Saturday, December 01, 2007


The ayatollah issued fatwa against Salman Rushdie for insulting the prophet and Islam in his book 'The Satanic Verses', marked one of the first battles against extremist and literary figures. The indian born author's works were pulled off the shelves in India by the government in all its wordly wisdom. Since then Salman Rushdie has had to live a life of a refugee largely underground in europe. His recent knighthood by Britain raised several protests, some resulting in loss of life and property in the non western world.
I've wanted to find out what the fuss was about regarding his works and got hold of a copy of the satanic verses. The book was uneventful for the most part and actually rambled on making it difficult to keep up with, IMO. A poorly written book, should be no excuse for the author to have to live in constant fear of life.
His case was recently repeated again. Taslima Nasreen wrote about the persecution of Hindus in Muslim majority Bangladesh - a book which was very well written IMHO. Fleeing from bangladesh after the issuance of a fatwa on her head, she first took refuge in europe before coming to India. She's repeatedly expressed an interest in staying permanently in India, but the government well versed in playing vote bank politics has repeatedly denied her application.
Ms. Nasreen recently published her autobiography which didn't go down with a minority section of the population. The protests forced her to move out of Kolkata, with the government of West Bengal failing to have the will to protect freedom of speech and expression.
As a foot note of Orweillein injustice, Ms. Nasreen withdrew the "objectionable" elements of her autobiography, so that she could continue living in Kolkata and India. The government in its usual attempt to sweep things under the carpet has now called for all parties to forget this minor misunderstanding amongst all parties.
Unfortunately the Indian government has certified its position of not standing up for its citizens or for truth and right.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Shout out to my Peeps

Came across two news articles that brought back old memories

* A kid found out that he liked walking on his hands when he was about three or four years old. And now for the past decade has decided to walk on his hands as his main mode of transportation.

* There was a recent discovery of a cow with three eyes. The cow has received instant celebrity status and is now being worshiped as a holy cow. People have been queuing up to have darshan (holy audience) with the cow.

Borrowing a line from an old song - 'This happens only in India'. All sarcasm aside, I haven't felt prouder to be an Indian. A lot of us are trying to find themselves in this world.

Saw the movie 'Darjeeling Limited', where three American brothers go to India to find their spiritual selves. The movie revolves around their train journey in the desert state of rajasthan (unlike what the title suggest as Darjeeling is a snow covered hill station in the Himalayas).

The brothers traveled half way across the world to find their identity, without realizing that maybe their identities lie back home as mine is with my brothers - the hand walking, three eyed cow worshiping people. Word!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

March for freedom

In an event, largely ignored by the american media, thousands of monks have marched out in protest against the ruling military junta. The monks joined by thousands of locals marching for freedom from the oppressive army which has ruled burma with tacit support from china. Aung san su kyi, the nobel peace prize winner from 94 has been held under house arrest and led the last pro democracy movement before it was crushed.

On reports of several people being killed, the UN security council in all its toothless glory, has urged restraint instead of putting pressure on china to stop the gross human rights movement. The victors of WWII who currently sit on the security council continue the unequal treatment of the rest of the world's population based on the interest of its sitting members while hundreds of people who actually want freedom are killed. It would be interesting if the ideas of freedom propounded by the iraq invadors would be applied to a country with no specific monetory or political gains.

The freedom that a person deserves is probably measured in his weight in oil.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Profit at a price

International trade has been a regular part of the history of mankind from the days of the silk route to china or the Arab routes to India for spices. Places like Constantinople which were the center of the trade routes were regularly fought over for control of the trade. The Europeans brought a new front in international trade by taking over most of the sources of international trade by taking control of countries.

Over time as independence spread through the world, international trade thrived by the major powers creating power vacuum's and fostering civil wars. The US, UK, France and Russia kept up profit margins by propping up friendly governments and dictatorships by the constant supply of armaments, ammunitions and have the local economies have an unhealthy dependence on foreign supplies.

The Asian tiger economies of China and now to an extent India seem to have followed this "business model" of achieving trade and profit without addressing any local concerns. Sudan's economy has a significant dependence on Chinese trade. The Chinese could have pressurized Sudan to stop the massacre in Darfur much earlier, but they have chosen to ignore the issue while hundreds of thousands of people die in the region. Similarly the military junta in Myanmar which has kept the 1994 nobel peace prize winner Aung San Su Kyi under house arrest for the past decade, is propped by mainly by Chinese assistance.

India unfortunately with an eye on the Chinese growth has also started trading with Myanmar without taking any principled stand on the gross human right violitions. India which has historical ties with Iran is also inking new agreements with the state for its natural gas reserves, irrespective of Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and putting the entire middle east in more turmoil.

The Asian economies are now treading on the same paths that the western economies took to grow. This blind quest for power and money will end up with more of the current unequal distribution of wealth while the poor grow poorer. At what price can the profit generated can be justified.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

"Guns", thunders National Rifle Association (NRA) president Charlton Heston while speaking at a NRA meeting and adding that the only way his gun can be parted from him is if it is taken from his cold dead hands.

Guns have always been part of american culture being ingrained in the constitution as a fundamental right. The NRA promotes the use of guns and their intense lobbying has resulted with guns being commonly available rivalling the afghan-pakistan border. As an often unfortunate result, people like the Virginia Tech shooter have an unusually easy access to buying guns.

In 2004 there were 16,907 gun related suicides in America with thousands more dying from other gun related incidents much much more than what happened during 9/11 (Ref: wikipedia).

Unfortunately even after having these statistics being repeated every year, I'm really surprised on the lack of debate on banning individual gun ownership and tackling the problem of the ease in obtaining a gun. The time of Westerns and fighting 'indians' are long gone, maybe a 200 year old constitution now needs a change.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Minority no more

Through centuries, India has always struggled to find a common ground amongst its myriad of religions and castes. Inspite of the 'Unity in Diversity' theme propounded by some of the earlier congress governments, the various religions have not seen eye to eye on most issues.

In one of the apparent attempts to bridge the gap and treat everyone on the same scale; one of the courts in Uttar Pradesh (the most populous state) passed a judgement to remove muslims as a minority group - based on the 2001 census. Minorities have significant benefits and also have a tendency to vote en bloc in elections. Sensing losing an important vote bank, the state government challenged the ruling in the High Court and have the original ruling suspended.

The minority status ruling now looks to be heading the same way as the Uniform Civil Code - a quick and painless death. We will always be United in Diversity, as long as the important issues are swept under the carpet.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pound of flesh measured in diamonds

Saw Blood Diamond yesterday and I would personally recommend it being one of the best movies of the year till now.

I'm glad some of the more recent movies coming out of Hollywood put a face to the crisis faced by some of the more unfortunate sections of the world. Blood diamond, shows a lot of truth wrapped up in an immensely intense and fast paced film. The film is losely based on De Beers which controls the supply and demand of diamonds in the market thus artificially maintaining the high prices and allure of diamonds. I wouldn't go so far as accussing De Beers of knowingly participating in the trade of Conflict or blood diamonds without proof (to my knowledge), but it does raise the question of how the west with its insatiable demand for precious stones is costing the lives of so many.

Blood diamonds are diamonds mined from conflict zones in Africa whose trade fuels the raging civil war through a lot of these nations. In recent times, across Iraq through Africa, I have come across arguments about why the west should be concerned about barbarians hell bent on killing each other. Unfortunately through the history of recent civilizations, it has been the western countries and companies which prop up friendly dictators, pump in huge amount of money to fuel insurgents against unfriendly governments, actively engage in trade of blood diamonds and other natural resources for profit. Its a fact that almost all weapons used in conflicts and war come from the western hemisphere. So who really are the barbarians?