You see them with the typical African phenotype. But when you hear them speak and go about their daily chores, you are left with no doubt about the fact that they are Kannadigas at heart.

Up in the villages of the coastal district of Uttara Kannada, Karnataka, lives the Siddhi tribe. One finds Siddhis having got accustomed to the Indian way of life. They speak Kannada, Konkani and Urdu and dress like fellow Indians.

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It wasn’t too long ago when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke of ‘Saffron Terror’ attracting stark criticism from the opposition BJP and the Sangh Parivar. It was Digvijay Singh then, another Congressman, who spoke of his conversation with ATS Chief Hemant Karkare hours before his death in the 26/11 shoot-out and the slain officer’s fears that Hindu organisations were threatening him. And now, the WikiLeaks revelation of the poster boy of Congress and his concern regarding the “bigger threat” of the “growth of radicalized Hindu groups”… More uproar, more criticism, more discussions on the nexus between religion and terror…

TV Channels got a hot topic to put forth their experts and panelists, to discuss religion and terrorism and whether Rahul Gandhi was right in stating that ‘Hindu terror’ is a bigger threat than Lashkar-e-Toiba or so to say, ‘Islamic terrorism’. In one such panel discussion in a TV news channel, there was this ‘expert’ who was invited to present his view, who in addition to condemning the statement of Gandhi, went on to say that the so called ‘Hindu terror’ was no match to ‘Islamic terrorism’. “Hardly one or two people in the Hindu community may resort to such activities. But the case is different with Muslims. They have a jehadi mentality”, he said.

“You’re absolutely right”, the moderator of the show seconded, adding that “Islamic terrorism comes with state backing and is recognized as an international threat. You have to accept that”, as he posed his next question to the panelist who was defending Rahul Gandhi’s statement.

To begin with, it is indeed ironic that the same people who say that no religion preaches terror, go on to brand terror activities on religious lines. It is said “He who likes to generalise, generally lies”. This perhaps is the best response one can think of for accusations of people  who say that a particular community or an entire group or an entire religion is associated with terrorism. Secondly, you do feel that somewhere down the line, a larger picture is not being touched upon.

Terrorism cannot and should not be confined to killing of innocent people by masked men using bombs and guns alone. Terrorism in a broader sense, and in the real sense of the term, is anything that terrorizes people…that forces them to live in an atmosphere, where they spend their days and nights with a sense of fear that anything may happen anytime… a sense of insecurity.  Ask any eye witness of communal riots like the one that took place in Gujarat, and he/she will tell you what ‘terror’ is. Ask a victim of police atrocity, someone who went to the law protectors expecting justice only to get torture in return, and he/she will tell you what terror is. Ask a mother who saw her innocent son being dragged out of the house by cops for ‘inquiry’ and she will tell you what terror is. Ask someone who has seen an ‘encounter’ of an innocent unfold right in front of him, and he/she will tell you what terror is. Ask the family members of an eye witness who is scheduled to give witness against a politician in a court of law, and you will know what terror is…

Many a time, these acts are state-sponsored. The Gujarat pogrom is widely referred to as an act of state sponsored violence. The atrocities on Christians in Orissa were also viewed as state sponsored by many. There are reports of human rights violations and torture in Kashmir (By the way, no one seems to be discussing the WikiLeaks expose that appeared in news agencies the same day as the Rahul Gandhi one, about the torture meted out to detainees in Kashmir). If the Indian government is aware of it, and is refraining from checking it, then its attitude too can in a way be called state-sponsored terror. Go a step ahead and look at the wars and post-war scenarios in US-Afghanistan or US-Iraq cases, and you’ll find more evidences for state sponsored terrorism. Why then is this form of ‘state backing’ and ‘internationally recognized threat’ not discussed in the same breath on such shows?

The nation needs to discuss the larger issue of terrorism more than the religious affiliations. Even when the mainstream media discusses the nexus between religion and terror, why is that the larger picture is ignored? How many of us are aware that there is something called ‘Christian terrorism’ too? A Wikipedia page on ‘Christian terrorism’ will give you names of the many groups and country-wise terror activities of organizations that engaged in acts of terror, “the motivation for which is typically rooted in an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible and other tenets of faith”.  In one of the references is a BBC report on members of an American group called “Concerned Christians” who were “deported” by Israel as they were accused of “plotting attacks on sacred sites in Jerusalem”. The report goes on to add that the group was planning “unspecified extreme acts of violence in an attempt to hasten the second coming of Jesus, which they believe will take place at the end of the millennium”.

Forget Israel. There is a mention about Christian terrorism in India too. Wikipedia, while speaking about the National Liberation Front of Tripura, which it says is a Christian terrorist organization, says that it has been “classified by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism as one of the ten most active terrorist groups in the world” and that “The state government reports that the Baptist Church of Tripura supplies arms and gives financial support to the NLFT. The Church is also reported to encourage the NLFT to murder Hindus, particularly infants. NLFT has also declared a ban against Hindus celebrating Durga Puja and other Hindu festivals”. Whether these reports  are true or not, we don’t know. But the point is, how often do we see the topic of the so called ‘Christian terror’ being discussed in panel discussions on terrorism on TV channels?

Terror has no colour, no religion. Terror is terror. Besides, it is the everyday terror that people experience that needs to be addressed first. India has repeatedly expressed concerns about security, and internal security at a global platform. But it has to first deal with issues that terrify its people under its own law and order system.  Issues, that at times shake a citizen’s faith in the governance and the entire ‘system’ of the country.


I  close my eyes and I find Mother Mary before me. Along with the aura of her blessed face, I see a semblance of sorrow accompanying it. I try asking ‘Oh pious lady! One of the most virtuous women to have ever set foot on the earth…What makes you wear that grief-stricken look?’

In reply, silence is all that I get. I open my eyes and say to myself, ‘better luck next time’.

I then happen to browse through the internet and I find one of the pictures of her statues somewhere in France. The typical mournful look on her face is what I find yet again.

I make my own permutations and combinations. I try figuring out what could be troubling Mother Mary so much? Incidentally, I happen to come across a news story as I browse, about the ban on Hijab or the burkha on women in France. I say to myself, perhaps this is it. One might wonder what has Mother Mary got to do with the Hijab? Well, the way I see it, there’s hardly any difference between the clothes that Mother Mary is seen wearing and the Islamic Hijab worn by the Muslim women.

Perhaps Mother Mary wants to say ‘I dread people will call for ban on my clothing as well. They didn’t bother one iota before they made my blessed son look trendy and ‘cool’ not too long ago’. (Yes, it’s about the ‘Jesus in Jeans’ statue unveiled in a Church in East Essex, England) The last thing she would want is people making her wear mini skirts.

Quiet possible that Mother Mary is unhappy about the allegation laid on the followers of a faith that regard her son as one of the mightiest messengers of God, that they suppress their women by making them dress like her. It’s a misconception that Islam subjugates women by imposing the Hijab on them. The reason for Hijab for women in Islam is mentioned in the Glorious Quran which makes it clear that it is to protect women from being molested. A lesser known fact is that the Quran talks about Hijab for men before women. The Quran commands every believing man to lower his gaze on the sight of women in order to restrain him from feasting on the beauty of the female body. Islam has got no issues with a woman being a career woman, gives her the right to education and inherit property, does not approve of a marriage without her consent,  allows her to involve in business transactions and the like as long as she carries out her activities within the framework of the shariah. Ask a lady who wears the Islamic hijab and you’ll know that she wants to guard her modesty and expects to be respected.

In fact, subduing of women is something of a global significance. If you thought women in the West, with all its democratic principles, live a life of liberation and empowerment, think again. Even in our dear country India, which boasts of a modest lifestyle and rich cultural heritage, assault on women is alarming. According to the data released by the Union Home Ministry, India stands third in the list of most registered rape cases in the world, with 18,359 rape cases being registered in the first three quarters of 2008. The first place goes to the US with 93,934 cases followed by South Africa with 54,926 rape cases, as reported by The country with the lowest number of rape cases registered according to the report, is Jordan, (only 78 cases) where 92% of the total population is Muslim.

Yvonne Ridley, a journalist from UK who made headlines after her 10 day captivity under the Taliban in Afghanistan, writes in one of her articles ‘How I Came To Love The Veil’ that was published on her official website, “Western women are still treated as commodities, where sexual slavery is on the rise, disguised under marketing euphemisms, where womens’ bodies are traded throughout the advertising world. This is a society where rape, sexual assault, and violence on women is commonplace, a society where the equality between men and women is an illusion, a society where a womens’ power or influence is usually only related to the size of her breasts.” Further, she goes on to reveal “I used to look at veiled women as quiet, oppressed creatures and now I look at them as multi-skilled, multi-talented, resilient women whose brand of sisterhood makes Western feminism pale into insignificance.

Here’s an unnoticed example of women exploitation that we saw in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) season II that concluded in South Africa not too long ago. In a match played between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Mumbai Indians at Port Elizabeth, a venue known for its windy conditions, we saw most of the players on the field wearing double jerseys and sweaters and a few in the dug out wrapped in towels. Even the commentators who would come out on the filed to fill in some telecast time during the 10 minute strategic time out, were seen fully clad in thick jackets and monkey caps, trying to combat the chilly weather. But there was this contingent of cheergirls who continued to be in action (or were ordered to do so) in those skimpy outfits in that very chilly weather, making a mockery of the equal rights for women mantra that the ‘civilized’ societies talk about.

Mr. Sarkozi’s concern for the womenfolk deserves appreciation. But perhaps he needs to ask the womenfolk themselves whether they feel ‘subjugated’ in the hijab before really making conclusions. There are a whole lot of things that decide the actual suppression of women than her abundantly covered body.

Even as her son strived to tell his people what is good and what is not, I wonder if Mother Mary with her fully clad attire ever felt subjugated.

Phew… If only Mother Mary could speak….

pepsi sprite

Brand Ambassadors have been a significant part of the advertising strategy, the corporate world has been using in the recent past. A tactic, that aims at attracting consumers in large scale capitalizing on the fan following factor that celebs carry about with them.

Unfortunately, a fair portion of the consumer population falls prey to this non-sense time and again. A personality may have his / her aura alright. Its quite a trick to make people buy your product by having a Shahrukh Khan or an Amitabh Bachan asking the public to do so. Having said that, its high time people realize that the so called brand ambassadors may change colours like a chameleon any moment, thereby making a mockery of the ‘trust’ they have in a particular brand.

Shahrukh Khan is a known culprit in this regard. He is notorious for advertising any product as long as he is paid well, besides switching brand loyalties. There was a time when SRK used to call himself Shahrukh ‘Mayur’ Khan, everytime he hit the TV screens promoting Mayur Suitings. But today, you’ll find him saying Belmonte’s the best. Very recently, he broke his age old loyalty with Pepsi, one of his trademark ad brands. Over the years, SRK shouted the pepsi slogan – whether it was Yehi Hai Right Choice Baby, Yeh Dil Maange More or Oye Bubbly… but now, all of a sudden he has jumped to its rival Coke camp, advertising for Sprite.

So is the case with Sachin Tendulkar. The little master’s smile accompanied many a ‘express yourself’ posters of Airtel until recently. Now, he is seen disclosing his phone number on TV Commercials of Idea Cellular.

The Master does it, why not the Blaster? Tendulkar’s opening partner in ODI’s and teammate Virender Sehwag’s tale is no different. When he first burst onto the cricket scene, among the many products he advertised was Coca Cola. Now, he is seen promoting Pepsi donning a Youngistan icon (although the number of hairs on his head seem to be disappearing with every passing day) along with skipper Dhoni, and teammates Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth.

Talking about Dhoni, he too ain’t innocent either. Remember that 7 up ad wherein a tennis player goes onto becoma a batsman (Anhonee Ho Gayi Honi, Aur Main Ban Gaya Dhoni) ? 7 up to Pepsi – Captain leading from the front!

If you too are among those who trust a brand becasue your favourite star asks you to do so, it is time you think again. Let your reliability of a product depend on its quality and performance and not merely on your favourite icon’s persuasion.

Clear Hai?

The Burning I’Shoe!

May 8, 2009

Just when everyone thought they had enough of shoes making headlines, yet another one pops up, and yet again for all the wrong reasons. And what’s the news this time? Its about a haul of heroin worth 30 lakhs found in a shoe that was being sent through courier from Bangalore to South Africa. You just cant keep the shoes away from the happening stage nowadays, can you?

After a series of ‘sole attacks’ on prominent personalities in public, the act has garnered unpleasant responses from all quarters. One of the prominent politicians even remarked that shoe slinging is not our culture. As far as the Indian perception of footwear with regard to culture goes, one does find a mixed insight. The footwear garlanding of effigies of cricketers and politicians as a result of public outrage is one side of the coin and the sandals of Shri Ram ruling the Ayodhya throne in his absence is the other. But yes, in general, we do perceive shoes as ‘dirty’ which is symbolized by our leaving of our footwear outside places of worship and our own houses, in contrast to our Western counterparts who walk into a funeral room with their shoes on, but take their hats off.

Nevertheless, if shoes continue to hog the limelight for negative reasons the way they are now, a stage might come when authorities will ban sporting of shoes. What if that happens? Well, not a bad idea to imagine a shoe-less world – Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh will not be fined for carrying unhygeininc shoes aboard. Good reason to walk into the field with the fine away, but watch out for that Brett Lee Yorker that might literally end up being a ‘toe crushing’ one. Hindi film heroes will not be able to recognize policemen in civil clothes, for all these years they used the tactic ‘Police walon ko unke kapdon se nahi, jooton se pehchana jata hai’. Ladies will not be able to use the trademark ‘sandal ka number bataaun?’ stuff for men busy with eve teasing. Superstitions will lose an option of keeping their houses safe from evil sight with no old shoes/slippers hanging right at the top. Raj Kapoor might never have sung the song ‘Mera joota hai Japani’. The saaalis of the groom will lose a weapon to torture him for money (You know, the joote lo paise do stuff).

Now you know why that shoe bites.

The IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians yesterday was played in Port Elizabeth, a venue known for its chilly and windy conditions, specially after dusk. No wonder we saw almost all players on the field in action wearing sweaters or double jerseys. From commentators, players, to the members in the dugouts of the respective teams, everyone was doubly clad and a few were even seen wrapped in towels as well. However, one contingent that didnt give you an impression of feeling the chill was – the cheergirl unit.

As others on the field struggled to keep themselves warm, these scantily dressed cheergirls showed no signs of covering themselves up. They are instructed to do so, rather. Just goes on to show you how the female body is being used as a product, a commodity for attraction.

I’m perfectly aware that at this point of time that there is a fair chunk of people wanting to pounce on me in stating “The girls don’t have a problem, why should you?”. They’re right. The girls may not be having a problem with that. But its not just about these girls. Its the women community in general, and how the corporate / commercial sector perceives them. And they are the very same people who talk about women empowerment.

In the first place, its hard to understand the need for a bunch of girls dancing in a game of cricket, in a manner that gives you an embarassing feeling, not being able to watch the ‘gentlemen’s game’ with and without family.

The word Talibanisation is back in limelight. This time though, its from the Supreme Court judge Justice Markandeya Katju, in his description of students sporting beards in schools and colleges.

Justice Katju reportedly passed the obsesrvation while dismissing the petition of a student. Mohammad Salim of Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a government-recognised minority institution in Madhya Pradesh, had sought repealing of the school regulation requiring students to be clean-shaven.

We in India, are proud of our Constitution that provides for secular values and the fundamental right to practice and preach the religion of our choice. The law of the land has never been a hurdle with respect to maintaining one’s religious identity. At this juncture, the observation of the judge regarding beards synonymously with Talibanising is abysmal.

When people talk about Talibanisation, they talk in terms of terrorism, fanaticism, or negative fundamentalism. One wonders how merely sporting a beard be associated with these detrimental traits? If by sheer growing of a beard one becomes a terrorist, then Pandit Sri Sri Ravishankarji should have topped the list of terrorists in the country, given the size of his beard.

The beard is a significant part of Muslim identity just like tilak for the Hindu brethren and turban for the Sikh brothers. It is unfair really to paint one in negative colours and associate it with barbarism. It would be interesting to know what Justice Katju has to say about banning tilak and the Sikh turban in schools and colleges. Also, what would be his take on the poojas that take place in Government offices?

True that during the trial, the clean shaven counsel for Salim Justice (retd) B A Khan’s view that the beard is an indispensable part of the Muslim identity boomeranged on him. But the individual’s paradox better not be generalized. There are hundreds of lip service Muslims who do not follow the tenets of Islam. One cannot judge the religion and its doctrines based on what such hypocrites do or say. Besides, there are bound to be exceptions in the society. Jagjit Singh and Gulzar do not sport beards but are Sikhs all the same. Does it mean that because they are not bearded, the entire Sikh community should be banned from growing beards?

As regards classrooms, the beard has a valid lineage of centuries with students in gurukulas, the sanths and the sadhus donning beards and lengthy ones at that. The very convent that is preventing Salim from keeping a beard would regard Jesus Christ (pbuh) in highest reverence, who himself had a fairly long beard. Almost in all religions one finds that the religious heads grew beards. Whether it was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Sri Sai Baba, or Gurunanakji, their facial hair invariably accompanied their aura.

Folks love to compare the ‘brutal Taliban regime’ and the people friendly democratic set ups in the world. Abraham Lincoln, the man who redefined democracy, had a beard as rich as the jungles of Amazon!

The remark is condemnable for sure, and quite clearly does not facilitate the upholding of the fundamental rights of the citizens. Even more disheartening it is however, that it has come from the apex court – the supposed custodian of justice.

(This write up has been published in THE HINDU newspaper. The link for its online version –

M.K.Gandhi’s views and movements are popular over the world. Seen as an inspiration, he earns a special place in the hearts of many as a charismatic leader who led by principles of simplicity and non-violence. But not many are aware of the role played by Islamic teachings in shaping up the man.

Gandhi drew inspirations from the glorious Quran, the blessed life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and that of his companions. Of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) he said in an interview with ‘Young India’ (September 23, 1924) –  “I wanted to know the best of one who holds today undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind… I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the 2nd volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of the great life.”

Writing in ‘Harijan’ (issue dated 27-07-1937), Gandhi advised his fellow Congressmen on leading a life of simplicity in this fashion:

“I cannot present before you the examples of Sri Ram Chandr and Sri Krishn as they are not personalities recognized by history. I cannot help but present to you names of Abu Bakar (ra) and Umar (ra). They were leaders of a vast empire, yet they lived a life of austerity.”

An even lesser famous quote is the observation of Gandhi about the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (r.a). Gandhi said “The best thing to happen to India would be to be reigned by a dictator as just and upright as Umar, (ra).”

Why did a non-violent exponent of Gandhi’s stature regard the rule of such a man as the ‘best thing’?

The answer lies in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and that of his companions…

Recently, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa called on the State Police to invoke the Karnataka Control of Organized Crimes Act, 2005. A laudable move indeed, if it facilitates peace in the region. The concern is that big ‘if’.

Although KCOCA came into effect from January 2002, no cases have been booked under this act as the rules necessary to make the law effective have not been framed. The State Home Ministry has already come out with a statement that they will be working on the little additions and subtractions in the Act and try to implement it within couple of months.

The Act, as its title would suggest, is meant for the control of ‘organized crimes’. The tenure of our Chief Minister so far, has witnessed a number of them. Some went on to hit the headlines of news channels at National and international levels. That the pub attack episode in Mangalore was an organized crime was for everyone to see.

The attack on Churches across the state a few months ago, one has to say, was also organized. Incidents of the so called moral police taking young boys and girls to task every now and then in various parts of the state, is also part of the organized scheme of things. It would be interesting to know how our CM looks at these incidents under the light of the Act and what steps he takes regarding them.

Reading between the lines the intention of the State cabinet to implement the Act, one gets the impression that it is more inclined towards curbing terrorism in the state. It is in fact quite evident, if the posts on the Home Minister’s blog are to be believed. Whether the above mentioned incidents come under the umbrella of terrorism as far as the state government is concerned, is another question. The Opposition at the centre, which happens to be the ruling one here, has always pressed on the need to re-implement POTA. The POTA was used to torture hundreds of innocent citizens based on baseless suspicions of them being linked with terrorism.

Most of us talk about terrorism in terms of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and more recently ‘Hindu Terrorism’, but why do we rule out the possibility of a ‘Political Terrorism’? There is every chance that bomb blasts could be carried out by the activists of a particular party in order to show its rival party in negative light – that the ruling party has not been able to contain the terror attacks. Why don’t we think of the possible terrorists clad in neta attire?

One of the many features of the KCOCA is that the investigation officer can go about arresting the suspects without a warrant. We certainly do not approve of terrorism and would love to see the culprits behind the bars. But the last thing people expect is to be tortured by the authorities for no fault of theirs. One can imagine what is in store if the Act is invoked and in what way it would be used by the authorities concerned.

One only hopes that the KCOCA, if invoked, helps in dealing with ‘organized crimes’ rather than turning out to be Karnataka’s version of the POTA.

(This write up has been published in – news website.