India’s Foreign Policy Rhetorical Shift

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 November 2013 | Posted in , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has outlined five priorities of Indian foreign policy that his government has evolved during its nine years of rule to firm up India's place in changing world order.

The Indian Prime Minister claimed that his government has reset the fundamentals of India’s foreign policy based on national priorities and concerns in concert with its capabilities and role and destiny in the world affairs.

First, international relations are increasingly shaped by our developmental priorities and the single most important objective of Indian foreign policy is to create a global environment conducive to the well-being of our country.

Second, India should integrate more closely with the global economy because it has benefited from globalization.

Third, India seeks stable, long term and mutually beneficial relations with all countries and is prepared to work with the international community to create a global economic and security environment beneficial to all nations.

Fourth, "Indian subcontinent's shared destiny requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity."

Fifth, "Our foreign policy is not defined merely by our interests, but also by the values which are very dear to our people.”

There is sub text in all the five points enumerated by the Prime Minister as his fundamentals of India’s foreign policy.

As far as his first point on creating global environment conducive for India, Prime Minister meant, he wants to create a global economic and security environment as India's relations with the world were increasingly shaped by its developmental priorities.

His second point is on globalization and likes India to integrate with global economy as our country would benefit a lot by greater integration with the world economy.

His third point maintaining long term relationship with all nations so that international community can freely invest in India and help in country's developmental activities.

His fourth point is lays emphasis on regionalism in recognition that the sub-continent's common destiny requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity. He likes India to strengthen regional institutional capability and capacity and invest in connectivity.

His fifth point on vales meant India's experiment of pursuing economic development should not be mercantilist but based on values. He defined India's core values as plural, secular and liberal democracy. He opinioned these values have inspired people around the world and would continue to do so. He would like India to align with such countries that espouse these values.

When we apply these five point objectives in the context of what India wish to achieve and where does it see itself in the changing world order, then the stark realities glares at our face.

The first foreign policy objective of creating global environment for developmental activities in the country does not sink with the domestic conditions prevailing for development in our country. The government policy of creating economic zones has run into trouble and many foreign investors have backed out due to lack of conductive global environment for investors. There is need to sort out India’s domestic developmental priorities before we promise to create friendly global conditions.

Second, pushing the cart of globalization is a mountain to climb. If globalization is the panacea of the mankind, then why there are nation states? Today, if a referendum is held on globalization, Manmohan government can only survive with the tricks it adopted to pass Indo-US civil nuclear deal, bribing the Parliamentarians.

Even though globalization can bring significant improvement but it has to answer some traditional nationalist questions like 'self-sufficiency' and 'self-reliance.' This has a huge challenge India has to tackle on the issue of globalization.

Third, point on seeking mutually beneficial relations and create a global economic and security environment beneficial to all nations seems to be rhetoric. When Indian economy was buoyed by 8-9 per cent growth and aiming higher growth, such words may sound music, but now when we are slipping to the Hindu rate of growth, such statement is mere hyperbole. The global economic slowdown and India’s economic mismanagement cast a shadow on this foreign policy objective.

On regionalism, Manmohan Singh’s idea of having "breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul," may remain a dream. SAARC, the organization that’s pushing this agenda, is closing 40 years now and still taking baby steps. There is total disconnect between the talk and the realities on ground. There is no peace in India’s periphery and there is tension with all its neighbors, barring Bhutan. Terrorism poses a bigger challenge, not only to India but also to its neighbors. There is no sign of its containment. Besides, there are host of issues that vitiate peace in the subcontinent. So how this foreign policy objective of India could be achieve?

The last point on values is like saying; “I once had a girlfriend called America, she went on and on about freedom, while spying on me all the time!”

As Manmohan Singh talked about core values of India’s foreign policy objective, India’s Army Chief was delivering War games softwares and other deadly consignment to the Military Junta of Myanmar. In the war against the ethnic minorities in Myanmar, Indian weapons are freely used and against the rebels, who were fighting for the same values that India cherish. Those rebels had flashed to the media, ‘made in India bullets’ meant to kill them. So Papyji don’t preach! Is this the moral values you are talking about?

Manmohan Singh instead of making India’s foreign policy as another ‘Pachsheel’ if had stuck to his articulations made in 2004 as three point objectives, it would have been more modest summary of his international relations.

He had then said, the strategy was based on three pillars: "First, strengthen ourselves economically and technologically; Second, acquire adequate defence capability, and third, to seek partnerships to widen our policy and developmental options." He may have added this time that these are policies are at work has to be continued in future.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Policy paralysis catapults reforms vision to save India

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 November 2013 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The big debate in India is whether there is crisis of leadership or there is crisis of vision and mission to run the country. While there can be endless debate on the leadership issue, there exists a consensus on policy paralysis and India is in dire need of reforms at various levels to redeem itself.

An interesting book "Reforms to Save India" by S. Gokulraj lists out number of suggestions that need attention, although some may be laughing stock and quite out of context. Notwithstanding the facts, the author wants to convey the message that India needs systemic change in order to gallop on the highway of progress.

Attacking on the electoral system of India the author makes some pointed reference towards electoral reforms. He says the solution for general elections is to have a Single Transfer Direct Preferential voting system as it is followed to select the President of India. This will empower the people to select the person they want directly as they cast a primary vote for a person of their choice and a secondary vote for their second choice. He suggests that there should be provision for recall of the representative after two-and-a-half-years, if he fails to perform.

The author also sees problem in the way our Parliament functions. He finds it lethargic procedural and slow in operation. As part of Parliamentary reforms, he suggests the President of India should be made the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the question hour should be at the start of the proceedings and not in the end.

He also likes to see reforms in the system of Cabinet of Ministers, which constitute the government. He suggests that at the ministerial level, there should be three ministers for every Ministry. A Ministry should have an executive minister with the specific background of the portfolio he holds, and he should be selected by the UPSC. Then there should be a shadow minister from the opposition party, the third be an elected representative from the ruling party. He insists that proper educational qualification should be mandatory for handling the ministry.

Getting down on the issue of accountability, the author demands that the employees in Government offices should be made accountable. There should be monthly targets of work and this has to be audited on monthly basis. In finance and administration, he recommends, a self-sufficient revenue model.

He wants to see municipal reforms and likes each municipal corporation maintain a treasury and use 50 per cent of the money for developmental activities. He also mentions introduction of EVCC (Electronic Voting and Complaint Registration Card) which can be used as an ATM card to register complaints on bad roads and drains. The author is of the view that this model would help faster implementation of development activities in the cities towns and districts of India.

Turning his attention to the villages that is sulking in penury, he advocates Corporate Cluster Cooperative Farming in agriculture, where corporate houses adopt villages, invest money in agriculture, and buy the produce from the farmers in bulk.

He wants reforms in the employment exchange level and likes the government to help the economically weaker sections of the society. As a means to rehabilitate such people, he suggests attaching them to the agencies such as the employment exchange that may generate jobs for them in the Government or in Corporate Sectors.

Coming to judicial reforms, he wants a compounded court system for the entire judicial apparatus. Such complex should have multiple of courts to deal with crime, social issues, family problems, business and corruption. There should deadlines for the judges to clear the cases and their progress should be audited.

S. Gokulraj also wants reforms in the UPSC that selects officers under a complex examination pattern to govern India. He rebukes on the current selection system saying one exam selects officers for 24 postings and because of the ranking system; a qualified doctor is posted to look after the revenue department. He is of the view that the best of the talent can be put to use in the respective fields by conducting individual exams in that particular field. The selected candidates should then be given appointment in the respective departments.

Even though, there may be many shortcomings in the prognosis of Reforms to Save India, one thing that stands out is the author is able to provoke that there is in need of reform at various levels, if our country is to run like a well oiled machine.

The policy paralysis is apparent. At the corporate level the policy is to make rich, richer, so that a white and blue collared class is develop to live as hangers on. We protected our industries for forty years since independence and in the process created our own capitalist class. When we opened our economy in the 90s, it is same the class which benefited from the liberalized policies. Those who made cycles in the protected regime started making motor cycles in the liberalized environment.

Here one needs to understand the operational dynamics of democracy that works on party system and parties need money for contest the mammoth elections. A corporate class is essential to finance such democracy and to distract is being touted as growth engines of the nation. Even though being very small and electorally insignificant, this class holds leverage over the systems of governance in the country.

While at the urban setup, at the corporate level, the parasite policy is at work, in the rural level where the actual vote bank exits, a different policy is being followed. Here the policy is to make the large farmers poorer, robbing their holdings and conditions being created to push them out from farming. This plan has succeeded to an extent, having its own repercussions, the plan to uplift the marginalized section in the farming sector remains in fits and starts.

Now there is the talk is to bring corporate sector into farming and develop the same parasite model in the rural areas as well. What is this? Is this not policy paralysis?

What this discussion has brought to fore is that our country needs reforms that has to be well thought out. The current method of our plans and policies is ridden with deficiencies and has done no good to our country.

If the book ‘Reforms to Save India’ is of any worth, it is only in the realm of to raise the consciousness of the people to long for reforms. This aspiration has to grow thick and fast, if we want to make our country a true functional democracy.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Hyderabad’s Fall and Sunderlal Report

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 06 October 2013 | Posted in , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are so many facts that the successive Indian government has hidden from its citizens and one such is the publication of the Sunderlal report that probed the Hyderabad communal flare up, soon after the military action against India’s largest Muslim Princely state in 1948.

The report that has been kept in wraps, chronicles the horrendous crime committed against humanity in the aftermath of the amalgamation of the Princely state with the Indian dominion. More than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution and revenge.

The report that was commissioned by the government of India was considered to be so sensitive and inflammable that it was kept under lock and keys and was never brought to the public domain. Now almost Sixty Five years after its submission, the report is available at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, as part of declassified document.

The State of Hyderabad was one of 500 Princely states of India that enjoyed autonomy under the British rule. At the time independence, all of the Princely states agreed to join the Indian Union, except Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir.

While the story of Junagarh and Kashmir is a different narrative, Hyderabad’s Muslim ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, insisted on remaining independent. This led to an acrimonious stand-off between New Delhi and Hyderabad and the dispute was taken to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, armed militia called Razakar, sprung up to protect the Hyderabad state. Some say, it had tacit support of the ruler, but apparently, it was the armed wing of a Muslim political party, that had issues with the princely rule.

The members of the militia supposedly held drills in and around Hyderabad and terrorized the non Muslims population. This incensed people and New Delhi was ceased of the matter.

After a yearlong high drama and without any settlement in sight, the government in New Delhi sent its armed forces to take over Hyderabad in September 1948.

One division of the Indian army and a tank brigade under Major General Choudhry marched into Hyderabad. The battle was swift, the Nizam’s troops and the Razakars were defeated within few days of army’s invasion.

Since the case of Hyderabad at the United Nation, the military action was called ‘Police Action’ and was code named ‘Operation Polo.’

Surprisingly, the so called Police Action was peaceful in taking over Hyderabad and there was no significant loss of life of the civilian population in the city.

The Nizam saved himself and his kith and kin, with witnesses saying that he had tacit agreement with the government India. Facts or fiction, some say, the Hyderabad ruler allowed the India army to plunder his treasury, and each solider made a killing in that loot of the treasure trove.

However, what followed the invasion of the Indian army in the ruler areas of Hyderabad was a sordid tale against humanity about which the current generation is totally unaware.

The poor Muslim population was left at the mercy of the wolves and for several days’ arson, looting, rape and massacre continued with impunity in many districts. The Hindus formed special vigilante groups and singled out poor Muslims in the villages and put them to death. There was total silence in Hyderabad, when bigotry, savagery, and brutality nakedly danced at its diabolic best in its districts.

Those innocent Muslims who perished in that organized crime, had nothing to do with the standoff between the ruler of Hyderabad and the Indian Union. They were left with no protection and became scapegoat to the Hindus anger against the Princely state.

Commentators have analyzed the animosity as the desire of the Hindu populace to extinguish a Muslim state at the heart of India. Some call it extraction of cancer from the predominantly Hindu country. It’s estimated that more than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution.

The tale of the atrocities of this crime were so horrifying that then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru commissioned a small team of Congress leaders to investigate the matter.

The commission was led by a Congressman, Pandit Sunderlal and included Kazi Abdul Ghaffar and Moulana Abdulla Misri were its other members.

The Sunderlal team made a three weeks tour of Hyderabad in Nov-Dec 1948. It visited 7 district headquarters, 21 towns and 23 important villages, and interviewed over 500 people from 109 such villages. At each place the team carefully chronicled the accounts of Muslims who had survived the appalling violence.

The Sunderlal report which is now available, mentions; "We had absolutely unimpeachable evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian Army and also to the local police took part in looting and even other crimes. At a number of places members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males... and massacred them.”

"During our tour we gathered, at many places, soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses."

The team reported that while Muslims villagers were disarmed by the Indian Army, Hindus were often left with their weapons.

In some cases, it said, Indian soldiers themselves took an active part in the butchery: "At a number of places, members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males from villages and towns and massacred them. They were lined up and shot in cold blooded manner.”

The investigation team also reported, however, in many other instances the Indian Army had behaved well and protected Muslims.

In confidential notes attached to the Sunderlal report, its authors detailed the gruesome nature of the Hindu revenge: "In many places we were shown wells still full of corpses that were rotting. In one such we counted 11 bodies, which included that of a woman with a small child sticking to her breast. "

And it goes on: "We saw remnants of corpses lying in ditches. At several places the bodies had been burnt and we would see the charred bones and skulls still lying there."

The Sunderlal report estimated that between 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives. The worst sufferers were in the districts of Osmanabad, Gulburga, Bidar and Nanded, where the loss of life was estimated to be 18,000. This retribution was said to be in response to years of intimidation and violence by the Razakars.

Well, there were three forces at work in Hyderabad leading towards its fall. The first was the Asafjahi dynasty that symbolized the last flicker of the Muslim rule in India. It steadfastly liked to cling to power, and drew its strength from the British rule. When it was clear that the colonial masters were certain to leave Indian shores, like other Princely states Hyderabad too was left rudderless. Its fervent appeal to British for independence felt on deaf ears due to the landlocked nature of the Princely state.

To the rulers of Hyderabad, Congress was an anathema due to latter’s stand to end the entire princely rule. The Nizam was not interested in Muslim League either. He shouted on top of his voice when Jinnah visited Hyderabad to enlist his support. Perhaps he never thought that he would ever be dethroned!

Alas, when the end came, as its last hope, the same person tried to latch on to the moth eaten Pakistan which proved to be his nemesis. Soon Hyderabad state was consigned to the pages of history.

The second force was the communist movement that was seething in the under belly of Hyderabad state due to its feudal character. The class struggle had begun much before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. The communist wanted to carve out a separate state on the same geographical space of the princely kingdom. The communist leaders had even gone to Moscow, to get endorsement for the first communist state to be carved out of India. Their proposal too was shot down for the same reasons having lacking in port facility. Nonetheless, the anti feudal agenda of the communists worked against the Princely state.

In this triangular contest, the Indian National Congress was the rising force that rode the wave of freedom struggle. It was among these band of nationalist were some black sheep’s, who nursed the anti Muslims sentiments. Their activities were checked by the Razakars, but this in turn solidified the anti Muslim anger among them. During the endgame, they took it out on the poor Muslim masses, leading to one of the bloodiest anti- Muslim program in independent Indian history.

The Sunderlal report that investigated this massacre in Hyderabad was so horrifying that it was never shown the light of the day. Few Indians, today have any idea about this shocking event.

Though no official explanation has been given to keep the report under wraps, it’s widely speculated that in the powder-keg years that followed independence, the news of what happened in Hyderabad might have sparked Hindu- Muslim riots.

Now when the Sunderlal report is available in the public domain, one wonders, why there is stock silence in the media, opinion makers and secular leaders about this event.

Even all these decades later, does not the nation have the right to know why the government-commissioned report was not published? What happened in the Hyderabad state, after its fall? Why such a important piece of history is being kept aside even when the Sunderlal report is now available for public discussion.

It is such a pity, when we watch some ludicrous topics being discussed on the TV, and a host of analysts with diverse opinion making their point of view, why there is no discussion on the TV channels. More shocking is, no editorials are being written, no social media is trying to un-layer this gory past.

What a shame, as Indians we, abhor to mention how inhuman and brutal some people were when they slaughtered 40,000 human lives. Well some say this may not serve any purpose, but for those who feel claustrophobic about the whole incident, it may at least help them to breathe easy.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Muzafarnagar Riot warrant Communal Violence Bill

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 16 September 2013 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are two things that warrant attention for the immediate passing of Communal Violence Bill, in the post Muzafarnagar riots analysis.
Can India which is slipping closer to the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ afford the burden of communal riots and internal turmoil in the country and further slow down its economic progress?

Second, can the identity politics that’s so vigorously perused be would be allowed to gallop on, inviting the tag of India being a ‘moving anarchy?’

The instance of Muzafarnagar and Tamil Nadu suggest that, differences between individuals are no longer between people concerned and the identity of Jati, caste, religion gets activated in no time leading to communal riots.
Can India afford such development, if it likes to drive on the growth curb? If not, then there is an urgent need to pass the Communal Violence Bill for maintaining peace and prosperity of the country.

The Communal Violence Bill announced by the UPA government in May 2004, soon after coming to power, was a revolutionary call. The bill aimed to stop the repeat of 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, gave a huge relief among the minority community, living under the constant shadow of insecurity.

However, somewhere done the line, the plot seems to be lost. The incumbent government has more reasons to pilot other bills than make efforts to see through the Communal Violence Bill become an Act. As a result this Bill is gathering dust from past nine years now.

In the wake of Muzafarnagar riot, Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde came out with a statement that the communal situation in the country is going to deteriorate ahead of the general elections due in 2014. He however maintained a stoic silence o how to contain it. He was at a total loss of memory about the Communal Violence Bill and was clueless about the time frame of its tabling it in the Parliament.

It’s an irony that from past nine years, consensus on the Communal Violence Bill is eluding. The result is the union government is shying away to use its residual power to prevail over the state government in wake of communal riot and put a lid over this crime against humanity.

As of now, the Center cannot interfere in the affairs of the provinces and can only appeal to the state government to control the situation, in the wake of the eruption of a communal riot.

The Communal Violence Bill is supposed to give powers to the central government to intervene into the states in wake of a breakdown of the law and order situation.

However, there are two contentious issues that need to be ironed out, before the Bill tabled in the Parliament. First, can a communal situation in a state be dealt with by the Central government without encroaching upon the state’s rights of maintaining law and order?

Second, can the deployment of central forces be done independently and such forces can act independently or it has to do at the request of the state government and act under its command?

Opinion seems to be divided on both the issue and is cited as the reason for keeping the Communal Violence Bill in abeyance. This logjam is well over nine years now.

Notwithstanding the rights of the states, the fact remains that in the name of state autonomy and its exclusive right over 'law and order', the Central government cannot remain a silent specter to the instances of communal orgy taking place in several states, time and again.

The 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, that warranted the Bill, has lived up to its reputation. Communal riots are happening in the country with immunity. The state governments have repeatedly failed to control the situation.

In such case what stops the central government from promulgating this law. Is it a bankruptcy of ideas or a deliberate design to keep the communal pot boiling?

The riots in Muzafarnagar that has claimed over 34 lives, once again reiterate the necessity for the passing of the Communal Violence Bill.
Muzafarnagar is closer to Delhi and the loss of lives could have been prevented, if the Central government had acted swiftly to control the situation.
In Muzafarnagar, the communal tension was brewing for some time. It exploded after the Maha-Panchayat, where inflammatory speeches were made, that triggered communal mayhem.

The riot in Muzafarnagar is a clear cut of the slackness of the state administration unable to keep the communal forces in check. The building communal tension was farther aggravated by the state government’s permission to hold the Maha-Panchayat.

What was the necessity of its permission in the wake of rising communal temperature one fails to understand? Was Samajwdi party shuffling two cards, one of minority fear and other majority, and keep both insecure?

It’s a clear cut case, where if the Communal Violence bill was in place, and the Central government would have intervened and many lives could have been saved.

As it happens after every riot, motives are attributed to the events and the blame game circulates stories of aggrieved and revenge. The fact remains, in all such situation, its innocent people who lose their lives.

It’s ominous that the fatalities could have been avoided if the state administration had acted with a little intelligence and responsibility. However, its total sloppy approach allowed the situation to deteriorate.

This helped a well thought out plan to carry out a communal program against the minorities, similar to the post Godhra riots.

A cursory look at the history of all the communal riots in the country suggests that Muzafarnagar riot was not isolated event. In the larger picture of the communal program carried out intermittently in the country, it tells the similar story, as others.

The communal violence invariably flares up around skirmishes among religious communities and the state administration allows it to escalate. The extremists then go on the rampage unleashing an orgy of death and mayhem. When enough damage is done and media pressure becomes unmanageable, the authorities then put their act together and swing into action to control the situation.

In case of Muzafarnagar riot, this is exactly what had happened. Here the naked vote bank politics for consolidating the majority and minority vote banks was at its lethal display.

Since last sixty years, this is the pet theme of communal politics in India. The negative politics of hate is a tried and tested formula in Indian politics. First, create a sharp polarization in the society, and then ride on the insecurity wave of the communities. It happens each time at the expense of the minority community.

In this game, the Congress and the BJP are outwitting each other at several places, in Uttar Pradesh it’s the Samajwadi Party and the BJP that are battling it out currently.

Since communalism is one of the many tools on which politics centers in India, no political party wants to get it eliminated. Some parties may talk about banishing it from the society; but in their hearts view it as a holy cow that can be milked any time for electoral gains.

The Muzafarnagar riot has given enough indication of what future has in store, ahead of the general elections of 2014. If future communal riots have to be controlled, then Communal Violence Bill has to be brought out at once.

One wonders why UPA government that’s now coming close to two terms in office, is still shying away to bring the Communal Violence Bill. This is giving rise to suspicion among the minority community that it’s not seriousness of their welfare. Their disenchantment brewing among them may have serious repercussions for the future of the Congress led government at the centre.

It’s high time the UPA government should bring out a statutory order that Centre can have the exclusive right to intervene in event of breakdown of communal situation in the state.

Any further waste of time would be an invitation for another saga of communal riot somewhere else in the country.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

PEOPLE: Syed Ghani Khan -- A Curator of Paddy Seeds

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 September 2013 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Some 35 kilometers from the city of palaces, Mysore, sits an orchard, hidden with shrubs, trees and sugarcane, called Bada Bagh. It was once famed for its flavored mangoes, but now has become popular for being a museum of traditional rice seeds.

Bada Bagh is actually located in Kirugavulu village at Malavalli taluk in Mandya district of Karnataka. With paddy panicles of different colors, size and shapes, each lined up next to each other, the view of the lush paddy fields is amazing. It’s a real visual treat for urban dwellers grown up in the concrete jungles.

Bada Bagh is managed by an organic farmer Syed Ghani Khan who has collected over 600 varieties of paddy seeds and is spearheading the message of ‘Save our Rice Campaign’.

It is very difficult to catch this young and energetic farmer, as he is always surrounded by farmers, who come to him to get the new variety of seed that he has archived, but as the adage goes; when there is a will there is a way.

Talking to Ghani Khan at length helps to construct the picture of a farmer who is trying to revive the lost legacy of traditional paddy plants through organic method of farming. He is planting paddy seeds and retrieves them and archives them in his museum for posterity. He is also distributing them to farmers for promoting the cause of ‘Save our Rice Campaign’.

Like most converted organic farmers, Ghani tells his story in a humble way. "I was studying archaeology and wanted to become a curator of a museum, when fate struck and my father passed away. As the eldest son of an Indian family, I was called to take his place and take care of the family and manage the family farm. I was 22 then, my four brothers were all in their teens," he said.

Describing about the Bada Bagh, Ghani says, this place was bequeathed to his family by the great king Tippu Sultan and till recently was known for its tasteful variety of mangoes.

“We were dry land farmers. Then the Krishnaraja Sagar dam was built and we all had the Cauvery water. Most of the farmers chopped down the mango trees and planted rice in large scale. With this started wide spread hybrid cultivation and the region lost almost all the traditional rice variety that then existed.”

"Initially I too started with hybrid farming but one day I fainted while spraying chemicals on the crop. That made me thinks about alternative method of farming. I wondered if it was possible to do farming without chemicals. This event actually started my journey towards organic farming.”

Ghani Khan who is now an organic farmer for a little over 10 years says while hybrids have outstanding qualities, the ability to reproduce themselves is clearly not one of them. In his effort to shrug off modern hybrid rice seeds and return to more nutritious and health traditional rice seed, he narrates his experience candidly.

"Once my uncle brought a variety of paddy seed that I didn't recognize, I planted it and kept asking him and others about it but none knew anything about it. Then one day an agricultural scientist visited our farm and he was able to identify it. He told that it was a drought resistant variety of paddy that was traditionally grown in Mysore - Mandya region but has been lost in our collective memory.”

This prompted a spark in Ghani khan’s funnel and he embarked upon the idea to go after tracing all the paddy seeds that were getting lost. His curiosity developed into the eagerness to collect all such rice variety and save them for posterity.

He started collecting what was locally available first. He then moved to the adjoining states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra.

In a span of 8 years, Ghani Khan collected over 600 varieties of rice seeds. Each variety has distinct flavors, and come in many different and unique colors, sizes, and shapes.

Ghani Khan started archiving them by giving new found number to each of such variety. As he didn't know the name of the seed, he developed his distinct style of labeling; Ghani Khan New Found Number- GKNF 786 / 2013. He has a wide diversity of wetland, dry-land, medicinal, aromatic, irrigated variety of rice seeds.

Ghani is maintaining different paddy strains to keep alive the evolutionary processes. He has developed skills in the art of seed production and has the ability to select the best seeds.

"I conserve them in the field each year, I plant, multiply and save all the seeds, also give them to farmers who assure will be saving them and returning me twice the amount.”

“As a matter of principles I don't give the seeds to the companies developing rice seeds...I know farmers are more genuine... even though it means a loss each year, but I am not doing it for sales, it’s my hobby my passion. I always wanted to be museum curator, and, now, I am a curator of a living museum", his face chuckles with a bloated smile.

Ghani Khan, lives in a large joint family, one brother has moved for livelihood to Bangalore and one more is a qualified technician, one helps him in the field. He manages his family farm of 15 acres with the support of other family members. He is not sure when the division of the land will happen in his family what will be left for him in future. He hopes his children will take interest and involve themselves in the farming. He is not confident that they will ever do that.

Beyond all those regular challenges of farming, Ghani Khan holds the rare distinction of having a 'living museum" of which he is the proud curator. A museum where every variety of paddy seeds conserved narrates a story of its own; history, location, lineage, features, benefits etc.

Ghani’s concern for conservation of biodiversity has in fact got many farmers interested in traditional varieties. His farm in the outskirts of his village has grown into one of the largest experimental restoration plots, drawing visitors from villages far and near.

More than 2000 farmers have taken seeds from him and he is on the verge of setting up a trust and getting things a bit more organized. His experiment has enthralled scientists and officials, who have applauded his venture.

India being a diversity country has a plethora of traditional paddy varieties which are nutritious and developed over centuries. The traditional strains are more resistant to drought and could be an answer to the climate change. So saving them is a great act of service to the nation.

Ghani’s story is a tale of a farmer who with a bit of imagination and hard work has made his name encrypted in the record books. With over 600 paddy variety and with a mission of creating more, Ghani khan has became an institution in himself. It would be joke to call him just an ordinary paddy farmer.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Communalism gaining ground in North India

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 12 August 2013 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is a series of communal riots of low intensity happening in north India. The latest was in Tonk, Rajasthan, where one person died due to police firing. In Merrut some mischievous elements tried to tease Muslims at evening prayers of Ramazan, playing loud music in front of the mosque leading to communal tension. In Allahabad, event like kite flying by kids vitiated communal atmosphere. In Lucknow communal tension is smearing for long. So are some other cities in north that’s on boil.

All this is a matter of concern of any Indian citizen but the so called national media is soft paddling such news? Even the social media that’s free from any one’s control is too ignoring such news. Even the champions of secularism are maintaining stoking silence on these developments and that’s something really worrisome.

The macro-picture in Uttar Pradesh regarding communal polarization is alarming. The Samajwadi Party's pro-minority politics versus the Bharatiya Janata Party's pro-Hindutva politics versus the Bahujan Samaj Party's pro caste based politics is pulling the state in three directions.

The overt desperation of the Samajwadi Party to keep the Muslims in good humour is evoking sharp reaction from the saffron party. They are evident signs of staging small communal riots for a sharper religious polarization at the grassroots level.
The cow slaughter issue is again being raked up, with slogan like "Na perh katenge, na gaye kategi (neither trees will be cut nor will cows be slaughtered)" being visible at several places. Is it not Hindu communalism at its very best?

The cow slaughter issue was raised up by Hindu right wing elements there during the freedom struggle. It was raised in the 1930’s that pushed some disgruntled Muslims at that time to demand for Pakistan.

The situation has changed now but the issue has not. With such calls being given the helpless puppies are sure to incur the wrath of Hindutva juggernaut and likely to come underneath, with some shedding crocodile tears of feeling hurt.

What is seen is the saffron party’s protests have become louder with Narender Modi’s fortune on an upswing. His henchman Amit Shah, who is in charge of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh is orchestrating the communal polarization. It appears that the new guard has instructed the cadres to maintain a hard line against the Muslims in UP. This is to vitiate the UP politics once again on communal lines so that the BJP gains mileage out of it.

Uttar Pradesh is a communal tinder box that can be blow any time with slightest spark. With 80 Lok Sabha seats at stake, the communal polarization taking place in India’s most populous state is indeed an alarming trend and no one is making a note of it.
In developing communal polarization the way the suspension of Noida SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal by the UP government is projected is again a disturbing development.

While the so called national media projected Ms Nagpal as an upright IAS officer who was trying to take on the powerful sand mafia that incurred the wrath of the political bosses who suspended her to protect the wrong doers, the contrary facts that has come out about this is really startling.

The new facts suggest acts of communalism by the IAS officer that has totally changed the perspective of her suspension. According to UP government, Ms Nagpal went out of the way and presided over the demolition of the boundary wall of a mosque in her administrative area in Noida. The wall of the mosque was reportedly being built on government land that was allegedly demolished by the villagers. The villagers were emboldened as they received protection from Ms Nagpal who was present with a large pose of police force there. It’s only the restrained attitude of the aggrieved Muslims that prevented communal riots.

UP Chief Minister Akilesh Yadav has come out in defence of his suspension orders; "The officers have equal responsibility in maintaining harmony in the state. How could the officers demolish the wall of a mosque during the month of Ramzan?" he asked.

This development has sparked off a big debate in the country and the issue of communalism is once again being brought on the centre stage. While some view that Samajwadi Party wants to send the political message that it has saved another mosque from being demolished, others feels that an upright IAS officer is being haunted and her suspension is arbitrarily.

In building this opinion the role of media is very significant. The media has all along projected Ms Nagpal an upright officer, who is up in arms against corrupt political leaders, without even mentioning the actual cause of suspension. The one sided reporting has left the readers with little choice to make the judgement based on the given facts. However this is contrary to the official reasons of her suspension.

The true colours of so called national media are exposed in the reportage of Ms Nagpal suspension. The media by doing so has not done any service to journalism. It’s sad commentary on our country.

It’s high time that such issues should be put on national radar and the concern raised should be nipped in the bud. Brushing them under that carpet could be convenient way out, but when we relate it with the statement of a political leader that some political parties are planning Hindu- Muslim communal riots in north India before 2014 general elections then alarm bells must ring.

The conspiracy of silence about the communal developments in north India is the most worrisome thing that’s happening at the moment.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Ramblings on Batla House Fake Encounter Judgement

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 28 July 2013 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The judgement on the controversial Batla House encounter in New Delhi in 2008 raises some fundamental questions. The judge has convicted one person who is claimed to have fled from the L-18 flat in Batla House area. If the hon'ble judge had visited the building he could have found that the building has only one exit which was manned by police and there was no possibility to escape by jumping. In such case the accused either had to be caught or had to be shot. The escape theory put up by the police does not hold any ground.

The judge should have taken the cops and may have asked them to escape before believing them. Unfortunately, it did not happen, and the judgement was based on what was told by the police. It’s really a travesty of justice.

The second point in this case that requires consideration is that the input to do the Batla House encounter came from the same infamous IB special director Ravider Kumar who has provided the fake inputs that were used for 17 fake encounters in Gujarat and that are now being probed.

If the judge could have considered probing the source of the encounter and had related them to the on-going probe the judgement may have been different.

Interestingly Mr Chidambram who was the home minister at that time has found the encounter as genuine. He says that he has gone through the sequence of events and has probed into the matter and those killed were terrorists and the one who “fled” their accomplice.

The popular theory is that those believed to be the terrorists were actually students who had come for admission in Jamia College. It was wrong information on which police swooped on them and killed them in clod blooded manner. They had no weapons to retaliate and it was fabricated by the police after the encounter. The police officer killed in the encounter may have been due to cross firing by the police weapons or he may have been shot by his colleague to settle some old rivalry.

In the aftermath of the Batla house judgement, I am reminded of the words of the death convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee who was hanged on August 14, 2004 at Alipore Jail in Calcutta for rape and murder of the 14-year-old, while working as security guard in that building. While being taken to the gallows Dhananjoy told the hangman that he has not committed the crime. This was the biggest travesty of justice in recent times.

The most recent one was hanging of Afzal Guru that’s still fresh in our memories. Afzal in an interview had said that he has not committed the crime and the entire charges against him are fabricated. He was a fruit seller who was picked up from Srinagar for hatching conspiracy to attack Indian parliament. He was convicted to death but his hanging was differed for some reasons. The Congress in order to save its skin from the BJP’s attack to punish the perpetrators of Parliament attackers finally decided to execute Afzal Guru.

It’s a very sad commentary on the developments in India and the only way a common man can express his feeling is to take recourse to some poetic lines and in this case it could be very aptly summed up as ; banna ke bhes faqiron kab, tamasha e alhe kram dekte hain….

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

‘Aman Chaupal’ forges Friendship between India and Pakistan

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 27 July 2013 | Posted in , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

In a rare gesture towards mending India Pakistan ties, a new peace initiative called Aman Chaupal was organized in New Delhi with the aim to enhance people-to-people contact between the two countries.

Imitating the traditional South Asian village life style, where folks sit together in a common place called Chaupal and discuss issues facing them, in Aman Chaupal, people from India or Pakistan share their experiences with common citizens.

'Aman Chaupal' is an initiative by India-based organization Mission Bhartiyam that works to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan and call it of Aaghaz-e-Dosti or beginning of friendship.

The first Aman Chaupal was organized in July 2013 at Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Vikaspuri, New Delhi and was attended by 6th to 12th class students.

It was addressed by Ms Saeeda Diep, a renowned Peace activist and Chairperson of Institute of Peace & Secular Studies (IPSS), Lahore, Pakistan.

Like in our traditional Chaupals, this too had an interactive session meant to address the concerns of the Indian students about Pakistan and clear their misperceptions and arouses curiosity among them about the much hated neighbouring country.

The interaction was entirely in Hindiustani as according to Ms Saeeda, speaking in English would be very "artificial" and the essence of communication will be lost in the process. She gave the example of words such as ‘Beta’ which in Hindustani means my loving child, could best be described as ‘my dear’ in English, that tweaks of its affection.

In her address Ms Saeeda Diep talked about the general stereotypes and misconceptions that the people in India have about Pakistan and Pakistanis. In fact, she listed them out and said that a few more can be added to such hyperbole.

The peace activist tried to describe about the other side of Pakistan that the common Indians do not know because of lack of communication. She blamed the "hawkish" media that’s biased towards Pakistan and is one of the reasons behind Indians having the negative image of Pakistan.

The session was entirely devoted to a question-answer format wherein Ms Saeeda answered students' questions with great affection and aplomb.

Question -Ma'm, Do Hindus live in Pakistan? Asked a student

Answer - Yes Beta, there are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and people of other religions living in Pakistan.

Question - What do people from Pakistan think about us, was another question.

Answer - Pakistanis know about your country and culture much better then you know about Pakistan because they have access to Indian TV channels. Unfortunately, no Pakistani channels are permitted in India, so Indians only know what the Indian media portray to them about Pakistan. Indian newspapers and TV channels do not truly portray Pakistan, she felt.

During the interaction, several other questions were posed to Ms Saeeda, some of them related to political issues and controversies surrounding Pakistan and she gave a very candid reply to all of them.

The Principal of Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Ms. Deepshika Dandu shared her personal experiences with Pakistanis during her stay in a foreign country.

She remarked that, "In a foreign nation, Indians and Pakistanis often form a transnational community bounded by a shared culture, language and experience."

The students had quite a learning experience through Aman Chaupal initiative and many of them were pleased about the knowledge they acquired about Pakistan from this interactive session.

‘My entire perception has changed after this interaction; I only had negative perception about Pakistan, now I feel there is more in common then simply hating Pakistan’, said Sandeep Singh Pramar, a class eight student of the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, New Delhi.

This programme was co-ordinated by Mission Bhartiyam’s initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti team that consists of Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal and V Arun Kumar. Ms. Meenu, the coordinator from the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, helped organizing this program.

The organizers of Aman Chaupal plan to have similar programes organized in several other schools in India as well as in Pakistan.

At a time when political agenda is ruling the roost and the so called national media is poisoning the social relationship, it’s high time the hate mongers free run should be checked by initiatives such as Aman Chaupal.

This is more so because recently events such as the killing of Srabajit Singh in Pakistan and Sanaullah in India, has soured the Indian- Pakistan relationship to all time low.

The event such as Aman Chaupal tries to build bridges of peace and friendship between the two countries. It essentially tries to preach that India and Pakistan has more things in common than the much hyped incorrigible differences.

In such initiatives like this and others effort is made to highlight the similarities between the two countries. These similarities are based on common language values, mores and norms that have longer history then the differences that are essentially of recent origin and politically motivated.

In such context it is important that common Indians should know what the people from the other side of the border think about them.

Similarly, the messengers of peace from India should go to Pakistan to dispel their misconceptions and spread the message of peace and friendship. The message should be that India and Pakistan are not two nations but essentially one country.

Aman Chaupal is one such initiative to mend the disturbed relationship and the need is to have many more events such as these being organized in the two countries at regular intervals.

Peace and harmony in South Asia can only be built when India and Pakistan, shun their differences and embark on the process of cooperation for the betterment of the people living in this part of the world.

Sooner this wisdom downs upon the leadership of these two countries, the place where we live now would be much better habitat for dwelling.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Problem of Alcoholism Riding a Tiger in Tamil Nadu

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 July 2013 | Posted in , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Alcoholism is becoming widespread problem in the Indian society and Tamil Nadu is no exception. The age of first exposure to alcohol in the state has dropped to 15 years. Added concern is the increasing numbers of women specially girls becoming addicted to alcohol. This trend is causing socio-economic problems but little is being done to arrest this social trend.

On the contrary, the state government is encouraging alcoholism to gain revenue. Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) is a company owned by the Tamil Nadu government which has a monopoly over wholesale and retail vending of alcoholic beverages in the state.

The state government, for years has been adding a huge amount of money to its exchequer by licensing and selling the liquor through its 2500 government controlled TASMAC shops. Liquor sales in 2011-12 has touched 18,081.16 crore rupees, registering a 20.82% increase. Every year during the New Year and Pongal festival, TASMAC is making around Rs. 500 crores selling liquor in wholesale and retail market.

‘Whether GDP rate grows or not, the alcohol consumption rate has been growing at 8 per cent every year, says Lakshmi Vijaykumar, head of the department of psychiatry at the Voluntary Health Services, Taramani, Chennai.

‘No government is willing to stop it because they get revenue from it, but the costs are higher’ she says adding, ‘dealing with problems caused by alcoholism costs three times more than the amount of revenue the government gets from liquor sales.’

In order to understand the magnitude of the problem and to feel the pulse of the society, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai based NGO conducted a survey in Tamil Nadu to ascertain the views of the people about the TASMAC shops, believed to be the root cause of this social problem

This study was necessitated because in recent times, there have been number of agitation by group of people in several places in Tamil Nadu, demanding that TASMAC shops to be removed from the residential areas. There were also protests that the TASMAC shops should be barred near the places of worship and educational institutions. Judiciary have also given instructions that the highways should be free from the TASMAC shops. However, all this is having little impact on checking the sale of liquor in the state. The sales turnover of TASMAC shops are steadily increasing and proportionate to it the number of liquor addicts is growing among various age groups.

Methodology of study

The study was conducted to find out what the common man thinks about the proliferation of TASMAC shops in the state, given the fact that the government itself is managing such liquor shops.

The study was conducted on the basis of primary survey that was randomly spread all over the state. Around 243 men and women were interviewed both in rural and urban areas through questioner method. The respondents include; higher secondary and college students, youth, software professionals, senior citizens, domestic maids, etc.

Findings of the study

There were respondents who regularly take liquor did not feel guilty about their habit. They view consuming liquor nothing differently from taking other beverages. They cannot visualize their life without consuming liquor. To a question, in the event of government imposing prohibition, the respondents had no hesitation in saying they will opt for liquor from the black market. Some even justified the TASMAC shops as they were necessary to prevent illicit liquor trade.

The NGO ‘Nandini- Voice for the Deprived’ found that the liquor habit is fairly well spread throughout the state. However, its impact is clearly evident in the rural areas, where more than 40 % of the male population are addicted to consuming liquor regularly.

The study has also found that serving liquor has become a fashion in marriage parties and in funerals, particularly amongst lower income groups in Tamil Nadu. What was noticed that for sake of social status, even those who do not consume liquor, arrange liquor for others during such events.
It’s not uncommon site to find students stacking liquor bottles in their rooms at college hostels with the warden keeping a blind eye. Much to its surprise, the study has found out the students of higher secondary schools are getting addicted to liquor.

The study has also found that women from affluent families are also taking liquor, though occasionally. Some girls are also picking up this habit, especially those living in hostels.

Seeing women in the lower income group visiting TASMAC shops is not an uncommon site in Tamil Nadu, though their numbers remain microscopic.
Effect of liquor consumption on the society

With men increasingly becoming alcohol addicts, large numbers of poor families in Tamil Nadu are suffering economically and emotionally. Women getting beaten up by drunken husband and sometimes even by drunken sons and sons in law, desperate women hitting back the drunken men to protect themselves , children unable to concentrate in their studies in such disturbing conditions and sometimes women even committing suicide, unable to bear the torture, have become a regular feature of Tamil Nadu society.

As alcohol addicted men seem to lose values in life, the trend of promiscuity and Illicit relationships is growing, leading to breakdown of marriages. This phenomenon is common both in the lower as well as upper income groups, the study has found. What is even more disturbing is that while such matter is regularly reported in the media, they no more shock the people. Everyone seems to be reconciling to the fact that it is inevitable development of modern times.

In many poor families, the household is mainly run by the earnings of women. With the men folk frittering away the earnings in liquor and several of them not going to jobs regularly, due to poor health condition and indiscipline, life has really become hard for women in such households.

Mothers shoulder the responsibility and are seen pleading with NGOs and others for financial support for the education of the children, particularly due to the increasing realisation that imparting good education to the children, especially to their daughters, is the only way to protect their long term economic and social well being.

There was an overwhelming response from the non alcohol consuming people, particularly among the women in lower income group that the TASMAC shops have encouraged liquor consumption in a big way. They also blame political parties in power for many decades in the state in providing legitimacy and sanction to such social evil.

The respondents widely felt that the Tamil Nadu government alone can set the conditions right. The best way to do so is to gradually close the TASMAC shops and create a climate where liquor consumption is once again seen as a taboo. Such response mainly came from the poor women who are not informed about the revenue earned from liquor sales and have high hopes that government may educate the people of its ill effects.

However, well informed people responded that the government will not close the TASMAC shops as it is one of the main sources of its revenue. Without it several social measures and freebies offered by the government may be withdrawn. This may create social unrest and may lead to mass agitations and protests among the poor people. This may also have an effect on the vote banks particularly from lower income group, who are the recipients of the freebies. In such case, no government may like to face such conditions and think about clamping prohibition.

Speaking on this issue Mr. N.S.Venkataraman, founder of the NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, said that situation in Tamil Nadu has changed a lot from the fifties and sixties. There was a time particularly during the Chief Minister Kamaraj’s rule, when liquor consumption was seen as a social taboo. Liquor was taken in privacy and secrecy and families were unhappy about it. He cites the names of stalwarts like Kalki Krishnamurthy, Rajaji, Kamaraj and others who in 50s and 60s with their social campaign kept this problem under check.

Venkataraman, says the root cause of today’s condition is the passing of an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Prohibition Act, 1937, by the Tamil Nadu government in October 2003. This has led to increase in the habit of liquor consumption and this habit has spread amongst all age groups and all economic groups, he rues.

Similar efforts that were made in fifties and sixties to check this growing trend is required today, says the NGO founder, adding unfortunately, now we do not have any political leaders of such caliber, sagacity and wisdom who can initiate such anti liquor campaign. It appears that this habit has come to stay forever, he laments.

In such situation it’s only the people, particularly the women in the lower income group who are the worst hit and are desperately looking for relief should come forward and advocate prohibition in the state. They can democratically exercise their will in the forthcoming election and vote for the party that feels their sentiments, Venkataraman suggests.

However, the question remains, in a politically charged state like Tamil Nadu, which political party can convincingly assure people on this and which political party enjoy the credibility and has consistency in its stand on such issue, he asks?

He goes on; not everything is lost, the well informed people who think ahead of the time and feel concerned about the serious damage being done to the posterity due to rapid spread of alcoholism should come forward and rally behind this social cause. This alone can kindle a ray of hope in other wise depressing situation to control the growing trend of alcoholism in Tamil Nadu, Venkataraman, concludes.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

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