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19th November, 2005

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

by Rohin at 3:33 am    

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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18th November, 2005

The End of a Dynasty - Sri Lankan Election Results

by SajiniW at 9:42 am    

Rajapakse Victorious In Sri Lankan Presidential Elections

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Sending money ‘home’ is big business

by Sunny at 2:44 am    

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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Filed under: South Asia, Economics
17th November, 2005

The south Indian sex scandal beyond belief

by Sunny at 5:50 am    

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.

Filed under: Media, South Asia, Culture, Humour
16th November, 2005

Having a debate on first-cousin marriages

by Sunny at 2:50 pm    

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*

15th November, 2005

Al-Qaeda bombs Karachi?

by Al-Hack at 4:40 am    

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.

12th November, 2005

Idiot sets himself on fire

by Sunny at 4:12 pm    

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?

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, Religion
10th November, 2005

Changing times, changing meanings

by Kismet hardy at 5:28 pm    

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…

9th November, 2005

Sikhs plan shrine in Pakistan

by Sunny at 4:14 pm    

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.

Filed under: South Asia, Religion
7th November, 2005

Is Kashmir becoming Musharraf’s Katrina?

by Sunny at 7:39 pm    

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?

4th November, 2005

Mukhtar Mai the Glamour girl

by Al-Hack at 5:30 am    

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!

2nd November, 2005

Festival of light

by Sunny at 6:13 pm    

diya dance, originally uploaded by amrita b.

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

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, Religion
1st November, 2005

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

by Al-Hack at 12:16 am    

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?

31st October, 2005

Indira Gandhi assassinated

by Sunny at 1:51 pm    

… 21 years ago this day, the BBC quite helpfully recalls. The only woman Prime Minister of India was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for her attack on the holiest Sikh shrine of Harminder Sahib (aka Golden Temple) in Amritsar, in which 1000 people were estimated to have died.

Her killings prompted some members of the ruling Congress party to start riots in the capital Delhi, and start massacaring Sikhs. Nearly 4,000 were murdered. A lot of the instigators are still on the loose. The BBC website has some witness accounts.

Because the media was still heavily state-controlled at the time, a lot of news about the killings did not come out till later. About the only useful thing Indira Gandhi did during her tenure was to stop the Pakistan army massacring Bengalis and help liberate Bangladesh in 1971. It was listed somewhere as one of only two military interventions in the 20th century that actually stopped the killing of people.

Filed under: South Asia, The World
30th October, 2005

A weekly round-up of the blogosphere

by Sunny at 3:40 pm    

1) A whole bunch of people, including David T of HP have provided views on Navid Akhtar’s documentary Young, Angry and Muslim for OpenDemocracy magazine.

2) Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, writes more on the Indian blogosphere vs IIPM issue on his column for MSNBC.

3) Incurable Hippie tells us, quite yummyliciously, that Ben and Jerry’s are giving away free ice-cream to those willing to donate blood. So what you waiting for, foo’?

4) The Renegade of Junk points out, quite alarmingly, that Halliburton is tricking Asians into coming to Iraq to work. Grrrr…

5) The Indian blogosphere has also been going mad over the ‘55-word piece of fiction’ phenomena, and a new blog has been set up bringing together everyone’s entries.

6) Ashish Niti finds that the Indian govt was also implicated in the Volcker report on the Oil-for-food scanadal in Iraq.

7) Madeleine Bunting’s interview with Al-Qaradawi was disappointing I thought, because she did not ask more difficult questions or put him on the spot over suicide bombings in Israel. She wants to engage rather than alienate Muslim scholars, but why fete a man who polarises so much? I just don’t get it. David T and Yusuf Smith have more.

8) Nick Cohen has written about the Birmingham riots and says Pickled Politics is run by a bunch of “sharp” Asian writers. At least someone recognises!

UPDATE: 9) Independent on Sunday’s Peter Cole also name-checks PP in an article on how the media treated the disturbances.

To send tips for next week’s round-up, use the link on the top right.

Filed under: South Asia, The World
29th October, 2005

Speculation in the wake of a dark day for India

by Rohin at 10:52 pm    

With floods in the south east and a train crash killing over 200, the three bombs in Delhi this afternoon topped off a truly depressing day for India.

I have only ever called two cities home, Delhi and London. Only months apart, both have been hit by organised, synchronised bomb attacks. Both the London bombings and the Delhi bombings targetted innocents with cold precision. The London bombs took out commuters, today’s three explosions killed unsuspecting shoppers, eagerly preparing for the festive season of Diwali and Eid in crowded shopping areas.

The BBC and other agencies currently put the death toll at 50-55 and rising and Star News (an Indian channel) estimates over 200 are seriously injured.

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26th October, 2005

Blog Quake Day today for Kashmiri disaster

by Sunny at 2:24 pm    

With nearly 70,000 dead, the earthquake in Kashmir has become a worse humanitarian nightmare for the UN than even the Tsunami.

It says governments have pledged only around 30% of what is really needed despite the continuing problems and more expected in the coming weeks.

Blogs from all over the world today have combined together to form Blog Quake Day to keep the disaster in the public arena and try and keep raising money for this humanitarian disaster.

According to Oxfam
UK $17.4m
US $10.8m
Sweden $10.5m
Canada $8.9m
Japan $8m
Netherlands $7.8m
Germany $3.9m
Italy $1.2m
France, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Portugal, Spain - $0

Oxfam warns that the gap between an emergency appeal being announced and funds actually being received is vast, and could mean the difference between life and death for many thousands of survivors. Only about 20% of the money requested in the appeal has actually been given.

  • Disasters Emergency Committee
  • British Red Cross
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • International Rescue Corps
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies
  • Oxfam; 0870 333 2500
  • Unicef UK; 0800 037 9797 or 08457 312 312
18th October, 2005

The Indian juggernaut cometh

by Sunny at 4:01 am    

Indian software companies are becoming confident, almost arrogant some would say, with plans of world domination. Don’t believe me? The NY Times interviewed Nandan M. Nilekani this weekend, the CEO of Infosys, India’s second-largest outsourcer.

Even consultants should beware, as he is after IBM and Accenture. You know why he’ll succeed? He makes $60,000 a year at a company worth nearly $20 billion. Last quarter Infosys recruited a phenomenal 8,026 employees and grew profits by 35.6%.

Q. Are you worried about the outcry over outsourcing in America?
A. What’s happening is pretty fundamental. If you go back to the 1830’s, India and China were 50 percent of the world’s G.D.P., and then they missed the entire revolution of industry. So if you take a long view of this game, it’s just part of the process.

Q. Is there anything you realistically fear from Western policy makers?
A. No. I think politicians have to win elections. But underlying secular trends like technology and demographics - you can’t stop these things, they’re all megatrends. They’re going to happen whether you like it or not. In fact, the guys who are going to win are the ones who say, “It’s going to happen anyway; let’s figure out how we can take advantage of it.”

He handles himself pretty well, like a guy in fact who is secure in the knowledge that things will eventually go his way.

Rohin points out below that China is doing much better than India economically. But the latter is investing more in its knowledge base, a strategy much better for the longer term. Expanding into value-added services is logical progression.

Q. Does it feel odd to find yourself lecturing Americans on the joys of capitalism?
A. You guys told us for so many years to cut out this socialist rubbish and go to free markets. We came to free markets and now you’re telling us, “Stop, don’t come.”

That’s priceless.

Filed under: South Asia, Economics
15th October, 2005

Indian blogosphere continues attack on institute

by Sunny at 4:34 pm    

Heh, like a swarm of bees circling around to attack, Indian blogs are keeping up pressure on the academic institute IIPM. It is currently Technorati’s most searched term. More on the controversy here.

The annoying thing is, most of the Indian media is too scared to carry the story, presumably because IIPM spends a huge amount on advertising every year in the press, although the Indian new channel NDTV did a short story. According to Press Talk, IIPM may be releasing a statement to the media. No one knows where all this will lead, but at least IIPM is unlikely to keep making wild claims in the press to attract poor students.

14th October, 2005

Kashmir relief starts winding down, aid still needed

by Sunny at 8:48 pm    

After six days and nights of pure hell, the relief efforts in Kashmir and Pakistan are winding down. That means there is little hope of recovering more people buried alive under the rubble.

The problems for the millions affected still remain. The coming winter is one. The UN says an estimated two million people need rehousing. The reconstruction will take years.

The Pak govt is importing 50,000 tents from India, but dismissed reports that Indian troops crossed the LoC to help Pakistani troops in relief. The terrorists wouldn’t be too impressed with that. Already, thunderstorms and rains are expected to cause more problems. Hopelessness is setting in.

If you can help or donate, please do.

Filed under: South Asia
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