Thursday, March 22, 2012

What makes a woman vulnerable?

Barely a week ago, two women in their twenties were raped in Gurgaon within 48 hours- one of them used to work as a domestic help and the other one as a facilitator who would escort men into couples-only clubs for money. Sadly but surely, their reputation precedes them and their tragedy. Many comments were made regarding their job, their dress and, of course, their character!

This first incident occured outside a place which is barely one kilometer from where I have stayed for three months- the woman was abducted from outside Sahara mall. Initially, I felt relieved that it wasn't me, that I wasn't out at three o' clock at night, that I didn't indulge in "risky" behavior. But I have been out till midnight, if not till three. Do three hours make such a big difference? What exactly is it that makes a woman vulnerable? What is it that makes a woman vulnerable at three and not at twelve? Is there really such a thing as vulnerability?

I noticed a few inconsistencies in the whole "vulnerability" argument:

1. Well, to put the record straight, crime data clearly indicate that, in an overwhelming majority of cases (above 90%), the perpetrators were known to the victims; in 50% of these cases they were neighbours! In lesser (10%) cases these were close family members or parents. This trend is reflected in any crime data report. 

2. Many women, especially younger women and teenagers, have been raped within the four walls of their home. So, does staying at home comprise "risky" behavior? (No, the question is not rhetorical, we really need an answer).

3. Many children, including boys are raped (the euphemism generally used here is "sexually exploited"). Are moralists saying that they were wearing clothes that would provoke the rapists? Highly improbable!

4. In any given conflict- be it a riot or an occupation, rape has been used as a systematic tool of oppression and "punishment"- a collective punishment inflicted upon an entire family/community/society. These include  small girls, pregnant women and old women whom one wouldn't normally describe as overly attractive or provocatively dressed- unless they really are! Most of these women are raped inside their homes. Are they vulnerable? Probably, yes. Do they contribute to their vulnerability? No!

Notice how all the verbal abuses are aimed at degrading women: sister-lover, for example? This clearly reflects our Universal notions of "punishing" (verbally or otherwise, wrongdoers).

5.What about people who indulge in beastiality? Do their animals wear skimpy clothes? No further discussion on this.

Actually, the fault lies with our perception of women as a commodity, as something that can be bestowed upon men and something that can be snatched away from them. Our collective bigotry is reflected in that we never invoke the vulnerability argument when the rich are robbed of their money, when someone is murdered, when terrorists kill innocent people or when people fall sick. We talk about vulnerability and risky behavior only when a woman is raped.

I finally got my answer to the question: What makes a woman vulnerable? Well, the very fact of being female in characteristsic makes anything vulnerable- from children to old women to certain animals.

Moving on the virtual world, I have been threatened with "rape" on Twitter by Modi-loving-trolls for my views. Not murder, not abduction, not arrests, but rape! Many "men" feel that it is their right to rape and that it is an effective way to punish women.

The anti-rape laws are laughable. Rape as a practice flourishes only because the perpetrators feel that they can get away with it- quite often, they do. It is time that we demand of our respective local legislators that they introduce and vote for much stronger anti-rape laws. It is time to remind them that they are sons of a mother too. Are we mature enough to speak up for our mothers, daughters, sisters and wives whom we claim to love so much?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yeh Door Darshan Hai!

When Kashmir got its first 'dedicated' Kashmiri language satellite channel, the general response to it was optimistic. Kashmiris began to fancy that they, for a change, will have a voice. Little did they know that this channel was to become the most powerful propaganda tool in the hands of the Indian government. If there were an award for carrying propagandistic news and programmes shamelessly, DD Kashir would be a serious contender for it. This isn’t plain rhetoric: refer to the video.

The video begins with the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram announcing an ex-gratia relief of Rs. 5 lakh per person to the families of those “killed in the civil disturbances since June 11, 2010” – this date coincides with the brutal killing of the innocent Kashmiri boy Tufail Ahmad Mattoo by the Indian armed forces. [] He was coming home from tuition classes when CRPF men started chasing him and beat him mercilessly to death. His brain spilled out as a result of a tear gas shell hurled at him so he’s buried in two different graves []. Tufail happened to pass by a vicinity where protests had erupted against the Machil fake encounter of early 2010. These protests saw hundreds of youth killed and thousands, maimed or seriously injured. 

17 yr. old Tufail Ahmad Mattoo- Before & After June 11, 2010

The above-mentioned facts may be well-known but the funny thing is, DD Kashir never reported these deaths or army excesses when they happened- this is not an exaggeration- DD Kashir is highly regulated by the GOI and agencies. Whenever someone falls to a militant bullet, DD Kashir reports it as it ought to. However, the deaths caused by state forces- BSF, CRPF, J&K Police- are seldom reported. And the local media channels that did report these incidents were simply banned. It is a huge irony that DD Kashir proudly reports an ex-gratia relief package for families of people whose deaths it didn't report at all. So, who are the people whose families are being compensated? 

This is followed by a voice listing out the various provisions of the GOI’s damage-control exercise- branded as the 8-point package- and a background music that supposedly signifies hope and peace. The ex-gratia relief offered is also a part of this package. The voice then goes on to claim that the people of the valley have welcomed the package. Then comes an octogenarian man saying “it is a very good step”. He further says, “My son has studied in India(Kashmir)” besides other things. Who this elderly man is and what welcome step he talks about is a mystery to me. If it’s the 8-point package, my knowledge(and fact-checking) tells me that most of the families of the slain youth refused the ex-gratia relief. And when you reject parts of a package you’re, in effect, rejecting the whole package. Of course DD Kashir didn’t dare (or care) to interview one of those parents who had lost their sons or ask them how they viewed the 8-point package.

The Union Government, during the 2010 uprising, called the stone-pelting youth everything- from paid Pakistani agents to miscreants to ill-groomed children. Why, then, offer an ex-gratia relief to their bereaved families, DD Kashir obviously didn’t ask the government. I’m pretty sure that a great amount of India’s propaganda budget is spent on funding DD Kashir programmes like Pakistan Reporter, PTV Sach Kya Hai, Sarhad Ke Do Rukh, etc. All these shows are anti-Pakistan, propagandistic and very suffocating. For example, the show- Sarhad Ke Do Rukh(Two Faces of the Border)- shows how poor and devastated people in Pakistani Kashmir are, how their politics has ruined their lives & businesses and how religious extremism poses a constant threat to their lives. While these are genuine concerns, the human rights situation in Indian Kashmir is no better. This show airs concerns that may not necessarily be shared by the common Kashmiri (living in Indian Kashmir) as he has a lot to worry about already. It also speaks of hypocrisy of the Indian government- it thinks that the sufferings of people in Pakistani Kashmir can act as an effective shield for the woes of people living in Indian Kashmir. It also pitches India as less-draconian than Pakistan as if Pakistan were the benchmark for human rights and democractic values. Should a "democratic", secular country like India dwell on the fact that it is somewhat less cruel than Pakistan- a country created on communal basis and having spent most of its years under military regime? Or should India, on the other hand, strive to carry out a free and fair probe into the human rights abuse unleashed by its forces in Kashmir, amend draconian laws, ensure that Kashmiris are heard and understood?

The director of Door Darshan Kendra, Srinagar Mr. Rafiq Masoodi has gone on record to say that “Surely such programmes are not digested here. These are sponsored from outside. Removing them is not in my power” and “We have realised that these programmes are hard to digest as a result of which people are drifting away from the Kashmir channel”. []

While it is only fair to state that the situation on the other “rukh”(face) of the border is not very inspiring, there are greater problems on this side of the border; larger concerns, stifled voices that need to be highlighted and addressed. Some worthy producers at Door Darshan Kendra, Srinagar have been creating agricultural, health and career programmes which actually contribute to the society- you have to give them that. However, the larger problem of biased and/or gagged media needs to be addressed on a priority basis if the GOI wants to prove its sincerity towards the Kashmir issue and the Kashmiri people.

The presence of draconian acts (like the AFSPA- under which state forces can gun someone down on suspicion alone, the PSA- under which a person can be indefinitely detained without trial) combined with a gagged media presence is a dangerous mix, a breeding ground for human rights abuse. 

Economic packages and CBMs go only that far. I have repeatedly been told by the youth that one of their top grievances with the Indian state is the presence of biased media as it has created an environment of fear and of regular human rights abuse that the state forces know they'll get away with.

While violence against women makes waves elsewhere, there are villages like Dardpora in Kashmir where regular sexual crimes against women by the army do not receive any media attention at all. Even in Srinagar, the capital city, Indian forces (including the CRPF) do not fail to pass indecent remarks at women whenever they happen to pass them by. I’ve experienced this indecent behavior countless times, even as a little girl. All this despite the fact that I have friends all over the media. I can’t even imagine what goes on in our villages.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Is Media Council the new Lokpal?

The new chairperson of the Press Council of India(PCI), Justice Katju, has suggested the creation of an electronic media watchdog – the Medical Council – to monitor the conduct of electronic media. Electronic is the word here. All is fine with the print media.

Justice Katju raises these concerns in the backdrop of ‘frivolous’ TV debates, ‘government advertisement’ and ‘obnoxious behavior’. He has also talked about giving the Media Council ‘teeth’ which can be used (to bite away the freedom of the media- he didn’t say this) in extreme situations.

His concerns are genuine. However, I do not believe that the problems he has raised correspond to the solution he’s offering. Yes, we must evolve from frivolous debate to meaningful, disciplined thought-sharing. India is developing and this must reflect in the quality of debate that we engage in- on TV, in writing and in our law-making bodies. But seriously, how will the Media Council help? Justice Katju complains that the panelists on TV debates have no discipline. But who are these panelists? They are politicians, government servants, entrepreneurs, actors, the common man and, yes, media persons too.

Let’s go a little farther- the culture of TV debate had not really taken off in India until private news channels pioneered it. The result? Greater public awareness and participation in politics, increased sense of ‘image’, responsibility and responsiveness among politicians and other office-bearers, and demystified governance(though not fully). No one in his right mind will oppose these developments.

So what went wrong? The trouble begins when politicians use the forums of open debate and dialogue to propagate their own agenda, popularize rhetoric and promote party ideology- to the extent where they act downright rogue, not letting others speak and downplaying others’ points-of-view. It is only fair to point out that politicians alone are not bad debaters. The trouble is with the majority of Indians. However, only politicians have the courage to sabotage a TV debate. Also, it carries clear advantages for the politicians to sabotage a debate in a country where it is acceptable to do so. Again, it would be unfair to ignore the fact that many politicians, media persons, and common Indians show proper respect for the debate, the issue and for other peoples’ viewpoints. However, when things do go wrong, all that the TV anchor can do is moderate and steer the discussion towards consensus, if one is possible, otherwise towards conclusion. It is but natural to get emotionally involved in a debate unless you’re trained or experienced enough to maintain objectivity. But some people just won’t stop shouting and, more often than not, the debate turns into a mere rant. The one who rants louder wins.

But where does the TV anchor’s or editor’s fault lie- in bringing up an issue that concerns different people in different ways and, therefore, merits debate; or in asking uncomfortable, forbidden questions; or in attempting to uncover issues that the country’s leadership has conveniently chosen to push under the carpet or plainly dismiss; or in not playing chicken and bringing issues of real importance to the fore- where?

I, for one, am a huge fan of the media. There, I said it. I admire the media as an institution a lot. Yes, there are biased, flippant news channels and I’ve simply opted out of watching them. But that doesn’t solve the problem. The panelists are pretty much same on every news channel debate- usually because they’re the key persons involved in the issue. They’re either bad debaters or become so if uncomfortable questions and differing viewpoints surface during the debate. How the Media Council or its patrons and advocates plan to solve this problem, I’m curious.

Media has become the default scapegoat for all evil in the country. The government should first reform its own institutions before targeting the media. The media only reports what is happening in the country. Of course, when nothing is happening, they have to create news. But most of the time, there’s something or the other going on that needs to be reported. If injustices against a certain sect are reported by the media, which is only the right thing to do, they’re accused of “fanning sectarian flames”. And the perpetrators of the injustice are innocent? Every once in a while there are whistleblowers from the media fraternity who risk their lives to act on conscience and report wrongdoings. After losing faith in the Legislature and the Executive, the only hope that people have is from the Judiciary and Media, the fourth estate.

I’ve been part of NDTV debates and, to be honest, they were educated, enlightened, objective discussions. What is ideally the job of the opposition has now been taken up by the media. All that the opposition does is walkout. That is against national interest and blackmail. Isn’t it the responsibility of the Parliament and legislatures to debate issues of national interest and solve the country’s problems? Why not question them?
And, finally, what does Justice Katju have to say about the propagandist national media operating in Kashmir? It deeply pains me even to recall how each one of the 112 deaths (and thousands of injuries) caused by the CRPF during the 2010 unrest went unreported(by GOI sponsored media in Kashmir). It hurts and pinches me and my fellow Kashmiris and it will continue to. DD Kashir (Kashmiri) is supposed to be the premier news channel of Kashmir. Sadly, however, it does not represent even the ground realities, let alone the Kashmiri sentiment. Deaths caused by militants are reported as they should be. But deaths caused by the army go simply unreported on the pretext of national interest! It is highly disgraceful to watch the show “Sarhad ke do rukh” (literal: the two sides of the Frontier) on DD Kashir. The said show highlights developmental work in Indian administered Kashmir and poor living conditions in Pakistan administered Kashmir. It is also amusing at the same time in that it doesn’t acknowledge the extreme living conditions, lack of development, human rights abuses that exist in Indian Kashmir while highlighting the same in Pakistani Kashmir. To me, it looks like a courtship dance that the GOI and agencies are performing to woo Kashmiris. Purpose? We all know. Integral part. Truth & reconciliation. Need I say more here?

Some enterprising young people from Kashmir launched their private 24x7 news channels which were doing very well. However, they reported what DD Kashir failed to- human rights abuses, war crimes, popular uprisings, views of local leaders. They were banned. So was Press TV –the Iranian news service. It’s a gruesome trend. What it translates to is this: In presence of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Indian Army can have their way in Kashmir and go unreported, unquestioned, without trial and without punishment. On the contrary, under the Public Safety Act(PSA) even juvenile delinquents can be (and have been) detained, tortured, denied bail and trial for an indefinite period. This too, will go (and has gone) largely unreported. Can the revolutionary Justice Katju answer these questions? Will his Media Council advise the GOI and agencies to restore media freedom in Kashmir? Or will it further crackdown on whatever little is left of ‘media’ in Kashmir? And, finally, who will guarantee the independence of this Council? Is it the beginning of another Lokpal story?

In my humble opinion, instead of clamping down on media houses, the PCI should fund an independent 24x7 debating channel. TV anchors who conduct live debates work under immense timing constraints. This new 24x7 independent channel should highlight public opinion, the government’s stand and the opposition’s concerns in the shape of debates, vox populi, listen hours, etc. at length and especially when the Parliament is not in session. The problem of unruly debate is much deeper. It has its roots in our inability to listen and accommodate other viewpoints. I think this is a question of mindsets and is beyond my ability to comment upon.  It was also reflected when the Indira Gandhi government called off state governments in Punjab, Kashmir and elsewhere and used a heavy hand to deal with dissent. If it’s in the leadership of the country, it’s in the masses. Nations become great by looking up to their idols as most people are good followers. If leaders set terrible examples for the masses, the Media Councils can’t ensure good media behavior. Or guarantee its own good conduct for that matter.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Independence as we know it

I've waited one year to do this- to write about what the Indian Independence Day means for a common Kashmiri. The caption is not entirely original. Exactly one year back, my friend and a proud Indian Amar wanted me to write about the grievances that we have with the Indian state. This is the time when there was a protest turned freedom movement going on in Kashmir. From what I saw, I concluded that it was a war between the Indian state and everything that represents it and the Kashmiri people. The state government's perception of the unrest changed from "an act of miscreants" to "an engineered protest by paid Pakistani agents" to "frustrated people giving vent to their feelings" to a "parenting problem". I fell ill. I couldn't write. Also, because of the daily killings of young people and my own cowardice and inability to join them, I was overcome by the guilt of survival. I couldn't think clear.

This friend of mine was (and, I believe, still is) curious as to why Kashmiris want Azadi. This caption was his idea. There are a hundred reasons but the one that should suffice is that Kashmiris do not consider the Indian Independence as their own. I belong to the generation called 'The Children of The Conflict'. Since I grew up, I've known the Indian Independence Day as one when we have to stay indoors- curfewed. The irony is that occupation is never as starkly visible as it is on the Independence Day. The fact that the entire Kashmir valley has to be chained up so that Indian flags could be hoisted in peace is a sign of nothing short of occupation. Kashmiris resent this day not because they hate India but they hate everything that represents Indian occupation- the police, the bunkers, the govt. and so on. This should be enough for Kashmiris demanding their Azadi (freedom) and asserting their right to self-determination. Clearly, their aspirations are different from those of the larger Indian nation.

Kashmiris are a very friendly people- make no mistakes. But their hospitality is often mistaken for their docility and they're taken for granted. Their resistance is depicted as violence, their political aspirations as frustrations of the unemployed, their creative activities as the widely resented word 'normalcy' and their forced participation in rigged elections as plebiscite.

Before coming back to what the Independence Day means  for a Kashmiri, let's examine what it means for a common Indian. Majority of the Indian population is still rural, agricultural. For the Kissan (farmer) life is only marginally better than what it was during the Raj (British occupation). To be fair, the successive governments since Independence have done a lot for their upliftment- access to better healthcare, roads, irrigation facilities and so on. Whether or not it would be the same if the 'Kissan' were not the largest vote-bank is food for thought. The Kissan suffered the most under the Raj- then it was famines, now it is suicide and the conditions leading to it. Two good things about suicide are- suicides are not acknowledged as a mass suffering and they can be atributed to a host of other things. For the Jawan (soldier), serving in the British army was as prestigious as it was demoralizing. He was always in a moral and emotional dilemma. Today, it is no better for him. The poor soldier is left to fight for his country's 'integrity' in the towering and shockingly cold Himalayas and it is due to his sacrifice that the Indian politicians reside in their safe havens. He is brought in to combat street "warriors" 'armed' with stones. When he does what he's trained to do (kill), he finds himself at the centre of a moral debate that politicians sitting in New Delhi conveniently fight from their cozy drawing rooms. Every once in a while some trooper or the other commits suicide and the news doesn't make its way even to the front page. Proud defenders of a politically bankrupt nation, the Jawans have been entrusted with the task of handling the Kashmir front and sincere steps to the solution of the dispute is tactfully avoided.

The Preamble to the Constitution of India describes her as a Socialist Democratic Republic. Huge Capitalist economies of the world are more socialist than our own Socialist Democratic Republic. While millions of dollars are spent in the upkeep of an excessively bureaucratic government, expensive, top-heavy ministries, Independence Day celebrations and security- internal as well as on international borders- food grain enough to feed a large chunk of the population is allowed to rot, an honest police officer who dares to expose his political bosses is deprived of security cover in the face of death threat, women do not feel safe in the National Capital Region and children still beg on the streets.

While everything can go wrong elsewhere in India when it comes to Kashmir, the Govt. of India and Agencies become the holy cows all of a sudden. Indian govt. can never be wrong in Kashmir even if they have wronged everyone else. Innocent Indians are allowed to die in bomb blasts- who carries them out is immaterial- everyone can take advantage of India's habit of blaming it all upon Pakistan and 'anti-national' elements. The fact is that MASSIVE misappropriation of funds that could fuel huge developmental tasks is an anti-national activity. A young teenage boy venting out his anger against a fake encounter by pelting stones on anything that represents the state is not a danger to the 'integrity' of a huge nation like India. Corrupt governments like the UPA and cunning, communal ones like NaMo's are anti-national.

To the hard-working, working class Indian the Indian Independence day means heavy discounts on 'Made in China' consumer products and lots of national pride- without the slightest realization that their governments have put them on the precipice of an impending nuclear disaster by allowing an international dispute to feed on the taxes paid by them with their hard-earned money.

Which brings me to the next point- my list of three top irritants on Kashmir. However, I'll continue this in the next part of this write-up. For now, I only want to wish my friends (who are predominantly Indian) a very happy Independence Day. We, in Kashmir, wish India a bright future as we have stakes in her prosperity as neighbours.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Disclaimer: I'm not associated with ILHAAM or CHINAR and the views represented here are entirely my own.

I have not been actively involved in organizing ILHAAM but I liked the idea from the start. I was not planning to attend it due to prior engagements. However, seeing the event fall apart, I couldn’t help but write about it. Something’s not fair, I thought to myself.

Following is a brief picture of the whole event, the inspiration, the initiative, the publicity, the big drama and, finally, the falling apart of the event in seven points:

1. ILHAAM – the idea was born when a group of enthusiastic, socially-conscious students and professionals visited the CHINAR orphanage. Impressed by the good work that CHINAR has been doing, decided to contribute their bit to the cause.

2. Over the past one month or so, Kashmir has witnessed atleast four big musical events that invited huge participation. The organizers of ILHAAM probably thought that music is the best way to mobilize people for a cause. They got together artists of Kashmiri origin- two of them particularly known for their love of Kashmir and the Kashmiri cause (MC Kash & Muneem- especially after the song ‘Resonate’ that they recently did together). These artists are close to the people, the organizers probably thought, and the concert was expected to be more socially sensitive and relevant.

3. What happens next (as before any significant event) is that a notorious, anonymous group who call themselves ‘Aalaw’ starts an online campaign against ILHAAM (online because no one has ever seen them on ground). Quoting Islamic rulings, they oppose ILHAAM. The issue flares up and scares the University of Kashmir (main organizer of the event) top brass and they cancelled the event. (THERE IS SOME DISAGREEMENT ABOUT THIS POINT; PLEASE READ COMMENTS BELOW FOR MULTIPLE POINTS-OF-VIEW)

4. I’m in no position to talk about the Islamic aspect of this issue. However, music has not been opposed so voraciously anywhere in the recent years – the overwhelming response to the Junoon concert, the huge fan following of Coke Studio, Pakistan in Kashmir, the Jagjit Singh concert, shows like Milay Sur, the recent Kashmir Music Club music festival, and so on.

With due reverence to the religious sentiments of my fellow Kashmiri Muslims, I want each one of us to ask ourselves some simple questions- Does Sami Yusuf not express his love of Islam through music? Yes, he does. Do we not love his music? Yes, we do. Does it not inspire a sense of pride and love and for our faith among us? Yes, it does. I have Sami Yusuf’s songs on my phone despite the fact that I’m not very religious- I’m sure we all have.

Now, a possible and very valid argument here is that there is no comparison between Sami Yusuf’s music and (say) MC Kash’s music. I agree. One is religious, the other is revolutionary. But, aren’t the two (religion and revolution) deeply intertwined in Kashmir? Yes, they are. We do not oppose Sami Yusuf’s music because the sentiment is very dear to us. If we go by the same logic, shouldn’t we give some concessions to the organizers of ILHAAM too? Is the question of orphaned kids not dear to us? No, it isn’t.

That's right, it is not dear to us. What we fail to realize (and what my mentor made me realize) is that there is a whole generation of orphans (100,000 being the GOI figure) growing up who we have ignored and failed. They will grow up with animosity towards the society. They will seek answers. They will be indifferent to our causes, our struggles, our problems. We have failed these kids time and again. I, for one, use the question of orphaned Kashmiri kids in every political debate. But, have I adopted one? No. Have you? No.

Has CHINAR adopted 20 orphans? Yes. Are they paying for their education, healthcare and recreation? Yes.

Next, do we hear music? Yes. Do we buy music? Yes. Can we support a musical event for the sake of orphans? No.

Do we take interest? Yes. Is it Haraam? Yes. Do we use abusive language? Yes. Is it SHIRK to abuse a Muslim? Yes. So, do we follow Islamic Law? No.

5. I am a fan of Islamic Law. It is divine and doesn’t need amendment. But, we do not live under Islamic Law. In fact, most of us do not have the courage or the mettle to live under Islamic Law. I don’t. But whenever it suits our interest, we have no shame in applying Islamic laws. On the ILHAAM issue, we gave up. We failed yet another test as a nation. I, alongwith my friend, started the hashtag #SupportILHAAM (with or without the music) on Twitter to see how much support we can generate. All we could hear was a couple of muted voices, cautiously supporting the cause.

6. Some users suggested that we should support ILHAAM – the cause sans music – through something else, some HALAAL deed. I strongly agree with this and it makes no sense to insist on the music (despite the fact that a lot of money has already been spent in preparations). Yes, we should probably donate to the CHINAR orphanage directly. But will we? Remains to be seen.

7. Even if that happens and we end up raising more money for the cause than was intended, these few brave students and professionals will still be the pioneers, the leaders who awakened us to the cause. Thanks to the controversy, we now know that there’s someone who’s doing a humble job of raising and education orphaned kids and that we should probably support them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sajid Iqbal Khanday (June 19, 1984 - May 17, 2011)

My favorite photo of yours- soo like you!

Look at you- And the memories you left behind!

You were my thesaurus- I would always consult you for a better choice of words. Now I don't have a word to describe the ugly incident that took you away from us. What do I call it- tragic, sad, unfortunate- what? I'm sure you have the answer as usual. But, alas! You aren't here to help me anymore. You were a good friend and secret keeper, a counsel and an inspiration in more ways than one. I remember calling you for every damn little thing and I remember how patiently you would respond. Your patient, calm and composed disposition was, perhaps, the most amazing thing about you.

I remember how you hated being called Sajid sahb. And how you'd call me names in return. I remember the silly old songs that you'd sing. I remember your funny laughter bouts, your silly jokes and your lame comments on my photos- they would all make me laugh. I remember how hard-working you were. I remember how you made OYK meetings and campaigning memorable for us. I wonder if you've ever hurt anyone. And anyone who knew you even casually, even slightly won't utter a word of malice against you. And I pity the ones who malign you- because they never got to know the wonderful person that you were.

With your death Saj, it's proved once again, beyond doubt, that all the good people die too young, too soon. You had a bad, bad habit of showing up well before time. Looks like you were again in a great hurry to leave us.

I remember your Italy dreams and the long shopping list that I gave you. I remember everything and will probably never forget- I say this, on behalf of everyone who has ever known you. I remember how calmly you'd drive and how you would dim your lights whenever a car approached- I fail to understand what happened on your last drive.

I can't write anymore Saj- may your soul rest in peace and may God give us strength to accept this loss. For some people, it will never be the same again. Bid-adieu~~ till we meet again!

L-R: Sehar, Me, Shireen, Ahsan, Zubair, Raheel, Ilyas, Sajid, Faysal

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Microsoft Student Partners (MSP) Srinagar Team in collaboration with the Directorate of IT & SS, University of Kashmir recently conducted Microsoft DSY, Srinagar, 2011 as part of a series of DSY events conducted in 100 cities across India. The event was held at the Kashmir University Convocation Complex on Sunday, the 15th of May, 2011. Nearly 2000 participants from all over Kashmir attended technical sessions delivered by veteran speakers from Microsoft, India (like Anubhav Mehendru and Siddharth Prakash) and by MSPs. Hon’ble Minister for IT, Science & Technology, Animal Husbandry and Sheep Husbandry, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir, Mr. Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi was the Chief-Guest. He spoke about job creation and about some ambitious projects (like SWAN). General Manager and Country Head for Developer and Platform Evangelism, Mr. Moorthy Upplauri was present as the Guest-of-Honour and delivered the keynote address. For the record, DSY Srinagar has proved to be the biggest DSY all over India in terms of youth participation and the fact that this was the only DSY where Mr. Moorthy himself was present. Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, University of Kashmir, Prof. (Dr.) Riyaz Punjabi delivered the Presidential address. Besides that, dignitaries from the academic, media and corporate fraternities were also present at the occasion.

Technical sessions were delivered on Cloud Computing, Silverlight, Game Development using the tools available under DreamSpark. The participants received certificates from Microsoft and DreamSpark keys (which can be redeemed at to download all the software available under DreamSpark). A few students haven’t received the keys and certificates- they are requested to stay in touch through the Microsoft Student Partners, Srinagar Facebook page.

The initiative was supported by our valued partners- the J&K Bank Ltd., Highland Automobiles Sonwar, Mercy Corps Kashmir, Career Craft Consultancy & Placement Services Baghat Barzulla, Esquebee Solutions, TREISH Packaged Drinking water and NIIT Residency. Media partners for DSY, Srinagar were the Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Uzma dailies. Publicity partners: CafĂ© Robusta Lounge, Srinagar and Pick-and-Choose Departmental Store, Srinagar. We thank the Convocation Complex authorities & staff, the MERC department and the Registrar of Kashmir University for their support. We are grateful to all of them for making this event a success. We’re also thankful to Mr. Ashaq Bukhari- SSP, Srinagar- for providing transportation to our guests from Microsoft.

MSP Srinagar Team
(Shehla Rashid, Junaid Masoodi, Sarah J. Andrabi)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DSY Srinagar Official Update

Hello Everyone!
The wait is finally over. Microsoft DreamSpark Yatra, 2011, Srinagar is here! Called so, because it is a part of over 100 such events happening at over 100 locations all over India in a span of 100 days. The first-ever IT event led exclusively by students; the first-of-its-kind in reach and impact!

Presented by

Microsoft Student Partners, Srinagar

 in collaboration with

the Directorate of IT & SS, University of Kashmir.

with the support of our esteemed partners:

The J&K Bank Ltd.
Mercy Corps, Kashmir
Highland Automobiles
NIIT Residency, Srinagar

I'm sorry for being unable to update anyone. But not anymore :) So let's begin the official description.

1. To make students aware that they now have access to professional-level development software and learning resources. They can build applications and systems using professional development and designer tools and even market them and make money. This is the key objective of DreamSpark.

However, to get a better idea of the vision of DreamSpark, here's from the boss himself:

Its significance in the Kashmir context is that the IT sector is a largely risk-free sector. Sitting at home and using your DreamSpark subscription you can develop and design for globally used platforms- in other words, for the whole world!

2. Make students aware of their poential. DSY events all over India are fully organized, managed and presented by students. They are students like you and me. They are community leaders and are capable of doing things that professionals and organisations can do!

3. To give the students a bigger picture of the IT industry. The IT industry is evolving everyday. As I write this and as you read this, there are newer and newer technologies taking over. To stay updated with what I see as perhaps the biggest development of this decade- Cloud Computing-  we have arranged for two speakers from the Microsoft Corporation, India who will speak about Cloud Computing.:

- Mr. Moorthy Upplauri, General Manager, Developer and Platform Evangelism, Microsoft India. He is our guest-of-honour.

- Mr. Anubhav Mehendru, Senior Development Lead, Microsoft India Development Centre (Anubhav is a senior development lead in Windows and Windows Live Division in Microsoft India and leads a team that  owns the developer experience, core file systems and windows kernel for all the released OS. Over the time he has released a lot of security updates, hotfixes and has been part of service packs from XPSP3 to as recent as Win7 SP1)

4. To inform students about other Microsoft student initiatives like Microsoft Student Partners and the Imagine Cup.

The Convocation Complex, University of Kashmir, Hazratbal, Srinagar
Sunday, the 15th of May, 2011
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Including ID checks and certificate + KEYS distribution)
NOTE: Entries will start at 9:00 a.m. and no one will be allowed after 11:00 a.m.

Hon'ble Minister for Information Technology, Science & Technology, Animal Husbandry and Sheep Husbandry, Mr. Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi.

Bonafide students- Undergraduate and Higher Secondary levels.

Online registrations will be closed soon. For now, you can register at
Don't forget to print the ticket that you'll receive by e-mail after registering here. Bring it to the venue failing which you won't be allowed to enter due to security concerns.

You may soon find our campaigning teams around, so keep your eyes wide open :)

For people who have registered through NIIT Residency, you can collect your entry passes from their centre at FairDeal Shopping Complex, Lal Chowk, Srinagar.

- Participation certificates from Microsoft
- DreamSpark keys
- Refreshments
- Other goodies

For Enquiries, please write to:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's not about Osama; it's about Obama

After a decade of drama, the world’s most wanted man ever- Osama bin Laden- was ‘officially’ pronounced dead- officially, because we have heard unconfirmed reports of his death before. Over all these years, I have never believed the reports/rumors about his death- for three main reasons:

1. I never believed he exists- especially after the Indian (bollywood) flick, Tere Bin Laden. But that’s just me.

2. If at all he existed, he must have been very, very popular with the masses. How else was it possible for a man, who was being chased by modern foreign armies and all of whose colleagues were tracked down, to remain in hiding for 11 years?

3. Now let’s just assume that he was a real person and was very popular with the people and could hide successfully. I remember the day they got Saddam Hussein. He was subjected to public shame and embarrassment and hanged in front of the whole world. His execution was publicized tremendously and well-documented by international media. So, naturally my eyes were fixed on the day America gets Osama- they would arrest him alive, take him to Guantanamo, torture him, maybe put him to trial and give him the most innovative death sentence ever- in front of all those who lost their loved ones in the 9/11 attacks.

But, as it turns out, things didn’t happen that way. They had to bomb the whole of Afghanistan (when, in the first place, it was a matter of common-sense that he can’t be hiding in Afghanistan itself) before they could even get close to finding him. Thousands of civilians were killed in the bombings while the whole world watched, with coffee mugs in their hands and eyes on their TV sets. The bombings were, of course, justified in the wake of 9/11 attacks.

The Al-Qaeda had taken responsibility for the massacre in which millions of Americans lost their loved-ones and the whole of Afghanistan and the Arab world paid the price for it. If we dismiss the conspiracy theories and believe that Al-Qaeda actually carried out these sophisticated attacks, then they sure as hell weren’t demanding anything like jobs, democracy, etc. They were out avenging some injustice. I’m not saying that it was justified, but they must be out against something or the other (which could be the injustices against Palestinians). This was ruthlessly labeled Islamic terrorism and Muslims all over the world suffered as a result of the Islamophobic wave that followed.

I know of American Muslims who are very patriotic to their country and are very moderate. But there’s no reason why they can’t turn into radicals on being subjected to such stereotyping. Adding the word “Islamic” was an attempt to make the world believe that one has to be a Muslim by faith in order to qualify as a terrorist. During this stereotyping exercise, there is one thing that the world missed- it takes violence to qualify as a terrorist and not a turban. You can be in tuxedos and limos and still be a terrorist.

What followed was a decade of unending bombings (which are here to stay). America vowed to avenge the 9/11 incident. For eleven years and counting, thousands of civilians were killed in these drone attacks, military offensives, etc. – all in search of one person- Osama bin Laden! What is it that makes these attacks any different from the attacks launched to avenge any other injustice? Why don’t they fit into our definition of terrorism?

I don’t know whether I should be sad or happy about Osama’s death. To me, sitting in a faraway land, it honestly doesn’t matter much. If I look casually, it is yet another isolated incident for me. President Obama has said that the world is a “better place” now. But it doesn’t make any difference in my life. I’m more worried about the larger implications of this episode.

As I write this, there are reports coming in about Al-Qaeda’s vow to avenge Osama’s death. So, basically, America has just managed to increase the diameter of the vicious circle of revenge and Zardari has made it to the top of their hit-list. That is because of Pakistan’s alleged role in the incident. Common sense says that it is not possible for the Pak govt. to be unaware of this covert operation (just as 9/11 wasn’t possible without some high-profile internal involvement). That could be totally true. But then, there’s so much of disorder and chaos within Pakistan that it is hard to say which side they were on. It is almost in a state of anarchy. And with all the American aid that they receive, I don’t think they had much of a choice.

Coming back to the larger implications of this episode, there are some very worrying trends:

- The operation was a secret. Not even all people in the U.S. government knew about it- let alone the Pak govt. This happens in the most modern and successful democracy of our times and especially when the head of that democracy has already been felicitated for his efforts towards world peace before he could even make any! And at an unmistakably right time- ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for 2012. So, what is it- a private killing spree?

- Osama could have been easily arrested- given the low-profile he had been maintaining in his lonely mansion. I doubt that there were any arms under his possession. I further doubt that a radical, fundamentalist Muslim used his wife as a human-shield. But he was shot dead.

- After all this happened, my prediction about America executing him publicly was proved wrong. The next thing I deemed natural was to have his deformed, disfigured, bruised body displayed publicly as a sign of victory, and maybe even preserved as a memoir of American glory and a reminiscent of the war on terror. That did not happen!

- Instead, as we all know, they conducted some DNA tests which matched “exactly” with those of his relatives (please don’t ask me ‘when’ and ‘how’ of this!). Then, they cremated him according to Muslim laws and buried(tied a weight to his body, hoping it'll reach the sea-bed) him in a sea at a location that no one knows of! WOW! Does that sound unfair to anyone else? Does it scare anyone but me? Has anyone wondered what it means for us? The world, especially Pakistan, has a right to know who was killed. It is not just an injustice to the Pakistani population alone but also to the millions of Americans who have a right to know where their tax-money is being spent and why they should vote for Obama in the next election. Because if there’s a conspiracy behind this, it will be a huge mockery on the sentiments of all those who lost their loved-ones in the 9/11 attacks. If this is vote-bank politics, it is ugly.

- This attack is an early indicator of a possible American regime all over the world, especially South Asia and the Middle-East. While we in India are cheering happily at America’s victory over terror, America is slowly taking control of South-Asia. If Pakistan was an ally to this, then India really has reasons to worry. Now, Pakistan government has come out in condemnation of the covert operation but it doesn’t matter anymore.

These are really worrying trends. And, if they continue in the same way, then the American government’s policy of external aggression might change the world map yet again and push the world into slavery for centuries.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Funny Business Taglines. And why they're funny.

Accenture- High Performance. Delivered.
   This one almost sounds like a clever disclaimer. I mean, look at it- High Performance has nothing to do with (read, does not have to be) delivered. They’re separated by a period.

Amarillo College, Texas: “Give yourself a raise…Education Pays!”
   Not funny, but insightful-couldn’t leave it out.

Barclays- Fluent in Finance; It’s our business to know your business
   Your business to know our business- well, who are you- the FBI?

BEL: The missile maker
    Hehehe.. Do I even have to elaborate why this is funny?

BIG BAZAAR - Is se sasta aur Achcha kahee nahee milenga
   PUHLEEZZZ!! Local flea market mein better shit milenga!

CNET: The source for computing and technology
   Come again? Source for computing and technology? Well, I’m a tech student and I know, like any other tech student does, that CNET is a Reviews site. What am I missing?

Central- Shop. Eat. Celebrate
   Not in that order for sure! Whenever I shop from Central, I end up buying so much stuff that I don’t have any money left to spend on food. And celebrate? Hell, no! The sequence should be Eat wisely. Celebrate Judiciously. Then Shop till you drop!

CHEVROLET AVEO - When Good is not good enough
    While that is an ambitious tagline, it could very well be interpreted as- Our Good Products aren’t nearly good enough. Isn’t it? Or is it just me?

Dell - Easy as DELL
    It’s not funny. It’s intelligent. Wish it was true as well!

GAIL - Gas and Beyond
    I don’t know why that is funny.

HP Invent - Everything is Possible
   YESSS!! Everything- Like your laptop turning into an electric furnace that emits enormous heat and goes off as soon as the power-supply is removed- sometimes, earlier.

HYUNDAI - Drive Your Way
   I now know why all the people driving Hyundai cars are unmindful of the traffic behind- or in front. They drive 'their own way'. With all offence meant to Hyundai drivers.

LARSEN and TOUBRO - We make things which make India proud
   Err.. Like what- Switchgears?

LENOVO - We are building a new technology company.
   A new technology company could mean a company that uses new technologies or makes them; it could also mean YET ANOTHER technology company. But what technology? Why is it that technology is supposed to imply Computers or IT? And, finally, what would a technology company be? Isn’t every company, in some way or the other, a technology company? What new technology company- Lenovo? Well, that’s already in place. Where is this new technology company that they’re building? Is it a tagline or a codename for a new company that they’re seeking to publicize? Okay, I'll give my Lenovo bias a rest now.

LEE - The jeans that built America
    Err.. okay.. I thought it was American Apparel that built present-day America (I might be black-listed by the CIA for this line and never get an American visa). And, incidentally, American Apparel even says “American”. What's American about LEE? With what right does LEE claim to have “built” America? I mean I adore Lee’s clothing- it is awesome, but come on!

MITTAL STEEL- Shaping the future of steel
   I don’t know how they do that- I tried visiting their website for details but looks like they can’t shape even that. Or get it shaped. Now I doubt if they can even shape steel- let alone the future of steel. Pity! - Never Settle
  Yeah, with the kind of jobs they’re outsourcing, people never will.

Mitsubishi Motors : Wake up and drive
   Awkward Silence!

Sahara - Emotionally yours

   Emotionally mine? Well, thanks ... I’m overwhelmed. But I think this is some charity organization’s tagline that I’ve picked up. Let me Yahoo! that (I won’t get into the Google-Bing controversy, so I’ll Yahoo! it. Yahoo! is an extinct search-engine. On a side-note, Yahoo!’s tagline is- The world’s most visited home-page. Tsk Tsk. They never even updated their surveys). Well, during the time I wrote that line, Yahoo! results showed up. Sorry to inform you- Sahara is INDEED emotionally ours. But what does that mean for us- What?

Servo- 100 % Performance. Everytime
    From what I’ve studied as a humble student of science, I know it can’t offer 100% performance. You can actually put it to test and sue them. They have gone too far in saying “Everytime”. Sue them.

Standard Insurance Company Limited. Positively Different.
   It appears that, at some point in time, their tagline was “Different” and it got them much criticism because it was confused with “Mentally challenged”- so they probably changed it to Positively Different. Now look at the cowardice, the defensiveness- "positively different". It’s okay to be different, guys- that is, in fact, a rule of thumb in business- differentiate yourselves. Why add the 'positive' disclaimer? It’s like saying “I beg to differ”. Don’t beg to differ. Dare to differ. But, wait- you can be different and STANDARD at the same time, can you? I mean you can either be a standard insurance company or a different insurance company. Did they add the word DIFFERENT (if my story about the lone DIFFERENT is true) in order to defend the company name- STANDARD?

VOLKSWAGEN - Drivers wanted
   Not funny, intelligent! I volunteer for Beetle. Muaaah!

MARUTI SX4 - “Men are Back”
   Well, baby! They were never extinct. They’ve been driving SUVs. It is just the recession.

Star Sports - We know your game

SKODA – Obsessed with Quality since 1897
   Well, I’ve been obsessed with death since 2010. I never got it.

Thai Airways - “Smooth as Silk”

Uninor- Ab mera number hai
   Which century are they in? I had a number since I was 18 (before that, GOI didn't allow cell-phone services in Kashmir). Please move on from phone numbers. Now we’re at a stage where everyone will soon have a  UID/SSN. And Uninor ke saath ab mera number hai? Phone number? Really? That’s so old-school.

Shehla Rashid Online: The world through my eyes!
   Tsk Tsk. Cute Smile :)