Archive | July, 2011

Four on Friday: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!

29 Jul

1. CARAVAN, which is my new favorite Indian magazine, has a new piece out on sex selection by desi parents. I know I’ve covered this topic on my blog before, but this article—actually, it’s an excerpt from a book—makes a historical link that’s news to me: the connection between Western foundations and the World Bank in the 1960s and ’70s and population control using sex selection.

It started in the 1950s, when India was regarded as a “cauldron” to test population control measures; the thinking was, if it worked in India, it would probably work everywhere else. Rockefeller and Ford Foundation money started flowing into the country, along with funds from the World Bank and even the United Nations. The world population was growing fast, and one of the places it was growing the fastest was India. This was dangerous, because poor people were seen as more likely to lean toward Marxism. Mara Hvistendahl, the author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, from which this article was adapted, writes:

The population control movement arose at the precise moment that Western powers were losing their grip over Asia, Africa and Latin America. Around the world, colonies were gaining independence, with Cold War tensions replacing imperialism. Many early population activists thus belonged to the US business and political elite. Big names included Hugh Moore, the millionaire inventor of the Dixie Cup; John D Rockefeller III, heir to the Rockefeller family fortune; Lewis Strauss, head of the US Atomic Energy Commission; and Will Clayton, former undersecretary of state. Rising birth rates, as this group saw it, would make countries more susceptible to communism at a time when the US urgently needed allies in Asia and Latin America. “We are not primarily interested in the sociological or humanitarian aspects of birth control,” Moore and Clayton once confided to Rockefeller. “We are interested in the use which communists make of hungry people in their drive to conquer the earth.”

So Indians became proxies in this Cold War battle. They started with the All India Institute of Medical Science, or AIIMS, in Delhi, the country’s most prestigious medical center. The Western envoys began teaching the doctors there how to perform amniocentesis, an invasive procedure which carries the risk of miscarriage. But it became so popular for sex determination that parents began calling it the “sex test.”

In their remarkable openness about the tests, it wasn’t simply that the physicians neglected to consider the ethics of sex selection in the face of widespread patient demand. No: not only did the doctors believe sex selection acceptable, they believed that by culling female foetuses they were making the world a better place. Shortly after the amniocentesis tests began, several AIIMS doctors published a paper in the journal Indian Pediatrics explaining the project as an experimental trial with potential to be introduced on a larger scale. Indian couples clearly desired sex selection, wrote Dr IC Verma and colleagues. And that interest, if tapped more widely, could be a boon for India—and the world:

“In India cultural and economic factors make the parents desire a son, and in many instances the couple keeps on reproducing just to have a son. Prenatal determination of sex would put an end to this unnecessary fecundity. There is of course the tendency to abort the foetus if it is female. This may not be acceptable to persons in the West, but in our patients this plan of action was followed in seven of eight patients who had the test carried out primarily for the determination of sex of the foetus. The parents elected for abortion without any undue anxiety.”

While the doctors defended their actions with cultural relativism—“This may not be acceptable to persons in the West”—their logic was a variation on Malthusianism, which India inherited from Europe. Verma and his colleagues aborted female foetuses in the name of population control.

The article goes on to detail the power and influence that the envoys from the Rockefeller Foundation and other wielded on India’s population policy—so much so that they were able to redefine the priorities for the country’s director of family planning and shift it from a holistic consideration of maternal and child health and population control to a focus on only the latter. And in 1975, when the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency and began forcibly sterilizing poor men in vast numbers, these scientists and philanthropists lined up to empty their pockets for her program.

Western experts later distanced themselves from the excesses of the Emergency, but records from the time show that many advisers supported, if not cheered, India’s fling with despotism. A World Bank official in Delhi at the time the Emergency began returned to Washington to urge that the bank increase its support for India’s family planning programme. The Indian government asked for $26 million from the bank, explaining it would use a portion of the money to build sterilisation camps in remote areas. The committee that considered the proposal turned it down—not because committee members were alarmed at the human rights violations being perpetuated with World Bank money, but because $26 million was, as one employee wrote to a colleague in the bank’s population division at the time, “disappointingly conservative”. Money came instead from UNFPA, which in 1974 had issued its largest grant yet to India, and the Swedish International Development Authority, which in 1976 contributed $60 million toward family planning in India. And World Bank money continued to flow into India. Between 1972 and 1980 the bank doled out $66 million in loans to the country for the express purpose of population control.

A few months after the committee considered India’s proposal, World Bank President Robert McNamara flew to India to make the bank’s support for the Emergency explicit. Arriving in Delhi as men were being forcibly rounded up for vasectomies, he met with Health and Family Planning Minister Karan Singh, who admitted the sterilisation campaign had entailed a few abuses. Still, McNamara was apparently unfazed, writing in a summary of his trip: “At long last, India is moving to effectively address its population problem.” When the archives of Western population control organisations were finally opened, the scholars who sifted through them might be forgiven for overlooking the role the organisations played in bringing sex-selective abortion to India. At a time when the president of the World Bank endorsed the forced sterilisation of millions of men, a few thousand voluntary abortions must have seemed like nothing.

2. About 10 days ago, the Institute of Medicine released a much-awaited report with their recommendations on how to strengthen preventive care for women, as asked by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If the HHS approves these measures, then starting in January 2013, insurance companies would be required to cover them, without passing on the costs to their customers. The eight preventive health services the report recommends are:

  • screening for gestational diabetes
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
  • counseling on sexually transmitted infections
  • counseling and screening for HIV
  • contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies
  • lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding
  • screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
  • yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive services

Importantly, it also stresses, “To reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies, which accounted for almost half of pregnancies in the U.S. in 2001, the report urges that HHS consider adding the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods [my emphasis] as well as patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity. Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.”

The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health in the United States, said in its release about the IOM report:

Making contraceptive counseling, services and supplies—including long-acting, reversible methods (the IUD and the implant), which have high up-front costs—more affordable acknowledges the reality that cost can be a daunting barrier to effective contraceptive use. The evidence strongly suggests that insurance coverage of contraceptive services and supplies without cost-sharing is a low-cost—or even cost-saving—means of helping women overcome this obstacle.

In a year when the same Institute mapped the amount of restrictions on abortion that U.S. states enacted in the first half of 2011—162!—the IOM report comes as a relief. Now all the HHS has to do is approve it.

Abortion restrictions in 2011 by the Guttmacher Institute

Abortion restrictions in 2011 by the Guttmacher Institute


3. In all the inflammatory talk among right-wingers of abortion and those who perform it as “murderers” and “baby-killers,” it’s worthwhile to go back to a 2010 article supported by The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund—where I work—that just this past week won the Planned Parenthood Maggie Award. “Not A Lone Wolf,” by Amanda Robb, was published in Ms. magazine last May, and investigated the case of Scott Roeder, the man who killed abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in his Wichita, Kansas church for his work. The anti-abortion brigade’s chatter after the murder centered around Roeder being a “lone wolf,” i.e., acting alone, without the support of the larger anti-abortion community. But Robb showed that he relied on a network of supporters to carry out the killing, from longtime connections with members of the Army of God—a secretive organization that has bombed abortion clinics and carried out murders and attempted murders of doctors who provide abortion services—as well as with James Kopp and Paul Hill, both of whom have killed abortion doctors.

Kopp was the murderer of Dr. Barnett Slepian, the abortion provider whose death in 1998 shook Buffalo and the national pro-abortion community. It also prompted (my friend and colleague) Eyal Press to write a book, Absolute Convictions, about the killing and the movement behind it, and the death threat to his own father, Shalom Press, who also performed abortions in his Buffalo practice. After the killing of Dr. Slepian, Dr. Press was the only doctor left in the upstate city who offered abortion services—which he continued to provide as part of his normal gynecological practice, despite the danger. I highly recommend it.

4. Did anyone read the recent New York Times article about the progress in male contraception? There are several methods that are being tested, and some of them will be presented at an October conference by the Gates Foundation. Different methods use progestin and testosterone hormones, some use a male contraceptive pill that results in nonfunctional sperm, and others are testing a drug that blocks the production of retinoic acid, which is important for sperm production. (Funnily enough, this drug also acts as one that helps curb alcoholism; if you drink while you’re taking it, it will make you sick. Dr. Amory, who is one of the scientists behind this particular method, quipped to the Times, “The joke is if it weren’t for alcohol, no one would need contraception.”)

Wow, to imagine a day when women don’t bear the brunt of contraception. Right now, there are exactly two methods of male contraception: the condom and the vasectomy. Women have the birth control pill, the nuvaring, the patch, the IUD (intra-uterine device), the diaphragm, and tubal ligation. Am I missing any? The pill, the ring and the patch all have side effects, some serious, as they interfere with a woman’s hormones; the IUD is not recommended for everyone, and the diaphragm is no longer easily available and is hardly used by American women. When it comes to sterilization, vasectomies are much easier procedures than tubal ligations. The former can be accomplished in an outpatient procedure that takes 30 minutes and has a minimum of risk, as well as being up to four times cheaper than tubal ligations. Tubal ligation for women, however, requires hospitalization, general anesthesia, and is more often than not an intra-abdominal procedure with a longer recovery time. It also carries serious risks such as perforation of the intestine, infection, complications from anesthesia and even pulmonary embolism. It’s also way more expensive than a vasectomy.

So why is it that in the United States, according to a 30-year Center for Disease Control report from 1995 (couldn’t find a more recent government study, sorry!), women get tubal ligations one-and-a-half to two times more often than men get vasectomies? I’m sure a chunk of the blame lies with unwilling men, but it’s also incumbent on clinics and doctors to include men in discussions about contraception. (Informal poll of readers: How many of the women reading this blog took your male partners along to the doctor’s office when you discussed methods of contraception? And for the male readers—how many of you asked to accompany your partner, or were asked by her, on such a visit? And did you in fact go with her? This question, of course, assumes that you went to the doctor to discuss contraception when you were in a heterosexual relationship. Do let me know your answers in the comments.)

This discrepancy in responsibility was rather humorously captured in this Washington City Paper blog post last year by Amanda Hess. The post begins:

Allison, 26, and her boyfriend were having sex—an activity they had engaged in many times over the six months they had been dating—when her contraceptive vaginal ring fell right out of her vagina. Her boyfriend paused. He developed a sudden concern over the efficacy of the couple’s method of birth control. “He was like, ‘Oh, no. How is it going to catch my semen?’” Allison recalls.

Allison, it seems, had had ignorant partners before.

“I was dating a guy in college who knew that I was on the birth control pill. Of course, he was concerned about me getting pregnant,” says Allison. “So he said, ‘You know, you should take four or five of these a day—just take as many as you need to,’” she says.

And then there was Jenna:

Jenna had been living with her boyfriend for several months when he floated his own contraceptive theory. Jenna was taking her birth control pills continuously, meaning that she was skipping the pack’s built-in placebo pills in order to stop her period. At some point, her boyfriend discovered how she had managed to avoid the monthly ritual. “I was thinking you were just magical, like a unicorn,” he told her. “I mean, you hope one exists somewhere, but you never think you’ll get to live with one…a cool chick with no period drama that has sex all month long.” He added, “The guys thought I was making it up.” (Boyfriends could not be reached for comment for this story).

Hess quotes a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which surveyed single Americans of both sexes between the ages of 19 and 29 and found that men in general were much less informed about methods of contraception than women were. And the discrepancy in knowledge widened when it came to female contraceptives, so that 78 percent of men said they were clueless about birth control pills, as compared with 45 percent of women.


Women shouldering the burden of contraception means more than just remembering to swallow a small pill every day. It is accompanied by a host of other responsibilities and costs: co-pays for gynecological visits, annual check-ups, the financial cost of contraception (and don’t forget that Viagra is covered by insurance companies, but not always birth control pills—though that might change if the HHS implements the IOM’s recommendations), not to mention the side effects, which can be myriad and major.

This has an impact on men, too. Their lack of choices for a long-acting, reversible contraceptive (LARC) means they must trust their female partners to take care of the contraception. And if it fails, as contraceptives sometimes do, they are supposed to be responsible for their children, whether they wanted offspring or not. I would think men would cheer a pill that gave them more control over reproduction. (And, it seems, they do. According to this 2009 article from Science Progress by Lisa Campo-Engelstein, a study showed that 55 percent of men would be willing to use contraception.)

But though the medical research community has been making noises about contraceptives for men for years, there is still nothing on the market. Campo-Engelstein suggests that this has to do both with gender perception (contraception is “women’s work;” women’s bodies are less complex than men’s; that men will not be willing to use methods that have side effects on their bodies, the way that women do; and more) and with the funding available for research.

The distribution of research and development money in the 1990s was as follows: 60 percent to high-tech female methods, 3 percent to female barrier methods, spermicides, and natural fertility control methods, 7 percent to male methods, and 30 percent to multiple methods, though mostly for women.[12] Researchers who would like to study male contraception often cannot due to a lack of funding. For example, Richard Anderson, a professor of clinical reproductive science at Edinburgh University, says that “most of the work [on male contraception] has been initiated by university investigators and the World Health Organisation. There has so far not been a lot of money from corporate companies.”[13]Despite positive findings on a male contraceptive pill, Anderson has not been able to conduct trials because no pharmaceutical company will financially support them.

In Hess’s post, Allison said, “I’ve been dating since high school, and it feels like the men that I date now have a very similar idea of birth control as the men I dated who were high school students. They get a preliminary idea in sex ed, and then there’s not really any education after that. Nothing ever changes.”

Let’s all, men and women, hope that this time, something will.

Hungry for Survival

28 Jul

WHEN I was growing up, there was a massive famine in Ethiopia. It lasted from 1984 to 1985 and was likely over by the time we were old enough to understand them, but politically incorrect jokes was how we learned about hunger in the Horn of Africa.

“How many Ethiopians can fit in a phone booth?” went one. The answer: “All of them.”

“Have you ever tasted Ethiopian food?” went another. “Neither have they,” was the punch line.

Somehow, in our juvenile, uncomprehending minds, people starving to death were good for a laugh. It’s not funny anymore. Somalia is in the grips of a frightening famine, and its people are fleeing — 1300 a day — across the border to Kenya, to a swelling refugee camp that was built to accommodate 90,000 people and now struggles to hold 400,000. It is the biggest refugee camp in the world, and the hungry are still coming.

Oxfam Ambassador Kristin Davis visits Dadaab refugee camp

Oxfam Ambassador Kristin Davis visits Dadaab refugee camp

The United Nations declared a famine in two regions of Somalia last week, but has still to airlift food into the country. The Islamists who control the territory have banned the World Food Programme. Meanwhile, the Somali Foreign Minister has said that 3.5 million people may “starve to death” in his country if the world does nothing.

I remember the homeless beggar children on the streets of Mumbai, where I grew up, and their distended bellies and hands stretched out for money or food, and I know that I do not understand the true meaning of the word “hunger.”

This Washington Post article on the famine paints a chilling picture:

Xukun Muhumed walked more than 130 miles to seek help for her thin baby, sickened by hunger. As she trudged slowly across the bleak landscape, choked by famine and drought, she wondered whether her infant son, Sadik, would survive.

“If Allah wants him to die, he will die,” said Muhumed, her voice dropping. “I have seen many people who have died along the way.”

“These are becoming roads of death,” Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told reporters in Nairobi over the weekend.

And yet aid from the rest of the world has yet to flow in. According to the Post:

Aid agencies have been sounding the alarm for months, but funding from the United States and other Western donors is several hundred million dollars short of what is needed. At the Dollo Ado refu­gee camp in Ethiopia, where many of the displaced in Dolo were heading, an additional 13,000 tents are needed to meet the fresh influx, said the United Nations’ refugee agency.

Meanwhile, aid agencies are struggling to keep the flood of refugees from overwhelming neighboring countries. The World Food Program is planning to open new feeding sites in Dolo by the end of the week, but that could be too late for infants such as Sadik, whose bodies have swiftly deteriorated after their long journeys.

The famine is not limited to Somalia, though that country is the worst affected. It has also hit Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Western countries may be dragging their feet, but we don’t have to. Médecins sans Frontières has feeding centers already on the ground and they have plans to expand them. Donate here.

Four on Friday: Mumbai on my Mind

22 Jul

I TOOK last Friday off (sorry, dear readers!) in honor of Jatin’s birthday. But I’m back now, with four new things for you to read/discuss/chew over for this week.

1. I was sitting at home, sipping my morning Nescafe, when I saw it. On BBC, just before they took a break, the anchor announced that there had been three bomb blasts back home (see photos here). I waited, coffee cooling on the table, for more details. Frustratingly, they had none. Google News had no additional information. I left for work, dialing rapidly. Reliance wouldn’t connect. I tried calling directly. All lines into this country are busy, a tinny female voice announced. I was getting frantic. It took me 15 minutes to reach work, 15 minutes before my father called me to say that he and Mom were at Metro, they were ok, and he would call me later.

It’s at moments like these when you really feel the distance that separates you from your loved ones. Phone lines are jammed, email is no good, and nothing can substitute for seeing your family in flesh and blood. (As I write this, news trickles in of a bomb blast in Oslo. Norway! Who explodes bombs in Norway!? So far they’re saying that only one person was killed, but that’s one person too many.)

Mumbai's Opera House neighborhood, where one of three bombs exploded on July 13, 2011

Mumbai's Opera House neighborhood, where one of three bombs exploded on July 13, 2011

Mumbai is too used to terror attacks. It began in the days when Mumbai was still Bombay. I remember being in the seventh standard, in school on a weekday, when the first big bomb blasts happened back in 1993. We had no idea what was going on, except that our teachers announced that we were all being sent home because it wasn’t safe. The riots had just happened a few months earlier, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and everyone was on edge.

And through it all, through the destruction and debris that followed the eight terror attacks that have struck my city, people got up and got back to work, taking the trains the day after bombs had ripped them apart. Newspaper editorials lauded the “indomitable” Mumbai spirit that allows us Mumbaikars to get on with their lives, to not be cowed. And there is indeed something resilient about my home town, though out of necessity, not choice. When you’re so poor that if you don’t work, you don’t eat, you don’t have the luxury of candle marches and shouting matches on TV shows. You heal as best you can, grieve as best you can, and then get back to work.

Last week, my old editor from my TimeOut days, Naresh Fernandes, wrote this New Yorker piece that asks, “What Mumbai Spirit?”

Writing the day after the attacks, Naresh notes:

that cliché was notably absent in the newspapers and on TV. In fact, for the first time, Mumbai citizens were expressing an antipathy towards that phrase. Perhaps they were finally mindful that politicians who had praised the spirit of Mumbai had used this presumed resilience as an excuse to absolve themselves of the need to take the difficult decisions necessary to actually make the city safer and more livable.

2. Speaking of bomb blasts, can anyone forget the shameful blot that was the Indian TV channels’ coverage of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai that left more than 160 dead? There was sensationalism, there were rumors paraded around as facts and never corrected once it was known they were false, there was the blow-by-blow reporting of rescue operations that put the special forces teams and the hostages at risk — it was a disaster. (Read Barkha Dutt’s response to the criticism here.)

Front page of an issue of DNA India

Front page of an issue of DNA India

The TV channels weren’t as bad this time around, though they weren’t great either. But a July 16 DNA India op-ed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy is just vile. (I don’t want to send traffic to DNA by linking back to it, so I will just quote as much of it as I can stomach before the poison becomes overwhelming.) It starts:

The terrorist blast in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, requires decisive soul-searching by the Hindus of India. Hindus cannot accept to be killed in this halal fashion, continuously bleeding every day till the nation finally collapses.

And then it gets worse.

Fanatic Muslims consider Hindu-dominated India “an unfinished chapter of Islamic conquests”. All other countries conquered by Islam 100% converted to Islam within two decades of the Islamic invasion. Undivided India in 1947 was 75% Hindu even after 800 years of brutal Islamic rule. That is jarring for the fanatics.

In one sense, I do not blame the Muslim fanatics for targeting Hindus. I blame Hindus who have taken their individuality permitted in Sanatan Dharma to the extreme. Millions of Hindus can assemble without state patronage for the Kumbh Mela, completely self-organised, but they all leave for home oblivious of the targeting of Hindus in Kashmir, Mau, Melvisharam and Malappuram and do not lift their little finger to help organise Hindus. If half the Hindus voted together, rising above caste and language, a genuine Hindu party would have a two-thirds majority in Parliament and the assemblies.

The first lesson to be learnt from the recent history of Islamic terrorism against India and for tackling terrorism in India is that the Hindu is the target and that Muslims of India are being programmed by a slow reactive process to become radical and thus slide into suicide against Hindus. It is to undermine the Hindu psyche and create the fear of civil war that terror attacks are organised.

It goes on in this vein for many more paragraphs, spewing hate and bigotry and communalism with every word. It is an outrage that the editor of DNA India, a national Indian daily, gave 1,251 words to Swamy. After the blogosphere erupted (here and here, h/t to Shivam Vij whose post first alerted me to the piece), and its Letter to the Editor column was deluged by angry readers, DNA published several counterpoints to Swamy’s “analysis” two days later. But I have yet to see an apology from the paper’s editor-in-chief, Aditya Sinha, or an explanation for why he published Swamy’s vitriol in the first place. His most recent column, published on July 17, the day after Swamy’s, didn’t mention it at all. You can send a letter to Sinha expressing your opinion at asinha at dnaindia dot net.

3. Kafila takes on the Delhi police, who claimed to have “solved” the Mumbai blasts case after listening to a 60-second phone call. ‘Nuff said.

A still from Rabbi's Bulla ki Jaana

A still from Rabbi's Bulla ki Jaana

4. All this talk of bombs and terrorism attacks and city spirit and patriotism brings to mind one of my favorite songs by Rabbi Shergill, best known for Bulla ki Jaana and Tere Bin, from his first album, Rabbi. It’s called Bilqis – Jinhe Naaz Hai, and it’s from Avengi Ja Nahin, his second album, which came out in June 2008, five months before the terror attacks that November.

Before you watch the video (and note the changing images on the screen in the background), here’s a bit of context for the stories. Bilqis Yakuq Rasool is a Muslim woman who was gang-raped in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and her family massacred. Satyendra Dubey was a civil engineer working on the “Golden Quadrilateral,” the network of highways meant to link India in the north, south, east and west. Discovering massive corruption, he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister’s office about it, naming the companies involved. He asked for his name to be kept secret. It wasn’t, and a year later, he was murdered. Manju Nathan, a sales manager at the Indian Oil Corporation, sealed a petrol pump in Lakhimpur district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh for adulteration, and was killed for doing his job. Navleen Kumar was a social worker who tried to help adivasis whose land had been taken away by politicians and corrupt developers. On June 19, 2002, she was stabbed 19 times and killed while she was walking her dogs. The “Jinhe Naaz Hai” reference is from a song in the famous Guru Dutt film, Pyaasa.

I love this song so much I’m going to paste the lyrics here, in Hindi and English.

Mera naam Bilqis Yakub Rasool            
Mujhse hui bas ek hi bhool            
Ki jab dhhundhhte thhe vo Ram ko            
To maen kharhi thhi rah mein            

Pehle ek ne puchha na mujhe kuchh pata thha    
Dujey ko bhi mera yehi javab thha            
Fir itno ne puchha ki mera ab saval hai ki        

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan the        
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain            

Mera naam shriman Satyendra Dubey        
Jo kehna thha vo keh chukey            
Ab parhey hain rah mein                
Dil mein liye ik goli                

Bas itna kasur ki hamne likha thha            
Vo sach jo har kisi ki zuban thha            
Par sach yahan ho jatey hain zahriley        

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan the        
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain                

Mujhe kehte hain anna Manjunath            
Maine dekhi bhatakti ek laash            
Zamir ki beech sarhak Lakhimpur Kherhi        

Adarsh phasan jahan naaron mein            
Aur chor bharey darbaron mein            
Vahan maut akhlaq ki hai ik khabar baasi        

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan hain        
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain                

Mazha nau aahe Navleen Kumar            
Unnees june unnees var                
Unnees unnees unnees unnees                
Unnees vaar                

Unnees unnees unnees unnees                
Unnees unnees unnees unnees                
Unnees unnees unnees unnees                
Unnees vaar                    

Looto dehaat kholo bazaar                
Nallasopara aur Virar                
Chheeno zameen hamse hamein            
Bhejo pataal                    

Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan hain        
Jinhe naaz hai vo kahan hain   

In English:

My name is Bilqis Yakub Rasool
I committed just one mistake
That I stood in their way
When they were looking for Ram

First, one asked me but I knew nothing
Then another but my answer was the same
Then so many that now I have a question

Where are those who are proud of India
Where are those who are proud

My name, gentlemen, is Satyendra Dubey
I’ve already said what I wanted to say
Now I lie on the road
With a bullet in my heart

My only fault being that I wrote
A truth that was on everyone’s lips
But truth here turn poisonous

Where are those who are proud of India
Where are those who are proud

My name, brother, is Manjunath
I’ve seen the corpse of conscience lying
In the middle of the road at Lakhimpur Kherhi

Where ideals are stuck in slogans
And the royal courts are full of thieves
There the death of righteousness is old news

Where are those who are proud of India
Where are those who are proud

My name is Navleen Kumar
Nineteenth June and nineteen wounds
Nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen
Nineteen wounds

Nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen
Nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen
Nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen
Nineteen wounds

Loot the villages and open markets
Nallasopara & Virar
Snatch our land and send us to

Where are those who are proud of India
Where are those who are proud

Note the interweaving of the tune of the Indian national anthem in the chorus. It makes a shiver go down my spine every time I hear it.

Small-Town Papers in Big League

21 Jul

IN the world of American journalism, doom and gloom are the visitors who have overstayed their welcome so long they look like they’re here to stay. In the past week, PBS eliminated 21 staff positions, the San Diego Union Tribune is considering going on the block, and just today the Chicago Tribune announced it will begin printing the Chicago Sun-Timesa move that will shed 400 jobs.

But a recently released “data visualization” from the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, a representation of the growth and decline of 140,000 newspapers from the first U.S. newspaper, Boston’s Publick Occurrences in 1690, all the way to 2010, shows that community newspapers are surprisingly healthy, with local weeklies at last count numbering more than 7,500. Community papers are defined as those with less than 30,000 in circulation, and community and rural newspapers are used interchangeably in this study.

Reading-Room of the Boston Public Library, an engraving drawn by J. J. Harley and printed January 1871 in Every Saturday, a weekly newspaper published in Boston by James Osgood & Company.

The reading room of the Boston Public Library, an engraving drawn by J. J. Harley and printed January 1871 in Every Saturday, a weekly newspaper published in Boston by James Osgood & Co.

The interactive map shows the geographic spread of printing presses westward over the centuries; it’s accompanied by short summaries of each significant new phase in the newspaper industry and is peppered with fun facts. For instance:

  • A year’s subscription to the Missouri Gazette, which was, in 1808, the first newspaper to be printed west of the Mississippi River, could originally be paid for in cash or vegetables.
  • When the Free Staters were battling pro-slavery forces in Kansas in 1856, the Herald of Freedom in Lawrence melted down its type to make cannon balls for the Free Stater side. The printers called each cannon fired a “new edition” of the paper.
  • In 1890, with a booming immigrant population, at least 18 languages were represented in U.S. papers, including 97 German language dailies in 1892.
  • And as young men deserted the newsrooms for the trenches in World War II, women made up the numbers (though when the men returned, some 8,000 women temps were laid off).

The story of the spread of rural papers is also a story of the frontier, a boundary that shifted ever westward as new towns were built. Printers rushed to establish papers in these young towns, as was the case, the authors write, “in the sleepy town of Denver, Colorado — then called Cherry Creek — where not one but two printers raced to publish the pioneering paper. Accounts of the [1859] ‘Battle of the Newspapers’ have it that William N. Byers’ Rocky Mountain News beat out the journeyman printer Jack Merrick’s Cherry Creek Pioneer by a mere 20 minutes.” (The Rocky Mountain News sadly closed its doors in 2009, marking the end of Colorado’s oldest business.)

Read the rest of this post on the Investigative Fund blog, where it first appeared. 

Weaving Bubbles in Central Park

13 Jul