Thursday, June 27, 2013

Donkeys have vanished from Bihar

Donkeys have vanished from Bihar 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

In a shocking revelation the 19th five years animal counting report of Bihar reveals  that, donkeys, the tried and tested campaigning of washer men have vanished  in  Bihar. This is quite contrary to the report of the year 2007 that enumerated the population of donkeys in Bihar to be 23,944.

Various reasons are attributed to it and one that is being touted to be its high demand in Nepal China. These animals are the good mode of transport even in the adverse weather on the hills of these countries and are much needed there.

It’s reported that the demand of donkeys and mules has gone up in Nepal and China. This has led to unofficial
export of donkeys from Bihar to Nepal through its porous borders. It’s reported that the importers of Nepal are sending them to China.

These donkeys and mules are being exported to China legally and illegally from Nepal and are believed to be the reasons of total depletion of donkey’s population from Bihar.

There are many stories attributed to donkeys and the one that has come down to me through my grannies bed time stories is; there lived a washer man, who had a donkey. The washer man was very poor and unable to feed himself and his family.  He all the time use to beat the donkey and ask him to leave his house, many a times he has taken the donkey to some far off places and have tried to dump it and escaped. But the donkey was faithful to him and always returned to his master.

One day when, the washer man was moaning how to get his next meal, the donkey told his master to kill him and eat up. The washer man saw the donkey admiringly.He struck upon a plan, and started working on it diligently.

One day quite early in the morning, he took the donkey to the national highway and where a stream to traffic seem to convince him to be right location, he told the donkey, here i will kill you.

The donkey obediently agreed to his murder plans. The washer man then actually killed the donkey then buried his dead and made a grave that could be visible from a long distance.

He put some flags and covered the grave with shinning cloths. He then set up a sign board that said visit Peer Baba’s grave to fulfill all your wishes.

Well within no time people started flocking to the grave to get their vows fulfilled taking blessings from this great soul. Since then the washer man earned pots of money every day. He never went hungry again. After that even his second and third generations are reaping the benefit of the sacrifice of that loyal donkey.

Well this is a true story and can be compared with the same zest as the one- ek tha gul or ek thai bulbul, dono chaman mein rahte thae, hai yeh khani bilkul sachi, mere nana kahtae thae!

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


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Uttarakhand Disaster - Where is Hindu charity?

Uttarakhand Disaster - Where is Hindu charity?
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I am surprised by the conspiracy of silence of the so called custodians of Hindu faith who have not yet come up to extend moral, monetary and other forms support for the reconstruction of the disaster struck Uttarakhand, the bode of Hindu shrines and Hindu  holy places.

In India there are stinking rich NGOs, Gurus, Swamis and super rich swamis who survive on their faith base identities. Why are they not coming forward and extending solace to their Dev Bhumi where Hindu pilgrims folk with impunity. ? Why they are hiding their coffers from those who have given it to them, at a time when they are begging for survival.

Where are the NRIs who are the main financers of Gujarat Chief Minister Nrander Modi’s Hindutva campaign not pooling in their hard earned money for the reconstruction of the Hindu pilgrimage places in Uttrakhand? Are they convinced that their money is for political purposes only and not religious charitable purposes of Hindutva campaign?

Where are the RSS cadre the nickerwals, who are running shakhs in many nook and corners of India, why they are not rushing to Uttrakhand to help the humanity at large? Where is their cultural ethos? Why is the Nagpur cabinet not issuing any diktat to their well-dressed cadres.

Where are Trishul wielding Shiv Saniks, why they are not attending to the call of Lord Shiva from holy land of Uttrakhand. Why not the Thackreys leading a padyatra from Maharastra to Uttrakhand to help the bhakts of Shiva seeking help at this moment of crisis?

Where are the Banjrag Dal activists, the live-wires of Hindutva campaign who gets mobilized in no time to cause fury, why are they having no time to respond to the most sacred places of Hindus in India?

Last but not the least the BJP, whose clarion call Mandir whoin Baneyege, once ranted the air in their Ayodhya campaign, why they are silent when Kedarnath mandir is staring at their face for rebuilding.

Where are Mukthar Abbas Naqvis and Shanawaz Hussain, why are they not leading a chariot procession of Hindu followers to rebuild Urrakhand.

The hypocrisy of the so called custodians of the Hindu faith stands exposed.

Uttarakhand is facing the worst ever tragedies. The stories of human greed and abuse are trickling in and there is total absence of human kindness and compassion in this hour of crisis. As Indians we feel ashamed that we are not doing enough to help the victims of the tragedies.

Everyone is watching with abject apathy the relief and rescue work done by the government and our brave security forces that are rendering their yeomen services. They are criticizing the relief and rescue operations however; none is coming forward to chip in their resources for the survival of many Indians.

It’s time for Indian to do some introspection and start making sincere effort to mitigate the sufferings of the fellow Indians stranded in Uttrakhand. Leaving it to the government or blaming religious bodies of not doing enough will be skirting the problem and their responsibilities.

The onus is on every Indian, who loves his country to wake up and stand up for the cause to build a new India.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Readers reaction & my reply

Dear Mr. Mujtaba,
I refer to your article 'Uttarakhand Calamity: Where is Hindu charity?' As a response to some of your unfounded accusations, I like to say that the Ramakrishna Mission has been working from Day 1 of the disaster providing succour and help. The RSS swayamsevaks did everything that was possible in that situation. RSS youngsters were the first to reach Gauri Kund and provide food, water and solace to dejected, fatigued, yatris enveloped in hopelessness. And so were the Gayatri Parivar, local NGOs, the police association, college student unions, etc. the wonderful and selfless contribution of the RSS was completely ignored by the media.  The "stinking rich" Hindu NRIs you refer to are helping: quietly and without the noise and show.  I would send you a link to the following article from an organization that is certainly not a mouthpiece of the RSS. slide-show/slide-show-1- uttarakhand-catastrophe-the- horror-and-the-new-gods/ 20130627.htm#3

Best regards,
JR Rao


Sir,  greetings from Chennai, it’s great to hear from you and thanks for clearing my thoughts as I watch the developments of Uttrakhand from Madras. There was no malice in my write-up, and certainly not any iota of hatred that you read between the lines. As an Indian I was just moved by the ill-fated calamity and amazed by absolutely no response from the Hindu institutions of charity. With your response I am heartened that there are people who are quietly on the job. Please do not misunderstand me; it was just an outburst of common man saddened by the developments in his country.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Remembering B Raman - India's Strategic Thinker

Remembering B Raman - India's Strategic Thinker 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Writing obituaries is not my forte but then there are people who leave behind a lasting impression in my life, the call of the conscious is to pay tributes.

I recall B. Raman, who passed away on 16 June 2013 as one of India’s finest strategic thinker  whom I have interacted for past several years. Raman died in after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 77.

B. Raman, was an Additional Secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of India and one-time head of the counter-terrorism division of India's external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

As a former intelligence official, B Raman regularly wrote about security, counter-terrorism and military issues regarding India and South Asia. Raman was the author of a memoir he wrote of his days in the R&AW titled "Kaoboys of R&AW - Down Memory Lane".

Words are many to describe him as stream of memory jogs on to follow him. My first encounter with him was at the University of Madras, maybe a decade ago where he was speaking on terrorism. The local academics looked pygmy in front of him. The range and depth of information on terrorism astonished me. Such information can only be at the tips of those who may have handled it at personal level. He was a walking encyclopaedia on terrorism but had views on almost every strategic issue.

I use to call him for panel discussion at the Sun TV where I worked in English news section as Assistant Editor. In the news room we use to fondly call him Bomber Ramam- B - for Bomber! I came to know the abbreviation of his name B only after media reported his death.  

My interaction with him grew at ORF, Chennai where I was regular at Saturday interaction. He headed ORF, Chennai as its distinguished fellow. During the sessions he chaired he always gave me the opportunity to speak and acknowledged me by few flattering words. His comments during the discussion carried great punch.

He was an American critique and I remember the talk by Christina Fair, the American strategic specialist from RAND. B. Raman lampooned the American foreign policy in Afghanistan.

B. Raman uses to live near my house and sometimes I encounte
red him during evening walks. He used to wave his hand and we exchanged pleasantries. I have visited his house several times and was astonished by the simplicity of his life. We use talk about several things. He told me about the conversation he had with Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street journalist.  We talked about Benazir first assassination attempt in Karachi. We talked about OSAMA!

Later I did some television interview with him regarding developments in Burma for Mizzima TV, and once took him to Marina. That day I spent about half a day on the beach. I remember he telling me seeing Gandhiji statue at Marina that he is totally misfit for the modern India. I also remember telling me that he was an undergraduate student there and waved at his college. He also showed me the place near swimming pool where he uses to buy ice creams!

B Raman had recommended my name as speaker on Burma for a Bangalore based think tank. I came to know about this only from the organizers of the seminar on Myanmar.

I use to visit Raman’s house, a housing board flat in KK Nagar. I realized he lived alone. He had a very simple life style. I could sense that most of the time, he spent on the computer, the toy he was fond of playing with. And that’s how I could make out the reason why he was a prolific writer.

If not writing he was attending seminars. He used to be a globe trotter for seminar and conferences. In March 2012, I met him at a conference in Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi.  We exchanged a few words at personal level and I realized he was pleased seeing me.

There are so many encounters with him that comes recalling as his face flashes in the memory lane. One day I met him in the Boat club, Madras, and he asked me am I member there.  I told him its rich man’s place, I am only a pedestrian; to this his chuckled face is still fresh to me.

He had a very sharp mind and has produced a considerable body of work on strategic issues. Having been one of the few surviving officers who were a witness to the creation of R&AW during 1968 by RN Kao, his analysis on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and China have been an asset to the Intelligence community.

I may like to make an appeal to all his well-wishers to compile his work and have it archived. It can be helpful for researchers on strategic issues. I think this would be best way to keep him alive for eternity.

It’s hard to say goodbye to him, his memories are still so fresh in my mind. May Hanumanji take care of him well in his heavenly abode!

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Securing drinking water in Maharashtra villages

Securing drinking water in Maharashtra villages
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Maharashtra until recently was reeling under a drought situation– the worst in the last 40 years. The state declared drought in 125 out of 358 talukas during kharif 2012, followed by declaring water scarcity in 3,905 villages in Rabi 2012-13.

Arghyam, a public charitable foundation working in the drinking water and sanitation sector since 2005, funded two NGOs to secure drinking water in six villages of Maharashtra during the drought.

These villages are Thapewadi and Falakewadi in Pune, Muthalane and Randulabad in Satara, and Satichiwadi and Shelkewadi villages in Ahmednagar.

Two years after completion, evidence on the ground suggests that the interventions continue to remain successful in the six villages.

‘All six villages lie in the rain shadow area and the key to the achievement of securing drinking water resources was community participation’, says Ayan Biswas of Arghyam, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘Offering.’

‘The communities realised that in conditions of scanty or severely deficient rain, a careful and rational use of water can turn the critical situation for better.’

‘The community recognised water as a common pool resource, which enabled water needs of different groups to be balanced in a fair and equitable manner’.

‘The community adopted organised approaches like monitoring water availability throughout the year and across seasons, judicious distribution across water for drinking, cattle and agriculture, and choosing crops based on water availability.’

‘Metering water supply and assigning a price to water consumed was an effective way of conserving and valuing limited sources of water.’

‘In the village of Falakewadi (in Pune district), where meters were introduced in homes, household consumption of water reduced without hampering basic needs. Water tariffs were fixed in an entirely participatory process.’

‘Falakewadi, even in times of scant rainfall has enough water to drink, whereas the neighbouring villages rely heavily on water tankers’.

‘During periods of drought, social-regulation played a key role in ensuring supply of potable water. The water committee of Thapewadi village (in Pune District) now regulates the number of hours of water supply to each settlement based on water budgeting tools. When well water levels were falling, the inhabitants of Satichiwadi (in Ahmednagar district) agreed to minimise water use for Rabi crops.’

The interventions in the six villages were facilitated by two NGO’s Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM).

WOTR founded in 1993 is operating in five 6 Indian states – Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Orissa. It is widely recognised as a premier institution in the field of participatory Watershed Development and Climate Change Adaptation.

CWADAM is another premier Education and Research Institution that facilitates work on groundwater management through action research programmes and trainings.

While, WOTR’s approach to water security was through the implementation of large-scale watersheds,  ACWADAM’s strategy was to improve supply augmentation through understanding of hydrogeology, community driven water balance, demand regulation and management of groundwater through common pool resource principles.

Their interventions for drinking water security in the six villages have been built on the earlier work done by both the NGOs. The approaches to water security were complimented with newer approaches of strengthening village level institutions, building capacities within the communities and deepening local leadership.
The partner NGOs were able to leverage and augment the public drinking water infrastructure in these villages.

Today, water stand-posts are uniformly distributed in these villages. The revival and construction of piped water supply has considerably reduced the drudgery of women. They now have more time for their children and their households. Women in these six villages have also become more active in their water committees.

"In the drought of 2003 women had to walk 2-3 km to fetch water from irrigation wells after the drinking water source dried up. Tankers used to come to the village and empty the water in the wells. WOTR helped us recharge the bore-well that supplies water to the village. Today, we have enough drinking water even in these days of drought, while the neighbouring villages of Pimplagaon and Pabalbet get tanker water or canned water at exorbitant costs,” says Sharada Ghavani from Thapewadi village.

These six villages have shown that by systematic planning of local water resources, participatory decision making, and self-regulation, drinking water can be secured even during drought situation.

The intervention in these villages has demonstrated that safe and sustainable drinking water for all can easily be a reality for other parts of the country with similar climatic conditions and propensity for drought.

For further information on the story, please contact Ayan Biswas at: (080)41698941/42
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Human side of India-Pakistan relations

Human side of India-Pakistan relations

In a span of six decades, India and Pakistan has formed many peak and valleys in its love and hate relationship. At times when frenzied emotions are whipped up war mongers have a field day.
However, when the temperatures are cooled, the talk about an everlasting friendship with Pakistan gains ground.

In this evolving India- Pakistan relationship, people-to people contact is digging out stories that have human face. It is helping in shaping the contours of new relationship between the two coun

Here is a story of a 77-year-old Indian woman who has two homelands, two husbands and two religions and who finally got united with her family after decades of separation, thanks again to the India- Pakistan peace process.

Harbajan Kaur and husband Banna Singh belong to a Kashmiri Sikh family living in the village of Pataika, 16 km northeast of Muzaffarabad in Pakistan side of Kashmir.

After Partition of India in 1947, Banna went to India alone to find work and a place to live before he could call his wife over. He left behind his wife with her father.

But around this time, both countries stopped issuing visas and Banna could not come back and Harbajan Kaur could not join him in India. Soon after, her father died and Harbajan was left all alone.

The lady assuming that that she would never be able to see her husband again, married a Muslim called Hadayatullah and adopted Islam. They had two children-son Manzoor and daughter, Zeenat.

In 1953, Pakistan and India signed an agreement for the return of relatives left behind in each other's country. Banna filed a claim for his wife, and Harbajan was forced to leave for India to be with her husband without her two children.

The poor ties between the two countries prevented Harbajan from visiting her children in Pakistan. Her son and daughter grew up with their father and she did not hear anything about them.
Meanwhile, Harbajan who re converted to Sikhism gave birth to another son and daughter, Dalbeer and Manmohan.

For many years, the members of the divided family did not know each other's whereabouts or even if they were alive.

The Pakistani children did not forget their mother and sought help from a visiting Sikh gentlemen in 2000 in locating their mother. To their surprise the gentleman found their mother living in Ahmedabad and provided her telephone number.

The children spoke to their mother on phone, wrote letters and exchanged pictures and became desperate to meet each other.

The daughter invited her mother to Muzaffabad where the latter was born and brought up. But India and Pakistan were then on the brink of war following a terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in 2001, and it was impossible for Harbajan Kaur to visit Pakistan.

The mother and children remained separated for another 30 months until the resumed Lahore-Delhi bus service in 2003 could finally unite them.

After more than 40 years, Harbajan crossed back into Pakistan, accompanied by her Sikh son, Dalbeer Singh, and her daughter-in-law.

She was greeted at the Wagah border crossing by her Muslim children Zeenat and Manzoor, along with grandchildren and other family members.

Later her Sikh daughter Manmohan also joined them along with her husband and their daughter.
But one person with whom she could not reunite was her Muslim husband who died some years after she left for India. Her Sikh husband was also dead.

These are the happy sides of the emerging peace process developing between India and Pakistan, thanks to the renewed people to people contact between the two countries.

However, there are many families not so fortunate enough to see such reunion.  The hostile India- Pakistan relation had kept them away from seeing each other relatives and in the process many have passed away.
Some could know the welfare of their relatives living across the border only through a common relative living in a third country but were unable to attend the wedding or funeral at their homes.

However, things are changing for better now. The second generation of the divided families now want the borders to be softened enough so that they could freely crisscross to meet their loved ones.  They want India and Pakistan to de-link their political differences from people’s to people’s contact.

The people in both the countries desire to have a peaceful and neighborly relationship each other. The general perception is the bridges of peace and friendship between the people would help the governments of both the countries to iron out their political differences in more amicable manner.

The new thaw in India-Pakistan relationship has been a boon for the divided families of the two countries.
There is no count as to how many of them live on the other side of the border. The migration from India to Pakistan has taken place from all over the country.

The majority of the separated families however live in the Indo-Gangetic plains where there is the largest concentration of Muslim population in India.  There would hardly be a family living in this region that many not have a relative in Pakistan.  They hope and pray that the juggernaut of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan keeps moving till a lasting peace is established in the subcontinent.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at