|Modi's forward March halted?|
|BJP's latest bypoll setback|
|Barely 100 days after scoring a stunning Lok Sabha victory, the Bharatiya Janata Party has suffered its third successive-and heaviest-defeat in state Assembly byelections. Of the 33 Assembly seats where elections were held in nine states on September 13, the BJP won just 12 seats, down from 25. It suffered a rout in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Rajasthan, and sustained losses in Gujarat-the very states that had voted it overwhelmingly to national power in May.
Barring West Bengal, where it won an Assembly seat on its own for the first time ever, the BJP made no gains whatever. Of the three Lok Sabha seats where byelections were held, it retained one (Vadodara), but with a margin reduced by a whopping 2.4 lakh votes. It lost the other two, Mainpuri in UP and Medak in Telangana, to its rivals. ...|
|Celebrating Mary Kom and Manipur on celluloid|
|As I watched the premier of the new Hindi film, 'Mary Kom', for two hours I sat in a packed hall, riveted. I juxtaposed my experiences of Manipur with the film and discovered a resonance. While the producer, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, has made another important woman-centered film, this time taking audiences to India's beautiful yet most neglected region, Manipur, actor Priyanka Chopra has brought the eponymous Mary to life as if she was born to play her. Of course, I write this piece not as a film critic but as one who has watched Indian films all her life and has also had the privilege of visiting Imphal and other parts of Manipur several times since 1997.
The second chapter of the book, 'Beautiful Country: Stories from Another India', which I authored in 2012 along with Gunjan Veda, is ab...|
|That safe place called home|
|It is ironic that even during the most dangerous times of militancy and after, Kashmir continued to remain the 'safest place' in the minds of most Kashmiris. Tucked away in the deep recesses of our hearts. We are forever going home. From wherever we are in the world.
I don't know how others relate to their places of origin. But I know that for most of us it is the Raison d'être of our very existence. No matter what we do, where or who we are, Kashmir and what it means to us is fundamental to our being. It is the most beautiful, the most sacred and the only safe place in the world. It is home.
As the floods breached the boundaries of the river Jhelum and as that beautiful river turned into a unrelenting serpent, slithering into our homes threatening to devour the entire city, that safe p...|
|Why not a Muslim coalition against ISIS?|
|Another Western war in the Middle East plays right into the hands of extremists|
|Who likes to play the devil's advocate? I certainly do not. The increasingly murderous antics of the so-called Islamic State or ISIS are truly horrendous and cannot be condoned by any sane, sensible human being. Arabs and Muslims have all the more reasons to despise the terror army because it claims to speak and perpetrate these shameful acts in their name and the name of their faith.
While the coldblooded killing of two American journalists and a British aid worker have understandably enraged Western public opinion and helped their governments rally behind Washington in another grand crusade in the Middle East, the majority of victims of the IS terror happen to be Arabs and Muslims.
Sometime ago in these columns when yours truly had raised questions about the ISIS origins suggesting ...|
|Playing politics on KPs return|
|Kashmiri Pundits, like Punjabi Hindus, have no homeland to return to. Both want to go back. But the militancy that ousted them is still strong. On the top it is the local population which has been contaminated by the fundamentalists.
Some Pundits who have returned are unhappy. They find that the atmosphere of secularism is, by and large, a memory of the past. They have the feeling of being strangers at places where they and their forefathers lived happily.
Religious bias has built walls between the communities. The Pundits, who had to leave their homes when the militancy, which hit Kashmir in the mid-1990s, has waned. But the overall situation is not congenial.
True, most of the Pundits live in Jammu and the places around the city. But these are refugee camps, not homes. Jammu and Kash...|
|No love in the backseat..!|
|Quite often I see husbands and wives with a little child driving in the city. This is how they sit, most often the child sits in front with the father and the mother sits at the back. A few years ago, they must have got married, held hands, professed love, but with the advent of the child the woman was relegated to the back seat.
And most often these are the fellows in India who are speaking about love-jihad, and how their women's heart are being captured by people of other faiths! These irresponsible statements are by men who have no idea what love is except a way of getting heirs.
Love is very different my friend, and if you have a few moments, and I hope this column reaches these men here is what love is:
Love is unconditional
Love Is Kind
Love is Forgiving
Love is Caring
|State of Prisons: Overhaul laws, administration|
|The Supreme Court's recent order seeking release of undertrials who have served half their maximum term without trial, should be seen as a blessing in disguise for prison administrators. It is no secret that in India, jails are inadequately administered owing to overcrowding and under staffing. This apart, these are plagued with extortion, drug and sexual abuse of the prisoners, by both inmates and jail officials.
The problem of overcrowding is concentrated in a few but densely populated States like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi. As per Home Ministry's data, in UP overcrowding is close to 32,000 prisoners when cumulative overcrowding across the country stands at over 42,000. The 65 jails of the State having capacity of a little over 47,000 have crammed over 80,0...|
|Burnt Chilly Fried Rice..!|
|"Dad!" shout my daughters as they get off the flight from New York where they live and into my car, "We long for Indian food!"
I know what they mean, its not so much their mother's cooking they've missed, but dinner from a Chinese restaurant nearby, and a dish called 'Burnt Chilly fried rice!' I know that within a few hours an order will be placed and the man from the restaurant will bring those dishes they've dreamt of all those long hours in the plane and maybe before.
But this time there was a look of askance on their faces, especially my younger one, "It doesn't taste the same dad!"
It didn't! Gone was the flavor of burnt chilies, gone was the slight ever slight sweet taste which gave the rice a lasting lingering memory in your mouth, reminding you so much of it, you raided the fri...|
|Two new "Islamic States"|
|A coalition of imams and organisations representing British Muslims has written Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to stop using the phrase "Islamic State" when talking about the new country carved out of Iraq and Syria by Islamist terrorists. That's what Abu Baqr al Baghdadi, who has proclaimed himself "the caliph of all Muslims and the prince of the believers," calls his newly conquered territory, but it's giving ordinary Muslims a bad name.
The British Muslim leaders declared that "the media, civic society and governments should refuse to legitimise these ludicrous caliphate fantasies by accepting or propagating this name. We propose that "UnIslamic State" (UIS) could be an accurate and fair alternate name to describe this group and its agenda - and we will begin to call it that....|
|Sitting behind a desk for days, writing, has its drawbacks I discovered when I took my shoes over to the shoe shop.
"New shoes!" he said looking at the pair.
"Quite old," I said, "nearly three years!"
"They're still as good as new!"
"But the soles have gone!" I complained, "they started falling apart!"
"That's what happens when you don't use them," he said, "polyurethane soles are the best but have to be used constantly! Otherwise they disintegrate!"
"You mean," I asked incredulously, "the soles got worn out because they were not used?"
"Yep," he said and made out a bill for new soles, "you can pick them up on Saturday but same thing will happen if you don't use them."
I wandered out of the shop and looked around, there were hundreds of people walking, running, rushing, all wearin...|
|Youth heroes in Kashmir flood|
|This flood was the first in history, in the living memory of Kashmir. More than 450 people are dead, and more than $1bn in destruction has been estimated. The actual magnitude of the total destruction, the number of dead and the people who are missing may not be known for some time. Kashmir Valley was cut off from the rest of the world for days. Thousands of villages have been submerged, including the capital city of Srinagar. Hundreds of thousands of people particularly in the rural areas still remain trapped without any outside help or rescue and relief. There has been a total breakdown in communication with no telephone contact of the people with their loved ones. Boats were not available. People had to stand on their rooftops waiting for someone to rescue them.
The state governm...|
|Man with a beard..!|
|Returned last night from the USA where I've been a month and was most startled nobody stared at me at the airport, "You don't find me strange?" I asked the man at the customs.
"For what?" asked the customs man, fully alert, "You have something to declare?"
"This!" I said stroking my beard.
"Please go through the green channel and leave me alone!" said the poor man and I walked through.
Outside, the man with a business card in his hand stared at me, "Why are you staring at me?" I asked, "You think I am a terrorist don't you?"
"Hotel sir, hotel?" he asked desperately.
"You want to take me there and shoot me?"
The man fled.
"Where to sir?" asked the cabby. "Why are you frowning?" I asked him.
"I am a honest cabby sir! I go by meter!" he said.
"It's not that long!" I told him, "mayb...|