Tag Archives: indian politics

Shah Rukh Khan: Don’t Apologize to Shiv Sena

Update (04-Jan): Speaking in London where he is promoting his movie My Name is Khan, Shah Rukh Khan today said:

“I don’t know what the issue is all about…I don’t know what I am supposed to retract. Am I supposed to retract the fact I’m an Indian but I don’t want anyone to come to my country. What all that I’ve said is that I would like people to come to my country to participate in the biggest event and it scarce me to say anything because our stakes are very high. I have no idea what people would like me to say. If somebody could tell me this is what you would want me to say, I’ll say it. What all I have been taught by my father who was a freedom fighter for this country is wrong and my kids are steering wrong. It’s not a stand or a statement against anyone. It’s actually a sort of what I individually feel and normally when a film is releasing-to be really honest and I wouldn’t comment on it on a larger scale because it’s not nice when a Hindi film hero who is thought of as an icon, to say this. I am really sorry. I would like to apologise Karan Johar, to Kajol and I am immensely sorry to all our business partners that because of what I said, or what I believe in, their film and their work is going to be affected.”Karan Johar, producer and director of the film and co-star Kajol were present. (source)

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We’ll Watch Your Movie Twice

There are limits to political hooliganism. The two ‘political’ gangs of Mumbai- Shiv Sena and Maharastra Navanirman Sena- have crossed those limits more than once. The Indian state and its much revered Democracy are mute spectators of the Sena anarchy. It is shameful that the Senas have taken the city of Mumbai hostage and rest of India is unable to do anything. So much with the super-power dream of new India.

I am not an Indian but as an admirer of Indian democracy, lover of Indian movies and songs and observer of Indian politics, I find the Shiv Sena’s latest threat to Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan absolutely preposterous and downright condemnable. So many other people, inside India and outside, share the same feeling. Yet, as of today, Khan finds himself virtually isolated. No one, not even from his own film industry, is daring to speak for him who expressed nothing but truth while commenting upon the recent IPL fiasco. Khan had recently regretted publicly saying that it was humiliating for him as an IPL team owner that no Pakistani cricketers was taken by any of the teams despite the fact that several talented Pakistani players were up for auction. He also praised the Pakistani cricket team, current T20 world champions, as being, well, the world champions.

I see nothing wrong with that. The Shiva Sena sees nothing right in that. They feel the actor shouldn’t have praised Pakistani players and expressed regret over their exclusion from the tournament because, according to them, it’s a matter of patriotism. Now the Sena is demanding that Khan should either retract from his statement (apologize) or go to Pakistan, as in leaving India for good. As if India belonged exclusively to the Thackeray clan and their goons at the Senas.

It is clear why Shiv Sena is targeting Shah Rukh. Shah Rukh Khan, the mega star of Indian film industry, is a Muslim. Shiva Sena, who plays the politics of Marathi Manoos, is a right-wing ultra-Hindutva outfit. That is the sole reason for the latest Sena outrage against Khan who has the right, constitutionally speaking, to say what he said in Indian democracy. The Sena’s act is clearly an example of religious chauvinism and highhandedness. Look at this statement by Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi, a former speaker of Indian parliament: Continue reading

India: Ten Years After

sarojini nagar market
It was a sobering moment when I recently saw a plaque erected beside a wall at Delhi’s another well-known market in Sarojini Nagar. “Condolence to those who died in the bomb blast on 29 Sept 2005,” said the plaque. It listed the names/identities of 47 people. A total of 50 people died on that day. Three of them couldn’t be identified.

On the last day of 2009, India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram appeared before the media as part of his monthly schedule to provide his assessment of the security situation in the country. The next day’s headline quoted the minister, “Eventful, but peaceful year.” That’s a jolly good headline to begin a new year with. In a country like India that is so wide and so populous, it is indeed a feat to make a year “eventful but peaceful”. Particularly so for a country that is so targeted by terrorists of different kinds and that cannot recall a year in recent times being peaceful in the true sense of the word.

Forget about the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai that dominated the “peaceful” year of 2009. Just look at the major markets in Delhi, for example, and you can see the scars everywhere. The Flower Market at Mehrauli was hit by a bomb in September 2008. The famous Karol Bagh market witnessed a blast in the same month that year. Blasts also rocked the markets at Connaught Place and Greater Kailash. It was a sobering moment when I recently saw a plaque erected beside a wall at Delhi’s another well-known market in Sarojini Nagar. “Condolence to those who died in the bomb blast on 29 Sept 2005,” said the plaque. It listed the names/identities of 47 people. A total of 50 people died on that day. Three of them couldn’t be identified.

Visitors to every major market in Delhi have to pass through metal detectors seen only at very important locations such as Singha Durbar, the central administrative complex, and airports in Nepal. Many of the security equipment installed in Delhi’s markets have become dysfunctional because, after all, Delhi is Delhi — the capital of India. The impaired detectors remind us of the fact that India, despite its recent economic growth, remains India, an improvised nation of a billion plus citizens with millions still in poverty. And those places with useless security equipment could still be vulnerable to attacks. If untoward incidents didn’t happen in 2009, it was not entirely because of the strong vigilance and policing, but perhaps because the terrorists were busy in other activities.

sarojini nagar market

May such blasts never occur in Delhi, but the bright fact is that Indian society is vibrant and its power to get over such attacks has grown over the years. The critically acclaimed 2008 movie Mumbai Meri Jaan, based on the July 2006 train bombings in Mumbai that killed 209 people and injured over 900, tells it best. Whatever happens, life goes on. You survive to live your life. In fact, India is too big to be intimidated by such attacks and incidents. Society can get over the wounds quickly and move on. The pace is increasing as ever. As the New Year rung in, Indians welcomed it with a bang. Delhi was completely soaked in celebrations and parties. Big hotels and expensive restaurants were booked to their full capacity. Entry fees alone for many of the parties were in the range of Indian Rs. 10,000 per couple.

While providing his assessment, the home minister didn’t forget the Maoist insurgency that is spreading all over India and remained in the headlines throughout the year 2009. Termed the greatest internal security threat to India by its prime minister, the problem that is igniting Maoism in India is certainly a grave challenge for this country. “I am disappointed over the Lalgarh situation,” said the minister referring to the district in West Bengal that hosted a major part of the Maoist agitation last year. “It’s pretty depressing,” he said.

Depressing it certainly is, but overall, the situation in India is pretty encouraging. Some headlines are even more enthusiastic. Under the banner headline “Happy New Decade, India”, the Indian Express on the first day of the new year published the findings of a study that said, among other things, even if no reforms happen, India’s GDP can grow at an average annual rate of 9.6 percent for the next 10 years. “Nine percent growth for 10 years with no reforms — that’s how well-placed India is as 2010 begins,” it said. With rapid reforms, it said, India could achieve even more. Even without reforms, the per capita income will grow at an average of 8 percent per year. By the end of the decade, incomes will be almost double compared to now. Roughly 800 million Indians will be middle class — defined as those earning between IRs. 75,000 to Rs. 10 lakh a year — out of an end-of-decade population of 1.3 plus billion.

Going by the findings, it seems another challenge to the Indian government is reform because reform is directly related to the Maoist problem. If there are no reforms (policy status quo), and growth is 9 percent plus, more than 250 million people (out of 1.3 billion plus) will still be very poor in 2020, according to the study. The number of Indians not literate will fall by 10 million in 10 years, but that will still leave nearly 200 million non-literate citizens. The more poor and non-literate people in society, the more intense are the movements like that of the Maoists. The study says only drastic reforms in fiscal, education and other policies will help India become the global powerhouse that its citizens so badly want it to be.

This article appeared on today’s Op-Ed of the Kathmandu Post

Inclusive Hindutva: BJP in India

The Bharatiya Janata Party of India has realized that its hard-line brand of Hindutva politics doesn’t work anymore. And that’s a good news thanks to its defeat in the parliamentary polls

By Dinesh Wagle
as published in today’s Kathmandu Post

“There’s a fire raging in BJP,” said a headline in India the previous week. After the humiliating loss in the recently held parliamentary elections, the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party that propagates the idea of Hindutva has been involved in internal wrangling, blame game, finger pointing and leg pulling. The party, like all losers, has been trying to figure out the cause behind the unexpected wallop in the national polls that gave the rival Congress party an opportunity to continue in government with enhanced authority. Continue reading