Monday, July 28, 2008

Why there was no India riot repeat

By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Delhi

When serial explosions ripped through the city of Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat over the weekend, a fear of sectarian riots gripped its people.

After all, nobody has forgotten the horrific riots in Gujarat in 2002, when more than 1,000 mostly Muslim people died in violence sparked by an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims - killing 59 of them.

Also, independent studies have shown that Gujarat has the highest per capita rate of deaths in communal rioting and clashes among all states in India, at around 117 per million in urban areas.

The same studies also show that the cities of Ahmedabad and Baroda accounted for more than 75% of these deaths between 1950 and 1995 alone.

And in a blow to supporters of secular politics, the vote share of Hindu nationalist parties in Gujarat shot up from a mere 1.4% in 1962 to 47.37% in 2004 - while the share of votes for the centrist Congress party dipped from 50.8% in 1962 to 43.86% in 2004.

Nothing much has changed fundamentally since the last bout of rioting in 2002, which triggered off international condemnation of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - which led the state government then and continues to do so now.

Sectarian divide
Narendra Modi, its controversial chief minister, has been accused of failing to protect Muslims in the 2002 riots. He still heads the government and has been chief minister for the past six years.
The sectarian divide between the Hindus and Muslims has widened. The latter make up 10% of the state's population and live almost entirely in ghettos.

Yet the state continues to perform exceedingly well economically - a quarter of India's revenues come from Gujarat.
But this time Mr Modi took the lead in taking charge of the situation, calling the army out to hold marches in potentially volatiles areas and appealing for calm.

"My friends and I were very angry with the people who exploded the bombs, but we agreed with our leader that violence begets more violence," said a local resident, Bharat Bhai, who was wounded in one of the blasts.

It also helped there were no incendiary statements from Hindu nationalist leaders, despite the fact that many of the areas targeted were dominated by Hindus.

"The stakes are too high for Narendra Modi this time. He aspires to become a prominent leader in India's national politics. He does not want to give a slur to Gujarat's reputation as a favoured business destination," says social scientist Achyut Yagnik, who has written extensively on the state.

"That is why he took control immediately, unlike the last time when the riots were clearly engineered."

A police inspector in the predominantly Muslim-dominated area of Shahpur said his force had been working hard to avert a repeat of 2002 since Saturday's blasts - a far cry from that year when the police looked the other way in many areas when the rioting continued.

"There was tension between Hindus and Muslims here following the blasts. We sensed that and held a meeting with members of the two communities," said PN Joshi.

This definitely helped in preventing reprisal attacks - after all the people behind the explosions, say police and analysts - knew the "social geography" of the places they targeted.

Maninagar, which was rocked by three explosions, is the assembly constituency of Narendra Modi.
A blast in Bapunagar took place close to a private hospital run by the firebrand leader of the radical Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Praishad (VHP) Pravin Togadia.

Sarangpur, another blast site, is the constituency of senior BJP leader and speaker of the state assembly Ashok Bhatt.

Climate of fear
Upscale neighbourhoods, thriving shopping malls and government premises were left alone. The people responsible were targeting areas where prominent BJP leaders have support bases.

Analysts say those responsible for the blasts were sending out two messages - that they could strike at will despite the state machinery; and that they were capable of creating a climate of fear.

But, at the end of the day, the explosions will only end up helping the BJP politically as the fearful majority Hindus gravitate towards the party.

"More people will now rally around the BJP. It will lead to consolidation of the BJP in the urban areas. A fear psychosis among Hindus only helps the BJP," says Achyut Yagnik.

Analysts insist Ahmedabad remains a tinderbox, with relations between Hindus and Muslims strained and polarisation between the two communities complete.

A lot of people feared reprisal attacks from disgruntled Muslim groups after the 2002 riots, but that never happened.
Some 145,000 Muslims became homeless after the riots - the majority of them in Ahmedabad - and ended up living in fetid refugee camps.

Sectarian positions have hardened: when a prominent Mumbai-based civil right activist who has been fighting for justice for the victims of the 2002 riots and an actor arrived at the civil hospital in Ahmedabad over the weekend to meet the wounded, family and friends of the victims hounded them out of the place.

They called the civil rights activist "a mouth piece of the terrorists".

So the fact that there was no rioting in what is arguably India's most polarised city is principally because the state machinery under Narendra Modi decided to be firm this time.

"The only other saving grace is that the economic relations between Hindus and Muslims have held strong in the context of the economic boom that Gujarat has enjoyed," says Achyut Yagnik.

In which case, Gujarat's economic boom has come as a blessing in more ways than one.

Monday, July 14, 2008

a hilarious bollywood film review

Love Story 2050: a futuristic stinker

Nirpal Dhaliwal
Monday July 14, 2008

India's film industry must make more absolute stinkers than the rest of the world combined. You won't get a better example of the brain-insulting garbage it can churn out than Love Story 2050, Bollywood's answer to Barbarella, Back To The Future and Beverly Hills 90210 - all rolled into one.
It's a movie industry equivalent of a corner-shop, directed by Harry Baweja, produced by his wife and starring their son, Harman - who no doubt had to give up his evenings and weekends to work on it for free.

Harman plays Karan, a spoilt rich-kid wanker who struts around wearing stone washed jeans and a henna-tinted bouffant, constantly exclaiming "Oh shit!" in English to show what a hip and modern, fast-talking rebel he is. Mixed up by his mother's death and neglected by a father who prefers making money, Karan loves crashing his dad's expensive cars as well as "extreme sports, break-dancing and hip-hop" and everything else wankers like doing. He also has a habit of wearing sweatbands on his wrists and even on his fingers - probably to relieve the injuries he's sustained from wanking too much.
While out jogging in the park in a headband and sleeveless tank top, Karan spots the beautiful wide-eyed Sana, happily playing with a butterfly, and is smitten. Played by the Bambi-faced Priyanka Chopra, Sana gleams with a dark, moist muscavado sweetness that had me craning towards the screen wanting to lick her. For the first half of the movie she's the only thing worth watching.

Karan wins her heart and charms her family and the two become engaged. But while out having ice cream one night, tragedy strikes when Sana is hit by a truck while crossing the road. "Oh shit!" cries Karan, leaping in slow motion from his convertible like a complete wanker. There follows a disturbingly graphic scene in which Sana, her hair drenched in blood, twitches and splutters her final words of affection while Karan gnashes his teeth and screws his eyes in anguish.

Luckily, his scientist uncle has invented a time machine in which they can to travel to the future to find Sana's reincarnation. The film then shifts from its setting in present-day Brisbane (don't ask why), to the poorly animated, slum-free, high-tech and wholly uninteresting Mumbai of 2050, where Sana has been reborn as Zeisha, a flame-haired, blue-eyed rock-chick with a penchant for ghastly metallic nail varnish. "A woman of the future, talked about in the past", she is precisely the trashy, self-regarding hussy Karan was born to be with.

With Sana having morphed into this tasteless tramp, the film offers nothing but bad acting, boring songs and sub-Blake's Seven special effects. Zeisha's talking robot teddy looks like it came straight out of Toys-R-Us. The musical routines feel thoroughly contrived, inserted into the film only to meet the industry format. But they provide an amusing diversion as Karan makes a spectacular twat of himself with his high-octane body-popping, flapping like a hapless cod out of water.

The critics universally gave this film the finger and attendances have been poor. There were only a handful in my cinema; half way through most were asleep, while a turbaned Sikh bloke in my row was feverishly making out with his girlfriend.

The movie fails not just because of its sheer badness but also its vision of the future. It's a future in which India is nothing but an emulation of MTV crassness. The only character that resonated with the audience, drawing laughs whenever she appeared, was Sana's Punjabi mother, a good-natured but bossy and interfering cow - a figure any Indian can recognise.

That Love Story 2050 is a flop is reassuring. Despite their love of escapism, Indians want their fantasy worlds to be thoroughly Indian ones. Whatever hopes they might have, they don't want their future to be a shabby imitation of the West.

a much better film to watch

my heroe, right after aamir khan

Sunday, July 13, 2008

wtf france???

France rejects veiled Muslim wife

A French court has denied citizenship to a Muslim woman from Morocco, ruling that her practice of "radical" Islam is not compatible with French values.

The 32-year-old woman, known as Faiza M, has lived in France since 2000 with her husband - a French national - and their three French-born children.

Social services reports said the burqa-wearing Faiza M lived in "total submission to her male relatives".

Faiza M said she has never challenged the fundamental values of France.

Her initial application for French citizenship was rejected in 2005 on the grounds of "insufficient assimilation" into France.

She appealed, and late last month the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative body which also acts as a high court, upheld the decision to deny her citizenship.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Why are there more Indian men than women?

I'm not against abortion - I'm putting this up to highlight the effect that female infanticide has had on the Indian population.

India aborts 500,000 female fetuses a year: study
Monday, January 9, 2006

Up to 10 million female fetuses have been selectively aborted in India since 1976, according to a Canadian-led study released Monday in a British medical journal.

The study in the Lancet found fewer daughters were born to couples still presumed to be trying for a boy, said Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

Researchers also found the probability that a female fetus was aborted was more than twice as likely among educated mothers than illiterate ones. However, once a boy was born, the gender ratio was roughly equal, said the report.

"We conservatively estimate that prenatal sex determination and selective abortion account for 0.5 million missing girls yearly," Jha wrote.

"If this practice has been common for most of the past two decades since access to ultrasound became widespread, then a figure of 10m (million) missing female births would not be unreasonable."

Researchers analyzed information about 133,738 births.

Based on the ratio of girls to boys in other countries, they estimated that 13.6 million to 13.8 million girls should have been born in 1997 in India. However, they found just 13.1 million were born.

Abortion for sex selection has been illegal in India since 1994. But the practice is widely believed to continue, to the point that India's gender ratio among its population of 1.06 billion has been skewed.

In 2001, there were 927 girls per 1,000 boys. Ten years before that, there were 945 girls per 1,000 boys, according to government census-takers.

Daughters are often regarded as a liability in India because they leave their families after marriage and "belong" to their husband's families. Many families must also borrow money to pay a dowry to the families of the husbands.