Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Visual World a Dream Come True

New Visual World a Dream Come True
Syed Ali Mujtaba

We are living in a new visual world, a world which is different from the one that exists side by side but remains unnoticed. The new visual world actually shaped when the internet opened the gates of communication highway and the e-mails and voice-mails dominated the cyber space. This format is now being replaced by the new visual world.

In the mew visual world communication is taking place through the webcams and in an array of activities its application is found. Whether its business, board room meetings, social networking, medical surgery, court room trials, every this mode of communication is gradually becoming popular.

The mobile telephone based on 2G, 3G and now the 4G is enhancing the speed of communication of the new visual world. As we are able to see one another on a more frequent using such technology, the new visual world is bringing world closer, catapulting a global society.

As we have started to live under the shadows of cameras, the new visual world is changing our life style. We cannot escape the eye of the camera, whether it’s a mall or a superstore, bus station, railway platform, airport or even traffic signals, we are under the vigil of the camera.

In a super store, Mother Merry cannot breastfeed her toddler, because the camera watches her act, and to some the images generated may be liable porn. Similarly, many offices have cameras to monitor the work their staff and in such a case, one may have to sit tight, because each member is under the surveillance of the camera.

Notwithstanding the constraints, the new visual world has come to stay simply because the communication is now happening through touch screens and the keyboards. The visual technology is helping simulate the experience that a phone conversation or an e-mail exchange may not generate. In such mode of communication, one does not have to travel a distance to make the face-to-face appearance and such visual interaction saves time and energy.

It’s a life experience that’s happening and there is no escape from this reality. There are many who see this visual process a intrusion of the only remaining personal space in their lives and such people do not subscribe to this mode of communication. They are challenged by two sets of people, one those who are tired of every other form of communication and want to try visual options and other the young Turks who are growing with the changes and the new visual world is part of their life style.

The new visual world has thrown open a window of opportunities but it’s filled with challenges. It requires the basic skills of visual communication and if one doesn’t have the skills to face the camera, chances are to be dubbed as ineffective communicator. So in order to be an effective communicator and to make an impact, one needs to adapt to the requirements of the new visual world. One has to show maturity towards embracing the new technological changes. Those doing so alone can surge ahead; the rest may lag behind or fall by the wayside. Time and tide waits for no one.

The social impact of the new visual world is tremendous. Slowly a world of visual communicators is emerging, as one sees people of different cultures and backgrounds more visually and interacts with them more frequently. As more people see one another, and more direct contact taking place, the fears, inhibitions, prejudices, concerns, ignorance or other negative feelings are getting mellowed.

Whether there is a greater acceptance of diverse audiences and the new visual world is welcoming the visual differences is something debatable. However, the fact remains there is no escape from such a reality. This is definitely a sign of change.

At another level the new visual world is pushing the cart of globalization. As people get opportunities to interact among many cultures, a globally interactive society is emerging. In this endeavor the young Turks is taking the lead. After all, children are not born with a natural fear of likes and dislikes, they learn from the environment they live. The new visual world provides them their own experience to decide as those who look so different have so many things in common with them.

This brings us to the point that the more we see one another, the more we may understand each other and such interaction may bring us closer together, leading to a global society. In such case, the space for nationalism is shrinking, and globalization s surging ahead.

This is not to suggest that prejudices are disappearing and we are moving towards a perfect harmonious world. It’s only to underline the fact that the no matter what maybe the prejudices, one still have to interact with different people on a daily basis. The new visual world is making people to accept those people whose lifestyles and backgrounds those are different from their own.

Is the new visual world is better for our future generation or does it have negative influences on their minds that’s something being debated. There are many who are opposed to the ideas of the new visual world. They argue that children are exposed to pornography and other such vices in a tender age. Children’s creative activities are stifled as their attention is diverted in such unmeaning activities. A child has to have sound body and mind and the development of both is getting undermined by this new visual world.

The other arguments put forward are that every individual can not be visually appealing and the new visual world is creating a new divide that is based on looks and not on merit. One has to be over conscious all the time in terms of diet and dress to match the expectations of the new visual world.

Some are commanding to control this new trend. They say come on, where are we going, stop this highway to nowhere. There many who live by the slogan, it’s my life and I don’t give a damn to those who do not like the way I like. It’s such kind of people who are making the new visual world’s dream come true.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exploring Peace Options for Kashmir

Exploring Peace Options for Kashmir
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is a general perception among the South Asians that peace has been held hostage in the region due to the continued animosity between India and Pakistan. History suggests that no matter much the consensus for peace and development gains momentum in the region, the Kashmir question vitiates the atmosphere of the subcontinent. The two countries are unable to find an amicable solution and the issue that remains deadlocked even about 60 years of its inception.

The quest for peace in South Asia makes it imperative to explore options for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. This is to reduce tension at various levels; first between India and Pakistan, second, between the Indian Union and the state of Jammu and Kashmir and third between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the people i.e. common man in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The executive summery is to suggest that India, Pakistan and along with a broad spectrum of people of Jammu and Kashmir should make a joint declaration to make the flash point the ‘Kashmir valley’ a “Zone of Peace.” Then India and Pakistan should thrash out the issues they disagree and after that bring on board the people of Jammu and Kashmir to shape the contours of governance. Such move alone can find an amicable solution to this long standing problem.

Since independence, India and Pakistan, several times, have entered into armed conflict over Kashmir. The first was in 1948 when armed raiders swooped upon the Valley from the Pakistani side, but India somehow managed to push them back. The matter was referred to the UN, and it resulted in a ceasefire, and the establishment of the Line of Control that exists today. The second was a full scale war in 1965 that resulted in ceasefire and the Tashkent pact. The third was the 1971 war though fought in eastern front but enflamed the borders across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

The tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir continues to mount in the decades following 1971. Its Kashmir issue played a major role for the two countries o become nuclear weapon States in 1998. In post nuclear scenario, the Kargil skirmishes in 1999 was a major confrontation between the two countries. The Kashmir problem also started an era of terror attack and the attack on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, brought the two countries once the brink of war. The Mumbai terror attack in 2008 too owes its origin to the Kashmir problem.

Even as India and Pakistan confronted each other over the years over Kashmir, they also held discussions at the level of Heads of Government and Foreign Secretary level to address the Kashmir problem. In 1965, Kashmir issue figured prominently during the Ayub Khan–Lal Bahadur Shastri talks at Tashkent. According India’s foreign office, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi talked about Kashmir issue at the Shimla conference in 1972. Then Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto, I.K Gujral- Nawaz Sharif and A.B Vajpayee-Nawaz Sharif held talks on Kashmir issue.

The Agra summit held in 2001 between Indian Prime Minister A.B Vajpayee and Pakistan President, Pervez Musharaf was the last effort made to resolve differences over Kashmir issue.

The history of the India and Pakistan foreign Secretary level talks over Kashmir is longer and suffice would be to say that two sides have held more than eight rounds of talks and one in Islamabad in February 1999, resulted in the idea of a composite and comprehensive dialogue. Its highlight was the two sides agreed to remain engaged in parleys on a rotation basis, even while agreeing to disagree on several issues. The Kargil incursion in May 1999 derailed this dialogue process and the terror attack on Parliament on December 13th 2001, prolonged the break. The talks resumed once again in 2003 to be snapped in 2008, due to terror attack on Mumbai.

The Mohali world cup semifinal cricket match between India and Pakistan in March 2011 is believed to have provided momentum for the resumption of India Pakistan dialogue but it remains to be seem whether it will be composite and comprehensive.

The factor in the India- Pakistan dialogue towards the resolution of Kashmir problem is the lack of seriousness and consistent leadership in both the countries to carry forward the dialogue process. Talks on Kashmir could not be sustained as L.B Shastri died immediately after the Tashkent pact. Z.A Bhutto was ousted after signing the Shimla agreement. Rajiv Gandhi died and Benazir Bhutto was replaced. Gujral’s government fell even before the Indo-Pak dialogue could begin. Nawaz Sharif was removed soon after Vajpayee took the historic bus ride to Lahore.

The slow progress on the issue of the resolution of Kashmir is attributed to the absence of a similar minded leadership on the both sides of the divide. It is also blamed that even after sixty years or so the two countries have not been evolved a mechanism on which the dialogue could be sustained irrespective of the individuals heading the government.

The Indian position is that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India. The periodic elections held in state have given it the right of territorial sovereignty over the province of Jammu and Kashmir. India holds the view that the citizen of Jammu and Kashmir, by participating in the electoral process, has accepted India’s sovereignty. Indian view is that the areas in control of Pakistan and those acceded to China alone is a matter of dispute and a resolution to that has to be found.

Also India do not subscribe to the idea of plebiscite under the relevant UN resolution, saying it requires vacation of the area controlled by Pakistan and China and wants these two countries to vacate the area a pre requisite for a plebiscite. India also rejects Pakistan’s attempts to internationalize Kashmir dispute as a nuclear flash-point, saying there is no linkage between nuclear confidence-building measures and the Kashmir situation. India on the contrary accuses Pakistan of abetting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, and wants international community to help it in its war of terror. India insists that cross-border infiltration must first end, for any meaningful talks to resume.

Pakistan’s position on Kashmir is that it’s an unfinished agenda of the Partition of India in 1947. It does not subscribe to its integration with India that was signed as instrument of accession by the Princely ruler of that state, citing the case of the Princely state of Hyderabad and Junagarh whose rulers signed the instrument accession in favor of Pakistan. India integrated the two states to its Union on the claim they are contagious regions had majority Hindu population. On the similar ground Pakistan lay claim to Kashmir. Pakistan insists on a plebiscite under UN supervision, as India did to amalgamate Junagarh in 1948.

Pakistan also likes to internationalize the Kashmir issue as the conflict has all the potential to burst into nuclear flames. Pakistan as harps that since bilateralism has not served any purpose so far, third-party mediation is essential to adjudicate in this matter. It continues to appeals to the international community to get actively involved in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Pakistan denies India’s charges of instigating terrorism and says, has done all it can to stop infiltration across LOC, and any stray incidents are beyond its control. It suggests that international observers to be stationed along the LOC to verify India’s allegations. Pakistan reiterates it only provide moral and diplomatic support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle for freedom. Pakistan insists that the ‘uprising’ in Jammu and Kashmir is indigenous, and more as a result of ‘repression’ by the Indian security forces.

The story of the engagement of the Union of India and the state of Jammu and Kashmir and that of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is another interesting tale. India’s approach to Jammu and Kashmir is two fold; first integration, governance and development. Second, to curb militancy, maintain law and order and check separatism.

India has adopted various steps for the integration of the State. First it did away with the ‘special flag’ and the nomenclature of Prime Minister was changed to Chief Minister, when the Shiekh Abdullah’s Government was dismissed in 1953. Thereafter, India dismissed Pakistan’s claim of Kashmir being a territorial dispute and rejected its plea of plebiscite. The Indian Parliament also passed a resolution that Kashmir is the core of India’s nationhood and demanded vacation of the areas which Pakistan holds as Azad Kashmir.

As part of the integration process, an accord was signed between Indira Gandhi and Shiekh Abdullah in 1975 which mooted greater autonomy for the State. This was further reinforced by the Rajiv Gandhi - Farooq Abdullah accord of 1986. However, the autonomy proposal, which was unanimously approved by the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature in 2002, was summarily rejected by the Indian Parliament.

Currently, New Delhi’s position is to consider devolution of power for the State under the federal structure of the Indian constitution. India wants to open talks with the dissenting voices in Jammu and Kashmir but within its constitutional framework. India has appointed several Kashmir committees to co-opt the Kashmiri separatist forces into the political mainstream but so far has been unable to make any headway

As far as people of Jammu and Kashmir are concerned, they have been trying to find the solution to the problem through both peaceful and non peaceful means. Their main voice is through the All Party Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of several political parties. The Hurriyat has rejected the proposal for talks within the framework of Indian constitution. It wants tripartite talks involving India and Pakistan and the voices representing the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In first stage Hurriyat wants the negotiations to be held between the voices of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India. It suggests that once a settlement is reached between then and the Union of India and the Pakistan can be brought on board for a joint deceleration.

Some efforts have been made in this direction by the BJP led NDA government headed by A B Vajapayee that had hinted at readiness to hold talks with the conglomerate. However, such promises remain mere promise and no tangible talks ever started. The Congress led UPA government now its second term has kept this proposal afloat. Like its predecessor, it has appointed Kashmir committee that’s making regular holiday trips to Kashmir in an effort to kick start the dialogue process, but nothing has happened so far. Meanwhile, there consensus eludes the conglomerate on the issue of talking with the government of India. The parties are divided n their goals that range from independence, to greater autonomy, to plebiscite, to merger with Pakistan.

The charade of peace talks between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and government of India bred separatism in the state and has taken a militant since 1989. There are several militant groups which are waging, an ‘armed rebellion’ against the Indian state. India sees the militancy as being perpetrated from across the border and says it has been waging a lonely battle against a war on terror. New Deli is appealing to the international community to put pressure on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism.

India also treats militancy as a law and order problem and has stationed a large number of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. The abnormally large number of security forces has made the Kashmir valley an open prison, causing much concern to human rights activists.

In an effort to seek peace in the year 2000, India took cognizance of the growing militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and recognized Hizbul Mujahideen as the dominant militant group in the valley. This group and the Union Government decided on a ceasefire, and agreed to negotiate on the issues involved. The talks could not make any headway as the militant group insisted on certain preconditions, unacceptable to India. However, the recognition of militant groups and the beginning of negotiations with them underscored the point that peace cannot be achieved by sidelining the militant groups in the state.

India realizes that economic discontentment has created conditions that breed militancy and is giving full cooperation to the State Government to accelerate the developmental process. It feels by ding so, the general frustration among the disgruntled youth may be relieved. However, in spite of India’s best efforts terror related violence continues unabated in Jammu and Kashmir. Official figures say more than 38,000 lives have been lost since 1989 when the militancy related violence began; the separatist groups put the toll to over 100,000.

It’s a fact that in spite of a democratically-elected Government, political dissent and militancy are twin features in Jammu and Kashmir. It is felt that an agreement between India and Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir on some peace model has to be worked out to bring peace in that beleaguered state.

Another interesting observation is Kashmir finds an important place in the jingoistic nationalism that’s heard during the electoral process in the Indian mainland. The perception of common Indians towards Kashmir is being colored by communal-thinking. Come every election, the talk of abrogation of article 370 of the federal constitution, which gives special concessions to Jammu and Kashmir, gains crescendo. Politicians rake up the Kashmir issue to gain electoral mileage.

Separatism in Kashmir is played up as a bid for further scissoring India. Some even attempt to inject a sense of fear in the Muslim minority that they would be purged in case if Kashmir is sliced out of India. Politicians claim that Kashmir is integral part of India and they link it to India’s commitment to secularism.

The politics over Kashmir in Indian mainland may provide political dividends for those who press such views, but it further vitiates the communal atmosphere in the country and provides fuel to the separatist forces in Kashmir. Further, the periodic communal clashes and the targeting Muslim minorities in India, have repercussions in Kashmir. The blind eye that the Indian Government turns towards perpetrators of riots after riots against the Muslims, gives Kashmiri militants a handle to carry out mayhem against the minorities in their state. The purging of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley is often seen as a reflection of the anti-minority politics being played in rest of India.

The solution to this could be a self imposed election- related political moratorium on raking up the Kashmir issue during electioneering in Indian mainland. It will not only bridge inter-community relations in Kashmir but also ease the communal pressure on the Indian Muslims. In the long run it may help the cause of peace in the sub-continent.

In the chequered history of India and Pakistan, there have been several attempts being made to solve the Kashmir issue, but none has shown any results so far. The history suggests that both India and Pakistan do not want to forfeit their claim over Kashmir. It is also seen that neither war, nor sweet talks, have resolved the Kashmir issue. Meanwhile, both countries becoming nuclear weapons countries have further vitiated the problem.

The voices of sanity suggest that the only way to solve the problem is to reject the hardened stand and look for a course that may be accepted to both the countries as well as people of Kashmir. This could be done by converting the troubled region into a “zone of peace.” As a first measure all the three parties, India, Pakistan and voices from Kashmir, should make a joint declaration that they would not breach the security of this “special zone,” till they resolved all their outstanding differences.

As a follow, India should consider reducing the number of force deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. It can even consider deploying women security force in the populated areas of the state to build a climate of peace. Indian women security forces have successfully assisted the UN forces manning the theaters of conflict in Africa like Sierra Leone and Rwanda. If such efforts are being made in Kashmir as well, it will go a long way in the restoration of peace.

Adding to the credibility to such idea is the perception that the creation of the ‘special zone’ will not only reduces tension between India and Pakistan but also provides a model to other separatists groups operating elsewhere in India. The concept of ‘special zone’ also funnels the idea of the integration of the entire region, into a greater confederation of South Asian States. This would not only remove the irritants between India and Pakistan, but also between India and other neighboring countries. It also fulfills the democratic aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Now, again fresh initiatives are being made to create an atmosphere of peace. The buzz word is the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan. It is only a matter of time the two countries start talking again. However, will they address such a knotty issue like Kashmir that remains to be seen? It is common wisdom that there is no easy solution to the Kashmir problem.

The starting point could be the two countries along with the people of Jammu and Kashmir should agree to a formula that may convert the entire region into a zone of peace. The concept of special zone seems to be the best bet to address such a case. This exercise may give a direction to the resolution of the problem and as the time elapse, the problem may finds its way to play itself out.

The fingers, however, remain crossed will the two countries approach the Kashmir issue in such framework? This will be something interesting to watch if and when serious dialogue between India and Pakistan resumes.

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Indian Muslims and Media Images

Indian Muslims and Media Images
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The book 'Muslims and the Media Images: News versus Views' edited by Ather Farouqui, has some interesting observation made by the leading Indian journalist that needs to be brought out in popular discourse.

This book is divided into four parts: English Media: Image and Depiction; Transcending Boundaries; Muslim Journalism: A Phenomenal Dichotomy; and Popular Images and the Story of Stereotypes. There is an inevitable overlapping of themes between articles so all those that are thematically interlinked follow each other in succession.

Outlook editor, Vinod Mehta’s essay entitled ‘Muslims and Media Images: Where Things went Wrong’ has two main points. One with regard to Muslim’s expectations from the so called mainstream media and they expect all unbiased non-Muslims to promote the Muslim cause. He says that the expectations of the Muslim community are misplaced because Indian media faces may compulsions and challenges in their depiction.

According to Mehta there is a lack of understanding between Muslims and the Indian media. The media gives space to ether Muslim socialites that dominate the public space or to fringe Muslim voices no one knows. He warns that the situation is unlikely to change unless the common Muslim makes efforts to be heard. The onus is really on the Muslims themselves.

Academic Rajni Kothari’s article asserts that the role of the media in independent India has been negative as far as Muslim representation is concerned. The media has not provided enough space for minority opinions and has portrayed them negatively. He appeals the Muslim leadership to work hand in hand with secular Hindu elements towards a realignment of forces that can rebuild India’s democratic secularism. He is optimistic and believes that once this happens the press will have a very positive role in building constructive cooperative relationships.

Noted journalist, Kuldip Nayar’s article states that strained post- Partition Hindu–Muslim relations have affected journalism as a whole. He agrees that there do exist irresponsible journalists but emphasizes that these are in a minority. As far as the role of the English language press is concerned he feels, it’s more balanced, albeit subtly biased towards majority concerns. He believes that the national press is, on the whole, balanced and fair.

He do not agree that national press is a puppet controlled by majoritarian communal forces and dismisses such claims by Muslims as a product of fear psychosis. He urges the Muslim community to encourage their youth to come forward and represent the community in the national press.

The well known Hindi journalist, Mrinal Pande provides a gender-centric viewpoint on the issue. She points out that the press often fails in its role of a powerful social watchdog as far as women and minorities are concerned. Minorities and women lose out in a situation as male members of the majority community control media coverage and its institutions. A male preserve and its chauvinism are evident in the quick politicization of issues concerning women belonging to the minority community, she says.

The Pioneer editor, Chandan Mitra in his contribution, ‘The Print Media and Minority Images’, says that the generalization that the media is biased against Muslims is not true.

He points that in the English media two polarities exist, one patronizing and the other antagonistic. The former tends to understand the issues concerning Muslims and the latter believes that Muslims are prisoners of their own image.

As a BJP-backed MP, Mitra for long has espoused the RSS viewpoint and reiterates that the Urdu media is also not interested in projecting a positive image of the community or in raising awareness among Muslims about social changes and developments that are affecting the rest of India.

He concedes the point that there are biases existing in the media, but makes this up saying there are also dedicated people who go to great lengths to rectify such distortions.

Siddharth Varadarajan of the The Hindu argues that though the mainstream media after Independence did not openly support communal forces, the press, in common with the ruling Congress, arguably gave undeserved prominence to the views of the mullahs, portraying them as the leaders of the Muslim community. With the emergence of more virulent communal politics from the 1970s onwards, the communal biases of a section of the print media became more pronounced, and this came into stark relief every time a major incident of communal violence occurred.

He then provides an insider’s insight on riot reporting in the mainstream press and its invariable bias against Muslims, though veiled under a garb of impartiality. He bewails the fact that the compulsions of the market dictate that trivialities concerning celebrities get much more prominence than serious national issues.

Varadarajan notes that he has the liberty to bluntly speak the truth about communalism in the media because he is a Hindu, and a Muslim journalist or an intellectual might not find this so easy to say so.

The author while addressing the issue of the Indian Muslims and the media images raises the point why Muslims have been misunderstood not just by Hindus but also by other religious as well. It’s a matter of fact that wherever Muslims have a sizeable presence, certain misunderstandings about them persist in the non- Muslim mind.

Such attitudes or positions that have led to this general distrust should be studied and identified very carefully and placed in perspective and needs to be tackled with greater sensitivity and understanding. In such efforts, Muslims need to come forward ad address them, as they are the victims of this mindset.

The author also feels that Muslim studies have often received marginal and shabby treatment globally, and India is no exception. Since India is home to about 200 million Muslims, Muslim studies should be a serious academic pursuit, but the available writings on Indian Muslim society, culture, psyche, and problems in India rarely reflect the complexities of issues involved.

'Muslims and the Media Images: News versus Views' edited by Ather Farouqui, is published by Oxford University Press, New Delhi, November 2010.

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

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ajmal Perfumes –The Scent of the Orient

Ajmal Perfumes –The Scent of the Orient
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Perfumery is quite an ancient art, born out of human desire to create a good feeling and pleasant environment. A shining example of the art of perfumery is Ajmal perfumes, a family-owned fragrance house of India, whose name means “most beautiful” in Arabic.

With nearly 60 years of heritage and expertise in the fragrance industry, Ajmal perfumes has established a formidable presence in the world. A household name in India and the Middle East Ajmals presence is felt in over 32 countries. It has over 200 exclusive retail outlets spread across 20 countries, and 500 dealerships across the globe.

The story of Ajmal perfumes began in the early 1950s, from a village called Hojai, situated in the verdant foothills of the mountains of the Nagaon district of Assam state in India. Here Haji Ajmal Ali the founder of Ajmal perfumes, started a modest trading house in the lucrative Dhahanul Oudh oil, the base material of most the oriental perfumes. One Kilogram of Oudh oil cost about Rs 1, 50,000 and is derived from the essence of Agar wood (Aquilaria) trees that take up to 20-40 years to harvest.

In the tradition of great masters, Ajmal Ali in the early 1950s, traveled to Mumbai with 500 rupees and some Oudh oil as his starting capital. He worked in a dingy house blending perfumes and trying to find the right mixture that would impress the many Arab traders who visited India’s western shores. As his business flourished, in 1964 he gave his family name to his product range. In 1976he shifted his operation base from Bombay to Dubai, where he opened the first Ajmal outlet and launched the first fragrance “Mukhallat.” Rest as they say is history.

Today, Ajmal perfume is a huge business conglomerate with an estimated annual turnover of $200 million. Its business operation is run from Assam, Mumbai and Dubai with over 7000 employees. It has the biggest plantation of Agar wood in Asia with more than a lakh agar trees, grown at various locations in Assam.

The business is run by the second and third generation Ajmal Ali’s family who had five sons. Amiruddin, Ajmal is the CEO of Ajmal Perfumes in UAE. Fakhruddin Ajmal is the CEO Ajmal Real Estate; Nazir Ajmal is COO, Ajmal Perfumes. The Indian operation is looked after by Sirajuddin Ajmal in Mumbai and Badruddin Ajmal in Assam.

Ajmals, employing state-of-the-art technology, has produced an expansive range of products. Its fast moving products are; Jabtisan, Hayati, Dewaan, Oudha Al Zaid, Mkt Shams, Abhaar, Ottarid, Rijali2001. It has natural fragrances like Dahn al Oudh, Rose, Jasmin, Sandal, Saffron. It also produces special range of budget priced perfumes ‘Maryaj.’

Ajmal’s constant innovation and quest to provide its customers with unique and exclusive shopping experience had led to the introduction of innovative retail concepts like ‘My Inspiration’ and ‘Ajmal Eternal’. This has widely been received and appreciated by fragrance lovers across the Gulf region.

The unique selling point of Ajmals is the packaging design. The designs are stunningly original and are available in a variety of finishes. The materials used in packaging are eco-friendly. The high quality of fabrication matches the elegant designs and is well appreciated by its clients all over the world.

The catalyst to the success story of Ajmals is its research and development center, one at Hojai, the ancestral village in Assam and other in Dubai. It has invested over $10 million in a new 150,000 square-foot facility in Dubai that offers a high-tech automated production unit including a state-of-the-art research wing. A team of highly dedicated scientists manage Ajmal R&D centers and help devise new and more efficient processes for producing value added derivatives, essential oils and herbal products from medicinal and aromatic plants.

With a growing network of 137 exclusive retail shops across the GCC and its ambitious plans that earmarks $50m for its international expansion and the retrofitting of its existing GCC network of stores, Ajmal perfumes has become a globally recognized brand. According to Forbes Arabia, Ajmal are ranked among the Top 40 Arab brands.

Ajmals has an aggressive presence in Indian perfume market with offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hojai. In last three years, it has opened up new showrooms in major metros of India. It’s planning to make its presence felt in most of the state capitals and semi metro cities of India before the close of 2012.

“Perfumes are epitome of refinement, and pleasing personality. It has a significant impact on the body and mind. Ajmals through decades of continuous research and experience in the art and technique of perfumery has became synonymous with high quality traditional Arabic and oriental fragrance products”, says Mr. Sirajuddin Ajmal, India head and one of directors for the Ajmal group.

“As the middle class is growing rapidly and disposable incomes are increasing, the potential for perfumes is immense. With the growing demand for fragrance, Ajmals plans a multiple marketing and distribution strategy to foray into the domestic market, he adds.

“Ajmals vision is to enrich customers’ lifestyles by encouraging creativity, innovation and continual improvements. At the end of the day it wants to be globally recognized as a quality luxury brand,” he concludes.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at This article first appeared at Dinar Standard.

World class animated TV series,” The 99"

World class animated TV series,” The 99"
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The 99 animated television serial for children is soon going to cross swords with Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry and all such likes. Even as the toons are going to be benefited by the new addition, the established names in such format of entertainment are going to get a run for their money.

Jointly produced by the 99 parent company, Teshkeel Media Group, and Endemol UK, the words largest syndicator of television programes, the 99 animated series is going to be a regular feature on the television screens from the middle of 2011.

The 99 is inspired from the Quranic concept of knowledge the suggest that there are ninety-nine salutary names of Allah, The 99' revolves around the hackneyed theme of good versus evil but what makes the story different is the racy mix of action and drama with the incorporation of traditional values.

The 99 created as positive role models for the world's children offering universal themes of tolerance and teamwork. It’s a household comic book in many countries and hugely popular among the toon audiences of such countries.

Naif-al -Mutuwa, founder and Chairman of the 99 is one the script writer of the comic strip is recently recognized for his efforts and chosen as the world economic forum's young global leaders for the year 2011.

The honor is bestowed each year to outstanding young leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishment, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.

The comic is now being made into an animated television series with an estimated cost of two million pound. It is produced at the Sanraa Media Ltd, a production house specializing in animated films in Chennai, India,

Hundreds of animators and graphic artists had put their hard work, to bring to life this popular comic series. The 26-episode project, each episode lasting 22 minutes, is ready and will soon hit the markets in South East Asia, the Gulf, Europe and elsewhere.

"What makes the work challenging and interesting is the fact that each of the 99 heroes has one particular trait, such as knowledge. When that character teams up with another that has mercy or any of the other qualities, the energy levels released should be phenomenal, and the animation should reflect a synergy between both," says said Sukumar Subramainam, director, Sanraa Media.

"It was demanding project and being a 3D animation, we have to come up with human characteristics in toon form, The challenge lies in bringing to life the vibrant energy that is caused when four super hero, or even six of them come together on a frame,” adds Subramaniam.

As the world market for animation series for the toon is growing, Chennai is fast emerging as a hub for animation production. There are many such productions from Japan, Malaysia and the United Kingdom that’s being produced from the studios in Chennai.

To know more about “The 99”, follow the link of my story “The 99-World Class Brand with Muslim Values”:,ckl

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

Michelin Tyres Epitome of Corporate Social Responsibility

Michelin Tyres Epitome of Corporate Social Responsibility
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The global tyre company, Michelin has established a world class manufacturing facility some 50 km north of Chennai at Thervoy Kandigai in Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu.

Operating under the name Michelin India Tamil Nadu Tyres Private Limited (MITTPL) this polish tyre company has a state of the art plant that’s spread over an area of 290 acres of land.

The construction of the boundary wall and fence around the site is complete and the leveling of the ground has commenced. The plant is schedule to start operations in 2012, but will be fully functional only by 2020, absorbing, minimum, of 1,500 workers.

At the moment the training centre is the first building that has come on the site and the main focus of this facility is to offer training to both: Michelin employees and the local community surrounding the site.

“Apart from technical and language training to its own staff, the facility conducts training in soft and technical skills to help improve employment opportunities of the villagers, in general. This includes language training, computer skills, accounting, and other vocational courses like plumbing and carpentry,” says Mrs. Saradamani Dey, Communications Manager, Michelin India Tamil Nadu Tyres Private Limited (MITTPL).

As part of corporate social responsibility, Michelin, has sponsored household socio-economic survey in 31 villages on the periphery of the site. The survey was conducted by Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development (FORRAD) that collected empirical data on education, occupation, skills, income, expenditure, indebtedness and other indicators of socio-economic well being of the people living around the site.

Based on the findings of the survey, Michelin, as part of its corporate social responsibility has devised some mid term and long term strategy and has started a flurry of activity to meet such objective.

Michelin has initiated health camps covering pediatrics, gynecology, general health care and eye care. These camps are held to map out the health status of the local people and assist with a long term health plan. The first health camp was conducted in February 2011 and this was in association with Lifeline Hospitals, Chennai. About 225 people participated in this camp and 205 patients were prescribed medicines.

So far, Michelin has organized four eye screening camps since September 2010 in association with Sankara Nethralaya, the world famous eye hospital in Chennai. In these camps a total of 1143 persons from 8 villages registered and 87 persons successfully underwent cataract operations and additional 186 people were prescribed, and given spectacles.

Apart from such activity, Michelin, in partnership with two national NGOs, the Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development (FORRAD) and Action for Food Production (AFPRO), has taken step towards natural resource management of the area surrounding its site.

The AFPRO conducted a preliminary survey that revealed that agriculture in the region surrounding Michelin site is fed by large rain-fed lakes and most of the lakes at the far end of the irrigation channels were silted up.

Michelin, committed to its corporate social responsibility initiative, has taken steps towards de-silting of the irrigation channels and so far has completed dredging of about 18 kilometers to harness the water resources in the lakes surrounding its site.

“Such initiative may increase the storage capacity of the lakes and maintain the water supply to the farmers living on the far end of the lake,” says Mrs. Saradamani Dey, Communications Manager, MITTPL.

One needs to visit the Michelin site, to have a feel of its corporate social responsibility where conservation of human and natural resources and developmental activity is going on simultaneously. However, there maybe some discontentment too simmering below the surface and that needs separate investigation.

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

India has abandoned Aung Sun Suu kyi,Indians have not

India has abandoned Aung Sun Suu kyi,Indians have not
Syed Ali Mujtaba

India has abandoned the Aung Sun Suu kyi, the democratic icon of Myanmar is the startling revelation that WikiLeaks has made with regards to Myanmar, courtesy, “The Hindu”, India’s national newspaper since 1878.

According the expose, India’s Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Mitra Vasishtha told Political Counselor Geoffrey Pyatt on November 2, 2004 (22299: confidential) describing the Nobel laureate, Aung Sun Suu kyi as someone whose “day has come and gone.”

The WikiLeaks reveals that India has no problem dumping old friend Aung San Suu Kyi to romance Myanmar's generals. Its clear that democratic leader of Myanmar particularly Auug Sun Suu kyi do not aspire those in the mandarins of power in New Delhi.

The Indian foreign office seems to disagree with the Indian consensus on the pro democracy leader in Myanmar once diligently nurtured as Nelson Mandela of Myanmar.

According to Ms Vasishtha, the world had made democracy in Myanmar synonymous with Ms. Suu Kyi, but this may “backfire,” meaning the pro democracy leader has lost relevance to India.

The author of the cable, Embassy Chief of Mission Carmen Martinez, commented that India's “pragmatic” approach was “a severe blow to the leaders of Burma's beleaguered democratic opposition, most of whom draw their inspiration from India's historic struggle for independence and democracy.”

It’s indeed a sad commentary as the world looks upon India as bacon of democracy. It appears, on the alter of ‘pragmatism’, ’democracy is bei8ng sacrificed when it comes to dealing with Myanmar.

One needs to ask those making policies on behalf of India, whether the common Indians will abandon the democratic icon of Myanmar Auug Sun Suu kyi. Can a referendum be held on this count and if that happens its a foregone conclusion that such uncouth rulers will be unseated by the ordinary folks of this country.

The other revelation that WikiLeaks makes is India’s refusal to deny that it not supplying arms to the military junta in Myanmar. In a cable sent on November 7, 2007 (129067: confidential). American Political Counselor Osius suggested Joint Secretary T.S. Tirumurti, to make a public declaration of New Delhi’s policy of s ban on arms sales to Myanmar, he offered no response.” The joint Secretary however acknowledged that a Myanmar request for military equipment had been turned down by India.

This again is something puzzling. Indian Army Vice-Chief Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman in a interview to the Force magazine stated that in the past India had supplied 75/24 Howitzers to Burma though the numbers were not “much” they were neither “symbolic”. He also disclosed that 105-mm Indian field guns were given to Myanmar.

The Indian Navy, transferred two BN-2 ‘Defender’ Islander maritime surveillance aircraft and deck-based air-defence guns and varied surveillance equipment to Myanmar.

According to sources, as part of the agreement reached at the Home Secretary level talks, India supplied 98 truckloads of arms and ammunition to Myanmar. India also offered unspecified number of T-55 tanks that the Indian army is retiring, armored personal carriers, 105-mm light artillery guns, mortars and the locally designed advanced light helicopters to Myanmar.

All this was part of the deal struck with the military junta to cooperate in flushing out militant groups operating from its soil in the northeast region of India. It’s also to neutralize Myanmar’s dependence on Chinese arms.

One has to recall the story of “operation leach” in Adman islands that revealed that India was officially supplying arms to the pro democratic forces in Myanmar to carry out the struggle for freedom. Then India made a 360 degree turn around and arrested the same people whom it supplied arms slapping charges on them of treason, and gunrunning.

The issue snowballed into a major controversy and the rift between then Naval Chief Visnu Bhagwat and then defense minister George Fernandez came in open leading to the sacking of the Naval Chief by the Defense Minister.

What an irony, India’s policy of supplying arms to the pro democratic forces in Myanmar is changed to provide arms to the junta; apparently to flush out the insurgents operating in north-eastern India but in actual fact is being used to crush the ethnic groups and democratic forces raising standard of revolt.

Mohan Kumar, MEA Joint Secretary dealing with Myanmar, is reported in a cable sent on February 20, 2007 (97303: confidential) saying to the American diplomat that engagement with the Myanmar junta was an imperative for India for several reasons.

First India’s 'Look East Policy' to reach out to the ASEAN. Second coordinated effort with Myanmar is required to develop India’s northeast region and to tackle insurgency there, third is the strategic necessity to contain Chinese influence over Myanmar.

In India's look east policy, the trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand plays a major role to reach the South East Asian countries. So is the Trans Asian railway that is to connect New Delhi with Hanoi.

A deep economic relationship with Myanmar in India's view would give a tremendous boost to the development of its northeast region. The planned infrastructure development of road, rail and waterways are all steps in this direction. This includes, Kaladan multi-modal transport project in the Rakhine State and road project to improve access to a border-trade crossing opened in January 2004 IN Chin State.

According to Mohan Kumar, MEA Joint Secretary, “Bangladesh's stubbornness in allowing access to transit routes for trade leaves India with Burma as the only alternative to connect the northeast to ASEAN markets.”

The MEA joint secretary says insurgency in the northeast region is another reason to engage Mayanmar. “The ULFA guys are hiding in Burma and screwing the hell out of us and Burma is the only one helping us to tackle the northeastern insurgency.”

“India is also trying to deal with the insurgency by creating economic opportunities in the northeastern region, and Myanmar was crucial for this, the economic incentive may lure the ULFA to lay down arms”.

India sees China's involvement in Myanmar having geo- strategic implications for the region and may like to engage Myanmar through greater economic strategic cooperation, so the Chinese do not have a free run.

Reflecting the India’s worries about China, Ms. Vasishtha said “what you hear about the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Burma is only the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. intelligence must surely know this. China took Myanmar for granted and this was why Myanmar wanted to engage with India, she said.

Ms. Vasishtha confirmed Indian grant of $20 million to the junta for the development of energy and gas infrastructure, however, she offered no conclusive answer why Myanmar sold it gas to China.

Indian- Myanmar relationship faces the pangs of proximity. The Indian government faces the moral dilemma whether to listen to the call of the conscience that demands to side with the democratic forces, or adhere to the rules of real politics and align with the military rulers in Myanmar.

Indian government was believed to have resolved this moral dilemma by following the middle path, giving moral support to the democratic forces, at the same time engaging the Military junta for geo strategic reasons.

The WikiLeaks expose however has revealed that idealism has no place in the modern state craft of India. The sentiments and emotions that bind India and Myanmar relations are of little consideration in the current policy framework that tantamount to sidelining Aug Sun Suu Kyi.

What is apparent is there is a total disconnect between India and the Indians in dealing with Myanmar. Can a government makes policies opposed to the wishes of its people. Can India afford to abandon Aug Sun Suu Kyi annoying millions of Indians who admire her as an icon of democracy?

If the answer is no, then it’s high time that such policy is changed immediately or the current dispensation making such policy may pack off its bags.

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

Myanmar in Transition - Is it a bacon of Light?

Myanmar in Transition - Is it a bacon of Light?
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are some seminal changes taking place in Myanmar that needs attention amidst the news of India wining the world cricket world, tsunami cum quake in Japan, and civilized world is hell bent to make Libya, another Afghanistan nay Iraq,

Among such hyperboles the news that Myanmar's military strongman General Than Shwe who ruled for almost two decades has stepped down from his post has not raised the cockles of the opinion makers of the world.

According to reports, the Seventy-eight year old Senior General has disbanded the junta and its organ the State Peace and Development Council and handed over the power to the civilian government that was elected last year in the controversial election.

Even though some may feel that General Than Shwe will continue to play a significant role in the country's governance as army hierarchy has retained a firm grip on power, it’s a change in Myanmar that is obvious and the discourse of politics may be the same in that resource-rich country.

According to reports, Myanmar’s Parliament met from March 9 to March 23 and discussed a whole range of issues telling the state of affair in that country and giving an impression that a modicum of democratic apparatus is being put in place after almost five decades of military rule.

The deliberations in the Parliament disclosed some very non consequential facts such as the proportion of Chin nationals employed at the 15 Electrical Engineers’ Offices in the Chin State. The answer by the Muftis was 177 out of 197 or 89.85 percent. Along with the answer came the revelation that the Chin State, with a population in excess of 500,000, has a total electricity generation capacity of 3 megawatts, enough for less than one in 10 people to use a 60-watt light bulb.

Similarly there was a question on the number of “local” teachers employed at Basic Education High Schools in Buthidaung Township. The answer was 50 out of 51, and the non-local being the wife of a “service personnel assigned to the region.” It reveals something that was supposedly to be hiding.

In all, 46 questions and 17 proposals were submitted in the lower house, while 33 questions and 16 proposals were submitted in the upper house. Many of these have focused on regional infrastructure, introduction of compulsory military service, prevalence of tax evasion, lack of availability of loans for small-to-medium enterprises, manipulation of commodity prices, excessive cost of mobile phones, low internet connectivity, sale of fuel onto the black market, prevalence of gambling, conducting of a national census, cost of middle and high school education and the raising of pensions and government salaries.

The fact that such details are reported by the “New Light of Myanmar,” the only source for the goings on in Parliament reflects the level of accountability, shown by the military backed political party and such the military per se that now willing for a change as so far they had never considered to take into account the aspirations of the people while ruling the country with an iron hand.

The Parliamentary debate even though confined to fifteen minutes has brought some changes from the past. The information provided by the Junta sanctioned reports is useful in determining the actual situation in Myanmar. The fact that they can be useful to push for more substantial reforms is something path breaking.

Another redeeming feature of the Parliament functioning in Myanmar is that there is a sense of optimism and satisfaction in the opposition camp that a parliamentary democracy with its entire pitfall is at work in their country. They are confident that they have at least established a rapport with certain representatives in the USDP, the ruling party, a prospect that was unthinkable under the SPDC regime.

However, all is not hunky-dory as one may sound. Many questions and proposals by MPs have not even made it to the Parliament sessions. Questions and proposals have to be submitted to the speakers’ office 10 and 15 days in advance. MPs face jail for revealing the contents of Parliamentary discussions and no reporters are allowed into the parliament buildings.

The state media presented only a part of what’s going on in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw. Much of the discussion has apparently been censored from media reports, and questions from MPs sometimes appear truncated.

The other lows are none of the issues that came up for discussion during the election campaign were raised in the Parliament session. As such, there remained little interest in general public about the parliamentary debate. The fact that opposition parties too have failed to keep the momentum going explaining to the public exactly who they are, and have faded into the background is the dark spot in the emerging silver linings in Myanmar’s tryst with democracy.

The irony is that the discussion in both mainstream and exile media about the Parliamentary sessions has been minimal. Most international media coverage of Myanmar had the hackneyed line about issues of economic sanctions and the role of the NLD. They more keen to paint the ‘RAMBO -4’ image of the deteriorating conditions inside that country than making efforts to realize the values of the parliamentary system and the long term benefits that may be in store.

Anyway, the big question is will Myanmar’s new bicameral Parliament going to bring any rapid changes in that country. The answer is simple – very unlikely because the aims of the USDP and the military rulers are quite divergent. The interesting fact however is, the situation in Myanmar is quite different in 2011 then what it was in 1990.

Just as the interests of the former generals in Parliament are different from the opposition MPs; the new guards are unlikely to be the same as those who have remained behind the military uniform for long.

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