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Monday, August 25, 2014

Love Jihad Inc. Shares Slump As Competition Captures Market Share In Uttar Pradesh, Other Major Markets


From our Business Correspondent

Love Jihad Inc.’s (LJI) shares slumped more than 7% on Monday after the firm gave a weak forecast that sparked concern about future conversion growth.

LJI executives tried to calm analyst concerns during a conference call by arguing that underlying growth is stronger than the top-line guidance suggested. CEO, also confirmed that the firm will be entering new target segments, looking at Sikhs and even the excommunicated Ahmedi community to shore up its top-line.

In spite of this, shares added to losses as the conference call progressed. The stock ended the after-hours trading session down 7.9% at Rs 509.

LJI is a pan-India firm which focusses on converting women to Islam. Currently it business model focusses on getting sales representatives to convert Hindu women by making them fall in love. Highly successful till now, it has been touted as a home-grown success story, a poster boy of post-liberalisation India.

However, in key markets like Uttar Pradesh, the firm is now seeing fierce competition from organisations such as the BJP and VHP, who are making strenuous efforts to recapture the market.

Head of Sales for the North Region, said, “Uttar Pradesh saw a year-on-year decrease of 23% in conversions in Q3 2014-2014 in response to competition pressure as well as events like the Muzaffarnagar Riots. Of course, LJI is convinced that we deliver value to our customers, offering a quality product with great after-sales support.  This is why our firm has spread from Kerala to UP. This competition pressure is temporary and given our organised presence in the region, it’s only a matter of time before our conversion figures bounce back to 2007-08 levels.”

Despite that, most analysts remained more concerned about slowing conversion numbers, with one asking the CEO on the conference call whether LJI is a growth company anymore.

“When our firm first entered the market, we were scoffed at. Our business model of using a shadowy, pan-India organisation to effect large-scale conversions by tricking women into falling in love with our representatives was ridiculed as being absurd: the product of a fevered, delusional mind. However, the fact the other organisations have now bought into our model vindicates us,” said the CEO.

“I believe in Love Jihad Inc and our business model. Competition does not scare me. It might affect this quarter’s results but by making the pie larger, this is in fact good for the Religious Hysteria Industry as a whole and, by extension, for LJI. The BJP is befitting from it now and good for them. Whoever can offer more value to the customer and a better Religious Hysteria experience, they will capture the market. Let the best bigot win, I always say,” said the CEO, signing off from the call.

Note 1: This is, of course, satire.

Note 2: Inspired, in the Anu Malikian tradition, from this Onion piece

Monday, August 11, 2014

The BJP's bumbling on Taslima Nasreen's visa reflects its broader lack of vision


On secularism, as on much else, the BJP seems to have no overall strategic plan. My piece in Scroll.in today.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Congress Appeasment Has Never Helped Minorities

AK Antony last week decried his party's appeasement of Muslims, but Congress policies have never addressed the genuine needs of the community.

My piece in Scoll.in today.
 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why Maharashtra’s Promise of Muslim Reservations is a Pie in the Sky

The Maharashtra government’s attempts at attracting the Muslim vote by promising reservations look rather jaded, especially given how some other states have gone beyond empty words to actually implement Muslim quotas which are working well.

An edited version of this piece was first published on Scroll.in

After 2 months or so of calm, the word “Muslim” is trending in the media again. And that could only mean one thing: it’s election time in India.  Sure enough, the Maharashtra Assembly polls are scheduled later on this year.

Electorally, the ruling Congress-NCP alliance in the state has their backs to their wall, given their brutal drubbing in the recent general elections at the hands of the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. Therefore, the incumbents are flogging the old horse of Muslim reservation as a last ditched attempt to gather the fabled minority vote.  As per the Indian Express, the government has agreed on a 4.5% quota for Maharashtra’s Muslims in government jobs.

In the recent past, the issue of Muslim reservations has been a hot button topic, popping up with clockwork regularity at the time of elections (and then quietly fading away after). For the 2009 general elections, the Congress had the issue in its manifesto. 3 years of inaction followed, after which the Cabinet suddenly decided to act on its promise and provide a 4.5% quota—a decision taken, coincidently, just before the elections were announced for five states including Uttar Pradesh. The Election Commission, however, barred the move and the matter stayed frozen till, you guessed it, the 2014 general elections. There a slew of “secular” parties promised Muslim reservations, including the SP as well as the BSP. Earlier, a desperate Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had also assured a Muslim job quota after more than 3 decades of inaction on that front. The CPI (M), however, was routed in the ensuing Assembly elections, a major cause of defeat being the shift in the Muslim vote to the Trinamool Congress.

This self-serving politics, though, does not negate the fundamental need for ameliorative measures, given just how backward Muslims are. Nationally, the Sachar Committee has found that the position of Muslims as a social group is worse than even that of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. A similar commission for Maharashtra has found that this gap is even wider in the state: Muslims have a poverty rate of 49% as compared to 33% for SC/STs. The state has also seen the highest amount of communal violence since Independence, making the problem of economic development doubly difficult.

Of course, if the Congress-NCP government was serious about Muslim upliftment, it would have utilised its 15 years in office to do something about it, rather than grandstand a few months before the election. Belying the convoluted way a number of parties have approached the issue of Muslim reservations in the recent past, the matter is really not that complex. It is often missed that a powerful mechanism for Muslim reservation already exists under the OBC quota. OBCs, as defined by the Mandal Commission, can include both Hindu as well as non-Hindu castes, as long as they are “socially and educationally” backward. In fact, PS Krishnan, a retired bureaucrat and an expert on the topic of reservations, estimates that almost 80% of Muslims in the country are included in some or the other OBC list.

This mechanism has, consequently, been utilised with great effect by all four southern states where, firstly, a very high proportion of the Muslim population has been included in OBC lists, a figure as high as 90% in Tamil Nadu. Secondly, separate sub-quotas exist in all 4 states for Muslim OBCs specifically, since, given their backwardness, they were unable to compete with other more-developed OBCs. In Karnataka, in fact, the entire Muslim community is included in the state OBC list, a decision upheld by the Karnataka High court in the 1979 Somashekarappa case. As in other forms of backward caste reservation, the results of caste-based Muslim quotas have been seen to be quite positive. An OBC Muslim sub-quota was introduced in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 and within only the first three years of its existence, it has ensured that almost 30,000 backward caste Muslims have entered institutes of higher education.

On the whole, though, the issue of Muslim reservation is one that the country has actually moved backwards on. A Muslim quota in government jobs was first implemented in 1925 by the British government. In Madras Presidency, The Justice Party, a party with a strong anti-Brahmin stance, implemented Muslim reservations in the 1930s, as a result of which Madras State was the first in Free India to have them. Post-independence, though, quotas for Muslim Dalits was scrapped by the Presidential Order of 1950 which disallowed a Muslim from being categorised as a Dalit. The ostensible reason for this was that Islam was an egalitarian religion which did not have a caste system, showing the touching faith the Indian government had in religion over actual empirical data. This faith, though, did not extend to Sikhism, another religion without a formal caste system:  Sikh Dalits can avail of scheduled caste reservations. Moreover, the recommendations of the Kalelkar Commission (1953), which promised OBC reservations, were ignored and Muslims had to wait till the Mandal Commission to see some traction on that front.


Even within that overarching OBC share, it has been seen that without sub-quotas, Muslims are unable to gain any benefit from the measure. This is a problem that has been overcome quite easily and with effective results, by the southern states. If the Congress in Maharashtra was serious about this issue, it should have simply taken a leaf out of, say, Andhra Pradesh’s book and introduced a Muslim sub-quota within its already existing OBC reservation set-up. Dangling it as a carrot, just that bit out of reach, at election time is a move that can be seen through rather easily.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The BJP and the UCC

I have a piece up on Scroll.in which explores why the BJP is so eager for a UCC but strangely silent and even keen on other religion-based laws.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Your Mangoes are Lovely

Stop by the bazaar
And see the carts laden
With plump Alphonsos
Tempting me like sin

Get home and slice one open
Like unwrapping a present
Glistening in the rich orange
My eyes have a lusty tint

Bite into the flesh, yes!
With groans and a spasm
Pleasure washes over me like waves
As I multiple mouth-orgasm

“Oh Lord, yes, yes, yes!”
I acknowledge the God true
But in my thanks, I also include
Our pesticides and the EU

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why does the Anglo-American Media refuse to give Modi a Clean Chit on 2002?



For a decade and a bit now, the English-language Indian media has criticised Modi rather sharply on his role in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence and Modi, in turn, had projected himself as a victim of a nefarious “limousine liberal” plot. In his aborted interview with Karan Thapar, for example, Modi flatly rejected any wrongdoing on his part with respect to 2002 and contended that this whole blame game was a “conspiracy of 1-2 persons (sic)”.

As the 2014 elections draws to a close, however, it seems that our journalists have had a near-miraculous change of heart and nowadays 2002 is rarely bought up, being palmed off with all sorts of non-phrases, the most popular one at the moment being “clean chit”.

This might be explained by some people by pointing to the overwhelming support large corporations have given to the Modi campaign, the same chaps who, as it would so happen, own the media houses. To this contention I would just repeat Ian Richardson’s delicious catch-phrase from the 90s UK TV show, House of Cards: You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

But Indian corporations, powerful as they are, do have a limited reach and their influence, unfortunately, does not extend much beyond the shores of our great nation. It is thus instructive to see just how excoriatingly harsh the Anglo-American press’ election coverage has been on our Hindu-Hriday-Samrat-turned-Vikash-Purush.

New York Times

America’s most influential newspaper published a 5minute video on its website providing a summary of the Narendra Modi. The video has the rather damning testimony of Celia Dugger who was the co-chief of South Asia bureau during 2002. She covered the riots and reported that the administration failed completely to prevent the violence:
"…witnesses were telling me that they had begged the police to intervene and stop the mobs and that they [just] stood by and that leaders of groups affiliated with the Bharatiya Janta Party were inciting violence."

2 months later, she even interview Modi himself. This is what she says:
“I asked him if he had any regrets about what had happened in his state in that period—women openly raped [and] 100s and 100s of people were killed. He told me his greatest regret was that he didn't manage the media very well. I left the interview feeling chilled by my interview with the chief minister. He had not shown any regret or expressed any empathy for those who had been slaughtered in his state on his watch"

Foreign Policy

This quasi-academic bimonthly American magazine published a critical account of Modi’s policies which carried the byline, “Gujarat’s shiny free market reformer has a dark side”. Of the many points it makes, the piece is particularly harsh on “clean chits”:

“In 2013, an investigation ordered by India's Supreme Court found insufficient grounds to prosecute Modi. He says he has been given a "clean chit." That is an exaggeration. The investigation found damning -- if not criminally prosecutable -- evidence of questionable actions (and inactions) by Modi, as well as indications that crucial records had been destroyed. Some of Modi's behaviour after 2002 is puzzling too. Why, for instance, did he in 2007 appoint to his cabinet Maya Kodnani -- a politician suspected of, and later convicted for, distributing swords to rioters and exhorting them to attack Muslims?”

The Guardian

Jumping across the pond, the Left-leaning Guardian’s economics leader writer, Aditya Chakrabortty, proposes a powerful "thought experiment" where he contends that if a British politician would have behaved similar to the way Modi had done after Godhra, he would have been "arrested for wilful neglect of duty, hate speech and for inciting violence.".

Chakrabortty also writes, somewhat bluntly, that "Modi bears a responsibility for some of the worst religious violence ever seen in independent India" and echoes Foreign Policy by pointing out that "there has been no "clean chit" for Modi. Courts in India are still hearing allegations against him."

The Economist

This newspaper, which describes its politics as classically liberal, actually did the unthinkable and anointed Rahul Gandhi as its choice to lead India in 2014. Why? Because 2002 ruled out Modi.

The paper pointed out that “one reason why the inquiries into the riots were inconclusive is that a great deal of evidence was lost or wilfully destroyed. And if the facts in 2002 are murky, so are Mr Modi’s views now. He could put the pogroms behind him by explaining what happened and apologising. Yet he refuses to answer questions about them.”

Language is always a powerful indicator of what you’re trying to say, so one should note The Economist’s use of the word “pogrom” to describe, well, the 2002 Pogrom. Currently no Indian paper does so as an editorial standard.

Explaining its choice, the piece says, “it would be wrong for a man who has thrived on division to become prime minister of a country as fissile as India” and goes on to point out that ”for now he should be judged on his record—which is that of a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred. There is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better.”

The Telegraph

Completing the UK’s ideology triad, the right-wing Telegraph is the most critical of British newspapers, with its Delhi correspondent, Dean Nelson choosing to describe in graphic detail Zakia Jaffrey’s account of how her husband, with a rabid mob outside his door, called Modi for assistance:
“Far from offering help, Mr Modi had taunted him and even expressed surprise that he was still alive, Mr Jafri told those around him in his final moments. “No help will come,” Mr Jafri added.
Shortly afterwards, Mr Jafri’s wife, Zakia, watched in horror from a balcony as rioters marched her husband naked from their home and chopped off his fingers, hands, arms and head.”

This is a story that Indian newspapers have rarely touched and as the elections have approached it has been all but forgotten. It is, therefore, a mystery as to why the Telegraph finds it newsworthy.

The Financial Times

The only pink paper in our list has a piece by the FT’s Delhi correspondent in 2002, Edward Luce. Titled "NarendraModi: India’s Jekyll and Hyde”, Luce recounts the “inflammatory rhetoric” Modi displayed after the Godhra incident, especially noting his use of Newton’s Third Law to signal that he was fine with violence. “No one, Indian or foreigner, who covered the following, gruesome, 72 hours, was in any doubt about the meaning of Mr Modi’s signal.”

He ends with asking “whether Modi is a Margaret Thatcher or an Adolf Hitler” and “suspects” it’s the latter, warning that “either way, I would rather not take the risk of finding out”.

The Daily Caller

That is not to say that it’s all been negative for Modi. David Cohen, writing in the The Daily Caller, takes a strong stand and says that “Modi took several steps to protect the besieged Muslim communities, including imposing curfews, issuing shoot-on-sight orders against rioters, and calling in the army.”

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of this newspaper before? Worry not, you’re in good company. I hadn’t either. It’s not really mainstream, being a small website based out of Washington. Not that there’s anything wrong in being small, of course.

***

Admittedly, just because The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The Guardian, The Economist, The Telegraph, The Financial Times and the Indian media from a few years back agree on something doesn’t mean its correct. Maybe the Indian media’s new opinion about Modi is correct. Or maybe no one is correct. With a man accused of mass murder, a front runner to become PM, I say this is a good as time as any to go post-modern. After all, you might talk of massacres and genocides and clean chits, but, my good man, really, what is truth anyway?

First published on NewsYaps