There are substantial flaws in the way the electoral game is played. A pure first-past-the-post system is difficult to justify (as opposed to proportional representation). Then there is the problem of participating criminals and dynasts and also thorny campaign finance issues that may not improve over time. That said the Election Commission possibly has the most challenging job faced by any bureaucracy in the world and does it remarkably well.
The real heroes are the aam aurat and aadmi, while the politicians co-operate for the most part (even petite Hitlers like Mamata Banerjee has to bow before the dictates of the commission- a good learning experience if any).
The “Gandhians with guns” will continue to terrorize their own people and inflict self-harm in the interest of ideology. But they do not realize that presently in the West, the right to self-determination in Palestine and elsewhere is viewed with apathy at best and suspicion at worst. With the dust settling down in Crimea (and East Ukraine) it is clear that the principle of big countries having a “zone of influence” is now accepted by the West. If nothing changes, Kashmir will be reduced to Afghanistan like state in a few decades.
But here is one more provocative thought. Pakistan was created to be a sanctuary for South Asian muslims. How much public acceptance (as opposed to private agreement) is there for atheists? Religion of all colors are inherently patriarchial, also with respect to tabla playing (and generally all music) we would imagine Islam would frown a bit more than Hindu-Sikh-Jain-Buddhism (we have always associated Christianity in India with music, but not with women playing percussions).
While we cant prove this to be true but we are of the opinion that freedom from religion gives you freedom of action as well. As the number of atheists will grow so will the number of female tabla players.
One final question which was on our lips: that shy, sweet, subtle boy in a sleeveless sweater, who stood out amongst all the other macho players (and encouraged the author in her playing with a soft smile), in liberal Holywood these would all be signs pointing to his gayness. Read on dear reader and make up your own mind. Though we think the author should not have just stopped with the hints and gone for full disclosure. Why have a barrier in your own mind as you struggle to remove it from the minds of others?
Amherst College. I went because I love percussion, all percussion, but
tabla most of all. I went also in homage to the pair I left behind in
Lahore in 2008. The year before leaving, I’d taken the very tentative
step of learning how to play this daunting but thrilling instrument in
my ‘old’ age.
Music lessons and I have had an uneasy
past. My father loved South Asian classical music more than anyone I
know, yet he never put a South Asian musical instrument in my hands….Then
in 2007, not at age seven but 37, I decided to do it. My ustad’s name
was Ustad Ghulam Sabir. He was by his own admission not a professional
player, but he had an excellent ear and was often called upon by
professionals to tune their tablas.
Ustad Sabir was always patient. He kept adding more compositions (kaida, dadra, jhaptal), while I struggled with counting the beats and urging my fingers to keep up. Often, I did hear
the beats. I knew what I should have been doing. If only the tabla had
fallen in my hands 30 years earlier, instead of the piano I couldn’t
about eight months, he said he couldn’t teach me more, not because I’d
learned much, but because he’d passed on all he believed he could. He
referred me to a music center where I studied with a professional ustad
and about a dozen boys, a lot younger than myself who’d been playing
since childhood. Though they never initiated a conversation with me, I
never felt any hostility from them. And though they had no reason to be
as attuned to my playing as I was to theirs, when I got something right,
there’d be a kind of silence in the room.
But there was
one boy who did more. He could have been 17 or 27, was always the one
called upon to bring the tea, and was generally treated differently.
More brusquely, yet also with more familiarity, as though there existed
between him and the ustad (and other musicians, for instance, the
harmonium player who sometimes accompanied us) an understanding.
never learned what this understanding was because he was the shiest of
us all. However, he was usually the first in the room and would be
warming up when I arrived. When I also started to warm up, he’d join me.
It was subtle and sweet; we were having a conversation. I remember well
the tilt of his head and his sleeveless mustard sweater and how the
head would tilt a little more when I stumbled, or else the fingers would
wait in the air, and when I found the beat he’d nod quite vigorously
and rejoin me at just the perfect moment and with just the smallest
But he would never, ever, meet my eye. I tried to, but
backed away when I feared I was crossing a boundary. It was better to
stay within the boundary than to risk losing his friendship in music. A
music without borders.
Then, two days ago, I went to the tabla
lecture and demonstration at Amherst College. It was enormously
enjoyable, till the end. The pandit, a buoyant man from the
Benares tabla gharana gave us, his very small but eager audience, time
and care as he described the tablas – how they’re made, what the left
and right is called, etc.
The atmosphere was relaxed, so I decided to share what had
been going on in my head:
‘Why do you think women are still not playing the tabla, at least not publicly?’
He grew very serious, if not a little irritated, and said, ‘Oh, you can’t do it. It is just too difficult.’
I tried to say that of course now
it is too difficult, for me, but what if girls were urged to play from a
young age, the way he was? The way a few are encouraged to play other
instruments, or to sing?
He again said, ‘You can’t do it.’ And
then, ‘I had to practice for 14 hours each day. Could you do that?’ It
was obviously a rhetorical question. He didn’t pause. ‘My fingers would
grow bloody. You couldn’t.’
At this point I began to notice what
I’d never noticed in those months of learning tabla in macho Lahore, in a
room full of testosterone. Disapproval.
I kept on. ‘In Pakistan there aren’t even many women learning how to play.’
scornfully cut me off. ‘In India there is no restriction. Women can do
what they want. But they can’t play professionally. They can do it only
for fun. I have two women students. They are good. But they will never
be professionals.’ He seemed to think about this more for a moment, and I
foolishly grew hopeful. What he added was this, ‘Dance is difficult
too, but it is soft!’
I did not know what to say.
As a last point he offered, ‘The tablas weigh over 20 kilos. For how long are you going to ask someone to carry them for you?’
By this time, there were too many thoughts raging in my brain to know which one to speak, or even how.
instance, when or how did this turn into ‘India is free but Pakistan
isn’t’? Really, in India there are no restrictions on women? Do you not
know that you create can’t by saying it – that can’t is a restriction? And your poor women students! If you already know what they will never be, what can you teach them? Do it for fun. You mean, the fun you are having is more than fun – but their fun is somehow less?
wondered how much of the tension in the room had to do with a certain
etiquette that I, myself, had struggled to maintain, as I’d ventured
with the question. He was a pandit. A master. He’d shown us that he could do what none of us could (certainly not the women).
A pandit must be shown deference, no matter what. The pandit/ustad/teacher-student
relationship is entirely different in the subcontinent to that in the
West. It is one of respect, intimacy, and absolute obedience. Here I
was, a South Asian, a woman no less, asking pesky questions. The white
women in the room did not acknowledge these questions at the end either;
they went straight to the master to thank him, without looking at me.
In the car, my exasperation only mounted. Bloody fingers? Really, pandit ji,
women are afraid of that? Ask all the carpet weavers who work for at
least 14 hours each day, with astonishingly dexterous, bloody fingers.
Or the shrimp peelers. Or the textile workers. Or the cotton farmers.
They are women too.
As for not being strong enough, I couldn’t
even carry a five kilo bag of rice, let alone two tablas. But that’s
just me. My particular body at this particular stage of my life. And
though I wish it weren’t so, I’m also lucky that I don’t have to throw
my back out several times a day. What about the women who do carry heavy
loads – and have to? Those who labour in the fields? What about the
bags of crops and fodder they heave, often along with their children?
Would you call that fun, or would you call them professionals? Would you
clap for them, or stand up for them?
I remember the boy
in the sleeveless mustard sweater. His head tilt. His enthusiasm when I
got something right. His willingness to share. Will he, will he, do the
same for his daughter?
And when she wants more, will both her parents give their blessings with
a kiss and a lifeline of grade A milk, so that she may find it wherever
A Pakistani friend of mine told me that the stereotype was of rice eating Indians as opposed to bread eating Pakistanis (though of course Iranians are renowned for their rice dishes).
Gujarat (Amdavad/Juhapura) has a partition wall between H/M ghettos– 2-nation theory as practiced in Gandhi-land (also Jinnah-land -both old and new).
OTOH Gujarat has been riot-free since 2002, while Dravida/Shudra/OBC factions belonging to Tamil Nadu ruling coalitions frequently organize mass riots against Dalits.
Gujarat resembles Pakistan most in its application of anti-alcohol dictates.
A Pakistani travels through India as the world’s biggest
democracy votes in the national elections. Follow his journey to know
what happens and all the people that he meets on the way.
Electricity in Gujarat is completely uninterrupted. Nobody knows what
load shedding means. It is unbelievable for a Pakistani who have only
known 24/7 pizza home delivery! People complain that electricity in
Gujarat is more expensive than other states. I tried to compare it with
what I pay back there, though not a sound way, and was surprised that
most here pay not much if not less than me. But probably the more
important fact is that all of them do pay — Prime Minister House and
Chief Minister House included.
Women are the safest in Gujarat and you do not need witnesses to believe
that. It is evident. Just take a walk on the road side and you will see
women and young girls commuting all around freely and independently. I
was with a group late in the night out for an after dinner cup of tea
when a young female friend received phone call from her mother in Delhi.
“Mom says you are out so late. Ahmedabad is spoiling you,” she told her
friends and the party went on.
If development is a (political) party, then everyone is certainly not
invited. Nothing comes for free here and the fact that everyone cannot
pay is explained away in many ways. The poor remain unserved. But in
Ahmedabad there is another ‘class’ that remains unserved too — Muslims.
The picture is of a corner of Ahmedabad’s largest Muslim ghetto,
Juhapura. It has an estimated population of 200,000 and makes ends meet
without the state providing it any civic service.
The schism within: Ahmedabad’s biggest Muslim ghetto, Juhapura, is
separated from Hindu colonies by walls at most of the meeting points.
People tauntingly call it ‘the border of the mini-Pakistan’. The walls
have not been constructed by the government but by the Hindu colonies
themselves and stand as the ‘concrete’ evidence of the deep divisions
that this state suffers from.
Housing apartheid: Each housing colony in Ahmedabad comes with a
religious label. Jains do not share living space with Hindus and Hindus
will hesitate giving their house on rent to Bengali Hindus who are not
vegetarians and exclusion of Muslims.
Communal ghettoisation: Juhapura is the biggest Muslim ghetto of
Ahmedabad. Though it looks like a slum, it is not an exclusive habitat
of poor Muslims. You can easily find impressive bungalows in every
street. Most of them took residence here after the 2002 anti-Muslim
riots as they do not feel secure living anywhere else. Muslims do live
in other parts of the city but an increased tendency of living in close
clusters is more than evident everywhere in the city.
Election Commission in India is quite strict and all the stakeholders
have to take its words very seriously. I roamed around in Ahmedabad on
the polling day i.e. 30 April. The security staff at polling stations
was vigilant and their understanding of their election duties was
impressive. A security man stopped a young man with a party flag in this
hands at the gate telling him to hide it as electioneering is not
permitted on polling day.
Under Indian election laws, electioneering has to be seized 48 hours
before the polling. I took a round of the city of Ahmedabad a day before
polling. There was nothing anywhere that could tell that there was
campaigning going on in the city. Billboards of the parties were taken
down as soon as the deadline expired and the only visible reminders of
elections were the Election Commission’s advertisements calling people
Ahmedabadis are food fanatics. Every believer carries a list of items
that he/she cannot eat. While some would want to ensure that their
muffin do not contain any animal-based ingredient, everyone is not this
strict. Food ‘edicts’ reflect in socialisation as well in many
interesting ways as people cross boundaries to express their affection
for their friends from the other side of the divide or as a sign of
rebellion from their traditions. But others, like myself, are just
Jains are the most finicky about what not to eat. If one goes by the
book, their negative list includes all animal-based products and
everything that grows under ground. So they don’t eat meat of any kind,
eggs, onions, garlic, etc. They have their grocery stores and won’t eat
out at places that serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. But a
friend jokingly told me that if you prepare chicken without onions and
garlic, it is called Jain chicken!
Cricket wars: Like most other parts of South Asia, cricket is a craze in
Ahmedabad too. But for Muslims here, it comes with a pinch of salt.
Their reactions to matches between India and Pakistan are closely
watched by others and any celebration of Pakistan’s success is seen as
‘an act of treason’. “If I support Ricky Ponting, they have no problem
but any praise for Afridi’s sixer can make my Indian credentials
questionable,” said a Muslim school teacher in Ahmedabad.
There are many Muslim localities in old Ahmedabad city that has some impressive heritage sites.
Board game at Rani’s Hajira (probably meaning, hujra/living quarter) in
Ahmedabad old city. In Muslim localities, people were more apprehensive
about being photographed and these included not the women but younger
men. Every other person here has a story of police harassment to tell.
Gujarat is the only major state in India that is dry — alcohol trade is
banned. People belonging to other states and residing here get some
legal relaxation but public drinking is not a norm. Alcohol though is
smuggled from other states, especially from Rajasthan. On this Ahmedabad
road, you can however stop to enjoy soft drinks at the cart that has
named itself Kashmiri Soda Center.
It must be made compulsory viewing by all people who believe that dividing people by caste, religion, language and all other identity markers is a good thing. Remember, everytime you think you are winning by use of this strategy you are actually losing. When the genie gets out of the bottle it may wait to kill you till the (bitter) end but that will be a poor consolation prize.
South Asians should come together and deal with all the issues openly or be condemned to fight it out forever. Hindus have already been wiped out from a large part of the sub-continent, now it is the turn of muslims in India and the wrong muslims in Pakistan.
to South Korean television by the Park Su-hyeon’s father, Park
Jong-dae. Park Su-hyeon’s body was recovered from the vessel by South
Korean coast guard rescuers.
The group of teens in the video alternates between bluster, attempts at humor and unmistakable fear.
one can be seen wearing a life jacket at the beginning of the video
clips, which start at 8:52 a.m. and end, with a small break between
them, at 9:09, when everyone appears to be wearing them.
As the ferry lists, they joke about “final commemorative pictures” and “defying gravity” by trying to walk on the walls.
footage shows the students expressing fears about the ship’s fate as
other students appear to be unaware of the seriousness of the events
unfolding. One student can be heard saying “This is fun” and another
says “This is like Titanic.”
The ferry then starts to list and shake. One of the boys can be heard saying: “I want to get off. We don’t want to die.”
Airing the footage television producer Choi Seung-ho
described it as “by far the most heartbreaking scene I have seen in my
27-year broadcasting career.”
Several times the students are
warned over the loudspeaker to stay where they are, even as the tilting
increases and it becomes less possible for them to flee.
“I’m really scared,” a student says at one point.
“Is it really sinking?” another asks. “Wow, they’re giving us life vests.”
“I’m getting out of here,” one says. “Me too, me too,” says another.
A student says: “We have to survive now.”
“We’re all finished. I have to leave some farewell words before I die,” says another.
“Mom, I love you,” says one.
If the allegations below are true, then this incident is a new low in the election season which has already seen intolerance at the deepest levels (from all sides).
A Muslim woman in eastern India has alleged she was
gang-raped by more than a dozen men because of her work helping the
Hindu nationalist opposition in ongoing elections, police said Tuesday. The
woman from Jharkhand state has filed a complaint with police that a mob
attacked her in her home on Monday and also assaulted her 13-year-old
daughter. Her husband was allegedly handcuffed during the attack.
victim, in her 30s, was part of a so-called “minority” wing of the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) designed to attract Muslim voters to the
party, which is expected to sweep the ongoing polls. Few Muslims
are expected to vote for the BJP, which is being led by hardliner
Narendra Modi who remains tarnished by religious riots in his home state
of Gujarat in 2002.
Women’s issues are
high on the agenda in the parliamentary elections following the fatal
gang-rape of a student on a New Delhi bus in December 2012, which
touched off a national debate about sexual violence. But fewer
than a fifth of the candidates standing for the BJP or the ruling
Congress party are women, according to an analysis by AFP. In the current parliament women hold only 11 per cent of seats in both houses.
victim in Monday’s assault also alleged the attackers fled with 30,000
rupees (500 dollars) in cash and jewellery worth over 200,000 rupees. Police inspector T. N. Singh in the police station closest to the victim’s home confirmed the gang-rape complaint to AFP. He said villagers had used the loudspeaker of the mosque to alert others to the assault, after which the attackers fled.
We need many more of such heroes, but we also need the political class (as well as the elites) to give serious attention to the refugee problem. Why are Tibetans welcome but not Hindus (or for that matter muslims) from Pakistan? Refugees do not have any one religion, but they are all mostly poor, honest people who are traumatized. We need to do much more to help them out.
weeks ago, 16-year-old Bharti Rai from Hyderabad in Sindh, Pakistan,
came to India on a one-way train ticket. She doesn’t want to go back
ever alleging oppression, sexual harassment and persecution as a
religious minority across the border. Coming through Rajasthan, she is
currently in Bijwasan village in outer Delhi. She is among 37 other
Pakistani Hindu refugees who arrived in the village this month on a
tourist visa, hoping to get asylum in India.
arrived in the capital just two weeks ago, her brother, Gomadh Ram, a
former farm worker from New Hala town in Sindh, was one of the first few
who came to the capital back in 2011. The 34-year-old crossed the
border on foot through Amritsar, and reached a settlement in the
capital’s Majnu ka Tila. He now sells fruits in Basai village for a
living. He recently got an extension of two years on his tourist visa.
Nahar Singh, a politically-connected local police officer, has been
helping such refugees for about three years now. Singh says he has taken
811 refugees under his wing since 2011. More than half of them made
their way to India in 2012 when the Kumbh Mela was held in Allahabad,
says Singh. He claims enjoying the support of right-wing organizations
such as VHP, RSS and the Shiv Sena. Hindus form about 2% of the
Pakistani population. The 2014 BJP manifesto has declared India ‘a
natural home for persecuted Hindus’, while the party’s prime ministerial
candidate, Narendra Modi, has reiterated support for Hindu refugees in
“Young women cannot step out of their homes in
the evening in Sindh for fear of sexual harassment. Hindu men can’t get
their hair cut from a Muslim barber’s shop. The two communities do not
even share water,” says Jamna, 40. Like many other women who have
accompanied her, Jamna goes only by her first name.
afternoon, the shelter, located in a non-functioning school in Bijwasan,
is buzzing with noise from excited children running in the corridors.
The men are away searching for work. The asylum seekers realize that
moving to India is not a panacea to their problems. “If we were
discriminated against for religion in Pakistan, here we are
discriminated against for being Pakistani. It is difficult to get
respectable work in private companies or factories,” says Gomadh Ram.
However, Chandrama, a middle-aged woman who arrived here with her three
sons, said, “At least one has access to justice here. That doesn’t
happen in Pakistan.”
Activist and former journalist Zulfiqar
Shah is also a Pakistani refugee in the capital, currently living on the
street near Jantar Mantar with his wife. Shah had worked on the denial
of human rights to the Hindu minority in Pakistan, and he alleges it was
one of the reasons why he was hounded out. “Roughly 500 Hindus leave
Pakistan every year. The elite go to Dubai, US or the UK. The poor
gravitate towards India,” says Shah.
The group that arrived in
Delhi comprises mostly of poor farm workers or well-off small business
owners. At least two of them, who have been here over a longer period,
have acquired Aadhaar cards, the details of which they are unable to
Last month, a temple in Larkana, Sindh, was set on
fire after rumours of a Hindu desecrating the Quran fanned communal
tension in the area. In March 2012, the case of Rinkle Kumari from Sindh
made international headlines after it was alleged that she was abducted
and forced to convert to Islam. …….
Hindus from Pakistan often travel to India on one-month pilgrim
visas, purportedly to visit the innumerable Hindu holy places and
shrines around the country. But since 2011, the number of Pakistani
Hindus refusing to leave at the end of their stay has increased
dramatically in response to the easing of visa regulations by the Indian
government, which has announced that Hindus from Pakistan can get long
term visas if they follow certain rules.
Most hail from Pakistan’s Hyderabad province, home to the majority of
the country’s 2.5 million Hindus. Once in India, they can apply for
refugee or asylum seeker status. But if their applications are denied,
they can simply go on extending their visas. Those who stay usually end up living in tents on land offered on a
temporary basis by religious groups or temples. But lack of
identification documents means no real jobs, limited income and no means
to benefit from state welfare schemes.
But religious freedom is meaningless unless Pakistani Hindus are
given legal status and allowed to hold legitimate jobs so that they can
provide adequately for their families, said Ram Das, a college graduate
who came to India in 2011. Like most other asylum seekers from Pakistan,
despite his education, Das now makes his living as a lowly street
“Wherever we go to look for better jobs, they ask for identity cards
and when we show them our Pakistan passports, they refuse us straight
away,” he said.
“We are neither Pakistanis nor Indians,” Das said, adding that the
Indian government is not responding to their repeated applications for
asylum or refugee status. “We get our visas extended, but how long can
we go on like that? At least give us refugee status.”
Overall, Pakistani Hindus have not benefited as much as other
migrants from Tibet, Myanmar and Afghanistan, who have been assisted by
the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
some 100,000 Tibetans, more than 110,000 Chin refugees, and some 250 who
have fled Afghanistan.
Mal says that he has filed several requests for financial help at the UNHCR office, but all of these have been rejected.
A spokesperson for UNHCR said it’s up to the Indian government to
decide whether or not to assist refugees and asylum seekers from
“In the absence of a national legal framework for refugees in India,
the UNHCR has an understanding with the government of India whereby the
government assists refugees and asylum seekers from close neighboring
countries” and UNHCR assists those from Myanmar and Afghanistan, Suchita
Mehta, UNHCR public information officer said in an e-mail to
So for now, Pakistani Hindus can only wait patiently and continue extending their visas.
“When God has saved us from the atrocities in Pakistan, he will
surely show us the way in India,” said 25-year-old asylum seeker
Bindiya. “Good days will come. It is just a matter of time.”
A woman passenger was killed and 11 others were injured, two of them
grievously, when two bombs went off on in
two coaches of the Guwahati-Bangalore Express at the Chennai Central
railway station. ….blasts took place at around 7:45 am in S-4 and S-5 sleeper coaches after
the train arrived at the platform number 9. It is believed that this was an IED bomb.….The
woman passenger traveling from Bangalore to Vijayawada died. She was
identified as 22-year-old Swati, who was slated to go further to Guntur.
Vijaywada is only six hours away from Chennai. Poor Swati, with her whole life ahead of her, lost her life because the train was running late (the bomb would have surely killed some other person).
First things first, we express our condolences for the victims and their families. Now for some uncharitable (but inevitable) thoughts. We are not sure what this atrocity is exactly meant to achieve. There are no sure-shot perps though suspicion will surely fall on islamists. In the middle of a highly contested election, this will probably assist the BJP. Elections are finished in Chennai/Tamil Nadu (and most of the South). Voting in coastal Andhra is scheduled for May 07. There are also many highly contested Northern seats, Varanasi being #1 amongst them.
The religious sword is a powerful and dangerous beast, difficult to place back once unleashed. Everyone has to be extra careful and the demagogues on all sides must be placed behind bars. Enough is enough.
10:43 am: 13 people have lower limb problem,1 has vascular injuries,1 brought dead: V. Sundaravalli, District Collector, Chennai.
10:35 am: A
passenger, who was traveling by the S3 coach, narrating his
experience, said, “I was awake and resting on my berth. At about 7.15
am, we heard some sound from the next coach. I came out of the coach and
saw what had happened in S4 and S5 coaches”.
10:23 am: Railway Minister Kharge assures help, offers Rs 1 lakh for kin of dead.
A Special Investigation Team would probe the twin bomb blasts that
rocked the Bangalore-Guwahati Express: Tamil Nadu DGP K Ramanujam.
10:07 am: An ISI agent was arrested from Chennai two days ago.
10:05 am: Suspect was hiding inside the train for two hours after the twin explosions: Sources.
09:59 am: Tamil Nadu police nab a suspect who was hiding inside the Guwahati express: Sources.
09:58 am: Home Ministry has issued general alert to all railway stations after Chennai blasts: Sources.