Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Terrorism, Muslims and Media bias

What is rarely visible in the Indian media, however, are the brutal, illegal methods used against suspected terrorists: torture cells, illegal detention, unlawful killings in “police encounters”; elimination of evidence against the illegal actions of the law-enforcing agencies; and rampant harassment of Muslims. In July 2009, The Week reported on the existence of at least 15 secret torture chambers meant to extract information from the detainees. The methods to extract information include attaching electrodes to a detainee’s genitals as well as the use of pethidine injections. To quote The Week, these chambers are “our own little Guantanamo Bays or Gitmos”, which a top policeman called “precious assets”.

In May 2008, a Muslim boy aged 14 was abducted by the Gujarat police. He was dragged to the police car at gunpoint and taken to a detention centre where he was tortured. He returned home ten days later when the court ordered his release following his mother’s petition. The police subsequently threatened the boy’s family with dire consequences if they pursued the case in court. The police harassment becomes even more acute in light of the fact that most lawyers often hesitate to take up the cases of “terrorists”. As a disempowered community - as the government-appointed Sachar Committee report (of 2006) minutely demonstrates - Muslims themselves don’t have adequate and qualified lawyers to pursue such cases. Muslims’ marginalisation thus renders their voice invisible in the media too.

It is believed that after SIMI was banned, soon after 9/11, its radical members formed IM. During my fieldwork (2001-2004) on Jamaat-e-Islami and SIMI I did not hear anything about IM. SIMI activists and other Muslims I met felt terrorised themselves. It is worth noting that since 2001 far more people have been arrested as “SIMI terrorists” than the actual number of SIMI members, which in 1996 was 413 (when founded in 1976, SIMI’s members numbered 132). Until today, the Indian government has still not legally proved its rationale for banning SIMI.
In the fight against terrorism, evidence and the rule of law are subservient to prejudice. As of this writing, the Indian government has not yet tracked the perpetrators of the July 13 attack. However, only two days after the attack, Subramanian Swamy, a prominent politician and former minister (with a doctorate from Harvard University) wrote an article called “How to Wipe Out Islamic Terror”. Without any evidence, he blamed Muslims for the attack, in the same way that The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Sun suspected Muslim involvement in the Norway shooting nine days later.

What Swamy did is standard practice in Indian media. In September 2006, a blast killed 35 people at a Muslim graveyard in Malegaon (in the state of Karnataka). The media blamed Muslims. Likewise, in 2007, after a blast killed 10 Muslims praying in Hyderabad’s Mecca mosque, Praveen Swami freely wrote about the Muslim terrorists he believed caused it and about what he perceived to be the “Islamist threat to India’s cities”. However, investigations later showed that Hindu nationalists carried out the Malegaon and Mecca mosque terror attacks.

Returning to Subramanian Swamy, Swamy wrote: “We need a collective mindset as Hindus to stand against the Islamic terrorist. The Muslims of India can join us if they genuinely feel for the Hindus. That they do I will not believe unless they acknowledge with pride that though they may be Muslims, their ancestors were Hindus”. Those refusing to acknowledge this, Swamy advocated, “should not have voting rights”. He proposed declaring India “a Hindu Rashtra [state]”.

Stories of Muslim terrorists abound in both the Indian and Western media.
Since the July 13, 2011 Mumbai bombings, vitriolic pieces like Subramanian Swamy’s have appeared frequently in the media. These pieces subtly influence the analyses of many liberal intellectuals. By contrast, stories portraying Muslims as the terrorised remain fairly sparse. One wonders if, and how, such stories will be told
Irfan Ahmed in Al Jazeera. Here

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Obama Sold Israel Bunker-Buster Bombs

President Obama secretly agreed to sell Israel 55 bunker-busting bombs, according to a Newsweek report.

Israel's request for bunker-busters in 2005 was denied. At the time, the Defense Department had frozen most military sales to Israel because of concerns Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.

Pentagon officials apparently had a change of heart.
Here's what Newsweek's Eli Lake reports:
Even some of the hawks from the George W. Bush administration grudgingly give Obama credit for behind-the-scenes progress. "If you say to the White House, 'Obama has been very unfriendly to Israel,' they say, 'What do you mean? It's the best military-to-military relationship ever.' And that part is true," says Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Middle East policy at the National Security Council. "If you look at the trajectory from Clinton to Bush to Obama, the military relationship has gotten steadily stronger. I don't think Obama changed the trajectory, but he certainly didn't interfere with it, and it continued under him."
The bunker busters were a significant breakthrough. The Israelis first requested the sale in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.
In 2007, Bush informed then prime minister Ehud Olmert that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010. The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the secret decision.
James Cartwright, who served until August as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Newsweek the military chiefs had no objections to the sale.
A report by Aamer Madhani in USA Today. Here and a report in The Daily Beast. Here

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My pen has not retired: Moulana Kausar Yazdani

What change you find in the Jamaat’s work?
There was a time, say up to first forty years of the Jamaat’s formation that everyone was very sincere without any concern about personal amenities. Now the situation has changed. Even full time workers’ officialdom and personal concerns have increased at the cost of sincerity. Now it has a become a routine job beginning at, say, 9 A.M. and continuing up to, say, 5 P.M. Earlier the atmosphere was of total devotion to the object of the Jamaat. There are exceptions, no doubt, but my feeling is based on overall atmosphere.

What are your engagements these days?
After retirement from the Jamaat I have kept myself busy in translation work into the Hindi language. I have translated Bukhari in three volumes. A publisher provides me books for translation and I do the job. My pen has not retired.
Moulana Kausar Yazdani in conversation with Dr Waquar Anwar in Radiance weekly. Here

A towering personality among Muslims

Moulana Kausar Yazdani was not just a journalist or writer, but an active worker and a leader also. He became chief of J. I. H. (Delhi & Haryana State) in 1979 and remained so till 1995. At that time, he used to start his day before morning prayers (salat Fajr), read daily news paper and wrote editorial, etc. Later, he worked for the Kanti till about 1’o clock. After 3 or 5’o clock in the afternoon, to 11 in the night, he spent his time, visiting different places of Delhi & Haryana for Dawah and Islamic awekening. It was his daily routine. In 1995 he was called to central office of the Jamaat as its all India secretary to look after the Dawah work from which he just retired. Nadvi translated about 40 books in Hindi and wrote a dozen books.
Javed Ali in Milli Gazette. Here

Moulana Kausar Yazdani was laid to rest in New Delhi

Maulana Dr. Kausar Yazdani, a renowned Islamic scholar, author, journalist, activist and former Secretary for Dawah, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), breathed his last on August 29 at his residence in New Delhi following a brief illness. He was 76.

His funeral prayer was led by Amir JIH Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Omari after Zuhr prayers on August 30. He was laid to rest in Batla House Graveyard. He left behind three sons and one daughter.
A report in Radiance Weekly. Here

Leadership is getting excited and making things

Leaders are not what many people think–people with huge crowds following them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see whether anyone is following them. “Leadership qualities” are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. The include, at the very least, courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, determination, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head even when things are going badly. This is the opposite of the “charisma” that we hear so much about.
So, to hell with all that noise. It’s just a big mass of envy, chatter and FOMO. Let’s get excited and make things. 
Caterina Fake in her website. Here

Knowledgeable individuals and the wisdom of the crowds

If you ask someone to guess the number of sweets in a jar, the odds that they’ll land upon the right number are low – fairground raffles rely on that inaccuracy. But if you ask many people to take guesses, something odd happens. Even though their individual answers can be wildly off, the average of their varied guesses tends to be surprisingly accurate.

This phenomenon goes by many names – swam intelligence, wisdom of the crowd, vox populi, and more. Whatever it’s called, the principle is the same: a group of people can often arrive at more accurate answers and better decisions than individuals acting alone. There are many examples, from counting beans in a jar, to guessing the weight of an ox, to the Ask The Audience option in Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

But all of these examples are somewhat artificial, because they involve decisions that are made in a social vacuum. Indeed, James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, argued that wise crowds are ones where “people’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.” That rarely happens. From votes in elections, to votes on social media sites, people see what others around them are doing or intend to do. We actively seek out what others are saying, and we have a natural tendency to emulate successful and prominent individuals. So what happens to the wisdom of the crowd when the crowd talks to one another?

Andrew King from the Royal Veterinary College found that it falls apart, but only in certain circumstances. At his university open day, he asked 82 people to guess the number of sweets in a jar. If they made their guesses without any extra information, the wisdom of the crowd prevailed. The crowd’s median guess was 751.* The actual number of sweets was… 752.
A report in Discovermagazine. Here

He is perfectly ordinary man

Alexandria, Egypt: His name was Sayed Bilal, he was thirty years old, married, and his wife was pregnant. He was a practising Muslim, neither an activist nor an agitator. He had a job and did not stand out from the crowd in any way. He lived near the Thahereyya train station. On the evening of 5 January 2011, he received a phone call from state security agents telling him to report to the local police station in the Al Raml District at 10 p.m. to help with an inquiry. ‘Bring a blanket with you,’ he was told. ‘You might need one.’

Sayed Bilal is poor. A simple, unpretentious man, an average citizen. No one is happy to be summoned to the police station in such countries. But since he has nothing to reproach himself for, Sayed takes a taxi with a clear conscience and shows up at the appointed time. No one has come with him. He does not know that his last hour is fast approaching. And how could anyone have known that? Sayed Bilal has no criminal record at all and has never had to deal with his country’s police force. In fact, that is why he has been singled out: he is a perfectly ordinary man.

The interrogation begins with the verification of his identity; a completely normal procedure. Sayed is calm. He doesn’t dare ask what’s on the tip of his tongue: ‘Why am I here? What complaint do you have against me? What are you going to do with me? What have I done wrong?’

Sayed says nothing, answers their questions as best he can and waits to see how things go.

All of a sudden, the men move him to another room. They push him along and take him down to the basement; soundproofed, it is a place where no sound can get in or out, a place for torture. The police have thought of everything. The neighbours must not be disturbed. No noise, nothing shocking, because it seems that certain citizens cry out when they’re hit too hard. They scream. That hurts the torturer’s ears and might split the cork glued to the walls to absorb noise.
Tahar ben Jelloun in Granta. Here

People's power Vs Nuclear power

The broad-based ‘struggle committee’ against KNPP, spearheaded by anti-nuclear activists, S P Udhyakumar and Anton Gomez, have just ended a heroic 12-day long fast, thanks to a politically sagacious Chief Minister J Jayalalitha passing a Cabinet resolution, urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to suspend all work at KNPP until the local people’s apprehensions are fully allayed.

Equally, what turned the nation’s eyes towards an obscure ‘pandal’ overlooking the 110-year-old Saint Lourdes catholic church, the fasting venue at Idinthakarai coastal hamlet, 2 km north of the KNPP site, was the sudden upsurge of thousands of people from neighbouring districts including children and disabled, whose solidarity for the fasters bellowed like the boiling sea along this fragile 2004 tsunami-hit coastal stretch.

How come a motley crowd of fasters in a little known village suddenly took centre-stage? It cannot all be put down to anti-nuclear NGOs’ getting hyper-active overnight or committed social activists like Medha Patkar visiting them on a morale-boosting mission.
‘The affected people’s emotive response looks sudden, but this has been simmering from the late 1980s’,” says Father James Peter, pastor of a local parish. “Irrespective of caste, creed or religion, it is now a people’s fight for their survival and cultural identity,” he said.
A report in Deccan Herald. Here

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Janlokpal Bill would never be a remedy

“What’s this?” he asked. “These are royal carriages,” royal servants said with uneasy looks in their eyes “…for your conveyance,” they explained. The new caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz sternly said, “My mule is enough for my conveyance.” He ordered the whole royal stable to be sold and its amount to be surrendered to Baitul Maal (public exchequer). When he reached home he was very upset, his maid sensing the unusual tension asked the cause to which he replied, “What would be a better cause of being tensed than the fact that in the east and in the west not a single soul is there, for whose well-being and rights I am not responsible even if they do not demand, even if they do not claim.”

India has a plethora of problems – poverty, inflation, regional disparity, illiteracy, unemployment, discrimination against minorities/lower castes/women, terrorism, etc. Corruption is one of them. And it is for this menace of corruption that an overenthusiastic civil society has proposed a panacea – Janlokpal Bill. There are dramas, dialogues, dharnas, rallies, political fasts, etc. over this Bill. But let us suppose that the Bill is acceded to by the government in its totality or let’s suppose it passes with more rigorous provisions than those proposed by Anna and co. What would it result in? Between roars of laughter and thunderous applause a person asked the elite panel on NDTV India (in a programme Hum Log), “What would happen if this all powerful Lokpal would itself go corrupt? Would you then propose installation of a grand Lokpal? And if the same happened with that grand Lokpal; a grand grand Lokpal?” Thus the question: who-will-guard-the-guardians? – will continue to haunt each and every solution that is legally put to counter evils like corruption. So I propose a bill namely Umar bin Abdul Aziz bill, which is not legal in strictest sense of the term but besides eradicating corruption can solve all the above-mentioned problems the country is facing and that too within record time of a decade; and I can bet for that… Our leaders have just to step in the shoes of Umar bin Abdul Aziz and then… see the miracle.


After being nominated caliph, Umar bin Abdul Aziz addressed the people from the pulpit: “O people, I have been nominated your caliph despite my unwillingness and without your consent. So here I am, I relieve you of your pledge (baiyat) that you have taken for my allegiance. Elect whomsoever you find suitable as your caliph.” People shouted in unison, “O Umar, we have full faith in you and we want only you as our caliph.” Umar bin Abdul Aziz continued his address, “O people, obey me till I obey Allah; and if I disobey Allah, you are not duty bound to obey me.”


The first thing Umar bin Abdul Aziz did as a caliph was to return ancestral fiefs (jagir) of the royal family to their actual owners. When he expressed his intention, his advisers told him, “If you would return these properties then how would you manage your personal and family expenses?” he replied, “I leave that to Allah.” The royal family exerted itself with all its might to dispirit his reforms but he was adamant. Beginning from his person and his family he tore away all the property documents with scissors and allotted them to its rightful owners from whom it had been snatched away in the past. Orders were sent to all the provinces for return of such properties immediately. Claiming the lost property was not as big a task as to claim pension or ration cards today in India; little evidence was enough. In many cases properties were returned to heirs as original owners had died. He was so strict in this regard that he offered his beloved wife a choice between divorce or returning the jewels and precious stones that her father had gifted her. The truthful lady had obviously chosen the latter.


Baitul Maal had ceased to be the treasure of the king in the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz. Its income and expenditure, both were regulated. All the impermissible sources of income were clogged and all extravagant expenditures were stopped. He abolished all the special stipends to the members of royal family.

To increase the amount of Baitul Maal, Hajjaj used to take poll tax (jizya) even from newly converted Muslims. Umar bin Abdul Aziz strictly put an end to this un-Islamic practice. Governors had to carry out this order, some of them complained of reduction of funds and that they had to take loan to pay regular stipends (it could be compared to balance of payment crisis that India faced in late 80s). Umar bin Abdul Aziz responded, “abolish jizya anyhow, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was sent as a prophet and not as a tax collector.” He abolished home tax, marriage tax, stamp tax and many other taxes as well.

Once during his reign a dirham, a single dirham went missing from Yemen’s Baitul Maal (think of ‘missing’ millions in India today). Umar bin Abdul Aziz wrote to the official in charge that you do not appear to be dishonest (as one dirham is very paltry an amount) but I consider your negligence an offence. So on behalf of Muslims (read public) I ask you to swear in public by Lord Almighty that you are innocent.

Yazid bin Mehlab – Governor of Khurasan was promptly probed and dismissed by Umar bin Abdul Aziz on the charges of corruption.

Abu Bakr bin Hazm – Governor of Madinah submitted an application to the caliph demanding more funds for candlesticks, lamp glasses, paper, pen, ink, etc. for official work. Umar bin Abdul Aziz wrote back in reply, “Remember the days when in the darkness of night, without any light, you used to tread all the way from your home to Masjid-e-Nabawi. Now surely you are better off. Make the point of your pen finer, write closely (leave little space between the lines). And be frugal in your public expenses.” (One can only think of the government servants’ extravagant usage of amenities that they are provided with in India; especially wastage of petrol, electricity, phone; even if petty things like ink and paper are not mentioned).

Besides, Umar bin Abdul Aziz made it mandatory to register every handicap of the empire and gave special stipends to each and every one of them. (I am recalling letters of severely handicap people, who being fed up with their penury, wrote to the President of India asking the permission for committing suicide).

Umar bin Abdul Aziz devoted a portion of the public exchequer to pay off the debt of the parsimonious people, who due to some reason could not pay off their loans. (At this moment, can anyone stop thinking of debt-ridden farmers of Vidarbha who are committing suicides for years as they cannot repay their loans and interests?)

In his reign food was provided as a basic right and state managed free stalls of food for poor and beggars. (…and what is the situation of starvation deaths in India? And how many in our country couldn’t afford two square meals a day?)

Umar bin Abdul Aziz ordered for construction of caravanserais and lodges for travellers throughout his reign. In these lodges one day and night stay with food was free for all the travellers. For those who were unwell this term was for two days and two nights. If some traveller had no money or means of transportation to return home, he was despatched home on the state expenses. (And today, if we lose our wallet i.e. if it is pick-pocketed – as often is the case – we couldn’t travel back home without resorting to begging for travel expenses in the first place).


Once for some official work a Muslim caught hold of a horse belonging to a dhimmi without giving him any pay. Umar bin Abdul Aziz ordered forty lashes to him for this oppression.

Once a dhimmi charged Prince Abbas bin Waleed of grabbing his land. Umar bin Abdul Aziz summoned Abbas. Abbas said: “I have been allotted this land by caliph Waleed and I have its papers with me.” Dhimmi said, “But I want justice according to the Book of God.” Umar bin Abdul Aziz pronounced his verdict, “The word of God (Qur’ān) is prior to the certificates of Waleed” and allotted the land to the dhimmi. (And now Muslims can only lament at the plight of their waqf lands in India!)

In Damascus a church was razed at the behest of some influential aristocratic Muslim family, and according to some narrations a mosque was erected in its place. Christians approached the court of Umar bin Abdul Aziz. He investigated their claim and had the settlement (a mosque?) demolished, making way for the church in its rightful place. (Babri Masjid! – no explanations are needed the very name spells tragedy of the minorities in this largest democratic country of the world).


Umar bin Abdul Aziz dismissed and banished Hajjaj’s whole family and aides from positions of power and authority as they were indulged in oppression and misdeeds. (Contrary is the case of India where our Narendra Modi is still in the saddle, and many officers who aggravated the riots with their indifference, inaction and sometimes actual rioting have actually got promotions for a job well done).

Due to frequent rebellion and anti-state movements in Umayyad dynasty; arrests, punishments even beheading on suspicion was tolerated. Umar bin Abdul Aziz abolished all this. In Mausil incidents of theft and burglary, due to various reasons, soared. Yahaya Ghassani – Governor of Mausil wrote to the caliph that, “Collecting evidences as per the standards of sharia is a tough task and without punishing people on doubt, crimes could not be curtailed.” Umar bin Abdul Aziz in his reply said, “Punish the offenders only when conclusive evidence is found. If truth cannot reform them, let them not be reformed.” Likewise, governor of Khurasan wrote that people of Khurasan were wild and rebellious in nature; and nothing but scourge and sword could control them. Umar bin Abdul Aziz wrote in reply, “Your theory that nothing but scourge and sword could control your people is absolutely nonsensical. Truth and justice can control them; spread truth and justice in your reign (and see for yourself).” (I could not stop thinking of erstwhile TADA, POTA, AFSPA and various other so-called special acts in India that make a mockery of rule of law and human rights).

News reached Umar bin Abdul Aziz that some officials in Persia used to buy fruit from local farmers at a price lower than its market value. And that some tribes levy journey tax on travellers. Umar bin Abdul Aziz wrote to the governor of the province, “I am sending an investigating commission to inquire into these matters; it will return the fruit to its owners and will take other necessary steps if complaints are found justifiable. Do not dare interrupting with its proceedings. And if I found that all this happened with your acquiescence or even with your tacit support then I will not spare you for sure.” (One can recollect at the moment the pot-bellied hawaldar that we could find in every street of India relishing tea, cigarette, paan, bidi, etc. – all for free).

Kharjites were staunch opponent of the Umayyad dynasty since the beginning. Despite great amount of blood spilling they still existed; though not powerful but they were still a nuisance. Umar bin Abdul Aziz invited them unconditionally for a dialogue. (Could Indian government even think of this in order to resolve the various regional disputes?) He wrote to them, “Come let’s debate, if we are true, accept our rule and if you are true then we would reconsider our position” (can India dare think of reconsidering its position in matters such disputes?). And finally when dialogues failed he allowed violent action as a last resort on the following conditions: 

  1. Women, children, prisoners and the wounded should not be killed. Those who would run off from the battlefield must not be chased down.
  2. Booty would be returned to the families of the enemy.
  3. Prisoners will be held only till their repentance.
(I wonder what code of conduct our armed forces followed in Forbesganj? And who has given them licence to unleash atrocities of every kind and magnitude in Kashmir and North East?)

Umar bin Abdul Aziz once asked his wife, “Do you have a dirham? I feel like eating grapes.” His wife – empty-handed as she was – argued in a fit of anger, “You are caliph and you don’t even afford a dirham for yourself?” The Caliph said with a sigh, “It is easier for me than being handcuffed in the hell-fire.”

Despite strict orders to the contrary, perhaps a new servant heated the water for Umar bin Abdul Aziz’s ablutions, from the public mess (meant for state guests, poor and needy people). When Umar bin Abdul Aziz realised this after a month, he repaid that much amount of wood to the public exchequer.

Once he told his servant to roast meat. The servant roasted that in the public mess and came back. Umar bin Abdul Aziz told him, “Eat it, it was not in my destiny.”

Earlier Umar bin Abdul Aziz didn’t eat at the state mess but he was forced to eat there because of some guests who refused to eat in absence of the caliph. From then onwards he used to eat with guests in the public mess but always paid for every single diet.

In the night till the time he would perform state duties he would use a candle provided to him from Baitul Maal, but if in between he was interrupted with some personal task, he would put off that candle and either light his own or in its absence (as more often was the case) grope in darkness.

Once he was distributing apples when his small child came out and picked up an apple and was about to bite when Umar bin Abdul Aziz saw and snatched it away from him. When an inconsolable child complained to his mother she bought a few apples for him. When Umar bin Abdul Aziz returned home he smelled of apples and fearfully asked, “Any Baitul Maal’s apple had been brought in?” When his wife narrated the story, he said, “By God, I had not snatched that apple from his hand but from my heart itself. But I didn’t like that for an apple I would ruin my honesty before my Lord.”

Once musk from Baitul Maal was brought to him and he tightly closed his mouth and nose in order not to inhale its fragrance.

If a state is ruled with piety, sense of responsibility towards the ruled and sense of accountability towards the Almighty then it would result in an abode of happiness and paradise on earth where everybody is content and satisfied, where there is no oppression, no violation of human rights and no corruption. Umar bin Abdul Aziz in merely two-years--five-months period of his caliphate left an empire in which governors of the provinces had funds of zakat and sadaqa to distribute among the poor and the needy but they were not able to find one; an empire in which the amount of tax collected (despite so many unjust taxes abolished and leniency in collection) increased manifold compared to his predecessors’ reign; an empire where a governor complained to him that people are so happy and content that there is a fear that they would indulge in pride and conceit. Umar bin Abdul Aziz wrote to him that, “When Allah would order people of paradise to enter paradise on the Day of Judgment he would order them to say Alhamdulillah (all the praise and thanks belong to the Allah). So you too tell your people to thank Allah for their present happiness.”

As we would have realised by now that we don’t need new incompetent laws, as we are already overflowing with them. We have only made laws since independence and made the existing ones more stringent at times. But to what avail? As new laws are blocking extant areas of corruption, new avenues are found out to defy their meaningfulness by our creative criminals of every stratum in the society. It is high time we realised that LAW ALONE IS NOT THE REMEDY. Laws are useless if we can defy them and get away with it. What is required is strengthening of the police – police within our heart. What is required is the belief in the CCTV cameras – the ones with which angels are recording our deeds no matter how many curtains behind we live. What is required is a faith in the court – court on the day of judgement in which despite all our influences we would be unable to bribe The Judge or to mislead Him. These are the articles of the Umar bin Abdul Aziz Bill that could be summarised in the following three points, 1. Faith in One Omnipotent and Omniscient Allah, 2. Faith in prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), 3. Faith in the Day of Judgement. These beliefs manifest themselves in the character of Umar bin Abdul Aziz – and it is such type of characters that we lack in today, not anything else.

I have faith in humanity’s rational faculties. And so I bet that nobody if presented with an Umar bin Abdul Aziz bill would oppose its passage. The billion dollar question however is that: are we Muslims prepared to propose Umar bin Abdul Aziz bill with our deeds in the street and with our words in the parliament?
Khan Yasir in Radiance Weekly. Here

Friday, September 23, 2011

Onions, exports and tears

Within 11 days of imposing a ban on the export of onions, the powerful traders lobby forced the government to lift the ban. Succumbing to pressure from the onion traders, who normally cry hoarse in the name of farmers, the speed at which the onion trade made the government to bend backwards is a pointer to the monumental failure to curb food inflation.
For over 4 years now, ever since food inflation has hit the roof, I haven’t seen so much of political activity as I have observed in the last few days. Triggered by protest by Nasik onion traders, who had refused to partake in daily auction to demonstrate their anger against the sudden imposition of exports ban, the NCP chief Madhukar Pichad had first written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had deputed his Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-patil and some of his colleagues to meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and other concerned ministers.
Devinder Sharma in Ground Reality. Here

Year 2008-09
Onion production: 13.56 million tonnes
Fresh onion export: 1.67 million tonnes
Raw onion that is dried and exported: 0.19 million tonnes
Total raw onions feeding into exports: 1.86 milion tonnes or approximately 14 percent of the country's production, which is huge for any single commodity. This naturally makes exporters a very powerful lobby. And when exporter join hands with hoarders (in many cases they are the same), they are unstopable. This is what has happened this year as I found during my tour of APMC mandis earlier this year.

Q. Who wants ban on onion exports?
A. Govt. because it wants it to cool down prices and dried onion exporters as they are unviable if price paid to farmer goes above Rs. 10/kg.

Q. Who don't want a ban on exports?
A. Farmers, hoarders, exporters. The latter two work in tandem while the former plays into their hands with the false hope that s/he would get a higher price. Exporter gains from higher international prices, hoarder from temporary spike in domestic prices, which is why both do not want a ban on exports. Between the two, hoarders gain more as opening up exports gives them a legitimate reason to further jack-up prices by claiming supply constraints. The farmer, as usual, goes back home with barely 2.5 percent of the retail price of his/her produce.

Q. Why does the government ban exports?
A. Because it does not want to act against hoarders. Free market principles does not regard hoarding as illegal and the govt. is following them. On the other hand, the same govt. goes against free market principles and bans exports to increase supply into domestic markets and cool prices because this is politically more palatable and is also easier to enforce.

Q. Does this work in principle?
A. At times it does. The price-crisis period is generally during Sep-Oct and this is when hoarders make a killing. Kharif onion has higher moisture content as compared to Rabi onion and therefore the shelf life is less. Due to this reason exporters also compete against hoarders during this period as they want to ship out their stocks before they spoil.

Q. Why did Pawar open exports this year?
A. One, lobbying by exporters-hoarders lobby. Two, even as I am writing this, farmers in Nasik district are sitting on roadsides with piles of onion which they are unable to sell at anything more than Rs. 2/kg (I have asked a consultant out there to take a few pics and mail them over. Will share them as they arrive); Pawar does not wish to be pelted with onions second time in a row. Politics rather than a non-existent supply-demand mismatch is what dictated the govt.'s hands.

Q. Will farmers now gain since exports have been cleared?
A. Nope. They will still be forced to sell their produce at Rs. 2/kg or marginally higher.
Bhaskar Goswami of New Delhi comments in Ground reality. Here and Here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Syed Tanver Ahmed awarded

Syed Tanveer Ahmed, Chief Editor of, news portal and Karnataka Muslims fortnightly newspaper was conferred with the “Sadbhavna Award for Journalism” yesterday in a glittering ceremony here. The award instituted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India under the auspices of Nehru Yuvaka Kendra was given to eminent achievers in different fields such as Arts, Literature, Journalism, Sports, Film, Theatre, and others.

While conferring the award in the Journalism category to Mr. Tanveer
, the dignitaries acknowledged the “valuable services of Mr. Tanveer under whose leadership the news portal is playing a constructive role in bridging the gap between Muslim and other communities of Karnataka. Within a short span of a year the news portal has done a lot in this direction.” The speakers congratulated him on receiving the award and also on the launch of Karnataka Muslims fortnightly newspaper.

Freedom fighters, Kannada film actors, litterateurs, and other eminent personalities graced the occasion while Sri Shivrudra Mahaswamy of Shri Bele Mutt Sanstha presented the awards. Swamiji addressing the gathering lavishly quoted from Vedas and Kannada poetry of Dr. Nisar Ahmed to emphasize the role of positive journalism in building a just society. He called upon the youth to play their role in the nation building.

Congratulating Mr. Tanveer, the Swamiji was “very happy to see people like Tanveer Sahab and their good work for the society.”

Mr. Tanveer said, “A larger section of the English media does not give proper space to the community activities, instead, negative aspects are highlighted. We at Karnataka Muslims aim to present the positive image and constructive activities of the Muslim community. We have provided a platform for the community and are striving to be the voice of the voiceless. The reader’s support to the Karnataka Muslims is growing by the day. Any award is acknowledgment to the readers’ encouragement and our dedicated team.”
A news in Karnataka Muslims. Here

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Roots of India's Antigraft Churn

The country has changed in the last 20 years. But neither the government nor civil society gets it.

India is undergoing a political upheaval. Anger over high-level corruption has become widespread in the past year, adding to Indians' frustration with everyday petty corruption. In an environment where no political figure seemed credible, activist Anna Hazare stepped in earlier this year and led a campaign for an anticorruption watchdog. Last month, he used a 13-day hunger strike to get his way for legislation to create this watchdog.

That doesn't mean the tumult has ended. The elites in power are misdiagnosing the situation, throwing up tired answers to graft. But the alternative solutions offered by the likes of Mr. Hazare are out of touch too. Neither side seems to understand the kind of change India has experienced in the last two decades.

In the past, India's government ruled in relative secrecy and was ensconced in a rigid hierarchy. Even though New Delhi was accountable at the end of the day to the electorate, it presumed that the millions of files that documented the minutiae of regulations and ministerial actions would remain hidden from public gaze. It also presumed those affiliated with the central government wouldn't challenge it.

Twenty years ago, moreover, India's middle class was firmly allied with the state. These professionals held positions in the higher bureaucracy or in other state institutions.

The first tectonic movement is where the middle class stands today. They have been the biggest and most immediate beneficiaries of liberalization in the last twenty years. They have no reason today to stick up for the state. In fact, Mr. Hazare is joined by middle-class professionals, who have made the anticorruption movement savvy and media-friendly.
The watchdog Mr. Hazare is asking for would have the ability to go after almost any public official for wrongdoings: essentially one single institution, with a vast bureaucracy at its disposal and with overweening powers. This idea presumes that concentration of power is going to be more effective. But divided power is already generating better incentives for different institutions to hold each other in check. What's worse, Mr. Hazare makes no mention of economic or administrative reform, which would reform the role of the state in problematic sectors like telecom and mining.

This suggests that the battle against corruption is far from over. In fact, the great churning in Indian governance, as people search for better representatives to deliver growth without graft, has just begun. The movement Mr. Hazare galvanized may have erred in the direction in which it moved, but the sentiments underlying it are genuine.

The big risk here is that the likes of both Mr. Singh and Mr. Hazare will not understand the roots of this churning. India now has a government without credibility and a civil society offering non-solutions. At this rate, instead of artful reform, India will get draconian legislation.
Bhanu Pratap Mehta in Wall Street Journal. Here

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Islamic Dawah, Cricket and winning hearts

Andrew Carnegie has said, “Dealing with people is a lot like digging for GOLD: When you go digging for an ounce of gold, you have to move tons of dirt. But when you go digging, you don’t go looking for the dirt, you go looking for the gold.” The same logic applies in Dawah work as well. If one expects to sow a seed in one moment and pluck fruit in another, he could not prove to be a good Da’ee. It is here that the analogy of Da’ee with a bowler is best illustrated. Even best of the bowlers in the world bowl extensively, throws wide and no-balls, shed runs, hit for fours and sixes, and it is only on a couple of those lucky balls which earns him wicket in which his credibility as a bowler lies. This patience and perseverance of a bowler is extremely essential for a Da’ee.

To be a bowler, you don’t need to attend hi-fi coaching. To bowl, you just need a ball and will to bowl. With a ball in the hand and will to bowl in the heart, when you first reach the ground to face the batsman, your first ball will crawl over the pitch barely able to reach the crease. It will be followed by dozens of wide and no balls; some balls will go over the batsman in the gloves of wicketkeeper, others over him as well, across the boundary line. Then the umpire may whisper in your ear that your action is not appropriate. After all this, when your first ‘legal’ ball will reach the batsman, he may send it flying for six for several times. It is only after going through this ‘humiliating’ process that you could aspire to be a Muttiah Muralitharan, Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne.

In the same manner, you have to hit the grounds for Dawah work. You must train yourself, polish your arguments, read extensively but your actual training centre will only be your Dawah field. You may commit mistakes but these mistakes will teach you lessons that thousands of books and lectures could not. Every question that your addressee asks and whose answer you don’t know will prompt you to increase your knowledge, every taunt of your addressee on your personality will help you improve your personality.

Believe me, if you get busy in Dawah work sincerely, the day is not far when you will notice that whatever you are preaching, you are automatically practising yourself. Dawah work will improve your personality, skills, character and most important of all, it will be an asset for the afterlife.
Khan Yasir in Radiance Views Weekly, New Delhi. Here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

11-Year Hunger strike and Anna Hazare's gimmick

She arrived in an ambulance, thin and ghostly pale, a tube dangling from her nostril. Flanked by police officers, she was ushered into the judge’s chambers for a fortnightly ritual she has repeated hundreds of times. Was she ready to end her fast?
Irom Chanu Sharmila, a 39-year-old poet and activist, gave her usual reply: no. With that, she was taken back to the hospital room where she spends her days in isolation, force-fed a sludgy mix of nutrients though the tube in her nose. This routine has gone on, remarkably, for 11 years.
A recent 12-day fast by the social activist Anna Hazareparalyzed India’s political system, captured the nonstop attention of its hyperkinetic 24-hour cable news media and inspired hundreds of thousands of people across the country to rally in his crusade against corruption. 

In New York Times, Lydia Polgreen meets Irom Chanu Sharmila who has been on a hunger strike for the past 11 years and is force-fed through a tube more

Monday, September 12, 2011

Social Fascism, Anna Hazare and A Raja

Social fascism becomes the reality of a civil society that constructs a moral basis of its own. A middle class like the Indian one, which has erected strong caste enclosures around itself, looks for morality to serve its own interests. Corruption in general becomes a buzzword of condemnation within its day-to-day discourse, despite the fact that it lives with corrupt practices on a daily basis. For example, a middle-class government or NGO functionary does not hesitate to take Rs 1 lakh or more as salary, plus thousands of rupees of honorarium and sitting fees, but that same person would treat a chaprasi, who works for a Rs 5,000 monthly salary, as corrupt if he/she asks for Rs 200 for extra work.

The civil society that led the anti-corruption crusade also does not see corporate houses paying hundreds of crores of bribe money as corruption, but, a minister, an MP or a government official, who takes such bribe money is seen as corrupt because the corporate houses are still in the hands of “their people”, while the political and bureaucratic positions are slipping into the hands of people who are “corrupt by birth”.

Take, for example, A. Raja and Kanimozhi. They are treated as corrupt but the corporate houses that gave kickbacks and took huge contracts at throwaway prices are not treated as corrupt. The same corporate houses and their media boxes have been mobilising civil society of Gandhi topi into maidans to fight corruption.
Kancha Ilaiah in Deccan Chronicle. Here

Advani's Antim Yatra

The BJP conceded three goals in quick succession very much against the run of the play. Till a few weeks back, the party was in somewhat aggressive mood and tried to capitalize on the atmosphere created by Anna Hazare. It started appearing that the BJP would finally outplay the Congress. But then, like a bombshell, came the report of the Lokayukta and subsequent drama, which forced the party to get rid of Yeddyurappa. All this happened at the height of the Anna’s movement––that is a few days before and after his 12-day fast.
In the earlier two occasions the crusade against corruption has helped the BJP and erstwhile Jan Sangh. The party fully consolidated its position during the 1974 JP movement in Bihar and Navnirman movement in Gujarat. Thus gradually it emerged as the strongest of the five constituents of the Janata Party, which was formed in 1977. The conglomeration ruled the country for less than three years. The Janata Party disintegrated and in 1980 the Bharatiya Janata Party, instead of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, was formed. 
Similarly, the BJP fully capitalized the Bofors kickback issue for its own political end though it was V P Singh, who first raised the issue. Advani fully mixed the battle against corruption with the religious issue of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. This ultimately paved the way for its victory. It thus led a 24 parties alliance and ruled the country for six years.
However, this time the crusade against corruption is not going to cut much ice. There is no Emergency in the country as in mid-1970s. Nor is there any scope to once again whip up the religious sentiment as in late 1980s and early 1990s. Now the voters of the country have tested the ‘honesty’ of the party with a difference too. Several scams rocked the country during its six years rule between 1998 and 2004. The then national president of the BJP, Bangaru Laxman, was caught in camera accepting Rs one crore from a fictitious arms dealers.
In the states, Karnataka has shown a new way to loot the country’s treasure. Octogenarian Advani finds his party in a very tight position. The second rung leadership of Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are no match to the stature of Vajpayee and Advani while there is no dearth of partymen who want to keep Narendra Modi away. In that way Advani once again had to take up the responsibility of leading his team and playing another innings. 
Advani’s position is like Australian cricketer Bobby Simpson, who had to come out from retirement and lead his team after almost the premier players rebelled and joined World Series Cricket organized by Kerry Packer between 1977 and 1979. But that was just a stop-gap arrangement. Advani knows his role and is no doubt too old to captain the team, which is now packed.
Soroor Ahmed in Two Circles. More Here.

Advani's Antim Yatra

There is nothing more revealing in politics than a old, doddering politician who buries his head in the sand and tries to gauge the prevailing wind of public opinion. And so it is with the “former future prime minister of India“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani who has announced what many are derisively calling his “Antim Yatra“.
At one level, Advani’s impromptu announcement of a nationwide tour at the age of 84 is proof that the flame of ambition has flickered feverishly despite the renunciation of key posts (like leader of opposition and party president) at the less-than-gentle nudging of the extra-constitutional knicker lobby that really wears the pants in the BJP.
At another level, the “Antim Yatra” is proof that the BJP is now officially bereft of both ideas and leadership. That it took the success of Anna Hazare‘s campaign for the lead opposition party to take up corruption as an issue reveals plenty about what it has been doing these past two and a half years since the 2009 electoral defeat.
And that the BJP leadership thinks that it has the credibility to talk about corruption, when its own governments and leaders in Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttaranchal and Chhatisgarh are battling (or stalling investigation of) serious charges of corruption shows the hypocrisy of it all.
Above all, Advani’s announcement of a yatra throws cold water on the aspirations of almost the entire second generation of leaders in the BJP, all of whom privately envision themselves as national leaders and almost all of whom entertain dreams of becoming prime minister.
Questions: Will Advani’s “Antim Yatra” evoke any response? Is Advani’s “Antim Yatra” merely to save his skin now that the reprehensible cash-for-votes scandal has landed squarely in his court? Notwithstanding the Congress’s plight, does the BJP have the credibility to talk of clean, corruption-free governance? Will Advani be acceptable as the face of the BJP in 2014, when he will be 86?
Courtesy : Churumuri. Here 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Thankfully, cleanliness is next only to Godliness

The saner way of looking at this picture is to view it rationally. Surely, the all-knowing, all-seeing lord, in his infinite wisdom, would understand that his time-, attention-, and devotion-strapped devotees didn’t have the time, attention or devotion to bid him goodbye in the same way they welcomed him.
The less charitable way of looking at this picture is to view it as proof, full and final, of our civic consciousness, or utter lack of it. The brazen use of plaster of paris and lethal chemicals and paints to immortalise our devotion says much of how much we value his creations—the ponds, the lakes, the rivers—with vacuous prayers on our lips.
Which is why, this idol which wouldn’t become one with the water at a special pond in the Ulsoor lake in Bangalore on Wednesday, is now having to be disposed of thus, like last night’s garbage. Not that the good lord would mind, of course, in his infinite wisdom.
Or perhaps not.
Courtesy : Churumuri


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