So…the Modi interview was doctored

The Indian bureaucracy is always eager to please their political masters, even if the stupidity is obvious to others. So what if Modi called Ahmed Patel (Gujarat Congress boss) his one-time friend and that he considers Priyanka Robert Vadra like his daughter. Priyanka has now come-back with the (silly) retort that she is Rajiv’s daughter and Patel has denied that he was ever friendly with Modi.

Given the hair-raising stuff that politicians of all stripes are saying to get the masses excited, mobilized and yes, polarized (sample: Abu Azmi says today that muslim voters in UP who did not vote for the Samajwadi Party must be forcibly DNA tested) this is all very thin milk.

that certain portions of the Narendra Modi interview on Doordarshan
“were apparently edited”, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar on Friday
said the public broadcaster had failed to get the autonomy it was
seeking and pointed a finger at information and broadcasting minister
Manish Tewari for the failure to break the stranglehold.

In a
strongly-worded letter to the Prasar Bharati board, under which
Doordarshan and All India Radio function, Sircar said “It appears that
while portions critical of Doordarshan were telecast, certain comments
on other personalities were apparently edited” in the Modi interview
telecast on April 27.

Stating that “since questions have been raised in the public domain
about the impartiality and motives of the public broadcaster”, the
Prasar Bharati board had “taken several resolutions in the last two
years, seeking more operational autonomy from the ministry, but it has
failed to do so”, Sircar said.

He said that “in a way,
therefore, the ministry of information and broadcasting lost an
opportunity to convince a young minister (Manish Tewari) to break this
long traditional linkage between the ministry and the News Division,
which has continued unabated even after Prasar Bharati was born and
assigned its distinct role in 1997”.

Indicating the manner in
which the ministry controls the Prasar Bharati, he said: “The mechanisms
of appointment, transfers, career assessments and even punitive actions
against senior officials of the News Division are bound to cast a
‘shadow’, in some form”.

A copy of the letter is available with IANS.

Doordarshan had edited out portions from Modi’s interview where he had
referred to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and to Congress president Sonia
Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel.

The move had created a
political storm with the Bharatiya Janata Party alleging government
control over the public broadcaster.



The many avatars of Veena Malik

a) Dancing away her first Holi in India with her lady-bits dangerously exposed (fun girl Veena)

b) FHM photo-shoot (celebrity girl Veena)

c) Murdering the Mullah for having dared to bare in Big Boss (liberal hero girl Veena)

d) Married to Pakistani businessman, leaves India for good (with gaalis as parting gift for her hosts), conservatively dressed with a dark shawl on head, says she has “matured” (sharif aurat aur patriotic girl Veena)

Famous actor Veena Malik returned to Pakistan for the first
time after her marriage, complete with conservative garb and claims of
having “matured”, DawnNews reported.

Upon her arrival at
the Benazir Bhutto International airport in Islamabad, Veena said the
country had given a lot to her, and she had come back as a “matured
girl” as it was time to give back to the country.

She did not
confirm if she would return to the showbiz industry, but the star, who
was visibly in an emotional state, said that whatever she would do from
now on, be it showbiz related or social work, would be inside Pakistan

The actor, known to make headlines and court controversy, has returned following a long stint in neighboring India’s Bollywood industry and had claimed to have undergone “a change within” after marrying singer and businessman Asad Bashir Khan.

Recently, the actor had also caused a stir with her apparently anti-Indian remarks which were taken as an indication of her return to her native country.

star entered a controversy in 2011 when semi-nude photos of her were
published in Indian magazine FHM with the initials of Pakistan’s premier
intelligence agency appearing on her arm.

She had sued the magazine for damages claiming the published image had been morphed without her knowledge.

The actor made her debut in 2000 and since then has appeared in a number of Pakistani films and tv programmes.
After moving to India she performed in many commercially successful movies including, Daal mein kuch kaala hai, Zindagiu 50-50, Super model and Kannada.
She also appeared in a season of Indian reality show “Big Boss.”



Bodo vs. Muslim battle restarts (Kokrajhar, Axom)

From now and forever it will be open season on muslims in India (and the wrong type of muslims in Pakistan). The Hindus in Pakistan and in Bangladesh are of course already dead or in the process of mass migration to India (where they will rot as non-recognized refugees).  

These alliances will take all different forms, in Assam and in the North-East now there is considerable evidence that the tribals (Christians, Hindus) and the Hindu upper-caste Axomiya and Bengali populations have all united in their animosity against illegal migrants (as they see it) from Bangladesh. 
It will be interesting to know what the Church and Christian activists (such as John Dayal) have to say about all this killings by Bodo forces. RSS is not a significant presence in  the North-East (except in the Barak valley, South Axom). The Church in Nagaland, Bodoland, and Meghalaya has been very active in stoking anti-muslim rage. Axom is ruled by a popular Indian National Congress chief minister (Tarun Gogoi) who seemingly has no credible opposition and is expected to deliver a handsome seat count towards the Mission 115 plan.
Eleven Muslim villagers were killed and others wounded overnight when
suspected separatist militants opened fire on them in the high tense
northeastern Indian state of Assam.

police official was referring to an incident in which the militants
shot dead three members of a family, including two women, while wounding
a baby in the Kokrajhar district of Assam state.

In a second
attack in Baksa district in western Assam, eight people were killed by a
group of guerrillas as their sat in courtyard on Thursday night.

The dead included six women and two children.

Police said they suspected the militants behind the overnight killings were members of the Bodo tribe.
people have frequently attacked Muslims they say have illegally entered
from neighboring Bangladesh and encroached on their ancestral lands in
the hills.

Police blamed the attacks on the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

The incident comes in the middle of India’s ongoing general election battle.
groups feel that the community has come under attack because the rebels
feel that they had not supported Bodo candidates, Rakibul Islam of All
Bodoland Muslim Students Union said.

Local Muslims had been
threatened by Bodo groups “because they thought Muslims had voted for
non-Bodo candidates” during elections in Assam on 24 April, Islam told

In recent years, Hindu and Christian tribes have vented strong sentiments against Muslims, calling them Bangladeshi immigrants.

August 2012, sectarian violence rocked the city after four youths were
killed by unidentified men in the isolated Kokrajhar district.

In retaliation, armed men from Bodo tribes attacked Muslims for suspicion of being behind the killings.
The violence spread to the neighboring Chirang and Dhubri districts, leaving at least 22 people dead.
Thousands of people were also left homeless as their villages were set on fire in the violence.


2,800 dead (Nahrin, Afghanistan)

As if man-made miseries are not enough now nature makes a cold call as well. There was a major earthquake on March 03 which killed 100 people, however this appears to be much more severe in terms of human impact. The tremors were felt as far away as Islamabad.

More than 1,500 people are feared dead and 4,000 injured after a
series of earthquakes struck northern Afghanistan on Monday night and
Tuesday, government officials said. A Foreign Ministry official
said the district capital of Nahrin, near the epicentre in the rugged
Hindu Kush mountains, had been destroyed and a Defence Ministry
spokesman said 1,500 homes had crumbled.

Defence Ministry spokesman told Reuters: “Our reports say there are
1,500 dead, 4,000 injured, at least 1,500 homes destroyed and 20,000
people are homeless.” “The district capital of Nahrin was destroyed,” he said of a city of mainly mud buildings in the foothills of the Hindu Kush.

“We are sending rescue teams but aftershocks make relief efforts dangerous,” the spokesman said.

is the second major earthquake to hit northern Afghanistan this month.
More than 100 people were buried by a landslide in a remote village in
neighbouring Samangan province on March 3 after the last quake.

workers in the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif, some 200 km (120 miles)
northwest of Nahrin, said they felt the quake on Monday night and ran
out into the streets. Light shocks were also felt in the Pakistani
capital Islamabad.

Seismological Office in the Pakistan city of Peshawar said the
earthquake struck at 1457 GMT on Monday and measured 6.0 on the Richter
scale. “It’s epicentre was in the Hindu Kush mountains,”

said official Lataf Gul. “Since
then aftershocks are being recorded. The last recorded was at 0655 GMT
today (Tuesday) with an intensity of 5.0 on the Richter scale.”

Earthquakes are relatively frequent in the Hindu Kush mountain range. In 1998, two earthquakes killed about 8,500 people and destroyed tens of thousands of houses in Takhar and Badakhshan provinces.



Cold war alliance restored in Afghanistan

Pakistan as a loyal friend of the Saudis has promised arms for Syrian rebels in support of a pro-Sunni, anti-Shia (Alawaite) cause. Hafez Assad will not be pleased (he himself gets support from Iran/Hezbollah).

Now it is the turn of Afghanistan to request India to supply arms presumably with US funding. The only problem is how to get tanks across Pakistan. The solution is to have Russia supply weapons for which there is now a green signal. It is unlikely that the Chinese who have considerable mining assets in Afghanistan and who are also suffering from Islamist attacks are going to take the side of the Taliban (and Pakistan).

With Czar Putin ready to play patron, the situation is similar to the decades spanning the 1950-1970s when Afghanistan under Mohammed Daoud Khan pulled closer to Moscow (and away from Islamabad). When the communists seized power in April 1978, the Americans launched a counter-offensive and backed the Islamist resistance (with Pakistan in the lead). The key difference this time may well be Iran on the Indo-Russian side.

Thus the rival alliance formations are complete: Russia-India-Iran (with USA and China in soft support mode) vs. Saudia-GCC-Pakistan. Whatever happens after 2014, it is clear that lot of misery is left in store for beautiful Afghanistan (and the equally beautiful Syria, Ahmed Rashid please note) in the future.
India has signed an agreement under which it will pay Russia
to supply arms and equipment to the Afghan military as foreign combat
troops prepare to leave the country, in a move that risks infuriating

Under the deal, smaller arms such as light
artillery and mortars will be sourced from Russia and moved to
Afghanistan. But it could eventually involve the transfer of heavy
artillery, tanks and even combat helicopters that the Afghans have been
asking India for since last year.

India has already been training
military officers from Afghanistan, hosted a 60-member Special Forces
group last year in the deserts of Rajasthan and supplied equipment such
as combat vehicles and field medical support facilities.

But the
decision to meet some of Afghanistan’s military hardware demands —
albeit sourcing them from Russia — points to a deepening role in
Afghanistan aimed at preventing it from slipping back into the hands of
the Taliban and other groups that are hostile to India.

It comes
as China, another big player in the region which borders Afghanistan via
a small, remote strip of land, is preparing for a more robust role in
Afghanistan, also concerned that the withdrawal of Nato troops will
leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep.

Like China, India is
unlikely to put boots on the ground to reinforce its strategy in
Afghanistan. “We can’t commit troops on the ground, we can’t give them
the military equipment that they have been asking us for, for all sorts
of reasons including the lack of surplus stocks,” said an Indian foreign
ministry official.

“Involving a third party is the next best
option,” the official said, referring to plans to source military
supplies from Russia for Afghan forces. The lack of direct access to Afghanistan poses additional hurdles to arms transfers.

An Indian team visited Moscow in February to firm up the deal, the official said. “We’ll work with India directly as well as trilaterally involving Russia,” said an Afghan official in New Delhi. “Most of India’s weapons are made in Russia or co-produced with Russia, so it makes sense.”

Pakistan is likely to be angered by any move to help arm Afghan forces, even if indirectly.

Rashid, an author and expert on the region, said the deal could
aggravate relations between India and Pakistan if the arms supplied were
heavy enough to be deemed “offensive”.

“Diplomacy and political dialogue are what will bring peace to Afghanistan,” he said.
“What is not going to bring peace is more weapons.”



Just one number says it all. Marandi of the BJP won his seat by a total of 9 votes (as did Ramakrishna of Congress). And life went on as usual.

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.








The (gay) Tabla Player

The most interesting (and thought provoking) question in the essay was are girls free in India (in the way they are not in Pakistan)? This obviously cant be boiled down to hard numbers and everyone will come to the conversation with some inherent bias, thus there would be no satisfactory resolution.

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?

I went to a tabla and lecture demonstration at
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
even hear!

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
she roams?



Rice eating Indians

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).

For some reason my greatest sin has always been rice, it’s something I find far more pleasurable than naans of any sort. Incidentally while I’ve always been a rice & curry partisan my middle brother has always been far more partial to tandoori dishes & naan.
I wonder where Muhajirs fall in the mix are they rice eaters like our original Gangetic culture or Naan lovers like Indus Man?