05 February, 2013


If several Hindus of Gujarat - and some outside - vote for Narendra Modi, despite the serious charges levied against him on all the counts that his acolytes praise him for [pro-development, pro-poor, clean, far-sighted, humane etc] by the senior leaders of BJP, one can ask them, why? Why go for a questionable character whom Muslims hate en-masse?
From actors, to writers to common men who praise this man happen to share one characteristic unfailingly: hatred for Muslims.
Try naming a dozen achievers who have worked for Muslim inclusion, if not amelioration, and also praise Narendra Modi.
Now, if Modi-lovers want him as India’s Prime Minister, clearly they do not wish Muslims well, do not care about their sensitivities. Then, why should Muslims care about them? And accept such a person as the country’s Prime Minister? Why not launch a civil disobedience movement against him?
One strongly feels that Modi’s assumption of that office would launch a thousand mutinies, and no one can honestly fault the mutineers.
As the UPA continues to take beating, as of now, it appears plausible that BJP may emerge the largest party and this man be installed at its helm.
All valuers of humanism, secularism and national integration would do well to both thwart this possibility and also to be better prepared to face the consequences. One deal that appears politically sensible for negotiation with BJP is to demand that it publicly commits to the setting up of a Non-discrimination Commission and an Equal Opportunities Commission in the first month of its assumption of power. Eminent citizens of India may open a public debate with BJP along these lines.
Your comments for, against or about this suggestion please?

JUNE 24 2012

01 July, 2012


17 June 2012

No, this is not referring to Syed Shahabuddin’s erstwhile magazine. Nor is this ultra-right Muslims’ wishful thinking that Indians would all embrace Islam one day. Nor is this an endorsement of the Hindu right wing’s fanciful accusation that Indian vote bank politics panders to Muslims alone.

This is merely an expression to suggest that the behaviour of most Indians is quite like that of the Muslim community. Let’s see why:

Muslims claim that Islam is the fastest growing religion, that the largest number of converts in Africa, Europe and America are entering the fold of Islam. They are eagerly waiting when Muslims will outnumber Christians as the largest religious grouping of the world.
Indians [and, yes, that does include Muslims, but here it refers to the national trait, not communal one] claim that India is the world’s largest democracy, that the largest non-American nationality represented in NASA, IBM, Intel, Microsoft et al is that of Indians. They claim that Indian influence is rising globally; that India is on the verge of conquering the world by sheer strength of numbers

Muslims find all latest advances in science as already prophesied in the Quran. From big bang to quantum particles they find all in that 1400+yr old scripture. That renaissance – and enlightenment – would not have been possible without Muslim contribution. All wisdom – at least spiritual – already rests with Muslims, and there is little to learn on this count from outside Islam.
Indians [and here I largely mean Hindus] claim that eons ago they knew how to fly planes, launch missiles, lift heavy weights, cross the seas, treat diseases. They believe that from cipher to steel, paper to tea India was the cradle of ancient technology and that the invaders stole it, that ayurveda is the mother of allopathy, and yoga possesses all secrets of physical and spiritual fitness.

Muslims feel that the West, the Christians and the Jews, the Hindus and the Buddhists resent Islam, there is a clash of civilizations, they wish to crush Islam and eliminate Muslims.. So they are living under all odds, all religions and communities arraigned against them
Indians feel that the colonialists, the imperialists and the giant economies are out to cut India to size, flood India with their MNCs, create unrest, disruption and disintegration of India by funding their NGOs and buying their politicians, from US and UK far away to China and Pakistan on the borders are all their enemies.. So that they have to always be vigilant and struggle against all odds

- If we are so good, why doesn’t the world value us? After all the world out there is selfish!
- If we had all that knowledge, wisdom and technology yesterday, where has it gone now? What has become of us today?
- Both Muslims, and India as a country, include most of the poor of the world in their folds, most of them suffer disease, malnutrition, corruption, crime, unfairness within, and both record a very poor human development index. Why?
- Why is it that our numbers are abandoning us and emigrating to ‘the enemy’ territory at great costs? Muslims are abandoning ‘Islamic countries’ [Darul Islam] for sinful lands [Darul Harb], as are Indians emigrating to them, too, for prosperity and pelf.

If Muslims are this wise, have such a great heritage, possess so much God-given wisdom.. why don’t they improve their lot dramatically - and become net givers to the world? If Indians are so capable of running foreign businesses and institutions why don’t they run their home industry and institutions better?

Isn’t it more honest to accept that we are lacking in many respects and that is why some of us move out to greener pastures? While we did give many things to give the world – and gave are giving it even now – the picture we paint is more fanciful than realistic.

Doesn't read pleasant? Not in good taste? But truly I did not write this one to please, but to invite an honest introspection.

Please join the debate and throw in your ideas on how to emerge out of this morass?


17 June 2012

A mail is doing rounds appealing to Indians to boycott foreign products - from shaving blades to shampoos, shoes to shirts, so as "to boost the Indian economy".

Clearly this well-intended mail is based on ill-informed economics. And on a jaundiced notion of citizenship. Here are some questions:

- what is the share of foreign investment in the so-called Indian companies?
- how patriotic, humane, socially conscious is the patronized company?
- what is the extent of CSR [corporate social responsibility] work being undertaken by a particular MNC in India?
- what is the extent of the investment being made by that company in India's infrastructure development?
- what is the pricing policy behind a particular product / service? What if the MNC product offers greater value at lesser price compared with an 'Indian' company? What about the disguised loss thus incurred by the Indians?
- if Indian small scale industries start buying their generators, turbines, furnaces, thermal control switch gear etc of inferior quality from Indian companies boycotting foreign companies under this logic and consequently produce fewer and shoddy products, how would the Indian economy benefit?
- what if other countries, too, start boycotting Indian products, shunting out Indian professionals, regardless of obligations under treaties and conventions for open trade and free movement that most nations have signed?

In such a globally integrated economy as ours, where Indian MNCs are significant global players themselves, such parochial ways may only be counter-productive besides being bad economics.

Personally to me more efficient administration, a full day's honest work at offices and factories by all Indians, stricter conservation of resources, better distribution of income, diversification of resources towards more productive purposes, total ban on production-impairing activities like Bharat bandh, go slow, work to rule, strikes etc would appeal better.
And to you?


14 June 2012

This is amongst the saddest stories i should ever be telling. Read only if you have the heart to stomach both anguish and revulsion. I don't have the heart to even edit it.

June 12, 2012 was otherwise a routine morning for me. As I was sipping my daily cup of milk that Tuesday on my dining table, my domestic maid was cleaning the front portion of our drawing room. In an unusually disgusting voice she screamed from the outside “Sir, darwaze ke paas se bahut gandi badboo aa rahi hai” [it is smelling extremely foul near the door]. Known to suffer the uncultured living of the people upstairs I mistook this for something rotten thrown by them into our little garden. I promised to talk to them and immersed into the pages of the three newspapers, that have come to virtually form my breakfast.

My house is a small complex of six ‘duplex’ flats owned by four occupants. All Muslims but barely does one talk to another, polarized as most of us are by our petty egos, and pampered self-righteousness.

My immediate neighbour, Salim Shams, had three cute children – a son and two daughters. Every evening when I returned after a tiring day at work I envied the joyful noises coming from this immediate neighbour’s house on the other side of our wall. Our ground floor flats also each had a small garden. His was a shade better than mine.
Committed to the long term empowerment, shaping of the values and mental and intellectual development of my only son and wife, I often thought I was a perfect father, a complete husband. But I was sometimes unsure if they thought of me so, too.

And here was Shams, who would take his wife and children out every evening for a joy ride, before going out for his pan and masala, and perhaps a puff, a second time. Their loud laughter accompanied often by the sound of the songs and dialogues of movies they must be watching on TV often punctured the silence of our house late into most nights. Taking a cue from him I started paying more attention to my family’s ‘short term’ joys and interests, contrary to my notion of what was actually good for them.

And then, suddenly all this stopped. We came to know that Salim’s family had separated. His wife left with their children, never again to return. No more the joyful screams, not anymore the familiar noise of daily outings, all felt silent. Salim became alone, but in the typical middle class consciousness would not clearly break free or start over again. In the years that followed sometimes he related to me the developments around moves for unification, divorce and property distribution.

Immediately after the Gujarat genocide of 2002 I and my wife signed a divorce, too, and formally separated a year later. Thus I have also been living ‘alone’ - although some interns – Indian and foreign – and some staff of SPRAT would often stay at my house, thus giving me some company. [SPRAT is the NGO I had founded in the wake of this mayhem, to promote harmony, rationality and empowerment]. Deeply involved in its affairs I scarcely had any time for social niceties, and to introspect my condition, my joys - or absence thereof.

It was this long and virtually stable scenario that was punctured by that scream of my maid, which I had so casually dismissed, as a typical everyday occurrence of uncivil middle class living. A few minutes later I had reached page three of DNA newspaper. And there it was. A few words under a kind of heading that we have all come to dismiss as normal: ‘Dead body found in Kashmera Society’. It went on to say how on the neighbour’s complaint police broke open Salim Sham’s house to find his corpse apparently rotting for three days in his bed room.

Salim was no great hero - I may even concede not a very desirable person. Scarcely did he reach out to others. But equally I never found him a nuisance, a threat to society or someone capable of harming anyone on intent. He was like the rest of one billion of us, more or less. Post divorce he had become a virtual recluse, retiring to his TV after earning his daily bread. No maid or friends used to visit him.

Given the culture of our society no one would bother to interact with the other. And so there he was, left to himself. Apparently he suffered some serious ailment [although rumours also mention suicide, poison, murder et al] and no one heard his despairs. Died inside his bedroom all alone right in the midst of people on all four sides and also upstairs. And yet no one had an inkling of his anguish, much less of his death. Until the most foul stench of his body announced his tragic end.

Bacterial biology takes into account no deeds, good or bad. Their job is to infect, rot, recycle. Someone’s death is someone else’s life. Human body houses trillions of cells, billions of bacteria, litres of blood, and significant amount of digested and undigested food and excreta, at any particular point of time. All these are perishable products. Within hours food if not refrigerated turns stale. Left in the open overnight it smells so bad we can’t handle. Our body is no different. For all our deeds, ambitions, aspirations, achievements, powers and positions, once dead our body just smells. Everybody’s body does. It is another of the irrefutable laws of nature. Our irrationality may propagate myriad fancied myths but the fact remains: bodies rot. And when they do, they smell most foul.

And yet I was aghast human body smells this bad, this unbearably foul. Salim Shams most certainly did not have to die this way, in the midst of all of us. Non one should. But then don’t we read of hundreds – sometimes thousands – of rotting bodies in Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and a dozen other places every so often due to pestilence and war? Adolf Hitlers and Pol Pots killed in thousands and heaped up their skulls as trophies. Did these humans have to die this way? Small children completely incapable of even distinguishing between sin and piety; helpless women and the elderly. They all rot. And end up becoming our daily news. And statistics.

But this one news also smelt. And read very very bad. Even as I paid silent homage to the memories of a harmless neighbour I asked where did his achievements, marriage, factory, shops, family.. all end up: in the molecules most foul entering the nostrils of his neighbours.

Salim Shams now around 51 was a son, a brother, husband and father, an employer, a vendor, a customer. A neighbour. A human being.

So am I. And so may I end up in some people’s nostrils one day! Beware!

Yes, Zulfi Sheth, Qamar Faruki, Anis Faruki, Geeta Charusivam and Sayema Sahar gone are those days of open access and shared living. We are now modern people: living by the Internet and TV, by ourselves, isolated and introverted, unsharing and uncaring. And uncared for. We have come to befriend loneliness as the panacea as Ashraf Gul says. What else can we do, helpless as we are in the tide of the times?

As our places got bigger - from villages to cities and metros and from polls and mohallas to townships - we shrank smaller, narrower and bigoted. As inter-dependence becomes more and more institutionalized and stigmatized we choose to keep to our ways and when we inadvertently cross the paths, we find it best to look the other way.

Gandhiji probably saw this coming: he advocated small, self-contained and more empowered villages that would have prevented this exodus to cities making them unlivable and unlovable.

In his death Salim Shams left us a reminder to review our lives. I for one feel deeply humbled at the ordinariness of our being. And a little more resolved to join you all to work towards making our lives worthwhile while we are still walking

Asna Pervez it is the proverbial me vs us dilemma. Each one of us feels the wrong and yet is incapable of correcting the wrong working collectively. No one in our apartment would condone what happened to Salim Shams. And yet no one appears to have taken any cognizant action to preempt its recurrence. If one thought the building is cursed, the other lamented ethnic diversity. It is always the same.

But I beseech you to enlarge the problem to be able to assess the dilemma of the entire Muslim community - or, for that matter, of a typical urban agglomeration. Probably the situation is no different. So let us address the larger issue ignoring the specificity of this particular tragedy


14 June 2012

We all know that Mr Modi is past master at fooling all the people all the time. Most of us even in the social sector condescendingly and approvingly talk of his ‘development’. Here is his development story completely busted.

1. During 1995-2000 and 2001-10, Gujarat increased its annual rate of growth from 8.01% to 8.68%. But so is the case with other major states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh… Even smaller states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have registered growth of 11.01% and 8.96%, respectively.

2. During 2004-09 in Industrial Growth rate hitherto backward states like Orissa [17.53%] and Chattisgarh [13.3%] have far surpassed Gujarat [12.65%].

3. In the area of credit-deposit ratio, Gujarat is far behind other major states.

4. In terms of per capita income (PCI), in 2011, Gujarat ranked sixth among major states with PCI

5. Though Gujarat, with 31.8% people below the poverty line did better than Maharashtra and Karnataka, it still lagged behind Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, where poverty levels were 19.7%, 20.9%, 22.9% and 24.1%, respectively

6. On three important social indicators, viz life expectancy at birth (LEB), mean years of schooling (MYS) and school life expectancy (SLE), Gujarat is far behind some other states.

7. With respect to Human Deve-lopment Index (HDI), Gujarat's story is devastating. The HDI for Gujarat, in 2008, was 0.527 and it ranked 10 {+t} {+h} among major states. Kerala stood first (HDI: 0.790), Himachal Pradesh scored 0.652, Punjab 0.605, Maharashtra 0.572 and Haryana 0.552.

8. Shockingly, in terms of hunger — as revealed by the 'State Hunger Index 2008' — Gujarat ranked 13th among 17 big states and worse than Orissa.

9. In Gujarat, the percentage of women suffering from anaemia has risen from 46.3% in 1999 to 55.5% in 2004, and amongst children from 74.5% to 80.1%.

Who is saying all this: Bhalchandra Mungekar, a member of the Rajya Sabha and former member, Planning Commission

For the full story check out the Times of India of Jun 12, 2012, “Myth and Reality” or clickhttp://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-06-12/edit-page/32176123_1_gujarat-narendra-modi-industrial-growth