29.9.07

Irfan Pathan haazir ho

Dear Irfan:

I am sure you are doing great. Your Ammi is doing great, telling the world that Shoaib Malik had no business to talk about Muslims as though he owns them. Your Abu prayed the namaaz, they told us on television. That used to be his job, too, at one time.

You deserve the rewards that will come your way. But, I have a small request. Do not accept the Rs. 5 lakh award announced for you and your brother Yusuf by Narendra Modi. Please do not. You were part of India XI, not the Gujarat team.

I know it will be a tough decision. You are not an artiste like Aditi Mangaldas, the renowned dancer, who refused to accept the Gujarat government's Gaurav Puraskar saying that art cannot be recognised through oppression.

Can you celebrate the sporting spirit by accepting accolades from one who has abused power? You are part of a team and you represent the country. However, I do believe this message should be sent out to the chief minister of Gujarat. He has blood on his hands. And he still hasn’t awarded compensation money to the riot victims. Let him hand that over first.

Yours with hope,

An ordinary Indian citizen

23.9.07

Aiy-aiy-yo, a Hindu fatwa now...

No comments!

(From the Times of India, print edition)

Karuna pooh-poohs sadhus’ ‘fatwa’

Ayodhya Mahant Offers Gold To Man Who Can Behead CM For ‘Ram Insult’


Lucknow: Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi’s anti-Ram tirade has generated holy rage in Ayodhya. First, sadhus from different sects joined hands to launch a campaign against the ‘Ramdrohi’ and then took to the streets. Now, a powerful lobby of mahants has taken a leaf out of the book of fatwa-happy maulvis and former UP minister Yaqoob Qureshi, who had announced a bounty for the killing of a Danish cartoonist who lampooned the Prophet.



They have publicly issued a “dharmadesh” (religious diktat) to behead the CM for calling Ram a “piyakkad” (drunkard). Quoting from religious scriptures, a Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas member Ram Vilasdas Vedanti, also a former BJP MP, made an offer “to weigh in gold any person who brings Karunanidhi’s head to Ayodhya”. The diktat, he said, had been issued after “due deliberation from the saint community of the temple town”.

18.9.07

Soldiers on parade


I don't like this. It is about the World Military Games; we might have liked a peek into other aspects, not what our soldiers will be wearing. Fashion show? It is a demeaning term. Fashion shows are not demeaning by themselves; but each profession has a context. Here, it is wrong.

To make matters worse, the caption starts by saying, "Warriors all dressed up". And nowhere to go?

Sting Operations: Beyond reproach?

Maverick: Stings that stink
by Farzana Versey
The Asian Age, Op-ed, Sept. 18, 2007

Have sting operations changed anything? Have people stopped having their palms greased? Is there more awareness about wrongdoing? Are the culprits shunned by society?

You know the answers. They have, on the contrary, become even more important. Isn’t the woman politician who was "stung" a perennial commentator on panel discussions? Hasn’t the out-of-work villain, whose claim to fame was a string hanging from his pyjamas, now become a huge draw?

Let us not forget that the Antulay cement scandal and Bofors issues were brought to light long before sting operations became fashionable. These are perhaps the worst form of voyeurism because they come garbed in designer morality.

This has been brought out in the open rather swiftly in the recent case where a reporter of a Delhi television channel tried to expose a teacher for forcing her students into prostitution. It turned out to be fake. It was done on the prodding of a businessman as a planned strategy to hit out at the teacher for owing him Rs 100,000. He called up a reporter who we are told harangued her to make a few quick bucks by getting into the flesh trade and supply women. It is said she fell for this bait. A colleague of the reporter was sent as a potential girl ready for the job.

The whole story sounds bizarre. Would a woman in a respectable profession be so gullible as to get into criminal activity? If there is any truth, then why has it been labelled fake? This is not a big channel. Had it been one of those fancy ones, do you imagine anyone would have made such a noise about its lack of authenticity? The reporter has been arrested. I would like to know what is being done to the channel owners. This isn’t just a sensational story. It is about an issue that concerns women and any sensible person. Sting operators cannot get away with it.

Why do you think the new reporters are taking up snoopy journalism? To ensure that in future they can enter bedrooms and closets for their low-level scoops.

Is this about vigilantism at all? Two years ago, there was an exposé where 11 Members of Parliament were bribed to pose questions in the House. The website carried tape recorders and cameras to catch them red-handed and a TV channel aired what they thought was a complete travesty. These clippings were later shown in Parliament. Newspaper reports were dramatic: "Parliament was stunned into shamed silence."

Does Parliament feel no shame when elected members throw slippers and chairs at each other? Has no ministry ever been shamed for taking kickbacks by giving a contract to an undeserving company?

That sting operation in fact gave political parties a halo — they got the offending MPs to resign. They started talking about ethics. Senior politicians who have been corrupt and booked for scams were holding forth on the "indefensible" acts. The "exposé" did nothing except to buffer a few egos.

And who were the MPs who were paid Rs 15,000 to just over a lakh for asking questions? Were they important enough names? These nobodies suddenly got notorious fame as "the dirty eleven." I can lay a bet that even if they were not bribed and were told they would be given some media coverage, they would still have done what they did. The sting operation only helped make scapegoats of a few unknowns to let the real sharks march around like saints. A whitewash job has never been simpler.

The real scoop was this, and it had been reported in this newspaper: The television channel gave the sting operators about Rs 58 lakhs. Less than Rs 10 lakhs was spent on the entire operation. The bribe amount was less than Rs 3 lakhs. Other expenses were about Rs 5 lakhs. The equipment was available on loan. Was the balance money returned to the TV channel? Does anyone know?

There should be transparency regarding sting operations too. Jaya Jaitly, who ought to know, had made an interesting comment, that it would be honest if a person went to these sting operators and told them that someone was taking money for asking questions or getting things done; the snoops could then accompany the person and catch the culprit in the act.

Journalists and TV channels use soft targets. Politicians, film stars, gangsters are already in the public eye and no one assumes them to be aboveboard, anyway.

There is the myopic notion that only political pressure plays a major role. Politics is easy game if you want to camouflage the bigger scourge — commercial considerations. Would these brave-hearts do a sting operation on industrial houses, many of which are run purely on the ability to bribe their way for licences, prime land, modifying export-import policies to suit them?

Would they do a sting operation on cultural organisations or famous "respectable" artistes who get special privileges? What about nominated MPs from the "world of arts" who use their position to further their personal causes? What about NGOs that misuse foreign funds? What about media houses that take money from socialites to promote them?

Are these sting operations themselves unbiased? Who is sponsoring them? It is facile to believe that the market decides who calls the shots. Do you have any say in what you get to watch? We are being told that truth can only be reached through a spy camera. The public is a victim of such auto-suggestion. They are all faking it, honey, for only bees really know how to sting.

14.9.07

The world's richest Muslim tycoon

What Makes Premji a ‘Muslim tycoon’?
By Farzana Versey
September 14, 2007, Counterpunch



Is Azim Premji really the world’s richest Muslim entrepreneur? Is there a list which mentions the richest Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Christian, Scientologist, atheist, Rastafarian?


Unlikely. At least nothing that would make the Wall Street Journal want to give it front page legitimacy. Talking of legitimacy, surely we are talking about legitimate enterprise, for the underworld and the mafia, Muslim or otherwise, are flush with money. In all likelihood, they are investors in the big companies.


Mr. Premji heads Wipro, India's third-largest IT exporter. Its fortune rests at $17 billion. I like rich people. But this gentleman is not just rich; he has been saddled with baggage. And the newspaper goes out of its way to prise it open by saying that he defies all conventional wisdom about Islamic tycoons - he does not hail from the Persian Gulf and does not wear his faith on his sleeve.


Where did the term ‘Islamic tycoon’ come from? What is unconventional about not wearing your faith on your sleeve? Is it even important to discuss?


Of course, it is. Imagine the world we are living in. Azim Premji has to be displayed as the nice guy – no beard, well-fitted suit, an amiable demeanor, likeable. He might have been a crass bore with filthy lucre, the Tom Cruise type who had to jump on an Oprah Winfrey sofa to declare his love for a Kate to become interesting. Mr. Premji has been given a moment quite unlike that cheesy one. He has been profiled (and do pardon the pun) in an article titled, “How a Muslim Billionaire Thrives in Hindu India”.


I am an Indian and have always lived in the country of my birth. It is not a Hindu nation. It may have a majority of Hindus, but then it has a majority of illiterates. Why wasn’t the report called, “How a literate billionaire thrives in illiterate India”? There are many such potential headlines I may offer, but I should hope the point has been made.


This ‘Muslim billionaire’ has thrived because he had a family business to start with. He had money to get a decent education and he had the spirit of enterprise. Hindu India did not contribute to these, neither did Muslims. It is an individual achievement.


It is unfortunate that Muslims are being made accountable for aspects of life that would under normal circumstances not identity them with religion.


Yaroslav Trofimov, the writer of the article, says, “Yet, to many in India's Muslim community, Mr. Premji's enormous wealth, far from being inspiring, shows that success comes at a price the truly faithful cannot accept. They resent that Mr. Premji plays down his religious roots and declines to embrace Muslim causes – in a nation where people are pegged by their religion and where Hindus freely flaunt theirs.”


What price has Mr. Premji had to pay? He has quietly gone and made a success of his business. There is no resentment against his hesitation to talk about his Muslim identity, and no Muslim social organisations are dependent on his largesse.


What is resented is the fact that in a country where most of the 150 million people of the community are ghettoized, the likes of Premji are touted as examples of Hindu tolerance. This just does not wash. It is most patronizing, and a huge insult to those who do make a decent living but are tagged in ways that are negative simply because they lack the visibility of a high-profile profession. On any given day there will be a handful of Muslims taken out of the celebrity closet to reveal the mothballed magnanimity of the majority community.


No one wants Premji to stand up and be counted. But there is no reason for him to play along with this secular sham, and he has been doing so for a while. He said in an interview to the paper, “We have always seen ourselves as Indian. We've never seen ourselves as Hindus, or Muslims, or Christians or Buddhists.”


The report further states, “Mr. Premji has mentioned his Muslim background so rarely in public that many Indian Muslims don't even know he shares their heritage. None of Wipro's senior managers aside from Mr. Premji himself are Muslims. The company maintains normal working hours on Islamic high holidays.”


This does not sound like a report in a respected newspaper but something straight out of a pamphlet. What heritage are we talking about? Is there one Muslim heritage? His last name could well be Hindu as his roots are in Gujarat. What is so heart-warming and significant about not working on Islamic holidays? Does it become news when many Hindu-owned companies celebrate religious festivals with a puja (prayer) and in fact during Diwali (that is an unabashed ode to the goddess of wealth) people even offer prayers to account books? Is it news that this includes Muslim entrepreneurs? What is the purpose behind such a statement? And why is it surprising considering that most of the 70,000 employees of Premji’s company are non-Muslim?


These are devious little tricks. No one mentions good old Adnan Khashoggi and his cruise liners in which the international high and mighty had fun vacations.


Isn’t there a mean between riding the Islamophobia and secular waves? The latter is as ridiculous as Mohamed al Fayed screaming about being discriminated against by British society because of his religion.


Azim Premji is a thriving businessman in the globalized world he keeps talking about. A globalized world that is unwilling to dignify him as just another wealthy guy and has to mention his religion not just in passing but as the very crux of his defiance – a defiance that is as imaginary as other stereotypes.


He says with what appears to be an element of arrogance, “All our hiring staff are trained to interview in English. They're trained to look for Westernized segments because we deal with global customers.”


Indeed. The Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians are doing rather well for themselves, and they don’t go around kowtowing to some colonial mentality that talks about English in such a fashion. He mentions that most Muslims are educated in Urdu. Perhaps he might like to check the statistics that say Urdu is a dying language. Perhaps he might like to sponsor some schools for Muslim children; he can do so incognito so that his secular credentials are safe. Perhaps he might like to know that even madrassas these days use his computers, so it is entirely possible they are cracking codes on them. Perhaps he might like to not even entertain questions about his Muslim identity. He is rich enough to afford to say, “No comments”. That is true liberation.


However, being called a Muslim tycoon is like being addressed as a hot Eskimo. And who doesn’t like a touch of oxymoron?

13.9.07

News meeows - 8

The Allahabad high court’s observation that the Bhagavad Gita should be made the national "dharma shastra" of the country evoked a strong reaction on Tuesday from the government, which said it should be ignored and the scriptures of all religions should be respected by all.

While the Union law minister and the former Chief Justice of India objected to such an idea, a leader from the saffron brigade, Mr V.P. Singhal, came to the rescue of Justice Srivastava (who pronounced this ‘judgement’) and said the remarks were "not made as a Hindu, but as a judge. He has justice in his mind."

How the heck is such an imposition about justice? Was the Bhagwad Gita written as a legal treatise? How many non-Hindus are aware of the contents?

Media personality Saeed Naqvi said the "Bhagavad Gita is part of our culture and they are trying to make it a religious text."

Another poppycock opinion. This culture crap should stop. It is a religious text for a certain community, but it does not have to become a cultural text for the rest. As an Indian I enjoy some festivals, music that is definitely from my soil and epics…but many may not. So don’t thrust this culture down everyone’s throats.

The Allahabad high court had the audacity to state that "it is the duty of the state to recognise the text as rashtriya dharma, which inspired our national struggle for freedom and continues to inspire people from all walks of life".

It must most definitely be inspirational to people but let us not reduce our struggle for independence to religious texts. Some people are inspired by erotica. Others by nature. Still others by LSD. So?

I will not accept the Bhagwad Gita or the Bible or the Quran as a “duty” were I to live in any society.

The ridiculous ruling says that if we recognise the national flag, national bird, national anthem and national flower, the holy text may also be considered as the national "dharma shastra". Get this clear. The others are symbols of oneness. The Gita, like most religious texts, is about war and struggle. We have a Constitution, thank you. Please leave your beliefs inside your homes.

Strangely, in another case, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has told the Supreme Court that there was no historical evidence to establish the existence of Lord Ram or the other characters in Ramayan. This assumes significance in the backdrop of the raging political controversy over the Sethusamudram Project.

This, say the reports, is in response to two writ petitions seeking an assurance from the government that there would be no destruction of the mythical barrier Ram Sethu during the construction of Sethusamudram Project.

Is the bridge a creation of Ram? “The ASI said the Ram Sethu is not a man-made structure, but rather a natural formation made up of shoals/sand bars, which are possessed of their particular shape and form due to wave action and sedimentation.”

The court has said it cannot use myths to justify history.

It has become a North versus South battle because the project is in South India and Lord Ram isn’t as much revered there. In fact, some myths deify his enemy Ravana.

I have only one question: What is the ASI doing about the Ram Temple if in this instance it is clearly asking for the existence of the “characters mentioned in the book”?

Why is the government indulging this ‘blasphemy’? Is it because the project ensures economic development and the Babri Masjid does not? Come on, up with the answers…

- - -

Ah, so Urmila Matondkar went to Dubai to be with Imran Khan and raised around Rs 3 crore at a charity event organised by the former Pakistani cricket superstar for his hospital.

A humane gesture. Appreciate it.

Now, why will no one call her a jihadi for funding a Pakistani project?

In June 2005, the godman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar embraced the JKLF leader. The caption read, ‘Hug of peace: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar embraces JKLF leader Yasin Malik on the sidelines of a conference on human values in Srinagar on Monday. Several Kashmiri leaders, including those from both factions of the Hurriyat, attended the conference. Mr. Malik and several Kashmiris have benefitted from the Art of Living programme.”

Would anyone raise a voice? Would Sri Ravi Shankar be called a jihadi? Would it be said he is letting down Kashmir Pandits by hobnobbing with a militant?

Just asking!

10.9.07

They care!

Occasionally, swipes can be delicately spiced. Let me reproduce one here that has taken a potshot at my ID (yes, even that becomes cause for comment) and my response:

Dear Farzana,

We enjoy reading your commentaries in Asian Age and are still enjoying the write up on Pandits from Kashmir. They still want the cake after eating it. So many thanks to you. Please keep writing and any complaints of hurting the sentiments should be brushed aside as this "Freedom of Speech" is again a topic of selective application viz a viz "Secularism" to Islam.

Please accept our offer of using this ID instead of the current. Hope you must have found out the difference between the two. Please reply so that the information on this ID is passed to you on your current ID.

Kaaghaz Qalam

Dear whoever/s:

I am deeply touched that you took this effort to form an ID for this naacheez. This is an icing on the cake, if I may say so.

I happen to be aware of the difference you allude to. However, since linguistics do not have to bear the burden of "freedom of speech", selective or otherwise, may I point out that 'kalam' is a piece of writing/discourse (in India we use the Roman script in a sparse manner...e.g.khamosh, instead of khaamosh to emphasise a long enunciation). If the meaning is pen, then it would rightly be 'qalm', not qalam. Of course, I have no qualms about these...

The rather democratic 'kalam' works and swings both ways, then.

I am glad I provide enjoyment. About KPs eating their cake and having it too, I believe the waazwaan (sp?!) does not cater to these needs.

For now...mujhse behtar kehne waale...

Regards,

FV

Sunset boulevard



These series of pictures were taken at a park rather late in the evening. I had turned and found the sun looking through the trees, just a hint of it going down. That became my first moment.

The next was when the sky was swathed in the afterglow; the foreground shows the barks of the trees glowing in the artificial lighting in the park.

The last was when the sun had set and the green circle you see is a light outside.



7.9.07

A...B...See?

Today is International Literacy Day. Despite India having the highest number of illiterates in the world – nearly 304 million – I wish to celebrate it.

For, literacy is no guarantee to enlightenment. You know the alphabet, you learn to read and write, you can sign your name with a flourish, but can you ask probing questions? Can you seek answers? Do you make an attempt to accept that there are several ways of seeing?

This might seem like the elitist view of someone who has had the benefit of education. True. I would most certainly want every child to go to school. More importantly, I would like the parents to know how to bring up that child. And for the child to grow up and flourish in an open environment. Merely hitting out at someone whose views you do not like does not reveal any superior talent or even perspective. As a matter of fact it reveals ignorance.

Anyone who cannot fathom a simple sentence like, “On another note, a Muslim friend, yes friend, had told me a couple of months ago that I should find a Hindu rabble-rouser to keep me happy” cannot be literate, leave alone educated. Even a most simplistic reading will tell you that it means a Muslim friend, as opposed to anyone else, is equally biased when he told me to find a Hindu rabble-rouser. How different is this attitude from those asking me to seek jihadis? Is this not why I stated, “I guess there are lots of potential happiness-givers. That is also the reason I will not permit groups to be bracketed, any group”?

But what would an illiterate mind understand of this? That I only have Muslim friends and I am saying all Hindus are rabble rousers! I would say, holy cow, but that too will be deemed an insult to a certain religion…

Okay, from two comments in the mail, one a criticism, the other I am told was appreciation of my 'self-control'.

“The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.”

Thanks whoever you are. Heaven can wait.

“I have to say you have a fantastic appetite to take criticism and insults.”

No. I differentiate between a critique and criticism. Flinging pieces of glass is not the same as showing the mirror. Also, my standards for accepting praise as well as critiques are extremely high, and both need to come from a genuine desire for dialogue in a language that is coherent. Well, praise can come just like a dewdrop on a flower; I rather like subtlety.

As for insults…were there any? I say what I always say: if I haven’t received something then it has remained with the person attempting to give it.

News meeows - 7

Alistair Pereira, the Bandra man who killed seven persons due to rash driving was sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment, under Sec. 304(2) of the IPC.

In November 2006, Pereira had been found guilty for rash and negligent driving at Carter Road, Bandra, in a drunken state which had resulted in death of seven people and injury of eight others, who were sleeping on the footpath. He was later convicted by the additional sessions court judge to a term of six months of simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5 lakhs under Sec. 304(A) of the IPC, for causing death by negligence. Periera had further paid Rs 35 lakhs as compensation to the victims.

=

I have written about this - reproduced here.

As always, discussions are now veering towards Salman Khan. So, what do I have to say about it? I have at no point in time condoned Salman’s act of rash driving that led to the death of one person. If the law as applied to Alistair is followed, then Salman should get less than six months RI, if it is three years for seven dead and 8 injured.

And someone might like to recollect the case of Puru Raaj Kumar, son of the late actor, who ran his vehicle over six people. CRPF men were witness to the crime, yet he got out on bail immediately.

We need more stringent laws, not three years in prison. And it must apply to anyone who commits the crime. Anyone.

- - -

The VHP in Kerala has said it will not allow the Kerala government to confer the Ravi Varma award on renowned painter M.F. Husain as "it will be a national shame to honour a person who has depicted Hindu Gods in the nude."

They plan to prevent him from landing anywhere near the airport and will hold rallies to protest the honour.

=

I do have a problem with the Husain persona and his blatant playing-to-the-gallery tricks. Again, it has been stated and the whole art tamasha thing has been explicated in another column.

I might only like to point out here that Raja Ravi Verma himself made paintings of gods and goddesses that lacked any ethereal quality; there was a buxom siren-like depiction. Perhaps the VHP might like to protest against him and make sure his soul does not rest in peace? And then they might like to visit temples again and see what is on the walls?

And please take Husain somewhere. He really irritates me. The problem is that unlike us poor ‘wannabe jihadis’ who never get liberal empathy, the likes of him do precisely because they are seen as secular. Why? They paint Hindu gods. Heck, will it do if I tell them that I have a cute Ganesha on my shelf?

- - -

Angry Buddhist monks in central Burma have released all of the 20 hostages they seized on Thursday, ending a tense confrontation with the nation’s military government, residents said.

The monks had set four of the officials’ cars on fire. Young monks flipped over their two remaining cars and forced the officials to leave on foot through a back door, residents said.

"It’s good the monks did this. The monks are showing the reality of what’s happening here to the world," one resident said by telephone.

=

The reason for this move has been the locking of a monastery and the police beating the monks with bamboo sticks. The monks wanted to handle it themselves.

Great? Will there be a cheep of protest as to how men of god are turning violent? No. Because Buddhism is such a peaceful religion. Visit their monasteries. No sermons, no call to rubbish the infidels. They are only going round and round turning the wheels. And they look seriously cute, most of them.

But, it is time we realised that violence is not restricted to certain groups. Everyone wants a piece of the pie.

- - -

The Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week is on. I don’t know what is going on, except for a quick look at some pages in the newspaper. It is covered like some Saarc Summit. The discussions, the trends, the goof-ups, the people-to-people contact, the high-profile versus the lowly…and then there are the models. Okay, the ramp requires a certain walk, so with their pencil heels in a narrow space they have to knock knees and pull their stomachs in, jut their bony butts out and strut. What I notice most are the faces. Is there any particular reason these women must not smile? Will the clothes come apart or will it take away from the couturier’s reputation? Are the models angry about something? Have their lips been glued to their teeth?

If that silly pout is meant to look sexy, it doesn’t work. They look like they are sucking on a lemon to prevent from barfing.

6.9.07

Pavarotti in Paradiso

It would not be quite in the order of things to say I mourn the death of Luciano Pavarotti. But, for an unfathomable reason I feel his absence. The few clippings I watched were a delight as much for the voice as for the heaving of his large belly as he breathed in a note and exhaled it with the force of a typhoon through his mouth.

Opera is not something I listen to, but whenever I have done so it has cast a spell. As a youngster I would try and mimic the style – wide open mouth stretching an aching moment to an eternal longing. I would have tears in my eyes just from the effort. I believe I did a good job of the imitation. Somewhere along, the emotions, in a language I did not understand, did touch me. The way Chaplin in the silent movies does.

It would be disingenuous to compare, but at times some of the singing appears like an alaap that extends right into the body of the raag in Indian classical music. Aficionados will beat me up, but my amateur understanding begs to be permitted the licence of flawed interpretation.

There will be several befitting obits and it would be a learning experience. He was a star, and fortunately in his case one has not heard anyone complaining about dumbing down despite it being the easiest thing to do. His showmanship was a part of his persona, not an acquired trait, though in The King and I, his biographers do refer to the story behind the use of the white handkerchief which started out due to a cold he suffered from. As Herbert Breslin wrote, "Working with opera singers is a recipe for nervous collapse. The more carefully you make your plans, the more likely it is they'll get sick when the big night rolls around." Later, the hanky was used to wave at the crowd, for emphasis in a song, or as a hiding place for throat lozenges.

I smile. Luciano did that all the time.

RIP: Rock In Paradise.

- - -

Picture: ‘L'Elisir d'Amore’ ("The Elixir of Love") with Pavarotti in the role of Nemorino

- - -

Ave Maria Prayer : Music by Franz Schubert. One of Pavarotti's notable performances.


Ave Maria! Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria!

The original words in Latin:

Ave Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum

Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Ventris tui Jesus

Ave Maria
Ave Maria Mater dei
Ora pro nobis pecatoribus
Ora, ora pro nobis
Ora ora pro nobis pecatoribus

Nunc et in hora mortis
In hora mortis, mortis nostrae
In hora mortis nostrae
Ave Maria!



4.9.07

Fission Kashmir

Fission Kashmir
by Farzana Versey
The Asian Age, Op-ed, Sept. 4, 2007

Size matters. Did you read the report that quoted an army officer who served in the Kashmir valley saying, “Why would the police kill a militant who carries only Rs. 10,000 on his head? It is a better idea to let him grow big to command a reward of Rs. 3 lakh”? 

Are you impressed by the prudence or disgusted? 

“Does the government have any responsibility towards us? Their actions show they are responsible only towards the militants,” said a shop owner, when the New Delhi Municipal Corporation razed a few shops that belonged to Kashmiri Pandits at the INA Market.

What do the two comments tell us? That the militants are pampered or, like sacrificial goats, fattened before slaughter?

Unlike the 140 terrorist groups, the Pandit lobby is strong. It can organise itself. Displaced Pandits are now demanding reservations in the Jammu and Kashmir legislature and government jobs for the community as well as setting up of three townships in the Valley for their rehabilitation.

It is time they made these demands for the simple reason that it will take away the onus from the local Kashmiris who did not drive them out. And therefore they cannot claim to be refugees; they are regular immigrants, as much as other Kashmiris.

The Pandit issue has been romanticised. If anyone is interested they truly ought to go to the so-called refugee camps in Delhi. I revisited Amar Colony and Pamposh Enclave. I had been there as suggested by Sunita Tikoo. I told her they were all proper houses. She had smiled, “What did you expect? This was not 1947. People had begun to move things. Every Pandit had two-three bags. They were rehabilitated within a year. Our education is our strength. Some were given two-three jobs here. You won’t find a jobless Pandit. Most are well-off. If you are looking for those camps, you will find them only in Jammu.”

I managed to trace one such place in Mangolpuri in Delhi. It is most certainly spartan with common facilities. Vinati Kaul had invited me into her one-room house. She, like several others, was a victim of threats from “terrorists or someone”. There was an exodus. They approached the Kashmiri Samiti and they provided them with this place. When they first arrived the government gave a stipend of Rs. 500 for a four member family and rations every month. The payment was increased every year and is now almost Rs. 4,000. As she said, “Jagmohanji was the one who pushed things. The BJP had helped us a lot, giving us ghee and blankets. They would feel bad giving us aid because earlier we used to give them funds.”

Here too a hierarchy prevails. What one sees in the posh Pandit areas is the pugnacity of government employees and those who could afford to keep the people in power happy. They took advantage of the largesse reserved for those who needed it most. Vinati admitted, “A lot of aid comes from abroad, but it goes to the Samiti, it does not come to us.”

The power-play begins with the manner in which Panun Kashmir was born. In 1991, the Margdarshan Resolution was passed. The General Secretary’s Report mentioned about “retrieving Kashmir as a nationalist bastion” and then went on to talk about its determination “to carve out a union territory on the soil of Kashmir”.

When Ashok Pandit of Panun Kashmir once said, “We should have perhaps gone the way of the Yasin Maliks and Shabir Shahs. Perhaps the government would have taken us more seriously then”, he might have helpfully quoted figures of the number of them who have been killed or arrested by government organisations.

There is no doubt they would have faced threats from terrorists, as is most of the population. That is the reason there are so many killings taking place to this day. Who are the dead? It isn’t the Pandits because they have left. Are they concerned?

While the rest of the Valley commemorates July 13 as Martyrs Day in remembrance of a dozen Kashmiris who were killed in 1931 by the Dogra regime outside the Central jail in Srinagar, the Pandits observe September 14 as Martyr’s Day. It is not in memory of innocents but the murder in 1989 of the BJP vice-president.

They have talked about bringing technology and progress in the Valley and yet they complain about the poor conditions. They take pride in how secular they are, but they are asking for a separation on the basis of their religious identity.
It would be wise to remember that much before outside forces came into the picture, local militancy was already active. What were Kashmiris disgruntled about? Isn’t it possible that in a Muslim majority state it was the Pandits who cornered all the prime jobs? Hari Jaising in his book, Kashmir: A Tale of Shame, observed, “Strangely, the Pandits were the first to oppose the entry of ‘foreigners’ (i.e. the Punjabis) into the Valley after partition. They were afraid of losing their jobs. This shows how narrow and time-serving their aims were.”

Yet, it isn’t a government agency that has talked about providing them with security, but a militant outfit. Hurriyat Conference leader, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, has stated, “Kashmiri Pandits are a part and parcel of Kashmiri society and we will bring them back.”

Will they return? No. In a state where the army waits for a militant to grow big, their only hope is to keep reminding the authorities that chess cannot be played without pawns. And they are willing.

- - -

Also published in CounterPunch 

3.9.07

Did something happen here?

“Above all things, never be afraid. The enemy who forces you to retreat is himself afraid of you at that very moment.” Andre Maurois

I feel like telling this to those who spend a considerable amount of time challenging me, Muslims and “Pakis” (as though we are all one) to answer their silly queries.

Since they are in such a celebratory mood because we “cowards” did not take up their ‘challenge’, I may as well laud them.

Hail thee, for before thy might, the cauterised, chastised, circumcised “false” and fecund Muslims were breathing the fresh air away from the taunts…it doth surprise us that those of you who look into feeble minds so feeble yourselves be…what vile thoughts sit within you as you intone the same things? Like whiners! Like whiners!

My furrowed brow now seeks to know how you might fare on the couch yourself…what would your minds reveal about you as you shout, “Katlus”, “Jihadis”, and a chorus repeats it after you…

Aye, by my troth I say, this be sheer projection…shout it aloud, utter it again and again, for only then will you be free of the agony that assails you.
- - -

My apologies to those who have had to put up with some ‘reactions’ here. It is unfortunate that on the day I last posted I did not look at the comments. After that I did not get online at all. Now, as I read them, I have no response except pity. Pity that the person is most likely an expat who has forfeited his Indian passport and cannot accept the fact that a person of a certain community does not fit into his stereotype. Pity that he has to try to write bad English, mixing up Caps and small letters only so as not to be identifiable. Had I not been a sympathetic person, I would have laughed at the juvenile attempt. Is it fear that my so-called jihadi comrades will run after him?

On another note, a Muslim friend, yes friend, had told me a couple of months ago that I should find a Hindu rabble-rouser to keep me happy. I guess there are lots of potential happiness-givers. That is also the reason I will not permit groups to be bracketed, any group.

I might add here that I stand by whatever I have written thus far in my career. Every single word. If a few people do not know how to read and choose stray sentences to justify their agenda, I have nothing to say. Okay, I feel pity.

Elsewhere, before I had left, someone had challenged me saying that as a professional journalist I was answerable to her. I am not. These people will not dare to ask any other professional journalist and only when it suits them I become a professional journalist; otherwise, they ask, “Oh, is she one?” Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Someone else said, “Oh, she had written something on Gandhi and keeps rehashing it.” Yup. I do. At least I use my own work as my source of research; others use it, so why can’t I? It is my prerogative.

And, what I write is my opinion. I am not saying there was a fire and so many people died. I am wondering why there was a fire and how it could possibly have occurred. It is conjecture based on certain facts. I have the right to state that. So, no one has any business to ask me to provide evidence for what I think. When I state something, I start out believing in it. When you believe in something you think that it is right…that is the basis of belief. If you do not agree, then the onus is on you to provide me with information or a reasoning to prove me wrong and yourself right. Get that very clear.

This is not specific to what has happened here in the past few days.

I have removed the comments of those responding to something. The reason being that I do not intend to stop anonymous posting only due to the actions of one character, and right now I cannot moderate; the person does not deserve any attention, which is being sought; it will now look really silly to see the said person blabbering away into nothingness. I can only request the regulars here to desist from responding to such posts.

Thank you to those who wrote to me; I understand your hurt and wish it wasn’t quite like this.