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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nabil Elaraby and Indian frogs


It is an ancient game - the blame game. Suleiman can't account easily for all the blood on his hands that the waters in the Nile river can't wash away, and the sensible thing to do is to pass the buck to Mubarak. He also knows that there is an extraordinary revolutionary storm building up outside the cell where he is detained with the masses insisting that the military, the arch-reactionary segment of any society, must obey the will of the people and must craft policies so that Egypt's tormented soul is calmed.

And the fact of the matter is that the military is obeying. The Rafah crossing with Gaza is being permanently opened today. The Palestinians are no more under blockade! And Israel can't do anything about it. The Egyptian military is pressing ahead with the Palestinian unity pact despite protests by Israel, and ignoring Barack Obama's strictures.

Without doubt, Nabil Elaraby, Egypt's foreign minister - who is choreographing Egypt's new 'partnership' with US, is untying the security ties with Israel and re-engaging his country with Arab brotherhood, and is forging ties with Iran - arrives in Delhi today. Elaraby is a rare scholar-diplomat and will have many heart-throbbing, intellectually stimulating, utterly spell-binding things to narrate to the Indian leadership. And yet, our media and think tankers seem unaware who Elaraby is. They are full of the US Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Not a word about Elaraby! Aren't they like frogs in a well croaking at the sliver of sky above and thinking that is all that the firmament is about? The Indian foreign policy establishment which reached out to Elaraby is once again outstripping our intelligentsia and making the latter appear rather pedestrian. 

M. K. Bhadrakumar in Diplomatic Perspective. More Here.

Origins of Political Order: Francis Fukuyama and the start of history

As they try to make sense of the Arab Spring, many in Washington have argued that the US must put itself on "the right side of history" in the Middle East and North Africa. It's a familiar but bizarre phrase. It is common sense to argue that foreign policy should be driven by national interests and deep-seated principles. But should politicians and diplomats base their choices on their instincts about where the arc of history is heading?
Most professional historians would say no. To acquire a doctorate in history today, at least in the US or UK, is to obsess about details. Topics such as folk perceptions of Joan of Arc in post-Napoleonic Normandy are hot in academic circles. Things like the rise and decline of civilisations don't seem rigorous enough to get historians interested.

Yet there is still a natural hunger for History with a capital H. We live in a moment of dramatic political and economic change, as the US turns inwards, Europe stagnates and China, India and Brazil assert themselves on the world stage. The recent events in the Middle East have only reinforced the sense that we have entered a historically pivotal moment.

So it's hardly surprising that there is currently high demand for explanations of world history that can be applied to immediate political circumstances. This is just what Francis Fukuyama offers in The Origins of Political Order, an expansive survey of global developments stretching from prehistory to the French and American revolutions.
It is not too much to say that Fukuyama had no choice but to write this book. Twenty years ago he seized the post-Cold War moment to raise the possibility of the "end of history" - the moment that liberal democracy trumped all other political systems. Versions of this idea informed the Clinton administration's efforts to draw ex-Communist states into a liberal world order and the Bush administration's democratisation agenda.
Richard Gowan in The National. More Here

Friday, May 27, 2011

மௌலானா சையத் ஜலாலுத்தீன் உமரி பேட்டி!

ஜமாஅத்தே இஸ்லாமி ஹிந்த் தன்னுடைய குறிக்கோளை அடைவதற்கான போராட்டத்தைத் தொடரும்! 
மௌலானா சையத் ஜலாலுத்தீன் உமரி பேட்டி!

மௌலானா சையத் ஜலாலுத்தீன் உமரி அவர்கள் அமீரே ஜமாஅத்தாகத் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப்பட்ட பிறகு ஏப்ரல் 6 அன்றே தஅவத் இதழுக்காக அவருடன் உரையாட முயன்றேன். ஆனால் மௌலானா ஷஃபி மூனிஸ் சாகிப் இறந்துவிட்டதால் அன்றைய தினம் மௌலானா அவர்களுடன் பேசுவதற்கு வாய்ப்பும் நேரமும் வாய்க்கவில்லை. மத்தியப் பிரதிநிதிகள் சபையின் கடைசி அமர்வையும் தள்ளி வைக்க வேண்டிய கட்டாயம் ஏற்பட்டது. எப்பாடு பட்டாவது ஏப்ரல் 31 ஆம் தேதியிட்ட தஅவத் இதழில் அமீரே ஜமாஅத் அவர்களின் பேட்டியை வெளியிட வேண்டும் என்பதுதான் எனது நோக்கமாக இருந்தது. ஆனால் மௌலானா அவர்களோ அடுத்தடுத்த தினங்களில் இன்னும் அதிகமாகப் பிஸியாகிவிட்டார். சுற்றுப்பயணங்கள் வேறு! இந்த நிலைமையில் வெல்ஃபேர் பார்ட்டி ஆஃப் இந்தியா தொடங்கப்பட்டுவிட அது தொடர்பான கேள்விகளையும் சேர்க்க வேண்டியதாயிற்று. இவ்வாறாக, பல்வேறு பிரச்னைகள், வாய்ப்புகள், சவால்கள் குறித்து மௌலானா அவர்களுடன் பல மணிநேரம் பேசுகின்ற வாய்ப்பு கிடைத்தது.வெவ்வேறு நாட்களில் மூன்று அமர்வுகளில் இந்த உரையாடல்கள் நடந்தன. மௌலானா அவர்கள் மிகவும் ஆர்வத்துடன் எல்லாவற்றைக் குறித்தும் விரிவாக விடையளித்தார். பேட்டி நீண்டுவிட்டதால் மௌலானா அவர்களின் அனுமதியுடன் சில கேள்விகளுக்கான விடைகளின் சில பகுதிகளை நீக்கி சுருக்க வேண்டி வந்தது. இவ்வாறாக, பல்வேறு விஷயங்கள் குறித்து ஒருங்கிணைந்த, இரத்தினச் சுருக்கமான, நிறைவான விடைகள் தொகுத்துத் தரப்படுகின்றன.  பேட்டியின் தொகுப்பை அமீரே ஜமாஅத் அவர்களும் ஒரு பார்வை பார்த்துக் கொடுத்துள்ளார்.
சற்றே காலதாமதமாக இந்த நேர்காணல் அச்சானாலும் மன நிறைவைத் தரும் என்று எதிர்பார்க்கின்றேன். முஸ்லிம் உம்மத், இஸ்லாமிய இயக்கம், நாட்டுப் பிரச்னைகள், சமுதாயச் செயல்பாடுகளில் ஆர்வம் கொண்டுள்ள அனைவரும் இதனை வாசித்துப் பயன் பெறுவார்கள் என்கிற நம்பிக்கை எனக்கு உண்டு. நாட்டுநடப்பு, நிகழ்வுகள் பற்றிய மௌலானாவின் தாக்கங்களும், எண்ணங்களும் அவ்வப்போது வழங்கப்படும். இன்ஷா அல்லாஹ்!
- பர்வாஸ் ரஹ்மானி, ஆசிரியர், தஅவத் வாரம் இருமுறை


m ஜமாஅத் உறுப்பினர்கள் மீண்டும் ஒரு முறை உங்களைத் தங்களின் அமீராகத் தேர்ந்தெடுத்திருக்கின்றார்கள். மிகப் பெரும் பொறுப்பை உங்கள் மீது சுமத்தியிருக்கின்றார்கள். நீங்கள் எப்படி உணர்கின்றீர்கள்?

மௌலானா சையத் ஜலாலுத்தீன் உமரி:
முதல் தடவையாக என் மீது இந்தப் பொ-றுப்பு சுமத்தப்பட்ட போது இந்தப் பொறுப்பை நிறைவேற்றுவதற்குத் தேவையான அறிவாற்றல், இறையச்சம், இறைப்பற்று, ஞானம், மதிநுட்பம், அர்ப்பணிக்கும் பண்பு, இறைவழியில் நிலைத்து நிற்றல் போன்ற அனைத்திலும் மற்றவர்களை விட கடைகோடியில் இருப்பவனாகத் தான் என்னை நானே பார்த்தேன். நான்கு ஆண்டுகள் இந்தப் பொறுப்பைச் சுமந்த பிறகு அந்த உணர்வு இன்னும் கூடியிருக்கின்றது.
உண்மை என்னவெனில், வாழ்க்கைத் திட்டம் பற்றிய புரட்சிகரமான பார்வையைக் கொண்ட, தனிப்பட்ட வாழ்விலும் கூட்டு வாழ்விலும் அதிரடி மாற்றங்களை ஏற்படுத்த விழைகின்ற, இந்த நோக்கத்திற்காக நாடு முழுவதிலும் மும்முரமாகச் செயல்பட்டு வருகின்ற ஒரு இயக்கத்துக்குத் தலைமை தாங்குவதும் வழிகாட்டுவதும் சாதாரண வேலை அன்று. ஆனால் ஜமாஅத் இந்த எளியவன் மீது நம்பிக்கை வைத்திருக்கின்றார்கள். கடந்த நான்காண்டுகளில் இயக்கத் தோழர்களும் நண்பர்களும் எனக்கு அளித்த ஆதரவும் ஒத்துழைப்பும் எனக்கு மனநிறைவைத் தருகின்றது; என்னுடைய கவலையைப் போக்குகின்றது. அல்லாஹ்வின் தனிப்பெரும் கிருபைக்கும் அருளுக்கும் அடுத்ததாக இயக்கத் தோழர்களின் ஆதரவும் ஒத்துழைப்பும் அசாதாரணமான முக்கியத்துவம் வாய்ந்ததாகும். இனி வரும் நாட்களிலும் எனக்கு இந்த ஆதரவும் ஒத்துழைப்பும் கிடைத்துக் கொண்டே இருக்கும் என்றும் இயக்கம் வெற்றிப்பாதையில் மேன்மேலும் முன்னேறிச் செல்லும் என்றும் நம்புகின்றேன். இன்ஷா அல்லாஹ்

m மத்திய தலைமையகச் சூழலைக் குறித்துச் சொல்லுங்களேன். அய்ம்பது ஆண்டுகளுக்கும் மேலாக மத்தியத் தலைமையகத்துடன் இணைந்து இருந்திருக்கின்றீர்கள். பன்னிரு ஆண்டுகள் அகில இந்தித் துணைத் தலைவராக (1991-இலிருந்து) செயல்பட்டிருக்கின்றீர்கள். எனவே மத்தியத் தலைமையகமும் அதன் சூழலும் உங்களைப் பொறுத்த வரை அந்நியமான சூழல் கிடையாது. என்றாலும் நீங்கள் அமீரே ஜமாஅத்தாகச் செயலாற்றிய இந்த நான்கு ஆண்டுகளில் மத்தியத் தலைமையகச் சூழல் குறித்து உங்களுடைய உணர்வுகளைக் கூறுங்களேன்

மௌலானா சையத் ஜலாலுத்தீன் உமரி:
இந்தக் கேள்வி இரண்டு பரிமாணங்களைக் கொண்டது. முதலா-வது மத்தியத் தலைமையகத்தில் இருப்பவர்கள் ஒருவருக்-கொருவர் கொண்டுள்ள உறவு பற்றியது. இந்தக் கோணத்-தில் பார்த்தால் மனம் மகிழ்ச்சியால் நிறைகின்றது. மத்தியத் தலைமையகத்தில் பணியாற்றுகின்ற பொறுப்பாளர்கள், ஊழியர்கள்  மத்தியில் அன்பும் இணக்கமும் தூய எண்ணமும் நிறைந்த உறவும் தொடர்பும் நிலைபெற்றுள்ளது. அவர்கள் அனைவருடைய ஒத்துழைப்பும் ஆதரவும் இந்த எளியவனுக்குத் தொடர்ந்து கிடைத்து வந்துள்ளது. தலைமையகத்தில் இருக்கின்ற நாம் அனைவருமே ஒரே டீமாக, குழுவாகச் சேர்ந்து செயலாற்றி வருகின்றோம்.
இரண்டாவது பரிமாணம் இறைத்தொடர்பு, தஸ்கியா ஆகியவற்றுடன் தொடர்புடையதாகும். இந்தக் கோணத்தில் பார்த்தால் சில தோழர்கள் மிக மிக பாராட்டத்தக்க அளவில் தங்களை வளர்த்துக் கொண்டுள்ளார்கள். இந்த விஷயத்தில் அவர்கள் நம் எல்லோருக்கும் ஊக்கமளிக்கும் முன்னுதாரணமாக இருக்கின்றார்கள்.
சில சகோதரர்களிடம் சில பலவீனங்கள் காணப்படுகின்றன. ஆனால் தங்களின் பலவீனங்களை அவர்கள்  உணர்ந்திருக்கின்றார்கள். இது மகிழ்ச்சியளிக்கும செய்தியாகும். சகோதரர்களுக்கு அவர்களிடம் இருக்கின்ற பலவீனங்கள் குறித்து உணர்த்தும்போது எவருமே முகம் சுளித்ததில்லை; அதிருப்தியடைந்ததில்லை. இனி வருங்காலத்தில் அவர்கள் தங்களின் பலவீனங்களைக் களைந்து கொள்வார்கள் என்கிற எதிர்பார்ப்பு இருக்கின்றது.
 
Parvaz Rahmani, Editor, Dawat interviews Moulana Syed Jalaludeen Umari, Ameer-e-Jamaat. Translated by T Azeez Luthfullah. More Here

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Throw a shoe at Obama's betrayal


At 4:17pm GMT on Sunday, I threw a shoe at my television screen, aimed at US President Barack Obama, precisely at the moment he began to explain that the reference in his Thursday speech at the State Department to the 1967 borders was in accordance with the Israeli interpretation of these borders.

Not that I was thrilled with that speech either but it was at least as meaningless as his previous speeches on the topic. But at 4:17 he said there will be “no return to the borders of June 4, 1967” and the thousands who attended the AIPAC convention cheered wildly. Annexation of Israeli settlement blocs built illegally in the occupied West Bank and the creation of a small Palestinian bantustan in the spaces in between was the essence of Obama’s real vision for peace.

It was a soft shoe and all it did was to bounce off the screen. Being such a harmless weapon it was also directed at my Palestinian friends who since Friday explained, publicly, how unusual and important was Obama’s speech at the State Department.

It is tough enough to know that in the White House sits someone who betrayed not only the Palestinians, but all the oppressed people in the world and in the US he promised to engage and represent.

But I have turned on my TV set and moved to Puerta del Sol in Madrid — there where thousands of young people were reformulating the powerful message that came from Tahrir Square in Cairo and which was also heard on the borders of Palestine on Nakba Day and in London’s Trafalgar Square during recent student demonstrations.

It was a call of defiance against such political discourse and its poisonous effects. Yes, they say in Madrid as they did on Palestine’s borders, our lives are ruled and affected by smug, cynical and indifferent Western politicians who hold immense power to maintain the unjust world for years to come, but we have had enough of this and will resist it.
Ilan Pappe in Counter currents. More Here

Keeping a daily relationship with Quran

Procrastination affects us all – however, the most serious procrastination is the one that keeps us away from Allah’s path and away from good deeds.
 
It’s interesting how people normally procrastinate to do good deeds or beneficial actions, but would rarely procrastinate when it come to bad deeds or useless tasks! It reminds me of what Imam Zaid Shakir said in our recent interview with him, he said clearly ”procrastination is from shaytaan”.

I want us to tackle a growing problem amongst many Muslims today: It’s the procrastination from reading/reciting the Quran on a daily basis. We call it procrastination, but in some cases, it can be called complete abandonment (may Allah protect us).

Excuses, Excuses…

Normally, what makes people procrastinate from reading the Quran daily revolves around the following six excuses:
  1. Lack of time: “I don’t have time! I’m too busy!”
  2. Enough Quran in Salah: “I read Quran in my Salah everyday…”
  3. Mental blocks: “I like to be in a certain mental/spiritual state to read the Quran – I rarely get those ‘states’ every day”
  4. Guilt: “I haven’t touched the Quran in ages, I feel so bad, don’t think I can read it now, maybe when I go to Hajj or in Ramadan”
  5. Inability to read: “I don’t know how to read the Quran”
  6. Lack of Understanding: “I can read the Quran but I don’t understand it, so for me, there’s no point reading it”
We’ve heard these excuses in varied degrees and we’ll tackle them below insha’Allah.

Seriousness of Abandoning the Quran

Firstly, I want to highlight the seriousness of not keeping a close relationship with the Quran. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) says in the Quran: And the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) will say: O my Lord! Verily, my people deserted this Qur’an (neither listened to it, nor acted on its laws and teachings). (Quran, Surah Al-Furqan, Chapter #25, Verse #30).

Imagine the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) complaining about me and you on day of Judgement for deserting the Quran? And why shouldn’t he complain when he (Peace and blessings be upon him) left behind the best of Books, the eternal miracle, the words of Allah between our hands, and we simply put it on a shelf to collect dust!
Productive Muslim in Productive Muslim.com. More Here

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

India's unwanted girls


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described female foeticide and infanticide as a "national shame" and called for a "crusade" to save girl babies. But Sabu George, India's best-known campaigner on the issue, says the government has so far shown little determination to stop the practices.

Until 30 years ago, he says, India's sex ratio was "reasonable". Then in 1974, Delhi's prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences came out with a study which said sex-determination tests were a boon for Indian women. It said they no longer needed to produce endless children to have the right number of sons, and it encouraged the determination and elimination of female foetuses as an effective tool of population control.
"By late 80s, every newspaper in Delhi was advertising for ultrasound sex determination," said Mr George. "Clinics from Punjab were boasting that they had 10 years' experience in eliminating girl children and inviting parents to come to them."

In 1994, the Pre-Natal Determination Test (PNDT) Act outlawed sex-selective abortion. In 2004, it was amended to include gender selection even at the pre-conception stage.

Abortion is generally legal up to 12 weeks' gestation. Sex can be determined by a scan from about 14 weeks. "What is needed is a strict implementation of the law," says Varsha Joshi, director of census operations for Delhi. "I find there's absolutely no will on the part of the government to stop this." Today, there are 40,000 registered ultrasound clinics in the country, and many more exist without any record.
A report in BBC. More Here

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

State of the sisterhood


The headlines are euphoric. Mamata Banerjee, J Jayalalithaa, Mayawati and Sheila Dikshit, just four women now rule over 400 million Indians. Three cheers for gender justice. Yet, there is no skirting the big question: are they about to swing a new deal for India's women? Some would argue, don't hold your breath. 

"They might not be game changers for other women," says Akhila Sivadas,  executive director, Centre for Advocacy and Research. "But at least they have been able to come up in a highly competitive environment that is often hostile to women."

The four women chief ministers are pictures in contrast. In her elegant saris, Sheila Dikshit is the silver-haired patrician who calls journalists beta, especially when they are asking tough questions. The unyielding Mayawati rules Uttar Pradesh by diktat, transferring officials who displease her faster than you can say ‘statue'. Jayalalithaa encourages full ashtang namaskars by genuflecting party members. Only Mamata is the untried, untested chief minister who comes to power with zero ostentation and enormous expectation for single-handedly demolishing 34 years of unbroken Communist rule.

It's early days yet to judge the third coming of Jayalalithaa or the first of Mamata in terms of what this means to the women of their states. But the rise to power of this sisterhood, says Guha, "has to be set off against the continuing discrimination against women in society". Adds social activist Biraj Patnaik: "There is great symbolic value in having these women in power." Significantly, despite their ideological differences, this sorority remains united on one issue: the Women's Reservation Bill, passed in the Rajya Sabha but now stuck in the lower house.
It's tempting to see the rise of so many women at one point in time as a great victory for women everywhere. But women have a long way to go and many hurdles — female foeticide, dowry, malnutrition — to overcome. 

Women in positions of power at the national and state level might not immediately usher in a new deal for other women. Their achievements (and scandals) are perhaps benchmarked against their male competitors. But their presence could  mean a good, hard knock at yet another glass ceiling.
Namita Bhandare in Hindustan Times. More Here

One crore twenty lakh girls massacred in India


More and more Indian families, particularly those which are more wealthy and educated, are going for selective abortion of the second girl child if their first-born too was a girl, claims a new study. 

Such selective abortions of girls are estimated to be between 4 and 12 million over the three decades from 1980 to 2010, as per the research findings that are to be published in the upcoming issue of prestigious 'Lancet' magazine. 

The parents going for it want to ensure that at least one child in the family should be a boy. The researchers found that selective abortions not only increased in last few decades but the gender imbalance also travelled to east and south from the "traditional hot spots" in north India. 

"Most of India's population now live in states where selective abortion is common," lead author Prabhat Jha from University of Toronto told reporters here. They analysed census data and 2.5 lakh birth histories from national surveys to estimate differences in girl-boy ratio for second births in families where the first-born child had been a girl. They found that this girl-boy ratio fell from 906 girls per 1000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005. 

"Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than those with no education and in wealthier households. But if the first child had been a boy, there was no fall in the girl-boy ratio for second child over the study period," Jha said. 

The article authors said this suggests that selective abortion of female foetuses, usually after a first-born girl, had been more common in richer and educated families.
A shocking report in Indian Express. Here

The trouble with teenagers

At a function recently, I asked a close friend what I considered an innocuous question. "How is Vivek?" I asked, referring to her son who had just graduated from Brown University and had returned home.

"I don't know how to talk to him anymore," my friend replied forcefully. "He is 22 years old and still hasn't decided what to do with his life. He wants to take a year off to figure it out. What's there to figure out? I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was eight years old."

"Things are different these days," I murmured sympathetically. "Kids have choices. Not like how it was when we were growing up."

"But he should at least tell me what's on his mind," my friend continued, barely registering what I had said. "He should tell me his plans, instead of floating about the house in limbo, answering in monosyllables."

The teenage years are tough. Everyone tells me that. But as a parent whose first child has just become a teenager, I can tell you that the toughest thing is the silence that suddenly emerges like a chasm between you and the child who was once a part of you, who was once almost an appendage.

I used to be able to tell my daughter anything, and usually did once every few minutes from dawn to dusk. "Brush your teeth. Don't forget your lunch box. Remember the library book. Did you finish your homework? Eat your vegetables. No TV if you don't finish music practice. Clean up your room, young lady, or else... That's it, you are grounded."
Shoba Narayan in The National. More Here

Beware of the crocodiles in Africa

All Indian eyes are on Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh –- as if he fills the whole of Africa with his towering presence. But Africa is a huge continent and no one can be the monarch of all he surveys. The distance between Addis Ababa in the heart of Africa and Abidjan on the west coast alone makes about 7000 kilometers, which is twice the travel route from Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram. Africa could contain quite a few colonial powers at the same time in the 19th and 20th centuries – Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Holland.

But Dr. Singh has no pretensions. To borrow an expression from an Indian official accompanying Dr. Singh, there is “enough space” for many outside powers to simultaneously pursue their agenda in Africa. While Dr. Singh’s prime ministerial aircraft was descending on Addis, another distinguished visitor was taking off from Abidjan – French president Nikolas Sarkozy. Their missions present a study in contrast and give a timely warning to the Indian policymaker. Sarkozy went as a conquering hero who deployed French forces to effect a transfer of power in Cote d’Ivoire. What an irony -- military power to enforce the outcome of a democratic election! Dr. Singh, on the contrary, arrived in Addis showering petals of goodwill in a continent where Gandhiji understood the magical powers of non-violence.

To go back to the Indian official, what he said is absolutely true “The West is setting up Africa as a zone of contention. They want to pit India against China. They want us to be at each other’s throat. But this is not the 1885 Congress of Berlin where European powers decided to scramble for African resources.” From the tenor of his intellect, one can identify the Indian diplomat as someone with a scholarly sense of modern history. The point is, history never quite ended in Africa with the national liberation struggles of the 1950s. The flow of history merely got punctuated and the struggle for outside domination merely took new forms as Cold War picked up. The rivalries somewhat eased when the bipolar world gave way. A respite followed but in retrospect it hardly lasted for a couple of decades.
What should really worry India is that if the push comes to a shove, the West may use military power to assert its prerogatives. Libya is an unfolding scenario. The African swamp is full of crocodiles, indeed. Sarkozy was fairly explicit that the West will not hesitate to interfere in Africa’s internal affairs if its interests are in jeopardy. Sarkozy’s vision is diametrically opposite India’s. A pattern is emerging. In the Middle East and Africa, through the Cold War era, the West gave an ideological veneer to its agenda of dominance by pitting communism as the antithesis. Today, what is unfolding is the banner of “democracy” – and in the name of advancing freedom and human rights, the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” is being dusted up. Sarkozy is a no-nonsense type statesman and he bluntly said, “This is the new Africa policy that we shall adopt, and it’s an international policy”. Was he speaking on behalf of Dr. Singh as well? I doubt it. 
M. K. Bhadrakumar in Diplomatic Perspective. More Here

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Indian secularism has more affinities with multiculturalism


In contrast to most South Asian countries, modern India has always been officially “secular,” a word the country inscribed in its constitution in 1976. Secularism, here, is not synonymous with the French “laïcité,” which demands strong separation of religion and the state. India’s secularism does not require exclusion of religion from the public sphere. On the contrary, it implies recognition of all religions by the state. This philosophy of inclusion finds expression in one article of the constitution by which all religious communities may set up schools that are eligible for state subsidies.

India’s secularism, therefore, has more affinities with multiculturalism than with “laïcité.” Its emphasis on pluralism parallels the robust parliamentary democracy and federalism that India has been cultivating for 64 years.

But today, secularism is in jeopardy in India. The main threat comes from the rise of Hindu militancy and its consequences not only for electoral politics, but also for the judiciary and society at large.

The 1980s-90s were a turning point in the India’s secularism. This period could have been a parenthesis, since the Congress Party regained power in 2004, but India has never returned to the balance of religious co-existence and compromise that prevailed in its first three decades of independence.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid and the communal clashes that accompanied the BJP’s rise to power has never been addressed properly by the policy and judiciary. Muslims were massacred in numbers unprecedented since India’s 1947 partition; about 1,000 were killed in Bhagalpur in Bihar State alone in 1989, and violence rose to the level of pogroms in Gujarat State in 2002 when about 2,000 Muslims were killed after 59 Hindus burnt them alive in train coaches in Godhra, Gujarat. Inquiry commissions prepared reports that were either never made public or not followed by serious action. In most democracies, the kind of violence Gujarat experienced in 2002 would have resulted in at least a “Justice and Reconciliation” commission.

And minorities must cope with marginalization. Christian Tribals are victims of violence, especially in Orissa and Gujarat, where they are requested to reconvert to Hinduism. Muslims face discrimination in the job and housing markets, and Muslim ghettoization is increasing in northern and western India. On the political scene, Muslims are marginalized with less than 6 percent of MPs in the lower house of parliament while representing 13.4 percent of the population. In 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh commissioned a report on the status of India’s Muslims by a committee named after its president, Justice Rajinder Sachar. But none of the Sachar Committee’s key recommendations to improve Muslims’ situation has been implemented perhaps from political fears that the BJP will again denounce “pseudo-secularism.”

India is gradually moving away from multiculturalism toward a type of democracy exemplified by Israel and Sri Lanka, known as “ethnic democracy,” where minorities are treated as second-class citizens. With this transformation, India may well lose one of the key pillars of its soft power, the quality of its multiculturalism, and more alarmingly, perhaps also its adherence to the rule of law.
Christophe Jaffrelot in Daily News & Economic review. More Here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nobody could be more hawkish, patriotic than holier-than-thou Arnab Goswami


Given the toxic history of India-Pakistan relations, it's perhaps only natural that establishments on both sides are obsessed with each other. But since when has media become part of establishment? Whatever happened to its fabled independence and objectivity?

While when it comes to dealing with the reviled neighbor next door everyone is vying with everyone else to appear more hawkish and patriotic, few can beat Times Now and its insufferable, holier-than-thou Arnab Goswami. The bespectacled news anchor, who also happens to be the network's editor in chief, is forever presiding over an all-season hate Pakistan fest, day after day feigning an air of pompous solemnity. It's as if he's got the responsibility of resolving the Kashmir conundrum or leading the billion plus nation resting on his shoulders.

The morning the world woke up to the big news from Abbottabad, our hero was up in the air within a couple of hours of Obama's ‘we-have-done-it” moment. Aided by his battery of familiar talking heads, Goswami began what was to be an endless orgy of thrashing and trashing Pakistan. He was on a familiar turf, doing what he does best: Whipping up a collective hysteria against the neighbor.

Indeed, this time around he went a step further. Even as Pakistan's befuddled politicians and men in khaki tried to make sense of the Abbottabad affront, the guardian of our national interest was calling for burning Pakistan at the stake. "If Americans could fly into Abbottabad cantonment and take out the man responsible for 9/11, what prevents us from doing the same and taking out those responsible for 26/11?" he repeatedly demanded referring to the 2008 terror strikes on Mumbai.

It was an invitation to his guests — many of them former diplomats and at least two of them being former envoys to Pakistan — to move in for the kill as they implored India to hit at its separated-at-birth twin. This is payback time as Pakistan is at its most vulnerable right now, they seemed to suggest, openly debating the options of surgical strikes or US-style assassination to take out characters like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and of course Dawood Ibrahim.

I found it hard to believe my ears and eyes. Do they really mean that? Do the pundits realize the calamitous ramifications of their call? And they were supposed to be former diplomats!

And how irresponsible the media can get in its attempts to sell itself? Well, everyone in this business is always looking for a larger slice of the pie and more readers, more viewers and more revenues. Which is fair enough. But are there no rules in this game? No sense of right and wrong? Whatever happened to good ol' honesty and noble ideals that once inspired and drove Indian journalism?
Aijaz Zaka Syed in Arab News. More Here

The veil has become the symbol of liberation


From the 1920s to 1960s, unveiling was a symbol of Egypt's desire to emulate western scientific, political and economic success – the majority of Egyptians, as Ahmed points out, had accepted the western view of the veil as "uncivilised". A Quiet Revolution provides a clear and compelling summary of the changes that led to its return: the decline of Arab socialism after 1967, the expanding influence of ultra-conservative Saudi Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the failure of pro-western economic policies. By the 1970s, disillusioned students and professionals were turning to an activist Islam – Islamism – that promised social, moral and political renewal. Observing strict dress became one means of displaying egalitarian principles and conveying the wearer's strength and authority. From a symbol of disempowerment, the veil now, for some, became a mark of liberation.

Over the next decades, the veil gathered a range of new meanings: from an expression of personal faith, solidarity with Palestine, Chechnya or Iraq or allegiance to the ummah, to a safeguard against sexual harassment, a fashion statement, a critique of western "sexism", a call for minority rights, an evangelical tool. Ahmed does not romanticise these rationales – she is clear about the growing pressure on women from both Islamist organisations and preachers and from families, peers and the media. But A Quiet Revolution is a timely reminder that the veil today is a symptom less of an alien fanaticism than of a long political and cultural entanglement with the unveiled west.
A review by Rachel Aspden of the Book "A Quiet Revolution" by Leila Ahmed. More Here

I speak good Marathi besides English, Gujarati and Hindi : Mumbai corporator Afreen


Imagine a scene where a burqa-clad woman, among more than two hundred corporators of Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, is shouting for the problems of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Mother of two teenagers, Afreen Fayyaz Ahmed is the Congress corporator of Mumbai Municipal Corporation for last 3 years.


Born to Parsi parents, educated in one of the best schools in south Mumbai to marrying Fayyaz Ahmed and becoming a corporator, story of Afreen is very interesting. Afreen converted to Islam at the age of 18 years and married to Fayyaz Ahmed, former Member of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and was just a housewife till Madanpura Municipal seat reserved for women.

Although, it would be normal for Muslims but very strange for others not to see their own elected corporator ever and vote for her. Imtiyaz Ahmed, 30, a local of her area said, “No one has ever seen Afreen Fayyaz Ahmed but everybody knows her and get their work done.” Afreen, while talking to TwoCircles.net said, “Hijab is my ornament and it never stops me from serving the people of my area.” She also added that she derives all the courage from Allah and her husband Fayyaz Ahmed is the biggest support for her.

Sharing her experience of working along with hundreds of men in the corporation, she said, “Initially it was bit odd but now I am used to it because of their co-operative nature. They all respect and care for me. Sometimes they go out of the way to co-operate me.”

In Maharashtra and specially in Municipal Corporation Marathi is the only way to communicate the grievance. “Knowing Marathi is compulsory if one likes to get her work done in Maharashtra and Alhamdulillah, I speak good Marathi besides English, Gujarati and Hindi” said Afreen.
Rehan Ansari in Two Circles. More Here

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Musalman and its fossilised dream


It is the only Urdu Newspaper being published in the entire state of Tamil Nadu. It is the only Urdu Newspaper being published for the past 82 years without any interruption. It is The Muslaman. Here is an enchanting, heartening and amazing short film on it. It is possibly the last hand-written newspaper of the world. Don't forget to hear the soul searching comments of Usman Ghani Sahib.

More Here and Here and Here and Here

Wadah Khanfar of Al Jazeera tops the list of 100 Most Creative People in Business


Khanfar, effectively both CEO and editorial director, deserves the credit for growing Al Jazeera into a network capable of seizing this moment. His secret may be that, despite a decade working as a manager, he still thinks of himself as a field journalist. "There are many books written about management: 'How to Become a Manager in Five Minutes,' " Khanfar says, laughing out loud. "I don't think that's right. The first principle of management is to observe and to understand the true spirit of the network."

That spirit lies in Al Jazeera's scrappiness, its diversity, and its ability to persevere amid the chaos and complexity of the Middle East. Figuring out how to circumvent an Egyptian dictator who cut off the country's Internet and the network's connection to the world. Trusting viewers' cell-phone videos to tell the story of the revolution in Tunisia, where the network was then banned. Recognizing that the news industry is changing, and building additional news programs and reporting platforms around social media, particularly Twitter and user-generated video, to prepare for a different world. And finding ways to spread Khanfar's optimism that the rest of the world eventually will view Al Jazeera as a significant news organization. "It looks so exotic to Americans, but in the Arab world, it's CNN," says Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, who specializes in international affairs. "Fox runs a much narrower band of programming than Al Jazeera."

Khanfar has spent a lifetime thriving amid uncertainty. Born in 1968, the year after Israel began occupying the West Bank, he grew up there, in Rama, a Palestinian farming village of about 500 residents. "I've seen to what extent chaos creates a sense of an unimaginable, unexpected future," he says as we leave the daily editorial meeting. "You can't buy a house or establish a farm. You don't know how the political map will look next year."

His father, a teacher, cultivated olive trees and owned a small business on the side selling olive oil. Khanfar attended high school in an adjacent town, walking the 4 miles each way or riding a donkey over the mountainous terrain. He calls it a simple, beautiful childhood, if not a stable one. He remembers listening to BBC Radio as his major source of news.
A report in Fastcompany. More Here

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American media fraud in the Middle East


Too often, you consumers of mainstream media are victims of a fraud. You think you can trust the articles you read - why wouldn't you? You think you can sift through the ideological bias and just get the facts. But you don't know the ingredients that go into the product you buy. It is important to understand how knowledge about current events in the Middle East is produced before relying on it. Even when there are no apparent ideological biases, such as those one often sees when it comes to reporting about Israel, there are fundamental problems at the epistemological and methodological level. These create distortions, falsehoods and justify the narrative of those with power.

The American media always want to fit events in the region into an American narrative. The recent assassination of Osama bin Laden was greeted with a collective shrug of the shoulder in the Middle East, where he had always been irrelevant, but for Americans and hence for the American media it was a historic and defining moment which changed everything. Too often contact with the West has defined events in the Middle East, but the so-called Arab Spring with its revolutions and upheavals evokes anxiety among white Americans. They are unsettled with the autogenetic liberation of brown people.

The American media has been obsessed with Israel. And all too often, it just comes down to "what does this mean for Israel's security?" The aspirations of hundreds of millions of freedom-seeking Arabs are subordinated to the security concerns of five million Jews who colonised Palestine.

A student of the Arab world once commented that any self-appointed terrorism expert must first pass the Um Kulthum test - meaning, has he heard of Um Kulthum, the iconic Egyptian diva of Arab nationalism whose music and lyrics still resonate throughout the Middle East? If they hadn't heard of her, then they obviously were not familiar with Arab culture. In Iraq an equivalent might be the Hawasim test. Saddam called the 1991 war on Iraq "Um al-Maarik", or the mother of all battles. And he called the 2003 war on Iraq "Um al-Hawasim", or the mother of all decisive moments. Soon, the looting that followed the invasion was called Hawasim by Iraqis, and the word became a common phrase, applied to cheap markets, to stolen goods, to cheap products. If you drive your car recklessly like you don't care about it, another driver might shout at you, "what, is it hawasim?" If you don't make an effort to familiarise yourself with these cultural phenomena, then just go back home.
Nir Rosen in AlJazeera. More Here

Justice eludes the victims of Makkah Masjid Blast


If at all we keenly examine the Makkah Masjid bomb blast, it will be clear that this terrorist attack was on the democratic and secular fabric of the country. Today four years are being completed for the Makkah Masjid bomb blast and it is very sad affair that the criminals are still free. The sadhu, sadhvi, sant, swami and army colonel who are caught are small actors. The real captain of the Hindutva terrorist is still free. In fact their organization’s i.e. RSS camps are going on large scale all over the country especially at Hyderabad as well. The government is silent on these.

The government had constituted the Bhaskar Rao commission on the police firing after the Makkah Masjid bomb blast and the commission after three years submitted its report to the government. Now the governments work is to table it in the Assembly and present before people. but the government’s intention is not good because of which the government is not making it public. However, the government wants to protect the police officers involved in the firing. It should be remembered that the government has blessed the police personnel involved in the firing on innocent people with rewards and awards. This way by taking advantage of the bomb blast, Muslim youth were targeted on the name of investigation. On this the State Minority Commission had appointed advocate Ravichander as advocate commissioner to investigate into the illegal detention, torture and arrests of the Muslim youth. Even this report is submitted to the government. However, the government is sitting on both these reports.

Civil Liberties know that there are such facts in the Advocate Ravichander report that the congress government will not have any right to rule. It will not have any moral right to be in the ruling position. In this report, facts are mentioned such as to how the Muslim youth were given electric shock, were beaten mercilessly, confined them under illegal detention and labeled with fake cases. In his report Advocate Ravichander himself has written that, ‘If you have tears prepare to shed them now’, with this one can understand how mercilessly the police might have behaved with the Muslim youth. Even after this the government is neither ready to accept its fault nor presenting the report.

We question all the media houses, as to why they have not come forward to conduct a programme in memory of the victims Makkah Masjid bomb blast and police firing, whereas they have conducted memorial programmes at other places such as Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat. Here we want to remind them that the persons who died at Makkah Masjid are also Human beings, is this attitude towards them because they belonged to Muslim community?

We also strongly condemn the attitude of police personnel who are resisting the Muslim community from offering homage to the victims and martyrs of Makkah Masjid bomb blast. Don’t we have the right even to pay homage to our brothers who have sacrificed their lives in resisting the Hindutva terrorism and became the victim of police firing? We question the double standard of the government who make special arrangements for the programmes at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat and on the other side resist the people in paying homage to the martyrs by placing the barbed wire and blocking the roads. Here we want to remind the Congress government that Muslims are also Human beings.

Today on the occasion of four years of the completion of Makkah Masjid bomb blast and subsequent police firing, we demand the following:
  • Demand to the government to present the Bhaskar Rao Commission report in the Assembly.
  •  Demand to the government to present Advocate Ravichander report before the people.
  • Demand to investigate the Makkah Masjid bomb blast and subsequent police firing seriously.
  • Government should put a full stop to the Hindutva terrorism and book these terrorists under rule of law.
  • The Secular parties and Muslim representatives should fulfill their responsibilities.
  • We strongly condemn the police attitude for not allowing paying homage to the Martyrs of Makkah Masjid blast.

Lateef Mohd Khan, General Secretary, Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee More Here

A country without libraries..!


I heard some politician say recently that closing libraries is no big deal, since the kids now have the Internet to do their reading and school work. It’s not the same thing. As any teacher who recalls the time when students still went to libraries and read books could tell him, study and reflection come more naturally to someone bent over a book. Seeing others, too, absorbed in their reading, holding up or pressing down on different-looking books, some intimidating in their appearance, others inviting, makes one a participant in one of the oldest and most noble human activities. Yes, reading books is a slow, time-consuming, and often tedious process. In comparison, surfing the Internet is a quick, distracting activity in which one searches for a specific subject, finds it, and then reads about it—often by skipping a great deal of material and absorbing only pertinent fragments. Books require patience, sustained attention to what is on the page, and frequent rest periods for reverie, so that the meaning of what we are reading settles in and makes its full impact.

How many book lovers among the young has the Internet produced? Far fewer, I suspect, than the millions libraries have turned out over the last hundred years. Their slow disappearance is a tragedy, not just for those impoverished towns and cities, but for everyone everywhere terrified at the thought of a country without libraries.
Charles Simic in New York Review of Books. More Here

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ibne Safi's Jasoosi Duniya in English!


Such books sell only if they are loaded with sex, the young Urdu writer was told when he began working in the thriller genre in the late 1940s. But Asrar Ahmed was having none of it. I’ll find another way out, he said (the pen name he had recently adopted—Ibne Safi—implied pure intentions), and so he did. In a career spanning three decades, he would publish over 240 bestselling novels and become a cult figure in his own lifetime.

Around half those books make up the hugely popular Jasoosi Dunya series, about the adventures of the imperturbable super-sleuth Colonel Faridi and his happy-go-lucky assistant, Captain Hameed. Now the publishing house Blaft—known for its Tamil pulp-fiction anthologies and for a refreshingly unconventional approach to book production—has brought out fine English translations of four of these novels. The titles—numbers 60 to 63 in the original series—are Poisoned Arrow, Smokewater, The Laughing Corpse and Doctor Dread. The covers, incorporating the original Allahabad-edition artwork, depict gun duels, skulls and crossbones, blonde women who look like they’ve popped out of a homely 1950s American sitcom, and an archer modelled on Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. And the stories within are as fast-paced and exciting as you’d expect.

Each of these books deals with a separate mystery—murder by poisoned arrow, the kidnapping of a young heiress, and so on—but there’s a linking device in the form of two shadowy figures: an enigmatic, monkey-faced man named Finch and the notorious criminal Doctor Dread. As the stories unfold, we discover the connection between these two men and how their activities intersect with Faridi’s investigations. But first we must get to know our crime-fighting protagonists.
Jai Arjun Singh in Open. More Here

Mumtaz Kazi – Asia’s first woman diesel engine driver


Nation’s Pride and all along a supportive daughter, sister, wife and a caring mother. This is Mumtaz Kazi, the first woman diesel engine driver in Asia. Limca Book of Records, in its 1995 edition, has acknowledged her great success. Adding another feather to her cap is that she is the first train driver who has the skill of driving both Electric and Diesel engine.

In 1989, the change in the railway recruitment board policy in India enabled her to sit for the exam and she fared very well with the merits in all the exams right from written exams to Personal Interview. With the experience of nearly 20 years she is now serving the most crowded railways in the world the Mumbai Local.Born and brought up in Mumbai, Mumtaz has seen many ups and downs in the life but it’s the family support that kept her moving.

Mumtaz is not just successful in her profession but a very typical Indian woman. She is helpful, supportive and sacrificing for her family.

A.I. Kathawala called up when he came to know that a journalist is doing an interview with his daughter to tell about her contribution to his family. A.I. Kathawala said, “I am really proud of my daughter because she is not only successful in her profession but also because she changed the life of my family.”

A.I. Kathawala continued to praise her courageous daughter. He said it’s because of her support he was able to buy a home in Mumbai and was able to educate his two sons Imtiyaz and Feroz, both are engineer and now settled in Canada.
Rehan Ansari in Two circles. More Here

The voter votes not for an idea or an ideology


Poribarton is the word we will hear a lot of for a while. The defeat of the Left in West Bengal has been reduced to this single word, a desire for change so strong that even though most people do not seem to believe that Mamata will necessarily improve their situation, they still want to see the Left out of power. This slow defeat of the Left, long in coming, is the last whimper of ideology in Indian politics. The BJP had long renounced its pretensions to such a claim, the DMK, a party born on a rationalist, secessionist, anti-Brahminical platform, has long morphed into a local imitation of the Congress, with its own cult of family.

But ideology is a big word; ideas can be smaller and more focused—the promise of good governance, a programme for roads or education or health or even administrative accountability. Neither Mamata nor Jayalalithaa nor the winners in Kerala or Assam have won for these reasons. 

Yet, the only thing that the elections in the four states have in common apart from their lack of ideas is a high voter turnout. How do we account for this paradox? If politics with its lack of ideas is so dispiriting that we need outsiders to inject ideas through fasts, why is it that the voter does not think so, and why is there such disconnect between the pontificating political discourse in Delhi and what actually unfolds in elections in this country?

The voter votes not for an idea or an ideology but for the possibility of individual benefit. This possibility is not as straightforward as accounting for the money, a television or alcohol handed out even though each counts. If roads matter, they will be weighed in, it is just that the importance given to each factor varies from individual to individual. And since the individuals whose aggregated vote decides most elections are not from the middle class, this class feels left out because its own individual benefit is often discounted in such a result.

This is a simple conclusion but one that irritates the elite no end. It may be true that the CPM and the DMK were both embodiments of certain ideas, but the response was not to an idea, whether it be the Marxism of the CPM or the atheistic Dravidianism of the DMK, but to the possibility that the old structures would change for the better, that they would have some access to the institutions of power. In the case of the CPM, this possibility was real for more than a decade but that changed with the creation of a new elite that controlled power. Mamata is not an idea, she is a possibility as easily accepted as renounced if things do not work out.

It is easy to be cynical or sceptical about such a democracy but the fact remains it delivers in ways that the elite fails to anticipate. A Mayawati, Mulayam or Lalu are products of such a system, and for all the mockery made of them by the elite, they have changed the political landscape of the country. It is difficult to ascribe ideology or even ideas to the politics these three actually practice, but over the past 20 years, they have reshaped Bihar and UP by dismantling the hierarchy of caste.
Hartosh Singh Bal in Open. More Here

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

IT Breaks free


DISTRUPTION: Technology is bursting out from the shackles of its desk-bound past. It has the power to disrupt business like never before.

You might expect a Nokia executive to tell us the mobile industry will change the world. But Rich Green, chief technology officer at Nokia, makes a compelling case. "If you can change Egypt with 140 characters written on a four inch screen," he says, "what can you do with a PC substitute in one out of every four hands?" The revolution in mobile technology is just one form of disruption that will change profoundly the way the world does business in the future. But in all its varying guises, disruption was the number one rated topic by the Tech Leader Group.

Dr. Lynch's proposition is founded on meaning-based computing. "We are about to enter a period of extreme disruption again," he says. "The whole way things are done is going to change. There's always a difference in the technology world between positioning, where someone realizes that something is a good idea, and the reality of being able to do it. Now, technology has caught up with dealing with the real world.

"In social media at the moment, there's a lot of positioning going on. But the reality is to do with the scale of the information and the rate it's growing. You have to use technology that can actually understand meaning, which is very difficult for social media. The word 'wicked', for example, could appear in three different Tweets with a different meaning each time. The simplest way of explaining why this is so important is that all the changes in the history of IT have so far been about the T. What we are talking about is the first change of the I."
Nigel Kendall in Wall Street Journal. More Here

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mamata Banerjee is the face of Muslim Revenge


Basu's crucial error was his compromise with parochialism in order to sustain his vote base when his economic policies had exhausted their ability to deliver. This retreat was symbolised by his ban on the study of English at primary school level in 1982. He advertised this as a triumph for the mother tongue. It was nothing of the kind. It was a retreat into the narrow mind of regionalism by a party that had lost its imagination. Unable to create jobs, it sought to cynically exploit a barren emotionalism. By the time the decision was reversed in 1999, half a generation from the lower middle class and poor-or, those who needed English most for upward mobility-had fallen behind. Basu's own grandchildren went to La Martiniere, of course.

This ban came during precisely those years when the young began to recognise that English had become the language of aspiration in India; it was no longer "foreign". Modern jobs demanded, increasingly, English language skills. English, once guardian of colonial rule and its fauxaccented servants, has, today, been assimilated to such an extent that it is part of Bollywood's "Hindi" lyrics. The unique aspect of the "item number" Sheila ki jawaani is not that Sheila isn't going to give you her body (there was not much chance of getting it anyway), but that more than half the song is in English. Bengal's young paid a silent price so the CPI(M) could remain in power.

The second swivel-mistake was soft-secularism, the unspoken Leftist assumption that Bengal's Muslims- who constitute over 30 per cent of the state's effective vote- could be taken for granted if you protected their life without ensuring their livelihood. Muslims bought this shoddy deal for a long while, until the Sachar Commission report laid out facts of their unemployment levels in government jobs. Mamata Banerjee is the face of Muslim revenge. The Left bastion could not survive the collapse of its strongest pillar.

The Left ruled longer than it deserved to because cadres filled the chasm created by vanishing ideas and ideology. It was as if by the 1990s the CPI(M) had pawned its intellect, and begun feeding off diminishing returns. By 2000 it was dining off alibis. And yet the gold dust of electoral success persuaded them that power was eternal.

Mamata Banerjee has proved that even in Bengal power is terminal.
M J Akbar in India Today. More Here

Sunday, May 15, 2011

As time goes by, it gets tougher to 'just remember this'

It's something we just accept: the fact that the older we get, the more difficulty we seem to have remembering things. We can leave our cars in the same parking lot each morning, but unless we park in the same space each and every day, it's a challenge eight hours later to recall whether we left the SUV in the second or fifth row. Or, we can be introduced to new colleagues at a meeting and will have forgotten their names before the is over. We shrug and nervously reassure ourselves that our brains' "hard drives" are just too full to handle the barrage of new information that comes in daily.

According to a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, however, the real trouble is that our aging brains are unable to process this information as "new" because the pathways leading to the -- the area of the brain that stores memories -- become degraded over time. As a result, our brains cannot accurately "file" new information (like where we left the car that particular morning), and confusion results.

"Our research uses brain imaging techniques that investigate both the brain's functional and structural integrity to demonstrate that age is associated with a reduction in the hippocampus's ability to do its job, and this is related to the reduced input it is getting from the rest of the brain," said Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Johns Hopkins' Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "As we get older, we are much more susceptible to 'interference' from older memories than we are when we are younger."

In other words, when faced with an experience similar to what it has encountered before, such as parking the car, our brain tends to recall old information it already has stored instead of filing new information and being able to retrieve that. The result? You can't find your car immediately and find yourself wandering the parking lot.
 An analysis in MedicalXpress. More Here

In Tamil Nadu Congress went down with the titanic-sized dynasty - DMK


The people of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala voted sensibly teaching the politicians a lesson or two how not to govern. West Bengal was expected, Tamil Nadu gave goose bumps to many who could never imagine Tamilians demolishing the Kalaignar Fort in such humiliating way. Kerala got the real “Paribortan” since Independence or formation of both the fronts – United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Indian National Congress and Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPIM.

West Bengal was a vote against stagnation, Tamil Nadu, a vote against corrupt and autocratic dynastic rule. Kerala treaded cautiously not giving a comfortable majority to either fronts.

However, Congress is harping on their contribution in West Bengal hitchhiking Mamta’s TMC and the wafer-thin win of UDF in Kerala. As one TV anchor discovered the significance of No.13 in the career of Mamta Banerjee, who on 13th May 2011 changed the destiny of a state after 34 years with or without the support of Congress. However, Congress claims that it contributed 8% votes.

In Tamil Nadu too, Congress went down with the titanic-sized dynasty – DMK. A commentator on TV summarized it beautifully - An old man on a wheelchair with two wives and three children, all ministers, arrived in the capital to negotiate with Sonia Gandhi, head of another dynasty. DMK has put to shame even the Gandhi family, which keeps low-profile and are not power-hungry. Tamilians too departed from their long-time submissiveness to the family and voted them out.

In West Bengal, it was Mamta’s victory and in Tamil Nadu, it was DMK’s defeat. Congress was just pillion-riding in both states without independent choices.

Technically Congress has won in three states – West Bengal, Kerala and Assam.  But, Assam is the only relief for both Congress and BJP, where both the parties can claim to have won something – Congress, a thumping majority and BJP, a few seats for solace. Otherwise, May 2011 would have been a dry month for BJP.
Zubair Ahmed in Ferry Musings. More Here

Beyond Techno-coolies


Lord Curzon, the newly appointed Viceroy of India, was on the defensive in 1899. “I read in many newspapers,” he told graduates at the University of Calcutta, “that our system of higher education in India is a failure, that it has sacrificed the formation of character upon the altar of Cram.”

More than a century later, “the altar of Cram” still demands worship from students. Rote learning, fossilised curricula and arbitrary examinations are the norm even at India’s top colleges. Despite the growth in higher education and the much-vaunted success of the outsourcing and IT economy, the system can neither keep up with the rising demand nor can it, in many cases, provide a solid education. But change may be coming soon as about a dozen education-related bills are debated in Parliament. As India attempts to expand both the quality and capacity of its universities, a key question must be what role the liberal arts should play.

Many societies, including India’s, have recognisably liberal educational philosophies. Both traditional streams of Indian education, Sanskrit and Persian, valued broad-based knowledge and argumentation. In the West, the idea of a liberal education goes back at least twenty centuries to the Roman philosopher Seneca, who defined the liberal arts as the general education worthy of free men as opposed to the practical training required by slaves. Translating for our modern sensibilities, Professor Grant Cornwell, president of the College of Wooster, a top US liberal arts college, suggests that a liberal education develops “habits of mind and character that will equip young people as problem-solvers, independent thinkers and innovators”.
Arthur Dudney in Outlook. More Here

End the War on Terror


The first thing the president could do to calm an anxious world is dial down his triumphalist rhetoric. He should stop saying that “America can do whatever it sets its mind to” when discussing the war on terror.

And then he should call the war off and deal with terrorism as a law enforcement problem. So long as war remains official policy, America will be tempted to undertake actions—drone attacks, targeted killings, interference in civil wars—as a matter of routine that should be reserved only for emergencies.

The open-ended, ill-defined nature of the war on terrorism puts America at odds with potentially every country, lacing disagreements and conflicts with the threat of aggression. This ultimately does more to compromise the world’s sense of security than bin Laden ever could.
 Shikah Dalmia in Reason. More Here

Who will account and pay for the millions killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan?


Now that Osama is dead and Obama’s re-election is in the bag, could we please move on? I hate to rain on the president’s victory parade and dampen the endless celebrations in America but the departure of one long isolated and ailing figure changes nothing.

In the words of Brendan O’Neill of Spiked Online, “all that really happened in Pakistan is that a small group of American soldiers shot and killed an ageing, sickly man in a mansion, who was the nominal head of a small and increasingly fractured terrorist organization.”

Of course, Bin Laden was no saint and may very well have been guilty of the crimes he has been accused of, including the 9/11 outrage. But even Bin Laden, much reviled and hated as he was, deserved a day in the court to explain himself, didn’t he? How do we know for sure he’s the one who ordered the 9/11 attack. Even the FBI admits there’s no proof linking him to 9/11. Where’s the body of evidence?

Besides, even Nazi mass murderers like Hermann Goring, Rudolf Hess and Martin Bormann, responsible for sending millions to their death during the World War II, were penalized only after elaborate, and transparent, trials by a UN war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. Adolf Otto Eichmann, one of the chief architects of the Jewish Holocaust, who was captured much later in 1960 by Israel’s Mossad in Argentina, received a fair trial before being hanged in 1962.

I really hate to bat for someone who in his zeal to avenge the Western crimes against the Arabs and Muslims may have ended up targeting hundreds of innocent people, most of them his fellow believers. But there’s something called the due process. Every criminal and accused — even the terrorists — is innocent until proven guilty.

This is the principle that is at the heart of international justice system and no one is an exception, not even the superpower. Following the release of thousands of incriminating US government cables by the WikiLeaks, Bin Laden had declared: “We are a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate.”

But law-abiding nations do not go to war over flimsy excuses or send armed commandos to invade a foreign country and blow up the brains of an unarmed man in front of his 12-year-old daughter and dump his body into the ocean.

In doing so, Uncle Sam has once again acted as the prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner all rolled into one. Not very different from the Texan-style justice celebrated in numerous Hollywood westerns. Might is right. The old jungle law still holds good and the powerful can do whatever they want.

Nearly 2,800 people died in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Doubtless a heinous atrocity and crime against humanity for which the perpetrators deserve nothing but severest punishment. What about all those innocents though who were killed — and continue to be killed — as a direct consequence of the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? More than a million people have perished in Iraq alone and hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past 10 years. Who will account and pay for them?

Pakistan has been the real victim of America’s decade-long disastrous campaign. Its once healthy economy is bankrupt; its institutions are falling apart and its complex religious and ethnic mosaic of society is unraveling fast. The country has been in a free fall since it was forced to join the US war.

It has lost nearly 40,000 people, including 7,000 military personnel, to this conflict. In fact, as early as 2009, Pakistan’s toll — 12,000 deaths — had exceeded that of Afghanistan. Last year, nearly 10,000 people were killed as a result of US drone strikes and reprisal attacks by militants.

Despite continuing demonstrations and perfunctory protests by politicians, the pilotless drones continue to hit Pakistan almost on a daily basis, feeding the growing groundswell of anger against America. Last year witnessed 111 drone attacks mostly targeting civilians. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says at least 957 victims of drone strikes in 2010 were innocent civilians.

I wonder if the Americans, who burst out on the streets to celebrate the killing of Bin Laden last week, really know what their government has been doing in their name around the world? If yes, do they care? How would they react if some unmanned planes sent by another country were to come raining death and destruction over their cities and towns?
Aijaz Zaka Syed in Arab News. More Here

Killing of Osama: It's a dirty game based on lies, cunningness, hatred and deceit


When I watched the photograph of Obama, Hilary and co, watching the CIA briefing on Operation Geronimo, I was reminded of the movie “Hard Target” (1993).

In that movie a bunch of psychopaths plays the game of head hunters. They feed some malnourished people and make them physically strong. They then organize an event where those folks are to run for their life and in the process those psychopath hunts them down. The psychos then laugh at their laurels each time, till the hero Van Dam, takes those bulls by the horn and give a run for their money.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden looks to me a script of similar to that of “Hard Target.” That bunch of most powerful people on this earth reminded me of those psychopaths of the movie who took sadist pleasure in taking the blood of those running for life, playing the dirty game “This is who we are.”

I am sure, when it might have been announced that “enemy is killed in action” Obama may have done the NBA hero Karim Abdul Jbbar’s act, leaping up few feet from the ground, raising his hand in exclamation shouting “We got him”!

To me, Osama was like, Van Dam who took up the challenge by the scruff and for ten years defied the most powerful nation on the earth equating with the hero of “Hard Target,” eventually to fall to the superior arrow. This however does not mean that arrow has upstaged the shield and the duel has come to rest. It’s an unending fight with no clear cut winner.

It’s a dirty game based on lies, cunningness, hatred and deceit. The most ironical part is there seems to be a conspiracy of silence among the nations of the world and none has the moral courage to say to stop this madness.

There are few exceptions. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro criticized the way the United States carried out the raid against Osama bin Laden. He said the U.S. raid in Pakistan violated that country's laws and offended its dignity.
In India, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M. Karunanidhi said the path taken by Osama bin Laden cannot be termed as ‘Islamic terrorism.’ He argued that just because bin Laden took to terrorism to achieve his goal, it cannot be called Islamic terrorism. Anger against any person cannot be justified in the form of terrorism, he wrote.

However, these are fringe voices and by and large the community of nations has condoned the acts of the US and it acts that it has skirted under the war against terror.

It’s only China that criticized the United States for violating' Pakistan's sovereignty by carrying out a military operation to kill Osama bin Laden saying “China holds that the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country should be respected.”

There are no two opinions that terrorism in any form has to be opposed tooth and nail but then this does not mean that those who become the cause of terrorism should be condoned.
Syed Ali Mujtaba in Mujtaba's Musings. More Here

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