Category Archives: News

Why does Kashmir seem so far away?

Violence on the streets in Kashmir

Violence on the streets in Kashmir

A friend of mine made an interesting observation on Facebook the other day.

“Parliament suspended after two UP farmers were shot by police, 58 and counting in Kashmir,” she said.

My first thought was – “That is true, but practically everything matters more than Kashmir.”

To me (and I suspect to a lot of other people as well) Kashmir is just something I watch on the news channel for 15 minutes before moving on to watch Indian Idol. I guess you could call it viewer fatigue.

Oh don’t get all angry at my lack of sentiment.

I know I should care about Kashmir…and Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chinese oppression, global warming, animal extinction, Greenpeace, Maoists and even the whales that Japan insists on butchering.

But right now what I really care about is dinner. It has an immediate connection (I am hungry), I am familiar with it (I eat a lot) and I know exactly how to solve the issue (the Dominos downstairs beckons me). That is everything Kashmir is not.

It’s too far away for any connection ( I am in Chennai), I am totally unfamiliar with it thanks to decades of censorship (Free press? Don’t make me laugh!) and when it seems Kashmiris themselves have no idea how to solve their issues,  what do they really expect me to do about it?

And most importantly – the only Kashmiri I ever met never spoke about Kashmir, is currently back in Kashmir and still not very talkative or in touch.

They say all that the young of Kashmir have ever seen is oppression and terror.

Well, all I have ever known is – Kashmiris are treasonous separatists, Pakistani puppets and always out on the roads throwing stones like barbarians.

Of course this is not the truth. Words like military rule, POTA, judicial murder, rape, theft, human indignity and others fight for space in my mind. But first impressions are everything.

What I should be reading are Kashmiri pamphlets handed out by my local chapter of “Free Kashmir,” frankly informing me about
the latest atrocities this nation has committed.

I should be listening to soulful ‘freedom’ songs composed by angst-ridden Kashmiris. 

I should be watching a Kashmiri movie about their plight. A movie made by Kashmiris,  not a bad Bollywood version.

I should leave the theatre so moved that my wallet loosens and I make a donation into “Free Kashmir Fund” box, helpfully placed outside the theatre along with “I support Kashmir” buttons and stickers. Kashmir needs a better, bigger campaign – one that doesn’t dishonour her name.

Ninety-five per cent of India is too far away from the valley and 90 per cent  of our people don’t care because they don’t know.

There is a difference between political movements and anarchy – a small difference.

After all, if you can get enough people to care, you change the world.

Vinayak Hegde


Will we inherit the dearth?

Hinduism & its Military Ethos

Hinduism & its Military Ethos

Superpower in waiting.  That’s how many of us would like to describe India. An economic juggernaut, a state with nuclear weapons, waiting to take its rightful place at the world’s top table.

Air Marshal (retd) RK Nehra believes that wait is likely to be a long one.

Because, thanks to Buddhism, the once martial Hindus, who still are a majority in Hindustan, have now become peace-loving wimps.

And a ‘soft state’ can never become a superpower, it will always be a waiter at the top table, if that.

I must confess when I first heard about his book, Hinduism and its military ethos, I was less than impressed.

The book jacket, which portrayed a pale brick wall, or pavement, with a crack running down the middle, did nothing to change that impression.

But I should have known not to judge a book by its title, or its cover.

Air Marshal Nehra has obviously spent a lot of time and energy studying not just Hinduism, but every major religion of the world.

He starts by examining the India-born religions, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, before moving on to   describe the Judaic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – in a nutshell. (All this, in 13 pages of crisp text.)

He then concludes that “Hinduism,  ‘the first formal religion of mankind’, remained confined to Bharat (India) while Christianity and Islam spread rapidly across the world simply because of the ‘stark simplicity of the creeds of the two faiths. These are easy to understand by laymen with average, (or even below average) intelligence. By comparison, Hindu philosophy is highly complex and their view of life difficult to understand.”

But wait, I digress.

Nehra’s argument is essentially simple: We as a nation lack the killer instinct. We lack the ruthlessness, the cunning, the immorality needed to become a true world power.

And he blames Buddhism for our recent meekness.

‘Of the recorded Hindu history of around 2,300 years, Bharat was under the jackboots of slavery for some 1300 years—a dubious record.’

The ancient Hindus, he says, ‘were a set of martial people who lived by the sword. Somewhere along the line, Hindus lost their way and their martial spirit…(they) developed a deluded sense of Dharma under the influence of Buddhism, and that was the main reason for their downfall.’

While the Bhagvad Gita emphasises the duty to engage in holy (righteous) war, Buddhism and Jainism injected self-defeating concepts like ‘ahimsa, (non-violence), shanti (peace) and satya (truth) into the Hindu psyche,  ‘with disastrous results,’ argues Nehra.

It is that mindset, he says, which produces  ‘patriotic songs’ which say things like: Duniya ka zulum sehna, aur munh se kuch na kehna,’ which loosely translated means: “it is a great tradition of ours to bear all type and manner of atrocities, without ever complaining.

“In addition to ahimsa, another insignia fondly, forcedly and firmly put on the Hindu lapel is that of ‘Tolerance’. It is difficult to utter the ‘Hindu’ word, without uttering ‘tolerance’ in the same breath,” he says.

“The Hindu is being constantly told that his religion and scriptures require him to be ‘tolerant’. It is generally projected as if Hinduism has no existence independent of tolerance; a Hindu should ‘walk’ tolerance, he should ‘talk’ tolerance. During TV debates, one often hears Hindu leaders, both pseudo-secularists and ‘communal’, going hysterical about ‘Hindu Tolerance’. ”

But yet in the Ramayana, he notes,  ‘Laxman displays extreme intolerance in cutting off nose of a woman, Surpanakha. What was her fault? She had only made a marriage proposal to Laxman, who at that time, was without his wife. In any case, those days, rulers used to have multiple wives.’

While in the Mahabharata, Arjun, at Krishna’s behest, killed Karna when he was helpless. Bhima, again at Krishna’s urging, hit Duryodhana on the thigh with his mace, violating prevailing norms of combat.

Thus, ‘the projected tolerance of Hindus, born out of bogus spirituality, is a myth. It is an artificial web woven round the Hindus by people with base instinct and baser intentions,’ he concludes.

Superpower? Top table? Not just yet.

The meek, as they say, will inherit the dearth.

Read Excerpts: Where’s our self-respect? | A clerk, a typewriter, and Pakistan

Ramananda Sengupta

A needless symbol for the rupee

A symbol for the rupee

A symbol for the rupee

So, at last, the humble rupee has a symbol.

After sitting on a shortlist of five symbols for weeks, a jury of five has finally picked a winner and gained it the nod of the Indian cabinet too.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, who announced the winning entry (seen on left) said, “It denotes the robustness of the Indian economy.”

“The symbol for the Rupee would lend a distinctive character and identity to the currency and further highlight the strength and robustness of the Indian economy as also a favoured destination for global investments,” an official statement went on to add of the winning design by IIT post-graduate D Udaya Kumar.

But seriously does the exercise serve any purpose beyond adding another key to our already cluttered computer keyboards?

Did we as a nation have such a crying need for a symbol for our currency? Weren’t we doing well even without it?

Symbols, after all, are for those who are yet to find an identity. Isn’t our economy well and truly past that stage already?

What it seems like sadly is another instance of us blindly aping the West – the ‘financial superpowers’ like the US, the Britishers and the European Union countries. Since they have it, we too had to.

Talking of robustness of economy, will this exercise help curb inflation?

Will it trigger a mad rush of investments?

Or will it help empower the countless millions below the poverty line?

As for the symbol itself, the less said, the better.

Rs was easy to write, type.

The new symbol, meanwhile, requires quite some getting used to.

Even the government admits it will be at least a year before it gains wider currency as it needs the approval of the international unicode consortium’s technical committee.

A symbol expressing the strength of the Indian economy needing an international consortium’s rubber-stamp… Ironical, is it not?

Rajesh Kumar R

Population needn’t be a bad word

India's burgeoning population has seen a five-fold increase over the last 100 years and will surpass that of China by 2050.

World Population Day

Yet another World Population Day (July 11) has passed us by.  Many eyebrows would be raised if I were to argue that our government should de-control population growth,  just like how it decontrolled oil and gas prices.

But it is high time we actually considered launching a procreation drive.

We launched the population control programme decades ago to shape a ‘secure future’ for the country. The result: Thousands of nuclear families with one child each, children who  don’t know the value of sharing.

It’s time we encouraged bigger families, with many children.

Before you start hurling stones at me for expressing such a ‘wayward’ view, try answer this question: Is population a menace?

A ‘yes’ means You and I are a menace.  It means our presence is a threat not only to the country, but to the universe because we eat up the resources and contribute to the so-called global warming.

But are we really a menace?

Who would have replaced the ageing workforce had we not been born?

Who would have maintained the momentum of the country’s growth?

Our  country is lucky because we were born irrespective of its anti-population growth drive.

Now the crucial question: Who will replace us and support the country when we become old,  if the government goes ahead with the one child norm?

Recently, an Australian scientist said human beings would be extinct in the next 100 years because of over population and lack of natural resources to support it. But his argument doesn’t hold much water. The human race will never be extinct due to over population and its consequences. It will disappear from the face of the earth due to man’s aversion to have children and, perhaps, infertility.

Why look down upon population? It can never be a burden to any country.

If anything, it is an asset. It will never keep a country poor. Instead, a country with a robust workforce is a treasure trove for the world.

It is the workforce of India that brought about the IT revolution in the country. It is this workforce that made the world turn toward India to outsource jobs to it, thereby making the country rich.

Let me remind you of what Infosys cofounder and Unique Identification Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani writes in his book Imagining India: “The idea of population as an asset rather than a burden has especially gained currency with the rise of knowledge-based industries such as IT, telecommunications and biotechnology in the 1970s. In fact, the information economy is the culmination of what the Industrial Revolution started — it has placed human capital front and center as the main driver of productivity and growth.”

But this workforce needs to be maintained and improved. For this, we need to decontrol, not control, the population.

Also to be borne in mind are the consequences of China’s successful one-child policy. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:  “The suicide rate of women in childbearing years (generally between 15 and 34) has increased considerably since the policy was implemented, especially in smaller Chinese cities. This is believed to be due to pressure to produce a single child, as it is usually desired to have a male child.”

So let’s dismiss all thoughts of controlling our population and and learn instead to be proud of it.

After all, it is our people who will make our nation a super power.

Salil Jose

Bandhs: A great Indian privilege

One of the great privileges of being Indian is that, every now and then, there is a bandh call, expected to ‘paralyse the nation’.

Ours has to be the one country where we protest by doing nothing.

When we want to prove our government’s twiddling its thumbs, irrespective of which coalition it is, we decide to sleep in. Anthropologists could see this as subverting the idea of a show of solidarity.

But people who want to understand India – especially the tourists who come here to find themselves, and end up losing their heads – must first come to terms with the cultural significance of ‘closure’ to us.

Let’s start off with the etymology of the word – ‘bandh’; noun, Hindi for ‘closed’.

The practical applications of the word are as unlimited as the reasons for which the political tool is invoked.

An argument is closed, we say, every few minutes, as we negotiate the price of a trinket by the road.

“Final price, madam,” the guy selling it says, “you look like Karishma Kapoor (or some other actress last seen on the big screen fifteen years ago) with those earrings. Only ten rupees. Argument closed.”

Baap re!” you scream (roughly translated as ‘Oh, my father!’), “that’s daylight robbery! I can pick up stones on the road and wires from the garbage bin to make these myself! TEN RUPEES! I’ll lose my livelihood!”

“Madam!” the guy protests, “See, these stones are hand-cut. The wire is hand-twisted. It’s one hundred percent original design. Nine rupees fifty paise, argument closed.”

He begins to pack it up.

You demur as you open your purse, “Eight rupees. Last price.”

He shakes his head, as he closes the packet and thrusts it at you.

You close your purse and begin to walk away.

“Madam, madam!” he runs behind you, “how can you close this off like this? Eight rupees, best price. Deal closed.”

You open your purse and he closes his palm over the coins, synchronising that with your zip closing over the earrings.

And the symbolism doesn’t end there.

“Why do you close the door immediately?” the relatives who’ve successfully carried out their mission of surprising us with a four-hour visit, right before Sunday brunch, demand, wedging a foot into the closing portal, “you don’t want to see us again?”

“What! How can you say such a thing! It’s so depressing when you’re away and we’re watching these four walls close in on us,” we remonstrate, and they are placated by our misery.

We further propitiate them by waving till their car disappears into the horizon before we close the gates, leave alone the doors.

This is why the rather prosaic word ‘bandh’ carries so much potential for drama.

The only ones who work on the day are those who must make sure no one else does – and those who are reporting this to a nation that is already aware of it.

But in a country as notorious for its hospitality as India, it is only fitting that the Opposition recognises the inconvenience such histrionics cause to government-run offices and that section of the general public that refuses to look at the brighter side.

They have been known to indulge their enemies by holding part-day bandhs.

My personal experience of this was a three-hour bandh in then-Calcutta. No one seems to remember who called it and why.

Hardly to be wondered at, as the half of the city that was awake at ten in the morning decided to have an early lunch for the duration of the bandh.

Nandini Krishnan

Tweets on Obama’s Nobel: ‘I want it too’

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Within minutes of the  Norwegian Nobel Committee announcing the Peace Prize for Barack Obama, Indians were abuzz on Twitter with their take on the shocker.

Did the US President deserve it? A case of an award too soon?

We let the tweets speak for themselves. Here are our favourites:

@jhunjhunwala: Rakhi Sawant to share Nobel Prize with Obama for “efforts made to keep the institution of marriage alive”

@manuscrypts : Did they mean Osama? for being nice this year or something?

@GautamGhosh: Obama winning Nobel Peace Prize is like firms giving salary hikes when KRAs are set – a year before they are met! Heh!

@BDUTT If he can win then why not our Prime Minister, he deserves better than him…

@OldmonkMGM: India and Pakistan demands a Nobel Peace prize for each other for not bombing the s*** out of each other

@vijaysankaran : Nobel Peace Prize is now like the Bharat Ratna… it’s about who you are, not what you did-)

@recnamorcen : The Nobel Peace Prize should go to…. EKTA KAPOOR … for KSBKBT & others.. promoting cultural amalgamation

@jhunjhunwala : Pakistan asks for credible evidence to show that Obama has indeed won the Nobel Prize,asks for dossier from Nobel org

@madversity : “We Need Change and Change We Need”: Ok I said it now give me my Nobel Prize

@tantanoo : So Bush declares war, Obama lobbies peace and wins Nobel Peace prize. Nice algorithm I say.

@chuck_gopal : Who’ll win next year? Michael Moore? Karan Thapar? John Buchanan?

@sudhamshu : Just when we lauded the Nobel committee for coming up with deserving candidates for Physiology, Physics & Chemistry, they came up with Peace

@CraigGrannell : Apparent rules for winning: following warmonger into leader role; stop being as much of a warmonger.

@nikhilv : Breaking news: Obama’s Nobel Peace prize victory speech just won the Booker #obama

@TinyToots : I also want Nobel Peace Prize. Everyday I refrain from doing violence to so many people. Why is nobody nominating me?

@suddentwilight : the #nobel peace prize is another #filmfare #stardust #iffa award whr who u r and nt what u do gets u the award ! did #obama dance for it 2?

@fossiloflife : Oh wait I think Filmfare awards will have more value than a Nobel Peace Prize!

@codinghorror : World bestows surprise Nobel Peace Prize upon Obama. THAT is how f***ing sick of Bush they were. Wow.

@OldmonkMGM: Pick the odd man out: The Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama

@sidin : Obama to win Commonwealth Gold and lifetime Oscar. Also X Prize, Magsaysay and Bigg Boss 3. And Dancing With The Stars.

@MitchBenn : It’s official! George Bush was such an a***hole you can win the Nobel Peace Prize just by not being him.

@mysti : Is ‘hope for a better future’ enough to win a Nobel Prize? they should be passing those around like candies then.

@venkat2 : next in line for Obama – Khel Ratna, Bharat Ratna, Hind Purush..and Mayawati will erect a small statue next to her

@manuscrypts : Someone is bound to find an Indian connection. I await Bharat Obama…

Does Obama deserve the Nobel? Join our discussion here

Remembering the Man of the Moment

Remembering the Man of the Moment
“Why are you hiding YSR? He is the man of the moment.”
My former boss, a guru to many Internet journalists, wasn’t
amused when I downplayed the story of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s
huge victory at the Assembly elections in
I justified myself, saying that Delhi was certainly more
interesting than Andhra Pradesh on a day when the Lok Sabha
election results were announced. The entire nation was
animatedly discussing the pros and cons of Sonia Gandhi
becoming Prime Minister.
“You must be able to see what YSR has done and achieved.
Haven`t you heard about his Padayaatra and his mass support?
His efforts are helping the Congress come back to power after
10 years. So put it as the second lead on home page,“ my boss
I grudgingly obeyed,  believing that I knew better.
My ill-will faded when I read the newspapers the next day.
All of them had given YSR great prominence.
I forced myself to read the details of his 1400-km foot
pilgrimage (Padayaatra) to the backward areas of the state,
his humanitarianism and his popular support.
Five years later, during the Assembly elections held in May
2009, there were stories about corruption charges against YSR. I brushed them aside, because I’d read and listened enough to know these stories were not true.
I don`t know what my previous boss would have said to my not
giving importance to those stories.
If he had asked me to highlight those stories, I would
probably have said: “Sir, he will be the man of the hour this
time too.”
On a day when the nation mourns his death, I know the
footprints YSR has left behind will continue to inspire

YSR“Why are you hiding YSR? He is the man of the moment.”

My former boss, a guru to many Internet journalists, wasn’t  amused when I downplayed the story of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s huge victory at the Assembly elections in 2004.

I justified myself, saying that Delhi was certainly more interesting than Andhra Pradesh on a day when the Lok Sabha election results were announced. The entire nation was too busy discussing if Sonia Gandhi should become Prime Minister.

“You must be able to see what YSR has done and achieved.  Haven’t you heard about his Padayaatra and his mass support? His efforts are helping the Congress come back to power after 10 years. So put it as the second lead on home page,” my boss ordered.

I grudgingly obeyed,  believing that I knew better.

My resentment faded when I read the newspapers the next day.  All of them had given YSR great prominence — just like my boss had predicted.

I forced myself to read the details of his 1400-km foot pilgrimage (Padayaatra) to the backward areas of the state, his humanitarianism and his popular support.

Five years later, during the Assembly elections held in May 2009, there were stories about corruption charges against YSR. I brushed them aside because by then,  I’d read and listened enough to know these stories were not true.

I don’t know what my previous boss would have said to my not giving importance to those stories.

If he had asked me to highlight those stories, I would probably have said: “Sir, he will be the man of the hour this time, too.”

On a day when the nation mourns his death, I know the footprints YSR has left behind will continue to inspire generations.

Salil Jose