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16th March, 2006

Thin line between arranged and forced

by Sunny at 6:01 am    

posterA national drive to raise awareness of forced marriages launches today. A publicity campaign is to follow. We all agree (I hope!) that it’s a stupid practice that will die a quick death.

Note that the FMU held a consultation last year on whether to ban forced marriages. In chapter two it discusses points for and against banning. Through lack of publicity and because the useless community ‘leaders’ it was sent to didn’t really bother doing anything substantial with it, the response was poor. One email I received said something like “We know forced marriages hardly take place in our community but here is the document anyway, do what you will.” Head. In. Sand.

These silly community groups against banning this practice annoy me off to be honest. Yes, it’s intrusive. Some parents might get arrested. Isn’t that the whole point? “Will drive the practice underground,” they say! Are these social workers intentionall stupid or infected by some PC bug?
You may also want to read this.

Filed under: South Asia, Culture
13th March, 2006

Uneasy relationships with people ‘back home’

by Sunny at 1:52 am    

To be sure, British Asians have a wierd relationship with people “back home”. Anyone who has been on a holiday there can attest to that. There is a plethora of issues to cover, but a few persistent ones keep cropping up in the media. Immigration; religious education (aka enrolling into a madrasaa); sending back money; providing aid during natural disasters; going back for abortions (more recent); and the perennial - getting married to someone from south Asia.

Hundreds of British Asian men have been accused of abandoning new brides in India after securing lucrative dowry payments,” the Times declared this weekend following an investigation by its reporters. I hope no one is naive enough to believe this is something new.

Marriage scams have been going on for years, and the problems associated with this practice are easily sweeped under the carpet. Abandoned women, abandoned men, runaway brides, dowry deaths, extortion rackets, immigration problems, winding up in Guantanamo Bay (see Tipton Three) etc. The list is not only endless, it’s bloody growing. And it’s giving us British Asians a bad name you scamming bastards (you’re out there somewhere!).

In such a climate I’m surprised more Indian women there don’t balk at the sight of some Asian “businessman” (ie chipshop owner) coming over to get married. How long before they all realise it’s a bad idea?

Filed under: South Asia, Culture
9th March, 2006

The Blank Noise project

by Sunny at 3:17 am    

Yesterday was International Women’s Day which I nominally regard as a silly PR stunt. However this time it would be right to plug The Blank Noise project - a blog based campaign against harassment of women in India. The Indian blogosphere has quite admirably been very supportive of the project but that should come as no surprise since it’s populated by educated, liberal types.

I hope the project moves out of the blogosphere in a sustainable and concrete form so it can move away from preaching to the converted so to speak. Also admirable is their unwillingness to tolerate statements such as “Wear what you want! You just want to be leeched at right?” My hats off to the women, who have been running the project for a year now.

4th March, 2006

Has India sold out to the USA?

by Sunny at 6:54 pm    

The more I think about Bush’s visit, the more I come to the conclusion that there is a tinge of colonial mentality to this.

On the one hand it is important for the country to have good relations with the world’s super-power for trade as well exchanging intellectual property. It also helps having the USA put pressure on Pakistan to reel in its support for terrorist groups in Kashmir. And maybe to act as a counterweight to China in case a diplomatic spat arises.

But India hasn’t suddenly turned into a democracy that George Bush has woken up to. For one, the latter wants allies to play off against China too. But I feel there is also an element of wanting India not to become too independent with energy.

It was already unhappy with India’s traditionally close relationship with Iran. So with a bit of *wink wink nudge nudge* it provides some technology in return for stabbing Iran in the back. It’s previous policy of denying India access to technology and hitting it with sanctions following the nuclear tests got it nowhere - the country has built a nuclear programme in isolation since the 1970s and is in some ways ahead of developed countries in the field. So why would India want the USA to provide technology that it does not even need? Randeep Ramesh:

But India’s energy policy has already come under serious pressure from America; the last petroleum minister had ambitious plans to build an Asian grid of oil and gas pipelines stretching from Ukraine to Japan. This plan, to be kickstarted by a pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan, ran counter to Washington’s interests. Last month the minister lost the oil portfolio.
As Bush’s own nuclear negotiating team has made clear in testimony to Congress, the administration wants to “lock in” India to a deal before moving to tie down and restrain the country’s nuclear potential in non-proliferation discussions.

It makes great headlines and boosts the Congress party’s stature with the middle-classes, but there is something amiss in the bigger picture.

Filed under: South Asia, The World, India
2nd March, 2006

India - the doubled edged sword

by Sunny at 7:43 pm    

George Bush today announced a deal giving India access to US nuclear fuel and technology without it first having to sign the non-proliferation treaty - which I’m not happy about. Firstly it means we waste more money on nuclear technology for energy and weapons instead of investing in renewable energy or education programmes.

Countries like Iran will also look at it as another example of US hypocrisy - America allows its friend’s to build weapons but those in the bad books get referred to the Security Council.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: South Asia, Culture, India
28th February, 2006

Drawing declared most dangerous profession

by Al-Hack at 4:11 am    

A Shiv Sena activist point a toy gun towards a caricature of M.F. Hussain during a protest against Hussain’s nude painting entitled ‘Bharat mata’ in New Delhi. If last week it was UP minister Haji Muhammed Yaqoob Qureshi offering a Rs 51 crore reward for the head of the Danish cartoonist, there were many more taking inspiration from him.

Ashok Pandey, the president of a self-styled Hindu Personal Law Board in Lucknow announced that “anyone who kills painter M.F. Hussain for making obscene paintings of goddess Sarswati and Bharat Mata; the Danish cartoonist; those in the German company printing pictures of Ram and Krishna on tissue paper and the French filmmaker desecrating Lord Shiva will be given Rs 51 crore in cash by the Board” and if Yaqoob Qureshi undertakes the job “he will be given Rs 101 crore”.

Muslim and Hindu fanatics finally agree on something shock!

24th February, 2006

Some justice for Gujarat victims

by Sunny at 9:30 pm    

Nine people have been sentenced to life imprisonment in India for killing 14 people during the arson attack on the bakery in Gujarat. On surface maybe not a huge story, but it is explosive stuff. [hat tip Mirax]

The Best Bakery incident took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots in India, when mostly Hindu mobs went on a rampage across the state and killed over 1000 Muslims (an official figure, NGOs put it between 2000 - 3000). It was in retaliation to 56 Hindu pilgrims being burnt alive in a train fire in Godhra - back from a rally in the holy city of Ayodhya. Gujarat unfortunately has a long history of communal violence.

This incident is symptomatic of a wider problem: the inability of the Indian justice system to prosecute rioting mobs or their instigators. The key witness behind the case kept changing her stance, and there were widespread allegations of political meddling. The Hindu points to some problems.

India’s Tehelka magazine says it has uncovered bribery by BJP officials (former govt).

Nevertheless, like the anti-Sikh killings of 1984, the vast majority of perpetrators and the pupeteers behind it (like Gujarat chief Minister Narendra Modi), have never been brought to justice. So although this should be welcomed, most Muslims (and some Hindus) affected by the riots will not get any justice.

Filed under: South Asia, Religion, India
23rd February, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

by Rohin at 4:05 am    

Farewell my Pickled friends, as the Interweb faithful say, brb. This is what I’m doing. I will try to drop in when I can and I shall certainly keep my eyes open for anything interesting to write about. I thought I’d sign out with something a bit lighter, but first the headlines:

Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka and the England team have got Delhi belly.
Al Qaeda’s next target identified.
Google Maps puts up new high(er) res images of the infamous Area 51, but Google Earth now less cool as 3D timetravel now possible in London.
Vegas casinos outsourcing to India (warning - shocking grammar in this piece).
Brokeback Mountain entitled ‘Faggot Cowboys‘ in Turkey.
Christians and Muslims kill each other in Nigeria, no one surprised.
Bullock racing, jumping cows, teeth pulling tractors - India’s rural Olympics.
New beer launched in Palestine, called Hamas. Explosive taste.
Christians feel left out, protest about cartoons.

And now our feature presentation:

TIME ran a piece this week entitled The Land of the Wedding Planners, charting the rise and rise of the mega wedding in India and amongst Indians around the world. Weddings, it seems, have become a field in which Indians lead the way. The country’s burgeoning middle class have embraced weddings as an opportunity to show off their often obscene wealth.

Continue Reading...
22nd February, 2006

First, the bad news…

by Sunny at 4:16 pm    

Major unrest has erupted in Iraq between Shia and Sunni groups, that I hope will not erupt into civil war. It follows a major bomb attack on one of Shia Islam’s holiest mosques.

Kudos to the Norweigans meanwhile, for brokering another round of peace talks in Sri Lanka between the government and Tamil Tigers.

The gods don’t like skiing too much either

by Sunny at 3:01 am    

You don’t know what’s going to annoy the gods these days, honestly. A ski resort to be built in the Himalayas has come unstuck because the locals gods did not like the idea. Too environmentally unsound, an opinion poll of the deities declared, which is a good enough reason for me. [hat tip j0nz]

20th February, 2006

The princess spy awarded the George Cross

by Sunny at 7:04 pm    

The story of Noor Inayat Khan came to light a few years ago when secret documents from WW2 shed light on the daughter of an Indian Sufi prince who gave up her life for Britain during the war. She was post-humously awarded the George Cross.

For more than half a century, myths, misconceptions and outright fantasies have crowded around the memory of Noor Inayat Khan. She was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Through the frantic, terrifying summer of 1943, the untried 29-year-old spy found herself virtually in charge of Resistance communications in the Paris area as the Gestapo arrested cell after cell around her. [The Independent]

The renewed interest comes on the back of a book being published on here life.

Author of ‘Spy Princess: the life of Noor Inayat Khan’ Shrabani Basu will be talking with Ian Jack (Granta) and MRD Foot at the Nehru Centre on 1 March.

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, India
18th February, 2006

Posturing over cartoons continues

by Sunny at 10:11 pm    

The Muslim Action Committee (MAC) held a protest over the prophet Mohammed cartoons in London today, with around 10,000 people attending. StrangelyPsychedelic has pictures. Behind the scenes political posturing seems to be taking place.

Today’s rally was not supported or given a mention by the usual suspects of Muslim groups because the new kid on the block is vying for influence. This one is led by imams and my feeling is that last week’s rally was poorly attended because they told congregations to come today instead.

Controversies are perfect opportunities for religious groups to organise protests and demand attention. It’ll be interesting to see how MAC proceeds from here. Will it try to usurp the MCB’s position?

JP’s culture editor Flemming Rose meanwhile explains ‘Why I Published Those Cartoons‘ in tomorrow’s WaPo [hat tip: Peter Pedersen]. Worth reading and discussing.

Around the world, ten died in Libya when police opened fire on protestors, angry over an Italian MP printing and wearing a t-shirt bearing those cartoons. The MP has since been forced to resign. In India, a minister put up a huge reward to behead the cartoonists and was then slammed by the leading Muslim body. [hat tip: Vikrant]

Technorati tags: prophet Mohammed, cartoons
17th February, 2006

Could the cartoons bring down President Musharraf?

by Sunny at 1:58 am    

Pakistanis are notorious for arriving late to parties, though only slightly lesser than Indians. So it is with little suprise we find that when rabid fanatics in other parts of the world have burned some foreign embassies in self-righteous anger and gone back home satisfied, the Pakistani brothers suddenly realised they were falling behind in the “we’re angry too you mofos” stakes, and started rioting.

It could be that they were protesting against horribly bad KFC/McDonald’s food, but there’s no excuse for Pizza Hut dammit.

Continue Reading...
15th February, 2006

Nerdy FOBs, we need you!

by Rohin at 10:14 pm    

This is one of my best mates. I thought instead of some generic google image, I’d give you a bona fide example of what I’m talking about: the Indian student. As you can see, with no hair gel or designer labels, it’s patently obvious this is no British Asian. I’m talking about the Indian overseas student.

Long have they been the brunt of American jokes (we treat them far better here) and the stars of awful films like Where’s the Party Yaar, American Desi and Van Wilder. But now the FOB (fresh off the boat) is in demand. Countries around the world are falling over themselves to attract more students from India, as they enjoy the dubious reputation of being more serious, harder-working types. Oh, nerds.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: The World, Economics, India

India-Pak cricket insults force website closure

by Sunny at 4:46 pm    

Just shows how maturely Indian and Pakistani cricket fans can behave eh?

A torrent of racist and abusive postings on the BBC’s Test Match Special website has forced the corporation to close its message board.

Part of the site was suspended after the BBC received complaints that a number of users were sending insulting religious messages and promoting terrorism on the South Asian section of the Test Match Special website. [Times Online]

I wonder when people will actually grow up and get laid.
[hat tip Contrarymary]

14th February, 2006

Cappucinos and Coconuts

by Shariq at 5:27 pm    

We’ve all heard the term coconut before and to be honest I’ve always thought it to be rather crude. So when I found the word ‘cappucino’ in the New Statesman special report on India, I was quite intrigued. Apparently in India, a cappucino is someone who is ‘white and frothy’ on the outside but with deeply conservative and traditional sub-continental ‘values’ on the inside.

Continue Reading...

The colour of money

by Rohin at 1:28 am    

More Euro-blogging from me. The Indian press has been awash with coverage of their poster boy’s European takeover bid. Laxmi Mittal’s hostile bid for French steel giant Arcelor has run into serious difficulty and both sides are crying foul. However, now many Indians are claiming the reason the Europeans are stalling is simple racism. Paranoia or justified claim?

Continue Reading...
29th January, 2006

Weekly round up of news and blogs

by Sunny at 9:14 pm    

Should Indian (i.e. Bangladeshi) restaurants be employing Eastern Europeans to fulfil labour shortages? Too much cultural difference or are they just being racist?. Either way, restaurants are increasingly facing big labour shortages. [via Frank Jordans]

This week’s New Statesman has a cover story on India with accompany articles, so make sure you check it out. Commentary by William Dalrymple, Pankaj Mishra, Edward Luce, Ziauddin Sardar, Basharat Peer, Amit Chaudhuri and others [via Jay Singh].

Prospect magazine last week also featured a cover piece on India, focusing instead on why western philosophy remains so sealed off from eastern thinking and philosophy. A bit of intellectual snobbery perhaps?

Taking recent examples such as Kate Moss’ cocaine addiction and more recently attacks by the Murdoch press on Lib Dems, blogger Curious Hamster writes a brilliant piece on how the media has recently dealt with issues and agendas very selectively.

National Nitwit has written a satirical piece on Hamas naming a Minister for Car Bombs.

Baraka writes on delicious desi aunties (it’s a clean piece dammit), and laments the move towards a westernised ideal of skinny women.

Simon Barrow is keeping readers updated on developments and vigils for the four Christian peacemakers abducted in Iraq.

Bloggers in the middle east meanwhile are keenly watching an Israeli-Iranian summit. Hoder, an Iranian blogger based in Canada, has just landed in Israel to meet Lisa.

That’s it this week, Tim Worstall has his weekly britblog roundup, and keep sending in those links!

Filed under: South Asia, The World, India
27th January, 2006

Dump the charade over Holocaust memorial day

by Sunny at 2:59 pm    

Every year the same charade takes place over the Holocaust Memorial day, commemorated today for the victims of the Nazi exterminations camps.

A big fuss is made over the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) plans to boycott the event, and endless debate over whether they should or not, until the day passes. Nearer to the anniversary in the following year, the same process starts all over again.

We know their claims to care for everyone is hypocritical, as I show in this article. But my point is, the only way to really deal with the MCB on this is to entirely ignore them. They want to boycott the HMD? Fine, why the big deal? We end up helping them by making such a big fuss.

Continue Reading...
26th January, 2006

Houston, we have a problem with Iran

by Sunny at 5:46 pm    

While there is constant rhetoric over what to do about the “Iranian problem”, behind the scenes intense negotiations are taking place.

Russia and China (more so) are the main obstacles to America’s hopes of referring Iran to the UN Security Council and getting it to withdraw from its nuclear energy programme. While Russia has signalled a movement towards the US point of view, China has dithered.

Today it openly stated its opposition to sanctions, putting a spanner in the works for the US. Behind the scenes China and Iran are frantically talking, with the latter now signalling it may end up enriching its uranium in Russia.

That means the security threat is slightly less as Russia will continue to hold the technology in enriching uranium, making it all the more difficult for Iran to develop nukes, if it desired, without outside knowledge.

India is very much part of the equation since it needs energy from Iran (as with China) and has fairly good relations with it. The US recently agreed to share nuclear technology with India on the implicit assumption it could buy support on the Iran issue, and stated as much yesterday.

What they did not count on was Indian pride. Today, the US ambassador was summoned to Delhi and told that his comments were “inappropriate and not conducive” to US-India relations. Hah! Meanwhile, what is Iran saying? Errr… it just wants direct flights to the US for its citizens. Look, I see a pig flying!

Technorati tags: Russia, China, Iran, India
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