in
many part of the country is illegal in view of the violation of the mandatory six monthly periodic review directed by Supreme Court in its 1997 Judgement, there is no respite from this draconian law.

This law is more draconian than its predecessor ordinance used by the British to suppress the Quit India Movement. In the pretext of controlling insurgency, this Act has only intensified the insurgency in the region and legitimized thousands of gross human rights violations like rape, torture, murder and disappearances of innocent people in the Northeast and J&K.

The democratic movements in the Northeast states of India and the Jammu and Kashmir have consistently demanded the repeal of the Act and demilitarization for decades but their repeated plea has fallen on the deaf ears and nothing has so far been done to check the state sponsored injustices being perpetrated.

It is in this context Irom Sharmila struggle against Armed Forces Special Powers Act, has become synonymous with the cause. It amazing to see her conviction and courage to take on the might of the Indian state.

Although Sharmila is leading the Manipur people=E2=80=99s movement but her popularity over the years has catapulted her to the national stage. It's her sheer grit and determination that has made her a national icon. She occupies the same space as that Anna Hazare has on corruption, Medha Patkar on Narmada Bacho and similar civil rights activists.

It therefore important for all the freedom loving people who care for human=
rights and human values in this country to render support to 'Irom Sharmil=
a Solidarity Campaign and make it a success.

It wont be improper to mention that Irom Sharmila is one of the faces better known to us, but she is not the only one, there are many more like her who have taken up this cause and deserve salutation.

Here one has to acknowledge the names like; Mukta Srivastava , GG Parikh, Sukla Sen, Daniel Mazgoankar, Asad, Shimanshu, Suhas Kolhekar, Simpreet Singh, Jatin Desai, Guddi S.L who have put up a brave front and has taken up this cause.

One can only wish good luck and best wishes those who are campaigning for the repealing of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in India.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Offences on Face Book could be Punishable

Offences on Face Book could be Punishable
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Social media is for networking but then some can even use this as a mischief and attempt to create hatred among communities which in turn may have lead to civil unrest.

This is exactly what has happened in Hyderabad, where some anti-social elements studying in St.Francis Xavier Degree College at Kachiguda, posted some inflammatory photos of Holy Kaaba on the Face Book.

The photos clearly desecrated the modesty of Holy Kaaba, the most revered place of worship for the followers of the Islamic faith.

It was timely action by some social activist and an upright police officer that defused the situation which had all the ingredients to conflagrate into a full fledged communal riot.

The Muslim Students of the St.Francis Xavier Degree College brought this matter to the notice of the Amjed Ullah Khan, Corporator 35-Azampura Division, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).

Mr Khan immediately lodged a complaint against such activities going on the Face book, at the police station Kachiguda, Hyderabad.

In his complaint Mr. Khan urged the police to take immediate action against those students who had indulged in hate monger at the social media site, that has the third largest population in the word after China and India.

Mr Khan has also urged action against the management of the degree college for having such kind of anti social elements as its students.

After registering the complaint, the police swung into action and visited the college along with Mr.Khan. They were quickly able to identify the anti-social elements of the college as Abhishek Totla, Neeraj Jhawar, Deepesh Agarwal. The trio was arrested on the charges of trying to create hatred among the communities.


The management of the college cooperated with the police. The college Principal Mr. Bhujang Rao immediately issued Transfer Certificate to the students and handed them over to the police.

The prompt action of the Inspector of Police at the Kachiguda police station should be appreciated. It is due to his prompt action of going to the college, identifying the real culprits and arresting them defused a highly volatile situation in Muslim dominated city like Hyderabad.

This case serves as an example for all those who take for granted the social media sites as a play field and think can get away with what ever they may like to do there.

This case also sends out a strong message to the users of the social media that their anti social activities on such sites could be registered as a cognizable offence.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THE YATRA NO ONE TALKED ABOUT

THE YATRA NO ONE TALKED ABOUT
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Much hullabaloo was made of Anna Hazare’s fast against anti corruption, so was about Narender Modi’s fast for communal harmony. LK Advani yatra too has attracted a great deal of attention, has anyone heard about the communal harmony Yatra (travel) that concluded in New Delhi on October 16, 2011. I guess very few.

It’s unfortunate that such meaningful and positive development in the country is not being reported by the media which in turn prefers to feed the staple of news that may loosely called infotainment.

Its long well established that Indian media is bourgeoisie in character but now what is becoming apparent is the total lack of moral and ethical values in media representation. If this gradual decline goes unabated the designers of national character may be guilty of acts beyond our comprehension.

Leaving this thought for an introspection, let me talk about this secular yatra that began from the pious town of Ayodhya on October 11 and concluded at the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin in New Delhi on October 16.

This was the fourth edition of this yatra and persons from various parts of the country led this march to the national capital cherishing the ideal of peaceful existence. Whether these people were successful in their mission is difficult to profess, but the fact remains that they strived to bridging the communal divide in our country, is laudable indeed.

The yatra was led by Ayodhya’s famous mahant of Ayodhya Yugal Kishor Shastri who has been tirelessly working for communal harmony in India. Last year, he took out a similar yatra among various communities from Ayodhya to Sewagram in Wardha.

I had the privilege of interviewing Mr Shastri at an interfaith conference in New Delhi last year where he narrated to me how he sheltered the fleeing Muslims being chased by the Hindutva goons during the demolition of Babari mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. “I have buried many Muslim bodies with my own hand in that communal madness,” said the inconcipious mahant, in a whispering tone. He brings out a magazine Ayodhya ki Awaz to promote the values of peace and harmony.
Talking to Yugal Kishor Shastri, I wondered, how some swamy's and mahant's become national figures and amass huge wealth and followers in this country, while those who are genuinely godly persons, remain a naked fakir like Mr Shastri. Again, I leave this thought left for self introspection.

The communal harmony yatra started from Ayodhya on 11th October, 2011. It went to Faizabad and from there reached Lucknow on 12th October, Sitapur on October 13, Shahjahanpur on October 15, spent the night at Moradabad and arrived at Delhi in the morning of October 16, covering a distance of 490 kilometers by road.

There were twenty members in this yartra and number of programmes of mass contact were organized all along the travel route. It included conferences, street plays and press meets and contacting people, especially the youth.

The aim of the yatra was to propagate the idea of shared culture heritage among different communities. It was to tell that the shared history of living together among different communities is of much longer then the momentary phases of conflict and disharmony.

The starting point of the yatra was the temple town of Ayodhya, where the Hindu- Muslim conflict over a disputed mosque has sown the seeds of communal hatred in the country. The place was chosen because it was Ayodhya where five religions; Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism have their roots and all existed side by side.

The city once was an oasis of communal coexistence and there was perfect harmony among the communities living there. The raking up the issue of Ramjanamboohmi was a deliberate attempt to destroy this plural culture of Ayodhya and making that as a symbol, it has rattled the secular character of the country.

Even more than twenty years to that event, the seeds of hatred that has sown around this mosque/temple controversy, has poisoned the relationship among the communities so much so that it is hard break free from that cluttered mindset.

The yatra was taken out to combat such preachers of hate and to propagate the idea of shared cultural history. The purpose of the yatra was to resist the forces of fascism, communalism and untouchability. It was to promote idea of peace, unity and brotherhood.

All along during the yatra, programmes of mass contact were held where it was stressed that the country is in the dire need of communal harmony. Th development and progress of the country is only possible when an atmosphere of love and harmony is created and this could be done by knitting the people together.

The yatra concluded at the hospice of Hazrat Nizamuddin, a towering sufi saint of India, whose most popular phrase was “ do not give me scissor because it cuts, give me needle because it stitches.”

The members of the yatra later paid tribute to the soul of Mahatma Gandhi at the Rajghat in New Delhi. The prayed for communal peace and harmony, at the monument of the father of the nation, who fell to the bullets of a lunatic Hindu chauvinist.

A conference on communal harmony was organized at the Gandhi Samriti at Rajghat where most of the speakers stressed on ways and means to promote communal harmony in India. Some prominent speakers were; Asghar Ali Engineer, Lalit Kumar, Haneef Shastri, Zafarul-Islam Khan, Mazher Hussain, Saroj Khan Choudhry, Deepak Singh and Muhammad Afzal.

Communalism Combat (Teesta Sitalvad), Viswa Yuva Sadbhavana Parishad (Seshnath Dubey), Asha Parivar ( Sandeep Pandey), Ayodhya ki Awaz (Yugal Kishor Saran Shastri), Milli Gazzete (Zafarul Islam Khan), Sarvdharam Sadbhav Kendra Trust (Zafar Saifullah), Confederation of Voluntary Association-Cova (Mazher Hussain), Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (Mohammad Ahmad), Rashtriya Yuva Sangathan (Kumar Prashant), Centre for study of Society and Secularism-CCSS (Asghar Ali Engineer) and Centre for Human Rights and Social Welfare (Saroj Khan Choudhry) were some of the prominent organizations associated with this yatra.

India is perhaps the only country in the world where there is mix of several religious identities existing side by side. There is a general desire among various communities to lead a life of peaceful coexistence eve though attempts have been made regular intervals to break this blissful peace. The resilience of the Indian society has always discarded such narrow outlook and has cherished the ideal that all religion have equal place and their followers must live in perfect harmony.

It won’t be out of context to say that in our country there exist two diametrically opposite forces at work; one, those working to destroying the communal amity, and the other who are working relentlessly to bridge the communal divide in this country.

The communal harmony yatra was an attempt to isolate the preachers of hate and to promote the idea to live in peace. It was also an effort to initiate the process of interfaith dialogue to resolve all the outstanding issues in a peaceful manner.

One has to salute those people who have taken such an initiative, and it would be a service to the nation to highlight such a noble cause. One wish that more and more people join in such initiative and this humble beginning may become a movement soon.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tribute to Tiger Patudi

Tribute to Tiger Patudi
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I really did not know Mansur Ali Khan Patudi personally, the legendry cricketer who passed away on September 22, 2011 in New Delhi. I was following the news of his illness in the media all along and today when it was announced that he is no more, I felt strongly for him.

This was because I have been reading hearing, watching him since I have started following the game of cricket. Patudi came from aristocratic family who played cricket for the love of the game. He was also known as Tiger Pataudi and Nawab Pataudi.


Pataudi, was the ninth and the last Nawab of Bhopal when India abolished royal entitlements. His father Iftikhar Ali Khan Patudi too played cricket for British India.He lost his father at a young age of 11.With his demise, comes an end to an era of aristocrat cricketers in this country.


Pataudi suffered a setback at the age of 20 years, when he lost the vision of his right eye after a car crash in England. However, his steely resolve made him make his international debut against England in Delhi, in December, 1961. He became the youngest player to captain India in a Test (at 21 years 77 days v West Indies at Bridgetown in 1961-62)

Pataudi retired from international cricket in 1975 after playing 46 Test matches and scored 2,793 runs including six hundreds at an average of 34.91. He led the country in 40 of his 46 Tests and guided the team to nine wins and was easily the greatest captain ever.

During his stint as captain, Pataudi married actress Sharmila Tagore in 1969. The unconventional marriage was much talked about in the media and his popularity soar high.

When ever any one talked about cricketers, Tiger Patudi’s name surfaced for his looks, style and grace. There was some thing unique about his personality.

He outshines many film stars in looks and grace. I use to see him Gwaliar suiting ads. Later, I saw him in few car ads too. The last ad I remember was of ‘lays’ where he was with his son Saif.

As a student at AMU Aligarh, I use to play cricket for “VM Hall.” At the cricket ground I remember seeing Patudi’s photographs adorning the walls of the Cricket gallery there. I am told he had visited there many times.

Many years later as a journalist in Hyderabad, I played cricket for the press club of Hyderabad. I heard stories of Tiger Patudi who use to visit H yderabad during Moin-u-dullah cup.

A journalist told me there that Patudi was a charming personality and had sponsored coke and beer for both the teams after one of the matches.

Many people whom i had conversation on cricket told me that they went to see a test match India played only to watch the Nawab of Patudi in action. I am sure every one will agree that he was a cricketer par excellence.

Even though Patudi may have left us for heavenly abode,his iconic persona will be remembered as long as cricket is being played in India.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kasthuri charms at Shreyas - Inter-Collegiate Culturals

Kasthuri charms at Shreyas - Inter-Collegiate Culturals

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai, September 15, 2011: “Protection of environment is a matter of habit and not a choice, said actress Kasthuri, to large group of college girls that had assembled at Shreyas - Inter-collegiate culturals event at SSS Jain College for Women, Chennai.

Every day when I get up, I segregate my daily household wastes into two bins, non biodegradable and biodegradable, said the model turned actress, giving tips to young girls how to green.

Kasthuri who made a come back in 2010 featuring in a item number in the hit film "Tamil Padam" was at her best in attracting the young girls, as they cheered her speech that was laced with pun and humour.

The actress who has been hosting TV shows, got a very warm response when she asked to students to volunteer for her dream project of building an international quality old age home in the outskirts of the city.

Later, Kasthuri, switched from the dais to sit with the students and the competition, feeling at ease with the students gathered for Shreyas - Inter-collegiate culturals event. 

The actress who studied at the Ethiraj college, and was a popular figure at the Inter-collegiate culturals event, promised to be the 'quiz-master' in the next edition of the cultural event at the SSS Jain College for Women. 

Kasthuri was a popular south Indian heroine in the 1990s. She had her schooling in Madras and started modelling while in high school. She won the Miss Madras title in 1992.

Subsequently, she got offers to act in films. She debuted as heroine in the Tamil film "Aatha Un Kooyiley" in 1991, and had appear in a number of Tamil fims that imcluded the horror flick "Rasathi Varum Naal", "Government Mappilai",Chinnavarand "Senthamizh Paatu" alongside Prabhu Ganeshan in 1992.

Kasthuri acted in many Telugu films which gained her enough fan following in Andhra Pradesh. After the success of Bharatheeyudu, in which she acted as beloved daughter of Kamal Haasan, she got several opportunities to act opposite top heroes. Films like Soggadi pellam, merupu did give footage to her career.

Kasturi was the subject of a 30-minute documentary film Kasthuri: A South Indian Film star made by Richard Breyer and N. C. Rajamani in 1995. Kasthuri bowed out of films after her Hindi short film The Bypass in 2003.
 
Last year, she made a come back in a item number in the hit film "Tamil Padam."

“A person like Kasthuri can juggle with many roles,” said Dr Padma Shanker, Principal SSS Jain College for Women, Chennai, in her welcome address. 
 
'She is a multi faced personality, a source of inspiration said the dynamic principal of the woman's college.

Shreyas - Inter-collegiate culturals event at SSS Jain College for Women, Chennai is a two day cultural extravaganza, where girl students from thirty colleges are participating at various events to win fabulous prizes.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He teaches Visual Communication at SSS Jain College for Women, Chennai.He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

Friday, September 2, 2011

Anna Hazare the Pied Piper of India

Anna Hazare the Pied Piper of India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Anti graft campaigner Anna Hazare ended his 288 hours of fast on Sunday August 28, 2011 and by doing so he gave the nation a sigh of collective relief. The 74-year-old social activist began his fast on August 16 and continued for 12 days uninterrupted.

It was a rare show of unanimity and purpose that saw unprecedented mobilization of the people across the nation. It resulted in special session of the Parliament to hold discussion on the Lokpal bill, stretching over nine hours in the Lok Sabha and eight hours in the Rajya Sabha.

Going beyond party lines at the Parliament passed a resolution agreeing to his three core demands of Anna Hazare for Citizens' charter, Lower bureaucracy under Lokpal through appropriate mechanism and establishment of Lokayukta in states. Parliament also passed a resolution to forward the proceedings of the House to the Standing Committee for its perusal while formulating its recommendations for a Lokpal Bill.

There are few very seminal points that have emerged out of the twelve days agitation led by Anna Hazare. The overwhelming response of Anna Hazare’s call to end corruption has set a precedent of sorts for mass mobilization in the country. In near memory there are three events that stand out for mass agitation.

One was the mobilization of the masses against rising prices, unemployment that led to the proclamation of national emergency in 1975. Then the agitation against it that was led by Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan, and Achrya Kirplani, the veteran freedom movement leaders, that led to the ending of the dark days in India. The anti emergency stir caught the imagination of the nation and people from wide spectrum of society came on the streets and rested only when the proclamation was withdrawn.

The second mass mobilization was seen in India during 1998, primarily from the youth of upper caste who were opposed to the implementation of the Mandal Commission report that gave 27 per cent reservation to the other backward caste categories of the Hindu society. This agitation was primarily confined to north India, where upper caste youth came out in large numbers and some even immolated themselves for the annulment of the law. Its was mass hysteria with the underpinning of suicidal impulses on the lines French sociologist David Émile Durkheim proponed in his study, ‘Suicide: A Study In Sociology, published in 1895.

The last was the Sangh Parivar’s mass mobilization centering on Ram Janamboohmi. A wounded civilization came out in large numbers to destroy the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. As the angry agitators pulled down the three domes of the Muslim’s place of worship, in that carnival of rebellion, it seems the three domes, on the Parliament, on the Supreme Court and on the Rashtriapathi Bhavan, crumbled. In hindsight, the mobilization of the masses was more for destruction than actually for construction, as the intended purpose thereafter could not mobilize the masses.

Contrary to all of them, Anna’ Hazre’s agitation was unique in many sense. It demonstrated to the world that even in this age, there are pied pipers who can bring the people on the streets. The charismatic figure of Anna Hazare, caught the imagination of the nation many equate him with Mahatma Gandhi and his method of agitation.

Some may point out that the mass mobilization was due to spread of the social media, others may say it was the handiwork of the television channels, that went gone gung-ho telecasting this reality show, some may also credit the organizational acumen of team Anna, the fact is there was unprecedented mobilization of the masses never seen, since the independent movement of the country.

The other feature of the movement was the discipline shown by the agitators and volunteers’ having a total control of the situation is something remarkable. Skeptics had cast doubts over the agitation and some even predicted it may end up in Chauri Chaura way, and like Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare too calling off his fast in a dejected mood. However, every thing went of the scripted way of the reality show and this something laudable.

However, it’s not that every thing was picture perfect in Anna Hazre’s agitation. There were many flaws in it as well. The twelve days agitation of Anna Hazare has able to dictate the content of the Lok Pal bill. The government was forced to bow down to the pressure that was applied on it through the strength drawn from the street, even though it took eleven days to do so. This is unprecedented.

It has set a new precedent for future political discourse in the country and the future governments have to be prepared to handle such dictate from the so called people’s parliament.

Imagine a situation when the farmers of the country march to New Delhi, to press their demands or the Hindutva forces muster such strength and pressurize the Parliament to build the Ram temple or in wake of terror attack, the people’s Parliament ask the government to go to war with Pakistan. Let’s leave it for propriety as imagination stops to build future scenarios.

Certainly, Anna Hazare should have avoided the ill advised call to his followers to gherao the Prime Minister, MPs and MLAs. He and some of his spokespersons called people’s representatives as dacoits and thieves and that amount to spreading hatred. Apologies on this count in the closing speech were dished out, but the damage done certainly lowered the dignity of the movement.

Another matter of extreme concern was the source of funds for sustaining the movement for twelve days. Even earlier to that, the members of team Anna were flying at different locations in the country and there were huge shows being organized. All that needed money, where did it come from? Many people visiting Ram Lila grounds are reported to have been fed with snacks and food. All these would not have come without money? It is quite possible that such money may have come from the followers of Anna Hazare but the country need to know the people who have funded them.

In the closing speech, it was said that the money spent during the agitation were from public donations and from admirers of Anna Hazare. To some this sounded more like a politician’s comment then the words of a social activist. It leaves an element of deep suspicion among the civil society about the movement it represents.

In such issues, transparency is a very important. In a rare show of solidarity countrymen belonging to a cross section of the society have given unstinted support to Anna Hazare’s protest against corruption. Team Anna should clearly make public the names of the people who have funded the twelve day agitation. Keeping the curtains over the faces, would go against the noble cause that the movement represents.

Even before the agitation has begun allegations of impropriety came forth regarding all the NGOs to which category Anna Hazare and his team belong, that they are not corruption free. A few of them have been accused of swindling large amount of money and misusing the NGO portfolio for ulterior purposes. The fact of the matter is; Anna Hazare has missed to comment on this disturbing fact for whatever reasons.

Anna Hazare’s practice of giving a free hand to his hand picked people has raised eyebrows. There are certainly many more knowledgeable people in the country with great credentials that Anna should spot and utilize them for the larger good of the nation. Keeping the tainted faces in the crusade against corruption takes away the sheen out of the movement.

Finally, the claim that the battle against corruption has been half won seems bit exaggerated. The fact is that the battle against corruption has only just begun. The movement still has a long way to go. What is required is to fine tune it to a substantial extent to provide dignity to the campaign.

The bitter truth is that during the twelve days of fast, team Anna have not been able to elevate the quality of the campaign to the lofty level necessary to sustain such movement. It’s imperative to plug the loopholes in future.

In the end, let’s hope and pray that human greed is over powered in our country and corruption is banished from this land. If and when it happens, Anna Hazare will be hailed as the pied piper of India.

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

How to Make Lokpal Bill Effective – The Debate Continues

How to Make Lokpal Bill Effective – The Debate Continues

Syed Ali Mujtaba

How to make Lokpal Bill effective was the theme of a debate competition for college students organized by a NGO ‘Nandini Voice for the Deprived’ on August, 13, 2011, in Chennai. The objective of the competition was to provide an opportunity to the college students to give their views on the subject.

Number of college students from several Chennai city colleges including Indian Institute of Technology Madras, School of Excellence in Law, JBAS College for Women, Loyola Institute of Business Administration participated in the debate competition.

This author, Mr. P. K. N. Panicker, President, Chemical Industries Association and educationist and Mr. N. L. Rajah, senior advocate were the judges in the first panel. Prof. S. Radhakrishnan, Professor of Economics, Mr. S. M. Arasu, Founder, Anti Corruption Movement, Mr. Kris Dev, social activist were the judges in the second panel. Trustee, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Mr. N. S.Venkataraman moderated the debate.

Quite a few students argued that Lokpal Bill may not be necessary, since enough laws and regulations are in the country to root out corruption. The problem, they felt, was that those in power including politicians and bureaucrats circumvent the existing rules and regulations to indulge in corruption and prevent punishment for the corrupt persons.

Students wondered that Lokpal Bill if enacted into law, may also end up with the same fate as the several of the existing anti corruption regulations and institutions

At best, Lokpal may function like Central Vigilance Commission, so instead of enacting a new law, the Central Vigilance Commission can be strengthened in variety of ways, which would produce quick results and avoid protracted arguments and delay.

Some students felt that Lokpal is only likely to function as an advisory body, with no powers to punish the corrupt. Therefore, the Lokpal’s report has to be substantiated in the court of law and judiciary would ultimately decide the case. Therefore, there may not be really any change in the ground realities. So the students argued that Lokpal may function like Central Vigilance Commission, referring its conclusions to the court.

Most students said that the Lokpal Bill should cover all sections of the country irrespective of age and position including judiciary and defense. The present move of the government to restrict it to certain sections of bureaucracy alone will mean nothing.

Some students insisted that Prime Minister should be included in the Lokpal Bill. They dismissed the argument that the inclusion of Prime Minister will lead to vested interests, paving way for false charges against the Prime Minister to destabilize the government. The students said that instead of excluding the Prime Minister, Lokpal Bill can have certain built in safeguards to ensure that vague and false charges against the Prime minister would not be entertained.

There are multiple vigilance organizations today like CBI, CVC and others which sometimes work at cross purposes. Such organizations should be brought under Lokpal to ensure coordinated approach and transparency. This aspect should be examined by the government for its administrative feasibility.

Students suggested the selection process for Lokpal Chairman and members should be broad based. The nomination should be invited from public for Lokpal Committee members, just like nominations being invited for Nobel prize award and selection must be very strict and should not be left into the hands of politicians and judges.

While the students greatly applauded the initiatives of Anna Hazare and his team members, they pointed out that Anna Hazare is only aiming at forming some regulations at the government level by seeking to introduce one more law. Anna Hazare has not looked into the option of strengthening the existing anti corruption institutions by closing the loopholes in them which would produce quicker results.

There was an unanimity that the ultimate solution for the problem is to change in the mind set of the people. Many people in India are involved in corrupt practices and corruption is not restricted to politicians and bureaucrats alone. Some people in India think that the act of small corruption is not immoral and this mind set needs to be changed.

The students disagreed to the concept of second freedom struggle launched by Anna Hazare. They pointed out that the essential difference between the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the movement initiated by Anna Hazare is, while Mahatma Gandhi led the freedom movement against the British, but simultaneously fought against several social evils such as caste system, untocuhability, liquor habit and strove to reform the individual Indians and their mind set, Anna Hazare movement lack the broad based approach.

The students felt that even now, it is not late and Anna Hazare should look back into his activities during the last one year and redirect the movement in appropriate direction, without giving an impression that mere change of laws will make India corruption free.

The debate had some very valuable inputs from the judges who commented on the issue of corruption and the aspects on the Lokpal bill. Their broad theme was in India; traditionally success is measured by the money accumulated by the individuals irrespective of the means adopted. This has resulted in a situation where corruption remains has permeated at all levels and in all sorts of activities. The public campaign against corruption should continue just like the anti liquor campaign and anti tobacco campaign.

The battle against the corruption must be fought in the minds and hearts of people and NGOs have a big role to play in this. The country should learn to hate the corrupt people which will happen only by millions of Indians not being corrupt in private and public life, was the ultimate conclusion of the debate

The debate competition would further take place at Coimbatore, Trichy and Madurai in September. The participating students would be awarded prizes during a meeting on October 1, 2011 the eve of Gandhi Jayanthi. The views expressed by the students would be forwarded to the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman for their consideration on the formulation of Lokpal bill.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hon Judge don’t preach, ugly can’t be beautiful

Hon Judge don’t preach, ugly can’t be beautiful
Syed Ali Mujtaba


The statement made by former Supreme Court judge K T Thomas, praising Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its style of functioning as an organization is debatable. Notwithstanding the right of freedom of speech, the comments made by the learned judge are disturbing.

It’s more so, because K T Thomas belongs to a Christian community that has suffered at the hands of the RSS and yet he has engaged himself in an image building exercise of an organization that’s essentially is fascist in character.

There are few salient features of K T Thomas's statement. The former judge do not like that the RSS be held responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He is of the view that the RSS is not an anti minority organization. He thinks the RSS is a well disciplined organization worthy of admiration. He goes on to praise the RSS for opposing the national emergency and gives it credit for fighting for the restoration of the fundamental rights.

One may like to discuss these comments one by one as each of them sounds contentious. However, before doing so, let’s have the details of his statement.

The former judge wants the ''smear campaign'' against RSS being responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi to end. “Just because the assassin was once an RSS worker does not hold RSS responsible of the crime,” he says.

The smear campaign that the RSS was responsible for Gandhi’s assassination is unjustified, he has reportedly said and added that the organization was ''completely exonerated'' by the court.

K T Thomas defended the RSS acts of omission and commission by posing a question, "Can the entire Sikh community be responsible for Indira Gandhi’s assassination?”

He also took exception to the propaganda that RSS is an anti-minority organization, saying such vilification campaign is "baseless."

The learned judge then goes on to say; "I am a Christian. I was born as a Christian and practice that religion. I am a church going Christian. But I have also learnt many things about RSS."

The former apex court judge says, he became an admirer of the RSS in 1979 when he was posted as district judge of Kozhikode. This is because RSS is a disciplined organization that believes in the philosophy of simple living and high thinking.

He goes on to eulogise the RSS, saying; during the national Emergency of 1975, RSS was the only non-political organization that fought against its proclamation. "We owe very much to RSS for sacrificing many lives for regaining our fundamental rights," he reportedly said

Initially, when I saw this PTI report, I thought of ignoring it with the logic let hundred flowers bloom, but then, when the same copy started circulating on the internet, I felt this should not become a gospel of truth.

The statement made by K T Thomas, becomes noteworthy because the person is not only a former Supreme Court judge, an upholder of the constitution, but also belongs to a minority Christian community. Now, lets dissect each of his statement one by one.

First of all, the Judge wants us to forget that assassin of Mahatma Gandhi was not an act of the RSS but of a lunatic who was its former member. He does not like to accept the fact that the lunatic man was indoctrinated by the radical ideology of the RSS that drove him to commit that heinous crime.

Court's may exonerate the individual or an organization for want of facts, but can anyone force to make up their mind based on the courts judgement. So, no amount logic can convince the people of this country that RSS was not behind the assassination of the Mahatma Gandhi.

His second observation, that RSS is not anti-minority is also untenable. Since last 64 years, the anti minority conduct of the RSS is very well documented. Time and again it’s being held responsible for breeching peace in the country. This organization takes up well orchestrated campaign against the minority community and polarizes the society on communal lines. Very often, the minority community is pushed to the wall and is forced to react and that takes the form of communal riots.

The lessons learnt from the communal riots are the story of provocation from the RSS cadre and the reaction from minority community. Since the act of the former is well planned, the reaction comes unguarded, making the minority community vulnerable. They fall into a well laid out trap and become victims of the circumstances, loosing their lives property and honour in the process.


K T Thomas, takes pride in being a practising Christian and an admirer of the RSS. He goes on to issue a good character certificate of the organization whose record of anti Christian community is numerous. The gruesome murder of Graham Stain at the hands of RSS sympathizer is still etched in our memory.

Its common knowledge, that believer of the Christian faith in Orissa and Karnataka had suffered immensely in recent times at the hands of the RSS cadre that held them responsible for conversion. Can the entire Christian community be responsible for the act of few Christians?

His comment on RSS opposing the national emergency of 1975 and fighting for the restoration of fundamental rights is also far fetched. Any one who has lived during the period of emergency can vouch that a cross section of the society has opposed that high handed declaration tooth and nail. Giving credit to RSS for opposing emergency, is tantamount to making heroes of a tribe of murders.

K T Thomas says that RSS is a well disciplined organisation worthy of admiration. I find a parallel to it in the admirers of the Nazis, that’s also, had been hailed as a well disciplined organisation. However, does that exonerate it from the charges of the “Holocaust” against the Jews?

The sole purpose of the RSS is to divide the country on communal lines. Its modus oprendi is to mobilize the gullible masses of the Hindu faith by instilling in them the fear of threat from the minority community.

I feel pity about the ex judge who relishes an organization, that bellies the essence of the Indian constitution. RSS is well known for its advocacy of the supremacy of the Hindu faith and the subservience of other faiths to it. Isn’t it a diabolic thinking?

I feel no amount of sweet talking can build the image of the RSS. There are certain fundamental issues that go against it. It does not tolerate religious pluralism, secularism, socialism and democratic values that’s being cherished by every Indian.

So no amount of the advocacy of the RSS by whomsoever can make it a perfect organisation. There is an uncanny feeling that Mr. K T Thomas has chose to make the comments for some gainful reasons. There are more to his statement then what the eyes can read.

An appeal to the voices peace and harmony to stand up against such purposeful statement and advice to Hon. Judge, better not preach the ugly can’t be made beautiful.

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Planet, People and Profit Key to Environmental Campaign

Planet, People and Profit Key to Environmental Campaign
Syed Ali Mujtaba

“Planet, People and Profit are the three Ps that are central to the issues related to the protection of the environment. The profit or consumerism is the villain of the planet that’s getting spoiled by the people indulging into mindless consumerism,” said Mr.Jayaprasad, National Secretary, Service Civil International (SCI) India, at the youth workshop on Climate Change in Chennai, India.

Indian Community Welfare Organization (ICWO) with the support of Service Civil International (SCI) Italy and KMGNE Germany organized the day long workshop on August 6, 2011.

“Youth volunteering can be a medium for intertwining northern and southern campaigns on issues related to climate change because youth want to change the world,” said A.J.Hariharan , Secretary, Founder of ICWO.

Another speaker, Devanayyan, Director of Tholaizhmai Human rights organization passionately appealed for environmental friendly practices among the youth asking them to make it a part of their daily lives.

“Its necessary that youth need to focus on the environmental issue, because over a period of last 5 years, nearly 125 lakes has disappeared in Chennai and the space is occupied by concrete structures,” he said.

Students from Madras Christian College, Madras School of Social Work, Hindu College, Mohammed Sathak College, volunteers from Service Civil International SCI and international youth from Italy, Germany, Australia and USA participated in the workshop.

The workshop focused on the waste management, issues and made certain recommendations like massive balloons should be banned, use of fire crackers to be reduced, introduction of mobile toilets, to encourage people to volunteer to clean up toilets, cleaning up the streets. segregated dustbin should be kept in the streets, creating awareness on usage of waste bins, having the recycling bins with color coded baskets, usage of paper cups, use of cotton bags should be practiced, noise and smoke free festivals, fine those who throw the waste on the streets or spit on the roads, unnecessary use of horn on roads, ban on cremation of dead bodies on the river bed, encouragement of electrical cremation, less usage of electricity, use of cycles as mode of transportation, tree plantation to be encouraged, importance of self awareness in reducing the impact of climate change.

Some participants expressed their desire to pass on the message of how to tackle the issue of climate change discussed at the workshop to their family, friends and schoolmates. Some volunteered for starting an environment club or recycling project in schools and colleges. A pledge taken to make this world sustainable for the future generation

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average (e.g., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change may be limited to a specific region or may occur across the whole earth.

The issue of Climate Change is a key element of the contemporary interconnections between North and South of the world. It involves the entire planet. The most affected countries are those of the Southern hemisphere, while in the North the majority of Co2 is produced as well as other gases responsible for global warming. It is therefore essential to deal with this issue in a holistic way and to train the youth in order to implement innovative strategies and campaigns against the causes of Climate Change.

The momentum of environmental campaign was further buttressed by organizing a cycle rally at the Marina Beach Chennai on August, 8 2011. The title of the rally was “Grounding Our Future” to stop global warming.

A large number of participants from social work department Stella Maris College, Mohammed Sathak College, Hindu College, Presidency College, C.N.P.T. Poly-Technical College and Volunteers from USA, Australia participated in the cycle rally.

Global warming is caused by green house gases, which trap in the sun’s infrared rays in the earth’s atmosphere, which in turn heat up the earth’s atmosphere.

These green house effect warming is called as global warming. The effects of green house effect are visible more prominently in the recent years, with number of natural calamities on the rise in the whole world. The global warming has happened in the past few years and is evident from the rise in mean temperature of the earth’s atmosphere.

The fight against global warming cannot be in isolation and it needs collaboration of different stakeholders, corporate houses, NGOs, CBOs, along with general public.

Many people and governments are already working hard to cut greenhouse gases, and each of us can help in this endeavor. In addition to reducing the gases we emit to the atmosphere, we can also increase the amount of gases we take out of the atmosphere. Plants and trees absorb CO2 as they grow, “sequestering” carbon naturally. Increasing forestlands and making changes to the way we farm could increase the amount of carbon we’re storing.

Some of these technologies have drawbacks, and different communities will make different decisions about how to power their lives, but the good news is that there are a variety of options to put us on a path toward a stable climate.

This is the first time a workshop on climate change and a cycle rally on environmental issues focusing youth was organized in Chennai. The main objective of the workshop is to enhance the youth capacity to promote volunteering as a tool to endorse sustainable life styles. The idea has to be developed further and enriched by the exchange of ideas of the people living in other areas of the world how they are dealing with such global issues.

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

Changing Face of Bihar


Changing Face of Bihar A talk by Syed Ali Mujtaba
Report on ORF interaction in Chennai dated 25 January 2011

Bihar is one of the most under-developed States in India. Be it the political anarchy or recurrent floods in one part and droughts in the other, Bihar has always remained in news for wrong reasons. Taking heed of the recent positive developments in the State, the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation organised an Interaction on the 'Changing face of Bihar', on January 22, 2011.

Dr. Syed Ali Mujtaba, Director, School of Mass Communication, Vels University, Chennai, presented a detailed profile of Bihar, explaining the political history and the ground realities in the State. A native of Bihar, he enumerated the wave of change that has been sweeping across the State in recent times, inter-mingling facts and figures with anecdotes and personal experiences. He listed construction of roads across the State as among the top achievements of the present Government of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and said that in a State where no roads had existed for decades, it also helped the ruling coalition NDA (National Democratic Alliance) to win re-election the previous year.

Dr. Mujtaba elaborated the changes in different fields with relevant examples. The administrative sector witnessed tremendous changes, ranging from the better functioning of Government offices to the introduction of new technologies. New laws have been passed, making it mandatory for Government employees to declare their assets. He noted that surprise-checks and raids have brought down the incidence of corruption to some extent. Reports about kidnapping for gain and murder too have reduced considerably. At the local-governance level, both the panchayatiraj system and municipal corporations have been revived and are active. He also pointed to the vast improvement in tax-collections of the civic bodies.

Dr. Mujtaba was of the opinion that the life of the people in Bihar has improved in different ways. According to him, the increased connectivity attained by construction of roads and popularisation of mobile phones have revolutionised life in Bihar. The primary education, especially for girls, is given a lot of importance than ever before. The strict implementation of Centrally-funded schemes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, providing noon-meal, uniforms and books have all contributed to an increase in the enrolment of students. A number of new Government hospitals have been built and the existing ones are being modernised at a fast pace, said Dr.Mujtaba. He also appreciated the State Government for taking initiatives to construct public toilets in rural areas, to improve the health and sanitation of the people.

Dr. Mujtaba attributed the reasons for the backward status of Bihar to several factors, like landlocked geographic location, historic neglect of the peripheral regions, political instability and the complex socio-cultural matrix of the State. For him, the downfall of Bihar from one of the best governed States in the 1950's to one among the least developed States of today revealed the extent of poor governance in the interim. None of the regimes after the first Chief Minister Srikrishna Sinha, who was in power for close to 15 years, could continue development activities initiated at the time. The average term of a Chief Minister was less than a year, until the Rashtriya Janata Dal came to power in 1990. Despite promising change, the party became known for poor governance, he said.

Pointing out the complex social matrix of Bihar and the consequent caste politics as a major reason for the political instability, Dr. Mujtaba said while there was a constant tussle between the forward and backward castes, Muslims numbering around 17 per cent after the creation of Jharkhand, remained king-makers. Though the recent Assembly polls witnessed developmental agenda replacing caste and related equations, he said that the power structure had changed only in the ballot paper but not at the societal level. There only the rich and influential mattered, with caste playing a dominant role, based on individual regions.

Dr. Mujtaba admitted that Bihar faced enormous challenges and it would definitely be a tall task to resolve them. The strong resistance from the influential land-owners came in the way of much-needed land reforms. Naxalism posed a grave threat to the security and stability of the State. Natural disasters like rampant floods and droughts that affect more than half the population demanded immediate remedial action of a permanent nature. According to him, the higher education sector needed a total revival. The police force also required thorough modernisation. Issues like curbing criminalisation of politics and employment-generation must also be given high priority. He expressed confidence in the present Government in its attempt to deliver the basic needs of people like road, water, power and jobs.

Charing the session, Mr. N. Sathiya Moorthy, Director, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter, outlined the complexities of Bihar politics and drew attention to the dynamics of Centre-State relations in the case of Bihar. He remarked that the changing face of Bihar was a heartening fact and also reminded that Bihar has a long way to go in terms of development and modernisation.

During the interaction, participants discussed several significant issues. The need to train a second-line of political leaders in order to sustain the achieved level of development was also stressed. The relative legitimacy of successive elections in Bihar, the role of the Election Commission and the extent of caste politics in the 2009 Assembly polls were discussed. The need to emulate lessons from the Bihar model of development was also raised during the discussion.

(This report is prepared by Neethu S Thottammariyil, II MA, International Studies, Stella Maris College, Chennai)


http://www.observerindia.com/cms/sites/orfonline/modules/report/ReportDetail.html?cmaid=21046&mmacmaid=21047

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Media Professionals discouraged from teaching Media in India

Media Professionals discouraged from teaching Media in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba



There are some unpleasant developments talking place with regard to the appointments of teachers in the department of media studies. The University Grant Comission (UGC) has given some basic guidelines to the Universities to appointment faculty and this diktat is being implemented literally, without any logic or reasons attached.

The UGC guideline calls for basic degree in the relevant discipline, plus qualification of national education test, and a PhD to be eligibility for teaching position in a given discipline.

The UGC directive also obliquely mentions anyone who has proven excellence and ability in a given field of study can also be considered for teaching position in that field.

Now given the nature of Indian education system, where almost a rot has set up with very poor caliber teaching faculty, manning the departments, the first part of the UGC guideline is being rigorously being implemented and second part is over looked because the first one comes as a easy pretext to push out the professionals from getting into academic institutions.

This is gross injustice that is going on because any amount degrees and certificates can not be substituted for high degree of professional training in the relevant field of study.

As such there is definitely a requirement of high skilled professionals in the field of academia who can share knowledge with the young minds and mould them to become future professional, even they may not have relevant degree in that discipline.

A case has come to my light where a person who has 15 years of work experience in the media industry working with some top notch companies and also having six years of regular teaching experience in fairly recognized University, is being debarred from teaching position in the media discipline s because his basic degree in media studies.

This person has done masters in History, qualified NET in history and went on to do his M.Phil and PhD on a historical topic from South Asian Studies School of International relations. The time he was studying some 25 years ago, the media courses were unknown, and as such had little scope after study.

After finishing his studies this person chose career in journalism and spent about 15 yrs in that profession. He has won several awards and has shown high degree of excellence in the field of media studies. It’s because of his professional excellence; he was picked up by the University to teach that course.

In an ironical twist, after being six years in the teaching profession, now he is being debarred from teaching because he does not have basic degree in the media field.

This is ridiculous, because in the first place he was considered for teaching position on the strength of his expertise in media field and then one fine day he is Banglored, because he does not have basic degree. There is no weight given to his long work experience and his hard work over the years is simply discounted.

Now the predicament for this guy is he can not go and look for teaching position in history, a place where he was some 25 years ago and he drifted away because he could not find any opportunity there.

He cannot go to international relation because, its part of political science and he has his basic degree in history.

He can not go back to media industry even though he has 15 years of experience there because he has lost all contacts due to being engaged in teaching assignment for past six years. For him, it’s really a precarious situation, where to go.

I don't know why institutions are being fetish about the basic degree in the media field. We all know how degrees can be acquired in India and how research papers are written and published.

However, can they be substitute to professional experience and excellence in the field of study? Definitely not, and the person having good command over the discipline due to his professional experience is more suitable candidate for teaching then those having mere degree in that discipline.
This however is not happening in India and lines are being drawn to push out the media professionals to make way for sub standard teachers who hardly can make a sense of the complexities of the media world.

This is ludicrous because the UGC on one hand preaches to adopt multi- disciplinary approach to teaching and want inter disciplinary research to be encouraged. However when it comes to the framing rules it negates its own vision and mission.

A subject like media can not be handled in a narrow sense of term. It’s a multi disciplinary subject and requires people from all streams of education. Such people after having sufficient exposure in the field of media are well qualified to teach the subject.

It’s a sad commentary on the education system of the country that discounts professional experience and gives preference pieces of paper called relevant degrees.

I am sure there may be some window of opportunity for such high caliber persons teaching media The UGC guidelines may have some provision to accommodate such person and encourage them into teaching profession.

If that’s not the case, then I think it’s high time that the UGC may take into consideration proven media experience as basic qualification for teaching media courses.

I will be grateful if anyone who can throw some light on this issue and cite relevant rules of the UGC guideless that can help this person for teaching position in media studies.


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