Pages

Friday, December 31, 2010

It is a shame that we will have more billionaires than Europe or Japan

 
On reforms with a human face: There is no human face. It is absolutely dehumanised. Let me be blunt. With so much of poverty and destitution, a billionaire has the audacity to build a house worth Rs 5,000 crore when half the population of Mumbai lives in jhopad pattis. This is what economic liberalisation has brought about.
On the rich and poor: Three hundred million Indians still starve, getting less than the minimum nutrition needed. Another 300-400 million are not starving but are poor. On the other hand, we have the emergence of billionaires. It’s a shame that we will have more billionaires than Europe or Japan. Discontent is going up as disparity gets pronounced. Sooner or later this will get mobilised, as in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Manipur. There will be more such pockets and we will face an incendiary situation. The politicians are unaware of the prospects that lie ahead. As for businessmen, they think they can rule forever through foreign favour and exploitation.

From Ashok Mitra's take in Outlook. More Here.

Binayak Sen and sedition


ப்போது அவர் ஒரு ராஜதுரோகி. ஒரு மனிதாபிமானியாக, நல்ல மருத்துவராக, மனித உரிமைகள் இயக்கச் சேவகராக மட்டுமே இதுவரை அறியப்பட்டிருந்த 58 வயதான டாக்டர் பினாயக்சென்னுக்கு ஆயுள்தண்டனை விதிக்கப்பட்டு இருக்கிறது. சட்டீஸ்கர் மாநிலத்தின் இந்த கீழ்க்கோர்ட்டு தீர்ப்பு இப்போது நாடெங்கிலும் கிழிக்கப்பட்டுக் கொண்டு இருக்கிறது. சமூக ஆர்வலர்கள், அறிஞர்கள், எழுத்தாளர்கள், கலைஞர்கள் என பலதரப்பிலிருந்தும் கண்டனங்கள் வந்த வண்ணம் இருக்கின்றன. மே.வங்கத்தைச் சேர்ந்த, நோபல் பரிசு பெற்ற டாக்டர் அம்ரித்யா சென்  மனமுடைந்தவராய் “நீதியின் கருச்சிதைவு” என்று கடுமையான வார்த்தைகளோடு தன் கண்டனத்தை வெளிப்படுத்தி இருக்கிறார்.

பினாயக்சென் 2007ம் வருடம் மார்ச் 14ம்தேதி சட்டீஸ்கர் மாநிலக் காவல்துறையினரால் கைது செய்யப்பட்டார். மாவோயிஸ்டுகளுக்கு கூரியராக செயல்பட்டார் என்பதும், மாவோயிஸ்டுகள் மீது அனுதாபம் கொண்டு இருந்தார் என்பதும் அவர் மீது சுமத்தப்பட்ட குற்றச்சாட்டுக்கள். அவரது வீட்டைச் சோதனையிட்டு, அதற்கான இரண்டு கடிதங்களையும், சில பிரசுரங்களையும் கைப்பற்றி, நீதிமன்றத்தில் ஆதாரங்களாக சமர்க்கப்பட்டு இருக்கின்றன. அந்த ஆதாரங்கள் போலியானவை என்றும், சாட்சியங்களால் உறுதிசெய்யப்படவில்லையென்றும் பினாயக்சென் ஆதரவாளர்கள் சொல்கின்றனர். இருந்தபோதும் இந்தியக் குற்றவியல் சட்டத்தின் செக்‌ஷன் 124A  அவர் மீது பாய்ந்திருக்கிறது.


ஆதாரங்களும், சாட்சியங்களும் இங்கு தேவையற்றவை. நிஜத்தில் டாக்டர் பினாயக் சென யாருக்கு ஆதரவாளராக இருந்தார் என்பது உலகுக்கே தெரிந்திருக்கிறது. அரசால் புறக்கணிக்கப்பட்ட விளிம்புநிலை மனிதர்களுக்கு சேவை செய்வதையே தன் வாழ்வாக கொண்டிருக்கிறார். அவர்களுக்கான குரலாக இருந்திருக்கிறார். பெரும் முதலாளிகளால் படுகொலை செய்யப்பட்ட சங்கர் குஹா நியோகி எனும் தொழிற்சங்கத் தலைவரின் பெயரால் மருத்துவமனை கட்டி எழை எளிய மக்களுக்கு இலவச சிகிச்சை அளித்து வந்திருக்கிறார். இதற்காக பல அமைப்புகள் அவரைப் பாராட்டி, விருதுகள் வழங்கி கௌரவித்திருக்கின்றன.

ராஜதுரோகம், ராஜதுரோகம் என இந்த கோர்ட்டுகளும், இந்த அரசும் அவர்களுக்கான அகராதியில் சொல்லிவிட்டுப் போகட்டும். உண்மையில் யார்

ராஜதுரோகி என்பதற்கான மக்கள் அகராதி ஒன்று இருக்கிறது. உழைக்கும் மக்களைச் சுரண்டுகிறவர்கள், மக்களைப் பிரித்து ஆளத் துடிப்பவர்கள், நாட்டின் வளங்களைச் சுரண்டுபவர்கள், விவசாயிகளின் வாழ்வை அபகரித்து அவர்களை தற்கொலை விளிம்புகளுக்குத் தள்ளியவர்கள், அரசுத் திட்டங்களில் முறைகேடுகள் செய்கிறவர்கள், ஊழல் செய்கிறவர்கள், குள்ள நரிகள், மொள்ளமாரிகள் எல்லாம் ராஜ துரோகிகள்.
இப்போது சொல்லுங்கள், யார் ராஜ துரோகி?

From Madhavraj's தீராத பக்கங்கள். More Here

Binayak Sen and Vedanta Resources

A time will soon come when Indian companies will begin to be sued in class action cases by both people in India and those overseas. Indian corporations with a global footprint will also suffer. Vedanta Resources Plc is a good example. I believe more businesses will begin to suffer legally and financially as the world at large begins to learn that they operate in a sledgehammer fashion in India, and present angelic faces elsewhere in the world.

From Sudeep Chakravarti's article in Open. More Here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rahul Gandhi, Hindutva Terror and Indian Muslims

 Sadhwi Pragya Thakur with Rajnath Singh and senior BJP leaders
Rahul Gandhi’s comments that home-grown Hindu extremist groups are bigger threat to India than Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and Muslim militants during his conversations with US Ambassador Timothy Roemer and leaked out by Wikileaks have provoked the Hindutva outfits and their sympathizers to accuse him of “dividing India again on communal lines” and “playing vote-bank politics.”
 Rahul Gandhi
We need to take a lesson from it. Now it is an open secret that it were Hindutva groups who were involved in terror incidents like bomb attack at Ajmer Sharif dargah in Rajasthan, Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, bomb explosion in Malegaon(Maharashtra) and Modasa (Gujarat), and Samjhauta Express carrying Indian and Pakistan passengers to Pakistan.
 Uma Bharathi with Lalji Tandon
What has emerged as significant in the investigations conducted by various Indian investigative agencies is that the Hindu militants involved in these attacks were highly motivated by their religion and connected with religious groups, with direct and indirect support and sympathy from some unscrupulous elements of our Army. If such unscrupulous elements are not curbed immediately, we can well imagine the state of things to emerge in future in the country. With their pan-India presence and networking at grassroots level, they can do unimaginable damage and it will be very difficult task to check them if they are allowed to spread their tentacles like the terror outfits in Pakistan. This is what Rahul Gandhi wants to convey through his statements. As for threat from Pakistan-based militant outfits, they are operating from outside and it is easier to keep watch on them and their sympathizers in India. Moreover, while Lashkar-e-Toiba and other Pakistani outfits are mainly hitting the targets outside Pakistan, Hindutva outfits targeting their own countrymen though the activities of both the groups are anti-human.

We have already seen the horrors of the Hindutva groups inflicted in shape of the bulldozing of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 and mass carnage of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. The entire operation is so devised by the Hindutva groups that the blame is placed on Muslims for the crimes committed by them, with the media coverage of such events giving a perception that Muslims are attacking fellow Muslims and that too at venerable places like Masjids and dargah. If such elements get an upper hand in India, the safety and security of minorities, particularly Muslims, will be at great risk.

This crisis, if unattended, can lead to a total alienation of Muslims from the country. Oddly this is exactly what Hindutva desires. But it could be disastrous for Muslims as well as for the country.

From Syed Zeeshan Ahmed's article in Indian Muslims. More Here

(The writer can be reached at zeiahmed@gmail.com).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Salman Khan, Niira Radia, Ratan Tata and phone tapping

A few years before this, The Indian Express ran a series of reports called the ‘Tata Tapes'. They were about how Tata Tea may have paid extortion money to Ulfa extremists in Assam to allow them to run their plantations in that state. The paper carried transcripts of conversations recorded after Nusli Wadia's telephone was tapped. They featured industrialists Keshub Mahindra and Ratan Tata, Tata Tea's RK Krishna Kumar and former soldier Sam Manekshaw. The Tatas were doing what any company should do — protect their employees — because the State could not. However, the conversations were seen by many as an act of anti-nationalism. This wasn't so much because of the actual actions of the people taped as their conversations which, because they were private and unguarded, lent themselves to being sensational in cold print.
The real story was why Nusli Wadia's phone had been tapped and who had done this. The State denied any role. The Indian Express reporter who broke the story, Ritu Sarin, said she had promised her source (apparently after being made to place her hand on her child's head) that she would never reveal his or her name. Who was it? Was it someone in the police or the government? Was it a corporate enemy, like Wadia's old enemy Reliance? What was the motive behind getting the story published? We do not know.
And now the latest round of leaked tapes features stars from business, politics and journalism talking to the fixer Niira Radia.
Who recorded these conversations? We know this because home secretary GK Pillai says it was his department. Why was the home ministry taping Radia? Pillai says it was because of suspicions of tax evasion. This is astonishing, but not unusual here. In India, the State insists it cannot police effectively unless it is increasingly intrusive. But this isn't true of civilised States. No European nation taps the phones of citizens suspected of not paying taxes. Their solution is increasing competence and efficiency in the State; our solution is always to give the State more power. But this isn't really a solution.
The sensational nature of the Radia conversations must not throw us off the real issue the tapes have thrown up. Corruption is India is caused by a cultural lack of morality. Where there is opportunity, there will likely be corruption. This cannot be resolved through intrusion. In fact, such intrusion encourages corruption. Here's how. Arbitrary spying on citizens gives individuals in the state power over them. The deeper the penetration of the state, the more power in the hands of government individuals, the more opportunity to be corrupt.
Pillai, the most powerful bureaucrat in India, does not even know who leaked the tapes he's in charge of. He says he has not even heard the tapes. Then who is in control of this material? Has someone suppressed some conversations and released others? Did someone pay off an official to leak them? We do not know.
Like Salman talking rubbish, a lot of the material on the Radia tapes can be discarded as the work of loudmouths impressing other loudmouths. Journalists have an exaggerated sense of their power, and we can safely dismiss the idea that a politician will appoint someone or affect a change in policy because a journalist weighed in on the matter.
The real revelation is that the State is up to no good. The newspaper Mint reported that the government records 5,000 phone conversations a day. That's 18 lakh a year. It has a legitimate cause to this only when it comes to saving people's lives from violence and terrorism. But it chooses to do it so arbitrarily, as we have seen in the case of Salman Khan, and so often, as we see with Radia, that they falter when they must do it competently, as they should have done in the case of judge Singh.
From Aakar Patel's write up in HT. More Here
Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media. The views expressed by the author are personal.
More Here

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"Islam has the most egalitarian system,” says Prof. Vyas


Noted economist and Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council member V. S. Vyas on Monday called for giving an “ethical orientation” to the planning process by adopting moral principles common to all religions to ensure equitable growth and address distortions of the modern economic system.

Addressing a dialogue on “Ethical issues in planning and development” at Yojana Bhavan here, Prof. Vyas said Islamic economic principles could provide answers to some of the serious challenges of modern economy advocating limitless production and consumption which “invariably leads to poverty, deprivation and exploitation”.

“Among all religions, Islam has the most egalitarian system of equitable distribution of wealth to benefit the poor and the needy through Zakat and Sadaqat,” said Prof. Vyas, adding that this financial arrangement needed to be further explored to find out the scope for its adoption in the mainstream economy.

Prof. Vyas' remarks came as a pleasant surprise to the advocates of Islamic economy and banking who have been requesting the Union Government for a long time to introduce the system on an experimental basis for those unwilling to subscribe to the interest-based economy which is perceived as promoting usury and exploitation.

Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, comprises alms giving of 2.5 per cent of one's possession every year as a welfare contribution to poor and deprived Muslims. Its payment is mandatory on four categories of items – farm produce, livestock, trade and commerce merchandise, and gold and silver. Sadaqat are voluntary charities over and above Zakat.

Prof. Vyas, who is also Deputy Chairperson of the Rajasthan Planning Board, said the ethics should be implemented at the macro level, going beyond individuals, to help the development paradigm include all marginalised groups of society: “We need to ensure that the [growth in] gross domestic product is actually reflected in the country's development.”

Alternative model

Policy planners, academicians, economists and experts attending the dialogue also examined the feasibility of “relative economics” propounded by the late Jain Terapanth scholar Acharya Mahapragya as an alternative model for providing a humane face to development. The model envisages sustainable development through equitable distribution of resources.

Jain Vishwa Bharati University Vice-Chancellor Samani Charitra Prajna said the “greed in various forms” was the main cause for deviation from ethical norms and the humanity could not progress without morality and moderation. These values should be taught to youngsters as early as possible in their lives for changing their hearts and minds, she added.

More Here

Read : ICIF launches website on Islamic Banking and finance
Read More here. To visit the site on Islamic Banking click here. 
Read : Islamic Banking would fetch $500 billion for India  
Read :  When London, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong can become hub and house of Islamic Finance why not Mumbai or Cochin? 
Read : Introduce Islamic Banking to save the farmers of Vidharba, says M S Swaminathan 

Read : 10 point programme for Islamic Banking in India!

Al Jazeera to broadcast in India


Al Jazeera English has been granted a license to broadcast in India for the first time.

The decision allows cable and satellite companies in India to add the channel to their line-up.

“This is an exciting breakthrough that has been in the works for several years, and we are extremely pleased that Al Jazeera English’s groundbreaking news and programming will soon be available in India,” Al Anstey, managing director of the channel, said. More
YouTube lilnk

Monday, December 06, 2010

Editors, power brokers and the Radia tapes!


L K Advani once said that when Indira Gandhi wanted the media to bend, it chose to crawl. Last fortnight, when the Niira Radia tapes showed the dirt within the media and it was expected to stand up to the high moral standards it sets for the rest of society, the conventional media buried its head in the sand. A pitiful attempt to cover up one of the biggest media scandals. Thank god for the new media which forced the old to mend its ways, just a wee bit.
Sanghvi, Sanghvi/Yes, Papa...
Fixing columns?/No, Papa…
Telling lies?/No, Papa…
Show me proof/How Dare You?
That twisted nursery rhyme sums up some of what top editors of India did and most of what media organisations failed to do (or did not care to do) in the last fortnight.

This was a fortnight in which the national media exposed itself by deciding not to expose itself. It demonstrated that it interprets “free press” as freedom to ignore serious questions about their own conduct and credibility.

For a long time, newsroom wisdom had it that if a dog bites a man, it is news. That definition turned on its head in the early 90s, possibly coinciding with the onset of the MTV generation. A dog biting a man was no longer newsworthy. Now, we were told, it’s news only if a man bites a dog.

Then came 24x7 news, relentless and unceasing. Everything became so passé so quickly that the definition of news underwent another rewrite. Man biting a dog became news only if the dog died of rabies as a consequence!

And then, on November 19, the Indian media’s man-bites-dog-and-dog-dies-of-rabies moment came. Busy as it was exposing scam after scam involving every strata of society, the media itself landed in the middle of an embarrassing scandal.

Damning audio tapes of many editors, notably two icons, Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt, were put out by Open and Outlook magazines.  In the tapes, both the editors are talking to a corporate lobbyist Niira Radia who is desperately seeking to fix a key appointment in the Manmohan Singh cabinet in May 2009.

Radia is trying to block DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran from becoming the telecommunications minister because Maran had rubbed the Tata Group, one of Radia’s principal clients, on the wrong side earlier. In his place, Radia is pushing for A Raja, who was the telecommunications minister in the earlier government (during which time he gave the country its biggest financial scam ever).

Radia is asking Vir and Barkha to carry messages to the Congress Party that the DMK, which had withdrawn from the cabinet, was actually dying for a rapprochement, in complete contrast with their grandstanding in public.  By clearly agreeing (as it seems from the tapes and as both of them have since admitted) to carry that message to the Congress, the two editors opened themselves up for serious charges of professional impropriety.

Did they cross the “Lakshman rekha” of journalism and become complicit in a dirty corporate game to fix even the appointments to the country’s cabinet?

That was a question that needed to be taken by the scruff of its collar and debated vigorously if only to show that the media is as unsparing of itself as it is of others.

Instead, NDTV put out a cursory, indignant, dismissive and, why, even a condescending clarification on their website (and once on air) as did Vir Sanghvi on his personal website. Then the media collectively buried its head in the sand, hoping that its most embarrassing moment would pass quickly. If there were some rotten eggs in its midst, nobody needed to know. Least of all their readers/viewers.

They say awareness of a problem is 50% of the solution. The Indian media obviously thinks ignoring a problem is a complete solution.

So, all we got instead was deathly silence. No breaking news, no screaming headlines. As I write this on November 30, 12 days after the expose, the scandal is yet to make it to the front page of any daily in the capital (though Mail Today followed it up extensively on the inside pages, a happy exception).
An enquiry might yet find Vir, Barkha and other editors such as Prabhu Chawla and MK Venu not guilty of gross professional misconduct, but we need no enquiry to pronounce the Indian media guilty of a clumsy, attempted cover-up.

First, the two organisations that Vir and Barkha work and report/write for, Hindustan Times and NDTV (tagline: Experience  Truth First). Vir is advisory editorial director of the paper and writes a “most-most read” Sunday column called Counterpoint. In addition to agreeing to carry messages for Radia, two of Vir’s past columns (June 21, 2009 and August 15, 2009) concerning the Ambani Brothers’ gas wars came to be suspected  as plugs for Mukesh Ambani, written to Radia’s specifications.

Vir and Barkha defended their reputations. What did HT and NDTV do? They took Vir and Barkha’s word and left it at that. Much like prime minister Manmohan Singh six months ago. He said everything was above board in the 2G telecom licences case. Who told him? A Raja!

But the greater shock is how the so-called national press handled the issue. The Hindu’s editor, N Ram, unlike other editors was unequivocal. “They have certainly crossed the line,” he said on CNN-IBN. “They would not have lasted five minutes in a foreign news organisation.”

His newspaper though put the story, incredibly, on the edit page!

The Indian Express ignored it till November 30 when it put out a full page with a very telling headline: “Government has ordered a probe, Tata has gone to court, the Radia tapes have forced the media to ask questions: about itself.” Yeah, 12 days of behaving like nothing happened.
Same with the Times of India. Not a word on the biggest media scandal of recent times. Santosh Desai’s column appears every Monday in the Delhi edition of the paper. On Monday, November 20, he wrote in his column: “There is a Soviet silence on television these days. Beneath the noise of the 2G scam…lurks a deeper silence that haunts every minute of every channel. The decision to blank out the murky goings-on involving some of India’s top names in journalism is a staggeringly significant one.”

That column appeared on the paper’s website, but was yanked out of the paper itself!
Arnab Goswami’s Times Now, who never tires of asking questions,  wrote an internal note warning his journalists but evaded asking questions of his profession even as the “whole nation was watching tonight”  busying himself with every scam other than the media scam.

The only news show of consequence happened on CNN-IBN. Karan Thapar’s Last Word took up the issue squarely, named Vir and Barkha, and asked all the uncomfortable questions. But that was not before his editor and president of the Editor’s Guild, Rajdeep Sardesai had brushed it aside: “If you can prove quid pro quo, do it. Else don’t tarnish hard-earned reputations.” (Mail Today).


When the dust settles on this scandal, it will be clear that even if conventional media wants to hide, the new media will not allow it to. Even to date, conventional media is seen as trustworthy, that what it prints or broadcasts is sacred. But that age of innocence of the reader is well nigh over. If that bond is strained more or broken again, conventional media might lose its relevance to the new media faster than we foresee.
From the shameful behaviour of the national media in trying to cover up its scandal, that might not be such a bad thing.

From B V Rao's article in Governance Now magazine. More Here
This first appeared in the Dec 1-15 issue of Governance Now magazine (Vol.01, Issue 21).

Obama is behaving like Bush : Iranian minister


Speaking on the second day of the International Institute for Strategic Studies Regional Security Summit at the Ritz-Carlton Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki blamed the American presence in the region for its instability.

“They bombed Afghanistan (after 9/11) and then became so arrogant that they did not even feel the need to take the permission of the United Nations to bomb Iraq. They killed hundreds of innocent people in Iraq — people who had committed no crime,” he said in Farsi.

He accused the US of spreading lies and deception, citing the recent WikiLeaks controversy, and claimed that Iran was a friend to all Arab and Muslim countries in the region. “We are happy when Saudi Arabia flourishes. We are happy to note that Bahrain has become an important center of international banking. Why should we not be happy? These are our Muslim brothers,” he said while driving his point home.

It is the foreign intervention that is to blame for all the ills afflicting the region, he said. “It has been proven that foreign intervention creates unhealthy rivalries between neighbors. It is the presence of foreign powers in our region that is the immediate cause for regional divisions and strife.”

He denied claims that Iran was building a nuclear weapon and claimed the Americans were spreading lies.
“We are not. And let me clarify that throughout our 700 years of history and culture we have not used force against any of our Arab neighbors ... We cannot even think of it because our neighbors are Muslims.”

He said Muslim countries must not submit to pressures by outsiders that divide them and create instability and create divisions among friends in the region. “In the region it has been proven that foreign intervention creates unhealthy rivalries between neighbors.”

Iranian nuclear power, he said, will benefit the entire Muslim world. “Muslims must be happy to see other Muslims becoming powerful ... Our power is your power, and your power is ours,” he told the high-powered gathering. “We must not allow the Western media to tell us what to think of each other.”

According to him, things have not changed under US President Barack Obama. “We see the same policies are in motion that were started by (George W.) Bush. The American people had given Obama the mandate to stop the wars. He did not do so and was therefore punished in recent elections,” said Mottaki.

He said Iran is fully aware of the dangers of building nuclear weapons. “A nuclear bomb does only one thing: it destroys everything. Why will we go for such a weapon? Look at our history and show one instance where we have used force? We never sought weapons of mass destruction. Even when we were attacked by chemical weapons in the 1980s we did not think of building such weapons. These chemical weapons were by the way supplied by the American and European governments to Iraq.”

As recently as Thursday, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency restated that Iran was not fulfilling its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it is signatory. The UN imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran in June for its continued noncompliance with the international watchdog group.

“It has been six months since they introduced the sanctions, and if they need more time in order to see if these sanctions worked they can wait a longer time. The sanctions have no impact on us,” the 57-year-old Iranian career diplomat maintained.


From Siraj Wahab's report in Arab News. More Here.

"Ratan, the media is very, very greedy" said Niira Radia to Ratan Tata.


"Ratan, They are buying up the media. They're using their buying power with the media. I can't tell the discussions I had with the media, in particular the Times Group and Dainik Bhaskar.... They say, Niira, every time we do a negative story on them, they withdraw advertising. So, I said, fine, others can also withdraw advertising.... They leverage every dollar of their mediaspend to ensure they don't get any negative publicity. The media is very, very greedy."


From Sukumar Muralidharan's comprehensive analysis on Radia Tapes, Indian Media. The catchy title of the analysis says it all: "Media : stenographer to power". To download the pdf version of the analysis click Here.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

WikiLeaks Exposes Israeli Mafia's Growing Influence


I love how the pundits are yawning over the latest WikiLeaks revelations: oh, there's nothing to see here, it's all so boring, no "smoking gun," so let's just move right along. These people are just plain lazy: they want "scoops" delivered to their front doors, all neatly packaged and labeled as such. In short, they don't want to have to do any work, beyond the usual cut-and-paste. Which is why a lot of the really juicy stuff coming out of WikiLeaks continues to elude them.
Take, for example, this excerpt from a cable dated May 15, 2009 – entitled "Israel, A Promised Land for Organized Crime?" – sent by our embassy in Tel Aviv, which deals with the rising influence of Israeli organized crime:
"As recently as March 2009, Zvika Ben Shabat, Yaacov Avitan, and Tzuri Roka requested visas to attend a 'security-related convention' in Las Vegas. According to local media reports, all three had involvement with OC. Post asked the applicants to provide police reports for any criminal records in Israel, but without such evidence there is no immediate ineligibility for links to OC. Luckily, all three have so far failed to return for continued adjudication of their applications. Nevertheless, it is fair to assume that many known OC figures hold valid tourist visas to the United States and travel freely."

What are organized crime figures doing showing up at a "security-related convention" in Las Vegas? Well, it seems Mr. Zvika Ben Shabat is the President of "H.A.Sh Security Group," an Israeli company that offers security services worldwide. Indeed, they just signed an agreement to start a joint venture with India's giant Micro-Technologies, a company which is described as follows:
"Micro Technologies was established by Dr. [P.] Shekhar, who served as the person in charge on behalf of the Indian Government for advancement and development of the technology and software field in India (First Director Software Technology Park in India), and his company deals with the development of technologies and is already active in many markets around the world, amongst which are: Denmark, Brussels, Italy, New York, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and more. The company has security technologies for identification and monitoring of cell phones, vehicles, structures, computers, infrastructures and WIFI technologies."
In other words, they specialize in snooping, otherwise known as spying. The first Micro Technologies/H.A. Sh Security Group project is a "command and control center" to be built in Mumbai, India. As for what theH.A.Sh Security Group specializes in, well, take a look at these Youtube videos:  here,  here, and  here, for starters. And get a load of who is the Chairman of H.A.Sh Security: none other than retired Major General Dan Ronen, whose resume appears  here:
"2001-2003 – Israel Police: Head of the Operations Division, with the rank of Major General; Coordination of activities of all police units in the operational field; Coordination with the General Security Service and IDF units in the battle against terrorism; 2004-2007 – Israel Police: Commander of Northern Region (the largest of the police regions); Responsible for liaison and coordination vis-à-vis heads of local authorities; Responsible for leading and commanding the overall forces and systems during the second Lebanon War, in missions involving defense of the residents in the northern home front; Areas of Expertise: Combat against terrorism and suicide bombers coordination and operation of emergency and rescue organizations Combat against crime and crime organizations."
Gen. Ronen is listed as the Chairman of H.A.Sh Security Group, with Mr. Ben Shabat, variously described [pdf] as the President, Vice-President, and Director. So why is one of Israel's former top cops in a business relationship with a known member of the Israeli Mafia?
Enquiring minds want to know!

From Justin Raimondo's  report in Sabbah. More Here

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Who is afraid of Arundhati Roy?


What is a society without its dreamers, its intellectuals and artistes? It’s like a body without soul, an individual without conscience. Writers and artistes are not just the cream of any society; they are our hearts and minds and the voice of our collective conscience. They do not just defend us and stand up for the vulnerable and voiceless amongst us, they also hold out the mirror to us when necessary from time to time, helping us see our warts and all.

Mature and tolerant societies accept the occasional reality check from their artistes and intellectuals with magnanimity and dignity it deserves. Because they are essentially a part of us — a more sensitive and caring part of our existence. And when instead of paying attention to this voice of our collective conscience, we try to stifle it, we in effect commit a moral hara-kiri. 

Men and women like Arundhati Roy aren’t born every day, even in a billion plus country like India. They are God’s gift to humanity. We should love, value and cherish them. We may not always find ourselves agreeing with them on many issues and it’s only natural. But turning on them in fury the moment they try to walk apart from the crowd or muster the courage to speak out against what they believe to be wrong is not only unfair to them but an affront to civil societies everywhere.

What has the celebrated author and activist done to earn the wrath of India’s increasingly intolerant chattering classes and some of its shrill, Fox News-like media? After all, as Roy argued in her dispassionate rejoinder this week in some newspapers, she has only said and recounted on Kashmir what the Indian government, especially the charismatic first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru and other leaders had repeatedly promised the Kashmiris and the world community in crucial months and years after the partition.

In his address to the nation over All India Radio on Nov. 2, 1947, Nehru said, “We are anxious not to finalize anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide. And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion (of India and Pakistan), the accession must be made by the people of that state.”

In another broadcast the next day, the prime minister said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir and to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.” In a letter on Nov. 21 1947 addressed to Pakistan Prime Minister Liyaqat Ali Khan, Nehru said, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide accession by plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations.”

Four days later, in a statement in the Constituent Assembly, on Nov. 25, 1947, Nehru declared, “In order to establish our bona fide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the UN. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people.” Again in Constituent Assembly on March 5, 1948, the premier said, “Even at the moment of accession, we went out of our way to make a unilateral declaration that we would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum. We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a plebiscite with every protection of fair voting and to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir.”
Commenting on the bitter war of words between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Nehru warned in Parliament on March 31, 1955, “Kashmir is perhaps the most difficult of problems between India and Pakistan. We should also remember that Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied between India and Pakistan but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir!”

There are dozens of such assurances in Nehru’s speeches and statements — and those of other leaders — promising the Kashmiris a fair deal. So this whole circus of prosecuting Roy and others on the charges of “sedition” is not just absurd but is a poor reflection on our maturity as a proud nation. Instead of celebrating our truly courageous, selfless artistes and intellectuals such as Roy and respecting their right to dissent and have their say, we are rushing to burn them at the stake.

India is not just the world’s largest democracy; it is without doubt its greatest and most colorful. We do it great disservice by heckling and attacking dissenting voices. As literary pundit George Steiner would argue, shooting a man because one disagrees with his interpretation of Darwin or Hegel is a sinister tribute to the supremacy of ideas in human affairs.

Whether we like it or not, Kashmir has always been a complex and thorny question and there will always be as many points of view on the issue as is possible.

Personally speaking, as an Indian Muslim, I would want nothing better than have this “paradise on earth” and its charming and refined people stay with India. In fact, this whole idea of “Muslim Kashmiris” going with “Muslim Pakistan” makes my generation of the post-partition, post-Ayodhya Muslims terribly uneasy. But it’s not for me or you to determine that question, is it? Ultimately, as Nehru repeatedly emphasized, it’s for the Kashmiris to decide.

Be it India or Pakistan, no one can force that decision on the Kashmiris on either side of the Line of Control at gunpoint. The battle for Kashmiri hearts and minds cannot be won with 700,000 soldiers constantly breathing down the Kashmiris’ neck. 

From Dubai based columnist  Aijaz Zaka Syed's write-up in Arab News. More Here

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The curious case of Barkha Dutt (and others)

Excerpts from Silver Blaze (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes), by Arthur Conan Doyle

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Reality TV met News Opinionating met Court TV yesterday when well known TV journalist Barka Dutt, news editor of the NDTV channel came under cross questioning by four editors - Sanjaya Baru of the Business Standard, Dileep Padgaonkar, former editor of the Times of India, Manu Joseph of the Open Magazine which broke the “Radia tapes” story and Swapan Dasgupta, right wing columnist and contributor to The Pioneer and The Telegraph among others.
The key behind this charade held by the channel was to bring into focus the role played by Barkha Dutt as a news editor reporting during the UPA-II cabinet formation based on information she received from corporate lobbyist Niira Radia. The conversations with Radia establish a few things - 

a) Barkha Dutt explicitly agrees to act as a message courier between Radia (ostensibly speaking for entities within the DMK) and Congress leaders - senior ones like Ghulam Nabi Azad for e.g., 

b) Radia was particularly keen on passing the message as to who among the DMK was a preferred candidate for ministership in certain berths.

The anger against Barkha Dutt expressed online was on various counts. Many in the public were linking this up with the 2G scam and role of DMK minister A Raja in it. They saw it as a case of Radia playing a facilitator for the re-entry of A Raja into the UPA-II cabinet despite serious questions about the 2G scam during UPA-I and journalists helping her in the process. It was galling for the public to see journalists who they ideally see as detached players wanting to partake into such murky processes orchestrated by corporate players.
No wonder, Barkha Dutt, being the high profile journalist that she is, was prominently highlighted along with a few others. The other high profile journalist Vir Sanghvi was caught even more red handed, playing the rat to Radia’s Pied Piper in helping in message delivery and opinion making about two issues - again the A Raja re-installation in cabinet and also the Mukesh Ambani line in the gas dispute between the Ambani brothers. Sanghvi has recently taken a break from writing his column, Counterpoint. And he makes a bogus defense based on “stringing his source”, but the proof is in the pudding that is his writing and there, as is pointed out earlier, he is caught red handed doing Niira Radia’s bidding.

Evidently Vir Sanghvi is more interested in pushing for the national interest as long as that interest expediently serves the corporate lobbyist's.
Barkha Dutt in her first response was outraged by the insinuations of lobbying in particular. She insisted that her assurances to Radia were basically “fibs” wanting to string her to get further information. And it is this outrage that pervaded her response besides the point on media ethics, where she questioned Open magazine (and Outlook magazine)’s decisions to publish transcripts of her conversations without contacting her for a response and so on.
This was evident in her replies during last night’s inquisition-of-sorts as well.
But substantively, the key question remained and asked only by a relative few - Siddharth Varadarajan of The Hindu in his article, and by the Open magazine’s editor, Manu Joseph and his colleague

Joseph asked Dutt why wasn’t it that as a news editor she saw it necessary to bring to the public’s purview that a corporate public relations person having two of the richest clients in the world and indeed most powerful in India, was trying to pass on messages on which DMK leader was suitable for a particular cabinet post? Wasn’t it obvious that the role of corporate players wanting to  have a say in getting ministers of their liking was a case of gross crony capitalism?
Why was her coverage restricted to the minute-by-minute reporting of what the DMK’s demands were and what bargains were being struck by the Congress and the DMK rather than this substantial question of great public import? And why wasn’t this point highlighted even during the height of the revelations of the 2G scam, as
representatives of various political parties pointed out irregularities in the 2G auction and the losses to the public exchequer (as early as early 2008). Or even during the recent release of the CAG report that put a number to the notional loss suffered by the exchequer - a mind boggling Rs 1,76,000 crore. 
Why didn’t Barkha Dutt want to bring out the undue and unusual interest shown by corporate players in wanting A Raja’s continuation in cabinet, during her reportage of the 2G Scam recently? Surely it was in public interest to bring out the nuances and minutiae of how crony capitalism worked and how ministers were at the bidding of big corporate players who controlled the strings of functioning of democracy from without, wasn’t it?
No, according to Barkha Dutt. It was a mere judgement call whether to report this or not. This was commonplace - the undue and shady corporate interest in public affairs and day-to-day and she didn’t consider it important enough.

Here is where Barkha Dutt is trying to string the public along with her and fib to us. Here is where  the main contradiction is brought out clearly. Here is why the import of the Open magazine and Outlook magazine stories are brought out in the clear and in substance. It is similar to why the dog didn’t bark in the Silver Blaze story in the Sherlock Holmes series.

Our news media revels in trying to outdo each other in bringing out procedural, titillating details as if they are doing ball-by-ball commentary of a cricket game, when it comes to political reporting. But they do not want to displease their advertisers, mostly big corporate fund dispensers, by seeing and reporting things that are fundamentally wrong in the core issue of crony capitalism. It makes more sense for them to ridicule the political class and play up the middle class imagery of the crooked political class without distinction and difference and win eye balls in that process.
This is the problem with Indian news journalism. As Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times tweeted, “the larger problem of political journalism, esp[ecially] on TV: it privileges process minutiae over substance”. The question is why? This editorial in the EPW commenting on the Paid News issue can provide answers - “The Indian media is selling its soul to the market and forfeiting its claim to be an independent estate” or this editorial , which comments on the media coverage of the 26/11 incident says,
The manifest failures of the political establishment though, cannot obscure the fact that older notions of the media serving as a vigilant watchdog over public affairs have once again proven hopelessly romantic and outmoded. The media is a slave of the market. Its social role is little else than to serve as an echo chamber for the voices of the rich and the powerful, however shrill, irrational or lacking in coherence these may be.
Or more systematically as to how profit privileges public interest in the mass media, by the formidable intellectual, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in the excellent book, “Manufacturing Consent”. A film made on the subject can be viewed here - 
From Pragoti.org More Here

A case of a Muslim reporter meeting a Muslim leader in jail!


Shahina K K, a journalist with Tehelka went to Karnataka to prepare an investigative report on the case on Abdul Nasar Madani, the Chairman of PDP. Madani had spend almost 10 years in Jail as an undertrial in the 1998 Coimbatore blast before he was let off without any charges on 1 August 2007. In her report ( Why is this man still in prison? , Tehelka Magazine, December 4th, 2010) Shahina tried to look into the police story that Madani had conspired in the Bengaluru blasts in separate meetings two years ago — one which took place in Madani’s rented home in Kochi and the other in the Lakkeri estate in Kodaku Karnataka.
Here, she not only talks of the reports about the many people who have questioned the police story - like James Varghese, the owner of Madani’s rented house in Kochi, and Madani’s brother Jamal Mohammed – but she also investigates the witnesses whose accounts have led the court to deny Madani bail. According to her investigations Shahina finds out that many of the witnesses have things to say that goes against the police story. For instance, Yoganand, a BJP worker whose testimony is recorded in the charge sheet, Shahina reports, does not even know that he is a witness in the Madani case !

Now this is a case of good investigative journalism, which has the power to unsettle the stories that are constantly being planted in the media by the police. However, just a few days after her report comes out, the Karnataka police slaps a case against Shahina under IPC 506, for “intimidating the witnesses.” No stretch of imagination allows one to view the attempt of a journalist to talk to the witnesses in a particular case as ‘intimidation.’ Yet, in this age of embedded journalism and paid news and the likes of Praveen Swamy and Burkha Dutt, this critical attempt at investigation which challenges a given police story, can easily be labeled thus and the journalist targeted. More importantly, Shahina’s case is further mediated through other important issues, which includes the political career of Abdul Nasar Madani, whose case she was investigating and her own identity as a Muslim woman.

Shahina’s attempt to investigate goes deep into the whole issue of how Abdul Nasar Madani, who holds a particular and important political position in Kerala, was incarcerated in jail for long years, without trail, and then acquitted with all charges against him unproved. This gross case of injustice was further extended when the police tried to implicate his wife Sufiya in the Bengaluru blasts that took place on 25th July 2008. Three months back, in spite of protests from various quarters in Kerala, Madani was arrested once again for conspiracy as one of the accused in the Bengaluru blasts. Later, his bail application was also dismissed considering what the court called the “nature and gravity of the offence.” The repercussions and the backlash on Shahina’s investigations are clearly connected to the case of Abdul Nazar Madani.

In fact, even to bring up the issue of Madani is to evoke anxieties about Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. In the words of Charles Hirschkind and Saba Mahmood,
“a whole set of questionable assumptions, anxieties, and prejudices [are] embedded in the notion of Islamic fundamentalism.” (From their article: Feminism, the Taliban, and Politics of Counter-Insurgency.) This then is used as a bogey to deal with any kind of response, activity or political action from the location of a Muslim identity. However, no one worries that this political leader has been in jail for 10 long years without trail and that now, he is back in jail and being systematically denied bail. An issue that Shahina’s report addresses too, with its title: “Why is this man still in jail?” In fact, today, the question of terrorism and the Muslim can obfuscate all other questions about equality and justice. The Muslim, is caught in a construction that implicates him/her as inherently capable of terrorizing this country and therefore easily punishable. S/he is always already someone who can be easily pushed outside the ambit of the discourses of human rights and legal justice.

In fact, Madani is an important political voice in Kerala who addressed the question of Muslims and dalitbahujans after the Mandal-Masjid phenomenon of the 90s. Rooted in a discourse that drew from Islamic tenants, Madani’s vision focused on the inherent inequalities in Kerala society, both in terms of caste and religion. However his new political language was found 'deviant' and ignored or attacked by dominant discourses, mainly because of its allegiance to Islamic discourses and the Muslim identity. Thus Madani, who had been able to organize some of the most unprivileged sections in Kerala, is shorn of all his political credentials from within the stand point of the construction of the Muslim as the fundamentalist other of a Secular State/Culture.

The media has always stood strongly on the side of such dominant constructs all through the political career of Madani. Recently when his wife Soofiya Madani was alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy that led to the burning of a Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation bus at Kalamassery, Kochi in September 2005, reports in the media found her guilty even before Judicial processes could start. Similarly we have seen the media conniving with the Police/State on other issues concerning the “others” of Kerala. One can recall the maligning of the Dalit Human Rights Groups (DHRM) as terrorists and the false case of Love Jihad, where young Muslim men were accused of converting Hindu women into Islam after starting romantic relationships with them. However, when in May 17, 2009 6 Muslim men from a fishing community were killed and 47 others injured (27 of them had bullet injuries) in a police firing in Beemapally, most of the Malayalam media kept completely silent about this incident, which was one of the most violent incidents of police oppression that Kerala had ever witnessed. All this are surely signs of the impunity with which the Malayalam media treats issues that are related to its “others,” especially the Muslim.

It is this entrenched attitude of the media that Shahina’s report tries to confront, head on. However, it is a Shahina who is doing this and not just another journalist; like Madani, she too is caught in the same issues that haunt the Muslim location and identity. In fact, Shahina herself has reported how, when she went to the village to investigate, she was stopped by the police and asked whether she was a terrorist. Many of the papers in Karnataka like Sakthi, Prajavani and Kannada also reported the incident as a “suspicious” visit by a “group of Muslims !” Here, just as Madani’s Islamic roots could tarnish the weight and importance of his political career, Shahina’s Muslim name could do away with all her other identities.

It is no wonder then that a report in the Mathrubhumi faithfully reports the police version that Shahina and the others in her group tried to “threaten” the witnesses. Such a report, without even a preliminary kind of investigation, quickly reiterates the police story, putting the blame squarely on Shahina’s shoulders. This is exactly how much of the media has behaved in the case of Madani too. In many ways, it was the media in Kerala that raised the alarm against Madani so high and shrill that it was so easy for the police to get him back in jail and keep him there. We need to think seriously about all these issues raised in connection to the Shahina case.

Surely, as Shahina writes in her status message in Facebook: “this is not a case against me as an individual, but it is a warning to the entire press community not to try to quash the cooked up stories by the police.” Moreover, this is also yet another instance where the complex and often oppressive relationship of the Indian state and the Muslim minority is clearly revealed - a relationship in which the media has always played a highly dubious and questionable role. It is not surprising then that Shahina’s alternative mediation, to investigate into this and to reveal the fissures within many of our consensus has met with such a reaction. It is important that we reflect on these issues and extend our support to Shahina and to Madani, who is still in jail, also as a result of all these various, anti-minority mediations.

From  When Two Muslims Meet: The Media(ted) Case Of Madani And Shahina an analysis by K Ashraf & Jenny Rowena in Countercurrents. More Here
Tehelka article here

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Dr Omar Khalidi is no more!


Dr Omar Khalidi is no more. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajiwoon.
May Allah shower His utmost blessings on him and grant him a place in Jannat ul firdaus.
Aa meen.

He died in a road accident in Boston, United States on Monday 29th November, 2010. More Here

The following is one of the thought provoking articles he wrote.

The world community has rightly regarded Pakistan and Bangladesh as examples of theocratic states practicing policies of harsh discrimination against Hindus and other minorities. Sri Lanka’s Singhala-centric policies have generated gross discrimination against its Tamil citizens. Beyond India’s South Asian neighbourhood, numerous Islamic states such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia follow unjust policies toward minorities of all kinds that are an affront to civilized values everywhere and at all times. India in contrast is seen as a shining example of a secular state.
With the Republic Day just gone by, it is time to ask: But is India really a secular state?
I do not think so.
Political secularism may be defined as the separation of religious activities from those of the state, customarily referred to as "the separation of church and state" in the west. Secularism in theory then would mean that religion and state cannot occupy the same space. The state in its governmental capacity does not promote any religion or religious group, nor does it intervene in religious affairs. It cannot even be involved in interpretation or "reform" of any religion much less favour one over any other. This model of secularism may be characterized as maximum separation between state and religion except on manifest grounds of morality, health, and public order. Theoretical formulation, interpretation, and implementation of secularism have varied in several countries. In Indian context, the votaries of Hindutva equate it with appeasement of minorities, thus "pseudo-secularism." Apologists of Indian secularism call it "religious equi-distance, not non-involvement," meaning that Indian state is neutral between religions and religious communities.
I demonstrate that in practice, Indian state actually privileges Hinduism over other religions and religious communities. The Indian state is in fact the defender of the dharma for the following five reasons.

1: Constitutional Discrimination
Article 25 (2) of the constitution calls for providing "social welfare and reform and throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of public character to all classes and sections of Hindus." India’s constitution does not define who or what is a Hindu, but it defines followers of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism as Hindus for purposes of Hindu temple entry. Article 25 (2) (b) (Explanation II) states: "the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion…"
Isn’t this the concern of Brahmin establishment to allow or disallow whoever they deem fit to enter a temple? Why should a secular state be concerned with the social welfare of only one religion? The motive of the constitution writers was obvious: to prevent the conversion of Dalits to Christianity or Islam, to "reform" Hinduism to make it palatable to the former untouchables.
The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 applies to
(a) any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms and developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj;
(b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion, and
(c) to any person domiciled in the territories who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion.
In other words, legally there is no such thing as a Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh marriage, which is another attempt to deny other religions a distinctive identity and absorb them in the Hindu fold. The Office of the Registrar General that conducts the decennial census enumerates anyone who is not a Christian, Muslim or Parsi as Hindu, most particularly in tribal areas, in pursuance of a policy of Hindu by default to inflate the religious majority.
Article 290A of the Constitution, which was added in 1956, provides for Kerala state funds to be paid for the upkeep of Hindu temples and shrines in the territories of former princely state of Tranvancore. What state but a denominational one would spend government funds to promote a particular religion?
[As an aside, a forest has been destroyed in arguing for a uniform civil code as opposed to Muslim Personal Law and the issue of Haj subsidy. But perhaps I can save those issues for a full discussion at a different time]

2: Legislative Discrimination
Although freedom of religion is granted under the constitution’s Article 25 (1), a Congress government of Madhya Pradesh pioneered anti-conversion legislation during the heyday of Nehru in 1954. Since then as many as 7 state legislatures (Arunachal, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tripura) have passed laws severely restricting conversion from Hinduism to other religions while facilitating conversion to Hinduism.
In 1982, when a few hundred Dalits embraced Islam in Meenakshipuram, the central government took measures to curb conversions. No less than Indira Gandhi characterized conversions as a threat to national security.
Christian missions and churches have been under attack since decades, often with state complicity as demonstrated in August-September 2008 in Orissa and Karnataka.
Hundreds of mosques are in illegal possession nationwide including in New Delhi, where scores are occupied by the central government.
It was a Congress government that first locked up the Babari Mosque in 1949 by court order effectively converting it into a Hindu temple. What began under Nehru was successfully completed by Narasimha Rao in 1992 through the Mosque’s destruction under the very nose of army, paramilitary and police. It is ironic that the Indian state is ready to deploy army to flush out Sikh insurgents from Golden Temple and Muslim rebels from Charar-i Sharif, but not protect Babari Mosque from the Hindu mobs’ jack hammers.
The states of Gujarat and UP spent government funds to rebuild the Somanatha Temple around the same time when Babari Mosque was locked up. It was President Rajendra Prasad who inaugurated the rebuilt temple in 1951 amidst official fanfare.

3: Employment Discrimination
Article 16 (2) of the constitution prohibits discrimination in public employment on religious grounds. Yet there are numerous examples of outright discrimination. Per Presidential orders of 1950 and 1956 the beneficiaries of Scheduled Castes’ reservation can only be Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists but not Christians and Muslims. If an SC changes religion after obtaining employment or admission to school, he or she must forfeit job and withdraw from school as has happened in numerous instances. But if the SC reverts to Hinduism, he or she can resume his/her status as an SC as courts have ruled.

Discrimination in Army
Right after 1947, Kashmir’s predominantly Hindu army was absorbed in the national army; whereas Hyderabad’s largely Muslim army was disbanded, rendering nearly 20,000 jobless. The Indian army’s infantry regiments are still based on religion (Sikh regiments), or ethnicity (Gorkha) or caste (Rajput) or region (Garhwal) in which members of other faiths, ethnicities, and regions are barred.
While a bearded Sikh may become chief of the army staff as did Gen. J.J. Singh, a Muslim may not sport beard in any of the armed forces. Only Jhatka is served in army messes and langers forcing Muslims to become vegetarian. A Hanuman temple greets visitors upon entering virtually every cantonment in the nation, hinting non-Hindus that they don’t belong there. In their public addresses to the soldiers and officers, at least two army chiefs—Generals B.C. Joshi and Shankar Roy Chowdhury—have used references to Hindu scriptures to the exclusion of the Quran and the Bible.

4: Cultural Discrimination
There are numerous examples where Hindu culture is conflated with Indian culture. The ban on cow slaughter deprived thousands of butchers their livelihood even as it stole millions of poor their only source of inexpensive protein. Cow may be sacred to the upper castes, but not so to the Christians, Dalits, and Muslims. Food taboos of some higher castes do not end at beef. Beyond beef, eggs may not be sold publicly by court order as it offends some caste sensibilities. Nor can school children bring food of their choice if it offends Hindus.
Official functions of the government whether at the central or state levels often commence with Hindu ceremonies of lighting lamps, breaking coconuts, and recitation of slokas. There is no disapproval to the fact that functions of central and state ministries of education begin with Sarasvati vandana .
In September 1993, Air India took delivery of a Boeing 747 in Seattle, Washington where the Ramakrishna Mission performed a puja invoking Lord Ganesha. Ministers lay foundation stones of government buildings preceded by bhoomi puja ceremony as if the state belongs only to Hindus. In Vishakhapatnam, I witnessed a ship launch amid saffron-robed, ashen faced sadhus singing bhajans, a function nearly mistaken as a Hindu festival.
In a trip to the United States in 1984, AP Chief Minister N.T. Ramarao found nothing objectionable in spending government funds for distributing medallions with Sri Venkateshwara’s image among potential investors in his state.
A large stone image of a reclining Vishnu located at the entrance to the IGP’s headquarters in Bangalore is more fitting for a temple than a secular state’s police building. Almost every police thana in West Bengal has a Kali temple, none has a mosque in a state with nearly 30 percent Muslim population. Muslim police trainees in Andhra Pradesh,
School children in Gujarat, Maharashtra and numerous other states have been forced to perform Surya namaskar against their will. Government school texts in Hindi and regional languages assume all pupils to be Hindu as the contents are soaked with idioms, phrases, signs, symbols, and icons of Hinduism to the exclusion of material from other religions and cultures. Textbooks of history and social studies are replete with gross distortions of Indian history of all eras, ancient, medieval and modern, in which Muslims and Christians are invariably the villains, traitors and foreigners.
Until the advent of television in the 1980s, All India Radio was the main source of information and entertainment to middle classes. The government-controlled AIR began its programs with Vande Mataram, Mangala dhwani, Vandana, and Hindu lyrics. Rarely did AIR broadcast anything pertaining to Christian or Muslim cultures. Like the AIR, during its heyday, seldom does Door Darshan show any serials of Muslim or Christian character. When it broadcasted serials of historical or literary figures—Tipu Sultan, Ghalib—they were caricatured into modern stock characters stripped of their distinctive cultural identity.

5: Religious Pogroms
Finally no modern, secular democracy other than India experienced multiple, state-sponsored pogroms—that of Sikhs in 1984 and of Muslims in 2002. In both instances, the highest in the Executive branch of the government justified the pogroms: Rajiv Gandhi when his mother was murdered; and Narendra Modi when the train burned in Godhra.

For all these five reasons, India is not a secular state. It is in fact the defender of Hindu dharma.

Source : Outlook 
Also read : Khaki and ethical violence in India
Also read : Remembering Omar Khalidi
Also read : Ummid's report on Dr Khalidi's published works

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Suresh Kalmadi is an easy target than a Sharad Pawar

There is a Soviet silence on television these days. Beneath the noise of the 2G scam and the chaotic cacophony of Parliament lurks a deeper silence that haunts every minute of every channel. The decision to blank out the murky goings-on involving some of India's top names in journalism is a staggeringly significant one. To be sure, the silence pervades most of mainstream media but leaps out of television strikingly because of its tendency to pounce on stories of this kind. For television channels, otherwise willing to go to any lengths for the sake of eyeballs to collaborate with each other in this way is quite unprecedented, and therefore particularly revealing.

But some facts are undeniable. The authenticity of the recordings have not been seriously challenged. The conversations on record show that senior journalists go way beyond the brief of news gathering into news-making by brokering power. It is quite clear that corporate interests are actively injected into the framing of news coverage. Lobbyists do not seem to plead for favourable coverage but issue instructions to journalists, including senior editors. Which are willingly listened to and in some cases, followed.  And finally, when these facts come to light, almost all of media clamps down and blanks out any coverage whatsoever .
The clarifications issued by those allegedly involved so far have been terse and interestingly, have been largely focused on the internet, which is the only space where one can catch a glimpse of the widespread public outrage. Even here, none of the people concerned allow for any comments to be put on their sites. The attempt is to brazen it out by denying the existence of any problem in what amounts to an Orwellian erasure of the present. What we have here is in effect, a case of media issuing a massive vote of no-confidence in itself and in everything it professes belief in. The desire to pursue the freedom of expression and the public's right to know has evaporated the moment the object of scrutiny is the media itself.

It is important to listen to the recordings and not go only by the transcripts, for the tonality of these exchanges is quite revealing. There is an ease, a feeling of being on the same side that pervades conversations between the media and the powerful. The eagerness to please is evident as is the thrill of being part of the world of such important people.
In the last few years, journalists have become Big People who are most comfortable when dealing with other Big People. It is no coincidence that we have a 'summit' run by a media house that is underway and which carries photographs of ornate looking journalists mingling with the bejewelled power elite –described as 'the who's who enjoying free flowing conversation over a lavish spread of cocktails and sumptuous food'. Of course, this is hardly limited to any one media house — every media organisation worth its name has something similar — an event which is designed to get cosy with powerful people and glamorous celebrities. In a deeper, more fundamental way, the interests of the media and the power elite have begun to coincide. The media today is an exponent of power, rather than a watchdog over those who exercise power as it is a participant in the culture of celebrity rather than its critic.

As a consequence, the media rarely attacks the truly powerful. It uses its power to isolate the vulnerable and trains its guns at them. The really powerful politicians are rarely put to sword and critical stories about the rich are almost unheard of. The interests of a few are looked after and the successful media people in turn lead lives of sponsored magnificence. 

A cozy circle drives the media agenda — we see the same people on all the talk shows and it is no coincidence that a large number of them appear on these tapes. The illusion of media activism is created not by the incisiveness of the reportage but by its shrillness.  
A Suresh Kalmadi is much easier to attack than a Sharad Pawar and it takes no courage to go after Ruchika's molester. By going after easy targets and chasing symbolic issues rather than substantive ones, the media discourse is flattened; the aristocracy of banality flourishes even as it schmoozes with each other.

Whichever way you look at it, there is no justification for the media to black out this controversy. Of course, it must be careful about not casually besmirching the reputation of the individuals involved by ensuring that it uses the highest standards of fairness in its coverage. But to argue that the issue does not merit coverage is untenable. If it feels no reservations about covering sting operations, which are flagrant violations of the privacy of those involved, it can surely not hide behind the privacy fig leaf. If the silence is attributed to wanting to make absolutely sure that the tapes are authentic, then that principle should have been applied in other cases too. Also, no one has seriously challenged the authenticity of the tapes. And if, the silence is part of an unwritten code of protection that the media offers to itself, then it is time to dismantle that pact. Not only because it must treat itself in exactly the same way as it treats others but because it is the right thing to do.
From Santosh Desai's column in Times of India. More Here

Translate

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...