Archive for May, 2009

Doubts on EVM? – ‘ Democracy’s beep or blip? Evgeny Morozov – The Indian Express’

May 26, 2009

Doubts over EVM? – ‘ Democracy’s beep or blip? Evgeny Morozov – The Indian Express’

While Congress electoral sweep appeared to the entire Indian nation as incredible as well as welcome, doubts seems to be rising in some quarters about electronic voting. This morning Indian Express has very pointedly borrowed and published an article from Newsweek, to give a hint of the need to probe, if there was some hanky panky behind this sweeping electoral victory that has stunned friends and foes of Congress alike.  

Other factors that rake up doubts are US envoy’s personal visits to L.K. Advani (NDA) and Chandra Babu Naidu ( ref:Third Front), two days before the election results were to be announced, and the presence of Navin Chawla, a widely believed Congress sympathiser, at the helm of the affair. 

If such doubts get substantiated by a neutral agency, Indian democracy and 700 million Indian voters have reason to be appearing as being defrauded on a colossal scale.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Democracy’s beep or blip?


While India basks in the success of another e-election, electronic voting machines haven’t found much favour in other countries WHEN Ireland embarked on an ambitious e-voting scheme in 2006 that would dispense with “stupid old pencils”, as thenprime minister Bertie Ahern put it, in favour of fancy touchscreen voting machines, it seemed that the nation was embracing its technological future. Three years and euro 51 million later, in April, the government scrapped the initiative.High costs were one concern—finishing the project would take another euro 28 million. But what doomed the effort was a lack of trust: the electorate just didn’t like that the machines would record their votes as mere electronic blips, with no tangible record. 

A backlash against e-voting is brewing all over the continent.

After almost two years of deliberations, Germany’s Supreme Court ruled in March that e-voting was unconstitutional because the average citizen could not be expected to understand the exact steps involved in the recording and tallying of votes. Political scientist Joachim Wiesner and his son Ulrich, a physicist, filed the initial lawsuit and have been instrumental in raising public awareness of the insecurity of electronic voting. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, the younger Wiesner said that the Dutch Nedap machines used in Germany are even less secure than mobile phones. The Dutch public-interest group Wij Vertrouwen Stemcomputers Niet (We Do Not Trust Voting Machines) produced a video showing how quickly the Nedap machines could be hacked without voters or election officials being aware (the answer: five minutes). After the clip was broadcast on national television in October 2006, the Netherlands banned all electronic voting machines.

Other such electronic-voting inconsistencies have only added to the controversy. After Hugo Chavez won the 2004 election in Venezuela, it came out that the government owned 28 per cent of Bizta, the company that manufactured the voting machines.

Why are the machines so vulnerable? Each step in the life cycle of a voting machine involves different people gaining access to the machines, often installing new software. It wouldn’t be hard for, say, an election official to plant a “Trojan” programme on one or many voting machines that would ensure one outcome or another, even before voters arrived at the stations.

One way to reduce the risk of fraud is to have machines print a paper record of each vote. While this procedure would ensure that each vote can be verified, using paper ballots defeats the purpose of electronic voting in the first place.

Using two machines produced by different manufacturers would decrease the risk of a security compromise, but wouldn’t eliminate it.

A better way is to expose the software behind electronic voting machines to public scrutiny. The root problem of popular electronic machines is that the computer programmes that run them are usually closely held trade secrets. The electronic-voting industry argues that openness would hurt the competitive position of the current market leaders. A report released by the Election Technology Council, a US trade association, in April says that disclosing information on known vulnerabilities might help would-be attackers more than those who would defend against such attacks. But making such disclosure mandatory for all electronic voting machines would be a good first step for the Obama administration, consistent with his talk about openness in government.

He’d better hurry, though, before a wave of populism kills electronic voting. State and local governments across the US, much like European governments, are getting increasingly impatient with e-voting. Riverside County in California is considering asking voters to choose between e-voting and paper ballots in a referendum. Voters would be justified in dispensing with e-voting altogether. Atthe moment, there’s very little to like about it.





4 Arrested in New York Terror Plot – By Sewell Chan – NYT

May 22, 2009

Comments posted on NYT website over article by Sewell Chan, posted below:




May 22, 20099:43 amLink



The entire sting operation reveals more about the mindset of the organizers than the sinister nature of the sting victims, whose naïveté and culpability is less dangerous than the vicious nature of those who could possibly be out to perpetrate an act of provocation around the notorious Islam vs Jewish divide and its denouement in the city of New York, around the chosen target of Jewish Synagogue. Entire scenario smacks of the work of agents provocateur out to time the event to parallel the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to meet a less than accommodating US President Obama. The event could have been managed to once again to revive the acute fear of Muslim terrorists through scaremongering and to bolster neo-con case for a war against Islam.

— Ghulam Muhamme

May 20, 2009, 10:55 PM

4 Arrested in New York Terror Plot

James CromitieMichael Appleton for The New York TimesJames Cromitie, one of the four men arrested on Wednesday night.

Read the latest updates.

Updated, May 21, 12:38 a.m. | Federal and city authorities arrested four men on Wednesday night on charges of plotting to bomb two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and to use antiaircraft missiles to shoot down planes at a military base in Newburgh, N.Y., 60 miles north of New York City. (See a related article. See Thursday updates on City Room.)

The charges, which include conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use antiaircraft missiles, represent some of the most significant allegations of domestic terrorism in some time. They come months into a new presidential administration, and asPresident Obama grapples with the question of how to handle detainees at theGuantánamo naval base in Cuba.

The four defendants — whom federal authorities identified as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, in Orange County — are to appear in Federal District Court in White Plains, in Westchester County, on Thursday morning. Three of the suspects are American citizens, and one suspect is of Haitian descent, according to the office of Gov. David A. Paterson.

Lev L. DassinStan Honda/Agence France-Presse/Getty ImagesLev L. Dassin, the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Mr. Cromitie, who is described as the lead defendant, is said to have told an F.B.I. informer that he had ties with Jaish-e-Muhammad, a jihadist group based in Pakistan. None of the defendants actually obtained weapons of mass destruction, according to the authorities. The men were, however, given an antiaircraft missile system that was incapable of being fired, as well as homemade bombs containing inert plastic explosives, as part of the undercover investigation, the authorities said.

Rabbi Jonathan I. Rosenblatt, the senior rabbi at the Riverdale Jewish Center, a modern Orthodox congregation in Riverdale, said the police informed him on Wednesday evening that his synagogue was a target of the plot, as well as the Riverdale Temple, a Reform synagogue that is a short distance away, on Independence Avenue. He said the police told him that the bombs were to have been detonated late Wednesday evening.

Rabbi Rosenblatt and several Jewish community leaders, including elected officials, were summoned to a meeting shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday and told about the plot, he said in a phone interview. Rabbi Rosenblatt said he took the news with “shock, surprise — a sense of disbelief that something which is supposed to belong to the world of front pages and the evening news had invaded the quiet world of our synagogue.”

According to the criminal complaint, Mr. Cromitie met the informer last June, and told the informer that his parents had lived in Afghanistan and that he was upset about the deaths of Muslims at the hands of United States military forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Cromitie expressed interest in returning to Afghanistan and said that if he were to die a martyr he would go to paradise, according to the complaint, which states that Mr. Cromitie threatened to do “something to America.”

In July, according to the complaint, Mr. Cromitie and the informer discussed Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Mr. Cromitie claimed to be involved with the militant organization. Jaish-e-Muhammad was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2001.

That month, Mr. Cromitie also told the informer he wished to “do jihad,” the complaint states.

Starting in October, the informer began meeting Mr. Cromitie in a house in Newburgh that the F.B.I. had equipped with concealed video and audio equipment, according to the complaint. In several meetings at that house, Mr. Cromitie and the other defendants discussed their desire to attack a synagogue in Riverdale — a heavily Jewish neighborhood in the northwestern Bronx — and to shoot down military aircraft at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh.

Mr. Cromitie “asked the informant to supply surface-to-air guided missiles and explosives for the planned operations,” and the informer told Mr. Cromitie that he could provide him with C-4 plastic explosives, the complaint states.

Starting in April 2009, the complaint says, the four men selected the synagogues they intended to attack and conducted surveillance, including photographs, of military planes at the base.

Mr. Cromitie went to Riverdale, and, using a camera bought at a Wal-Mart, examined his targets, the complaint states. He “pointed to people walking on the street in the vicinity of a Jewish Community Center and said that if he had a gun, he would shoot each one in the head,” it states.

Later in April, Mr. Cromitie and David Williams bought a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol in Brooklyn to use in the planned attack, and then traveled to “a location from which they could shoot at the military planes using surface-to-air guided missiles,” the authorities said.

The two men indicated that they mainly intended to kill military personnel, but David Williams said if Jews were killed, “it does not matter,” according to the complaint.

In early May, Mr. Cromitie, David Williams and Mr. Payen drove with the informer toward Stamford, Conn., to obtain what the three men were told would be a surface-to-air guided missile system and three improvised explosive devices containing C-4 plastic explosive material.

The informer gave the men “a Stinger surface-to-air guided missile provided by the F.B.I. that was not capable of being fired,” as well as three improvised explosive devices, each containing more than 30 pounds of inert C-4 plastic explosives, telling the men that he had obtained them from Jaish-e-Muhammad, the authorities said.

The three men took the weapon materials back to Newburgh, and two days later, joined by Onta Williams, they met to inspect the materials and “further discuss the logistics of the operation,” the authorities said.

Lev L. Dassin, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement on Wednesday night that “the defendants wanted to engage in terrorist attacks.”

He added: “They selected targets and sought the weapons necessary to carry out their plans. Fortunately, the defendants sought the assistance of a witness cooperating with the government. While the weapons provided to the defendants by the cooperating witness were fake, the defendants thought they were absolutely real.”

Political leaders responded to the news of the arrests with statements expressing relief.

“While the bombs these terrorists attempted to plant tonight were — unbeknownst to them — fake, this latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real and underscores why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent terrorism,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement.

Governor Paterson said in a statement: “Through the cooperation, hard work, and dedication of federal, state, and local law enforcement a serious threat was mitigated and terrorist attacks in our state were thwarted. Throughout the course of this investigation, law enforcement professionals have assured that all measures of security to protect our citizens were taken and, thanks to their watchful eye, at no time was anyone in danger.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a statement: “If there can be any good news from this terror scare it’s that this group was relatively unsophisticated, infiltrated early, and not connected to another terrorist group.”

Mr. Schumer added that he had spoken with the New York office of the F.B.I. and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and said, “They have told me they have been monitoring this group for some time and that they did not have any connection to other terrorists.”

In addition to the F.B.I. and the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations were also involved in the investigation.



Readers’ comments: Total 350

  1. 1.May 20, 200911:06 pmLink


— John Harrington

  1. 2.May 20, 200911:08 pmLink

Alright, let’s roll out the background identity of the suspects beyond just their names….LET THE CIRCUS BEGIN!!!

— LJ

  1. 3.May 20, 200911:08 pmLink

Congrats to the FBI, NYPD, and other law enforcement officials for keeping us safe and for their amazing police work to make sure these wanna-be terrorists did nothing but assure themselves of a lifetime in prison.

— oxfdblue

  1. 4.May 20, 200911:09 pmLink

Home grown terrorists ! The FBI has done a good job in derailing this plot

— alston green

  1. 5.May 20, 200911:12 pmLink

Thank you to those individuals who work tirelessly to protect us all. God bless their efforts and may they always be successful and moral.

— Jake

  1. 6.May 20, 200911:23 pmLink

Treason. Lock them away forever.

— Eugene Gorrin

  1. 7.May 20, 200911:24 pmLink

Old fashioned police detective work, rather than wars in foreign countries, is the more effective method to stopping Al Quaeda.

— David

  1. 8.May 20, 200911:25 pmLink

And would you look at that! They didn’t even need waterboarding! In all seriousness, congrats to FBI and NYPD and others!

— Chris

  1. 9.May 20, 200911:26 pmLink

Props to all involved in rounding up the bad guys!
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

— Leslie

  1. 10.May 20, 200911:28 pmLink

Thank God our government is doing its job to keep us safer.

— Louis F.

  1. 11.May 20, 200911:29 pmLink

THis sounds eerily similar to the Florida goup they arrested on suspicion of bombing the Sears Tower.

Of course, they had no money, no earlier ties to terrorism, some didn’t even have drivers licenses. But an “Informant” is able to coax them into accepting combat boots and cash. Then they’re arrested.

Entrapment is a nuance of the law. I accept that. Still, I wonder just how these men came into the orbit of the govt.

Never forget Randy Weaver, a former Special ops who the ATF mistakenly had ties to the Aryan Nation. His son and wife were shot and killed in a US Marshalls siege in 1992.

— Henry F

  1. 12.May 20, 200911:37 pmLink

anti semitism. Will it ever end? Hatred is the bread of the ignorant.

— angelique

  1. 13.May 20, 200911:38 pmLink

Thank you to all those who thwarted these men and saved so many lives.

— Dana C.

  1. 14.May 20, 200911:49 pmLink

Awesome job to everyone who helped. Thank you and keep it up!

— Jen

  1. 15.May 20, 200911:55 pmLink

Angelique – what a myopic comment! The intention to use violence against all civilians is what you should be outraged about. Bravo to the law enforcement officials who prevented a grave calamity from happening.

— Parul G. Kalbag

  1. 16.May 20, 200911:55 pmLink

Thank you for doing a job well done.

— Ronald

  1. 17.May 20, 200911:57 pmLink

Never forget Randy Weaver, a former Special ops who the ATF mistakenly had ties to the Aryan Nation. His son and wife were shot and killed in a US Marshalls siege in 1992.
— Henry F

Randy Weaver is your idea of an American hero? David Koresh must be next on your list. Funny thing…you deal illegal weapons and defy a federal court order, then brandish weapons before federal agents, bad things are gonna happen. Misogynist, anti-Semite, religious bigot…yup, he’s a real America hero. Henry, I don’t know what America you think you are defending, but it ain’t mine.

Along these lines, if the allegations are true, I hope these zealots get a proper defense, sentenced, and spend the rest of their pathetic, bigoted lives in jail.

— Robert, NYC

  1. 18.May 20, 200911:59 pmLink

Once again, law enforcement accomplishes what the “war on terror” does not.

— John

  1. 19.May 21, 200912:01 amLink

Why not report on where these guys were recruited ?(in jail), by who? (a radical Islamist). Guess the Times doesn’t want to break this news as Obama is giving a speech tomorrow about National Security. Sure, just bring the Guantanomo radicals here so they can enlist more prisoners to their cause , that’s what the liberal press and the ACLU seem to want.

— Linda

  1. 20.May 21, 200912:02 amLink

Amazing work! The struggles you have endured today have saved the lives of the innocent. Take pride in your accomplishments.

— Oracle

  1. 21.May 21, 200912:04 amLink

It seems to me that these suspects were not really a credible threat until the informer made them such. I agree with post #11.

Just thinking about violent acts or boasting about them is not really a crime. I wonder how successful the prosecution of this case will be?

— HL

  1. 22.May 21, 200912:06 amLink

If the government did not help these looney’s they would have gone home and taken a cold shower or they might have gone to a local gun shop, bought guns and shot up something, maybe some wildlife in a national park.

One thing is clear, this type of mayhem is on the rise and has nothing to do with terrorists. It has to do with the collective, highly communicable emotional and mental disorders that are rampant in America. Clearly continuing and expanding wars everywhere is having its impact on all those whose wiring is loosely connected and are having a difficult economic time. The question is where was the FBI when it knew about Arabs in America seeking fluing lessons of jumbo jets and not expressing interest in how to take off or land? Can you see it now. The FBI gave two Egyptions and 14 Saudi Arabians a jumbo jet that could not land just before they failed to arrest them.

All these kooks would need is a credit card and a signature of the president on the two bills awaiting his signature, one helping the credit card industry in a bill that is misnamed reform and the other a bill wanted by the NRA and gun dealers everywhere that apparently even Bush II could not get that will allow people to take hidden weapons into federal parks.

CHANGE we can believe in? Yikes!

I bet this was part of the smorgabord horsesh-t fed to Obama to bring him around on everything the military and intelligence agencies want. Got to give Cheney credit. He still is the VP of fear, doom and super protector of the 1%-ers who own over 35% of America’s wealth.

You can see it happening this way. At a gathering of the insiders and political appointees and a few Homeland Security types the president is informed that there are serious plots underway to cause massive destruction in America. In addition to a Jewish Synaguoge attack (nothing new here. It is called anti-Semitism and has been going on for too many years.) and a few military planes, a Boys Club will be invaded by Islamic sympathizers who will sodimize any R. C. kids not already abused by the church priests, who are also allegedly part of a similar plot to bomb a local theater showing Devils and Angels. Also as part of the list of attacks will be doctors from Iran and Syria performing unauthorized autopsies on hospital patients still in shock after seeing the bill for uninsured medical care services and products and lastly a plot to attack Congress by Tea Party participants because they correctly believe that Congress collectively is nuts, unconnected to the average Main Street American and along with its favorite insiders do not give poo-poo for them.

Has bin Laden been reduced to this? Can’t wait to see the track record on thses guys. The courts will find them incompent to stand trial.

— ed g

  1. 23.May 21, 200912:06 amLink

Thank god these men didn’t follow through on their plot.

I’m confused–they’re being arraigned on weapons of mass destruction charges, but they weren’t planning to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, from what I understand reading the article. Do domestic WMD charges go beyond NBCs?

— Pierce Randall

  1. 24.May 21, 200912:07 amLink

It is so interesting that there is very little attention paid in the article to the fact that these men had targeted a synagogue, as if this were a completely normal thing to do. Even Bloomberg and Schumer, themselves Jews, had nothing to say about the plot to massacre Jews in their place of worship.

Where is the shock and outrage? Or do we think this is normal and hardly worth protesting out loud?


  1. 25.May 21, 200912:08 amLink

Henry F — The Florida conspirators in the Sears Tower boming plot were just recently convicted by a jury of their peers. Perhaps you haven’t seen all the details and should refrain from judgment unless/until you have.

— John Self



May 20, 2009


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Third Front could have been treated as a mistake as it was led by another Brahmin outfit. However, the 4th front could have been a natural second front to oppose all Brahmin formations. Since the terms Third Front and 4th Front have never come around to be institutionalized in any formal way, the idea behind the formation cannot be treated as dead on arrival. It has logic behind the regrouping of forces against the Brahmin formations, that have delivered a very skewed governance to the country during the last 6 decades, monopolizing all goodies to a select exclusive group while rest of the people were left out in limbo. Manmohan Singh in his speech to Congress Parliamentary Party meeting had promised the world to the deprived and underprivileged majority the people the nation. But as is understood and believed widely, his speech is written by Congress professionals and Congress can hardly change its stripes, especially now that it has won such heady victory. Manmohan Singh’s own economic contribution to the populist welfare measures that met the dire needs of the populace was niggardly; in as much as, all such measures were forced on his government by his coalition partner from the CPI(M) and CPI. Without them, to expect Congress culture to be magnanimous in victory and generous with the lesser children of God, will be a tall order. 

In such a situation, a political front with clear commitment to the majority people of India that are the scum of the earth even with the much touted economic development, is a must. It is left to the Left and the 4th Front to work on the fundamentals to offer Indian people an alternative to Congress, other than that of the extremist Right formation of the same upper-caste opportunists.


So the space for Third Front/Fourth Front/Alternative Front is still there and Left need not apologize for charting a new course.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Syed Nasiruddin <>
Date: Wed, May 20, 2009 at 1:38 PM
Subject: CPM admits Third Front was a mistake
To: sydnasir <>

CPM admits Third Front was a mistake

20 May 2009, 0000 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: In a significant post-poll confession, CPM on Tuesday admitted its Third Front foray was a mistake, “not seen by the people as a credible 

and viable alternative at the national level”

In its first reaction after the day long-introspection by the party’s politburo, CPM also admitted that Congress gained due to NREGA, Forest Rights Act, and other social welfare measures pushed through “Left pressure”. 

Further, the party said Congress got more support amongst the “minorities and sections of secular-minded people” who were keen to ensure that BJP does not come back, in what was seen as indicating the failure of its calculation that its strong opposition to the nuclear deal would endear it to Muslims. 

But the central leadership refused to take all the blame, disputing the growing suggestion in the party strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala that the central leadership’s hardline opposition to the Congress government resulting in its pull out caused the debacle. “Both national and state specific factors are responsible for the poor performance,” said the party in a diagnosis that can potentially create conflict between state units and the central leadership. 

The candour that the third front turned out to what is being derisively referred to as “thud front” post-poll was a fiasco is significant. For, it was CPM general secretary Prakash Karat who was seen behind the initiative to assemble disparate partners, including those like BSP which it had opposed in the past, in an ambitious bid to position the motley combine as a “secular challenger” to Congress. 

Some party leaders, however, refused to blame Karat alone for the blunder. “It was the unanimous decision of the party’s central committee. How can the blame be put on one leader?” The party statement also said the non-Congress, non-BJP alliance was required so that a “credible secular alternative emerged”. 

The inquest by the politburo did not extend to the state-specific factors that led to the party’s debacle. The exercise which is expected to generate considerable tension will be done after “self-critical” review by the state committees and the central committee “which should form the basis for corrective steps”. 

However, the staggering defeat seems to have already jolted the party into taking decisions it had avoided all this long and revisiting some of those it took. Heads are expected to start rolling, at least in Kerala, by next month-end. There are also indications that the party may have to relent on its stand defending Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan who is embroiled in the Lavlin payoff case. 

In its zeal to defend Vijayan, the party leadership brushed aside the findings of CAG — something it always held sacrosanct when it came to leaders of other parties — indicting the powerful state secretary. In fact, with his reputation as a great organisational man in tatters, the central leadership may show its favourite Marxist from Kerala the door. Vijayan had painted a rosy picture of the party’s prospects saying that Left would win 16 seats. 

Chief minister VS Achutanandan is also unlikely to be spared. His open defiance of the party sent a wrong signal. Even on the day of the result, he refused to admit it was a reflection on bad performance of the state government. A day later, the Kerala government even went to the extent of advertising the state government’s achievements. 

In West Bengal, heads might not roll but the party will stress on greater coordination among Left Front partners, a fresh look at key policy areas, strengthening of the party’s political arm and establishing supremacy of the party over the government.


A Muslim Revolt: The Hidden story of Congress’ stunning victory in UP – By Amaresh Misra

May 18, 2009

A Muslim Revolt: The Hidden story of Congress’ stunning victory in UP


                           By Amaresh Misra


        Each and every observer of Indian politics is angling for a simple answer to the vexed question: how and why did the Congress perform so well in Uttar Pradesh?

        The answer however is complex: apart from other reasons, the Muslim voting pattern in UP proved decisive. Muslims were known to be disillusioned with Congress beyond repair. Then what made them switch over from the BSP or the SP to the Congress, and that too at the last minute?

         Since 2004, Muslims in UP have been nursing a sense of betrayal vis-à-vis the SP and the BSP. This  alienation was sharpened after the Batala House encounter, in which boys from Azamgarh were targeted systematically by the UP ATS. Yet, Muslim MPs of the BSP and SP were virtually gagged by their respective party leaders—the MPs were unable to even demand a judicial probe in the affair. After that episode most Muslim MPs were seen more as third grade power brokers

        The incident and its fallout, and the wave of Muslim persecution that followed the July 26th 2008 Ahmedabad/Jaipur and subsequent bomb blasts, led Muslims to grope for a way to establish their independent forums. The thinking amongst the new Muslim leadership then was that if 7% Yadavs in UP can capture power, negotiate with the central government, cut deals and make and unmake governments on the basis of 18% Muslim votes, why can’t, Muslims form alliances with other castes and bargain or negotiate directly?

        This thinking found an echo in the Ulema Council of Azamgarh in eastern UP, which emerged suddenly in the wake of the Batala House encounter. The Council rejected Muslim power brokers; it was soon taking protest trains to Delhi and Lucknow; opposition to all four major parties—the SP, BSP, Congress and the BJP—was announced. Riding on a wave of popular support, the Council also announced 7 candidates—including one from Lucknow in Avadh—from UP for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

        In the wake of the Council’s appeal, several other small Muslim parties of UP also formed a Muslim political front. That this phenomenon was not limited to UP, was borne out by Badruddin Ajmal who also tried taking his AUDF outside Assam and launch it in Maharashtra and UP.

        In Kerala and Bengal as well, attempts were made to float independent Muslim political parties. The Jamat-e-Islami too experimented with the idea. Factions of the Jamiat Ulama Hind also were seen looking for Independent options.

        None of these Muslim formations envisaged themselves as a communal forum. Right from AUDF to the Ulema Council, the attempt was to attract as many Hindus as possible.

         Most, not all, Muslim formations were led by Ulemas, the Deobandis in particular. Jamiat Ulama Hind was always the premier Indian Deobandi organization—it had opposed Jinnah’s two nation theory before partition and had stood by the Congress in the post-Independence phase. Yet on eve of the 2009 elections it was locked in internecine internal strife.

        Otherwise also, the Ulemas were facing a crisis of credibility. Most of the Delhi and Lucknow Ulemas, the two major cities with a sizeable concentration of Muslim clerics, had issued political fatwas in the past. Looking upon political fatwas as retrograde, the Muslim electorate had rejected these; however, the Ulemas of the AUDF and Ulema Council were seen in a different light. Both Badruddin Ajmal and Amir Rashadi, the convener of the Ulema Council, were respected for having aroused political aspirations amongst Muslims.  

        But as the 2009 elections proceeded, it became clear that even the AUDF and the Ulema Council were not sticking to their promise of carving out an independent niche for Muslims. The Ulema Council and Amir Rashadi were seen as hobnobbing with the BSP and the BJP, while the AUDF was looked at as a rich man’s Bania-Muslim party, lacking a sense of real Muslim issues at the grassroots outside Assam. It was not interested say, in uniting the Barelvi and the Shia Ulema and in issues like Muslim harassment by the Indian State.

        In UP, the Ulema Council seemed to be on its own trip—parochialism ruled the roost—the attempt was to remind the Muslims repetitively that they have to create their own BSP.

        In this, the Ulema Council missed a vital point—namely that Indian Muslims are not Dalits. They do not have a BAMCEF type support organization; secondly, they form part of the ex-ruling class and would like their party to be progressive and forward looking as well.

         In Azamgarh and other strong Ulema Council constituencies, the Council failed to link the issue of Muslim persecution with the massive anti-BJP, anti-sectarian, middle-path undercurrent that was perhaps the single most important feature of the 2009 elections. 

        Seeing their leaders lacking in anti-BJP fervor, Muslims began to doubt the secular credentials of the  Ulema Council. The same happened to a lesser degree with the AUDF on seats outside Assam. Then, the Lucknavi Ulema issued directives or semi-fatwas, asking votes blatantly for the Lucknow BSP candidate, known as a big neo-rich, money-bag.  

Enraged Muslims of Lucknow revolted—the  Ulema Council failed to read, or ignored deliberately, the anti-big Ulema sentiment. Ditching the Ulema Council as well, Muslims voted en masse for the Congress all over Avadh.     

         For the first time in the history of Independent India, Muslims launched a passive political revolt against their own Ulema, who filled their own pockets while the community starved; who bought huge donations from Arab countries for madrasasbut seldom paid heed to the plight of the Muslim under-trials; who while asking Muslims to unite themselves remained fragmented; who never taught the Muslims their glorious secular past in India or elsewhere; who kept the community backward while acting as dishonorable and parochial middlemen. While reaping the harvest of what Shah Waliullah and Shah Abdul Aziz—the  premier, reformist Muslim clerics and political thinkers of the 18th-19thcentury—sowed, these Ulemas had forgotten to even mention their legacy.      

This anti-Ulema revolt is against Muslim power brokers as well—that is why there are so few Muslim MPs in the new Lok Sabha. Secular forces ought to grab this moment and provide justice and a modern vision to Muslims. This is also the time for the non-Ulema, non-broker Muslim leadership to assert itself.      


(The author is a historian and was the Lucknow Lok Sabha candidate of the Ulema Council) 

Comments posted on NYT site over article: Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says

May 18, 2009





Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding

Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says



There are new concerns on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.



May 18, 2009 8:24 am


Without going through the article, the very headline to me appears to be a crude job to manufacture news to fit future plans on subjugating Pakistan, through the same tactics that Bush used in Iraq and Israel is using in Iran. The Goebbellians in NYT feel they can fool all of the world, all of the times.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

— Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai, India

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Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says



Published: May 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.

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Matthew Cavanaugh/European Pressphoto Agency

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the assessment of the expanded arsenal in a one-word answer to a question on Thursday in the midst of lengthy Senate testimony. Sitting beside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he was asked whether he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

“Yes,” he said quickly, adding nothing, clearly cognizant of Pakistan’s sensitivity to any discussion about the country’s nuclear strategy or security.

Inside the Obama administration, some officials say, Pakistan’s drive to spend heavily on new nuclear arms has been a source of growing concern, because the country is producing more nuclear material at a time when Washington is increasingly focused on trying to assure the security of an arsenal of 80 to 100 weapons so that they will never fall into the hands of Islamic insurgents.

The administration’s effort is complicated by the fact that Pakistan is producing an unknown amount of new bomb-grade uranium and, once a series of new reactors is completed, bomb-grade plutonium for a new generation of weapons. President Obamahas called for passage of a treaty that would stop all nations from producing more fissile material — the hardest part of making a nuclear weapon — but so far has said nothing in public about Pakistan’s activities.

Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who served as the co-author of Mr. Obama’s review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, reflected the administration’s concern in a recent interview, saying that Pakistan “has more terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on earth, and it has a nuclear weapons program that is growing faster than anyplace else on earth.”

Obama administration officials said that they had communicated to Congress that their intent was to assure that military aid to Pakistan was directed toward counterterrorism and not diverted. But Admiral Mullen’s public confirmation that the arsenal is increasing — a view widely held in both classified and unclassified analyses — seems certain to aggravate Congress’s discomfort.

Whether that discomfort might result in a delay or reduction in aid to Pakistan is still unclear.

The Congressional briefings have taken place in recent weeks as Pakistan has descended into further chaos and as Congress has considered proposals to spend $3 billion over the next five years to train and equip Pakistan’s military for counterinsurgency warfare. That aid would come on top of $7.5 billion in civilian assistance.

None of the proposed military assistance is directed at the nuclear program. So far, America’s aid to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure has been limited to a $100 million classified program to help Pakistan secure its weapons and materials from seizure by Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “insiders” with insurgent loyalties.

But the billions in new proposed American aid, officials acknowledge, could free other money for Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, at a time when Pakistani officials have expressed concern that their nuclear program is facing a budget crunch for the first time, worsened by the global economic downturn. The program employs tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including about 2,000 believed to possess “critical knowledge” about how to produce a weapon.

The dimensions of the Pakistani buildup are not fully understood. “We see them scaling up their centrifuge facilities,” said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been monitoring Pakistan’s continued efforts to buy materials on the black market, and analyzing satellite photographs of two new plutonium reactors less than 100 miles from where Pakistani forces are currently fighting the Taliban.

“The Bush administration turned a blind eye to how this is being ramped up,” he said. “And of course, with enough pressure, all this could be preventable.”

As a matter of diplomacy, however, the buildup presents Mr. Obama with a potential conflict between two national security priorities, some aides concede. One is to win passage of a global agreement to stop the production of fissile material — the uranium or plutonium used to produce weapons. Pakistan has never agreed to any limits and is one of three countries, along with India and Israel, that never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Yet the other imperative is a huge infusion of financial assistance into Afghanistan and Pakistan, money considered crucial to helping stabilize governments with tenuous holds on power in the face of terrorist and insurgent violence.

Senior members of Congress were already pressing for assurances from Pakistan that the American military assistance would be used to fight the insurgency, and not be siphoned off for more conventional military programs to counter Pakistan’s historic adversary, India. Official confirmation that Pakistan has accelerated expansion of its nuclear program only added to the consternation of those in Congress who were already voicing serious concern about the security of those warheads.

During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, veered from the budget proposal under debate to ask Admiral Mullen about public reports “that Pakistan is, at the moment, increasing its nuclear program — that it may be actually adding on to weapons systems and warheads. Do you have any evidence of that?”

It was then that Admiral Mullen responded with his one-word confirmation. Mr. Webb said Pakistan’s decision was a matter of “enormous concern,” and he added, “Do we have any type of control factors that would be built in, in terms of where future American money would be going, as it addresses what I just asked about?”

Similar concerns about seeking guarantees that American military assistance to Pakistan would be focused on battling insurgents also were expressed by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman.

“Unless Pakistan’s leaders commit, in deeds and words, their country’s armed forces and security personnel to eliminating the threat from militant extremists, and unless they make it clear that they are doing so, for the sake of their own future, then no amount of assistance will be effective,” Mr. Levin said.

A spokesman for the Pakistani government contacted Friday declined to comment on whether his nation was expanding its nuclear weapons program, but said the government was “maintaining the minimum, credible deterrence capability.” He warned against linking American financial assistance to Pakistan’s actions on its weapons program.

“Conditions or sanctions on this issue did not work in the past, and this will not send a positive message to the people of Pakistan,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his country’s nuclear program is classified.



US interference in Indian elections amounts to gross insult to 700 million Indian voters – By Ghulam Muhammed

May 14, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009


US interference in Indian elections amounts to gross insult to 700 million Indian voters


Imagine 700 million Indian voters, standing in queue under blazing sun, throughout the summer month in Parliamentary elections, finding a foreign state trying to rob their votes by throwing sticks and carrots to see that the government that forms out of the aspirations of the masses, should better be what the US wants it to be.


The recent visit of US chargé d’affaires A. Peter Burleigh to L. K. Advani, Chandra Babu Naidu and Chiranjeevi is a blatant and gross attempt by the US to trivialize the democratic aspirations of Indian people and interfere in the elections at the most crucial stage, when the votes have gone from the hands of the millions of voters and is now passed into the hands of the wheelers and dealers and horse-traders that are least trusted by the people at large.


A widespread belief is favourite with the cynics that now the candidates will be bought in hard cash and it is that group that has deeper cash resources, will finally form the government.


Role of corporate sector and foreign powers like the visits of Mukesh Ambani and US charge d’affaires is being seen as timely to provide the wherewithal to clinch the deals with all and sundry.


In the case of the US envoy, a further sinister element is visualised of possible threats to one side or other, in conjunction with the promises of goodies to follow. D. Raja has openly declared on TIMES NOW that the questionable visit of the US envoy is on behalf of the CIA.


People of India have legitimate interest to see that all such moves are exposed and brought into public domain. This is the only way; trust can be restored in our government and in our democratic system of change of government.


It would have been in the fitness of the things, the Election Commission code of conduct should have been extended till the final stages of formation of the government and all such attempt to sabotage people’s mandate should have been nipped in the bud, as soon as any such moves are detected.


After all, conduct of free and fair elections is meant eventually to ensure that a government is formed that abides by the wishes and mandate of the people and that the process is not hijacked by notorious ‘regime change’ experts that have scant regard for the teaming people of India 



Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Truth and reconciliation in Ayodhya – By Iqbal A. Ansari – The Indian Express

May 13, 2009

Wed, 13 May 2009

Indian Express

Truth and reconciliation in Ayodhya




May 12, 2009


  • Posted: Tue, May 12 2009. 10:30 AM IST
  • Home

New Delhi: Campaigning for the month-long general election came to a close on Monday with no clear winner in sight, setting the stage for active back-channel negotiations between key political groupings.


Mayawati of the BSP 

Mayawati of the BSP
The general expectation is one of a fractured mandate, giving neither of the three major political formations—the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the so-called Third Front, led by the Left parties—a clear chance of forming the next government.
As action shifts to New Delhi, the various possibilities have thrown up a raft of names as dark horses for the top job of the next prime minister, if neither the BJP nor the Congress is able to get the math to work for them.
The list includes Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat.
“The trend seems to be unpredictable. Whichever coalition comes to power cannot do so without the support of the BJP or the Congress. Any attempt of the Third Front to form a government will have to have the support of either of the two big national parties,” said Bidyut Chakrabarty, professor at the department of political science, Delhi University.
Also See Guess Who? (Graphic)
“As the campaign started, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) seemed to be in a position of advantage but towards the end, it lost the race to NDA (National Democratic Alliance) which is at the forefront at present.”
Nitish Kumar of the JD (U) 

Nitish Kumar of the JD (U)

In the final phase, 107.8 million voters will choose from 1,432 candidates to decide the winners in 86 Lok Sabha constituencies. Besides Tamil Nadu, elections will also be held for four seats in Himachal Pradesh, two in Jammu and Kashmir, nine in Punjab, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, 11 in West Bengal, five in Uttarakhand and one seat each in both Chandigarh and Puducherry.

Some analysts say Tamil Nadu, which has 39 seats going to polls on Wednesday, is crucial to the prospects of the ruling Congress-led UPA. In 2004, it was its ability to sweep the state that enabled it to grab power at the Centre.
“The Congress has never been a significant force on its own in Tamil Nadu, However, if its ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) fares badly, as reports indicate, the Congress might be in trouble. There are lots of factors working against the DMK, including anti-incumbency and the handling of the Sri Lanka issue and hence, its future in this election does not seem too bright,” added Chakrabarty.
The Congress has already signalled that it is looking to win new friends and influence people. The party’s general secretary Rahul Gandhi, in a press conference last week, reached out to estranged ally, the Left Front, and even key NDA constituent Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), led by Kumar. He also made overtures to Third Front parties such as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (AIADMK). 

The various possibilities have thrown up a raft of names as dark horses for the top job of the next PM
The Left Front, meanwhile, is engaged in hectic back-channel deliberations and is hoping to get more “secular” non-Congress, non-BJP parties into its fold after the results are declared on 16 May.
And BJP has deputed former party chief Venkaiah Naidu to talk to TDP to explore the possibility of a post poll alliance with that party, said a senior leader of the part who did not want to be identified.
“If we (the Left), along with parties like the Biju Janata Dal, TDP, manage even slightly less than 100 seats together, we will make all possible efforts to form a non-Congress, non-BJP government,” said a senior CPM leader who did not want to be identified.
Sharad Pawar of the NCP 

Sharad Pawar of the NCP

On Saturday, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which had contested the previous Lok Sabha election as part of the Congress-led alliance, participated in an NDA rally. The massive NDA rally in Punjab’s industrial town Ludhiana saw key partners such as Kumar sharing the dais with newfound allies such as TRS’ K. Chandrasekar Rao.

Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressed a joint rally with DMK leader M. Karunanidhi in Chennai—a move seen by some analysts as a damage-control exercise aimed at placating the ally in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s comments.
Prominent candidates in the fray in the fifth phase are home minister P. Chidambaram and former cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin, both from the Congress, BJP’s Maneka Gandhi, DMK’s T.R. Baalu, A. Raja, and Dayanidhi Maran, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee as well as Samajwadi Party’s Jayaprada. BJP’s Varun Gandhi, who shot into prominence after his alleged hate speech against Muslims, will also face the electorate on Wednesday.
The NDA plans to launch an ad campaign highlighting its strengths as an alliance. Analysts see this as a move by the party to project itself as the party heading the largest pre-poll alliance, thereby improving its chances of forming the next government. .
Prakash Karat of the CPM  

Prakash Karat of the CPM

“BJP is confident that it would be the biggest pre-poll alliance after the results are declared. We expect that the President of India would go by the convention and precedence to invite the largest pre-poll alliance (to form the government),” BJP spokesperson S.S. Ahluwalia said.

“Where there is a hung Parliament, the constitutional text is silent (on what should be done). Constitutional conventions supplement the text so that the President must invite the single largest party to form the government,” said Sudhir Krishnaswamy, professor at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, who specializes in constitutional law.
“Where there is a pre-poll alliance, the president may invite the largest alliance. In the event that a pre-poll alliance does not have the required numbers the President must invite the largest post-poll alliance. In any of these decisions the guiding principle is that the President must invite the party in the best position to form a stable government. If the post poll alliance does not have requisite numbers the president would go back to the single largest party,” Krishnaswamy added.
Graphic by Sandeep Bhatnagar / Mint
Malathi Nayak, Liz Mathew and K.P. Narayana Kumar of Mint and PTI also contributed to this story.

Congress must stoop to conquer – By Ghulam Muhammed

May 11, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009


Congress must stoop to conquer


It was sheer arrogance of power that forced Congress to treat all its coalition partners, with deplorable insensitivity, if not with outright disdain. In these times of coalition politics, the Grand Old Party was reluctant to learn new tricks of trade. By going it alone, it played a ‘take it or leave it’ game with its coalition partners that has eventually hurt it as much as its partners. In the bargain, it lost people’s trust. That is the biggest loss that Congress cannot recoup in a hurry. 

Now that NDA has come out with the Ludhiana show of force, even before the last round of election is still due and there are only vague indications of numbers, Congress has to sort out its priorities. 

Will Congress fight for its own interest or for the interest of the nation at large? If Congress did believe in secular and pluralist polity of the nation, it should be prepared to eat humble pie and should stoop to conquer the bigger victory for the nation. If its priority is limited to ‘party first’, nation last, it may face grim choices and survive  to rue the day.

Time is of the essence. It should not be wasted on fruitless negotiations. Meet first, sort out later.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Gul Panag gets all fired up at terror debate – By Upala KBR – Mid-Day eveninger, Mumbai

May 11, 2009

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Gul Panag gets all fired up at terror debate

By: Upala KBR

Date:  2009-05-09

Mumbai: Actress launches into shouting match with producer Ashok Pandit at a book reading function

Crossword shut down a book reading after Gul Panag and producer Ashok Pandit got into a shouting match.

They were debating on Varon B K Sharma’s The Assassination Of George Bush, when the subject moved onto terrorism. 

Scream Fest: Gul Panag

Pandit, who is a displaced Kashmiri, attacked Panag’s view that the root causes of terrorism, like poverty, needed to be looked at.

Pandit said, “If that was the case, every poor person would pick up a gun and start killing people.”

Panag said that she was no armchair activist. 

“I am well versed with facts and current affairs,” she said. 
“My dad, Lt General Panag was commander of northern command, so I know what terrorism is about.”

“I agreed with Ashok that we should ruthlessly crush terrorism, but I added that we should also examine the causes. Why are the poor taking to the gun? It’s not just Kashmir but also Assam, South India and other areas of India.

It was then, she said, that “Ashok butted in saying, what rubbish! Why are you justifying killing?”
Panag said she did not see the “vicious cycle of killing ending unless we don’t investigate why it’s happening. They don’t have food, jobs.”

“I said the Muslim population of our country is 12-13 per cent but the representation of Muslims in public services like Army, Parliament, Railways are below 3 per cent. 

To that Ashok said something like ‘If they want they can have it differently.’ That really upset me! How can an educated person talk like that?”

Pandit said in his defence that he could “not listen to the flowery language of peace.”

“Mahesh Bhatt started the discussion by talking about why terrorists behave like that and we should treat them with love, affection and sympathy.
Being a Kashmiri and a victim of terrorism for last 20 years, I said all terrorists should be killed as they don’t understand peaceful language.”

The book they were debating, or were supposed to be debating, was Varon BK Sharma’s The Assassination Of George Bush.

Sharma said, “It was a heated debate but if it was allowed to continue it could have turned uglier. That’s why the Crossword guys broke it up.”

Suchitra Pillai and Shefali Shah were also present. 


PS. My Spell Check red lined the word Pandit in the above text and offered a suggestion: Bandit.