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Sports, politics, prestige and power: the struggle over the new bill September 30, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

While Suresh Kalamadi and colleagues sit it out in Tihar jail, awaiting results of their post-Commonwealth Games charges, Sports Minister Ajay Maken is struggling to gain acceptance for his Bill that would reform India’s sports management and administration, one measure against many to counter both the suggestions of corruption and international criticism. This is no simple matter. An earlier attempt, before the full catastrophe of the Games emerged, was roundly defeated as several Government Ministers including Kalmadi and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar (better known as the Chair of the International Cricket Council and former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)).

One of the central issues this time round is that Maken – a Delhi man with a trades union background – wants all sports bodies in India to be subject to the Right To Information (RTI legislation). This is being fought bitterly by many if not most of the sports bodies, and principally by the now extremely cashed up BCCI. Automatically, that leads many to think that the opposition emerges from the need not to have all or certain information emerge to full public scrutiny. The push for the RTI angle comes obviously in the Games’ aftermath amidst the revelations of alleged kickbacks, preferential tendering, bogus tenders and invoices, tampered bids and all the rest, but why the ferocious attempts to prevent the measure.

A good deal of this comes from the complex and intertwined social, financial, business and political roles played by leading sports administrators, as the cricket case reveals.

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The South Asian Qurans September 21, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Kumar, Vikas, South Asia - General , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

The Quran has been translated from Arabic into about 100 languages, roughly 1 per cent of the known living languages of the world, whereas Islam is the religion of more than 20 per cent people in the world (and Arabic is the mother tongue of less than one-fifth of the Muslims). In contrast, partial or complete translations of the Bible are available in more than a third of the known languages. Furthermore, most of the translations of the Quran are relatively recent whereas the Bible was the first printed text in a number of languages. In fact, a great majority of the extant translations of the Quran into South Asian languages appeared after the formal disestablishment of Islam in 1858 CE, roughly a thousand years after the arrival of Islam in South Asia. The few translations that pre-date 1858 CE appeared before the establishment of Islamic power in South Asia or only after the British emerged as the de facto rulers in North and East India in the late 18th century. A similar trend can be seen in other parts of the world. In the Ottoman Europe, the Quran was translated into the Balkan languages in the 19th and 20th centuries, that is, at the very end of the centuries-long Turkish rule.

One wonders why the Mughals, Akbar and Dara, who promoted large-scale translations from Sanskrit to Persian, and the Pathan rulers of Bengal and the Bahamani rulers of Deccan, who promoted local languages, overlooked the need for South Asian language Qurans. (A Deccani translation seems to have been carried out in the 16th century, which is now unavailable.) Explanations that invoke the intrinsic untranslatability of the Quran or the theological undesirability of translation will satisfy only those committed to theo-linguistic exclusivism. In fact, there are numerous Quranic verses, which can be cited in support of the need for translation (e.g., Abraham 14.4, Marium 19.97, Ha Mim 41.44, The Smoke 44.58, and Yusuf 12.2).

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Racist violence against international students in Australia: facing the facts September 19, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest authors: Ashutosh Misra and Simon Bronitt

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), the premier research agency in Australia, has recently completed a study of violence against international students. Based on reported crime to police, victimization studies and homicide monitoring data, as well as the data-matching of visa records from the Department of Immigration, the AIC report paints a picture of the scale and profile of crimes of violence (robberies and assaults) against international students in Australia. The impetus for the report stemmed from a spate of attacks on Indian students that received extensive media coverage in Australia and in India, which became the focus of political and diplomatic exchanges between the respective governments in 2009-10.

The report has some reassuring take home messages. First, Australia, relative to other destinations, is a safe place for international students, with lower levels of crime targeting them than other popular student destinations, such as the UK and USA. Homicide is relatively rare in Australia compared with other destinations, and from the AIC’s National Homicide Monitoring Program, it appears that of the ‘eight Indian students killed since 1990, none involved racial vilification or discrimination’. The profile of the crimes reported in the AIC study also showed that international students were vulnerable to attack at certain times and certain places – often working late in service industries (taxi and fast food) and therefore exposed more frequently to alcohol-fuelled violence. These insights allow safety messages for students to be targeted by universities and local police. But the key question, which raised the concerns of the Indian students in 2009, was whether the attacks occurring were racially motivated?

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India’s internal security conundrum September 15, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author: Ashutosh Misra

Blood has spilled on the streets again, right under the nose of India’s symbols of democracy and power – the Indian parliament, President House and the Supreme Court, all situated within few kilometres of the Delhi High Court where 11 people died and over 45 were injured in a suitcase bomb blast on 7 September. Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HUJI), the Bangladesh-based outfit has taken has the responsibility as a mark of protest against the impending hanging of the 2001 parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. Initial investigations have shown traces of Indian Mujahideen  (IM) involvement as well and several arrests have been made in this connection in the last couple of days. This second major incident since the 13 July serial blasts in Mumbai and 25 May blast at the same spot outside the Delhi High Court has yet again put the spotlight on India’s intelligence agencies and police force, questioning whether India possesses the wherewithal to rein in these unrelenting attacks.

As the government struggles to recover from the battering it received from the Anna Hazare-led nationwide movement against corruption, India’s internal security situation remains delicately poised. City after city continues to be targeted brazenly by terrorist groups indicating that a decade after the watershed September 11 attacks India’s situation has remained unaltered. Ironically, in contrast to India’s global prospects, domestically the situation does not appear too promising. The country’s recent experiences in dealing with domestic challenges demonstrate a stark mismatch between its global potential and internal capabilities. In particular, two key threats deserve attention here which could impede India’s global rise and economic growth: home grown terrorism (HGT) and left-wing extremism (LWE), both described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the two most serious threats facing the country. (more…)

Aarakshan’s Deepak Kumar: A new beginning? September 9, 2011

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Vikas Kumar

Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan (Reservation), which faced bans in three provinces and political censorship in a number of others, has been rightly slammed as bad art: a tame, predictable script made worse by bad direction. The movie opens with the failure of Deepak Kumar (played by Saif Ali Khan), a bright student and college Principal Dr Prabhakar Anand’s (played by Amitabh Bachchan) favourite, to get a job because of his lower caste-class background. This and other developments following the Supreme Court’s judgment favouring affirmative action lead Deepak Kumar and Dr Anand to question the historical injustice meted out to the lower castes. They also give a sympathetic hearing to those who allege that affirmative action policies are being misused and hurting the poor among the upper castes. That is roughly the first half of the movie. In the second half, which seems to be another movie, Dr Anand and Deepak Kumar forget history and focus on the present and try to provide free access to good education in face of rampant commercialisation of education, personified by the character of Mithilesh Singh (a highly corrupt, upper caste teacher, played by Manoj Bajpai in his inimitable style). In short, the movie simply catalogues legitimate grievances of all parties to the conflict and then conveniently forgets the conflict.

But the rate at which Aarakshan attracted controversies is only surpassed by the rate at which it was forgotten. This is surprising because it is not only the first mainstream Hindi movie that has explored the contentious issue of affirmative action but also one of the very few movies in which (one of) the hero(es) is a confident educated Dalit. In the midst of the controversies most of us have forgotten the new ground broken by Aarakshan’s Deepak Kumar. And Bachchan, who played the role of Dr Anand, partly modelled after the founder of Patna’s Super-30 that has successfully groomed hundreds of poor students for leading engineering colleges of India, has stolen the limelight. But the role played by Saif Ali Khan was at the centre of controversies and demands for censorship. The primary objection of those demanding bans or edits concerned the scene where Mithlesh Singh taunts Deepak Kumar about the unwillingness of the lower castes to work hard. The latter responds by cataloguing the large variety of manual works his community has been doing for the upper castes for ages. Deepak Kumar’s catalogue, which includes manual scavenging, has drawn the ire of protestors and governments sympathetic to them. Ironically, governments that have not made any serious effort to end manual scavenging were eager to ban the movie. A secondary objection, based on a questionable assumption linking caste and skin complexion, relates to the choice of a fair-skinned, upper caste-class actor for the role of Deepak Kumar.

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South Asia Masala recommends September 2, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India , comments closed

“Delhi drift” Deep political disillusionment in India won’t be solved simply by creating a new anti-corruption czar, writes Robin Jeffrey

Robin Jeffrey begins his Inside Story, 31 August 2011, piece on the problems currently facing Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led coalition government with a reference to the parallel drawn by Bruce Grant between the 1975 Indira Gandhi emergency and the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

This week also sees the release of a book of essays that covers a range of aspects of the India-Australia relationship, India and Australia: Bridging Different Worlds. The book is edited by Brian Stoddart and Auriol Weigold who are both South Asia Masala contributors. Auriol is also one of the editors of SAM, as is another contributor to the collection, Sandy Gordon. Louise Merrington and Christopher Snedden are other SAM contributors whose work appears in the book.

Click here for details.