In West Bengal‘s 2,482 state run libraries there is a new notice pasted. There will be no English papers to read. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) government has banned all English dailies and at least two leading Bengali newspapers in state funded libraries.

The government circular says “In public interest, Government will not buy newspapers published or purported to be published by any political party either national or regional as a measure to develop free thinking among the readers.”Libraries in Kolkata have already begun displaying the notice saying- following a government order dated 14 March 2012; only eight newspapers will henceforth be available.

In the list of newspapers now banned are the names of two leading Bengali dailies, the Ananda Bazar Patrika and Bartaman; both not owned by political parties.The only banned newspaper that is published by a political party is Ganashakti, which is a CPM mouthpiece.

Ironically, of the 8 newspapers available to readers, Sangbad Pratidin is a Bengali paper owned by TMC Rajya Sabha (RS) MP Srinjoy Bose. The Associate Editor is Kunal Ghosh who has just been elected to RS on TMC ticket.Also on that list is Sanmarg, a Hindi newspaper whose director is Vivek Gupta and Akbar-e-Masriq whose senior journalist is Nadimul Haq. Both Mr Gupta and Mr Haq have just been elected to RS on TMC ticket.

Users of public libraries are already surprised and shocked at this decision of the state government and suspect newspapers critical of the government have been banned. The issue was brought up in the state Assembly by a Congress MLA who called the government circular undemocratic and urged the chief minister to have it withdrawn. Mamata Banerjee was not present in the Assembly at that time.The West Bengal government has said it will not reverse the order.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has appreciated the move, on her directive by Library Services Minister Abdul Karim Chowdhury. It is to be noted that sometime back she had publicly announced that Star TV is the enemy of the State and people should not view the Channel.

This is worse than censorship; this has shades of fascism.

Modest Kohli says, scaling “Paji”‘s century of ton, a “mission impossible” !!

“It is mission impossible”

At 23 years, Virat Kohli is burdened with the passing of the baton. He is expected to fill in for Rahul Dravid in Tests and simultaneously be the team’s momentum dispenser during tight chases under lights. After his 183 stunned Pakistan, Kohli addressed the press with a fine blend of an old man’s diplomacy and a youngster’s sense of wonder.

A Pakistani scribe asked him: “Your celebrations after getting the hundred said something, did anything happen on the field?” Kohli’s answer was seconds away from being an explosive breaking news item but he played with a straight bat. “Ah nothing really, haven’t performed well in my previous matches against Pakistan, so I was keen to do well. There was nothing on the field. Yes in international matches, teams compete hard but I have friends in the Pakistan team too,” he said.

His eyes brightened when asked about a probable 200. “To be honest, it did cross my mind once. And I thought ‘no, this can’t be real’ and I just concentrated on the ball,” Kohli said. His best line was reserved for the last as he said: “It is mission impossible.” It was a reply lost in laughter after a journalist asked him whether he is dreaming about scaling Tendulkar’s century of tons!

The mirror that cracked

The media manifests itself in many ways. Usually it is a mirror that reflects truth but when the glass is distorted, reality acquires other shades. It happened in the manner in which a few television channels handled the Saeed Ajmal issue.

The controversy started perhaps with the Men in Blue’s machinations that led to a story being planted among the Indian scribes: Ajmal’s action has been questioned and an informal complaint has been lodged with the International Cricket Council officials.

On a wretched day when no one would come on record except for team manager Arindam Ganguly’s line about the issue being discussed, it was all about clutching at straws. The ICC also slipped in to denial-mode, as conveniently the august body had not received anything in writing.

Like an open secret that no one will acknowledge, the speculation hung uneasy in the air. Soon the man in question – Ajmal – was asked about his reaction to the whisper-campaign. The Pakistan off-spinner initially declined to talk but gradually opened up and said that his action has been cleared by the ICC and when asked about Sachin Tendulkar, he graciously and in a very respectful tone said: “He is a Sir. He is nearing the end of his career but he is still a very big player.”

Within minutes, a few television channels ran the story: Ajmal mocks at Tendulkar. The tweaker’s Punjabi drawl was misinterpreted as sarcasm and it proved to be a needless attempt to trigger tension between the rival camps ahead of the expected Indo-Pak final. The cricketing gods were obviously miffed and once Bangladesh trumped Sri Lanka and qualified for the summit clash, the talk about Ajmal died down but the damage was done.

One man, many moods

Mahela Jayawardene has a boyish charm and a quaint Sinhalese accent that often masks the intense competitor, who resides within him. During the course of a forgettable Asia Cup for him and Sri Lanka, the man displayed varied emotions ranging from anger to exasperation.

At a press conference, a sports hack from Colombo, repeatedly asked Jayawardene about the losing spree that started from the Commonwealth Bank Series finals in Australia. The Sri Lankan skipper answered patiently but once the media interaction concluded, he stepped down from the podium and had a heated exchange of words in Sinhala with the concerned scribe. Later it was gathered that Jayawardene had told his interrogator that the team is trying its best and questions that ‘mock’ the squad is not in good taste.

More was to follow once Sri Lanka crashed out following the defeat against Bangladesh. A Pakistani journalist bluntly asked Jayawardene about whether his men’s performance was a reflection of ‘poor captaincy.’ A bemused skipper said: “Amazing isn’t it, two weeks of cricket does that to you, eh? Well I don’t know, it is tough to answer that question. I have been beaten five times in a row before so I probably was in the dumps then! We played Australia in the (CB Series) finals and I can’t be a bad captain overnight. A captain is as good as his team and there are no secrets to it, just that he handles certain situations. We haven’t played good cricket, there are excuses for that. We were up against some quality teams – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – and we haven’t played good cricket and that happens but we will move on.”

That Indian restaurant…

The yearning for home food forced a bunch of sports correspondents to race around town in an auto-rickshaw that presumed Dhaka’s packed roads were indeed F1 tracks! Muttering prayers and holding their hearts in their mouth, the hacks finally stepped in to a restaurant named ‘X-Indian.’ It was the biggest blooper of the tour. The food joint turned out to be a Chinese and Thai outlet. The misleading nomenclature was raised with the waiters and one said:

“Well its Xindian, meaning China!” And then the tired bunch of pen pushers cracked weak jokes like ‘Yeah, it is actually ex-Indian so it makes sense that they don’t serve our food.’ Finally hunger triumphed and a mix of soups and noodles were ordered in haste.

Weak smiles, wet eyes

Bangladesh’s dream run that concluded in a so-close-yet-so-far despair evoked a standing ovation from the press corps when a shattered coach Stuart Law and captain Mushfiqur Rahim walked in for the post-final media session. It was a moment that reflected the duo’s fierce self-belief and also revealed that even hardened journalists can at times forget their brief about being lizards on the wall and occasionally allow their hearts to dictate their responses. Law and Rahim kept nodding their heads with tired smiles and moist eyes at a time when Bangladesh had truly turned a corner.

After Mid Day, Jagran group to buy Nai Dunia

The Jagran group that publishes the country’s most widely read Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran, is close to buying out Nai Dunia, the Indore-based Hindi daily promoted by Vinay Chhajlani.

According to sources familiar with the development, the talks have been on for a while and the deal size is expected to be around Rs 300 crore.

Nai Dunia was started in 1947 and is published from Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh and from Bilaspur and Raipur in Chhattisgarh. If the deal goes through, Dainik Jagran would get an avenue to expand in Madhya Pradesh and central India. Currently, the Kanpur-based newspaper group has two editions in Madhya Pradesh, at Bhopal and Rewa. It is published from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan. It has 37 editions.

In 2010, Jagran bought Mid Day, the afternoon tabloid based in Mumbai, from Tariq Ansari for Rs 200 crore in an all-stock transaction. The deal also included Sunday Mid-Day, Gujarati Mid-Day and the Urdu newspaper Inquilab, along with its website,

Women victims become culprits


“…To want to go out, step out of the frame to claim her space is inconceivable and must be checked…”

In February this year the police in Noida deliberately released the identity of a 17 year-old rape victim in clear violation of the law.

This disclosure was followed by a statement regarding the supposed ‘consent’ of the girl in the act of partaking of alcohol with the alleged rapists just before she was raped.

How does one read this? That a ‘bad’ girl, identified as interested in alcohol and partying, is tarnishing the image of ‘good’ boys, who were merely having a good time?

Rape, whether we like it or not, is a part of our daily reality-in cities, villages, at the workplace and at homeRape, whether we like it or not, is a part of our daily reality-in cities, villages, at the workplace and at home

And how come every time there is an act of sexual violence against a woman these ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ come to be part of our mindscape? Of course the morality discourse is resurrected only when the crime gets reported-otherwise no one really cares.

Otherwise rape, whether we like it or not, is a part of our daily reality-in cities, villages, at the workplace and at home. What’s so new about the Gurgaon rape of a 23 year old that we have not heard before?

There is a lot that we have heard before though: late night shifts at ‘dubious’ workplaces, such as bars and restaurants; wearing improper attire; travelling alone on lonely roads. This particular reasoning that identifies the woman as the perpetrator of a crime against herself extends beyond rape, but is limited exclusively to women.

So, Soumya Vishwanathan’s death while driving back home at 3.30am was also asking for it. Every government functionary from the politician to the police believes it is so, then it must be true.

High time women accepted that they are not victims, but the reason why rape happens.

The moment a woman steps out of the home, for whatever reasons, she is inviting the wrath of a whole social system that is trying to ‘protect’ her for themselves. She is representative of so much more than just herself.

The moment a woman steps out of the home, for whatever reasons, she is inviting the wrath of a whole social system that is trying to 'protect' her for themselvesThe moment a woman steps out of the home, for whatever reasons, she is inviting the wrath of a whole social system that is trying to ‘protect’ her for themselves

After all in India the woman is mother, daughter, sister and wife-to a man. To want to go out, step out of the frame to claim her space is inconceivable and must be checked. No wonder then that in a reading of the Lok Sabha debates on the Rape Law of 1983, sociologist Pratiksha Baxi finds that rape treats the man as subject, and the woman as object. The rape is not about her, but about the violation of a male code.

This is reflected in the discussion on the law which tries to distinguish between the chaste and unchaste woman, the married and unmarried woman, and the raped women and the ‘normal’ woman. The control over reproduction creates these categories-so, a ‘protected’ woman is the married mother.

Baxi adds that in patriarchal societies where descent defines the woman’s place––rape literally defiles the descent line. It’s a crime by men against men. Every time a woman comes to report a rape, or every time the police have to answer questions on rape, they commit a double crime on the rape survivor.

The courts do it again when they hear her testimony. The state rapes its women with their questions, interrogations and insinuations about character and conduct. But what is it about cities that attract such power struggles––for that is exactly what rape is-an act of violence to reclaim lost ‘power’.

In contemporary India, the city space has been way more welcoming of women than any other. Its anonymity adds to the freedom that numbers bring. The growing need for a workforce helped us get out, and work towards reclaiming the public.

But according to a report by the NGO Jagori, it is these very urban spaces that are now potential cover for crimes against women. So many of the places we inhabit in our daily lives are fraught with danger. Low street lighting, narrow lanes, public alcohol dens all add to our misery. It is indeed a sad commentary that many of the rapes in Delhi happen very close to where the rape victim lives, by someone she knows.

A report cites how often people one may know and trust-neighbours, relatives, friends, colleagues-may exploit our trust. Lifts in cars with acquaintances have often been cited in cases of rape.

The tinted, moving car is the perfect space for this kind of violence––the speed adds to the ‘thrill’. The fast life of the city affects both women and men-like the toll booth operator who got shot last year for asking for the toll, or the recent case of a bouncer who was beaten up outside a city hotel for having denied entry to some patrons to a night club.

Does the city breed this kind of mentality-of intolerance, impatience and violence? In a panel discussion on a news channel following the incident of violence against the toll booth operator, one of the panelists spoke of the feeling of ‘entitlement’ that the city’s youth feel they have towards the right to have a ‘good’ time.

Anyone who comes in the way of their enjoyment is taking away their right, and must be accordingly treated. Thus women who are out at night working, partying, on an emergency, whatever it might be, are ‘easy pickings’. If she resists then she is impinging upon their right.

Perhaps the saddest commentary of our times is when fathers in their anxiety and worry over the safety of their daughters ‘laud’ the efforts of the police to curb the time till which a woman can work at night-8pm in Gurgaon after the recent case.

Or when they silently agree with the vitriolic that law enforcers spew about clothing and ‘decency’. It is at these times that a woman truly comes to feel like a culprit herself.

(courtesy: ANINDITA MAJUMDAR & MailOnLine, India)

Shocking images of ‘poverty chic’ in fashion advertising campaigns leaves a bad taste in the mouth

One would think that poverty chic would someday go out of style, like most things in fashion.

But the fashion world’s obsession with juxtaposing the extremely poor with the fashionably rich continues to stare at us shamelessly.

Pakistani designer duo Sana-Safinaz offered a distasteful ad campaign of a model posing with Louis Vuitton luggage alongside poor coolies recently.

It is now Bangalore-based designer Deepika Govind’s invite for the unveiling of her spring/summer 2012 collection that has the same pattern of styling – and which has attracted the same sort of opprobrium.

The invitation to see Govind’s summer 2012 collection carries a picture of a model standing tall in wedge heels and wearing an ensemble made of traditional textiles.

She is posing next to two poor farmers who are looking on in bewilderment.

The only plausible explanation for this is that the designer is encouraging Indian textiles and promoting the livelihood of the farmers.

But making the model stand tall while the farmers look up to her only highlights the unbridgeable gap between the two worlds – those behind the product and those who will eventually be able to afford it.

The unbridgeable gap between the two worlds is highlighted in many fashion shootsDistasteful: The unbridgeable gap between the two worlds is highlighted in many fashion shoots, including this one from Pakistani designer duo Sana-Safinaz


Deepika Govind's invitation has attracted controversy

This kind of usage of poor, famished-looking people as props for fashion labels they will never be able to afford, even with a lifetime of earnings also came under the scanner in 2008.

Back then a similar shoot appeared on the pages of fashion’s self appointed ‘bible’ Vogue India.

More recently, social networking sites Twitter and Facebook were abuzz when Pakistani designers Sana-Safinaz similarly juxtaposed luxury and extreme poverty.

They received a lot of flak for it.

While fashion loves controversy, one can only hope that, in the process, it doesn’t exploit those who aren’t even aware of being part of a bigger debate.

(courtesy: NIMERTA CHAWLA & mailonline India)

It’s an unbearable burden being Markandey Katju

..pirouettes (‘Sunny Leone is blameless’) and pirouettes (‘Salman Rushdie is worthless’) and pirouettes (‘Media people are useless’)…

Retirement is a dreadful thing. The final voyage to this no man’s land does make cowards of us all.

And sometimes claims a few victims, who – unable to adapt to obscurity – spend their withdrawal bawling like toddlers for public attention.

Ex-Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju having tasted the heights of power throws his tantrums proportionately.

Bouts of anxiety and insecurity grip him often, to be released from which he must scream as hard as his aging constitution permits.

Then he must let emotions take over, making him say stuff capable of inducing embarrassment were it ever attempted in front of a mirror.

But of course the last thing Katju needs to see are theatricals of an incoherent old fogey trying to preach, ironically, the virtues of self-regulation.

He is a busy man who, barely a day after his retirement, embarked on a new mission to reform media in the role of the chairman of the Press Council of India. Since then there has barely been a day when he hasn’t prodded us, lest we forget his existence.

Katju sends shivers down people’s spines whenever taking to the stage. Setting his oratory to ‘full auto’ he pulls the trigger and pirouettes (‘Sunny Leone is blameless’) and pirouettes (‘Salman Rushdie is worthless’) and pirouettes (‘Media people are useless’).

‘Show me the scientific,’ asked Katju of Hazare last Saturday, and while his unsuspecting audience was still laughing at the activists’ fate, he pulled the rug from under them by calling 90 per cent of them fools.

An authority that claims expertise over everything induces boredom.

Katju has, through his persistence in speaking, inspired in his listeners an irrevocable dissension.

Whose patience finally gives way isn’t easy to predict. What is certainly unforeseeable, is a future without Katju.

(courtesy: SUHAS MUNSHI & mailonline India)