Posts filed under 'South Asia'

When family become the enemy

by Al-Hack, on 15th December, 2005

It isn’t well known enough that most rape and sexual abuse of women happens by people they know, usually family members. What we do know is that most South Asian families would rather sweep it under the carpet than confront rape.

It is worse if the parents are not around to protect their children, as it increasingly looks to be the case in Sri Lanka, where about 600,000 women work abroad as maids.

That is a phenomenal number and the money they send home is worth a lot to the Sri Lankan govt. Sunny posted an article on ‘sending money home‘ before. But it sometimes has disastrous consequences for their children, the BBC’s Dumeetha Luthra reports.

Children left at home can be vulnerable to child abuse, incest and other exploitation.

“The mother leaves the children, sometimes with the father. Sometimes, when the father feels lonely, he will try and make use of the children to satisfy his needs,” warns Neeta Ariayaratna.

She works for a local NGO Sarvodya, which runs a home for young unmarried mothers.

The Sri Lankan government should be doing more to recognise the problem and put provisions in place, but this may be one of those cases where mothers would still rather trust families than a govt run home to take care of their children. Some efforts would not go amiss though, right?

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Rupees for questions, blogger shtyle

by Rohin, on 13th December, 2005

Sunny has chosen a great time to piss jet off as I’m working silly hours (hint hint other writers!) I briefly wanted to mention some hilarity in the Brown Blogosphere. I realise some of the gags may be a bit too obscure for those who aren’t followers of the main desi blogs, but it’s pretty amusing nevertheless.

A joint sting operation (great phrase) set by CobraPost and Aaj Tak has ensnared eleven Indian MPs. They were bribed by a phantom group, comprised of Indian journos-cum-bloggers. I shan’t write too much as it’s a bit off beat for most of our readers, but the reason I bring it to your attention is one of the questions posed, which cracked me right up:

“Is it true that while NRI firms such as India Uncut of USA, Sepia Mutiny of Britain and AnarCap Lib of Netherlands have been allowed to invest in Indian SSIs, the reputed German investment firm Desipundit has been denied permission? If so, the reasons thereof? Is the Union Government of India planning to make automatic the long procedure of permission for SSIs to import new technologies such as Trackbacks, Pingbacks, Blogrolls, Splogs and Hitcounters?” [Link]

Whilst you may not recognise the ‘NRI firms’ (all blogging colleagues of PP), the thought of an Indian MP asking about importing pingbacks and blogrolls is hilarious! Neil Hamilton never made me laugh this much.

And Anna, Sepia Mutiny’s resident looker, takes the blame for her American site being labelled British:

it’s my fault…all my “s/z” and “o/ou” substitutions…they thought we were even closer to pickled politics than we are. ;)

Lastly - following up on our Imperial College piece, the uni have cracked under surprisingly-vocal-for-Imperial student pressure and caved on the hoodie/face cover ban. I wasn’t challenged once when I wore a hoodie there, although I never launched my main plan of sporting a bulky rucksack and beard. What’s odd is that they’ve also recanted their call for ID cards to be shown. What the hell? How is that unreasonable?

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Is this too hot for you to handle?

by Sunny, on 9th December, 2005

“Oh, rosy faced one, are you the personified numen of Respect, Renown or Resplendence, or the Felicitous Lakshmi herself, or oh, curvaceous one, are you a nymphal Apsara, or the numen of Benefactress, or a self-motivated woman, or Rati Devi, the consort of Manmatha, the Love God.

“Your teeth are evenly, smooth and their tips are like jasmine buds, and your whitish broad eyes are spotless, reddish at ends, and pupils are black.

“Your hips are beamy, thighs burly akin to elephant’s trunks, and these two breasts of yours that are ornamented with best jewellery are rotund, rubbing and bumping each other, and they are swinging up and up, their nipples are brawny and jutting out, and they are smoothish like palm-fruits, thus they are covetable for they are beautiful.”

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Girl power, India-Gates and French Sikhs

by Rohin, on 6th December, 2005

Just wanted to bring your attention to some interesting stories briefly.

Vani is the Pakistani custom of paying off debts by marrying off your daughters. Three Punjabi Pakistani girls have dared to say no to what they consider a death sentence.

Bill and Melinda Gates leave Bangladesh having pledged to nurture their fledgling IT industry and arrive in neighbouring computing powerhouse, India. AIDS is at the forefront of his mind.

The French High Court, the Conseil d’Etat, ruled today that a French Sikh has a right to wear his Turban for his driver’s licence photo. The court ordered that Shingara Singh Mann be given his driver’s licence within a month.

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Bangladesh bombs evoke backlash

by Al-Hack, on 2nd December, 2005

On Tuesday 9 people died and over 40 injured when more bombs went off in Bangladesh, only two weeks before two judges were also killed by terrorists. Bloggers such as Addabaj were in anguish.

Families are in pain. Whole Bangladesh is in the state of shock. The whole world is looking at us. Bangladesh is not Afghanistan and it will never be.
Yesterday, another bomb went off, claimed by the banned group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. This time, Rewan from Dhaka is furious at the government’s inability to crack down on extremists who want to turn the country into an Islamic state.
The government should act now before these menaces cripple the country. Otherwise, soon the people will give their ruling and there will be no return.
He chronicles more reaction here. Global Voices also catches bloggers reacting in anger. Update: Siddhartha also has more coverage.

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A weekly round-up of blog chatter

by Sunny, on 27th November, 2005

Ok, so I haven’t actually done a blogosphere round up for three weeks, but I’m trying to make amends dammit. This is by no means comprehensive coverage. Simply mentions of blog entries (and two articles) I’ve found interesting recently.

  • The Renegade of Junk is furious that the Indian Supreme Court is making it worse for rape victims with their use of language.
  • Sakshi finds it bizarre that Jackie Chan wants the Asian (Chinese and Indian) film industry to “unite” against the Americans.
  • Riz has launched a new blog on market trading called Always Bet on Black.
  • Sepia Mutiny points to a Daily Show clip that satirises religious outrage.
  • Rezwan refers to a conference set up to deal with racism in Saudi Arabia.
  • Sonia Faleiro has written another great article, this time on Mumbai’s top transexual actor Bobby Darling.
  • Neha says that Global Voices, who she contributes to, is having a London meet. One for the diary folks.
  • 360 East reports on how the Amman bombings put Jordanian bloggers on the map.
  • Lenin points out the lies during Hurricane Katrina of people supposedly shooting at rescue helicopters.
  • Away from the blogosphere, The Register says there is one man to save the internet. And he is the Masood Khan, Pakistan’s Ambassador.
  • And finally, Maniac Muslim has written a funny article on Muslims at Hogwarts university trying to convert everyone.
  • Update: Philobiblion has this week’s Brit-blog roundup. Two entries stand out: Tim Ireland’s flash film for Tony Blair’s son Leo, and The Religious Policeman on executions in Saudi Arabia.
Feel free to add your links in the comments section. As ever, contact me to put forward your entries for next week.

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Coming to terms with AIDS in South Asia

by Rohin, on 23rd November, 2005

A UN report, published yesterday, revealed some shocking statistics about AIDS in 2005.

The number of people living with HIV worldwide has doubled in a decade to top 40 million for the first time. 3.1 million people will die from HIV/AIDS this year and over half a million of them will be children. Over 1 in 100 of pregnant women across Asia are HIV positive.

Here is a brief round-up of the latest from India, Pakistan and China.

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Sex! Scandal! Balls! Sania Mirza serves up more controversy

by Rohin, on 19th November, 2005

In a fascinating update to studious Sunny’s previous post on the south Indian sex scandal, it looks like Indian tennis star Sania Mirza has comprehensively joined the fracas.

Sania Mirza, heroine to the masses and at least one of PP’s stalwart staff, has come out in support of Khushboo, the south Indian film star harassed by local politicians for her views on sex. You may remember, Sania (who turned 19 on Tuesday) has been no stranger to controversy throughout her fledgling career.

At a recent conference she not only defended her short skirt but also the south Indian film star on her views on safe sex. Except that only triggered more protests, effigy burning and condemnations…

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The End of a Dynasty - Sri Lankan Election Results

by SajiniW, on 18th November, 2005

Rajapakse Victorious In Sri Lankan Presidential Elections

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Sending money ‘home’ is big business

by Sunny, on 18th November, 2005

We all know people who ’send money back home’ to their country of origin. Ok, I don’t but I’m sure you do. Hopefully. Care to guess how much it adds up to? $232 billion dollars annually. That’s right, billions, according to a World Bank report published yesterday.

You may yawn and think “and what?”, but this means a lot. The World Bank is interested because $160 billion of that $232 billion goes to developing countries. That is more than twice the level of development aid they get from all sources. Those big bucks means a lot to them. And guess who is on top of the list.

The countries receiving the most in recorded remittances are India ($21.7 billion), China ($21.3 billion), Mexico ($18.1 billion), France ($12.7 billion), and the Philippines ($11.6 billion). Those for which remittances account for the largest proportion of gross domestic product are Tonga (31%), Moldova (27.1%), Lesotho (25.8%), Haiti (24.8%), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (22.5%).
There are other very interesting other conclusions the WB makes….

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The south Indian sex scandal beyond belief

by Sunny, on 17th November, 2005

Indians are not exactly known for their liberal views on sex, but the latest scandal in India is far-fetched by most standards.

In September, an actress by the name of Khushboo, who works in the South Indian (Tamil) film industry, said in an India Today survey that it was ok for girls to indulge in pre-marital sex as long as they took precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs. She later justified her statement by saying no educated man could expect his partner to be a virgin. Not exactly earth-shattering one might say, but this is India.

Events since went something like this: First, local political parties protested against her remarks, going as far as calling for her to be ‘deported’ from the state (wtf?). Protests mushroomed as parties tried to make political gain. Her friend Suhasini Maniratnam (wife of the famous Mani Ratnam of Bombay fame) defended her but then also faced protests. Even Miss Universe Natalie Glebova backed her but to no avail.

So what happened? Various groups filed a total of 25 defamation lawsuits against her. After an appearance in court yesterday, she was given conditional bail. The case is now adjourned for December 16th. Apparently she has severly “hurt Tamil sentiments”.

Now close your mouth and please pick up your jaw from the floor. The Indian media has unsurprisingly gone mad over the story. While they’re happy to report it, no one is willing to ask why the politicians are jumping over themselves to condemn her, or even point out that she is simply giving sensible advice that may - you know - help against India’s AIDS problem. The media there really needs a kick up the butt to challenge its politicians.

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Having a debate on first-cousin marriages

by Sunny, on 16th November, 2005

Labour MP Ann Cryer has tried to kick off a debate within the Muslim community on first-cousin marriages. She will be on Newsnight tonight saying it is leading to genetic problems.

A Newsnight investigation reports that British Pakistanis are thirteen times more likely to have children with recessive disorders than the general population. The same research, shows that British Pakistanis account for 3.4% of all births but have 30% of all British children with recessive disorders.

Keighley MP Ann Cryer, says: “As we address problems of smoking, drinking, obesity, we say it’s a public health issue, and therefore we all have to get involved with it in persuading people to adopt a different lifestyle. I think the same should be applied to this problem in the Asian community. They must adopt a different lifestyle. They must look outside the family for husbands and wives for their young people.”

Following online debates for years, my impression is that this is usually forced on by parents rather than a choice that young Muslims make; in a similar vein to the ongoing practice with some Sikhs to marry within caste. I mean who really cares about caste these days?

The Guardian and BBC have more. Though the BBC’s misleading headline is refuted in the Guardian article by Cryer herself.

Also: England lost to Pakistan in the first test match. Ha ha! *points finger Simpsons style*

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Al-Qaeda bombs Karachi?

by Al-Hack, on 15th November, 2005

Is Al-Qaeda now targeting Pakistan? Or could it be a return of the sectarian violence? A bomb went off in Karachi a few hours ago, 8:50am local time. The Karachi Metblog says it was at a KFC restaurant. Five people are feared dead, more injured. The BBC says ambulances were seen taking at least 12 wounded away to hospital.

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Idiot sets himself on fire

by Sunny, on 12th November, 2005

The New York Daily News reports of 48 year old Karnail Singh being seriously burnt in an incident in late October. And how?

Singh sparked the Ozone Park fire by dumping a flammable liquid on the basement stairs and igniting it because he was furious Kaur wasn’t sending money to his son in India, fire officials said.

Singh also accused her of seeing other men, court papers show. … [He] mistakenly set himself on fire and tore off some of his singed clothes as he fled, said Acting Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Robert Byrnes.

Too bad he got away. [Via Sepia Mutiny]. This comes not long after another idiot, Chomir Ali, bullied his sons into stabbing his daughter’s lover Arash Ghorbani-Zarin 46 times to vindicate “the family honour” because he made her pregnant by mistake.
The jury at Oxford Crown Court was told how Muji Rahman was a swaggering bully who, while condemning his sister’s behaviour for flouting the family’s strict Muslim code, had had sex before marriage, drank alcohol and rarely bothered to go to the mosque. After the killing in November last year he went out clubbing with friends in Oxford city centre.

Chomir Ali, who was out delivering takeaway meals while his sons carried out the murder, was arrested after his botched attempt to get rid of the knife and the killers’ bloodstained clothes.

All three were jailed for life, and rightly so.

Before anyone says these are one-off problems, consider this: The UN estimates that annuallly around 5,000 women are killed in honor killings. Indian police say that every year they receive more than 2,500 reports of bride burning. It would be no exaggeration to say that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh dominate the UN figures.

We have a lot to be proud of, eh?

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Changing times, changing meanings

by Shihab, on 10th November, 2005

History lessons depend on which side your teacher is on. As a school kid in Bangladesh, I entertained fantasies of being a heretic-killing warrior riding an elephant and waving the Moghul and Ottoman flags, torturing a few Jews and West Pakistanis along my merry way.

Once I joined the British Library in Dhaka, I began to understand the concept of historical bias, but one issue I could never resolve was the exclusively Bangladeshi gripe: The British made poor farmers grow poppies instead of rice, leaving them unable to feed off their produce and die grizzly deaths in villages all over the country.

I didn’t get that. I knew the Brits were fond of our muslin and our jute, but what the ruddy hell did they need to grow poppies for? I put the question to my history teacher, who, inexplicably, caned me for my impudence.

It was only years later, in my self-funded drug lessons, that it became glaring obvious.
Opium. I got caned for smack. I have issues with this.

This reared its ugly head this morning, when a little old dear at Euston station asked me if I’d like to invest in a poppy. Rather aggressively (in my defence, I’m nursing a diarrhoeic camel for a hangover), I snapped: “Why would I want to wear a symbol of war?” The poor woman looked crumpled and I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it since, least of all because I’ve realised I really have no satisfactory stance on the matter of wearing poppies.

Your opinions for or against would be much appreciated…

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Sikhs plan shrine in Pakistan

by Sunny, on 9th November, 2005

More evidence that as Kashmir starts gearing up for winter, relations between India and Pakistan are thawing faster than anyone expected. The latter is becoming more open to championing its non-Islamic cultural heritage and allowing more open displays by other religions. The BBC reports:

An Indian Sikh religious committee plans to build a seminary and a pilgrim centre in the Pakistani township of Nankana Sahib. The town is the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. A Sikh shrine already exists there.

The pilgrim centre planned at Nankana Sahib is aimed at facilitating the journey of thousands of Indian Sikhs who visit the shrine of Guru Nanak Dev every year.

The SGPC’s initiatives, announced days ahead of the 15 November anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev’s birth, are significant. If approved, this will be the first SGPC venture aimed at spreading its religious activities into Pakistan.

There are actually a lot of Sikh Gurudwaras in Pakistan, they’re just not that well looked after. Wikipedia has more history on Nankana Sahib, but it’s apparently disputed.

This not long after the news that Pakistan is also nominating the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan Punjab for a World Heritage status.

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Is Kashmir becoming Musharraf’s Katrina?

by Sunny, on 7th November, 2005

Back to the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake, the BBC reports today that Pakistani police fired shots and tear gas at large crowds of angry people trying to cross the border into India. It happened after the border was opened on several points to allow more aid to pass through on either side.

Hundreds of Kashmiri villagers on the Pakistani side of the divide approached the Line of Control between Poonch and Rawalakot shouting “Let people cross” and “What we want is freedom”.

Police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to break up the protest.

Moments before two reps from India and Pakistan shook hands to officially open the border.
“They say that adversity unites people. This is what is happening today.” Immigration, customs and foreign currency exchange facilities have been set up, along with public telephones and a mosque.
About 3 million people have become homeless and around 73,000 have died so far since the earthquake. People still need help and it seems they can’t wait for it fast enough.

Relationship between the two countries have definitely gotten better in recent weeks. Outlook India reports that Pakistan has nominated the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan Punjab for a World Heritage status.

The big question is, will anger over the slowness in aid make Kashmiris angry towards the Pakistani state and ask for their independence rather than fight to be part of Pakistan?

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Mukhtar Mai the Glamour girl

by Al-Hack, on 4th November, 2005

For her courage in speaking out against her brutal rape in Pakistan, Mukhtar Mai, aka Mukhtaran Bibi, has become internationally known as a campaigner for women’s rights.

In fact she has become so well-known that the insensitive jerk commonly known as President Musharraf had a stupendous bout of foot-in-mouth disease (rather lot of that going around) a few weeks back when he said Pakistani women who wanted to get a visa or make money would get themselves raped.

Mukhtar was awarded the Woman of the Year prize last night by Glamour magazine in a lavish New York ceremony. It smells slightly of opportunism though - the rape happened three years ago and since then everyone under the sun has interviewed her and discussed women right’s in Pakistan. Glamour’s come late to this party!

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Festival of light

by Sunny, on 2nd November, 2005



diya dance, originally uploaded by amrita b.

A day late, but Happy Diwali! And Eid Mubarak for tomorrow!

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Israel exists and will exist. Get. Over. It.

by Al-Hack, on 1st November, 2005

Hitler couldn’t have put it better, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says in the Indy today, and she is - to put it mildly - right on.

On Saturday I speculated why the Iranian President said he wanted to “wipe Israel off the map”. Now I know why: he’s bonkers and completely inept. But let’s allow YAB to put it more succintly:

Hitler couldn’t have put it better. The Führer would have played the audience similarly - a conference of emotive students marking Jerusalem Day, who would readily rise to imagine the glorious obliteration of the Jewish state.

You know the type, furious people like millions of others across the Middle East, disenfranchised and stamped on by their own leaders, who displace their anger by turning their eyes on Israel, lusting for its annihilation in a kind of political pornography which provides temporary relief but can only lead to a greater sense of hopeless impotence and homeless rage.

Of course, you gotta stump up the cash to read the whole shebang but her point is: Israel exists. And it is vital for progressive Muslims to stand up and say so.

To many, including the Palestinians, that would be pointing out the obvious. The Palestinian Authority’s own chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said his comments were “unacceptable” and that the PA itself “recognised the state of Israel”. So why can’t the rest of the Muslim world do the same instead of trying to make things worse for the Palestinians? It’s not like the Arabs have been lining up to help the Palestinians financially, is it?

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