Saturday, December 28, 2013

What I Did in 2013 Worth Sharing

As I sit in judgment what did in 2013. I can recall two things that I can proudly share. I recall that I wrote an article ‘Low Intensity Communal Riots In North India ‘ on Aug 7, 2013 and my predictions came true.

Just after that riots broke out in Muafarnagar in end of Aug 2013. As a follow up I wrote another piece Muzafarnagar Riot Warrant Communal Violence Bill dated Sep 11, 2013.  Now this bill is getting ready to be in lok sabha.

I think this is my single most achievement in 2013. I can sense a storm building in north India sitting from Chennai. I feel happy with myself of making such prediction from a far off place.

My other achievement of 2013 is the release of my documentary film Beyond Empires, an international project with which I am from last six years or so. The film is right now screened in the US Boston –Salem area and will be taken to other places. Its DVD I received a few days ago gives a bold credit to me as Assistant Director on its cover. This I think is a laudable achievement..For those who want to know why I am involved in this project watch me speaking on it -

Well Happy New Year! from SYED or ALI or Mujtaba or SAM - I am known by all these different people in different locations,.

I may like to share a old rustic saying about Muslim names in Bihar - “Ek Mian ke teen teen nam – Gaz bhar lunga Dasterkhan “ What it means? Muslims are loud mouth, fond of blowing their own trumpet – Am I doing so? Its for you to decide!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sexual Harassment in workplace – Causes and Remedies

Sexual Harassment in workplace  – Causes and Remedies
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The problem of sexual harassment in work place is increasingly coming out of the closet. The case of Tarun Tejpal, managing editor of the news magazine Tehalka is a case in point. This particular case has brought this issue on the center stage as more victims are gathering courage to complain such offences.

After of Tarun Tejpal's case a public debate is raging in the country how to control the such incidents  in future.  This is because the sexual dimension such cases have implications  on  personal, psychological, moral and marital status of an individual.

Sexual harassment occurs in the workplace due to  unwelcome, unwanted, uninvited, action or behavior of a person that  causes discomfort, humiliation, offence or distress to the other.  Majority of such cases are directed towards woman by  men working at high position in an organization.

Sexual harassment at a workplace is unwelcome  behavior as it affects not only the terms conditions of employment but also have huge bearing on the working environment of an organization. Therefore this problem has to be understood looking at its causes and possible remedies for its effective control.

In India, sexual harassment is termed as 'eve teasing' and is described as: unwelcome sexual gesture or behavior whether directly or indirectly such as sexually colored remarks; physical contact and advances; showing pornography; a demand or request for sexual favors; any other unwelcome physical, verbal,non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature, passing sexually offensive comments or any other such behavior.

Sexual harassment includes a long list of things. It is necessary to put them here in some detail in order to caution those who may indulge in such activity. Its actual or attempted rape or sexual assault, unwanted pressure for sexual favors, unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching, unwanted sexual looks or gestures, unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature, unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.

It also includes referring to an adult, as a girl, doll, babe, or honey, whistling seeing a lady, cat calls, sexual comments, turning work discussions to sexual topics, sexual innuendos or stories, asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history. Sexual comments on a lady's clothing, anatomy, or looks. Spreading rumors about personal life of a woman.

There are many causes of sexual harassment but   most important one is the culture and values system and the relative power and status of the men and women in our society.

The way in which men and women are brought up in India strongly influences their behavior in an organization. Women often lack self confidence because of the way they have been socialized and are customized to suffer in silence.

Whereas  men are brought up with macho beliefs, who consider females a mere toy to play with and easily carry these values into the workplace. Such patriarchal viewpoints create a atmosphere that allows men the freedom of sexual harassment in the workplace, while women remain vulnerable.

Women are vulnerable to sexual harassment because they more often lack power and often work in an insecure positions.  Due to the fear factor women often resign to their fate rather than raise their voice against sexual harassment. Since they do not know where to go for complain and how their complain would be treated, they often keep quit and suffer in ignominy.

Some times sexual harassment is also seen as a power game, where man insists on sexual favors in exchange of benefits he can dispense with due to his prevailed position. The 'casting couch' is probably the best-known example of such power game.

As recent economic  and social  changes have changed power relations between men and women in the Indian society, men are feeling a sense of insecurity. With women now being empowered, some men feel threatened by their career advancement. To over come such insecure feelings, some men resort to harassing women in the work place.

Sometimes men are stressed in the work place because even after putting their best, they  do not get proper recognition, where as women with little talent are preferred for being fair sex in an organization. This  sometimes causes frustration and such men resort to sexual harassment to overcome their stress.

Its not only men who are to be blamed all the time, some women think that the real women have to look sexy.  They see sexuality as their only power base to play along. Such attitude of women sometimes invites sexual advances by men at the work place and then become a case of sexual harassment.

One of the major reason that sexual harassment goes on unabated because the organization in order  to safeguard its image do not entertain complaint and disciplinary procedures to deal with sexual harassment.
In order to check sexual harassment, an organization should have clear cut policy to register complaints of such nature and procedure for taking disciplinary action. Such guidelines is already available through Supreme Court judgment, its only its implementation that is required.

Every organization should have an effective employment policy that should ensure well planned career paths based on merit to reduce the vulnerability of individuals and harassment by those who abuse their power and authority.

There should be awareness among the staff members about sexual harassment and the consequences they may face if they indulge in such an act. They should know their social responsibilities to prevent such incident in their organization.

The staff member subjected to sexual harassment must first complain to the committee members constituted for such purposes in the organization, before going to the police.

Sexual harassment in a work place is a sensitive issue.  It cannot be checked merely providing staff members information about the sexual harassment policy or relying on disciplinary action. The organization must play  proactive role, provide behavioral support and discuss this aspect as a part of the work routine. The staff must nurture an inclusive, supportive, and respectful environment in the office in order to build a congenial working atmosphere.

Equally important is that the organization must  support the victim of sexual harassment, and help to  overcome the negative effects of such an experience.

Finally, every working women must know that it is high time  to stand up and fight for such injustices. Its only then sexual harassment in work place can be checked.

Author is a journalist based in Chennai, can be contacted at

Justice still awaits after the exoneration of Kanchi Seers

Justice still awaits after the exoneration of Kanchi Seers
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The exoneration of the Kanchi Sankarachryas in the Shankeraman murder case has ignited a fresh debate on the way justice is being delivered in India. The debate does not question the Kanchi seers exoneration from the crime, but raises fingers on the record number of witnesses that turned hostile during the trial of this case, leaving the prosecution with little evidence to try the guilty.

It’s being alleged that all the witness were bought over a period of time by the defendant who have  huge financial clout. In this case the witnesses turning hostile in large number is really a matter of concern. Whether there is any truth in such allegation needs to be investigated. However, the fact remains that in many such cases convictions could not take place, due to lack of evidence.

The long duration of such trials provides enough time to the defendant to use its influences over the witness and they lure them with money and other incentives to turn them around from their original stand. One such example is the Best Bakery case of post Godhra riot cases, where money and other incentives were doled out and after that the witnesses changed her stand .

Such travesty of justice is blatantly going on in our country and there is no mechanism in place to check such injustices. This is a matter of concern and such loopholes needs to be plugged in for disbursal of fair  justice.    
Coming back to Kanchi Seers, it has been a journey of sorts in the Shankeraman murder case. They were arrested first and now being exonerated. The Seers at the time of arrest, were reduced to the level of criminals.

As the case fanged up, their image sullied further. The saintly figure's image was battered and bruised as all kinds of allegations were hurled on them. One purported tape was aired on the local TV alleging the senior seer had physically misbehaved with a woman. The woman in question actually came on TV to make allegations against the pontiff. The media trail began and the noble man was reduced to being a rapist.

Words and arrow once shot never returns. Now the when Seers are exonerated, who will gun against those who formed a demolition squad and went on the character assassination spree.  Will those who had hurled garbage of abuses, get away under the licence of freedom expression or they stand guilty of such crime.

Again there is no mechanism to in place to check such demolition squad who run amok each time such case breaks. The question remains how to to reign in such forces who think can get away doing such activities. Perhaps the only way is to make them accountable if found guilty of indulging in any such misconstrued allegation campaign.

Coming back to Shankeraman murder case, the fact remains a murder has taken place in the premises of the famous Lord Varadharaja Swamy Temple at Kancheepurama on September 3, 2004 in Tamil Nadu.
Who has murdered this temple accountant remains a mystery?  Exoneration of the Kanchi seers, does not solves the murder mystery, rather it leaves the case in a limbo.

The family members of Sankeraman are too poor to defend the case. When this case broke out, the then AIADMK government took huge interest in this case.  A police officer, C. Premkumar was appointed to investigate the case. He came into limelight the way he went about investigating the case. He was taking huge interest, obviously at the behest of the then ruling regime. He was then a hero to soime and villain to others at the same time.

After the change of regime, the new DMK regime placed Premkumar under suspension. Some criminal charges were slapped on him and Court ordered him to undergo imprisonment. The police officer later died a natural death during the course of the trial.

Such kind of favoritism and witch hunting with officers is common in our country. This police officer was just a cog in the wheel of the state apparatus. He was instructed by the then ruling government to follow a certain line of action in his investigation. He had no other option then to carry out the orders. The change of government had different stand on this case. Since Premkumar was closer to the previous regime, he was penalized for investigating the case.

Such instances are in dime and dozens in our country. The political bosses remain supreme, the officers who are favored by one regime are often haunted by other. The officers are put in a very tight spot to dispense  with their duties. If the officer says no, he is sure to suspended. If he goes ahead, he is left with no protection if change of the regime takes place.This phenomena is going on in almost every state of India and there is no mechanism to set right such anomalies.    

The Shankeraman murder case was one of the very high profile cases in India. The case that hogged the lime light, for more than four weeks in the national media concentrated more on the Kanchi pontiffs rather than on the murder as such.

The focus of this case has been more to prove the guilt or innocence of the Kanchi seers. What is seen in this case is total apathy towards solving the murder mystery. There was an overtime involvement to nail or exonerate the high profile accused in this case. As a result, basic point of reference was lost. The  case traveled in some other direction without giving any relief to the aggrieved party. This indeed a queer case in Indian judicial history.

The fact that a murder has taken place and someone is a murderer. The questions that naturally arises who is the actual murderer and what was the motive of this crime. These answers to these questios are  equally important as the exoneration of the Kanchi seers involvement in this crime.

The exoneration does not bring any cheers to the family members of Shankeraman who are still waiting for justice. It’s a case of murder most foul. Who and why are the key questions in this case. When this murder mystery will be solved is eagerly being watched.

Regardless of the facts, the Shankeraman murder case is an ideal pot boiler for Indian film makers. Will Bollywood or Kollywood lap this plot and make a thriller out of it, is something that remains to be seen…

Author is a journalist based in Chennai, can be contacted at 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rhetorical Shift in India’s Foreign Policy

Rhetorical Shift in India’s Foreign Policy
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently has outlined five priorities of Indian foreign policy that his government has evolved during its nine years of rule to firm up India's place in the changing world order.The Indian Prime Minister claimed that his government has reset the fundamentals of India’s foreign policy based on national priorities and concerns in tune with its capabilities and role and destiny in the world affairs.

First, international relations are increasingly shaped by our developmental priorities and the single most important objective of Indian foreign policy is to create a global environment conducive to the well-being of our country. Prime Minister meant to create a global economic and security environment as India's relations with the world were increasingly shaped by its developmental priorities.

Second, India should integrate more closely with the global economy because it has benefited from globalization. He likes India to integrate with global economy as our country would be highly benefited by integration with the world economy.

Third, India seeks stable, long term and mutually beneficial relations with all countries and is prepared to work with the international community to create a global economic and security environment beneficial to all nations. He meant that cordial relationship with all the countries would help the international community to freely invest in India and push our country's developmental activities.

Fourth, "Indian subcontinent's shared destiny requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity." In this he lays emphasis on regionalism recognizing that the sub-continent's common destiny requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity. He likes India to strengthen regional institutional capability and capacity and invest in connectivity.

Fifth, "Our foreign policy is not defined merely by our interests, but also by the values which are very dear to our people.” What he meant that India's experiment of pursuing economic development should not be mercantilist but should based on values.  He defined India's core values as plural, secular and liberal democracy. These values according to him have inspired people around the world and would continue to do so. He would like India to align with such countries that espouse these values.

When we apply these five points foreign policy objectives in the context of what India wishes to achieve and where does it see itself in the changing world order, then the stark realities glares at our face. There is little to cheer if we critically analyze all the five points in India’s foreign policy as enumerated by our Prime Minister.

The first objective of creating global environment for developmental activities in the country does not sink with the domestic conditions prevailing in our country. The government policy of creating economic zones has run into trouble and many foreign investors have backed out due to lack of conductive global environment for investment in India.  So this needs to be sorted out in tune with India’s domestic developmental priorities, before we promise to create friendly global conditions.  

Second, pushing the cart of globalization is a mountain to climb. If globalization is the panacea of the mankind, then why there are nation states? Today, if a referendum is held on globalization, Manmohan government can hardly survive.Notwithstanding the fact that globalization can bring significant improvement in our lives, but it has to answer some question asked by traditional nationalist on this issue. Is India’s policy of ‘Hind Swaraj,’ 'self-sufficiency,' 'self-reliance,' is given a go by merging its economy with the global economy. So the globalization agenda pose a huge challenge of convincing the nationalist and how India would tackle this issue remains nebulous.

Third, point on seeking mutually beneficial relations and create a global economic and security environment beneficial to all nations seems to be rhetoric. When Indian economy was buoyed by 8-9 per cent growth and aiming higher growth, such words may sound music, but now when we are slipping to about 4 per cent growth rate, it sounds mere hyperbole. The global economic slowdown and India’s economic mismanagement cast a shadow on this foreign policy objective.

On regionalism, Manmohan Singh’s idea of having "breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul," may remain a dream because peace remains elusive in our region. There are host of issues that vitiate peace in the subcontinent. India faces tension with all its neighbors, barring Bhutan. There is no peace in India’s periphery. Terrorism poses a bigger challenge, not only to India but also to its neighbors. SAARC, the organization that’s pushing this agenda of regionalism and is closing to be 40 years old now is still taking baby steps. So there is total disconnect between this objective and the realties on ground. The connectivity cannot solve the conflicts and this foreign policy objective can only be achieved if peace is established in the subcontinent.

The last point on values is again rhetoric. The question is asked, whether foreign policy is designed on national interest or on the lofty ideals and morality. If the later is the case then how India‘s growing relationship with Myanmar can be explained. This totally exposes Manmohan Singh’s words and deeds.

The Prime Minister instead of making India’s foreign policy as another ‘Pachsheel’ had stuck to his articulations made in 2004 as three point objectives. "First, strengthen ourselves economically and technologically; Second, acquire adequate defense capability, and third, to seek partnerships to widen our policy and developmental options."

He could have summed India’s international relations based on three pillars were  at work during his tenure and continue guide in future, would have been more modest summary of his nine years of rule.  It could have avoided the rhetorical shift in India’s foreign policy.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Policy paralysis catapults Vision for Reforms in India

Policy paralysis catapults Vision for Reforms in India
 Syed Ali Mujtaba

The big debate in India is whether there is crisis of leadership or there is crisis of vision and mission to run the country. While there can be endless debate on the leadership issue, there exists a consensus on policy paralysis and India is in dire need of reforms at various levels to redeem itself.

An interesting book "Reforms to Save India" by S. Gokulraj lists out number of suggestions that need attention, although some may be laughing stock and quite out of context. Notwithstanding the facts, the author wants to convey the message that India needs systemic change in order to gallop on the highway of progress.

Attacking on the electoral system of India the author makes some pointed reference towards electoral reforms. He says the solution for general elections is to have a Single Transfer Direct Preferential voting system as it is followed to select the President of India. This will empower the people to select the person they want directly as they cast a primary vote for a person of their choice and a secondary vote for their second choice. He suggests that there should be provision for recall of the representative after two-and-a-half-years, if he fails to perform.

The author also sees problem in the way our Parliament functions. He finds it lethargic procedural and slow in operation. As part of Parliamentary reforms, he suggests the President of India should be made the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the question hour should be at the start of the proceedings and not in the end.

He also likes to see reforms in the system of Cabinet of Ministers, which constitute the government. He suggests that at the ministerial level, there should be three ministers for every Ministry. A Ministry should have an executive minister with the specific background of the portfolio he holds, and he should be selected by the UPSC. Then there should be a shadow minister from the opposition party, the third be an elected representative from the ruling party. He insists that proper educational qualification should be mandatory for handling the ministry.

Getting down on the issue of accountability, the author demands that the employees in Government offices should be made accountable. There should be monthly targets of work and this has to be audited on monthly basis. In finance and administration, he recommends, a self-sufficient revenue model.

He wants to see municipal reforms and likes each municipal corporation maintain a treasury and use 50 per cent of the money for developmental activities. He also mentions introduction of EVCC (Electronic Voting and Complaint Registration Card) which can be used as an ATM card to register complaints on bad roads and drains. The author is of the view that this model would help faster implementation of development activities in the cities towns and districts of India.

Turning his attention to the villages that is sulking in penury, he advocates Corporate Cluster Cooperative Farming in agriculture, where corporate houses adopt villages, invest money in agriculture, and buy the produce from the farmers in bulk.

He wants reforms in the employment exchange level and likes the government to help the economically weaker sections of the society. As a means to rehabilitate such people, he suggests attaching them to the agencies such as the employment exchange that may generate jobs for them in the Government or in Corporate Sectors.

Coming to judicial reforms, he wants a compounded court system for the entire judicial apparatus. Such complex should have multiple of courts to deal with crime, social issues, family problems, business and corruption. There should deadlines for the judges to clear the cases and their progress should be audited.

S. Gokulraj also wants reforms in the UPSC that selects officers under a complex examination pattern to govern India. He rebukes on the current selection system saying one exam selects officers for 24 postings and because of the ranking system; a qualified doctor is posted to look after the revenue department. He is of the view that the best of the talent can be put to use in the respective fields by conducting individual exams in that particular field. The selected candidates should then be given appointment in the respective departments.

Even though, there may be many shortcomings in the prognosis of Reforms to Save India, one thing that stands out is the author is able to provoke that there is in need of reform at various levels, if our country is to run like a well oiled machine.  

The policy paralysis is apparent. At the corporate level the policy is to make rich, richer, so that a white and blue collared class is develop to live as hangers on. We protected our industries for forty years since independence and in the process created our own capitalist class. When we opened our economy in the 90s, it is same the class which benefited from the liberalized policies. Those who made cycles in the protected regime started making motor cycles in the liberalized environment.

Here one needs to understand the operational dynamics of democracy that works on party system and parties need money for contest the mammoth elections. A corporate class is essential to finance such democracy and to distract is being touted as growth engines of the nation. Even though being very small and electorally insignificant, this class holds leverage over the systems of governance in the country.

While at the urban setup, at the corporate level, the parasite policy is at work, in the rural level where the actual vote bank exits, a different policy is being followed. Here the policy is to make the large farmers poorer, robbing their holdings and conditions being created to push them out from farming. This plan has succeeded to an extent, having its own repercussions, the plan to uplift the marginalized section in the farming sector remains in fits and starts.

Now there is the talk is to bring corporate sector into farming and develop the same parasite model in the rural areas as well. What is this? Is this not policy paralysis?

What this discussion has brought to fore is that our country needs reforms that has to be well thought out The current method of our plans and policies is ridden with deficiencies and has done no good to our country.

If the book ‘Reforms to Save India’ is of any worth, it is only in the realm of to raise the consciousness of the people to long for reforms. This aspiration has to grow thick and fast, if we want to make our country a true functional democracy.

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunderlal Report and Hyderabad’s Fall

Sunderlal Report and Hyderabad’s Fall
  By Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are so many facts that the successive Indian government has hidden from its citizens and one such is the publication of the Sunderlal report that probed the Hyderabad communal flare up, soon after the military action against India’s largest Muslim Princely state in 1948.

The report that has been kept in wraps, chronicles the horrendous crime committed against humanity in the aftermath of the amalgamation of the Princely state with the Indian dominion.  More than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution and revenge.

The report that was commissioned by the government of India was considered to be so sensitive and inflammable that it was kept under lock and keys and was never brought to the public domain.Now almost Sixty Five years after its submission, the report is available at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, as part of declassified document.

 The State of Hyderabad was one of 500 Princely states of India that enjoyed autonomy under the British rule. At the time independence, all of the Princely states agreed to join the Indian Union, except Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir.

While the story of Junagarh and Kashmir is a different narrative,   Hyderabad’s Muslim ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, insisted on remaining independent.  This led to an acrimonious stand-off between New Delhi and Hyderabad and the dispute was taken to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, armed militia called Razakar, sprung up to protect the Hyderabad state. Some say, it had tacit support of the ruler, but apparently, it was the armed wing of a Muslim political party, that had issues with the princely rule.

The members of the militia supposedly held drills in and around Hyderabad and terrorized the non Muslims population. This incensed people and New Delhi was ceased of the matter.

After a yearlong high drama and without any settlement in sight, the government in New Delhi sent its armed forces to take over Hyderabad in September 1948.

One division of the Indian army and a tank brigade under Major General Choudhry marched into Hyderabad. The battle was swift, the Nizam’s troops and the Razakars were defeated within few days of army’s invasion.

Since the case of Hyderabad at the United Nation, the military action was called ‘Police Action’ and was code named ‘Operation Polo.’

Surprisingly, the so called Police Action was peaceful in taking over Hyderabad and there was no significant loss of life of the civilian population in the city.

The Nizam saved himself and his kith and kin, with witnesses saying that he had tacit agreement with the government India. Facts or fiction, some say, the Hyderabad ruler allowed the India army to plunder his treasury, and each solider made a killing in that loot of the treasure trove.

However, what followed the invasion of the Indian army in the ruler areas of Hyderabad was a sordid tale against humanity about which the current generation is totally unaware.

The poor Muslim population was left at the mercy of the wolves and for several days’ arson, looting, rape and massacre continued with impunity in many districts. The Hindus formed special vigilante groups and singled out poor Muslims in the villages and put them to death.  There was total silence in Hyderabad, when bigotry, savagery, and brutality nakedly danced at its diabolic best in its districts.

Those innocent Muslims who perished in that organized crime,  had nothing to do with the standoff between the ruler of Hyderabad and the Indian Union. They were left with no protection and became scapegoat to the Hindus anger against the Princely state.

Commentators have analyzed the animosity as the desire of the Hindu populace to extinguish a Muslim state at the heart of India. Some call it extraction of cancer from the predominantly Hindu country. It’s estimated that more than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution.  

The tale of the atrocities of this crime were so horrifying that then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru commissioned a small team of Congress leaders to investigate the matter.The commission was led by a Congressman, Pandit Sunderlal and included Kazi Abdul Ghaffar and Moulana Abdulla Misri as its other members.

The Sunderlal team made a three weeks tour of Hyderabad in Nov-Dec 1948. It visited 7 district headquarters, 21 towns and 23 important villages, and interviewed over 500 people from 109 such villages. At each place the team carefully chronicled the accounts of Muslims who had survived the appalling violence.

The Sunderlal report which is now available, mentions; "We had absolutely unimpeachable evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian Army and also to the local police took part in looting and even other crimes. At a number of places members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males... and massacred them.”

"During our tour we gathered, at many places, soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses." The team reported that while Muslims villagers were disarmed by the Indian Army, Hindus were often left with their weapons.

In some cases, it said, Indian soldiers themselves took an active part in the butchery: "At a number of places, members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males from villages and towns and massacred them. They were lined up and shot in cold blooded manner.”

The investigation team also reported, however, in many other instances the Indian Army had behaved well and protected Muslims.

In confidential notes attached to the Sunderlal report, its authors detailed the gruesome nature of the Hindu revenge: "In many places we were shown wells still full of corpses that were rotting. In one such we counted 11 bodies, which included that of a woman with a small child sticking to her breast. "

And it goes on: "We saw remnants of corpses lying in ditches. At several places the bodies had been burnt and we would see the charred bones and skulls still lying there."

The Sunderlal report estimated that between 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives. The worst sufferers were in the districts of Osmanabad, Gulburga, Bidar and Nanded, where the loss of life was estimated to be 18,000. This retribution was said to be in response to years of intimidation and violence by the Razakars.

Well, there were three forces at work in Hyderabad leading towards its fall. The first was the Asafjahi dynasty that symbolized the last flicker of the Muslim rule in India. It steadfastly liked to cling to power, and drew its strength from the British rule. When it was clear that the colonial masters were certain to leave Indian shores, like other Princely states Hyderabad too was left rudderless. Its fervent appeal to British for independence felt on deaf ears due to the landlocked nature of the Princely state.

To the rulers of Hyderabad, Congress was an anathema due to latter’s stand to end the entire princely rule. The Nizam was not interested in Muslim League either. He shouted on top of his voice when Jinnah visited Hyderabad to enlist his support. Perhaps he never thought that he would ever be dethroned! Alas, when the end came, as its last hope, the same person tried to latch on to the moth eaten Pakistan which proved to be his nemesis. Soon Hyderabad state was consigned to the pages of history.

The second force was the communist movement that was seething in the under belly of Hyderabad state due to its feudal character. The class struggle had begun much before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. The communist wanted to carve out a separate state on the same geographical space of the princely kingdom. The communist leaders had even gone to Moscow, to get endorsement for the first communist state to be carved out of India. Their proposal too was shot down for the same reasons having lacking in port facility. Nonetheless, the anti feudal agenda of the communists worked against the Princely state.

In this triangular contest, the Indian National Congress was the rising force that rode the wave of freedom struggle. It was among these band of nationalist were some black sheep’s, who nursed the anti Muslims sentiments. Their activities were checked by the Razakars, but this in turn solidified the anti Muslim anger among them. During the endgame, they took it out on the poor Muslim masses, leading to one of the bloodiest anti- Muslim program in independent Indian history.

The Sunderlal report that investigated this massacre in Hyderabad was so horrifying that it was never shown the light of the day. Few Indians, today have any idea about this shocking event. Though no official explanation has been given to keep the report under wraps, it’s widely speculated that in the powder-keg years that followed independence, the news of what happened in Hyderabad might have sparked Hindu- Muslim riots.

Now when the Sunderlal report is available in the public domain, one wonders, why there is stock silence in the media, opinion makers and secular leaders about this event.

Even all these decades later, does not the nation have the right to know why the government-commissioned report was not published?  What happened in the Hyderabad state, after its fall?  Why such a important piece of history is being kept aside even when the Sunderlal report is now available for public discussion.

It is such a pity, when we watch some ludicrous topics being discussed on the TV, and a host of analysts with diverse opinion making their point of view, why there is no discussion on the TV channels. More shocking is, no editorials are being written, no social media is trying to un-layer this gory past.

What a shame, as Indians we, abhor to mention how inhuman and brutal some people were when they slaughtered 40,000 human lives. Well some say this may not serve any purpose, but for those who feel claustrophobic about the whole incident, it  may at least help them to breathe easy.

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


My earlier write up on same issue
The Endgame at Hyderabad State-


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Muzafarnagar Riots demand Communal Violence Prevention Bill

Muzafarnagar Riots demand Communal Violence Prevention Bill
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are two things that warrant attention for the immediate passing of Communal Violence Prevention Bill, in the post Muzafarnagar riots analysis. Can India which is slipping closer to the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ that’s 3.5 per cent, afford the burden of communal riots and internal turmoil in the country and further slow down its economic progress?

Second, can the identity politics that’s so vigorously perused in the country be would be allowed to gallop, inviting the tag of ‘India a moving anarchy and shoo away the investor?’

If India likes to drive on the growth curb, can it afford such developments? If not, then there is an urgent need to pass the Communal Violence Prevention Bill for maintaining peace and prosperity in the country.    

The Communal Violence Bill announced by the UPA government in May 2004, soon after coming to power, was a revolutionary call. The bill aimed to stop the repeat of 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, and gave a huge relief to the minority community, living under the constant shadow of insecurity.

However, somewhere done the line, the plot seems to be lost. The incumbent government has more reasons to pilot other bills than make efforts to see through the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

In the wake of Muzafarnagar riot, Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde came out with a statement that the communal situation in the country is going to deteriorate ahead of the general elections due in 2014 but  was at a total loss of memory about the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

It’s an irony that from past nine years, consensus on the Communal Violence Prevention Bill is eluding. The result innocent lives are being lost and communal riots a crime against humanity is at large.

As of now, the Union government cannot interfere in the affairs of the states as law and order is state subject and can only appeal to it to control the situation.

The Communal Violence Prevention Bill is supposed to give residual powers to the Central government to intervene in wake of a breakdown of the law and order situation in any state. However, there are two contentious issues that are begging to be ironed out, before it’s tabled in the Parliament.

First, can a communal situation in a state be dealt with by the Central government without encroaching upon the state’s rights of maintaining law and order?

Second, can the deployment of central forces be done independently and such forces can act independently or it has to do at the request of the state government and act under its command?

Opinion seems to be divided on both the issue and the resistance from the state governments is keeping the Bill in abeyance.

Notwithstanding the rights of the states, the fact remains that in the name of state autonomy and its exclusive right over 'law and order', the state government cannot be allowed to have a free run when communal orgy is taking place. The Centre has to intervene with all its firmness to stop the loss of life and property.

The 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, that warranted the Bill, has lived up to its reputation. Communal riots are happening in the country with immunity, the state governments have repeatedly failed to control the situation. In such case how long the Central government can remain a spectator? Is it a bankruptcy of ideas or a deliberate design to keep the communal pot boiling?    

Muzafarnagar riots, that has so far claimed nearly 50 lives has once again reiterated the necessity for the passing of the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

Muzafarnagar is closer to Delhi and if Communal Violence Prevention Bill would have been in place and if the Central government had acted swiftly to control the situation the loss of life and property could have been prevented.

As it happens after every riot, motives are attributed to the events and the blame game circulates stories of aggrieved and revenge. The fact remains, in all such situation, its innocent people who lose their lives.
It’s ominous that the fatalities could have been avoided if the state administration had acted with a little intelligence and responsibility. However, its total sloppy approach to maintain law and order allowed the situation to deteriorate leading to carry out a communal
program against the minorities, similar to the post Godhra riots.

A cursory look at the history of all the communal riots in the country suggests that Muzafarnagar riot was not isolated event. In the larger picture of the communal program carried out intermittently, tells the similar story, as others.

The communal violence invariably flares up around skirmishes among religious communities and the state administration allows it to escalate. The extremists then go on the rampage unleashing an orgy of death and mayhem. When enough damage is done and media pressure becomes unmanageable, the authorities then put their act together to control the situation.

In case of Muzafarnagar riot, this is exactly what had happened. Here the naked vote bank politics for consolidating the majority and minority vote banks was at its lethal display.

Since last sixty years, this is the pet theme of communal politics in India. The negative politics of creating hate and generating insecurity is a tried and tested formula. First, create a sharp polarization in the society, and then ride on the insecurity wave of the communities.  It happens each time at the expense of the minority community.

Since communalism is one of the many tools on which politics centers in the country, no political party wants to get it eliminated. Some parties may talk against it; but in hearts view it as a holy cow to be milked any time for electoral gains.

The Muzafarnagar riot has given enough indication of what future has in store, ahead of the general elections of 2014. If future communal riots have to be controlled, then Communal Violence Prevention Bill has to be brought out at once.

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

Saturday, September 7, 2013

MASC – An idea that failed

MASC – An idea that failed
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I am tempted to write a note of obituary for Media Arts and Science College ( Chennai where I worked for six months as Head, Media Studies.  It’s pity to say that MASC for all practical purposes is defunct if not dead.

MASC was an enterprising idea to promote media studies in Chennai. However, what appears that it was totally messed up by its promoter. Dreaming big is one thing, but to have the wherewithal to run the show is another. To break even is hard ball game where the promoter has floundered this wonderful venture.

I have been told that now the majestic MASC building on the East Coast Road (ECR) is under lock up. The building rental bill has accumulated to astronomical figures, making the land-lord to seal the premises, sources have said.

Debts have accumulated and my personal dues towards my salary is 1 lakh rupees, other staff, plus the vendors have their dues also to be settled. Every one wants their dues to be settled. This is nine month since the dues are kept in abeyance.

I am lucky to leave MASC in January, 2013 and found my way to a small Company, eking out my living but others are still waiting for their arrears.When the dues will be settled is the question mark?

The most hotly debated point among the staff members is when the promoter knew that MASC requires the exact sums to be spent annually, he should have arranged such fund before embarking on the project. What he actually did was to arrange some funds and started the venture hoping to break even and make it a profitable venture. However, he it appears he lost the way and apparently left with no funds when he raised his hands. He promised all to clear all the dues soon.

Its debated that if he had no resources to sustain such high profile venture why he started it in the first place? He should have known his limitations and may have applied breaks but he carried on adding to his expenses till he found  himself in red. He pushed the project, till it reached a dead-end.

Its widely speculated,  the reality is the promoter has no further funds and it is impossible for him to get back on the track.

The talk of the town is there anything left in MASC. Sources say, all the talk of its sales, joint ventures, is humbug. All such assumption that someone will come for joint venture and share litigation  is just farce, the sources added.

Still someone like me may have sympathies with the promoter but then the dues have to be recovered. Its a long wait for me and the promise is  not being fulfilled. In such case what should the aggrieved persons like me may do. Some one have suggested to make coordinated or individual effort and file a case to recover the dues. It’s the only way to recover the dues.

It’s really a sad commentary about MASC – An idea that failed.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My child’s trip to school on a rainy day

Today, Aug 14, my son Ismail was at the gates of his Patshala  Montessori  School sharp at 9 AM. It was pouring; my child was walking towards the open gate when it was shut on his face. I tried to yell from my scooter, to take him in, he was on time but my words fell on dear ears. I came on the door and tired argue that it’s pouring, don’t be harsh, he was not late,  at least you could consider this before shutting the gate. However, no reason seems to convince the learned lady and my call for compassion was sacrificed on the alter of discipline. The highhandedness of the school staff made my child cry. He was getting drenched in rains, listening to the arguments. I thought there was no point to stand in rains and  accepted the marching orders with all the pain and agony it deserves. If the doors had been shut before we arrived, I could have accepted it as a part of discipline, but the way the discipline was enforced on a rainy day, made a mockery of Montessori Method of education. I was wondering, if Lady Montessori was on door how she would have reacted. Today the behavior of the school staff was disgusting. It no way it lived to the ideals for which this school professes and attracts parents. My child loves his school.  Every day he is keen to go to his school, even on holidays he wants to go to his school. Today was a rainy day and we did not want to send him to school. However, he was keen to go to school. He traveled to the school in a two wheeler in raincoat.  But the treatment he got at the school made him sad. He was quite depressed while returning home. He slept all day in dismay. In evening he narrated the humiliation at his school several times to me. As a teacher I feel very upset about this episode. As I was part of the proceedings, I even broached the idea of going to the police station or to the court to seek reprieve from this mental agony. However, I have other things to do, so I take this in a stride. However, it does not stops me from thinking, what is the purpose of education if it does not teach compassion, forbearance and gratitude? None of these was sold today at the gates of Patshala Montessori School. On the contrary my three year old child got the lesson on how be cruel in life. It was really a sad day for my child’s trip to his favorite school, that too on a rainy day. I hope and pray that the school hears my cry and do not hurt any child like this in future. However I am not sure that memories like this will erase from the child’s mind soon.
SYEDA &SYED proud parents of Syed Ali Ismail

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ratnam Pens - A Legacy of Freedom Struggle

Ratnam Pens - A Legacy of Freedom Struggle
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Rajahmundry started making pens in 1932! The jeweler brothers started to manufacture pens in response Gandhiji's 'swadeshi' policy to ensure that there are local pens of good quality available as a replacement to the foreign ones that were availa
ble in the market then.

Ratnam Pens continue to make pens of a very high quality till date! Their high quality ink pens (and ball pens) come with wonderful craftsmanship and in very simple colours and forms. It is sheer writing pleasure to use these ink pens.

In what may be considered a remarkable honour for any product manufacturer in India, the company has got a hand written note by Gandhiji himself (and he got the Ratnam pen given to him by none other than Kupurappa!) stating that the pen writes very well!!

Not many use pens these as writing seems to have gone down altogether. However, for those who still seek pleasure in using pens and are happy to have a good pen, an ink pen at that. Here is an opportunity to hold a pen that has some history, lineage and pride about it.

Communalism gaining ground in North Indian Cities

Communalism gaining ground in North Indian Cities
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is a series of communal riots of low intensity happening in north India. The latest was in Tonk Rajasthan; where one person died due to police firing. In Merrut some mischievous elements tried to tease Muslims at evening prayers of Ramazan, playing loud music in front of the mosque leading to communal tension.  In Allahabad, event like kite flying by kids vitiated communal atmosphere. In Lucknow communal tension is smearing for long. So are some other cities in north that’s on boil.

All this is a matter of concern of any Indian citizen but the so called national media is soft paddling such news? Even the social media that’s free from any one’s control is too ignoring such news. Even the champions of secularism are maintaining stoking silence on these developments and that’s something really worrisome.

The macro-picture in Uttar Pradesh regarding communal polarization is alarming. The Samajwadi Party's pro-minority politics versus the Bharatiya Janata Party's pro-Hindutva politics versus the Bahujan Samaj Party's pro caste based politics is pulling the state in three directions.

The overt desperation of the Samajwadi Party to keep the Muslims in good humour is evoking sharp reaction from the saffron party. They are evident signs of staging small communal riots for a sharper religious polarization at the grassroots level.

 The cow slaughter issue is again being raked up, with slogan like "Na perh katenge, na gaye kategi (neither trees will be cut nor will cows be slaughtered)" being visible at several places.  Is it not Hindu communalism at its very best?

The cow slaughter issue was raised up by Hindu right wing elements there during the freedom struggle. It was raised in the 1930’s that pushed some disgruntled Muslims at that time to demand for Pakistan.
The situation has changed now but the issue has not. With such calls being given the helpless puppies are sure to incur the wrath of Hindutva juggernaut and likely to come underneath, with some shedding crocodile tears of feeling hurt.

What is seen is the saffron party’s protests have become louder with Narender Modi’s fortune on an upswing.  His henchman Amit Shah, who is in charge of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh is orchestrating the communal polarization. It appears that the new guard has instructed the cadres to maintain a hard line against the Muslims in UP. This is to vitiate the UP politics once again on communal lines so that the BJP gains mileage out of it.

Uttar Pradesh is a communal tinder box that can be blow any time with slightest spark. With 80 Lok Sabha seats at stake, the communal polarization taking place in India’s most populous state is indeed an alarming trend and no one is making a note of it.

In developing communal polarization the way the suspension of Noida SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal by the UP government is projected is again a disturbing development.

While the so called national media projected Ms Nagpal as an upright IAS officer who was trying to take on the powerful sand mafia that incurred the wrath of the political bosses who suspended her to protect the wrong doers, the contrary facts that has come out about this is really startling.

The new facts suggest acts of communalism by the IAS officer that has totally changed the perspective of her suspension. According to UP government, Ms Nagpal went out of the way and presided over the demolition of the boundary wall of a mosque in her administrative area in Noida. The wall of the mosque was reportedly being built on government land that was allegedly demolished by the villagers. The villagers were emboldened as they received protection from Ms Nagpal who was present with a large pose of police force there.  It’s only the restrained attitude of the aggrieved Muslims that prevented communal riots.

UP Chief Minister Akilesh Yadav has come out in defence of his suspension orders; "The officers have equal responsibility in maintaining harmony in the state. How could the officers demolish the wall of a mosque during the month of Ramzan?" he asked.

This development has sparked off a big debate in the country and the issue of communalism is once again being brought on the centre stage. While some view that Samajwadi Party wants to send the political message that it has saved another mosque from being demolished, others feels that an upright IAS officer is being haunted and her suspension is arbitrarily.

In building this opinion the role of media is very significant. The media has all along projected Ms Nagpal an upright officer, who is up in arms against corrupt political leaders, without even mentioning the actual cause of suspension.  The one sided reporting has left the readers with little choice to make the judgement based on the given facts. However this is contrary to the official reasons of her suspension.

The true colours of so called national media are exposed in the reportage of Ms Nagpal suspension. The media by doing so has not done any service to journalism. It’s sad commentary on our country.

It’s high time that such issues should be put on national radar and the concern raised should be nipped in the bud. Brushing them under that carpet could be convenient way out, but when we relate it with the statement of a political leader that some political parties are planning Hindu- Muslim communal riots in north India before 2014 general elections then alarm bells must ring.

The conspiracy of silence about the communal developments in north India is the most worrisome thing that’s happening at the moment.

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

‘Aman Chaupal’ forges India -Pakistan Friendship

‘Aman Chaupal’ forges India -Pakistan Friendship
By Syed Ali Mujtaba
In a rare gesture towards mending India Pakistan ties, a new peace initiative called Aman Chaupal was organized in New Delhi with the aim to enhance people-to-people contact between the two countries.
Imitating the traditional South Asian village life style, where folks sit together in a common place called Chaupal and discuss issues facing them, in Aman Chaupal, people from India or Pakistan share their experiences with common citizens.

'Aman Chaupal' is an initiative by India-based organization Mission Bhartiyam that works to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan and call it of Aaghaz-e-Dosti or beginning of friendship.

The first Aman Chaupal was organized in July 2013 at Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Vikaspuri, New Delhi and was attended by 6th to 12th class students.

It was addressed by Ms Saeeda Diep, a renowned Peace activist and Chairperson of Institute of Peace & Secular Studies (IPSS), Lahore, Pakistan.

Like in our traditional Chaupals, this too had an interactive session meant to address the concerns of the
Indian students about Pakistan and clear their misperceptions and arouses curiosity among them about the much hated neighbouring country.

The interaction was entirely in Hindiustani as according to Ms Saeeda, speaking in English would be very "artificial" and the essence of communication will be lost in the process. She gave the example of words such as ‘Beta’ which in Hindustani means my loving child, could best be described as ‘my dear’ in English, that tweaks of its affection.

In her address Ms Saeeda Diep talked about the general stereotypes and misconceptions that the people in India have about Pakistan and Pakistanis. In fact, she listed them out and said that a few more can be added to such hyperbole.

The peace activist tried to describe about the other side of Pakistan that the common Indians do not know because of lack of communication. She blamed the "hawkish" media that’s biased towards Pakistan and is one of the reasons behind Indians having the negative image of Pakistan.  

The session was entirely devoted to a question-answer format wherein Ms Saeeda answered students' questions with great affection and aplomb.

Question -Ma'm, Do Hindus live in Pakistan? Asked a student

Answer - Yes Beta, there are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and people of other religions living in Pakistan.

Question - What do people from Pakistan think about us, was another question.

Answer - Pakistanis know about your country and culture much better then you know about Pakistan because they have access to Indian TV channels. Unfortunately, no Pakistani channels are permitted in India, so Indians only know what the Indian media portray to them about Pakistan. Indian newspapers and TV channels do not truly portray Pakistan, she felt.

During the interaction, several other questions were posed to Ms Saeeda, some of them related to political issues and controversies surrounding Pakistan and she gave a very candid reply to all of them.

The Principal of Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Ms. Deepshika Dandu shared her personal experiences with Pakistanis during her stay in a foreign country.

She remarked that, "In a foreign nation, Indians and Pakistanis often form a transnational community bounded by a shared culture, language and experience."

The students had quite a learning experience through Aman Chaupal initiative and many of them were pleased about the knowledge they acquired about Pakistan from this interactive session.

‘My entire perception has changed after this interaction; I only had negative perception about Pakistan, now I feel there is more in common then simply hating Pakistan’, said Sandeep Singh Pramar, a class eight student of the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, New Delhi.

This programme was co-ordinated by Mission Bhartiyam’s initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti team that consists of Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal and V Arun Kumar. Ms. Meenu, the coordinator from the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, helped organizing this program.

The organizers of Aman Chaupal plan to have similar programes organized in several other schools in India as well as in Pakistan.

At a time when political agenda is ruling the roost and the so called national media is poisoning the social relationship, it’s high time the hate mongers free run should be checked by initiatives such as Aman Chaupal.
This is more so because recently events such as the killing of Srabajit Singh in Pakistan and Sanaullah in India, has soured the Indian- Pakistan relationship to all time low.

The event such as Aman Chaupal tries to build bridges of peace and friendship between the two countries.  It essentially tries to preach that India and Pakistan has more things in common than the much hyped incorrigible differences.

In such initiatives like this and others effort is made to highlight the similarities between the two countries.  These similarities are based on common language values, mores and norms that have longer history then the differences that are essentially of recent origin and politically motivated.
In such context it is important that common Indians should know what the people from the other side of the border think about them.

Similarly, the messengers of peace from India should go to Pakistan to dispel their misconceptions and spread the message of peace and friendship. The message should be that India and Pakistan are not two nations but essentially one country.  
Aman Chaupal is one such initiative to mend the disturbed relationship and the need is to have many more events such as these being organized in the two countries at regular intervals.

Peace and harmony in South Asia can only be built when India and Pakistan, shun their differences and embark on the process of cooperation for the betterment of the people living in this part of the world.Sooner this wisdom downs upon the leadership of these two countries, the place where we live now would be much better habitat for dwelling.

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ramblings on Batla House Judgement

Ramblings on Batla House Judgement
Syed Ali Mujtaba
The judgement on the controversial Batla House encounter in New Delhi in 2008 raises some fundamental questions. The judge has convicted one person who is claimed to have fled from the L-18 flat in Batla House area. If the hon'ble judge had visited the building he could have found that the building has only one exit which was manned by police and there was no possibility to escape by jumping. In such case the accused either had to be caught or had to be shot.

The escape theory put up by the police does not hold any ground.
The judge should have taken the cops and may have asked them to escape before believing them. Unfortunately, it did not happen, and the judgement was based on what was told by the police. It’s really a travesty of justice.

 The second point in this case that requires consideration is that the input to do the Batla House encounter came from the same infamous IB special director Ravider Kumar who has provided the fake inputs that were used for 17 fake encounters in Gujarat and that are now being probed. If the judge could have considered probing the source of the encounter and had related them to the on-going probe the judgement may have been different.

Interestingly Mr Chidambram who was the home minister at that time has found the encounter as genuine. He says that he has gone through the sequence of events and has probed into the matter and those killed were terrorists and the one who “fled” their accomplice.

The popular theory is that those believed to be the terrorists were actually students who had come for admission in Jamia College. It was wrong information on which police swooped on them and killed them in clod blooded manner. They had no weapons to retaliate and that was fabricated by the police after the encounter. Shazad was not all present on the encounter scene, he could no way escape, the escape theory is totally fictions. The police officer killed in the encounter may have died due to cross firing by the police or he may have been bumped off by his colleague to settle some old score. .

In the aftermath of the Batla house judgement, I am reminded of the words of the death convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee who was hanged on August 14, 2004 at Alipore Jail in Calcutta on rape and murder charges of a 14-year-old. Dhananjoy worked as security guard in that building. While being taken to the gallows the accused told the hangman that he has not committed the crime. A dying person never tells lie.This was the biggest travesty of justice in recent times.

The most recent one was the hanging of Afzal Guru that’s still fresh in our memories. Afzal in an interview had said that he has not committed the crime and the entire charges against him was fabricated. He was a small time fruit seller who was picked up from Srinagar for hatching conspiracy to attack Indian parliament. He was convicted to death, but his hanging was deferred for some reasons. The Congress in order to save its skin from the BJP’s attack to punish the perpetrators of Parliament attackers, finally decided to execute Afzal Guru. His life was snuffed out when it seemed that he may live for the remaining part of his life in solitary confinement.  

Its really shameful that the execution of Khalistani terrorists Devender Pal Singh Bhullar is kept in abeyance for pleasing Akali Dal, Same is the case of death row convicts of Rajiv Gandhi, that is with held for appeasing DMK in Tamil Nadu. Since Kashmir do not figure in playing any decisive role in the Indian electoral politics, its always made a scapegoat for brandishing Indian patriotism.    

Well it's a very sad commentary on the developments in India and the only way a common man can express his feeling is to take recourse to some poetic lines and in this case it could be very aptly summed up as ; banna ke bhes faqiron kab, tamasha e alhe kram dekte hain….

Syed Ali mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennnai. He can be contacted at

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Problem of Alcoholism Riding a Tiger in Tamil Nadu

Problem of Alcoholism Riding a Tiger in Tamil Nadu
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Alcoholism is becoming widespread problem in the Indian society and Tamil Nadu is no exception.  The age of first exposure to alcohol in the state has dropped to 15 years. Added concern is the increasing numbers of women specially girls becoming addicted to alcohol. This trend is causing socio-economic problems but little is being done to arrest this social trend.

On the contrary, the state government is encouraging alcoholism to gain revenue. Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) is a company owned by the Tamil Nadu government which has a monopoly over wholesale and retail vending of alcoholic beverages in the state.

The state government, for years has been adding a huge amount of money to its exchequer by licensing and selling the liquor through its 2500 government controlled TASMAC shops.

Liquor sales in 2011-12 has touched 18,081.16 crore rupees, registering a 20.82% increase. Every year during the New Year and Pongal festival, TASMAC is making around Rs. 500 crores selling liquor in wholesale and retail market.

‘Whether GDP rate grows or not, the alcohol consumption rate has been growing at 8 per cent every year, says Lakshmi Vijaykumar, head of the department of psychiatry at the Voluntary Health Services, Taramani, Chennai.

‘No government is willing to stop it because they get revenue from it, but the costs are higher’ she says adding, ‘dealing with problems caused by alcoholism costs three times more than the amount of revenue the government gets from liquor sales.’

In order to understand the magnitude of the problem and to feel the pulse of the society, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai based NGO conducted a survey in Tamil Nadu to ascertain the views of the people about the TASMAC shops, believed to be the root cause of this social problem.

This study was necessitated because in recent times, there have been number of agitation by group of people in several places in Tamil Nadu, demanding that TASMAC shops to be removed from the residential areas.  There were also protests that the TASMAC shops should be barred near the places of worship and educational institutions.  Judiciary have also given instructions that the highways should be free from the TASMAC shops.

However, all this is having little impact on checking the sale of liquor in the state. The sales turnover of TASMAC shops are steadily increasing and proportionate to it the number of liquor addicts is growing among various age groups.

The study was conducted to find out what the common man thinks about the proliferation of TASMAC shops in the state, given the fact that the government itself is managing such liquor shops.

The study was conducted on the basis of primary survey that was randomly spread all over the state. Around 243 men and women were interviewed both in rural and urban areas through questioner method. The respondents include; higher secondary and college students, youth, software professionals, senior citizens, domestic maids, etc.

There were respondents who regularly take liquor did not feel guilty about their habit. They view consuming liquor nothing differently from taking other beverages. They cannot visualise their life without consuming liquor. To a question, in the event of government imposing prohibition, the respondents had no hesitation in saying they will opt for liquor from the black market. Some even justified the TASMAC shops as they were necessary to prevent illicit liquor trade.

The NGO ‘Nandini- Voice for the Deprived’ found that the liquor habit is fairly well spread throughout the state. However, its impact is clearly evident in the rural areas, where more than 40 % of the male population are addicted to consuming liquor regularly.

The study has also found that serving liquor has become a fashion in marriage parties and in funerals, particularly amongst lower income groups in Tamil Nadu.  What was noticed that for sake of social status, even those who do not consume liquor, arrange liquor for others during such events.

It’s not uncommon site to find students stacking liquor bottles in their rooms at college hostels with the warden keeping a blind eye.  Much to its surprise, the study has found out the students of higher secondary schools are getting addicted to liquor.

The study has also found that women from affluent families are also taking liquor, though occasionally. Some girls are also picking up this habit, especially those living in hostels.  Seeing women in the lower income group visiting TASMAC shops is not an uncommon site in Tamil Nadu, though their numbers remain microscopic.

With men increasingly becoming alcohol addicts, large numbers of poor families in Tamil Nadu are suffering economically and emotionally.   Women getting beaten up by drunken husband and sometimes even by drunken sons and sons in law, desperate women hitting back the drunken men to protect themselves , children unable to  concentrate in their studies in such disturbing conditions  and  sometimes  women  even committing suicide, unable to bear the torture, have become a regular feature of Tamil Nadu society.

As alcohol addicted men seem to lose values in life, the trend of promiscuity and Illicit relationships is growing, leading to breakdown of marriages. This phenomenon is common both in the lower as well as upper income groups, the study has found.

What is even more disturbing is that while such matter is regularly reported in the media, they no more shock the people. Everyone seems to be reconciling to the fact that it is inevitable development of modern times.

 In many poor families, the household is mainly run by the earnings of women. With the men folk frittering away the earnings in liquor and several of them not going to jobs regularly, due to poor health condition and indiscipline, life has really become hard for women in such households.

Mothers shoulder the responsibility and are seen pleading with NGOs and others for financial support for the education of the children, particularly due to the increasing realisation that imparting good education to the children, especially to their daughters, is the only way to protect their long term economic and social well being.

There was an overwhelming response from the non alcohol consuming people, particularly among the women in lower income group that the TASMAC shops have encouraged liquor consumption in a big way. They also blame political parties in power for many decades in the state in providing legitimacy and sanction to such social evil.

The respondents widely felt that the Tamil Nadu government alone can set the conditions right. The best way to do so is to gradually close the TASMAC shops and create a climate w
here liquor consumption is once again seen as a taboo. Such response mainly came from the poor women who are not informed about the revenue earned from liquor sales and have high hopes that government may educate the people of its ill effects.

However, well informed people responded that the government will not close the TASMAC shops as it is one of the main sources of its revenue. Without it several social measures and freebies offered by the government may be withdrawn. This may create social unrest and may lead to mass agitations and protests among the poor people. This may also have an effect on the vote banks particularly from lower income group, who are the recipients of the freebies. In such case, no government may like to face such conditions and think about clamping prohibition.

Speaking on this issue Mr. N.S.Venkataraman, founder of the NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, said that situation in Tamil Nadu has changed a lot from the fifties and sixties. There was a time particularly during the Chief Minister Kamaraj’s rule, when liquor consumption was seen as a social taboo. Liquor was taken in privacy and secrecy and families were unhappy about it.

Venkataraman cites the names of stalwarts like Kalki Krishnamurthy, Rajaji, Kamaraj and others who in 50s and 60s with their social campaign kept this problem under check.

He says the root cause of today’s condition is the passing of an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Prohibition Act, 1937, by the Tamil Nadu government in October 2003.  This has led to increase in the habit of liquor consumption and this habit has spread amongst all age groups and all economic groups, he rues.
Similar efforts that were made in fifties and sixties to check this growing trend is required today, says Venkataraman, adding unfortunately, now we do not have any political leaders of such caliber, sagacity and wisdom who can initiate such anti liquor campaign. It appears that this habit has come to stay forever, he laments.

In such situation it’s only the people, particularly the women in the lower income group who are the worst hit and are desperately looking for relief should come forward and advocate prohibition in the state. They can democratically exercise their will in the forthcoming election and vote for the party that feels their sentiments, Venkataraman suggests.

However, the question remains, in a politically charged state like Tamil Nadu, which political party can convincingly assure people on this and which political party enjoy the credibility and   has consistency in its stand on such issue, he asks?

He goes on; not everything is lost, the well informed people who think ahead of the time and feel concerned about the serious damage being done to the posterity due to rapid spread of alcoholism should come forward and rally behind this social cause. This alone can kindle a ray of hope in other wise depressing situation to control the growing trend of alcoholism in Tamil Nadu, Venkataraman, concludes.

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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Himalayan Fury – Causes and Remedies

The Himalayan Fury – Causes and Remedies
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Utrakhand, is the 27th state of India carved out of the Himalayan region and adjoining north-western districts of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000. It’s a sacred place for the Hindus, as two of the most sacred rivers, the Ganga at Gangotri and the Yamuna at Yamunotri originate from Utrakhand. Along with it, places like Badrinath and Kedarnath form the Chota Char Dham, for Hindu pilgrims to Utrakhand. In June 2013, the Himalayan region witnessed heavy rainfall that triggered devastating floods and landslides in Utrakhand. The floods left a trail of destruction, over 70,000 pilgrims and tourists were trapped in various places who were rescued. There was huge damage to the infrastructure and urban construction in the state.   
Various reasons are attributed to the tragedy. Some blame it on nature, other call it a man made calamity waiting in the wings. Various suggestions are made to avoid such large scale destruction and to be better prepared for such eventuality next time.

Reasons for Calamity 

The forests of the region are an important reservoir of biodiversity; as they provide protection against soil erosion and increased flooding in the plains. One of the reasons for the Utrakhand tragedy is attributed to the extraction of forests resources of the region. The huge deforestation led to increased vulnerability to the floods and landslides that got exposed in the recent floods.

The region’s other key resource is the water that flows from high glaciers and mountains to the plains. Currently, there is a mad rush to build run-of-the-river projects and dams across the region to generate hydro power.  While dams are needed to meet energy requirements, building them is a construction-intensive activity. It involves blasting, excavation, debris dumping, movement of heavy machinery, diversion of forests and rivers.

It was seen that poorly planned dams in Utrakhand which were constructed without paying heed to their environmental impact was one of the reasons why floods turned so devastating in the state.

Since Utrakhand holds special place for the Hindus, a large number of the pilgrims make a beeline to the state. The monsoon season also coincides with the peak pilgrim season and people in large numbers from across the nation come to visit Hindu holy sites in the state. These places become overcrowded and their cumulative impact poses a threat to the environment of the region.

It’s said that recent Utrakhand calamity was a classical case of how commercial interests can open the gates to disaster. Road construction activity to cater to the pilgrims and tourists went on unchecked. Apart from convenience and comfort, ever increasing economic opportunities in the vicinity of the roads encouraged people to settle down in the proximity of the roads, even if it implies being exposed to disaster risk.

Increasing tourist and pilgrim traffic further exacerbated this tendency. The huge deluge of urban settlement in Utrakhand was because it was located in the disaster risk zone.

The huge amount of urbanization going on in the fragile mountainous area without any consideration of the environmental impact aggravated the problem. The hotels and lodges in most of the cases come up in the most fragile areas of the state. The unplanned urban growth in Utrakhand is considered to be the key factors for magnifying the human tragedy in the state.

The recent Utrakhand floods suggest that du
e to the given reasons, the risk-prone and ecologically fragile region of the state became vulnerable to the nature’s fury.

Future Strategy 

Now, in its aftermath its required to build a strategy to prevent such disaster in the future. This strategy has to take into account the vulnerability of the region and the ways to protect its environment.

First of all, the Himalayan states like Utrakhand should build a viable and sustainable forest-based economy. A common policy should be evolved to value the forests better for better use. This policy should include the voices and concerns of local communities, dependent on forests for their agriculture and basic needs. A comprehensive planning should be made centering on forests be used for building local economies.

Then the strategy for water development must balance the opportunity for energy and threat to livelihood, particularly in the age of changing climate and hydrology. It is feared that the hydrology will be impacted because of climate change—and extreme events.  In such case the hydro projects in Utrakhand should be reviewed and if needed even scrapped.

The ecosystem-based tourism should be developed with safeguards and local benefits. There is need to promote homestead tourism, instead of hotel tourism, based on policy incentives. These incentives would include fiscal benefits provided to house-owners for providing tourist related facilities.

There is need for an inventory of key pilgrimage sites in Utrakhand, with an understanding of its ecological capacity based on location and fragility. Then there is need to control the number of visitors to the important pilgrimage sites based on the carrying capacity estimates.

There should be a ban on construction of roads for the movement of people within 10 km of the high-altitude pilgrimage areas. There should be areas marked as special zones, which are to be maintained with minimal human interference.

There is need to build policies for sustainable urbanisation in the state. The towns need to be planned, particularly keeping in mind the rush of summer tourists.

The Utrakhand flood teaches us that we must learn to build sustainable models for pilgrim-based tourism in the fragile regions of the country.  There is a problem of pollution, litter and solid waste disposal in all the tourist sites.

To control this, a tourism tax for entry into fragile ecosystems should be charged exponentially. An action plan to create facilities for tourists, particular facilities for sanitation and for garbage disposal should be made out of such revenue.

There should be high parking charges in fragile areas of hill towns to restrict the number of vehicles and reduce pollution and congestion.

Finally, in order to build local interest in these areas, rules to give communities living in the area advantage of the pilgrimage activities are framed and implemented vigorously.

The recent Utrakhand foods bear resemblance to 2004 Tsunami the coastal regions of the east coast of India. In its wake a coastal disaster management plan that was formulated for better preparedness in future. A similar proposal can be made for the preparation of disaster management plan for the hill regions particularly the Himalayan region of the country.  

These suggestions and more can come handy in checking the calamities like Utrakhand that has occurred due to cloud burst, heavy rains and causing unprecedented floods.  

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