Sep 29, 2006

A Feel Good Story on Community Radio

Community radios are one of the most effective tools to broadcast human developmental issues targeted at local audience. The GoM has approved the draft Community Radio policy. It will allow advertising on CR stations, and make non-profit organizations eligible to start them. This should get more people interested in starting Community Radios, since the initial response was lukewarm.

Television has always been a powerful medium of change in human beings. In Andhra Pradesh when Doordarshan started statewide local language telecast, it was noticed that social messages, on health, hygiene, development, etc brought significant changes in the lifestyle of the people – mainly among the not so educated and the uneducated.

Here is a feel good story on Community Radio.

Every Sunday, from 8.30 am to 9.30 am, in villages across Nizamabad district of Andhra Pradesh, radios and transistors are set to AIR's FM station. Most families gather in the village centre to listen to the Telugu community radio programme, 'Allari Muchchatlu', which is written and produced by village children.

The programme name was chosen by the children, and means 'mischievous chatter'. The programme has jokes, songs, skits and talks on historical figures, but everyone's favourite segment is the success stories told by children who are determined to transform their communities.

Most of the children are from Dalit families, all members of the Balaseva Sanghas (children's groups) set up by the local NGO Samskar in 76 villages, in the five mandals of Nizamabad district. "The community radio project was sponsored by Samskar and Plan International (an INGO), as a positive social action programme for children," says Project Director K H S S Sundar. Now non-Dalit children are eager to join in the sangha activities, and their parents don't mind, either.

Shaken up by the allari muchchatlu of children, village after village has taken up self-help projects: to make toilets in homes; to plant trees and stop cutting trees for firewood; and to delay the marriage of daughters until they are 18. Take the children of Chikarpally village, who witnessed a villager die of stomach cancer caused by gutka (locally manufactured tobacco product). Mehboob, 14, says: "We protested in front of shops selling gutka, organised rallies and burned packets. We wrote 6,000 letters against gutka to the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister and the District Collector. They did not write back to us, but the radio people showed interest. Never mind, we will send another 200 letters."

The Andhra Pradesh government banned the sale of gutka in 2002. "When the ban was lifted [by the Supreme Court two years later], the sarpanch told the shopkeeper to shift his shop outside the village. The shopkeeper still does not dare sell gutka openly, but under the counter," says Mehboob.

In a society where children are never consulted, mothers and fathers are looking at their children with new respect. Mothers say, "Sunday to Sunday we listen to the programme"; "These children are not working only for themselves but for others too. We never thought of the village, only about ourselves. Now we want to be proud of our village"; "Children are an important part of our village."

Farm labourer Ramulu of Ghazapur village says: "Now we are listening not only to our children, but to the children of other villages, too. They are doing what is good for us." Uneducated himself, Ramulu is determined to educate his five children. During holidays, his children work in the fields and earn Rs 40 a day, like their mother. "Earlier, we would have married off Sujata (his young daughter) by now," he says. "Now we realise how her life will be affected if she marries before she is physically and mentally mature. Childhood marriages also lead to divorces and second marriages. There are fewer second marriages in our village now."

Allari muchchatlu began when a child asked, "Don't we have a right to be heard in our village? We also have something to say." Started in 2000 with the participation of nearly 300 children in 68 of the 76 villages, the programme is entirely the work of children.

The children meet in their village community room to plan a radio episode, discussing the content, who will do what, and what campaign initiative to take up. Typically, each programmes include two or three songs - no film songs, but folk or their own compositions. The skits are on what the children perceive as a "big" problem in the village: child marriage, child labour, consumption of gutka and arrack, gambling, illiteracy.

When all the written contributions are in, one child neatly writes out the one-hour script, and sends it to the Samskar field office in Varni. V Shanti Prabodha, Samskar Sponsorship Manager, reads each script, weeding out a couple of "inappropriate" words, and decides which one will be aired next. She tries to make sure that each village Sangha gets a chance. Then the children meet to record the programme, usually in their village community room, on a simple pocket tape-recorder.

"Samskar bought the recorders, the AIR people gave us audio cassettes - we convert them to CDs," says Shanti. "Samskar staff were trained to use Sound Forge. We send the CDs to the AIR people." [Sound Forge is software to analyse, record and edit audio recordings.] At the AIR station, communications engineer P Sampath Kumar cleans the background noise on the CDs. The title song, also called Allari muchchatlu, was recorded by children at the AIR studio, says the Programme Executive Bal Rajyasekhar.

The AIR staff is supportive and enthusiastic, and they get plenty of feedback on the programme. Since the FM range is only 65 kilometres, there are demands from other districts for recordings of allari muchchatlu for children in their villages. Given the popularity of the programme, last year AIR gave training in voice modulation, speaking and reading to the children.

What are the children planning for their next campaign in Chikerpally? "A campaign against people who say 'I am god' but actually cheat people." [The Hoot]

Sep 25, 2006

A Gamble Worth Taking

According to STRATFOR, for Bush, the November congressional elections are rapidly approaching, and his administration is facing mounting criticism over the dragging U.S.-jihadist war. If Bush can claim another capture or killing of a high-value al Qaeda target, he might boost himself in the polls to help ensure that Republicans will maintain their hold over the House and Senate.

According to STRATFOR, Americans chose to strike when Musharraf was at one of the lowest points in his presidential career. The United States took the opportunity to swoop in and deliver an ultimatum to Musharraf: give U.S. forces greater access to operate in the region, or be left to fend for himself against a growing opposition.

According to STRATFOR Islamabad has given in to pressure from the Bush administration to allow U.S. counter-terrorism operations on Pakistani soil -- beyond the small-scale limited operations that take place routinely.

According to STRATFOR, U.S. forces are most likely to take a more active role in northwestern Pakistan soon, sometime between Musharraf's return to the country and the U.S. midterm congressional elections in November. This means that there will not only be major gun-battles between U.S. forces and Islamist militants in northwest Pakistan, but there will also be major instability in the country.[STRAT FOR]

So Uncle Sam has had enough of Musharraf's con job and personally wants to hunt down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and Musharraf will simply watch the shock and awe pyrotechnics the US forces will unleash in his beloved sovereign country. With recent reports of Osama bin laden being at Chitral, Americans definitely have someplace to bomb.

Now just like the Americans have some unfinished job in Pakistan, we too have some unfinished job in POK and Pakistan - to bomb and destroy Islamist terror training camps. The question is whether US in its hunt for Osama will also destroy these camps - and do our job too - or not. IMO it will not as the Americans would want to provide Musharraf as much space as possible to breathe. The only possibility of them bombing these camps is if they are absolutely sure about Osama's presence in one of these camps and this possibility is pretty high.

Now what if Americans refuse to bomb these terror camps even if we ask them to do it? DO we take this - which is definitely - once in a lifetime opportunity and bomb these terror camps? I think we should.

In all these years of Pakistan sponsored terror in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in India we hesitated from destroying the Pakistan and POK terror camps because we feared a nuclear response from Pakistan.

After Uncle Sam's "with us or against us" ultimatum to Musharraf after 9/11, our strategic experts were all gung ho and thought the West would finally acknowledge the jihadi terror tandav (dance) of Pakistan in India and put an end to it. Unfortunately they were in for a rude shock. As one of the first victims of modern day terrorism, India naturally expected the sympathy and support of USA. But Uncle Sam after mouthing some sympathetic platitudes conveniently looked the other way and let Musharraf carry on his jihad against India which in turn gave him some breathing space with the Islamic right of Pakistan so Uncle Sam's war on terror would have Musharraf's undivided attention.

After every terror outrage committed by Pakistan trained jihadis in India there is strident public demand to bomb the Paki terror camps but we are helpless because we fear a nuclear response from Pakistan and reduced to be sitting ducks waiting for the next Paki terror outrage. USA always discouraged us from taking any type of unilateral action fearing the derailment of their war on terror. The people who attacked Iraq with manufactured proof demand proof of Pakistani hand in the terror outrages perpetrated against India. We give them irrefutable proof and they are still in denial.

Even though we are also "partners" with the United States of America in it's global war on terror, we are not really in the inner circle. The Pokran II nuclear tests we conducted right under their nose have really pissed them off and since then they have used every dirty trick in the book to spy on us. They don't share with us intelligence that will implicate Pakistan directly or indirectly in terror outrages in India. As long as US citizens are not targeted in India on a large scale by Pakistan backed jihadis, USA will not force Pakistan to turn the terror tap flowing into India off.

It is very clear that against Pakistan's proxy war we are all alone. No one will help us or are with us. When the writing on the wall is very clear we should act now in our national interest.

Minimising human casualties is the first priority of USA in its war on terror. So the first option for US will definitely be heavy bombing - as we saw in Tora Bora region of Afghanistan - of Pakistani territory where Osama bin Laden was believed to be. At the same time we too should bomb the terror camps in POK and Pakistan. Just like we fooled the Americans during Pokran II, this act should be a total surprise to the world. This should be a swift and effective action because we might never get another chance.

The political costs will not be much and we should get away with it. Let me explain. After we bomb and destroy the jihadi terror camps in POK and Pakistan, Musharraf will be under intense domestic pressure to respond in kind. US will order him to desist coz it wouldn't want to derail its hunt for Osama. USA in order to placate Pakistan will threaten us with the scrapping of the nuke deal. At first we ask them whether they are with us or not in the war on jihadi terror? If they still threaten us we tell them to go ahead and do it coz anyways we don't need a deal that will make us subservient to USA. If that doesn't make the Americans shut up, we tell them that Boeing is not welcome in India. That I think should do the trick coz for Americans, money talks.

Now what if Musharraf defies US and want to press the nuclear button? My reading is that the Pakistani nuclear button is in the safe custody of Uncle Sam. In an article in The Hindu, Amit Baruah wrote that Washington's influence in "core" areas of Pakistan's security seems to be growing and that is not restricted to mere cooperation in anti-terrorist actions. Baruah wrote, "the U.S. believes in manipulating Pakistan in a direction that Washington believes is desirable and would result in an overall increase of American comfort levels in a country, which has been proud of its sovereignty and independence".

The clearest intention yet of American goals in Pakistan was demonstrated during a hearing of the U.S. House International Relations Committee on July 20, in which John Hillen, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the State Department, was a witness. Mr. Hillen makes no secret in his testimony that the U.S. believes in manipulating Pakistan in a direction that Washington believes is desirable and would result in an overall increase of American comfort levels in a country, which has been proud of its sovereignty and independence.

Answering questions about the proposed sale of 36 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, Mr. Hillen said an "unprecedented" security plan had been agreed to by Islamabad: "We, of course, have had a U.S. government security survey of their bases and facilities. We've put into the deal that they must comply with the approved security plans for their F-16-related bases and facilities before we'll release any systems in the sale. We will have a U.S. presence to monitor compliance with the security plan requirements, a very enhanced and end-use monitoring program.

"Routine access to F-16 aircraft equipment and munitions is in restricted areas and limited to Pakistan air force personnel that are pre-approved for such. There is a two-man rule, so to speak, for access to this equipment and restricted areas, and F-16 flights outside of Pakistan ... must be approved in advance by the United States government."

In effect, the American official is saying that any flight by these 36 F-16 aircraft, say, hypothetically, against Afghanistan, must be approved by Washington. Islamabad will have to submit to American controls on how these aircraft are used despite paying for them! And, that is not all. Mr. Hillen says clearly that these F-16s will not be able to deliver a nuclear weapon. Asked how the Bush administration would be able to prevent another A.Q. Khan from appearing, the U.S. official said: "... as we get into closed session, I'll get in even to more detail on the security plan, but I would note that we have - for precisely to combat unauthorised proliferation, we have this extraordinary security plan put into place."

The American official is blunt in his comments. "We place all sorts of conditionality onto getting arms sales from the United States that protects American security interests and that protects exactly the sort of proliferation problem you alluded to. So I think this [F-16] sale works to exactly the opposite.

"I think it will give us access and influence in a country and in which we'll be able to see if there are any dynamics of that sort and be able to be involved in a leadership position, rather than just standing by if this happens," Mr. Hill told one of the House Committee members.

The ultimate fear that seems to be driving the U.S. is the following: what happens to Pakistani nuclear weapons in case an extremist, Islamist leadership was to capture power in that country? From time to time, there have been suggestions that the Americans want to be in a position to "secure" these nuclear weapons. Mr. Hillen's comments only go to confirm that the U.S. wants to be in a position to tackle any "unauthorised proliferation" in Pakistan.

Mr. Hillen's remarks are of a piece with what U.S. officials have been quietly telling the Indian side about Pakistan's nuclear weapons - that they have access to strategic sites and are also in a position to monitor three-fourths of Pakistan's air space.

Whatever be the actual situation, India's relaxed response to the F-16 sale is predicated on the conditionalities built into the transfer. With the U.S. enticing Pakistan into a security structure that involves direct involvement by American personnel, there are clear implications for India-Pakistan relations as well.

The Americans are attempting to be in a position to take on a "leadership role" if a proliferation problem were to take place once again in Pakistan. Is this the price that Washington has been able to extract in lieu of letting off the Pakistani military in the nuclear supermarket run by A.Q. Khan? That certainly seems to be the case. [The Hindu]

If Pakistan needs clearance from Uncle Sam for even a F-16 sortie, then definitely the Pakistani nuclear button will be in the safe hands of US. With Pakistan's existence depending upon USA so much, Musharraf has no option other than to be subservient to Uncle Sam.

So if the US goes ahead and start bombing Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan - with Musharraf reduced to a mute spectator - it will be a worthwhile gamble for us to coincide our bombing of Pak/POK terror camps with their bombing.

Now the question is will India use this golden opportunity or not.

Analysing the press conference by Musharraf and Bush at the White House STRATFOR wrote:

Considering the manner in which Islamabad and Washington have carefully dropped hints about U.S. operations in northwestern Pakistan, beginning with the deal in North Waziristan on Sept. 5, it appears both sides have carefully planned the disclosure of Musharraf's change of heart. Knowing full well they will be blasted with questions about Musharraf's comments to CBS's "60 Minutes" -- in which he said that former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage threatened then-Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad that the United States would "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" after the Sept. 11 attacks -- they likely agreed that Musharraf would not comment on the "60 Minutes" interview during the press conference. Given his expressions and gestures, Musharraf was clearly tense during the conference, which was limited to two questions for each leader.

Musharraf's comments to "60 Minutes" -- which were clearly an attempt to counter any backlash in Pakistan -- and at the press conference set the stage for him to unveil his willingness to allow U.S. forces to operate on Pakistani soil. The fact that Musharraf declined to comment on the "60 Minutes" interview during the press conference -- citing a contract with the publisher of his forthcoming book that says he cannot discuss the book before it is published -- further shows that there has been a sea change in Islamabad's position. It also illustrates the heavy pressure the Bush administration has applied on the Pakistani president to cooperate with U.S. forces in their hunt for al Qaeda. [STRATFOR]

In an earlier report STRATFOR wrote:

In return for Musharraf's silence, the Bush administration would pull some strings to strengthen Musharraf's political standing and regain some lost clout in the government.


….Even India seems to have been enlisted in the Musharraf makeover; during the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana earlier in the week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a pact with Pakistan to fight terrorism and move the peace process forward through high-level exchanges. This came, no doubt, in exchange for guarantees that the U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear deal would be pushed through Congress before the session comes to a close.[STRATFOR]

I never knew this nuke deal was so important for Manmohan Singh that he would become subservient to US diktat and sacrifice our national interests so America's FATWAT can breathe easy. How the hell did he forget that it is the Americans who need us more than we need them? Can they afford to ignore an economy that is growing at more than 8% p.a.?

After the meeting between Singh and Musharraf at Havana, Manmohan Singh out of the blue announced the setting up a joint mechanism on anti-terrorism. Forget the strategic experts even the common man felt this was suicidal and capitulation by us.

I don't understand why Manmohan Singh is in such a hurry to get the nuke deal passed by the US Senate this session itself. Even if the Republicans lost control of the Senate, sooner or later this deal would have been ours coz it would be stupid of the Americans to ignore our booming economy. We only need this deal if it is according to the July 2005 agreement and not with strings attached as it is now. Moreover even if the nuke deal comes through, the electricity produced will only cater to about 20%-30% of our future projected requirements.

It's a pity that we didn't see this strategically conniving plan of Bush and Musharraf coming and played right into US hands by readily agreeing to American diktat to provide Musharraf with breathing space. The Americans knew it would be very tempting for India to attack terror camps in POK/Pak coinciding with their Osama hunt in Pakistan territory. So to pre-empt that they offered us a faster nuke deal and also got us entwined with Pakistan in some stupid anti-terror mechanism, which is doomed to fail from the word go. The Indian government's stupidity has caused them support among the people and in the strategic and media communities. They have made India a laughingstock around the world.

Let us remember that the Bush strategy in South Asia is a tightrope act that balances competing foreign policy objectives: prevent Islamic extremists from gaining control of Pakistan and, more important, its nuclear arsenal; bolster India as a counter-force to Chinese power; and use U.S. influence with Pakistan as a bargaining chip with India.

BTW, the Indo-US nuke deal that was being talked about of being delayed this Senate session will most probably be passed this week just as STRATFOR analysed.

Sep 22, 2006

Diagnosis of Manmohan Singh's Stockholm Syndrome

By Stratfor.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in a "60 Minutes" interview, to be aired Sunday, that former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the director of Pakistani intelligence in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that Pakistan would be bombed "back to the Stone Age" if its government did not cooperate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Musharraf's comments were made public a day after U.S. President George W. Bush said that U.S. forces will "absolutely" be sent into Pakistan to capture or kill al Qaeda leaders if they have actionable intelligence. Meanwhile, Musharraf has repeatedly insisted in recent days that Pakistani troops are capable of catching Osama bin Laden and his entourage on their own. While both sides are deliberately sparring over the issue of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty in the public realm, preparations appear to be under way for the United States to claim the capture or killing of another high-value al Qaeda target in the near future.

Both Bush and Musharraf are facing particularly sticky domestic situations. For Bush, the November congressional elections are rapidly approaching, and his administration is facing mounting criticism over the dragging U.S.-jihadist war. If Bush can claim another capture or killing of a high-value al Qaeda target, he might boost himself in the polls to help ensure that Republicans will maintain their hold over the House and Senate.

Musharraf is also desperate to boost his image at home. He hit one of the lowest points in his presidential career following the recent killing of a popular rebel leader that set off a fresh wave of domestic dissent. The United States took the opportunity to swoop in and deliver an ultimatum to Musharraf: give U.S. forces greater access to operate in the region, or be left to fend for himself against a growing opposition. In return for Musharraf's cooperation, the Bush administration would pull some strings to strengthen Musharraf's political standing and regain some lost clout in the government.

It appears that this deal between Washington and Islamabad is well in progress. Musharraf recently announced a peace agreement he made with tribal elders in North Waziristan Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which critics worldwide claimed would provide sanctuary to pro-Taliban militants. In spite of these concerns, the Bush administration went out of its way to praise Musharraf for his counterterrorism cooperation, and is even expected to give Pakistan a hefty discount on the sale of F-16 fighter jets and defense equipment during Musharraf's visit to Washington. Even India seems to have been enlisted in the Musharraf makeover; during the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana earlier in the week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a pact with Pakistan to fight terrorism and move the peace process forward through high-level exchanges. This came, no doubt, in exchange for guarantees that the U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear deal would be pushed through Congress before the session comes to a close.

Musharraf now must honor his end of the bargain, and is using his U.S. trip to set the stage for enhanced American operations on Pakistani soil. His mention of the threats issued against Pakistan by Armitage is damage control -- an attempt to spread the perception that he is standing up to U.S. intervention in the country and is fighting for Pakistan's territorial sovereignty. He is trying to create plausible deniability in the event of a major U.S. military action on Pakistani soil; he can later claim, he hopes, that Washington had threatened as much and conducted the operations on its own accord.

It is not likely to work. Musharraf has been able stay in power by holding himself up as the only one who can protect Pakistan from foreign aggression and navigate the troubled international waters after 9/11. A large-scale U.S. operation on Pakistani soil would nullify that perception, resulting in a severe political backlash. Musharraf would lose a great deal of support as Pakistanis rallied around a campaign to denounce him for selling out to the Americans.

In fact, Musharraf's comments have only confirmed the fear within Pakistan that he cannot protect the country's sovereignty. This means that, rather than getting a boost at home, he will look weak. Musharraf knows this -- and he still went ahead with the revelation, which means he saw that he has no good options and chose the lesser of two evils.

The countdown to U.S. midterm elections has begun, and the time for the Americans to strike is near. Musharraf feels he can't stall Washington any longer, so he is falling back to a defensive position and hoping he can weather the storm. If this were not the case, he would never have said what he did. After all, he has kept quiet about Armitage's threat for five years. To bring it up now looks like a sign of desperation.[Stratfor]

The above highlighted part is exacly as what I wrote in Apollo's blog on Sept 20, 2006.

My feeling is that we are under intense US pressure to tow their line on Pakistan if we want the nuke deal.

Sep 16, 2006

Dangers of Getting an Education... the Land of the Pure.

The News International on Saturday reported the case of one Mumtaz Mai and her daughter, Ghazala Shaheen Bathi, who were abducted, held in captivity and gang-raped for 12 days because daughter Ghazala dared to become educated.


....The mother-daughter duo earned the wrath of the Mirali tribesmen when it became known that Ghazala had passed her Master's in Education from Bahauddin Zahariya University on Aug 25.

The girl's father Mohammed Hussain, a retired army man belonging to village Chak Sher Khan near Kabirwala in Multan, was also beaten up.

....Influential people are said to be involved in this case too. The newspaper report repeatedly hinted at the involvement of "a minister of state", but did not name him.

When informed by the villagers, the local police acted after 12 days, only to help the accused.

While three men managed to escape, the local villagers prevented the car carrying the two women from driving away.

It is said that among the three men overpowered the villagers included two bodyguards of the minister.

Kabirwala's police chief Daud Hussain has been quoted as denying the incident. The police reportedly clarified that the two women had run away from their home "on their own".

However, the newspaper said authorities in the local hospital confirmed that the two women had been raped.[

Made to Order Protests for TV...

....and Related Musings.

Amit Varma directs readers to a post by the NDTV’s Madras Chennai correspondent Alaphia Zoheb on her blog about staged protests by IIT Madras students against Arjun Singh for sheer publicity value. The students who were protesting against reservations just wanted it to be made to order for TV. So they ‘innocently’ asked Ms. Zoheb for instructions. This annoyed the reporter because she had rushed to the IIT to cover the protests thinking they were genuine protests. Here is how these publicity hungry students were asking for instructions:

Then when we reached the venue of the "protest", much to my chagrin, the students started asking me what to do. "Should we sit or should we stand? Should we march or should we stay here? Should we call more students or is this enough? Should we burn the banner or shouldnt we?" [Reporter's Diary]

The proliferation of TV news channels has given ordinary people wild ideas to get noticed by the world for the heck of it or to get their grievances addressed.

Recently a contractor in Gaya protesting against non-payment of his bills, immolated himself in front of TV camera crews who were furiously shooting the act with some of them even instructing and helping - for better effects - the hapless man commit suicide. The man died and the FIR named some of the camera crewmembers as accused for abetting the crime. Now almost every news channel worth its weight had the footage of the immolation and aired them with various degrees of visible gore. For some reason (probably they didn’t have the tapes of the immolation) the Star News Channel suddenly took the moral high ground and started playing the moral police. They castigated the TV crew present there for egging and abetting the suicide and started pontificating on moral values. Now this - coming from a news channel, which has tabloidised TV journalism and taken it to nauseating depths - is too much for a hapless viewer to comprehend.

The news channels especially the English ones sometimes get into crusader mode. In the recent instances of miscarriage of justice in the Jessica Lal, Priyadharshini Mattoo and Nitish Katara murder cases, news channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN are in the forefront - and rightly so - demanding justice for them. Now to the aforementioned names they have also included Late Professor Sabharwal’s name after the outrageous attempt by the Madhya Pradesh BJP government to subvert the law in this case. If it were not for the electronic media, today Himanshu Sabharwal the late Professor’s son would have been running from pillar to post trying to get justice. If it were not for the electronic media - very easily - innocent people would have been implicated in the murder case.

NDTV organised candlelit vigils in support of retrial in the Lal, Mattoo and Katara cases. People were invited to attend these vigils. This perhaps encouraged ordinary public to stage their own rallies in support of the retrials. One got to see bunches of 30 to 50 persons holding placards demanding retrial. It was very obvious from the pictures that the demonstrations were staged solely to get their faces on TV and not out of any genuine concern. All that was needed was to get the people – intended on getting their faces on TV - together and then call up the TV offices and presto you were on TV!

Sometimes in their crusader zeal they lose all senses. Even interviews with the victims’ family members have “exclusive” stamped all over it as if they are on exclusive contracts with the news channels. The viewers are invited to send SMS messages in support of retrial. At each new development in these cases panel discussions are held and the family members of these victims are on the panel. Frankly this was getting too much for me and now I simply give such discussions a miss. This doesn’t mean I don’t want justice to be done to the victims but I think let the law take its own course and its time to have less of these particular cases on TV coz they have been flogged enough.

Another one of NDTV’s crusade is to fight terrorism. All that they are asking the viewer is to light a candle at 9.00pm every night and to resolve to keep communal harmony! Now should I weep or laugh!? How can people be so naïve and stupid?

Now the latest crusade of these news channels is to get the socialite Bina Ramani who has been charged with illegally serving liquor, destroying evidence, etc in the Jessica Lal murder case declared innocent. The viewers are kept up-to-date on an hourly basis on her. I know there is cutthroat competition among the news channels for TRPs but that doesn’t mean they lose their senses. Majority of the viewers are from simple middle-class families and are hardly interested in the ‘travails’ of socialites like Bina Ramani.

In our villages caste-system is very much alive and kicking. From time to time in the mainstream media we hear reports from villages of dalit women being paraded naked by upper-caste men obviously to settle scores or just to intimidate the dalits so they always remember who the real bosses are. This is all that is reported in the mainstream press and follow-ups are hardly done. Seldom cases get registered and hardly or never any convictions take place because most of the time the victims are bought off by money or coerced into silence.

I have a question for these urban centric news channels. Are these dalits Indians too? Don’t they have any human rights? Are they the children of a lesser god? If these news channels can devote at least half the crusader time on their channels for focusing on the plight of the violated dalit women and try to get them some justice, then India will be a better place for these people too to live in.

During the anti-reservation agitations in Delhi the TV cameras showing up at the demonstration venues or going live from there, only helped to rejuvenate the agitators greatly. They would raise slogans at top of their voice in favour of abolishing quotas, the caste-system, etc. Unfortunately the very people who were calling for abolishing caste-system then are today busy perpetrating it.

I am of the firm opinion that equitable development of India can only happen if the wretched caste-system in all its manifestations is completely rooted out. The Mahatma said India lives in its villages. He knew if our villages are to prosper, firstly the caste-system had to be eradicated and after that everything would fall into place. Unfortunately even after 59 years of independence, castism is alive and kicking in 21st century India.

Sep 15, 2006

An Old Man's Wish

Should man-made rules stand in the way of a 99-year-old man's wish to die in peace? Should man-made rules be adhered to the T always? Can't the Indian and Pakistani governments talk this out and grant this old man's wish which probably is his last wish.

Nawab Din, a resident of the Mirpur area of PoK came to the Rajouri area to meet his son after a gap of four decades in August. He had crossed the LoC as part of an agreement between India and Pakistan by which civilians of the two parts of the State were allowed to visit relatives across the LoC. The authorities allowed the old man to stay here for a maximum period of one month and he was to have returned to PoK three days back. Now, he refuses to return home. "I do not want to return to Mirpur as all my relatives live here. The authorities should allow me to stay here and try to understand my plight. Even for performing my last rites, I do not have anybody in PoK. The Indian Government should take a liberal view of my state and allow me to settle down here permanently," said Nawab Din in a choked voice.

Nawab Din was separated from his family during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. When Pakistani forces entered deep into the Indian territory, Nawab Din found himself in PoK and could never return back even after the declaration of ceasefire. Now after 41 years, Nawab Din was able to return to his place. According to authorities, who are keen to send Nawab Din as quickly as possible, the agreement is to allow the civilians of the divided State to cross the LoC to meet their relatives and not permanently stay in the other territory. So Nawab Din would have to return to PoK sooner.[The Hindu]

Sep 8, 2006

Ladies, We Salute You!

CRPF women for UN operations in Liberia

.....A section of the women personnel of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will show their expertise in war-torn Liberia to assist in UN operations - a move that has already won praise from the world body.

The designated mahila (women) CRPF team of 125 personnel, led by Commandant Seema Dundiya, is currently undergoing specialised training at the CRPF’s industrial training centre in Wazirabad, north Delhi, before they travel to the west African country most probably in October.

‘This is the first time that a specialised unit of women police is being sent for such a mission. They will assist in maintaining law and order, play a training role for local officers and help in crowd control,’ a senior home ministry official told IANS.


The move to send the specialised CRPF unit to Liberia’s capital Monrovia as a formed police unit (FPU) has already won praise from the UN with police adviser Mark Kroeker describing it as ‘unprecedented’.

‘This is an unprecedented move by India to deploy these women officers in policing and we applaud it and think it is extremely timely and relevant to the policing needs in the years ahead,’ Kroeker said.

‘We think it is a breakthrough that India has expressed its willingness to send these police officers. And it is also good for our Liberia mission because it brings to that police operation these officers who are trained, capable and women who can bring the best of what the UN police is to the component there,’ he added.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) took over peacekeeping duties from the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in October 2003 and all peacekeepers are now under UN command.

The all-women Indian unit will join other FPUs currently serving in Liberia, where the concept was first tried out and its success there and in other operations led to calls for increasing deployment.

According to the terms of a memorandum of understanding, the CRPF women’s unit will be in Liberia for a year...


Its mandate includes monitoring implementation of ceasefires between government and rebel forces and investigating violations of the ceasefire. Its also ensures the delivery of humanitarian aid, provides security at key government installations, including major sea and air ports, and protecting UN staff, facilities and civilians.

The CRPF is the only paramilitary force in the country with two women battalions.
After it was raised in March 1987, the 88th battalion won laurels for its work during the Meerut riots and later with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka. [India]

These Desh Bhakts Can't Sing!

“Is Desh Mein Rehna ho to Vande Mataram Gaana Hoga”. This is what our desh bhakts are shouting from the roof-tops. Unfortunately many of these desh bhakts themselves can't sing the two stanzas - that is sung customarily - let alone the whole song! So what do we do with them? Pakistan Nepal bijwa doon?

Anything for 23% of the Pie.

The Muslim population of UP, India’s most populous state is 23%. This is one community in India that votes - come what may - en bloc to the party endorsed by their Mullahs by fatwas. The coming UP election is very crucial for all the major political parties of UP – Congress, BJP, BSP and SP. Congress wants to get back to its pre-eminence it once had before VP Singh and - ironically by Congressman - Late PV Narasimha Rao killed it with Mandal Commission and Ram Janambhoomi fiasco respectively. BJP wants to polarise the Hindus in its favour by using the Muslims as cannon fodder. For BSP and SP this bloc is just numbers in its road to power in UP. So appeasement of this bloc by Congress, BSP, SP, Commies, etc was always expected.

The “appeasement” levels went to a new low recently when Congress’s Arjun Singh took back a directive – and made it optional - to sing the national song, “Vande Mataram” on Sept 7th after the Muslim clergy opposed it on religious grounds. So on Sept 7th we saw many Muslims singing “Sare jahan se acha”,Jana gana mana”, etc with a good number of them standing up and singing Vande Mataram at top of their voice. We also saw politicians singing the song – the “deshbhakts” who don’t know much of the song and the “deshdrohis” who vacillate according to directives from their vote banks.

The Congress president Sonia Gandhi - without whose knowledge a single leaf doesn’t move at the congress party - stayed away from the Congress Party’s celebration of the national song. The Congress says this doesn’t mean she is an unpatriotic Indian. What they didn’t tell was that it was a ‘desperate’ message to the Muslim bloc particularly of UP – something like “see I didn’t show up at the function coz I understand your sentiments but my senile HRD Minster made a stupid mistake from which we cant get out but let me make clear that I am with you. So please vote for me en bloc err, the Congress party in the upcoming UP elections”. How much more lowly can a political party go to woo a community just for its votes? Even a solemn occasion to commemorate a song that had rallied our unarmed satyagrahis (freedom fighters) like anything - to take on the might of the most powerful Empire in the world - was used to convey a subtle political message to the minorities (read Muslims). Poor lady just didn’t realise how she had played into the BJP’s hand by not showing up. BJP naturally is only too happy to use this new controversy they have been gifted by the Congress president. So much so that they even have constituted a special committee to work out its “Vande Mataram strategy” in the light of Gandhi skipping the commemoration event! Well, desperate times call for desperate measures.

One of Congress’s main priorities is getting back the lost Muslim vote-bank and for this they will go to any extend and each time they unwittingly play in to BJP’s hands. One of the latest ideas is again from Arjun Singh.

HRD Minister Arjun Singh wants to give 25% of the Rs 10000 crore allocated in the current fiscal for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme which is to make all of India's children literate, to madarssas to educate Muslim children. Unless madarssas are reformed and mainstream education is not provided this money is only going to produce more brainwashed Indian Muslim foot-soldiers for Pakistan’s jihad against India. This Arjun Singh won’t do because his party is only interested in the vote of the Muslim community, which is the only one in India that votes en masse. After the vote is cast the politicians leave them high and dry and that’s one of the main reasons (the other being ghettoisation) why Muslims of India find themselves in a wretched condition. The state of West Bengal went in for successful madrassa reforms and the central government should follow the WB model in all the 30,000 + madrassas in India. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was recently pulled up by CAG for anomalies. Bibek Debroy calls for scraping it altogether. Now no one should have any doubt where the taxpayers’ money is going.

Sep 5, 2006

Shooting Themselves in the Foot

The Sangh Parivar has latched on to the latest Vande Mataram controversy which arose after Arjun Singh backtracked - after Mullahs raised objection to its singing because of its so-called controversial nature - on his directive to sing Vande Mataram compulsorily on Sept 7 at all educational institutions to commemorate the centenary of its adoption as the National Song at the 1905 Varanasi session of the Indian National Congress. BJP has decided to make it a poll issue in the next 2007 UP state elections. This is in confirmation with its hallowed tradition of taking up divisive issues so it can yield maximum political dividends.

Unlike in 1998 today Sangh Parivar has made singing of Vande Mataram a test case of one’s loyalty to his/her motherland, India. BJP has made it compulsory for all schools including madrassas to sing Vande Mataram on Sept 7 in the states ruled by them.

On August 22nd the BJP raised this issue in the parliament with BJP’s most prominent Muslim face Muktar Abbas Naqvi leading the charge. He kept on shouting “Vande Mataram” at top of his voice with other BJP members joining him in chorus. One was really heartened seeing the deshbhakti of this patriotic Indian Muslim. What a great role model for our desh-drohi minorities to follow and emulate.

According to the Sangh Parivar “if you have to live in India you will have to sing Vande Mataram”. Some of them feel the present two stanzas that is customarily sung are not enough to make us 100% Indian and want the full song to be sung.

And to teach the minorities and Hindus (those who are not Indian enough) what desh-bhakti is all about, BJP even planned singing Vande Mataram inside the parliament complex on Sept 5 (since rejected by the LS Speaker) by 200 of its Muslim members.

All this is fine but there is a small problem – the very people who insist on singing Vande Mataram by all Indians irrespective of their faith, themselves don’t know the song! These include BJP stalwarts like former Union Minister Ravishankar Prasad former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma, BJP’s Muslim face MA Naqvi, BJP’s Chattisgarh Government Ministers including the Health Minister who thinks Rabindranath Tagore wrote it, etc. These deshbhakts were utterly exposed on CNN-IBN and NDTV. When they were asked to sing the song some refused, some mumbled and some fumbled. Some deshbhakti this!

The Sangh Parivar as we know is also the self-appointed guardian of Hinduism, India’s culture, etc. When that is so, naturally they should know the Hindu scriptures too. But then here too they were caught with their pants down. So much so that their lack of knowledge of the Hindu scriptures were thoroughly exposed by none other than Pranab Mukherjee of the minority appeasing, deshdrohi Congress Party in a recent parliamentary discussion.

…. On the last day of a stormy Monsoon Session, Mukherjee floored the House with his lesser-known mastery over Hindu scriptures — leaving the BJP benches spluttering with incoherent rage. In the process, he also subtly brought out the central difference between Hindutva and Hinduism, between a narrow, semitic approach to religious deities as opposed to a celebration of the multiple versions and forms of worship that is the hallmark of the Hindu faith.

The matter came up in course of a calling attention motion moved by a number of BJP MPs led by deputy leader of opposition V.K. Malhotra on “the use of derogatory and insulting language about Hindu deities’’ in MA History textbooks of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).


Attacking the textbooks, Malhotra said they contained derogatory references such as claims that Hindu goddesses like Durga consumed alcohol.

At this point, Pranab Mukherjee rose to point out that the information itself was not incorrect. He then proceeded to read out Sanskrit stanzas from the third chapter (adhyaya) of the Sri Durga Saptashati — famous in Bengal as the Chandi Path — on the battle between Goddess Durga and the demon Mahishasura. The shlokas describe how the goddess drank once, and then again and again, in the midst of battle, her eyes bloodshot — as red as the rays of the rising sun.

His intervention did not go down well with the BJP benches although no saffron MP could counter the scripture or question its authenticity. They continued shouting about the UPA government’s disregard for religious sentiments and the House was adjourned.

The BJP’s charge cut little ice with Mukherjee who comes from a family of priests. “If these people do not know their religious scriptures, it is not my fault,’’ Mukherjee told this reporter later. There was no need, he agreed, to incorporate these facts in college textbooks but to question the authenticity of the scriptures smacked of ignorance.

“When Ma Durga was offered all the equipment for battle by different gods, the last was a drinking vessel given to her by Kubera. In our part of the world, even a schoolchild knows this. I don’t know why these people are making such a fuss,’’ he added.

But couldn’t the knowledge that Durga drank wine affect the sentiment of her devotees? Mukherjee cannot conceive such a thought. “How can it diminish her in any way? She is the preserver of good and destroyer of all evil,’’ the Defence Minister replied with disarming bhakti.[IE]

BJP’s student wing the ABVP just showed us how - in our hallowed Indian (Hindu) tradition - to respect our teachers in a brand new way. The “guru shishya parampara” of yore is passé - ABVP just completely overhauled the meaning of “respecting your teacher”. In the new trendy tradition set by the ABPV, the students should gently advice their teachers - who want to uphold the law of the land – not to interfere with the students’ right to indulge in harmless college politics. If the teachers don’t relent, then just do an ABVP to the adamant teachers. Then everything should be fine. Do make sure the state government is yours, the fourth estate is muzzled, and the teachers don’t have angry sons like Himanshu Sabharwal. Otherwise you will be against the combined might of the Leftist pseudo-secular Indian media and will be in real trouble.

On Volcker issue BJP first demands the dismissal of Natwar Singh from the cabinet and when he is found guilty in the oil-for-food scam, they dine with him and later drop him. Some new moral value this!

No political party is more concerned about India’s security than BJP. So what is the big deal if Jaswant Singh dillydallied in reporting to the PM about the so-called mole in the PMO’s office after Singh came to know about it a long time back? So what if after six long years of being in power at the center and BJP didn’t do anything about illegal Bangladeshi infiltration and raise a hue and cry about them now? So what if BJP let their Chota Sardar run riot in Gujarat and gifted the Islamists with more foot soldiers from states that were never their traditional recruiting base? So what if the Parliament was attacked by trigger-happy Pakistani jihadis? So what if we were caught napping at Kargil? So what if BJP pardoned people convicted by Indian courts for waging war against the nation? No one should question these great accomplishments of desh bhakts BJP. After all BJP was acting in the best interest of the Sangh Parivar Country.

Now you know why this post is titled so.

Sep 4, 2006

Cartoon Speak: This is No Joke

Courtesy: Indian Express.

Sep 1, 2006

Islamist Terror in India: Is This Man Being Investigated?

I wouldn’t have given a damn about Zakir Naik pictured above if it were not for his name crop up in newspaper reports on the investigations into the 7/11 Mumbai blasts. This is what appeared in one of Praveen Swami’s articles on 7/11 blasts:

….Sheikh, for example, recruited Ghaswala during an April 2003 convention organised by the Jamaat Ahl-e-Hadis, a religious sect from which the Lashkar draws much of its cadre. Zakir Naik, a well-known Mumbai-based television evangelist, was the star speaker at the convention. Although there is no suggestion that Naik's Islamic Research Foundation itself played any role in the bombings, Sheikh and other Mumbai Lashkar operatives are known to have often visited the religious centre — which also, significantly, features as an approved source of religious-ideological information on the Lashkar's website. [The Hindu]

Another report in the “Indian Express” had this:

‘‘Deshmukh used to work at the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Dongri,’’ said Additional Commissioner of Police, Anti-Terrorist Squad, Jaijeet Singh. But the public relations manager of IRF said: ‘‘Feroz Deshmukh is not an IRF employee. He works at an Islamic bookshop, owned by a relative of our chairman Zakir Naik, next to the IRF building. Deshmukh visited the IRF regularly to use the toilet and look up Urdu books.’’ ‘‘Raheel and Deshmukh met often at the IRF library. They also met at meetings held by the research foundation and chatted on the internet. The last time the two met was about six months ago. [Indian Express]

The common name in these two reports is Zakir Naik. For some reason this name sounded familiar to me and I remembered that I heard him preach on Islam on QTV. Zakir Naik is an Indian Islamic evangelist from Mumbai. According to reports available on the net he is a very famous preacher with wide following among South Asian Muslims. Once when tuning the channels on my TV, I saw him on Q TV preaching in English and I watched it for sometime. He was speaking at a gathering of South Asian Muslims where he was asked all type of questions including the controversial ones on Islam and its tenets and his answers only amused me. Check out his controversial views on at Wikipedia. When I saw him for the first time I didn’t have any idea that he was one of us. In fact I thought he was Pakistani.

After some googling I found some damning stuff on him. The following are some of the controversial statements he made or attributed to him. Justifying terrorism:

They call all Muslims terrorists, but just a policeman strikes terror into the heart of a criminal, all Muslims are required to strike terror into the heart of robbers, thieves, rapists, the unjust, the anti-social elements.[mezba]

Another of his quote on terrorism:

Every Muslim should be a terrorist. A terrorist is a person who causes terror. The moment a robber sees a policeman he is terrified. A policeman is a terrorist for the robber. Similarly every Muslim should be a terrorist for the antisocial elements of society, such as thieves, dacoits and rapists. Whenever such an anti-social element sees a Muslim, he should be terrified. It is true that the word ‘terrorist’ is generally used for a person who causes terror among the common people. But a true Muslim should only be a terrorist to selective people i.e. anti-social elements, and not to the common innocent people. In fact a Muslim should be a source of peace for innocent people.”

The following is how Ali Sina who is a fierce critic of Dr. Naik interpreted Dr. Naik’s above views on terrorism:

It would be naive to take Dr. Naik's justification of terrorism by its face value. What this snake-oil salesman actually means by anti-social elements are the non-Muslims and those who resist conversion. According to him I would be an anti-social element that have to be killed. Have I committed rape, theft or any crime? I and people like me are considered anti social because we speak our minds and Muslims can't handle that. Are Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasrin anti-social elements? What about Theo Van Gogh? Was he an anti social element?
After glorifying and justifying terrorism and hyping his students to become terrorists, making them believe this is a divine mandate and a wonderful thing to do, Dr. Naik will then explain to his foolhardy alumni that "shirk is worse than killing" and the unbelievers are worse than thieves, dacoits, rapists and murderers. Therefore it is incumbent upon Muslims, to instill terror in the hearts of non-Muslims and kill them wherever they find them. To determine their innocence or guilt it is enough to ask them whether they want to convert to Islam or not.
Ironically, since according to the Quran, these non-Muslims by rejecting Islam have committed the worst crime imaginable, their property can be stolen and their wives and daughters can be raped. Thus Muslims, who joined Dr. Naik’s school to fight the dacoits, BECOME the dacoits, the criminals and the thugs.

If the above are Naik’s views on terrorism and its interpretation by Ali Sina, then Zakir Naik is also is against killing innocent people in the name of Islam. This is what he said at a rightwing Islamic convention held recently in UK where some speakers justified jihad and suicide bombing:

However, Dr Zakir Naik described by organisers as "the most sought after Muslim public speaker in the world", criticised the actions of the New York, London and Bombay bombers. "How can you ever justify killing innocent people?" he said. "But in the same breath as condemning those responsible we must also condemn those responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon."[Manchester Evening News]

Here he is against killing innocents in the name of Islam but he is also reported to have advocated killing Muslims who leave their faith. He wants all Indians to adopt Shariah, as according to him it is the “most practical criminal law”. He advocates polygamy, interest-free Islamic banking, wearing of Hijab (burkha), etc.

The terrorists caught by the UK police in connection with the recently foiled UK terror plot from Heathrow airport have some established link with Tablighi Jamaat. Tablighi Jamaat is believed to control several mosques in Britain. Tablighi Jamaat, formed in 1927 in India, was a traditional Islamic movement. Nizamuddin (Delhi) was its headquarter. Zakir Naik is known to preach at such organisations but I couldn’t find anything that linked him to this one.

Now the question is whether Zakir Naik is being investigated by India’s security agencies for possible terror links or not. His controversial teachings, his religious center’s name featuring as an approved source of religious-ideological information on the Lashkar's website, the 7/11 perpetrators’ links to his Islamic center, etc should be more than enough reasons to investigate this Islamic evangelist’s links to Islamist terror network in India. Will the government wake up?