Saturday, December 24, 2016

Movie Review Dangal… A Must Watch for Every Indian

Movie Review
Dangal… A Must Watch for Every Indian
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I saw the movie Dangal, meaning wresting competition last night. My first reaction was Aamir khan has evolved as an actor from QSQT to this movie Dangal. Watching him in Dangal as aged, overweight ordinary Indian was a delight as it was doing so while watching the chocolate hero in QSQT in 1988.

Watch.. Aamir Khan in QSQT….

Watch….. him in Dangal…

Dangal is a movie that has an intense and griping plot and its emotional quotients are maintained all through the movie. It’s a serious film with little entertainment value; it holds the audience to their seats all through the film.

If Lagan was about cricket, Dangal is about wrestling. In the age of cricket, making a movie on insignificant sports like wrestling is a bold attempt and a welcome change to the viewers.

One thing emerges out clearly in this movie is that foreign locations and glamour looks alone cannot guarantee the success of the film. The story line, the narration, the acting and the overall presentation alone can help in the success of a movie. Dangal excels in all of such departments.

Well Aamir Khan has a habit of coming with something completely new and different in each of his movie. We have seen it in ‘Lagan’, ‘Three Idiots’ and ‘PK’, all of them had different plots. So is the actor’s panache of looking different.

In each of the movies his looks are different. So is the case with Dangal. In order to look aged and an ordinary man, Aamir Khan has increased his weight quite a bit in Dangal. In spite of looking simpleton and de glam, Aamir carries his weight in this movie. In true sense he is still the 'Raja
Hindustani,’ of India.

In the age of item numbers and skin shows and exotic locations, Dangal is placed in a totally different. The movie showcases a dirty village of Haryana and is successful in portraying a true reflection of a piece of Indian society and culture.

Everything about this movie is natural and everyone in this film tries to look dirty and de glam and yet has its own appeal. This is the unique selling proposition USP of the movie Dangal.

The movie Dangal has not only entertainment and information and education value but also has a mass communication quotient attached to it. It tries to give the message those girls too can do what supposedly men’s domain is i.e. wrestling.

As such the movie has a huge mass appeal. It’s targeted at the most ordinary Indians and therefore should be watched by every Indian.

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Similarities and Distinctiveness of Christmas Celebrations in India

Similarities and Distinctiveness of Christmas Celebrations in India 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Christmas festival, which marks the birthday of Jesus Christ, is celebrated in almost all parts of India. Christmas is a national festival and called ‘Bara Din’ or Big Day, courtesy the legacy of the British ‘Raj’ in India. There are many unique features about Christmas celebrations in India.

As the Christmas approaches, the entire country is in a festive mood and people from different faiths, ethnicity and backgrounds come together and take part in Christmas celebrations.

The Christmas celebrations in the cities of India are almost a replica of the global culture. The shops are decorated with Bells and Santa Claus that symbolizes Christmas marking the beginning of the festive season.

Christmas fairs and Christmas parades are the integral part of the Christmas festivities in the urban life. Christian’s houses are decorated with lights and Christmas trees.

During this time carol services are held in the churches and carol singers making appearances at the door steps during late night. During this time Santa Claus, th
e special character of Christmas is most sought after person by the children of all faiths.

In the rural India, the Christmas celebrations is little different. One of the special features of rural Christmas celebration is that instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a well decorated banana or mango tree is kept in the house.

 This is because Christmas tree is not readily available in the villages. Some people use mango leaves to decorate their homes in rural areas during Christmas. The houses have ‘diya’ or candle lit at its entranced.  Village Churches are decorated with flowers and colorful lights and colorful candles are lit at its entrance door.

The major concentration of Christian populations is in the Southern Indian state of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and in the state of Goa on the west Coast. Northeastern states euphemistically called the seven sisters have the largest concentration of Christian population in India.

India's smallest state, Goa which is on the west coast has about 26% Christian population. Christian homes hang out giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, on top of their houses and as one walk
down the road, the stars float above you in rows. Christmas Trees are put up in every Christian house.

 Here people like to go carol singing around their neighbors for about a week before Christmas. The Christmas cake is baked with traditional rich fruit and lots of local sweets are also made during the Christmas festival in Goa.

In Southern state of Kerala where there are 22% Christian population. Like Goa, here too Christmas is celebrated with huge religious fervor. Traditional Catholics fast from 1st to 24th of December, until the midnight service. Every house is decorated with new variety of Christmas stars and has well decorated Christmas tree.  Here some Christians put small oil burning clay lamps on the roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.

The northeast states of India; Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram have high Christian population. Over 5.3 million Christians live in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur, while there are a significant number of Christians in the other northeastern states of Tripura, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. One of the special features of the Christmas celebration here is Christian customs are mixed with the individual tribal customs.

The Western Indian metropolis Mumbai has one of the largest urban Christian populations. Many of the Christians in Mumbai have roots in Goa and so they follow the Christmas traditions of Goa like putting up the star lanterns and the depiction of the best of the nativity scenes at their homes.

In the eastern metropolitan city of Kolkata the annual Kolkata Christmas Festival (KCF) starts a week ahead with food stalls and live bands performing in the open space. The Christmas season begins with a fun-filled Christmas parade at Park Street whose decoration resembles the Oxford Street of London. There are other sots like Bow Barracks in Kolkata that comes alive during Christmas.

The rural space of central India which dominated by the tribal Christians mostly of the Bhil tribe has Christmas celebrations with its own local flavor which is more tribal in nature.  Here Bhils go out in nigh a week before Christmas to sing carols in their own language. They also tell the Christmas stories to the surrounding villages in singing and dancing format.

Anglo Indians are very unique Christian community in India.  They celebrate Christmas in very European style.  With jam session and all dancing Anglo Indians a English touch to the Christmas celebrations.  Cake, wine, dance and get-together are part and parcel of Anglo Indian Christmas celebration.

The Christmas celebration at Anglo Indian homes begins about 60 days before December 25 and continues for at least 12 days after it. Their customs are as bright and complex as a festively-knotted ribbon around their Christmas present.

On the Christmas Eve, the Midnight Mass service at the churches is a very important event and Christians attends it in large numbers. The families walk to the church for the midnight mass and when the service is over at the stroke of midnight, the church bells starts ringing and fire crackers are burst to announce that Christmas Day has arrived.

Some greet each other saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in English, others use the local expression in different languages spoken in India. The day that follows is Christmas and it is filled with massive feast that goes on with the giving and receiving of presents throughout the day.

The proverbial Santa Claus who delivers presents to children from a horse cart is integral part of Christmas festivity in India. He is known by various names in different Indian languages. In the Hindi he is called ‘Christmas Baba' or Father Christmas, in  Tamil and Telgu languages, he is  known as 'Christmas Thaathaa' or Christmas old man. In Malayalam he is known as 'Christmas Papa'. In Marathi he is called ‘Natal Bua' or Christmas Elder Man.

Christianity is the third-largest religion in India. With approximately 27.8 million followers, Christians constitutes about 2.3 percent of the total Indian population. Indian Christians have the highest ratio of women to men among the various religious communities in India.

Christians are found all across India and are visible in all walks of life. Indian Christians have contributed significantly to India’s development and are well represented in various spheres of life.  Indian Christians are Indian in language, dress, food habits, customs and tradition and are not European in any sense. This is the unique feature about the Christian community in India.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Movie Review … 'Ae Dil Hai Mushki'

Movie Review … 'Ae Dil Hai Mushki'

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

KJO Diwali cracker 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil' is love 'Aaj Kal' with a difference. The film maker has done double PhD, in researching the Hindi cinema, since K L Saigal’s Devdas hit the silver screen in 1935.

Since then, Love, Prem or Ishaq has been the dominant theme of the Bollywood films. There is no other recipe than ‘Payar Keye Ja’ that Bollywood specializes in selling and does that repeatedly minting pots of money.

How, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, is different from other love riots is it tries to explore the difference between love and friendship. It even suggests that friendship is permanent, love is temporary.

It tries to preach that love should not be converted into relationship and the ideal male female relationship should be friendship alone. These are some philosophical questions that this film raises.

The film maker tries some bold attempts by twisting the theme of friendship and love but fails to convince the final point of view. The film may have bombed if it suggested anything else other than ‘Payar keye ja.’ It plays safe and ends with Bollywood’s tried and tasted ending ‘they lived happily ending.’

The film tries to explore sexuality as its current interpretation in terms of the male female relationship. Bollywood films have traveled a distance when two sunflowers were shown blooming in the rose garden or two birds taking a flight, when the hero and heroine fall in love.

The modern day concept of friendship and love that rides on the 4 G wave is very well choreographed in this movie.  The films tell that touching fondling and kissing of human anatomy is the way of life in love Aaj Kal.

Then the film tries to say that only URDU language can do justice to the theme of Love, Prem or Ishaq. A very strong of Urdu vocabulary is used asserting that this language may not be dying till Bollywood sells its dream of love.

Hindi cinema has moved from Delhi and Mumbai to London and this movie is set on this location. With NRI, being the main consumer of Bollywood film, the western locations are deliberately chosen to set up to weave an Indian story. While Lucknow do figure in the movie, but then it’s just to connect with the Indian audience.

 The high point of the film is its screenplay and its dialogues. It has borrowed the Aj Tak news channel’s style of narration and has produced some very top quality conversation.
The brilliant conversation on the mystery of friendship and love has put spirit and soul into the narration and has sets the pace of the film.
Anuska Sharma has done an exceptional portrayal of her character and so does Ranbir Kapoor. With SRK in cameo, Ranbir make the point that he has arrived as new ‘Bazigar’ in the B town.

Ashwariya Rai Bachan does a guest appearance and fits the space very well. However, she is no more the Dhoom girl and age is catching up on the yummy mummy.

 Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, who was the center of the controversy, has essayed his role with ease and calm. He is a modern protagonist in the puzzle of love 'Aj Kal'.

Pritam Da has scored another hit tracks and the song ‘Murshid Tera,’ of Bulae Shah Fame, is enthralling. A few other numbers too catches the ears, but the song ‘Buliya’ stands tall in the six packs format of the Hindi film music.

Finally, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ the new cracker from KJO is a must to watch those who love Bollywood films. At times, it is sloppy and bores with moral preaching but then its witty dialogue covers that up and high voltage music gives the much needed emotional relief.

 I may recommend this to those who are looking for watching a Hindi movie after some gap.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Travelogue...Saluting the Legacies of the RAJ

Travelogue... Saluting the Legacies of the  RAJ
 By Syed Ali Mujtaba

This is a note on my recent family vacation to Ooty from October Nine to Eleven 2016. I begin this by saluting the colonial rulers of India whose road engineering work is a marvel of art. They have constructed the motorable road to 8000 feet above the sea level. Here, not only the cars but even mini vans can easily climb the top most peak of the Niligris hill.

Second is the con
struction of the mountain railway that is another engineering feat attained by the British.  The toy train that runs from Otty to Metupalyam in the plain is a world heritage. I was relishing how the roadways and railways construction may have been done at that with primitive tools that was prevalent at that of point. Undoubtedly, it was the Indian laborers toil of sweat that has achieved such a glory.

The other attraction of the place is the tea plantation which is spread to thousands of hectors of land. This is another gift of the Raj. The Nilgris hills and Darjeeling hills are the two places in the country, where British introduced this cash crop of tea plantation. The entire mountain slopes decked with lush green tea leaves makes a picturesque sight.  

The entire Cooner hills which is 30 KM from Otty is dotted by the tea estates. Now most of the tea gardens are owned by wealthy Indians. Many of them are film stars. The tea garden where I am standing belongs to yesteryear
actor Mumtaz’s husband Mayur Madhvani. Now it has come to Fardeen Khan who has married their daughter. Another big name living here is the film director Mansoor Khan, of QSQT, Qayamat se Qyamat Tak fame.

The palatial houses or bunglos of the tea estate owners is another legacy of the Raj. Each of them is competing with the other in terms of their upkeep. Many of the owners come here only for short visits and only their staff maintains the well furnished living space.

The Wellington cantonment in Coonoor is another legacy of the Raj. The officer’s academy, the bomb factory and the barracks of Madras regiment was established by the British before the World War 1.  Wellington is the foremost military establishment in the country even now.

Well Otty is little England in many ways. Charring Cross, the famous landmark of London is the center point of Otty. With day temperature of about 10 to 12 degree C in the day and 3 to 4 degree C in night, it is typical English weather now. It m
akes look more the same with cloud and sun playing hide and seek through out the day.

In many ways Otty reminded me of England. I have lived in London and I got the feeling that I am back there. I saw one building that was same to same that I saw in London. Even the roof and the windows of the structure was exactly its replica.  The fountain at the Charring Cross constructed in 1880, is still operational.

The Otty botanical garden is another marvel of the Raj and so is the Rose garden. The churches in Otty are another fine specimen of British architecture. The side paths with flowers and the lamppost there reminded me of little England.

One thing that is missed now is the presence of White people there. At this point of time mostly inland tourists dotted the scene and the place was full with holiday crowd from neighboring states of Tamil Nadu.

Last but not the least; Otty is completely free from the vices that are synonymous with many tourist destinations of the world. There are no high profile bars or pubs; there are no discotheques or night joints, no drugs, no casinos, no prostitutes which is a common sight in such places.

The environment is clean so are the roads that are not littered with garbage or rubbishes. On the whole my three days sojourn at Otty was wonderful opportunity for recouping from the daily mundane work in Chennai. It is worth a visit for those who are planning a vacation at Otty also known as queen of hills.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The World that would be in Coming Years…

The World that would be in Coming Years…
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution.  Welcome to the Exponential Age.  There are some interesting facts and figures that predict the future lifestyle and the shape of the unfolding world. The Artificial Intelligence, health, self-driving and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs  are going to have huge importance to each of us and each of them are pointers to the things to come.  We have to give a considerable thought to them if we like to negotiate future life style. Here is a sneak preview of the world that would be in coming years.  

Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on film again? In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they were bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years and most people don’t see it coming.

Uber is just a software tool. They don’t own any cars, but they are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. By 2030, computers will have become ‘more intelligent’ than humans.
In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. This is because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice, (so far for more or less basic stuff), within seconds. With 90% accuracy, compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you are studying law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer generalist lawyers in the future; only specialists will be needed. Further ‘Watson’ already helps nurses diagnose cancer, four times more accurately than doctors.

70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear that there will be enough new jobs in such a short time. Many currencies will be abandoned. Bitcoin will become the mainstream this year and might even become the future default reserve currency.

In 2018 the first self-driving cars will be offered to the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You won’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car on your phone; it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You only pay for the driven distance and you can be productive whilst driving. You will not need to park it and we can transform former parking spaces into parks.
At present, 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 kms. With autonomous driving, that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.  Insurance companies will have massive trouble, because without accidents, the insurance will become 100 times cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Electric cars will become the mainstream vehicle around after 2020. Cities will be cleaner and much less noisy because all cars will run on electricity, which will become much cheaper.

Most traditional car companies may become bankrupt by taking the evolutionary approach and just building better cars; while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will take the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. The engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are terrified of Tesla.

 Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for our future needs.

Real estate values based on proximity to work-places, schools, etc. will change, because if you can work effectively from anywhere or be productive while you commute, people will move out of cities to live in a more rural surroundings.

Solar energy production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but only now is having a big impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that almost all coal mining companies will be out of business by 2025.

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places; we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if everyone can have as much clean water as they want, for virtually no cost.

The Tricorder X price will be announced this year - a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and your breath. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any diseases. It will be cheap, so in a few years, everyone on this planet will have access to world class, low cost, medicine.

The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from 18,000$ to 400$ within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started printing 3D shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D-printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to need in the past.

At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they have already 3D-printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D-printed.

There will be a 100$ agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of working in them all day. Aeroponics will need much less water. The first veal produced in a petri dish is now available. It will be cheaper than cow- produced veal in 2018.

Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces are used for rearing cattle. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several start-ups which will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

As far as health is concerned right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span was 79 years, now it is 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than a one-year increase per year. So we all might live for a long, long time, probably way beyond 100.

There is already an app called “moodies” which can tell the mood you are in. By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where we know whether the participants are telling the truth and when not!

Further afield, the software has been launched in Indonesia and will be released it in Arabic, Swahili and Chinese this summer. The English app will be offered free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half a year. Software and operating platforms will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

The cheapest smartphones already sell at 10$ in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smartphone. That means everyone will have much the same access to world class education. Every child can use Khan Academy for everything he needs to learn at schools in First World countries.

If you think of a niche you want to enter, ask yourself: “In the future, do you think we will have that?” And if the answer is yes, then work on how you can make that happen sooner. If it doesn’t work via your phone, forget the idea. And any idea that was designed for success in the 20th century is probably doomed to fail in the 21st century.

There are many more exciting things waiting to happen. Are we prepared to handle such future shock? If not the future will overtake you and you maybe repenting not being prepared for the future?
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at The author does not claim any responsibility of the content but feel that this needs to be circulated in the larger public interest.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

India and the Sub Nationalism Debate

India and the Sub Nationalism Debate
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is on boil, the Nero’s of Delhi durbar are playing ‘Vade Matram’ orchestra, and in that cacophony making the noise of regional and linguistic exclusiveness sound a whimper.

The current rulers of Hindustan have unleashed a region of terror using pellet guns over unarmed people and feel happy that they have found solution to tame such human resistance.

They may be in for a surprise if the same situation erupts up in as many as 14 other locations in the country, all waiting to have a distinct entity of its own.

If that happens, will the Nero’s of Hindustan continue to play ‘Vade Matram’ orchestra to defuse any such crisis or give it a realistic thought address such genuine aspiration of the people?

The answer is difficult because a policy paralysis has gripped the current dispensation and its arrogance and ignorance is apparent in dealing with the situation of carnage and rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian government's hard-line approach has so far taken 68 human lives.

The tinder box is simmering below the surface in as many as 14 locations of the country; four in UP, three in Assam, two in Bihar, one each in Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. All of them are carving for separate identity and human resistance is waiting to be ignited.

In India, since 1956, the reorganization of states has been happening from time to time, but the sore point is, efforts in this direction is made when there is a huge people’s movement built and many  have to give blood to the cause.  We have seen this with regard to the creation of Jharkhand, Uttrakhand and Chatisgarh states. All of them came into existence after long drawn out human protests.The people’s movement in these states are littered with blood and only after a long struggle the government has succumb to their demand.

The same can be said about Telngana, where people’s movement goes back to 1970 and even earlier, but the statehood was possible only in 2014, when the government finally relented to the people’s aspirations.

The fundamental point here is why the successive governments are peeve over the creation of the new states which could be based on the geographical, linguistic or cultural entities? Why the government is stifling the natural growth of a particular region and acting shy to its developmental goal? There are no logical answers to it and it’s beyond comprehension for ordinary mortals to gauge the Nero’s mind.

We all know the orchestra of 'Vande Matram' was the swan song during the freedom struggle; it served its purpose well, and got us independence. However, after 69 years of independence, the relevance of this brand of nationalism is now being questioned. How long the demand of sub nationalism under larger umbrella of nationalism can be bottled up?  

India has become much stronger over the years and this does not mean that this issue can be wished away by appealing to nationalism and maintaining peace under the shadow of the gun. It is seen in the people’s movement in Jammu and Kashmir that is showing the searchlight and pricking many minds and this could be the proverbial lull before the storm.

India’s is an administrative maze and no one had comprehended it better than the colonial rulers of Hindustan. When they established the contours of Indian administrative set up, linking localities with blocks, blocks with subdivisions and subdivision with districts and districts with a province, they established the modern edifice of governance in India.

Given the colonial nature, the British rulers were keen to have an administrative setup in place for governance and had no interest in the developmental demand of any geographical region, linguistic or cultural entities.

Thus British efforts to reorganize the Indian states on governance plank though kindled the nationalistic aspirations among the people but in the process subsumed sub nationalistic sentiments that has long been nourished from time immemorial. The colonial created imbalances continued to drift as so, even 70 years after independence.

The states like Uttar Pardesh (Northern Province) and Madhya Pradesh (Central Province) are colonial legacies. These states do not have any rational basis, if we apply the yardsticks of regional, linguistic and cultural entities as the basis of formation of states. Even though there is huge necessity to reorganize them to address their developmental goals, they are allowed to continue as so in the independent India.

In fact, in the last general assembly election of UP, Ms Mayawati, the BSP chief had suggested creating at least four states from this linguistically, culturally and geographical diverse landmass of Uttar Pradesh. However, her words of wisdom were seen as a cry of someone who has lost the election.

Going by the facts on records, the pending demands for the creation of new states in UP are for ‘Harith Pradesh’ in the areas of Western UP, ‘Awadh state’ in the areas of central UP, ‘Purvanchal’ in the eastern UP and the ‘Budelkhand state’ in the areas bordering UP and MP.

In the eastern state of Assam, as many as three people’s movement is simmering. The first is Karbi Anglong, second is Kamatapur state, and third the Bodoland state.

The Karbis living in the central part of Assam in the autonomous districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao that are put in the sixth schedule are demanding a separate state.

Similarly, the Koch Rajbhongshis demand for Kamatapur state. Here, protest is for granting Cooch Behar the status as Kamatapur state is heard quite often.

It may be recalled that in 1949, Cooch Behar merged with India as C category state. In 1956, all the C category regions got Union Territory status and some even got statehood later, but Cooch Behar's regional identity was extinguished and some of it's district was given autonomous status within Assam.
The demand for the Bodoland state is heard through violent noises for a long time now.  The Bodos want their present sixth schedule territorial autonomous council area in Kokrajha region that covers four districts of Assam to be made a separate Bodoland state. The consistent denial of their demand is fuelling armed rebellion there, which controlled by the counter insurgency methods.

In Andhra Pradesh, after the creation Telangana, there seems to be a quite atmosphere, but the demand for the creation of Rayalaseema state is very much on the cards. The distinct regional identity here wants to be nurtured from Tirupati and not from Amravati.

Similarly, in Gujarat, the demand to create the Saurashtra state is pending for long, so is the demand for Vidarbha state in Maharashtra.

In Karnataka, the demand for Kodagu state is simmering for long and so is the cry for the Gorkhaland state in the northern regions of West Bengal. The creation of Kosal state in Odisa is too hidden below the surface, waiting to be ignited.

Bihar is another case of linguistic and geographical incongruity. Here the demand for the creation of the Mithlancal state based on common Maithli language is long overdue.

Similarly, the Bhojpuri language and common culture that forms a vast tract of linguistic and geographical landmass between UP and Bihar, too nurses the aspiration for the creation of a Bohjpur state.

In sum, the reorganization and reconstruction of the distinctive regional identities poses a huge challenge to the country. The successive governments have tried to keep a lid on them harping to maintain a national identity. It is time debate whether such policy is doing more harm than good to the national cause.

If right steps are taken by the government in such direction and bottled aspirations are carefully opened, it can pre-empt the situation that we now witness in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Witness to the working of the lower judicial system in India

 Witness to  the working of the lower judicial system in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I have been witness to the functioning of the lower judiciary in the district court of Shiekhpura, Bihar and was appalled with the way things are there. The court premise is a world on its own and the working of the lower judiciary at the premises of the district court gave me the impression that it is a big thug house.

There are two sets of people I found roaming around. One the aggrieved ones, who have been subjected to some sort of injustices, and had come to seek legal remedy, the other ones those who are preying on them and ready to rob of their money by hook or crook.

In these two sets one is of foolish people and other is of crooks that think are intelligent. They intelligent there go by the adage that as long as foolish live, they wont go hungry.

To me money was raining that premises. The aggrieved one has no option than to cough off money and those preying on them are ever ready to live on it.

The earning of a clerk in the judicial court maybe not less than thousand rupees a day, while the ‘peshkar’ who is the in charge of the office and considered to be close to the judge could be much higher in daily terms.

Most of the aggrieved are first timers and are being fleeced left write and centre. The lawyers are biggest thugs in such system. Most of them who cannot write a straight sentence but some how got the degree to wear black court are making a killing by charging extra ordinary fee and giving all kinds of hope.

In this system the judges too are hand in glove. They have a habit of prolonging the cases for many years. In the end some even demand a price for writing the judgment.

The main sufferer in this system is the litigant who has to run from pillar to post and has to empty his pocket each time he visits the court. It appears there is little reform happening in such sphere of activity.

The most puzzling thing is from where the reform process has to start. Every one seems to be happy trying to live in that system. There appears to be a perfect balance being established there. No one wants to stick its neck in such challenging task.

The other thing that disturbed me was to find the handcuffing of the criminals when they were brought to be produced in the courts. It seems that the practice of British Raj is still continuing there even today.

I found the criminals just like dogs being handcuffed and tied with a rope and taken to the courts and the police personal. Most of the so called criminals were over aged and the law for senior citizen does not seem to work here.

 Most of them look to be victim of enmity and by their face did not looked hardened criminals. Most of them were poor who cannot afford legal help.

The over burden of the cases in the court and the long time being taken in the disposal of the cases were denying justice to such criminals, most of them booked for petty crimes.

The human dignity was definitely being denied to such criminals and they were treated like animals. I wondered where NGOs were and other such organizations that work on such issues are hiding in that part of the world. There seems to be hardly anyone raise their voices and push for reforms.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar and recently had visited his native place Shiekhpura and based on his observation prepared this report. He can be contacted at

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tales from Secular India- Unity in Diversity Remains Impregnable Fort

Tales from Secular India- Unity in Diversity Remains Impregnable Fort
 Syed Ali Mujtaba

There lives an old man called Ishaq Baba, in the village Barai, in Sheikhpura district of Bihar. He is about 80 years old but still leads a very active life. It’s more than 30 year’s o so he uses to ply,

‘Tonga’ or horse cart from Shiekhpura to Chewara and back and forth.  As a result he is a popular face travelling on that part of the world. Several generations has seen this ‘tongawala’ in this format of life and had been ferried by him at some time or other.

Ishaq Baba is a devout Muslim and never misses the daily prayers even while at work. It uses to be a common sight that at the call of the praying time, he will park his Tonga under a tree and spread his turban on the road and bowing down facing the west to pray while his passengers waiting for him to finish his prayer.

Ishaq baba is also known for his peculiar gait. He is 6 feet tall and has athletic looks. Except for his black glasses he remains in all white looks. He sports a white beard, wears white ‘lungi,’ a white shirt and covers his head with a white turban.

The young man though is uneducated but has seen several decades of time and all the seasons of life. He is now leading a retired life as his sons have grown up to fend him and he need not work anymore.

This time on my trip to Shiekhpura, my native place I caught up with Ishaq baba and engaged him in lively conversation to gather his thoughts of the passing time.

I began asking him to comment on the communal situation or more precisely about the Hindu – Muslim relationship around him. He was candid that, the situation on the ground is really disturbing but then its long years of cohabitation that is disallowing the social fabric to rupture.

Ishaq Baba narrated a true story to make his point. ‘Once I was travelling from capital Patna to Shiekhpura and had taken a bus that dropped me at Biharsharif, as it was going somewhere else.  I had to catch another bus to reach my destination and I was walking on the road chanting Allah Hoo, Allah Hoo, towards the next bus stand.’

‘As I was in myself, unmindful of the world when I heard the sound of some females yelling ‘molvi saab’, ‘moli saab’, that broke my thoughts. I turned back to find a bunch of village females with children trying to catch my attention.’

‘I stopped and asked them, what the matter is, one lady told me that they are from Shiekhpura and know him very well enjoying his ‘Tonga,’ ride several times. They all were in tears and needed my help as they had caught a wrong bus and were offloaded on the way. They wanted to return home but did not know way to catch the bus or train,’ Ishaq baba said.    

‘Without asking any further question, I told the ladies to follow him and need not worry and feel safe.  We walked a mile to reach the bus stand and I asked the females to sit under the shed as he will go to look for the bus that may take them ‘home,’ the young man continued his narration.

‘Even before I could do so, one crowded bus arrived on the boarding place, with its conductor shouting ‘Sheikhpura’, ‘Sheikhpura.’ I approached the conductor asking him whether he can provide seats to   the women and children accompanying him.’

‘As I was talking to the conductor the women with me too got near to the conductor. The conductor tried to trick the women, saying get inside the bus and they may find the seat along the way. I told the ladies not to board this bus in this hot weather and they may be in great discomfort since it will be very claustrophobic inside.’

‘Even before the females could make any judgment, the conductor, tried to convince them with the ‘slur,’ against me that deeply hurt me inside.  The conductor said; ‘mothers, will you believe me or the words of this Muslim.’

‘His words left me in rage and even before I could gather strength to retort back to that manly beast, to my surprise, I was stunned to find that one of the female, got  more infuriated than me, and in her rage, gave a tight slap on the face of the conductor.’

Abusing the conductor with choicest abuse, the lady said, ‘you don’t know who he is? He is like my father and we are her children who have grown up seeing him. How dare you can speak ill of him.’
 ‘When the conductor tried to get manly with her, the lady dared to touch her, and shouted to book him on rape charges with several witnesses around.

‘As the crowd started assembling and the brawl looked to get uglier, the conductor preferred hasty retreat from the scene signaling the driver to move there. My eyes got moist and tears rolled on my cheeks, the women who were equally overwhelmed consoled me seeing my plight,’ Ishaq baba said.

‘After wiping out my emotional outburst and I again asked the females to go and sit under the bus shed. I then walked to the parking area, where the buses were parked and located a bus that was to leave for Shiekhpura. I boarded that bus and spread my turban to hold the seats for the females, and sat on other seat to accommodate the rest.’

‘When the bus reached boarding area I yelled at my acquaintances to get inside and have their seats. The ladies sat on the seat were on I had my turban spread and the children sat next to me and some even on my lap as we hit the road to get home.’

‘When the bus reached Shiekhpura, all the females had their own wings as they knew now how to go and where to go. My acquaintances did so but not before encircling me and touching my feet. It was emotional moment for me,’ Ishaq baba concluded his tale.

I promised Ishaq Baba, that I will put this story for a larger audience, because such stories do not find space in media these days. The lesson I could draw that there are such stories happing reminding the secular nature of India and the concept of Unity in Diversity remains an impregnable fort.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar and recently had visited his native place Shiekhpura. He can be contacted at

Tales from Secular India Azhar, Banvari and Rabani….

Tales from Secular India  Azhar, Banvari  and Rabbani…. 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Interfaith relationship or Hindu-Muslim relationship is a topic that often remains in circulation for wrong reasons. However, there are stories of communal harmony that are happening silently and re mains unreported by the so called vibrant media.

Recently I traveled to my native village ‘Manay’ in Chakandra, Panchayt Chewara Anchal of Shekhpura in Bihar. I like to chronicle my first hand account of observation of peaceful coexistence that is being practiced in that part of the world.

There is a Muslim priest named Hafiz Azharuddin who is in charge of the mosque in the Manay village. He is about 20 years of age and his job is to call give ‘Azan’ or call for prayers five times every day. After that he lead the prayers those who come to the mosque to pray.

Hafiz Azhar gives the first call for prayer at dawn called ‘Fajir’, second in the afternoon called ‘Zohar’, then evening called ‘Asar,’  the dusk prayer called ‘Magrib’ and finally  the night prayer called ‘Isha.’

Azhar has become Hafiz or the one who has memorized all the thirty chapters of the holy Quran by heart at the age of 16. Since then he has taken up the job of pesh-imam or priest at the mosque in Manay village.

Hafiz Azhar also runs a ‘Madarsa’ in the mosque teaching the Muslim boys and girls to read Quran and the way to pray. He has made a number of children to read the entire chapters of the holy book.
Hafiz Azhar, is a popular figure in the entire village. Every one seems to be friendly with him and they respect him for being a priest.  Every evening during the dusk prayers, a number of Hindus will be seen lining up outside the mosque, with a glass of water, that Hafiz Azhar, would ‘pooh’ after reciting some verses of the holy Quran.

This water will then be carried to the sick person in the house and would give for medicinal purposes. It is said that such faith healing medicine brings relief, therefore people queue up to the mosque each day.

The other side of Hafiz Azhar is, he is also a cricketer and member of the village cricket team. He is star batsman of the village team and no matches are played without him.
Hafiz Azhar’s date of birth coincides with the reign of the iconic Mohmmad Azharuddin who captioned Indian team.  The guess is, this village priest, when he was born, was named after the cricketing legend.  

The village boys usually line up in front of the mosque to take Hafiz Azhar to play the matches that happens in the empty paddy fields during summers.

During the afternoon or evening prayers, if the match is going on, the boys will take Hafiz Azhar on the bike to the mosque to perform his religious duty. The cricketer will have a bath and then call the ‘Azan,’ lead the prayer and again change to cricket gears to be back in to the play ground.

 ‘If the match finishes, early then I am relaxed for the prayers but then sometimes when it prolongs, I have to perform the duel task,’ said Hafiz Azhar smilingly in a leisurely conversation.

Well this is a fine example of interfaith harmony working on ground. The Hindu zealots may like to rupture this harmony through their bigotry, but it appears denting such peaceful coexistence is not an easy task.

The counterpart of Hafiz Azhar, in the village Manay is Pandit Banvari the Hindu priest at the temple. He is a pious man and commands respect from all the people in the village. He is highly religious but equally a secular person.

The 72 year Hindu priest begins his day at the dawn when he takes bath at the village pond and then enters the temple and does its cleaning and other religious activity.

I engaged Banvariji in a conversation on Hindu – Muslim relations. I asked him what he thinks about this subject. He was candid saying its too deep bond and cannot be broken easily.

‘Here Hindus pray to the local deity (devta) called ‘Miaji’ who is a Muslim and on ceremonial occasions they sacrifice goats in this devta’s name.’

‘Even this temple is built on personal land and money given by the Muslim landlords of the village’, Banvariji said giving examples of communal harmony.  

 He goes on; ‘the Harijan locality in this village is on the personal land of the Muslim landlords. When they lived far away from village, they were chased away by the thieves and it’s the Muslim landlords who gave them shelter and allowed them to make houses on their land. Even they constructed the village road that connects with the main road at Kamalgarh on their personal land.’

I drew Banvariji’s attention to the caste and religious based politics practiced in Bihar and asked him what he thinks about BJP’s brand of politics. He said, ‘I do not endorse the religious exclusiveness idea of politics. This may work for short term gains, but its results in long term could be freighting’, Banvariji who reads the daily Hindi newspaper said.

I asked Banvariji, about the last assembly election in Bihar and the reasons of the defeat of the BJP and the victory of the caste based parties like RJD and JDU.

‘Actually the last assembly election was a referendum on supremacy of religion over caste Banvariji said and added; ‘the BJP had put every thing on stake to establish the supremacy of religion, they put every thing on the electoral mat, even their ‘langot’ (inner wear) for winning the election. The results, proved them wrong and they had to run showing their back.’

The other tale in this series is of Gulam Rabbani who was a contestant at the gram panchayt election that was being held. He was a candidate for the ‘Mukhiya’s post.

This is the most coveted post in the local body election because there is about 5 crore rupees of fund that the government gives to each Mukhiya for the doing the development activities of the villages in the Panchayat.  No wonder, the battle for the lions share for Panchayt head is fiercely fought.

There were fourteen candidates for the ‘Mukhiya’ post and among them was Gulam Rabani.  Rabani is a highly popular candidate who has been contesting this post many times unsuccessfully. This time too he tried his luck but failed.

However, the most spectacular part about Rabani is he is highly popular among young boys who have not even reached the voting age.  Once Rabbani comes to the village, the young lads runs out of the village to greet him. They carry him on their shoulders to give him an entry like a celebrity in the village.

The young boys will gather around him and  shout the slogan; ‘Rabani – Rabani - bijli (electricity), paani (water) – Rabani, - thanda  panni ( cold water) – Rabani – Rabani  – our beloved leader Rabani- we all love Rabbani’, and so on...

It’s quite a spectacle. I have never seen such kind of enthusiasm for any candidate and all that seem to be selfless, without any material gains. I asked Rabani the reasons of his popularity among the youth.
He said, ‘I am the only candidate who work 24x7 365 days a year. Whenever anyone calls me, I am there on the spot. When this village had problem of electricity because its transformer got conked off, I took immediate steps to get it replaced, Rabani said when he came to me for canvassing.

He goes on; when there was scarcity of water in the village I got the hand pumps installed in each of the locality of the village. Now they drink the cold water from the hand pump and can take bath. They all like me because no one bothers to visit the village till the next election, Rabani concluded his boasting.

The sad news is, Rabani has lost the election again. The candidate who won had more numbers of his caste vote. Rabani undoubtedly was the most popular candidate but elections are not won on sheer popularity as other factors too count as well.

However, the fact remains is that characters like Rabani, reminds nature of Indian society that is based on communal harmony. Its people like him who are holding the flag of secular India aloft.

Well these are some tales of silver linings in the otherwise growing atmosphere of communal strife in India. These anecdotes are pointers that interfaith harmony is still being practiced in some parts of India.

Such positive stories needs to be told to remind that peaceful co existence is the only way to make India internally strong and move forward.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He hails from Bihar and recently had visited his native place Shiekhpura and based on his observation prepared this report. He can be contacted at

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

About: Syed Ali Mujtaba PhD

     Syed Ali Mujtaba PhD
1-  Current Position: Dr Syed is currently working as Head of the Department Visual Communication at Gurunanak College Chennai. He last worked as Principal, National College of Design, Chennai. Previously, he worked as Head of Department for Media Studies at  several institutions in Chennai; Media Arts and Science College (MASC), SSS. Jain College, Vels University, Manipal University etc. He has been visiting faculty at number of institutions in Chennai.
2-     Teaching career: Syed has been a full time media faculty for about ten  years now. He has taught papers in Journalism, Mass Communication, Visual Communication and Film Studies etc. 
3-     Education: Syed is MA, MA, M.Phil, and PhD & NET. He has bachelors and Master degree in History from AMU Aligarh, MA Journalism and Mass Communication from Alagappa University. He has taken M.Phil & PhD from School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
4-     Distinction: Syed has qualified National Education Test (NET), conducted by University Grant Commission, India.He was a Jeffeson Fellow in 2003. 
5-     Journalist Career: Syed spent about fifteen years in active Journalism working for several media organization in India and abroad. Hs career is spread over to print, television, internet and radio. As freelance he continues to write for several newspapers, news syndicates and websites and magazines.
6-     Jefferson Fellow: Syed earned the prestigious Jefferson Fellow media award at East West Center, Hawaii, in 2003.
7-     Documentary Filmmaker: Syed has made two documentary films. “Beyond Empires,” for Lamppost Media USA and “Making a Difference” on the street children of Chennai.
8-     Author:  Syed has authored two books, “The Demand for Partition of India and British Policy 1940-45,” Mittal Publisher (2002) and “Soundings on South Asia”, Sterling – New Dawn Publication (2005). He has contributed a chapter each to four edited volumes. His research papers have appeared in several reputed journals in India and abroad.
9-     Travel: As a Jefferson fellow he has travelled to several cities in the US, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore. He was in UK to pursue doctoral research. He was in Thailand twice to attend media conferences He also visited Nepal for academic purpose.
10-  Affiliations: Syed is a member of International Federation of Environmental Journalist Association (IFEJA) and Association of British Scholars, Chennai chapter. He is also member of East West Center Hawaii, Chennai Chapter and  member of Indibloger..
11-  Social Network:  Syed is the founder and moderator of South Asia Contact Group.  He can be searched at Google, U tube, facebook, twitter etc.
12-  Blog: He is member of
13-  Extracurricular: Syed was in the Aligarh Muslim University’s Football team.