The article originally appeared on India Today on October 9.

An Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) survey has found that the prevailing anti-China sentiment in the country can result in 40-45 per cent decline in the sale of Chinese products this Diwali when compared to their sale last year.

A quick survey by ASSOCHAM-Social Development Foundation (ASDF) has said that be it decorative items like lights, gift items, lamps, Ganesha and Laxmi idols, rangolis, wall hangings crackers or even the electronic products like mobile phones, the decline is visible across all the sectors.

The ASSOCHAM survey that was conducted across multiple cities, i.e., Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Chennai, Dehradun, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Mumbai, found that people were preferring Indian goods over Chinese products and were demanding Indian lights and earthen diyas and shopkeepers were stacking products this festive season accordingly.

According to the ASSOCHAM release, the share of Chinese products during Diwali festivities last year was estimated to be 30 per cent or around Rs 6500 crore and Rs 4500 crore of it came from only Diwali related items like toys, fancy lights, gift items, plastic ware, decorative goods etc.

The ASSOCHAM paper also found that the demand of electronic items like LCDs, mobile phones and others items made in China has also declined by 15-20%.

India-China relations are going through a rough patch especially after the 73-day long Doklam standoff, the border row between the countries in the Doklam region of the Sikkim sector that saw an abrupt end in the last week of August. Though India claims a status quo has been maintained in the region ever since then, there are conflicting reports emerging in the media that China is again scaling up its operations in the disputed border territory.

Also, some reports in August had claimed that the Doklam standoff had adversely affected business of Oppo and Vivo in India, two major mobile manufactures from China. A report in the Economic Times had said that 400 expat Chinese workers were being sent back after the sale of smartphones of these companies fell sharply in July and August months owing to the ‘anti-Beijing sentiment’.




In 1961, Kerala’s population was 1,68,75,199. The population of Uttar Pradesh was almost seven times of it, at 7,37,52,914.

From 1961 to 2011, while the population of UP went up to 19,98,12,341, almost three times of what it had in 1961, Kerala saw a balanced increase almost the same number that it had in 1961, to 3,34,06,061.

The why of it and the results of it reflect in various socioeconomic indicators of the two states.

While the literacy of Kerala went up to 94% from 48% in 1961, touching even 100% in pockets, UP is still way behind, from almost 15% in 1961 to 68% now. The huge population difference between Kerala and UP make this gap even more telling. Then quality of literacy is also a big issue here, reflecting in indicators like poverty and mortality rates.

In 1961, Kerala’s infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births) was 52 that has come down to 10 now. UP’s IMR in 1961 was 130 and is still 64. So, Kerala cut it to five times while UP could only halve it in the same period. And if we see, the gap between Kerala and UP has gone up. UP’s IMR in 1961 was 2.5 times of Kerala’s. In 2011, it is 6.5 times.

These are some of the pointers based on the historical comparison with the data set available. Even if we compare both the states on present day parameters, we find Kerala comfortable positioned than UP.

With majority of the Indian population living below the poverty line if we take the global benchmark of $1.9 a day, poverty is the most important indicator to assess the social and economical well being of both of the states.

Going by the findings of the Tendulkar Methodology to determine and define poverty in India, Kerala had its 7.1% population living below the poverty line in 2011-12 while the corresponding figure for UP stood at 29.4%. It means Kerala has just 23.40 lakh people living below the poverty line while UP is yet to uplift its 5.55 crore from the chasm of poverty and mind you, these figures are based on abysmally low Indian poverty line, Rs 27 in rural areas and Rs 32 in urban areas (by Tendulkar panel’s recommendations).

PS: I am a UP walla, a proud Banarasi.



A democracy can survive and emerge stronger only if it learns to get along with differing ideologies in a symbiotic relationship where ideologies, too, understand the importance of coexistence, be it rightist, leftist or centrist or so on. That brings accountability in a system driven by people while a continued streak of an ideology and its dominance, on the other hand, is detrimental for a democratic set-up.

And that is why everyone must come forward to denounce the dastardly act of gruesome killing of Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist who epitomized what journalism was conceived as and what it means – a pillar of democracy and thus our societies.

Journalism is meant to give voice to the millions of silent majority in a country like India; journalism is expected to be an effective check in the wheels of development in a democratic society like ours; and journalism is designed to be a tool to spread not just information but also ideas in a developing economic like ours where the majority is still quality illiterate and under developed.

So, a journalist can be a news gatherer, an information disseminator, an activist or a crusader. It all depends on interplay of circumstances and yes, personal choices. And the ideological environment that he or she dwells in plays a central role in this shaping up of role (and opinion).

Gauri Lankesh, who never accepted government advertisements for her eponymous periodical to maintain her independence, was a fearless journalist who would speak her mind, right or wrong we may go on debating. But she was busy doing the kind of journalism that journalism expected her to do….something that we can say cause based journalism…irrespective of her personal inclinations.

If she was killed for that, we should see this as an ominous sign for the health of our democracy, the signs that have been here for long – with killing of journalists, rationalists, activists and whistleblowers like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi Satyendra Dubey and S Manjunath and so on. The list is long.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 27 journalists have been killed in India in the line of duty in last 25 years. Half of them were working on corruption stories. And no one has been convicted in any of these killings.

The annual report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is even more disturbing. It presents more comprehensive data according to which between 1990 to 2016, 101 journalists and mediapersons were killed in India. Globally, 122 journalists were killed in 2016 including five in India. In 2017 so far, 25 journalists have been killed including Gauri Lankesh in India.

And the conviction rate has been nil or abysmally low, organizations like the Press Council of India and the Press Freedom have said in their detailed reports. The Press Council of India, in fact, has demanded that the government should enact a new law to ensure safety of journalists.

Yes, we have a robustly functional democracy that is surviving well for the past seven decades but it has its own inherent flaws that have put shackles in its stride to become a stronger, mature and model democracy like America, most of the European countries and other western nations are.

They could travel to achieve so much because they learnt to develop an ecosystem where different ideologies coexisted and thrived, something where we have been failing. And Gauri Lankesh’s murder, like every other such case, reminds us again that we are still suspended in that mode.

Being a rightist or a leftist or centrist is not an issue. Every ideology has its good and bad elements and followers. The question is of balance and interplay of ideologies in a democratic set-up that ensures accountability in every level of administration and governance.

The countries that progressed to become model democratic states saw healthy development of economy and society because ideologies respected each other when it came to change of guard. Something that in turn ensured accountability and thus their growth and development, minimizing democratic flaws and autocratic features like corruption, nepotism, one-party rule, opaque systems, administrative apathy and so on.




Though the Abolition Movement of the 19th Century had emancipated African Americans, lifting them from the shackles of slavery, they were still denied the basic civil rights. Discrimination based on colour and racial segregation was common in America, especially in its southern states, the traditional slave states of America before slavery was abolished by US President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

Years of struggle by African Americans to secure federal protection for their basic rights and to end the humiliating practice of segregation based on race led to the non-violent American Civil Rights Mass Movement in 1950s and 60s.

The long years of the movement saw series of non-violent protests, civil disobedience and boycotts and its culmination is seen in Martin Luther King’s ‘March on Washington’ on August 28, 1963 when he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech demanding justice and equality for African Americans.

As a result of the American Civil Rights Movement, the US government passed a series of legislation during 1960s, i.e., Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), which effectively ended the discriminatory practises based on colour and the racial segregation of public facilities in the years ahead.




The crux of Existentialism is Human Freedom, the freedom of the living human individual. The movement that was both literary and philosophical saw an individual as the basic entity of society who was in command of the world around him and acted freely and responsibly to find his place in society.

For an existentialist, individual and not organized society or religion was the centre of the whole existence. For him, the authenticity in life meant living individually, an existence that didn’t owe to society or religion.

Existentialism worked on the concept of ‘me Vs them’ or ‘individual Vs the society’ and firmly believed in an individual’s supremacy rejecting the established philosophical notions as too abstract and detached and thus showed disorientation and tension an individual had with existing norms revolving around with themes like life and death, freedom, existence and bondage, anxiety and authenticity, angst and despair and so on.

Basically called a 20th Century philosophy and used by French philosopher and legend Jean-Paul Sartre to describe himself, though he once famously said “Existentialism? I don’t know what that is”, it had its roots in the works of 19th Century philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard.

Existentialism gave rise to a cultural movement in 1940s and 50s Europe in the post World War II period and Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Jean Wahl, Gabriel Marce, José Ortega y Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno, Nikolai Berdyaev and Lev Shestov were the major Existentialists the movement produced.



The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, banned instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat terming it unconstitutional. It’s a big step given the menace the instant practice of triple talaq had become. If we see the suppoting data divorce trend in the Muslim community, we can see the overarching shadow of instant triple talaq.

Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports. And most of them were divorced orally – almost 66 per cent of them. 7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows. Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.

And 95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) reveals. Though some reports have questioned contradictions in different BMMA studies, the cause of triple talaq is genuine one and we can quote BMMA reports to support arguments here.

But even if the SC decision banning instant triple talaq is historical and precedent setting, it will not help Muslim women much till their pathetic condition in the Muslim community is addressed; till triple talaq is totally abolished and like other religious communities, the Muslim divorce is also subjected mandatorily to the laws of the land; and till polygamy in the Muslim community is banned and it is placed under the Uniform Civil Code not allowing more than one marriage.

According to the Census 2011, almost 81 per cent of Muslim women are married by 21. So most of them are devoid of higher education that can ensure independent, professional career. If we split this 81 per cent further, it reveals a scenario that is even more horrible – 62.5 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 19 – an age-group for school goers mostly.

With 13.5 per cent Muslim girls married before 15, we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent Muslim girls are forced in under-age marriages, as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a house wife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at mere his whim. The whole Muslim community is responsible for systematically killing aspirations of Muslim women through this vicious cycle.

Something, that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.

And why it would not be so. Almost half of Muslim women are still illiterate. A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were upper primary educated (around 42 per cent). And there is not much to console even after a decade of this data.

So, they are methodically made handicapped so that they cannot make their life and career on their own and when this discrimination meets the archaic, exploitative mindset of the Patriarchal Muslim community which prides in nurturing anti women practices like triple talaq, they are finally pushed to a life of no existence.

The apex court has banned instant triple talaq but Muslim man can still say talaq, talaq, talaq spread over three months and his wife cannot go to a court against it. The prevailing Muslim law doesn’t allow her. Banning instant triple talaq may help in cases of impulsive decisions but what about decisions that reek of designs in making?

Muslim men, free from the fear of legal tentacles, will still use their arbitrary might in throwing Muslim women out of their lives if they have decided. The only solution to this is the legal dissolution of Muslim marriages with court driven legal mandates, like happens in other communities.

Polygamy in the Muslim community adds another worrying dimension to it. Suppose the community, through social interventions and pressure, reforms it to the extent that Muslim men start avoiding divorcing their wives through the triple talaq route.

But what about the inherent countermove it involves. As a Muslim man is allowed to practice polygamy, i.e., having more than one wife, he will simply ignore the wife whom he wanted to divorce through triple talaq and can very well go his other wife (wives) that will make the life of the woman even more miserable.

She cannot go to social institutions. She cannot go to courts. And as she has not been divorced yet by her husband, even if her married life has already been broken, she will find it difficult to reach out even to her immediate family.



After global outrage, the Cambridge University Press (CUP) has reversed its decision to bow to the Chinese censorship pressure. On August 18, the news came that following a Chinese diktat, the prestigious publisher had blocked 315 articles in China that the China’s ruling elite considered inimical to their interests. The articles were published over many years in its academic journal The China Quarterly and covered issues like China’s Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen protests and so on.

According to the CUP release, the decision to block the content was a temporary one and was reluctantly taken and after the University level review, the CUP as well as the University of Cambridge decided to reinstate the blocked article with immediate effect.

“Therefore, while this temporary decision was taken in order to protect short-term access in China to the vast majority of the Press’s journal articles, the University’s academic leadership and the Press have agreed to reinstate the blocked content, with immediate effect, so as to uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the University’s work is founded”, the Washington Post wrote quoting the CUP release.

The said articles in question were on issues which the ruling Chinese Communist Party treat as taboo and does all in its capacity to obliterate them from public access – Tiananmen, Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a email from Tim Pringle, The China Quarterly’s editor read.

The Chinese ruling elite had threatened to block CUP website in China if it didn’t comply with its demands. According to Tim Pringle, it was not the first Chinese demand. Before this, the Chinese had come with a similar diktat to block content of over a thousand e-books, a report in Quartz said.

After the news came to light, the CUP did try to clear its position by issuing a statement where it said that “it will not change the nature of its publishing to make content acceptable in China and was troubled by the recent increase in requests of this nature.”

“We complied with the initial request to remove individual articles to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market”, the statement further said in a clear indication that the CUP had started feeling heat of its decision to bowing to the Chinese pressure and was seriously considering alternatives.

The step by the CUP to block articles on Chinese demand had drawn global condemnation and. It was derided as a shameful decision. A petition on signed by academics and intellectuals on Monday demanded a resolute stand before the Chinese pressure or else the CUP may face a global boycott of its publications by academics, The Guardian reported. Even some in the Chinese intelligentsia also criticised the decision, “I’m left with the feeling that there is absolutely no escape since every single breath on Earth belongs to the king”, The Guardian wrote quoting Chinese novelist Li Jingrui.



Some days ago, in a boastful article, China’s hawkish state publication Global Times had claimed that “contrary to India’s nationalistic fomenting, Chinese public was largely calm over border tension” between India and China on Doklam Plateau.

What to say then on these vituperative remarks by Chinese people, “Anyone who offends China will be killed no matter how far the target is”, “Borderline is our baseline” and “China: Not even a bit can be left behind”?

And that too, in a faraway land, almost 9000 Kms from Beijing, in Sydney, Australia, so much so for the so-called Chinese restraint.

According to a report in The Australian, these slogans were carried by Chinese people in a rally in Sydney on August 15 to protest the Indian stand in the Doklam standoff. The Chinese used a convoy of luxury cars covered in Chinese flags and anti-India slogans.

Close on the heels of this, another controversy erupted in the University of Sydney where an Indian origin professor Khimji Vaghjiani used a map during the course of one of his lectures that showed India in control of territory on the Indo-China border, especially Aksai Chin.

The Chinese youth, whom the Chinese media portray as uber cool folks who have shown “no extreme reaction directly related to the standoff targeting India”, lost their temper on such a trivial issue even if the professor clarified his situation for using the map.

“Over 18 months ago, I used an out-of-date map, downloaded from the internet, when discussing characteristics of IT entrepreneurs around the world, however I was unaware that the map was inaccurate and out-of-date. This was a genuine mistake and I regret any offence this may have caused”, The Australian quoted him saying.

Now that is what we call a calm attitude and a gentleman’s reaction, unlike Chinese people or Chinese state media or Chinese government, who have been threatening India of war and dire consequences every other day, ever since the Doklam standoff began in June.

The Australian example once again shows how Chinese scramble to catch up every opportunity to target India. The otherwise calm Chinese youngsters posted articles on different platforms demanding removal of an innocuous map that showed India’s claims on its territory in forceful Chinese occupation, Aksai Chin and parts of Ladakh. After all, what else can be expected from them who threaten to kill anyone who offends China.



Mahatma Gandhi had strong views on religious conversion. He believed all religions were equal and therefore the need to switch from one to other religion was seldom justified, especially in the then prevailing Indian scenario, where he believed the Christian missionaries were indulging in proselytizing in the name of humanitarian aid.

Gandhi held the belief that “religion was not like house or cloak which can be changed at will”.

He used to say that he was not against conversion when it was in its purest form, driven by heart’s urge for higher purposes like peace and spirituality. His eldest son Harilal had converted to Islam in May 1936. Gandhiji condemned it saying Harilal’s decision was based on greed and sensual pleasures and he could never be a true follower of Islam.

“I just read in the paper about Harilal’s exploit. There could be no harm in his being converted to Islam with understanding and selfless motives. But he suffers from greed for wealth and sensual pleasures. I shall be spared all mental pain if I find my impression wrong and he turns a new leaf,” he wrote in a letter to his other son Ramlal. And indeed Harilal was driven by lesser motives as proved by his reconversion to the Hinduism fold just five months later.

He would say time and again that how happy he would be had the Christian missionaries be content with the humanitarian aspect of their work only and not in increasing the count of Christians. Following are views expressed by Mahatma Gandhi from time to time on religious conversion being performed by the Christian missionaries as available on


“(And) if a change of religion could be justified for worldly betterment, I would advise it without hesitation. But religion is matter of heart. No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.”


“Christian missionaries have been doing valuable service for generations, but in my humble opinion, their work suffers because at the end of it they expect conversion of these simple people to Christianity …How very nice it would be if the missionaries rendered humanitarian service without the ulterior aim of conversion.”


“These so-called uncivilized communities are bound to attract the attention of missionaries, for it is the latter’s duty to get recruits for the Christian army. I do not regard such proselytization as real service to dharma. But how can we blame the missionaries if the Hindus take no interest in the Bhils? For them anyone who is brought into the Christian fold, no matter how he has become a Christian, has entered a new life and become civilized. If, as a result of such conversion, converts rise spiritually or morally, I personally would have nothing to say against their conversion. But I do not think that this is what happens.”


“Am certainly against the use of hospitals, schools and the like for purposes conversion. It is hardly healthy method and certainly gives rise to bitter resentment, conversion matter of heart and must depend upon silent influence of pure character and conduct of missionaries. True conversion comes imperceptibly like aroma of rose. Thus, am not against conversion as but am certainly against present methods. Conversion must not be reduced to business depending for increase upon pounds, shillings, pence. I also hold that all great religions are of equal merit to respective nations or individuals professing them. India is in no need of conversion of type described. Whilst under swaraj all would be free to exercise their own faiths. Personally, I would wish present methods adopted by missionaries were abandoned even now and that under conviction not compulsion.”


“The idea of converting people to one’s faith by speech and writings, by appeal to reason and emotion and by suggesting that the faith of his forefathers is a bad faith, in my opinion, limits the possibilities of serving humanity. I believe that the great religions of the world are all more or less true and they have descended to us from God.

…Religion is like a rose. It throws out the scent which attracts like magnet and we are drawn to it like involuntarily. The scent of religious contact has greater pungency than the scent of the rose, that is why I hold my view with reference to conversion.”


“But my trouble is that the missionary friends do not bring to their work a purely humanitarian spirit. Their object is to add numbers to their fold, and that is why they are disturbed. The complaint which I have been making all these years is more than justified by what you say. Some of the friends of a Mission were the other day in high glee over the conversion to Christianity of a learned pandit. They have been dear friends, and so I told them that it was hardly proper to go into ecstasies over a man forsaking his religion. Today it is the case of learned Hindu, tomorrow it may be that of an ignorant villager not knowing the principles of his religion… Here is Miraben. I would have her find all the spiritual comfort she needs from Christianity, and I should not dream of converting her to Hinduism, even if she wanted to do so …Take the case of Khan Saheb’s daughter entrusted to my care by her father. I should jealously educate her in her own faith and should strive my utmost against her being lured away from it if ever she was so inclined. I have had privilege of having children and grown-up persons of other faith with me. I was thankful to find them better Christians, Mussalmans, Parsis or Jews by their contact with me.”


“My own detached view may now be stated in few words. I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the term. It is highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbour as to his faith which I must honour even as I honour my own. For I regard all the great religions of the world as true at any rate for the people professing them as mine is true for me. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world, I have no difficulty in perceiving the beauties in them. I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Mussalman or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.. .It is a conviction daily growing upon me that the great and rich Christian missions will render true service to India, if they can persuade themselves to confine their activities to humanitarian service without the ulterior motive of converting India or at least her unsophisticated villagers to Christianity, and destroying their social superstructure, which notwithstanding its many defects has stood now from time immemorial the onslaughts upon it from within and from without. Whether they—the missionaries—and we wish it or not, what is true in the Hindu faith will abide, what is untrue will fall to pieces. Every living faith must have within itself the power of rejuvenation if it is to live.”


“The missionaries have of course the right to preach the Gospel of Christ and to invite non-Christians to embrace Christianity. But every attempt to press material benefits or attractions in the aid of conversion should be freely exposed, and the Harijans should be educated to resist these temptations.”


अपनी आज़ादी को हमें अब साधना है

पाया भी है हमने और खोया भी
अगर कुछ छूट गया है, टूट गया है
तो बहुत कुछ हमने गढ़ा भी है यहीं

अगर गरीबी अभिशाप बन अभी भी सताती है
तो विकास के प्रतिमान भी हमने देखे हैं यहीं

अगर भूख अभी भी चेहरों पर बिलबिलाती है
तो सोते हैं बहुत अपने घरों में भी

हां बोल नहीं पाते हैं अपनी बीमारी पर
और लाचार धकेले जाते हैं अपनी दुनियादारी पर
पर इसी समाज से निकलती है कहीं कोई आवाज़
जो कर जाती है एक नए संघर्ष का आगाज़

इतिहास से हमने सीखा है
और वर्तमान को लिखने की कोशिश अब करनी है

क्या हुआ के हम अभी भी लड़खड़ाते हैं
और ‘क्या नहीं कर पाए’ में उलझ जाते हैं
क्या आकाश हमें नहीं बुलाता है
और क्या सूरज को हमने नहीं मापा है

हां हम साध नहीं पाए हैं अपने ताने-बाने को
इंसान और देश की गति को एक पैमाने पर

देश आगे बढ़ता ही रहा है इन सालों में
पर इंसान कहीं पीछे रह गया इन सवालों से
कब इस भूल को सुधारेंगे हम
कब इंसान और देश को एक मानेंगे हम

जो देश ने पाया है पर इंसान ने खोया है
देखना होगा वो भ्रम किसकी आँखों में सोया है

आज़ाद हैं हम ये आवाज़ उठाने के लिए
क्या ये नहीं हमारी सफलता है
देश हमारा देता ये अवसर हमें
क्या नहीं ये इसकी सरलता है

आज़ाद तो हैं हम बरसों से
हां इसे हमें अब साधना है
हमारे सवाल जो पीछे रह गए हैं
उस क्यों को पहचानना है

जो गढ़ा है हमने देश के लिए
वही प्रतिमान हम इंसानों के लिए भी हो
गरीबी और भूख की सिसकियों से आगे
वही वर्तमान हम इंसानों के लिए भी हो