Saturday, August 26, 2006

Commerce, cosmopolitanism, and bans

Source: The Hindu

In an age where the flow of information cannot be stopped, are bans of the kind recently witnessed in Mumbai — on telecasting films with an "A" certificate — the right thing?

MUMBAI IS fast gaining the reputation of being not India's commercial capital but its "moral" capital. In the course of the last decade, there have been a string of incidents that have illustrated the extent to which moral policing is gaining ground. From stopping couples sitting near the sea-face, to banning bar girls to the most recent ban on telecasting films with an "A" certificate, Mumbai is taking the lead. For a city known for its modernity and cosmopolitanism this is, indeed, a strange turn. Are these trends accidental or are they part of a larger politics that is redefining the city?

Take the latest controversy, on which popular opinion is almost as divided as on the question of allowing girls to dance in bars. When a professor of political science from St Xavier's College petitioned the Bombay High Court, asking for a ban on the telecast of films certified "adults only" because they were adversely affecting children, most people did not take the issue seriously. They did not expect that the Bombay High Court would respond by asking cable operators to black out all such films. Despite its order of December 21, 2005, nothing happened. In any case, it would not have been possible for individual multi-system operators (MSOs) to check each day's programme on the movie channels, determine whether any of the films scheduled to be telecast had been certified "A," and then blank them out.

The status quo continued until the petitioner realised the court's order was not being implemented. Once again she moved the court. This time the High Court threatened to slap contempt of court on the Mumbai police if they did not act. And so they did. On a Sunday night, when many families sit back to watch a film on television, they suddenly found their television sets blank. To protest the police raids on MSOs, all cable operators simply turned off their transmission. The whole of the next day there was complete confusion; no one knew exactly what had happened. The local cable operator only had piecemeal information. Without even news channels, barring Doordarshan, people had no access to "breaking" news. Late that night, all other channels were restored except the movie channels when Home Minister R.R. Patil assured cable operators that they would not be penalised for something that was out of their control.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

To the women of South Africa

Source: The Hindu

To the women of South Africa

THIS is a letter to our sisters in South Africa.

Fifty years ago, on August 9, 1956, 20,000 of you
defied your country's oppressive laws and marched to
protest against the discriminatory pass laws of that
despicable system of apartheid. Two years before
this, on April 17, 1954, when you founded the
Federation of South African Women, you formulated
"The Women's Charter" that is relevant even today.
Your words, "The level of civilisation which any
society has reached can be measured by the degree of
freedom that its members enjoy. The status of women
is a test of civilisation," have echoed around the
world since then.

Your slogan during the August 9 march also struck a
chord: "Now you have touched the women, You have
struck a rock, (You have dislodged a boulder!), You
will be crushed!"

Eventually, your prophecy came true and the terrible
nightmare of the apartheid regime ended in 1994 when
South Africa took its first step towards freedom. At
the opening of your country's first democratically
elected Parliament on May 24, 1994, your
inspirational first President, Nelson Mandela said,
"Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been
emancipated from all forms of oppression."

Today, some of that oppression has ended. The new
South Africa has accepted women as equal partners.
One third of your Parliament is made up of women.
And 43 per cent of the Ministers in President Thabo
Mbeki's cabinet are women.

That is enviable. But what is even more impressive
is the acknowledgement by the current male
leadership that despite being part of a
"progressive" movement to end apartheid, they did
not fully accept the need for gender equality. It
was a pleasant surprise to read what President Mbeki
said in his address on the 50th anniversary of the
Women's March. He admitted that in its earlier
history, the anti-apartheid movement "also
perpetuated the inferiority of women within its own
ranks." He said that at its foundation, the African
National Congress did not accept women as full
members and that its 1919 Constitution only allowed
them to be auxiliary members with no voting rights
or the chance to be elected to a position within the

This changed in 1943 when women became full members
of the ANC and a Women's League was established.
Even so, it took more than 10 years for the first
woman to be elected into the National Executive
Committee of the ANC. "The fact of the matter
therefore is that it took our movement more than 40
years fully to give expression within its own ranks
to the principle and practice of gender equality,"
said President Mbeki. He went further to acknowledge
that although 12 years after liberation, much had
been done to enhance women's status, "we have as yet
not achieved gender equality and are still some
distance away from realising the goal of a
non-sexist society."

That kind of admission from a head of state has to
be applauded because it is so rare. It would be
truly unusual if one of our leaders, from any of the
political parties, admitted past errors and accepted
current realities.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Blogging in Beirut

Source: The Hindu


IMAGES of the Qana massacre in Lebanon are numbing. There can be no
comment. No words. Only immense sorrow and anger at the pointless nature
of war. Before our very eyes we are watching a nation being destroyed.

None of this is unfamiliar. It happened three years ago, in Iraq. But
Lebanon is another story. A tragic one. It has a history that seems
cyclical. The Israelis bombed Qana in 1996. Then, over 100 died. And then
it was bombed again by them on Sunday, July 30, 2006 and more than 50
died, 34 of them children.

It makes no sense because war makes no sense. We know that. Leaders of
nations should know that. History should have taught the world that.
And yet wars happen. Wars without end.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why Mumbai escaped a flare-up

Source: The Hindu (

Kalpana Sharma

MUMBAI HAS not seen a serious communal conflagration since the post-Babri Masjid 1992-93 riots. The absence of a riot does not mean there has been no communal tension. But for a variety of reasons, the tension between communities has been restricted or contained within certain areas and has not spread to the entire city. This is something that has to be noted, not necessarily to be celebrated.

With the on-going investigations into the July 11 serial bomb blasts, the question about whether communal tensions could once again surface and come out in the open is being debated. Some feel that the anger in the minority community, which comprises over 17 per cent of Mumbai's population, is boiling over and some of it has found expression in the men suspected of having participated directly, or having assisted indirectly in the bomb blasts. It is evident that in some Muslim-dominated pockets, there is fear, anger, and even resignation following the "combing" operations being conducted by the police.

However, Muslim community leaders say this is nothing new.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)