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Bengaluru burns and a Muslim names his son “Krishna” on Janmashtami: What’s the connection?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The news from Bengaluru is disturbing. A facebook post on the Prophet Muhammad enraged a mob of Muslims; they went on a rampage; hundreds of vehicles were burnt; dozens of policemen injured; houses put to torch; people killed. Alongside are stories of how Muslims formed a human chain to protect a Hindu temple from being vandalized; how a Muslim father named his son as “Krishna” as he was born on Krishna Janmashtami.

Bear with me for a couple of minutes as I build the background for you to connect the dots. In the hope that you would become a careful consumer of news and not one who just swallows any vomit by our newspapers.

I not only consume but also create news so know where my objectivity ends and bias begins. It’s true for most. We won’t disagree too that Muslims by and large don’t favour BJP. Or that your Sikh cousins—intermarriages are common, my mom was a Sikhni—would greet you on Holi and Deepawali but try telling them that Sikhs have emerged from the Hindus. Or that Sikhs are required to this day to register their marriage as Hindus.

I also notice a practice which if you are not careful enough would pass you by. Whenever Muslims as a religious minority do something which alarms the nation, by causing riots, killing civilians or soldiers, stories would start doing rounds in newspapers about how a few Muslims are reaching out to Hindus and shielding them from arsonists, how a few Muslims are upholding the ganga-jamuni tehzeeb, how a few were exemplary citizens before the state turned them into monsters.

Barkha Dutt made sure that the nation never forgets Burhan Wani was the son of a school teacher even if he happened to be the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen; that another top Hizbul commander Riaz Naikoo was a math teacher; and so on and so on. Who would forget the Indian Express headline: “And they hanged Yakub Memon”? It’s a classic news report which should be a matter of eternal shame for the newspaper. Please read it.

If somebody was reading the story today, he wouldn’t have a clue what Memon did for which he was hanged. There is no mention at all of why the State deemed Memon to have done a crime grave enough to be hanged. NO MENTION AT ALL. All you have is a poignant report of a man preparing for his final moment; fresh white kurta pyjama, letters exchanged in English with his family etc. Oh, I must tell you Memon had been found guilty in 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts which had left 257 killed.

Why do you think this happens? Why the innocent killing of civilians, threat to national security, incalculable damage to assets fades into the background and the image of an innocent, lovable kid in the neighbourhood, one whose only affair was with books and academics, is kept in your face? Why no sooner Pulwama happens, which leaves 46 of our soldiers martyred, you find stories in our newspapers that Kashmiri students all over the country are being beaten in hostels, in streets, and that they are fleeing and railways stations are filling up? Why a sympathetic narrative is spun alongside a grave crime?

On matters of Kashmir Valley or Punjab insurgency, it’s simply to cast in stone the image of a carefree youngster who was alienated enough by the Indian state to turn into a terrorist. Remember, movie “Maachis”? The chief protagonist only loafs around with his friends when police frames them and puts them on the run, seeking revenge against the system.

Now let’s return to today. Let’s look closely at the Muslim man who has named his “Krishna” on Janmashtami. Aziz Khan belongs to Indore in Madhya Pradesh. India Abroad News Service (IANS) informs us that “the doctor Praveen Jadia asked for the baby’s name to be filled in for the form. I immediately named our boy as Krishna, as the day was Janmashtami.

“Although the doctors and other family members objected to it, but I told them that a father has the right to give any name to his child.”

The IANS further adds: Khan’s mother Yaniki had suggested another name “Kafir” but Aziz did not change it.

What say folks. Teary-eyed. Angry at right-wingers poking fingers at innocent, harried Indian muslims? The violence still on in Bengaluru already faded in your memory? The anger you felt at Muslims taking their reverence to their Prophet to murderous levels already diluted?

So let me disappoint you readers.  This story is a dozen years old. This happened in 2008. Why this story is doing rounds now after 12 years? it’s commendable but what relevance it has to the present situation which would only polarize society, feed the islamist elements and is bad for all of us? Try googling this story and you would see every newspaper, magazine, website swooning over the exemplary Muslim.

That’s why I say folks connect dots. When your respected Tauji forwards a WhatsApp image moved by his proclivity for Narendra Modi or his undying faith in the Gandhi clan, THINK. When your aunt in Pondicherry has just forwarded a map which shows Chinese incursion in the Galwan Valley, PAUSE. I guess now there are more economists in our homes than we had ever suspected. Or the very next day, these economists are ready with their nuanced view on India’s latest defence purchase.  If you, reader, are an evolved consumer of news, it would foil their sinister designs. India only breaks up when its citizens don’t connect what they consume as news.

 

Trump censors Twitter; Should Modi’s India do likewise?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s happening in the United States but it concerns all of us. President Donald Trump has passed an executive order to “censor” Social Media. If it passes the legal test, the current immunity enjoyed by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp etc would be stripped bare. If they lose freedom, what chances you and I have on our “freedom of expression?”

A background is in order. Trump showed his contempt for mail-in ballots in case the due November 3 Presidential election keeps the voters indoors due to Corona Virus. He tweeted: “no way…mail-in ballots will be anything less than substantial fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be robbed, ballots will be forged and even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed…” He followed it up with another tweet, mentioning it would be “rigged elections.” Twitter censored it, stating “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.”

Trump was livid. He termed it selective censorship. Twitter, the president said, was making “editorial decisions.” In essence, it doesn’t make Social Media a neutral platform. They are publishers, like other media houses and must come under regulations.

“They’ve had unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences…We cannot allow that to happen…in these moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform – they become an editor with a viewpoint,” said Trump, adding his comments don’t exclude other media platforms such as Facebook, Google etc.

Is Trump wrong? Probably not. What Twitter censors by Trump would look extremely scandalous if Twitter was owned, say by a Chinese company. How can Social Media censor views on local election process, that too of the US president, when there are legitimate grounds for his comments? The New York Times in 2012 had reported “fraud” in postal ballots. Washington Post is on record for stating that “no one questions the mail-in ballots have much higher rates of not being counted.” Twitter’s action does curtail “freedom of expression”. Social Media today has the power to shape truth in the image they want. Democracy won’t have the diversity it preens upon.

Trump’s order aims to turn Social Media platforms as regular publishers. It means they could be bogged down by lawsuits. It could, and should, flag down racial and religious bigotry; terrorism and pornography etc. But Social Media giants ought to have no role in censoring people’s opinion. More so, political opinions.  Trump has accused twitter of “doing nothing about all of the lies and propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democratic Party (i.e. his rival Joe Biden).”

It could well be that Trump’s executive order falls flat on legal count. But Social Media giants can’t have unbridled freedom. They are being hauled up, for instance, in Europe and Australia; the latter quite close to labelling Social Media platforms as media outlets. They derive commercial benefits on disseminating news content. Their usage of people’s data has long been in regulators’ crosshairs. There are wide-ranging antitrust probes against them. They are no innocent bystanders.

Twitter presently is asserting its power to “curate” the content So, tomorrow, if the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was to say that Congress can’t hold a candle to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); or that Mamata Banerjee is supporting Jihadi elements in Bengal; or that he is worried about attacks on Sadhus; or that he is surprised to learn that below Babri Masjid remains of a temple has been found, could Twitter “fact-checks” and blocks those tweets? Is Twitter now the new “arbiters” of truth? And if they think they are, shouldn’t they be deemed as media houses and suitably brought under legal purview? Who is to say they are being neutral and not biased?

In the Indian context, just imagine the size we’re talking about. Between Facebook and WhatsApp, there are 700 million users. YouTube has 265 million users: twitter 14 million. It’s an enormous power to wield if the Social Media giants choose to be the arbiters of truth as they see it. If tomorrow, the Indian government follows Trump’s example, how would we react? In the name of “freedom of internet” would we be helping or breaking the India we know?

 

Indian military crackdown on “honey-trap” by Pakistan

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The Indian military is in the midst of a massive nationwide crackdown on its own men for leaking sensitive information to Pakistan, including the one on world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, a proud product of joint collaboration between India and Russia.

The Indian military intelligence has taken over the mobiles and computers of a few select personnel and are scanning their bank details even as they have issued an advisory to be beware of 150 fake social media profiles which are no better than “honey-traps.”

This is the latest advisory following the one in July this year where personnel were asked to avoid joining large groups on Facebook or WhatsApp where the identity of quite a few members is largely unknown.  Facebook, incidentally, has admitted to up to 270 million fake accounts, most being bots or honey traps.

India’s army chief Bipin Rawat has already warned of an epidemic of “cat-fishing” attacks against his men. It has been worrying revealed that no less than 98 personnel of various wings of India’s military forces were compromised in a matter of a month by a Pakistan female-spy who went by the fake identity of one “Sejal Kapoor.”

In a purely digital operation of modern times, two viruses were injected into the computers of officers through alluring images and videos and the identity of the female-spy was masked through a maze of 25 internet addresses. Among the information leaked was the classified detail of India’s premier BrahMos missiles, claimed a report in The Hindu.

BrahMos is name made up of two rivers: Brahmaputra of India and Moskya of Russia. It’s an outcome of a joint venture between the two enduring friends, based on Russia’s premier sea-skimming cruise missile technology, primarily one of iconic P-800 Oniks cruise missile. BrahMos is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world which could be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft or land.

A senior engineer with the BrahMos Aerospace , Nishant Agarwal, is presently under custody. He had stored sensitive BrahMos information in his laptop and hard disk which fell prey to a “honey-trap” by a Pakistan female-spy, coaxing him to download an app which automatically transferred the classified information of BrahMos to sniffing intelligence agencies of Pakistan.

It hasn’t though deterred India from successfully testing the BrahMos missile in September this year, fired from a test site in a coastal city, which travelled some 290km before hitting its target. The test involved a land-attack version of the missile.

A young Indian officer posted at the borders in Jaisalmer in the north-west state of Rajasthan was arrested last week for having been befriended by a Pakistan female-spy on social media who posed as an officer of the Indian army nursing corps. He was lured into releasing classified information on Indian tanks, armoured personnel carriers, assorted weaponry and location of army formations of the area. Indian army and navy have been reporting incidents of “honey-trapping” of its men in the last few years.

The Indian military high-command has warned its men to not only be wary of “honey-traps” but also of “Babas” (holy men) who promise to intervene with divinity on their behalf. Dubious job offers, such as one offered to Agarwal which made him share his involvement with the BrahMos missile project, have also been cautioned against.

Unlike the legendary Mata Hari who spied for both France and Germany and finally met a violent end during the First World War, espionage today is high-tech where a single trap can lure multiple victims without ever putting a spy to physical danger.  On the flip side, it reduces the possibility of bestowing a legendary status to a spy with his or her skin in the game.

At the turn of the decade, there was this infamous incident of a female second secretary with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad who spied for Pakistan. Once her cover was blown off, she was summoned from Pakistan on the pretext of an official assignment and promptly arrested once she landed in New Delhi.

Spying has always been a part of human affairs. A few of the earliest instances have originated in Asia itself, notably in India and China and the treatises of “Arthshastra” (4th century BCE) and The Art of War *6th century BCE) have stood the test of time. Espionage was deeply embedded in the years of the Second World War, the Nuclear Age and the Cold War and even today countless billions are spent by state security apparatus of the United States (CIA etc), Israel (Mossad) and the United Kingdom (MI5) among others.

Meanwhile Indian military has described “honey-trap” as an extension of hybrid warfare unleashed by its enemy from across the border. A list of Dos and Don’ts is presently being circulated. It’s no mean task to send its message across as Indian military of over a million strength and hope they won’t be tempted.

 

Porn is bigger than Amazon or Netflix and that’s a cause for worry

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I recently did a piece in praise of India’s new Child Pornography Bill but the issue didn’t leave me and several related issues teased like a stripper does in a bar full of men.

Porn is one of those words which have a totally different meaning to me now than when I was in my 20s and I guess it’s true to most of the 1970s generation. But I wasn’t prepared to how pervasive it is to humanity once I got inside the sheets of reality and fumbled with its contours.

Do you know porn industry is bigger than Hollywood? Meatier than major baseball leagues, NFL and NBA, combined? That porn sites get more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined do in a month? That just one site, XVideos, is larger than New York Times, CNN and Dropbox combined?

And this is still just a foreplay and not the real deal. That is now laid bare by SimilarWeb.com, a data-mining gold standard, which tells us that two porn websites –XVideos and Pornhub—engage more visitors and their time than—hold your breath—even Google!!! Indeed, in terms of worldwide website rankings, these two are in the Top 8, bigger than Amazon, Wikipedia, MSN, Yahoo, Netflix, eBay, LinkedIn, PayPal or WhatsApp. Phew!

The net worth of Porn industry was $97 billion dollars two years ago which could feed up to 5 billion people a day. The profits are upwards of $15 billion which is one-and-a-half times more than Hollywood. So if you know Google and Netflix as behemoth bandwith-consuming companies, include Mind Geek as the third biggest for it owns PornHub, Brazzers, YouPorn and Reality Kings.

And how much do you think the pornstars are worth? Jenna Jameson was once rated to be worth more ($30m) than some of Hollywood’s top stars. Their one shot is worth bucketful of sweat to producers, and not just to viewers.

Lest you think this is a piece for titillation, this in reality is to stoke your conscience. With such figures (pun intended) involved, millions of girls—and boys—are lured into a cycle of exploitation where their personal and emotional orchard is laid waste for filthy bucks. Most find themselves unable to break-free of this matrix, transported from city to city, country to country, continent to continent. Those who watch inflict no less damage on themselves for sociologist confirm they are prone to unstable and aggressive behaviour. Lot of fantasies stoked by porn-clips actually are the seeds on which heinous crime such as rape grow.

A few other facts perhaps could let the terrible truth sink in our minds. A recent report has found out that (a) 35 percent of all internet downloads are porn; (b) 64% of youth in 13-24 age bracket are its biggest consumers; (c) teen videos are most watched and teen viewership is the biggest too; and (d) lesbian was the most searched porn term on world’s largest porn site last year.

All these issues need be discussed in public for porn is not a personal choice alone. When you watch such a video, you actually play your role in someone’s exploitation; and often eventual destruction. The society needs a robust debate on porn. It needs mass awareness. It’s the underbelly of humanity. So many lives are destroyed, crimes propped and it could all be happening with our active, sick contribution.

Take a call. Now.

 

Why Smriti Irani deserves our respect for Child Pornography Bill

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Paedophilia, or to treat children as sex objects, is rampant around you and please don’t be disgusted by the suggestion.

If you are a man, you are likely to troll me on twitter if I told you paedophiles are gender-specific and there is even a film, Are All Men Pedophiles, which has been critically acclaimed.

Still unconvinced? A fan of Michael Jackson? Go to YouTube and look for Pedophilia content available. Not only a few have generated millions of views but–put it to the disgusting times we live in–this content is supported by some of the biggest brands on the planet.

Most Indian newspapers today have taken note of the new bill—Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Amendment Bill 2019—which would be introduced in the Lok Sabha this week. But the coverage is passing, a token display of news, rather than a 360 degree view and a standing ovation to Women and Child Development minister Ms. Smriti Irani whose initiative in this regard would protect your or mine child.

The new law is specific: “Any visual depiction of sexually expolicit conduct involving a child which include photographs, video, digital or computer generated image indistinguishable from an actual child and an image created, adapted or modified by appear to depict a child.”

So those who watch, possess or circulate animations or cartoons that depict a minor to satisfy their depraved cravings, do it at your own peril. The punishment involves five-fold increase in fines and even imprisonment.

So far, neither Section 67 of the IT Act nor Section 293 of the Indian Penal Code defined child pornography. This new initiative is borne out of the resolve of zero tolerance for child pornography.

Coming back to YouTube, type “Girl Yoga” and the auto-complete option is likely to throw up “hot”. Enter “twister girl” and the suggestion includes “twister girl in skirt.” These videos would have millions of views, thousands of comments, and hundreds of time-stamps recommendations for fellow sick individuals. Phone numbers are exchanged,  promises of WhatsApp video swaps are made. Jerks talk of how one such video makes his “wood” grow. The video uploaders make hay, so do YouTube, as there are pre-roll adverts from the likes of Fiat, L’Oreal, Maybelline and SingleMuslim.com. In essence, money made in filth.

Most videos are of little girls—doing gymnastics, eating ice-lollies are playing in the pool. Their exposed buttocks or nipples or crotch are getting tens of thousands of views and depraved comments. YouTube says it has zero tolerance for such stuff but neither their algorithms nor ingenuous uploaders are being reined in. Advertisers too say they are outraged but that’s about it. Further, if you watch one video, there are dozens similar recommended by YouTube. Same is the case with Microsoft “Bing” or WhatsApp though both assert they have zero-tolerance on the issue.

Innocent children are increasingly the target of these monsters in our neighbourhood. Psychologists say children are cognitively, emotionally and socially less developed than an adult and could face life-time scar.

A few statistics to drive home the sordid point:

  • Paedophilia, as per stats, is exploding in the United States and showing a 2500 per cent increase since last decade;
  • Two-thirds of sex criminals are paedophiles;
  • The US Justice Department feels there are nearly 3 lakh such vulnerable kids at the mercy of paedophiles/pornographers;

In India, hold your breath, paedophilia actually bloats up India’s tourism industry. Despite governments, NGOs and other bodies, child abuse is rampant in India. Over 35 million children are homeless in India. The National Women’s Commission is on record that almost 80 per cent of the child prostitutes in the country come from Bangalore. The coastal areas in Calangute, Candolin and Baga in Goa are paedophiles’ den. Kovalam in Kerala and Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu suffer from the same malaise.

It’s been a generation since Freddy Peats, an Anglo-Indian, caught headlines in 1991 for forcing young boys into homesexual activities. Investigations revealed he was running a paedophile den and catering mainly to German tourists. Nobody has forgotten Sunil Rastogi, allegedly world’s worst paedophile, who confessed to having sex with over 500 children and his fetish for “virgins.”