Saturday, July 28, 2007


Yesterday evening went to Vikalp's preview screening of the film Jashn-e-Azadi. According to the filmmaker Sanjay Kak the film "... raises questions about freedom in Kashmir, and about the degrees of freedom in India."

Reached the venue in pouring rain and found a group of policemen at the entrance, found it unusual but did not take much notice. The screening was to start at 6.30 p.m. sharp and had reached just in time. The screening had not started even at 7 p.m. and just as the discontent was increasing, an announcement was made that the police wanted to stop the screening. "What? Why? On what grounds?" ... the questions flew from the audience. The organizers did not know as well, only that the police were asking them not to screen the movie. A written document was asked from the police for the same. While the police went off to get it Sanjay spoke a little about the topic of the film and its making.

Mu understanding of the few things he mentioned ...
  • The "hartals" on August 14th and August 15th (on eve of Pakistan's and India's independence days). These he said were not called and imposed by any group, but it seemed as a general rule hardly anybody ventured outside and he wanted to look the complex reality behind this eerie silence.
  • The lopsided and propangandish reporting of mainstream media about Kashmir. A question that stays in my mind, "What would the Kashmiris think about India when they see the media doll out news that has very little to do with reality? What would they thing about the Indian government, whose army and media in some sense are operating with some kind of pseudo national consensus".
  • The irony of the situation that mainstream media is allowed by the government to send news clippings and short-sighted reports from Kashmir, but a movie that tries to explore the situation and start an dialogue and discussion is being treated as a problem. It is as if Kashmir is a black box and people can only get information which the government and mainstream media wants to deliver and deciphering the black box is too complex.

    Finally, a DCP and group of other policemen came with a search/seizure warrant. They confiscated the movie and the DCP explained their action by saying something on the lines of ...
    "We have information that this movie can potentially create law and order problems, can leak sensitive information to terrorists and can be a threat to the nation."
    Ah! the all-purpose no-questions asked reasons ... terrorism and threat to the nation. The irony being the movie was meant to be a preview screening organized by Vikalp, not a general screening and above all it has been screened in several cities ... Pune, Nashik, Bangalore, Shillong, Guwahati, Delhi, Patna. In Pune, it was screened at the National Film Archive of India Auditorium, a government institute, so this move the police seemed all the more ridiculous. The police had made up their mind based on their unidentified source and further mentioned that they would watch the movie and if they are convinced that it is not objectionable, will allow it to be screened. Looks like the Censor board is going to face some stiff competition.

    It was first of a kind experience for many in the audience, and almost all sat till the police made a verdict that no screening would happen and gave it in writing. I am sure it was a first for many where for something very ridiculous and plain wrong the government (under an unsubstantiated claim) dictates what can/cannot be done and you are left helpless about it. The audience could not watch what India's freedom and India meant for Kashmiris, but got a taste of the declining freedom in non-Kashmir India ... certainly no reason to Jashn about.

    p.s.: A movie screening is also scheduled on July 30, 2007 (Mon) / 7 pm by
    Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Prithvi House, Juhu.

    p.p.s.: A related article in Mumbai Mirror is here.
    Two more related articles are here and here.
  • Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    kitna time le raha hai

    While waiting in line to get a railway ticket at Kanjurmarg's new ticketing counter, heard a man in front of me say, "Kitna time le raha hai!". He had an exasperated look on his face and was referring to the unusually slow pace at which the queue was moving. I have also noticed this slow-queue-movement a few times and have attributed it to normal service time variation. Turns out that this new ticket counter is computerized and every ticket that is sold requires a few keystrokes to input the destination, the printer to print your ticket and the person to tear it off from the printer. Comparing it with the non-computerized centres, you tell the attendant your destination (same for either case), she mentally calculates the price, picks the appropriate ticket, puts it in the punching machine and hands it to the customer. At best the time difference between the two procedures maybe in the order of tens of seconds. But it apparently does have a noticeable effect, particularly at long slow moving queues.

    Computerization of ticketing centres for reservations and season tickets is great, as among other reasons it simplifies accountancy and can be integrated with on-line interfaces for anywhere booking. But by using computers to vend daily one-time tickets has the queue slowed down? Is this an apt application for computerization?

    Oh! mera time aa gaya, i better hurry, "ek Sion return".

    Thursday, July 05, 2007

    just exciting television

    Was watching the TV coverage of two doctors arrested in connection with the Glasgow blasts and who are suspected of ties with Al-Qaeda. Saeed Naqvi, a journalist, had an interesting comment ...

    Two characters of Indian origin are arrested (one in Britain and one in Australia) and suspected of ties with Al-Qaeda. Note suspected and not charged. Making a huge issue about it and pointing a finger at the 150 million Muslim community makes only exciting/sensational television and does not help the issue. If anything it only adds a sense of injustice in the minds of the entire community and the reaction to this injustice cannot be guaranteed to be rational! So by making exciting television about such news, the media is actually not helping the real cause.

    I think he is spot-on.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    BT double speak

    As the monsoon arrives and the sowing season gets underway Jaideep Hardikar reports from Vidarbha.
    Inputs dealers in Vidarbha say that there is hardly any non-Bt hybrid variety available in the market this year.

    While cotton prices are crashing every year, a total shift to the genetic modified cotton will hike up production costs, leading a steep risk of heavier losses.

    When hybrid seeds were introduced, they wiped out desi cotton. Now Bt cotton would wipe out hybrids and farmers would be left with no choice but to buy expensive Bt seeds.

    After Bollguard-I (first generation Bt), Monsanto has introduced in the market Bollguard-II in more or less the same genotypes (varieties). The price of a 450-gm packet of seed is Rs.1350, several times the cost of non-Bt seeds. A package of Bollguard-I comes at Rs.750. A packet of same quantity of non-Bt will come at Rs.400-450, while the desi cottonseed, grown in very few areas, costs Rs.50 a kg.

    Maharashtra Agriculture Minister, Balasaheb Thorat, recently admitted that Bt had failed in Vidarbha and cautioned farmers not to sow it.

    Farm activists point out the government-run Mahabeej seeds corporation is itself marketing Bt cottonseeds to inputs dealers, while the minister advises caution.

    Yet, what's concerning activists is the permission granted to nearly 53 new genotypes of Bt cotton by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). As many 35 of those varieties would be introduced in the central India.