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