Friday, February 24, 2006

On our way to "No more Satyendra Dubeys" Road

Well after I had cribbed enough in this post, I would like to inform you guys about this. I want to do more than only cribbing in my blog. I have started believing that it doesn't really pay to be conscientious people in India. After the Satyendra Dubeys, Manjunaths, there comes the verdict of Jessica Lal. Read this wonderful post. Weird is the fact that I am no longer shocked at the pathetic scheme of things. I need to end this indifference of mine. For starters, I am posting this initiative on my blog. (Courtesy: Gaurav Sabnis )

Feb 23rd is the birthday of Manjunath Shanmugam - an IIM L (2003) alumnus who lost his life for his fight against corruption. He died on November 19th, 2005.

As a Sales Manager with Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL), Manju turned down bribes and ignored threats, to do his job – check rampant adulteration of petrol. He was shot dead in Lakhimpur Kheri by a petrol pump owner and his gang.

To most of us, though we never met him, Manju is extremely familiar and is, in part, within every one of us. This is one cause we CANNOT turn away from. We have no excuse. We must ensure that his death does not go in vain.

The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust is now a legal entity with 2 trustees - Anjali Mullatti (IIML ’93) and H. Jaishankar (IIMB ’91).

The immediate and urgent focus of the trust is to take up the legal battle and ensure quick justice for the murder case. The murderers must not go free.

The broader objectives of the trust are

a. To establish and maintain an award for individuals/institutions working to uphold the values of truth and honesty in the face of danger to themselves.

b. To provide aid to individuals fighting a legal battle to uphold the values of truth, honesty or justice in the Indian corporate, government or public matters.

For updates on what we have done to date and our next steps, please visit the trust website:

How can you help?

Firstly – funds are needed to pay lawyers’ fees, case costs, build an award corpus.. this will be a long and tedious battle. Please donate just one day’s salary for the cause.

Our first donors: Rs. 44,500 ($ 1000) from Sanjay Khanduri, Wharton Class of 2006, and Rs. 30,000 from Akhil Krishna, IIML 2003.

Secondly, if you can commit time and effort, please write in and be part of the team.

Thirdly, if you have close contacts in media, police, legal, judiciary who can help, please let us know.

It is heartwarming that so many people have already reacted immediately and generously – across the spectrum of media, legal, police and the IIM fraternity. Be part of that group.

How do you donate?

Write a cheque favouring ‘The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust’ , and courier it to:
2909/1, Raghavapriya, 3rd Main, V.V. Mohalla, Mysore 570 002, India

Write a cheque favouring ‘The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust’ , and deposit it in any HDFC bank drop box, with a deposit slip, account number 0651000091870.
Do an online money transfer , to the HDFC Bank a/c , from your ICICI /HDFC/Citibank a/c. Account number 0651000091870. 'Select MG Road, Bangalore' in the branch details.

Currently FCRA regulations prohibit us from accepting foreign remittances - we're working on getting special permission. For now, please route all overseas donations via your regular Indian rupee accounts.

We have also applied for income tax exemption for donors under Section 80 (G).

Please contact me for any further clarifications -


Anjali Mullatti - IIML class of '93
Catalyst Consulting

Thursday, February 23, 2006


There is just so much written about the controversy about the Danish cartoons which depicted prophet Mohammad illciting angry reactions from all voer the world. Though this incident happened before that, it still is a bit similar to the Danish Cartoon Controversy. Wanted to share this experience with you guys. .

Three weeks back..

It was a regular Sunday for me. There I was cribbing about going to work on a Sunday. Little did I know, what was in store for me in due course of the day. On my way to work, my train stopped and well I learnt it was a rail roko. It was Mumbra station.

My train stopped and I wondered why. I got down and look around me. Everybody was confused. Nobody knew why trains were stopped and why were stones being pelted. I set out to investigate. Now, Mumbra enjoys a very stereotypical reputation amongst the general public. Suffice to say, I had never stepped into Mumbra before. Victim of stereotypical notions of Mumbra that I was, I stepped into the main road outside the station with a little bit of hesitance. I know it is downright stupid, but well, I am just being honest. For the uninitiated, Mumbra is, for a want of better word, a ghetto for Muslims. Majority of the population is Muslim and whilst walking in some lanes you almost sense a feel of time wrap. Sadaf Manzils, Noor beauty parlours dominate the setting. What I mean to emphasize here is the typical Muslim setting. However, it is also equally notorious for being a terrorist hangout. It is a generalisation; however, Mumbra has always been looked at with doubtful eyes.

Anyways, I stepped down there and bumped into few protestors. They told me that a popular English daily in Mumbai had published a picture of a woman with Koranic verses being printed on her back. They claimed that it was “Islam ki tauheen” i.e. an insult to Islam and that they are protesting against it.

I started scouring the place. I met a policeman who took me to a place wherein there was some kind of organised protest. I landed there and started talking to one person. Apparently he happened to be a self anointed leader of the motley group. Immediately I was surrounded by almost 150 ANGRY men with only one woman amidst them, that being me. I started talking to them. One thing was sure, they were very offended.

For the first time I saw raw anger in the eyes of the people. I was scared for a moment. I was surrounded by a huge mob of MEN. There I was alone representing the journo janta talking to them. It was intimidating being the lone representative of the ERRING fraternity. I could see many members in the crowd were getting agitated with simplest of my questions. Many a times the crowd raised slogans of Allah-O-Akbar right in the middle of the conversation. There were times I felt that I would be harmed by the crowd. However I think it pays to be a woman during times like these. No matter what, in a public domain, woman journalists are respected. I am sure had there been a male counterpart of mine, he seriously would have been thrashed. This is because when a MOB is angry, it doesn’t need logic to be provoked for silly things and a MOB always needs a scapegoat. Thankfully I did not become one.

It was a really funny sight. The very crowd which had brought about the rail roko were seen giving water to the passengers stuck in the train. I was speaking to some police officials when one of them retorted how the Muslim population have less tolerance level. What I saw that day was how the anger reflected a sense of assertion of their identity. Karl Marx has quoted it so rightly; Religion is the opium of masses. In India it is more so, it acts as identity for so many people. When your identity is threatened, you resort to extreme means coz then it means question of survival. The mob was spontaneous and was not held by any single organisation. The police themselves revealed that it would have been easier for them had it been promoted by any single organisation. This being a motley bunch of people from all over the place, makes matters more complicated. This is because, even if you have ended up pacifying a group of people, one can never be sure about having pacified the whole junta. A small spark can ignite a fire. I hope you guys are getting a drift.

One educated man who was seen hovering around told me how he did not approve of the rail roko. However he added, do other means achieve ends? No, unfortunately in our country, it doesn’t really help. Therefore we have to resort to unconstitutional methods to garner attention.

The publication had issued an apology. However the crowd wanted none of it. The same EDUCATED man the goes on to tell, “What is the point in apologising? This is like kissing a girl. If I kiss a girl in the middle of the road and then say sorry, it’s only the girl I have ended up harming. Nothing happens to me. There is no point in saying anything to the girl since you have already harmed her.”

I seriously felt like slapping him tight hard. Bloody rascal. I am sorry for the choice of the words. But I am abusing since I live in such patriarchal set up and that I can’t do much to change a common mind set. It’s really sad that people with such kind of mindset still exist. The notion of PURITY, IZZAT of a woman are a result of a fertile imagination of a man bred in an absolute patriarchal set up. There I go, I drift again. But I was just angry, some how controlled myself.

However later, the mob was pacified and they stopped the rail roko. One local marathi paper spoke about why didn’t they protest when M F Hussain painted godess Saraswati in nude? I am against all those actions which hurt the religious sentiments of people which ever religion they belong to. Such newspapers only bring about hated in the society. One wrong cannot be undone by another wrong. Che.

I personally feel Freedom of expression comes with some responsibility. However, even if there has been a mistake, I think every offended community has a right to protest. But, there is no point in getting violent. The whole point of protest is lost.

I again went to Mumbra few days later for another story. I met a man who thanked me profusely for coming there. He told me, “People have such a bad impression about Mumbra. Thanks for coming. I have been living here for the past 35 years and I love it.” This comment was from a Hindu person. I really felt bad that day. Felt bad because of how the mainstream media have more of less ignored them as a whole.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rang de Basanti

I had wanted to see the movie right from the time I saw the promos. Finally I watched it, almost a week after its release. As I have said earlier, I don’t consider myself as a reviewer at all since I know zilch about the technical aspects of filmmaking. However I wanted to comment about the content of the movie, a topic I am really passionate about, something I really feel strongly about. I would be giving my personal take about various issues addressed in the movie. Ok, there are so many thoughts brimming in my head after watching the movie that I just don’t know where to start.

About the movie in short:
All the actors have essayed their roles wonderfully. They have lived their roles. I loved Sukhi aka Sharman Joshi in the movie. He is just way too cute. There was an element of Saif Ali Khan hangover. But, he was the cutest in the movie. Siddharth Narayan was also awesome. His character was so Ajay Devganish….Aamir Khan’s character is kind of similar to the one he essayed in Dil Chahta Hain. Not overtly similar, but the essence is kind of same. Kunal Kapoor is HOT. I thought he could have done with a better dialogue delivery. Personally I feel Atul Kulkarni was like super best. Amazing Actor, loved him in the movie. Soha Ali Khan and Madhavan were also good. Special mention for Alice Patten. Lovely actress. She actually spoke HINDI and emoted so well, WOW. Music is rocking. The saying, “A thing for beauty is a joy forever” just fits in so well with regards to his music. God bless you Mr Rehman, you have no idea how many hearts you gladden with your wonderful music. Words fail me to express the brilliance of his music.

My views:
I am really impressed with the subject tackled in the movie. After all candyfloss movies which dominate Hindi cinema today, this movie is such a welcome change. I felt the same when I saw YUVA. Probably I think most of the Hindi movies do not portray the youth of India in a proper manner. I don’t really subscribe to the violent extremism adopted by the protagonists in the movie. I do not think it is a solution at all.

Took a stand:
However what I loved about the movie is that it took a stand. The youth took a stand which they were convinced about. The youth in the movie decided to adopt violence as a mean to achieve justice. You know what is criminal? Indifference is; Apathy is. Indifference coupled with cynicism is a dangerous combo. The fact that the youth took a stand is refreshing enough. Nowadays, I see a lot of indifference amongst us.

Anecdote 1:
The other day I was attending a seminar wherein the topic addressed was, “Is youth activism alive in India?” A speaker made a very interesting comment with regards to Mumbai. He said, youth activism in Mumbai is not all that rampant. However impose a dress code and you will see the rebellion. You will hear voices against it. I just wondered that it reflects such a sorry state of affairs. Only if personal freedom is threatened, does a youth protest. Agreed, dress code is stupid, however it is sad that the consciousness is aroused only when the personal freedom is threatened. Other more important things don’t really evoke extreme reactions.

Anecdote 2:
The movie talks about how we have to participate in the process to make a difference. I totally agree with them. I remember a conversation I had with a friend who was a Delhi university student. She narrated to me some of her misadventures with the campus elections at the Delhi Uni. She told me how pointless it is to stand for elections if you are sincere even at a campus election. While hearing her, I was totally consumed by envy. I told her how lucky she is to actually witness the whole PROCESS firsthand. The process is a part of the system we are a part of. The more we get acquainted with it, the better. This will further help us generate solutions for the umpteen number of problems we are saddled with. Mumbai University doesn’t have any sort of campus election. The youth is not acquainted with the system. Mumbai is where political apathy is at its worst especially amongst the youth.

History repeats itself
The juxtaposition of past and the present is amazing. I am referring to the Jallianwalla Baug incident and the shootout that takes place at a peaceful rally in the movie. Well, no wonder, people say that history repeats itself. But there something about that juxtaposition that bothers me. It is real. I can’t even dismiss it off as a filmy concoction. When the government we elect becomes tyrannical, then where are we heading to as a society and a country sometimes really worries me.

Let me cite a simple instance. In Ulhasnagar a far flung suburb in Mumbai was in news recently. Acting on a PIL, the High Court had ordered the demolition of 855 illegally constructed and hence unauthorised buildings. However, the Maharashtra Government brought about an ordinance safeguarding most of the structures. The reason that was given that Ulhasnagar is a special case. Humanitarian grounds were also cited. It is a place wherein the Sindhis who had fled Sindh province from Pakistan during partition were given plots to start their lives afresh. I sympathise with the Sindhi Community, but I don't agree with the ordinance. They knew what they were getting into. No point in being linient. However what were the government and the civic body doing when so many illegal constructions came up? If you would note, the very same chief minister had ordered the destruction of lakhs of slum dwellers since according to him they were staying in the city illegally in encroached land. Ok, so aren’t the people staying in illegal constructions in Ulhasnagar staying illegally in Mumbai? Why such different yardsticks for citizens of the same city? This is a direct discrimination against the poor slum dwellers and the comparatively richer and well-off residents of Ulhasnagar. It can be anywhere for that matter, I am just citing the example of Ulhasnagar since it was a recent case. This has just set a dangerous precedent.

The reason why I broached this topic is that I see a very dangerous trend. Well, Here I see that our government totally disregarding the law is using the legislative powers to draft rules which are unfair only catering to the privileged sections of the society. This is just a small example. I don’t see lot of difference between the erstwhile rulers that we were ruled by and the current government. In the pre-independence era, we could battle it out against the outsiders, the Britishers. We could easily blame them. However this time around it is different. The fact that hurts is that this time around we can’t really blame anyone. We elected them, can we really crib? We have to fight amongst ourselves, with the government we elected. That’s not a nice feeling I will tell you. There are loads of injustice perpetrated by the Government themselves that it is not even funny. Many a times they aren’t even reported in the mainstream media. But well, all is not hunky dory at all.

Don’t approve of the violent stand
As I said, I did not like the option of violence that the youth took. In the movie, loss of one life lead to loss of almost all the protagonists. If loss of lives could have stirred the conscience of the nation, the killers of Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath would have been rotting in jail by now. Things don’t happen quickly. We are an ‘Instant Coffee’ generation. We want everything to happen NOW. That is unfortunately the message reflected by the movie. When loss of lives will not bring about a drastic change, what’s the point in violence? I sincerely believe that there are other ways to bring about a change in the society and though it may take time, we rather use them. I think that’s an incorrect way to deal with any situation. An eye for an eye makes everyone blind. I really do believe in the adage.

Final take:
I don't agree with the option that the youth took. However, the movie deserves a watch. The movie made me think, made me intrsopect. Not many recent movies have succeeded in doing that.

A request:
Anand felt that Rang De Basanti was a regressive piece of Hindi trash. His is one the most extreme negative reaction I have read till date. Anand, I would really like to know why you felt likewise. Care to elaborate? Here, Anand explains why he hated the movie.