Friday, April 30, 2010

Ice found on the surface of an asteroid

An asteroid circling the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter has for the first time been shown to harbor water ice and organic compounds. Those traits had been associated with comets, which spring from colder, more distant reservoirs in the outer solar system, but not their asteroidal cousins. The finding supports the notion that asteroids could have provided early Earth with water for its oceans as well as some of the prebiotic compounds that allowed life to develop.

Two teams of researchers report complementary observations of the 200-kilometer-wide asteroid, known as 24 Themis, in the April 29 issue of Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) Both analyses are based on spectroscopic observations from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, which show absorption features that indicate the presence of water and unidentified organic compounds. The ice appears to coat the entire asteroid as a thin layer of frost. The evidence for water on 24 Themis had been presented at conferences by the two groups in 2008 and 2009 but is only now appearing in a peer-reviewed journal.

From John Matson's interesting report in Scientific American
To read the full report click here.

Quran says :
Soon shall we show them Our signs on the horizons and in their own beings until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth. Is it not enough that your Lord is witness over everything? (The Holy Quran 41 : 53)

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind turns saviour to the blind family of Uttar Pradesh

Moulana Waliullah Sayeedi Falahi with the blind family
Fed up of their penury and the burden of their five blind sons, a couple in Uttar Pradesh's Mau district had sought mercy killing for their entire family.

Munauwar (60) and his wife Rubina (55) had pleaded for mercy killing in their letter sent to President Pratibha Patil, Uttar Pradesh Governor B.L. Joshi, state Chief Minister Mayawati and other authorities of Mau district, about 300 km from Lucknow. 

"We don't want to live any more. It's miserable. We are not even able to arrange food for ourselves on a daily basis," Munauwar told reporters in Mau on Friday.  

All his five sons aged between 16-35-were born blind.  

"As life has become a burden for all of us, we want to end it soon. Therefore, we have written to the president and others, seeking permission for mercy killing," he added. (See the NDTV report).

The nation was shocked to know the weird desire of the poor family.  Mau District Magistrate Rakesh Kumar told reporters, "Yes, we have learnt that a couple has sought mercy killing. We will meet the family and ensure they receive necessary help and are rehabilitated."   

Meanwhile the plight of the distressed family moved some noble souls in New Delhi. They are Vision 2016 people who are in the field to help the poor with the catchy tag "Creating Partnership with the needy". They sought the co-operation of  Uttar Pradesh Jamaat-E-Islami Hind.

The Uttar Pradesh Jamaat plunged into action and established contacts with the distressed family. It was decided to adopt the family. 

The young and energetic Zonal President (Ameer-e-Halqa) of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Uttar Pradesh East Maulana Waliullah Saeedi Falahi rushed to Mau all the way from Gorakhpur and met the dejected souls. He assured them to provide food, shelter, education and basic necessities. (See the full report here.)

The family saw light at the end at last. Alhumdulillah!

The Pope, the Church and the scandal

Let me be as clear as I can here: if Pope Ratzinger in any way stalled or prevented an investigation, Church-based or otherwise, into any aspect of child molestation by priests, then he needs to be indicted and brought to trial; an international tribunal into all this is also necessary and should be demanded by every living human on the planet. Obviously, a very thorough and major investigation of the Catholic Church’s practices about this needs to be held. It is a rock solid fact that there are a lot of priests who have molested children, and it’s clear that the Church has engaged in diversionary tactics ever since this became public (like the abhorrent Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who says homosexuality lies at the heart of this scandal).

My point, after all this, isn’t too hard to grasp: if the Pope did what he has been alleged to do, then he needs to be brought to justice. The Church itself looks to have been complicit in hushing up this scandal for years, decades. They too need to face criminal justice. And as skeptics, we need to be vocal about the methods employed by the Church, where those methods can be analyzed using critical thinking and the arsenal skeptics employ. But just attacking them because they are a religion is the wrong reason to do it, and attacking them with abandon, with insults, and with vitriol will not help.

Those 75 million American Catholics should be outraged by all this. If you think skeptics and atheists can bring down the Church’s administration and authority by alienating that population — a quarter of the people in the U.S. — then you are not applying skeptical methods at all.

All of us need to be standing up to the horrors the Church has perpetrated, just as we would if any organization did such a thing. And where skepticism applies, we should apply it, but we should have a care when doing so. If the ultimate goal is to change the hearts and minds of people, then we need to be human and humane.

From Phil Plait's exhaustive analysis over the issue in Bad Astronomy:
To read the full analysis and over 280 comments of readers from all parts of the globe click here.

May Allah take away from you all that which takes you away from Him!

Encountering friends faced with calamity often prompts me to share how tribulations enabled me to submit to Allah, igniting my love for Him. I learnt how they are both nourishing and necessary for those who truly seek to purify and liberate the mind, body and soul.

Deciding to try never to complain was a decision that changed my relationship with God, family, friends and the world. Allah says in the Quran, “Whatever misfortune befalls you, is a consequence of your own deeds. But much of it He forgives” (42:30). Elaborating on the same, Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) said, “The believer is not afflicted with illness or hardship even if it be worry that troubles him or a thorn that pricks him, except that his sins would be expiated as a result of it”.

Calamities come for a deep wisdom, with hidden benefits and blessings. They remove the delusion that we are in complete control of our lives, helping to realise Qudrah, power of Lordship. The Quran confirms, “Should Allah touch you with affliction, there is none to remove it but He; and should He touch you with good, He has the power to do everything.” (6:17).

A troubled soul can be numbed temporarily, but its anguish cannot be removed without submission to the Creator. Afflictions are often opportunities to gain blessings by submission and closeness to God. Exercising patience in the midst of calamity while waiting for a fatah, opening from God, becomes a high form of ibadah, worship. A theme that runs through the Quran is, “…Allah loves those who exercise patience”.

Allah tells us never to despair from His rahmah, mercy, for, “Indeed there is ease with hardship. Most certainly, there is ease with hardship” (94:5,6).

The true lovers of God pray for afiyah, well-being and forgiveness, submit to Him, remaining content with whatever God decides for them.

I love this prayer of the 8th century woman mystic Rabia Basri, “May Allah take away from you all that which takes you away from Him”.

From Sadia Dehlvi's inspiring, soothing and pleasant writeup in The Asian Age.
To read the full article click here.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Children and Tomorrow

I am sitting in my study, in front of my PC, writing this article on how we perceive children nowadays. Behind me my daughter Maha, 7 this month, is drawing on my 'reporter's pad'. Whenever I get stuck, which is about every other sentence, I turn around to ask Maha a few questions. 'Maha', I say at one juncture, 'What would you like to see in the future?'. Even before I have finished the question I begin to feel foolish. After all, what perception can a child of seven possibly have of the future? 'You mean tomorrow?' she asks.
'No. I mean a long time from now.'
'Next month?'
'No many months from now.'
'Let's see'. She closes her eyes. 'I like to see lots of happy children. And grown ups too. I don't want to see those children we saw on television. The ones who had nothing to eat. I would like to see them with lots of toys. I don't like fighting. I do like to see children playing with each other. And grown ups too. I like my teacher Mrs Black. I wish we all have teachers like her. And I like schools. I wish there were lots of schools'. She opens here eyes; and then continues with her drawing.

To read the full article click here.

Obama: war monger with a difference!

If there is one unmistakable difference between Bush's wars and Obama's wars it boils down to this: we now have a president who can almost perfectly pronounce the names of the cities and villages US troops will occupy and bomb. We just can't call it occupation. It's "enlightened self-interest" as Obama emphasized during that same Nobel speech.
"Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. ... We have borne this burden, not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest."
Should we be surprised? Although Obama was the anti-war candidate compared to hawkish Hillary Clinton and John "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" McCain, he was no pacifist. Right from the start of the presidential campaign in 2008, Obama pledged to expand the war in Afghanistan and into neighboring Pakistan. And talking to a crowd at an anti-war rally in October 2002 organized by Chicagoans Against War in Iraq the young state Senator was clear about where he stood:
"I'm not opposed to all wars, I'm opposed to dumb wars. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics."
If we go further back in history Obama begins to sound more and more like every US president before him trying to justify American imperial overreach, cloaking it in the seductive language of liberation. And not very different from those old colonial powers Americans try so hard to distinguish themselves from. To turn to just one example—for history is littered with such empty words—this is what Lt. Gen. Sir Stanley Maude said to the people of Baghdad when British forces entered the city in March of 1917:
"Since the days of Halaka, your city and your lands have been subject to the tyranny of strangers, your palaces have fallen into ruins, your gardens have sunk in desolation and your forefathers and yourselves have groaned in bondage... our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators."
Domination masquerading as liberation is an old propaganda tactic of empires but it rarely works among the populations subjugated by this type of emancipation.

From Anjali Kamat's essay The Audacity of Empire.
 Courtesy : Samar - south asian magazine for action and reflection

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Five steps to a better India..!

Engineer Mohammed Salim is the State chief (Ameer-e-Halqa) of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. He is based in Jaipur and stands different. He is one of my favorite tahreeki personalities of the day. He is techo savvy, articulate and hardworking. Above all he is pro-active and known for his out of box thinking.
He is engaged in teaching engineering to the students in the reputed Malviya National Institute of Technology in Jaipur. Besides he is actively involved in various welfare activities. Recently he played a key role in saving a minor girl from the clutches of  human traffickers.

In a recent article he has put forward five steps to a better India..! The five steps are as follows:
  1. Promoting virtues. Trying to lead a life based on morality and become an example for others and Propagating and establishing Moral Values such as Honesty, Hard work, Mutual Love, Respect and Trust, inculcating tolerance and respect for difference of opinions and faiths in the society.
  2. Eradicating evils viz wine, drug addiction, dowry, female foeticide, untouchability, discrimination based on gender, Lavish living, Materialism, Nude and Vulgar Culture, Atrocities on women and other weaker sections, ill treatment of old age parents etc. Corruption, Communalism, Fascism, Regionalism etc.
  3. Service to the Living:  Helping the needy in the society. Working jointly at the time of natural or men made Calamities. 
  4. Bridging Gaps of Misunderstandings and Ignorance about each other. Interacting with each other and understanding the faith, ideologies and cultures of each other to minimize the distances and suspicions and to strengthen the mutual trust and fraternity. Activities such as Interfaith Dialogue and joint fora to interact with each other to facilitate better understanding of each other’s faith, traditions and culture.
  5. Joint Studies and Research: There is a strong need to initiate joint studies and research on religious texts and religious personalities, particularly in Indian context in order to create better understanding of each other. Hence some research centres may be established where literature related to all religions is kept and research scholars may be encouraged to pursue their research, which would certainly highlight the common root of all the religions.
    To read the full article click here.

If Ibn Batuta could do it, why can't we?

When British journalist Robert Fisk said that in the face of disaster Arabs act like mice, he was being polite. He could have said that the Muslims act like mice. The question is why?

It is easy and customary to blame the current Muslim rulers for this sorry situation. No doubt the Iraq invasion would not have been possible without their acquiescence and support. If they refused to open their lands, waterways, and airspace to the invasion, it could not have taken place. Neither would the slaughters in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosova, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Palestine have been possible if the Muslim rulers had their act together. But was it only because the Muslim rulers happened to be immoral, coward, and unscrupulous characters? Is the 1.2 billion strong Ummah suffering only because there are fifty-four corrupt persons who are ruling it?

These rulers do not carry out all their plans personally. They have armies of compliant soldiers, bureaucrats, and other staffers at every level of government that do the dirty work. Further the societies at large produce, nurture, and sustain the corrupt machinery of the corrupt governments. As we continue our investigation, we find that our problem is corruption; not only of the rulers but also of the ruled. Today we have strayed from the Shariah in our personal lives; we lie, cheat, steal at a higher rate than ever before; we exploit and oppress in our small spheres. In short, our problems are caused by our moral corruption.

But there is something more. And it is getting scant attention in the Muslim discourse.
.... ..... ....

While we had more then one centers of political power for centuries, the Muslim world was much more integrated then than we realize. It was one social, cultural, religious and economic domain. Its language, system of education, currency, and laws were the same. There were no restrictions on travel, or movement of capital or goods. A Muslim could take up residence and start a business or get a job anywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled from Tunisia to Hijaz, East Africa, India, Malaya, and China, covering 75000 miles without traveling the same road twice. During the twenty-five year journey he took up residence where he wanted to; got even government assignments as Qadi and even as ambassador in China for the Sultan in India. If that was possible then, it should be easier now because of the huge advances in the communication and transportation technologies alone.

From Khalid Baig's thought provoking article on the status of Muslim Ummah.
To read the full article click here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dare to dream!

Early eighties. In a pre-liberalization India, the angry young man image of Amitabh Bachchan rules the imagination of millions—fighting his fight, achieving his goals against all odds. In such times, in a typical Bachchan-movie like flashback, a boy is running after a coal powered rail engine near Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh. The boy collects the raw pieces of coal that falls off the train so that his mother could cook the next meal.

The boy’s name is Shahid Parvez Sayed. When he is 12, his father passes away. He drops out of school and looks for ways to support his mother. He does odd jobs. He even sells kites from his home. He makes his own manjha (sort of an abrasive), that he brands as Shahid bhai’s manjha. He even entertains the idea of plying the manual rickshaw outside Farrukhabad railway station.

Then comes a turning point in the boy’s life. His mother sends him off to Mumbai to be with a relative. The goal is to get further education. There again in Mumbai, he does odd jobs – from fetching chai to supervising a construction site during his senior secondary school.
With the help of a benign being, determination and scholarships, Shahid lands up in the USA for a degree in Engineering (Masters in Civil Engineering, at Atlanta, Georgia,). Now in his late 30s, Shahid is finishing up his MBA in the USA and wants to come back to India to help his fellow brethren come out of the trap of poverty.

“Looking back I don’t think I did that badly,” Sahid says. “The bottom line is you dream and it will be given. Nature, Allah, God is kind to hard working good people, and this is my firm belief. There is always a road that springs up from somewhere if you have the right intention.”

“In the years of my growing up in India, I was witness – as everyone else – to a regular diet of Meerut, Bhiwandi, Mandal and anti-Sikh pogroms. Corruption ruled, and here, I was a mere small time jebroni, almost as if I had no role in deciding the future course of my life and the nation,” he says. “My journey to the US must have begun long before I actually landed here. I recall that when I was in my final year of engineering, I wrote a short story in which the hero of the story declares ‘I am either going to change the System or get out of India’.”

“At that point of time, I chose to get out of India. After completing my Masters in Civil Engineering, at Atlanta, Georgia, I did go back to India. This was 1992, and this was when my country welcomed me with the images of some folks dancing on the top of an abandoned 500 year old masjid and the later dance of evil that followed in my city.”

“Somewhere along the line, I came back here to the US, but with my heart stayed with the need to do something for the youngsters back in India, who could not avail of a better life.”

To read the full text of this interesting, inspiring interview given by Shahid Syed to Zafar Anjum, click here. 

Zafar Anjum is a Singapore-based writer. He has authored two books and is presently working on his third.

Further read : World peace through entrepreneurship a report in Two circles!

Monday, April 26, 2010

What has happened to the seasons?

From temperate England to tropical India, the cycle of the seasons is fundamental to life. But lately they seem to have changed their patterns, with profound consequences. 

John Parker reports in INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, spring 2010

In the Indian state of Orissa, the black-headed oriole is the messenger of spring. It appears in the villages in January to greet the season’s start and flies away to the forest in March, signalling its end. Richard Mahapatra’s mother used the oriole’s fleeting appearance to teach her son about the natural rhythms of the world. “People like my mother remember six distinct seasons,” says Mahapatra, an environmental writer who now lives in New Delhi. After spring (basanta) and summer (grishma) came the rainy season (barsha). Between autumn (sarata) and winter (sisira) came a dewy period called hemanta. Each season lasted two months and the appearance of each was marked by religious festivals. “She had precise dates for their arrival and taught me how to look for signs of each.”

Damselflies gathered thickly a week before the rains began. Markers of the monsoon, they did not cluster at other times. The open-billed stork alighted on the tamarind tree on Akshaya Trutiya, a festival which usually fell in April or May and traditionally marked the start of the agricultural year. Farmers said that if you forgot the day, the bird would remind you, so predictable was its arrival. In the Mahapatra family’s garden, the nesting of bats in the peepal tree marked the onset of winter; when the tree flowered, it was midsummer.
Lately the heralds of the seasons have become unreliable. Damselflies swarm not only in the rainy season but in winter, the driest time of year. The stork no longer appears just on Akshaya Trutiya, but at other times, too.

Villagers hear the song of the oriole in summer and the rainy season, not just spring. And this, Mahapatra says, is because spring is no longer a distinct season. Instead of six periods of equal length, Orissa now has two, a brief rainy season and a burning eight-month summer. Winter is a mild transition between the two, and spring, autumn and hemanta have been relegated to little-noticed interludes of a mere week or so.

“When I return home”, says Mahapatra, “my mother mourns the death of the seasons. Her memories of Orissa’s climate are alien to the generation I belong to. For me, my childhood Orissa is dying. The state now has a new and strange climate that nobody can understand or predict.”

MAHAPATRA'S experience is far from unusual. Round the world, people think the seasons are shrinking and shifting.

To read the full article click here.

John Parker is the globalisation correspondent for The Economist.

The Prophet's method of Education!

In bringing up his Companions, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) adopted various educational methods. Following are some of them:

1. Using illustrative parables:

Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) saying, 'Behold! Can anything of his dirt remain on the body of any one of you if there were a river at his door in which he washes himself five times daily?' They said, 'Nothing of his dirt will remain (on his body).' He said, 'That is like the Five Prayers by which Allah obliterates sins.'" (Reported by Muslim)

2. Drawing the addressee's attention by means of taking oaths:

Abu Shurayh (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!" It was said, "Who is that person, O Allah's Messenger?" He said, "That person is he whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil." (Reported by al-Bukhari)

3. Being joyful in advice so that his Companions would not get bored:

In this context, we recall the incident when a man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said, "O Messenger of Allah! Give me a mount." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "We shall give you a she-camel's child to ride on." He said, "What shall I do with a she-camel's child?" The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, "Do any others than she-camels give birth to camels?" (Reported by Abu Dawud)

4. Considering the state of the addressee:

Abu Wa'il reported that `Abd ar-Rahman used to give a religious talk to the people on every Thursday. Once a man said, "O Abu `Abd ar-Rahman! (By Allah) I wish if you could preach us daily." He replied, "The only thing which prevents me from doing so, is that I hate to bore you. No doubt, I consider your state in preaching by selecting a suitable time just as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to do with us, for fear of making us bored." (Reported by al-Bukhari)

5. Narrating stories:

An-Nu`man ibn Bashir reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His believing slave-servant than that of a person who set out on a journey with a provision of food and drink on the back of his camel. He went on until he came to a waterless desert and he felt like sleeping. So he got down under the shade of a tree and was overcome by sleep, and his camel ran away. As he got up he tried to see it (the camel) standing upon a mound, but did not find it. He then got upon the other mound, but could not see anything. He then climbed upon the third mound, but did not see anything until he came back to the place where he had been sleeping previously. And as he was sitting (in utter disappointment) there came to him his camel, till that (camel) placed its nose string in his hand. Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave-servant than the person who found (his lost camel) in this very state." (Reported by Muslim)

From Islam online website, Ask the scholar column

Shashi Tharoor is not the end of the story...

On the evening of the first IPL semi-final, the news reports were arguably far more interesting than the match. It is only a matter of time before movies come tumbling out of such masala. Look forward to 'Lagaan’ on hormones and 'Sholay’ in designer suits. Kitney paise thhey, Kaalia?

Cynics have called IPL a circus. When you buy a ticket to the circus you get clowns along with lion-tamers, while trapeze artistes inspire the cheerleaders. But it does become a curious extravaganza when you can't tell the difference between who is who.

This much is certain: Shashi Tharoor was not the end of the story. He was the beginning of a serial.
From M. J. Akbar's blog on IPL circus. To read the full article click here.

Bomb blasts, white lies and Praveen Swami..!

 Praveen Swami

If there is one infallible indicator of what the top Indian Intelligence agencies are thinking or cooking up, it is this: Praveen Swami’s articles. Each time the security establishment wishes to push a certain angle to this bomb blast or that, Swami’s articles appear magically, faithfully reflecting the Intelligence reports. After the Batla House ‘encounter’, he launched a tirade against all those who were questioning the police account of the shootout labeling them all ‘Alices in wonderland’. He went so far as to identify ‘precisely’ how Inspector Sharma was shot by claiming that "abdomen wound was inflicted with [Atif] Amin's weapon and the shoulder hit, by Mohammad Sajid".

And no sir, Swami’s conclusion was not based on post mortem reports of the killed, fire arm examination report or ballistic report but on this innocent fact: “the investigators believe that…” He certainly brings in a whole new meaning to ‘investigative journalism’. Swami however felt no need to pen an article when the postmortem reports of Atif and Sajid revealed that they had been shot from close range and that neither of them sustained gunshot wounds in the frontal region of the body—an impossibility in the case of a genuine encounter. Was it because the police and the Home Ministry chose to remain quite after the revelations—hoping that the storm would quietly blow over.? 

Flip Flops on German Bakery Blasts

And meanwhile there was the German Bakery blast in Pune. Writing less than a week after the blasts, Swami hinted at the possible involvement of the Hindutva groups, namely Abhinav Bharat (“Hindutva Terror Probe Haunts Pune Investigation”, 19th February 2010)

Indeed, this was mood in the ATS (though this was no deterrent to the large scale illegal detention and brutal interrogation often at private premises, of scores of Muslim youth in Pune.) Even the following week, the Home Department officials were not ruling out the possibility of the involvement of the Right wing Hindutva groups. 

But that was February. 

By March, political impatience at the probe taking such a turn was palpable. Responding to a riled Shiv Sena in the legislative assembly, the Maharashtra Home Minister, R.R. Patil thundered: “I will inquire if Raghuvanshi really indicated to the media about involvement of Hindu organisations in the Pune blast and if he did, action will be taken (against him)."

As if on cue, two days later, Rakesh Maria was installed as the new ATS chief. This was of course only after a few months when Vinita Kamte, widow of the slain ATS officer Ashok Kamte, made serious allegations casting aspersions on Maria’s role in responding to the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s call for reinforcements during 26/11. 

CCTV Footage:

Since its start, the probe had little to go on by way of leads except for the CCTV footage. While the Pune police commissioned experts to draw sketches of the suspects based on this footage, ATS dismissed this exercise as “anything but useful”, as their source, the CCTV footage, was itself grainy. (Siasat, April 12). 

Where does Swami stand on this? He wrote in his 19th February piece: “All that investigators have by way of suspects are three men recorded holding brief meetings before the blast by a poor-quality closed-circuit television camera. From the videotape, it is unclear if the men had anything to do with the attack.”

Exactly a month later, Swami conveniently develops an amnesia about Abhinav Bharat and even about the poor quality of CCTV footage. What was earlier ‘unclear” and hazy has in one month segued into solid shape: in the form of top Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Mohammad Zarar Siddi Bawa ie., Yasin Bhatkal. 

Suddenly imparted with enlightenment, Swami writes dramatically of how a closed circuit television camera ... “recorded evidence that Bawa had returned to India—just minutes before an improvised explosive device ripped through the popular restaurant killing seventeen people and injuring at least sixty.” The poor quality (by Swami’s own admission) and useless (by the ATS’s admission) visual evidence has morphed into precious footage of Bhatkal, “the fair, slight young man with a wispy beard” … “dressed in a loose-fitting blue shirt, a rucksack slung over his back.”

Clearly, Swami’s changing perceptions about the CCTV footage is in accord with the shifting attitude of the ATS itself. The ATS began by keeping the option of probing Abhinav Bharat open; developed cold feet, preferred to lapse into the usual Lashkar-IM litany, ‘rediscovered’ hitherto worthless footage and resurrected the IM. In an unequivocal reference to the manner in which innocent Muslim youths were arrested earlier by the ATS in its pre-Karkare days, a senior officer of the Pune Police admitted that “There have been some arrests in the Pune blast incident just as in the case of the 2006 Malegaon explosions. But we would never know whether those arrested were actually the men who triggered the blasts.” (Siasat, April 12, 2010). 

Rumours that the probe might be handed over the National Investigative Agency must have also pressured the Maharashtra ATS to show ‘results’—and viola, within two weeks of taking over, Maria submitted a preliminary report to the state government identifying the hand of Bhatkal and IM in the blasts. This was of course promptly and proudly relayed by R.R. Patil to the legislative assembly (surely to the relief also of the Shiv Sena legislators). Is it a coincidence that the Pune Police Commissioner has been transferred, ostensibly for the rising crime graph a couple of days ago? It seems improbable that the running battle between the Pune police and the ATS—whose current chief Maria had thrown a tantrum following Vinita Kamte’s accusation, demanding the support of the state Home Ministry—had no role to play in this. 

The Bangalore Blasts:

When two crude bombs went off outside the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium ahead of the match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore on 17th April, the Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya announced that the state Police were investigating the alleged involvement of the cricket betting lobby. He forcefully denied any link with the earlier blasts in the city in 2008.

But Yasin Bhatkal seems to have preoccupied Swami’s mind on 19th April for he evokes him again in connection with the stadium blasts (“Stadium Blasts herald new IM offensive”). Citing the ever cooperative ‘investigators, he says that the ‘similarity in design’ and the manner in which some bombs failed to explode are a sure indicator of the IM hand. Beyond this, he has nothing to link Bangalore bombs to Bhatkal. But good stories can always compensate for lack of facts. His piece, “To Bangalore with Hate” on 21st April (which has charming subtitles such as Jihad at ginger Plantation”), is no less crude then the two bombs at the stadium. Swami here details the biographies of SIMI activists in South India, making the link, ever so cleverly, between SIMI—and yes, IM—and the stadium blasts, without providing any evidence of their actual linkage. Life stories of these men are proof enough, he assumes.

It is quite clear that Mr. Swami has provided a (sometimes entertaining) dramatized version of the charge sheets files by the various police departments across the country. While it may make for a good script, we do hope that Mr. Swami understand what charge sheets are: a list of charges or allegations, which the police has still the burden to prove in a court of law--not irrefutable or established truth. 

Perhaps, Mr Swami fancies himself a literary genius who believes in narratives acquiring their own lives. In which case, he has manufactured a large corpus of mediocre short stories.

Released by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association JTSA (

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Solidarity has done it!

As part of its ceaseless struggle against the National Highway development, Solidarity Youth Movement has exemplarily exhibited the State how to build a well-furnished four-lane highway building a 'mock highway' in 30 metres. Solidarity has been leading vigorous struggles across the State against the move to take over 45 metres of land for N.H. development.   

Solidarity's mock highway has been designed aside the National Highway at Kalarkode, Thukkukulam in Alappuzha. Hundreds of common people and leaders of various political and human right groups visited the site and extolled Solidarity's efforts to beat government's claims in a constructive way. Indeed, the spectacular mock highway unearthed the authority's unwanted hurry to acquire 45 metres of land for a highway that can comfortably be built in just 30 metres.

Along with four-lane roads, the mock highway featured a pedestrian pass in one and half metres, and an attractive median in one meter, and one another bricks-plastered pass in one meter. The mock highway, which altogether consumed 22 metres of land left 3.5 metres for each lane.

Subadrama, Thottappally, a possible victim of N.H development inaugurated construction work of the mock highway. P I Noushad, state general secretary of the Solidarity inaugurated a public protest meet. Speaking in the occasion, he raged over the deep silence of intellectuals and cultural leaders against the unfair development of National Highway, which will devastate thousands of people's lives across the State.

To read the full news click here.

Khaki and Ethnic violence in India

Mahtab Alam writes in Indian Muslims, a window into The Indian Muslim Life:
One of the most important aspects that the author in this book examines is the impacts of under-representation of ethnic and religious groups especially Muslims in this sector—low percentage in Police and Biased/Partisan/Active Hostility.

The author argues, “Even though the police conduct in the riots during the Babri mosque or other similar riots may be dismissed as merely partisanship, dereliction of duty, negligence and so forth, there are a number of instances in which the police was the perpetrators of unprovoked violence against innocent and unarmed Muslims. The two notorious cases are from Moradabad in 1980 and Meerut in 1987. Similarly the police was an active participant in the 1992-93 Bombay killings of Muslims as documented by more than one organization. Later in March 1993 and during Gujarat pogrom, February-March 2002, when police took active part in killing or leading the mobs attacking Muslims” (p. 140-41). The author has dealt this issue at length.

Though written in an academic fashion — of course it was needed while writing a book on sensitive issue like this — the language of the book is lucid and easy to read for even a normal reader. The book is an eye opening work in many ways and unravels many popular beliefs like the army and intelligence agencies are secular. The work is must for libraries and research institutions. Civil and human rights activists can hardly afford to miss it.

To read the full review click here.

I hate IPL, because....

I hate IPL, because...
  1. The players were made pawns in the hands of the team owners. They were auctioned and guys like Vijay Mallya bought them for peanuts. They lost their self-respect. There is a big difference between playing for one's country than for a greedy billionaire like Mukesh Ambani or Shah Rukh Khan.
  2. Mukesh, Mallya and others were into the IPL not because of their love over the game. They were there to mint money and have succeeded instantly, enormously without any big effort. They virtually invested zero money in grooming players. It could have made sense, if they had taken some enthusiastic college kids and trained them and groomed them as players. Instead, they made avail of themselves readymade cricketers for paultry sums. P. Sainath has rightly termed it as Indian Paisa Loot!
  3. The presence of cheer girls and gyrations and gestures of these scantily dressed girls is nauseating
  4. The party culture promoted by the IPL is disgusting. According to sources there were close to eight varieties of dishes at each party and over all close 1,29,600 bottles of beer and 27,000 bottles of whiskey were consumed; 9,450 songs played at post match parties 27,000 bottles of whisky consumed, 432 dishes served in the buffet spreads, 1,728 garments displayed at 54 fashion galas 39.7444 kms covered by models on the ramp and 810 security personnel on duty.
  5. The allegations about match fixing holds water. The scope for betting is enormous. A 32-year-old man  committed suicide in Udhagamandalam town of Tamil Nadu after he lost heavily in betting on a match in the ongoing IPL Twenty20 cricket tournament. It is only a tip of the iceberg.
  6. Greed breeds greed. The gory tales of proxy shares, tax evasions, money laundering etc are sickening.

Why I hate IPL?

Shah Alam Khan writes in India and Bharat:

The financial aspects of IPL are not only murky but an eye opener for those who thought that India was a poor nation with more than forty percent population living below the poverty line. The total value of IPL, which even Mr Modi cannot predict with surety, is expected to be around 70000 crores. This unaccounted money is available to the richest people of India. No doubt the rich got richer in the IPL. Compare this to a cumulative expenditure of mere Rs. 27.59 crores in the prestigious National Rural Guarantee Scheme of the Government of India for the state of Orissa in 2008-09. The Orissa example is even more glaring as this is the state where hunger deaths are reported on a regular basis.

The IPL also represents a loot of public funds, my and your money, which doesn’t even get noticed. Each day & night match of the IPL played under flood lights, consumes electricity enough to run 500 average Indian homes for a month. The provision of subsidised electricity doesn’t make things any different. It is believed that the average electricity bill for a single day and night cricket match of the IPL is more than 15000 US Dollars. For those interested in numbers, this is the government’s expenditure on health for ten adult Indians if they live up to an age of 70 years (at the rate of 21 dollars PPP). Water, a deficient resource in cities like Mumbai and Delhi is used to keep the fields green during the IPL. This, in a country which is now at the top of the childhood malnutrition charts of the globe with lack of clean water being the primary cause of a large number of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality.

To read the full article, click here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why the ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajoekull volcano is dangerous?

The mushrooming cloud of ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland had resulted in the closure of major airports throughout the U.K. and Scandinavia.
Remy Melina writes in MSNBC:

The grounded flights make sense, as these super-heated plumes can do more than reduce visibility. They're downright hazards for airplanes.

"Basically, planes and volcanic ash don't mix," Elizabeth Cory, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration, said today. "When ash is ingested into the engine, it creates problems for the plane, including electrical failure."

The thing that makes volcanic plumes so dangerous is that they look extremely similar to regular clouds, visibly and on radar screens. Even when ash isn't visible to the human eye, it can still pose a threat to aircrafts because of the chemicals floating within volcanic plumes.

Airborne ash makes air travel extremely dangerous and difficult for several reasons, the number one being that when the air that gets sucked through an aircraft's jet engine is mixed with ash, it can cause engine failure.
The ash particles that make up volcanic clouds contain powder-size to sand-size particles of igneous rock material that have been blown into the air by an erupting volcano. The tiny particles instantly melt when faced with the internal temperature of an in-flight jet engine, which exceeds 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). 

To read more click here.

A world without planes

End of aircrafts..!

Alain de Botton who was forced to reside in Heathrow airport imagines a world without aeroplanes and aircrafts. From BBC

In a future world without aeroplanes, children would gather at the feet of old men, and hear extraordinary tales of a mythic time when vast and complicated machines the size of several houses used to take to the skies and fly high over the Himalayas and the Tasman Sea.

The wise elders would explain that inside the aircraft, passengers, who had only paid the price of a few books for the privilege, would impatiently and ungratefully shut their window blinds to the views, would sit in silence next to strangers while watching films about love and friendship - and would complain that the food in miniature plastic beakers before them was not quite as tasty as the sort they could prepare in their own kitchens.

The elders would add that the skies, now undisturbed except by the meandering progress of bees and sparrows, had once thundered to the sound of airborne leviathans, that entire swathes of Britain's cities had been disturbed by their progress.

And that in an ancient London suburb once known as Fulham, it had been rare for the sensitive to be able to sleep much past six in the morning, due the unremitting progress of inbound aluminium tubes from Canada and the eastern seaboard of the United States.

At Heathrow, now turned into a museum, one would be able to walk unhurriedly across the two main runways and even give in to the temptation to sit cross-legged on their centrelines, a gesture with some of the same sublime thrill as touching a disconnected high-voltage electricity cable, running one's fingers along the teeth of an anaesthetised shark or having a wash in a fallen dictator's marble bathroom.

To read the full article click here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is India a flailing state?

Lant Pritchett

Here is and interesting analysis on the state of our country. Lant Pritchett has this to say:

How does one reconcile the contradictions of a booming economy and democracy with world class elite institutions and yet chaotic conditions in service provision of the most rudimentary types?

I argue that for India we need a new category.  I argue that India is today a flailing state---a nation-state in which the head, that is the elite institutions at the national (and in some states) level remain sound and functional but that this head is no longer reliably connected via nerves and sinews to its own limbs.  

In many parts of India in many sectors, the everyday actions of the field level agents of the state—policemen, engineers, teachers, health workers—are increasingly beyond the control of the administration at the national or state level.  

The contrast with China could not be more striking.  In China one worries that, due to the lack of the processes of democratic representation the head of the state, while capable, is beyond the control of the citizens.  Yet, at the same time one reads of local government officials being executed for corruption.  Clearly the head has a strong interest in retaining control of the administrative apparatus of implementation. 

To read the full analysis click here

The success story of Rahmani 30

successful students of Rahmani 30

Syed Ali Mujtaba, chennai based journalist writes in Mujtaba's Musings:

There is a view among a segment of Indian Muslim that instead of seeking favors from the government and hankering for reservation for shedding the burden of backwardness, some members of the community should come forward and emulate the Super 30 model of Bihar to uplift the fellow members of the community.

The Rahmani Foundation, Munger, Bihar leads the way by adopting the Super 30 model for under privileged Muslim students of Bihar to crack IITs exams. The Foundations picked-up poor average Muslim candidates from Bihar and coach them in Patna providing them free coaching, lodging and foods to appear IIT Jee test. It costs Rs. 80,000 per year for each student’s expenses.

Additional Director General of Police Abhyanand, who coached and helped 30 students from poor families to join the prestigious IITs is heading this institution. Abhyanand began working for Rahmani 30 after disassociating himself from Super 30. The idea of coaching Muslim students to the police officer struck because Super 30’s successful students included Muslim students as well.

It’s high time that some dynamic persons from the community should come forward and try to start specialized coaching institute in a professional way on the lines of Super 30 and Rahmani 30 in other parts of the country. They should hire the best faculty available and Muslim philanthropist should come forward to foot their bills. Similarly, the food and lodging arrangement should made by members of the community.

A good administrator can do wonders in running such institutions and there is no dearth of them in the community who can produce results. If this happens with a missionary zeal, it won’t be long when Indian Muslims can too write a new script that can become a talking point in every nook and corner of the country.

To read more, click here

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

God, Cricket, IPL and minting money

T J S George  writes :

We as a people have gifts no other people have.
Italy and New York, for example, are celebrated for their great mafia leaders. But those leaders could only think of routine stuff like kidnapping and smuggling and murder and protection money.
Only an Indian could think up the non-violent idea of making millions from the humble, rarely noticed stamp paper. Telgi never harmed a fly.

Indians have the rare genius to turn everything into an item of trade. Who else has turned God into such profitable commerce? We discovered early that this line of business required the least investment. And the returns are huge.

All it takes is the right kind of uniform—saffron robes or bishop’s cassocks or a neutral white that looks now like a saree, now like a winter shawl—and some kind of marketing mantra. Then you get enough believers around the world to keep you in eternal wealth, not to mention attractive fringe benefits provided by young devotees.

The God industry will remain by far the most widespread and lucrative of all business ventures in India. But ours is a vast and fertile land. There’s plenty of scope for all kinds of growth industries. So we have been busy developing the commercial potential of various other previously innocent ideas.

Cricket, of course, beats all other trading programmes, almost challenging the God business in scope and turnover. So many lakhs of crores of rupees are involved in the cricket business that the IPL presents its numbers in dollars and millions. Confidentiality, another word for secrecy, has been its watchword.
Could such vast sums be clean? Could they include black money, terrorist money, underworld money?
It is amazing that such issues attracted the enforcement directorate’s attention only when Shashi Tharoor and the Kochi franchise got into the picture.

Tharoor is a natural magnet for trouble, as a playboy who wants to be everywhere doing everything. But he is a bumbling Batman before Lalit Modi’s scheming Svengali. How many political VIPs are interlinked with Svengali? Will they ensure that any investigation is yet another eyewash?

Tragically cricket is no longer a sport. It too has become an item of trade, flourishing in a fish-market culture. May all the money-makers burn in hellfire in due course for destroying the decencies that made cricket cricket and the values that made India India.

To read the full article click here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

IPL, greed, big money and an icon from Mumbai..!

Sachin Tendulkar

SHANTANU GUHA RAY writes in Tehelka:

IT’S THE open secret no one wants to acknowledge: the IPL is not about cricket. The ugly controversy surrounding Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor and IPL chief Lalit Modi — over Tharoor’s friend Sunanda Pushkar owning 4.9 percent free sweat equity in the Kochi team that Tharoor helped put together — is merely a warning sign pointing to a much deeper dirt pit that comprises in equal parts big money, politics, glamour, greed, sex, drugs and intense backroom jostling.
The further irony is that, according to highly reliable sources in the cricketing management fraternity, the 4.9 percent free sweat equity Sunanda Pushkar is being pilloried for does not even belong to her. A mere .5 percent is reserved for Pushkar. Disturbingly, the rest belongs — off paper and on trust — to two iconic cricketing giants, one of who is still playing for the Mumbai IPL team. This free equity is the quid pro quo they demanded for helping put the Kochi team and its promoters together — not a rank corruption perhaps in the larger scheme of things, but certainly an impropriety.

Who is that iconic cricketing giant still playing for the Mumbai team?

Read the full article here. 
and Lalit Modi charged with 'Betting & Laundering'

Sunday, April 18, 2010

When London, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong can become hub and house of Islamic Finance why not Mumbai or Cochin?

H Abdur Raqeeb explains finer points of Islamic Banking to Mr Naro Naramain Meena. At left is Engr Md Saleem

A delegation concisting of Engineer Muhammed Saleem, President, Jamaat e Islami Hind, Rajasthan and Mr. H Abdur Raqeeb, General Secretary, Indian Centre for Islamic Finance met Naro Naramain Meena, Ministry of Statefor Finance in New Delhi to discuss the feasibility of Interest Free Islamic Banking in India.

Mr. Engineer Saleem submitted a Memorandum on behalf of Rajasthan Muslim Forum, which is an umbrella organisation consisting of Jamaat e Islami Hind, Mansuri Panchayath, All India Majlise Mushawara, Progressive Muslim Front, Indian Union Muslim League, Association for Protection of Civil Rights and host of other organisations and associations. Memorandum requested to accept the recommendation of Dr. Raghuram Rajan, Chairman, Committee on Financial Sector Reforms to create a framework for Interest Free banking in our great country.

Mr. Saleem urged in the Memorandum that Islamic banking is not only for Muslim but also helpful for Minorities and Marginalised and shared the recent statement of MS Swaminathan, Father of Green revolution that Islamic Banking can be solution for farmer’s suicide in Vidarbha.

Mr. H Abdur Raqeeb added that 40% customer of Malaysia and 20 % customer of Islamic bank Britain are Non Muslims. 

Mr. H Abdur Raqeeb also submitted the important documents related to the methods and techniques adopted by the Modern and Secular countries to create level playing field for conventional and Islamic Banking and argued that when London, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong can become hub and house of Islamic Finance why not Mumbai or Cochin?

The honourable Minister assured that he would go through the documents in detail and will have discussion with his officials and higher authorities regarding the issue

Read more. 
Read Plea to expedite interest-free Islamic banking a report published in The Hindu

IPL = Indian Paisa Loot!!

P Sainath

P. Sainath has nailed it on its head. He writes in The Hindu:
Who stand to gain from the public wet-nursing of the IPL? 
Among others, four gentlemen who make the Forbes Billionaires List of 2010. Three of them are team owners and one is a title sponsor. 
All dollar billionaires and long-time residents on the Forbes List. 
Then there are the mere millionaires in the shape of Bollywood stars. For all these and other worthy people, governments bend over backwards to make concessions. Even as they slash food subsidies in a period of rising hunger. Big time partying is an integral part of the IPL show. 
Only look who is paying for that. Street argot has already begun to brand the IPL as Indian Paisa League or, more directly, India Paisa Loot.
To read the full article, click here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cell phones outnumber toilets..!

Zafar Adeel
இரண்டுக்கே வழி இல்லாத போது..!
நம் நாட்டில் கழிப்பிடங்களின் எண்ணிக்கையை விட கைபேசிகளின் எண்ணிக்கை அதிகமாகி விட்டுள்ளது!
ஒரு IPL போட்டியைப் பார்ப்பதற்கு 40 ,000 செலவிடுகிறவர்கள் ஆயிரக்கணக்கில் இருக்கின்ற நாட்டில் வெறும் வயிற்றோடு படுக்கப் போகின்றவர்களும் கோடிக்கணக்கில் இருக்கத் தானே செய்கின்றார்கள்!

People in India, the world's second most populous country, have more access to a mobile telephone than to a toilet, according to a new UN report.
"It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University's Canada-based think-tank for water, the Institute for Water, Environment and Health, said.
The report is produced by experts who prescribe ways to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on sanitation by 2015.
They also urge the world community to set a new target beyond the MDG (which calls for a 50 percent improvement in access to adequate sanitation by 2015) to the achievement of 100 percent coverage by 2025.
Recent UN research in India shows roughly 366 million people (31 percent of the population) had access to improved sanitation in 2008.
Other data, meanwhile, shows 545 million cell phones are now connected to service in India's emerging economy. The number of cell phones per 100 people has exploded from 0.35 in year 2000-01 to about 45 today.
To read the full news click here

IPL, corrupt crorepatis and hunger!

Shashi Tharoor - Lalit Modi 

Do you know the cost of a ticket to watch a IPL match? It ranges from Rs. 1000 to Rs 40,000. The exorbidant rates have not dithered the audience who throng in thousands match after match. The economics of  IPL is mind baffling. With the Shashi Tharoor - Lalit Modi saga going murkier and murkier the IPL has been named as Indian Paisa League by a குறும்புக்கார TV channel.
Here is the other side of the story. You would not stop your tears when you read it. Harsh Mander writes in The Hindu:
 ‘Half the week we are able to eat roti or rice with either vegetable or dal. The other half, it is just roti, or rice boiled with salt and turmeric. But there are four or five days in a month when there is no food, and we have little option except to fast. If there is any food, we give it to our children, adding a lot of water to fill their stomachs. Any additional food goes to our men folk, because we women are used to staying hungry'.
But the children's bellies are still empty, and they are restless and clamour for more food. ‘It is difficult for us to bear their weeping', the women continue. ‘When the wailing of infants gets too much, we lace our fingertips in tobacco or wild intoxicants and give the fingers to the babies to suck. It helps them sleep even with nothing in their stomachs. If they are small, we beat them until they sleep, but as they grow older, we try to teach them how to live with hunger. It is a lesson that will equip them for a lifetime. Because we know that hunger will be with us the rest of our lives.'
To read the full article click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maharashtra, Hindutva and Holy Quran..!

1200 copies of Marathi Translation of Quran sold Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan
Maharashtra has been perceived as the breeding ground of extremists of Hindutva brand. The Maharashtrians were the leading mascots of Hindutva before the advent of Godhra and Modi. The list of extremists produced by the Marathas is endless. Savarkar, Gowalkar, Deoras, Pragya etc etc.
Now here comes the good news. All praise to Allah..!
Read more. and more

Monday, April 12, 2010

சார் போட்டு பேசுவது எந்த அளவுக்கு சரி?

We Tamils are fond of using the word 'Sir' frequently in our conversation.
திருச்சி எம்பி சிவா அவர்கள் மக்களவையில் பல்லாண்டுகளுக்கு முன்னர் பேசியது இன்றும் என் நினைவில் நிற்கிறது. ஏன் தெரியுமா? அவர் வார்த்தைக்கு வார்த்தை சார் சார் என்று சொன்னது தான். சென்ற வாரம் டாக்டர் அப்துல்லாஹ் (பெரியார் தாசன்) அவர்களை சந்தித்துப் பேசிக் கொண்டிருந்த போதும் உடன் வந்திருந்த நண்பர் அவரை சார் சொல்லிப் பேசினார்.
சார் போட்டு பேசுவது எந்த அளவுக்கு சரி?
கிருஷ்ணா The Wallstreet Journal இல் சுவையாக எழுதி இருக்கிறார். விவரம் வருமாறு:
I had turned on the television soon after getting home from work in the hope of wiping out a rough day. 
The FilmFare awards — Bollywood’s tribute to its own - were on. The speaker was Neil Nitin Mukesh, an up and coming heartthrob in Tinseltown. He was addressing superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan, the comperes for the awards ceremony.

The two Khans, in an attempt to inject humor into the proceedings, were posing questions to other actors in the audience. Those questioned, in turn, were expected to respond with creative insults, tongue-in-cheek, to the two Khans — all in good humor.

Shah Rukh is in his mid-forties and Saif, I suspect, just turned 40. Wikipedia tells me Neil Nitin Mukesh is 28. When I heard Neil speak, it made me stop and wonder why a grown man was addressing the two Khans as “Sir.”

My first thought was that it was the sheer inadequacy of the English language. In Spanish there is usted — a respectful form of you. And of course nearly every Indian language has the Hindi equivalent of aap — a pronoun reserved to demonstrate respect to someone senior, elderly or even, at times, a respected colleague. The use of these forms, from Bhojpur to Chettinad, is rarely about status or inequality but largely about courtesy and culture.

But there remained a niggling feeling: What if this is not a linguistic shortcoming but something deeper?

I shared my theory the next morning with my two business partners, who were actually working instead of wondering about Bollywood’s sociological makeup.

Did not most Tamil folks in Chennai use “Sir,” abandoning the more archaic (and potentially feudal) “ayya,” they argued. The Tamil movie industry, too, is rife with Rajni-sir and Kamal-sir, though I wasn’t sure if that bolstered their case or not. By that point anyway they had returned to doing real work.

What is my gripe with “Sir,” you ask? Yes, it is perfectly serviceable for class 8 students to use it when addressing their English or even their Hindi teacher. Possibly it works for the maitre d’ at a fancy Euro restaurant since his snooty attitude does away with any illusion of who’s the master.

Any other time, there’s far too much of the servile tone of a colonial job applicant imbued into “Sir,” which 60-odd years of Babudom have only cemented further.

Spend an afternoon sitting in a bank manager’s office, on a manufacturing shop floor or in a police or income tax commissioner’s office and you are likely to encounter “Sir” enunciated in every imaginable accent. If you have been in a hospital, you can’t but help see the doctors get their share of “Sir,” many a times as “Dr.-Sir.” Even within the information technology industry — despite its global exposure and purported performance-based culture -– deference, at times even subservience, follows the “Sir.”
To read the full article click here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Introduce Islamic Banking to save the farmers of Vidharba, says M S Swaminathan

Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (Tamil: மான்கொம்பு சாம்பசிவன் சுவாமிநாதன்) has come out with an brilliant idea to salvage the farmers of vidharba.
He has said that ISLAMIC banking could  be the solution to farmer suicide crisis in Vidarbha in a report in in The New Indian Express.

Speaking at Karuna Ratna award presentation function, he said the exorbitant lending rates charged by money lenders in Vidarbha had created a vicious cycle of debt and suicide in the region. 

“Even yesterday we heard news about 30 farmers who committed suicide in Vidarbha. Islamic banking, which propagates zero interest lending, could hold the key to solving this crisis”, he said.
 To read the full story click here.

IPL = League of Priviliged Indians!!

IPL is not Indian Primier League. It is League of Priviliged Indians. Veteran writer, scholar and historian Ramachandra Guha writes in The Telegraph.

The promoters of the IPL claim to be speaking on behalf of Indian cricket. However, the polarizing instincts of their tournament run counter to — and threaten to defeat —the inclusive and democratizing trends that were inaugurated by the victory of the Indian cricket team in the 1983 World Cup and the boom in satellite television that followed. 

From the 1950s to the 1970s, Indian cricket was dominated by a handful of large cities — such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Calcutta and Bangalore. But from the 1980s onwards, smaller and previously more obscure centres started sending players to the national side.

Cricketers from towns in Bihar, Orissa, UP, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, from Vadodara, even Jharkhand, began winning India caps. Simultaneously, international matches, once held only in the big metros, now began being hosted by Guwahati, Cuttack, Gwalior, Jamshedpur, and the like.

The Indian Premier League may be more appropriately renamed the League of Privileged Indians. For this tournament both reflects and further intensifies a deep divide between the India of wealth and entitlement and the India — or Bharat — of poverty and disenfranchisement. 

Writing about the dangerous growth of inequality in India, the economist, Amartya Sen, warned some years ago that if present trends continued, half of India would look like the American state of California, the other half like sub-Saharan Africa. Since he made this comment, California has been beset with an acute — and apparently irreversible — fiscal crisis. Perhaps we might then substitute the state of Massachusetts for it. 

But the point remains; there are indeed two Indias, the one which is awarded IPL franchises, and the other which is not.
To read the full article click here.


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