Just another brain-dead techie with views on everything under the sun!

Friday, August 29, 2003

Bharateeya Blog Mela

Here we are! Back again with the all-singing, all-dancing show called the Bharateeya Blog Mela. And can you believe it... this is the 26th edition of the Mela!! Which means that it has been around for over 6 months now!! :-)

Let's get straight to the point. The biggest event this week was one of the saddest days in Mumbai's recent history. And it's not surprising that the shockwaves of the Mumbai Bomb Blasts were felt through the Blog world too. As a result, posts related to the blasts and the subsequent opinions merit a separate post altogether. Yazad will be hosting a round-up of the posts about the Mumbai bomb blasts, this weekend.

So, on with the Mela...

  • Yazad notices a political banner that uses language one would not expect to see in serious political slogans. I wonder if anyone actually clicked a snap of that banner!

  • Shanti posts about an Associated Press news article that curiously traces the root cause of the Mumbai blasts to the Hindu-Muslim riots in the 1940s, events that led to the partition of India. Clearly, the author of that AP article needs to read a chapter from an elementary school history book to understand that partition caused riots and not the other way round!

  • Niraj cautions against the recent trend in some midwestern American cities, of accepting illegal immigration without the apparent consent of the US federal government.

  • Jivha unearths a small newsitem that announces a BESCOM decision which is actually an encroachment on our personal freedom.

  • JK posts a detailed book review of "Fast Food Nation"... a book that he found "very gripping and interesting to listen".

  • It's JK once more, as he is fascinated by a new archaelogical discovery that unravels some more facts about Ancient India.

  • Smorgasbord lists some of Mr. Christopher Hitchins' accusations against Mother Teresa in his post titled Saints and Sinners... accusations that try to "blazon her carefully crafted image of piety".

  • Another post by Jivha finds a mention in the Mela. Here, he cautions against revising history as he wonders why, in the first place, did the Allahabad High Court ask the ASI to carry out excavations at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

  • Sandeep has a detailed post about the de-merits of urbanization and its effects on the Rural Indian Economy.

  • Radhika Nair posts about an encounter with drunks that gets her thinking about how some Britons feel insecure due to the immigrants.

  • Srijith posts about the Urdhva Tiryagbhyam which is an extremely easy formula in Vedic Mathematics that simplifies all cases of multiplication. It really is amazing!!

  • Parag has a post about earth's close encounter with Mars. He even has a photo on the post.

And that... is a round up of some of the interesting posts that have appeared on the Indian Blogscape in the past few days. I hope you enjoyed going through these wonderful posts.

My thanks to Shanti, JK, Ashwini, Yazad and Parag for sending in nominations for the Mela!! :-)

I know I'm late in posting this, but I shall post it nonetheless. Arun Shourie's three-part series of articles in The Indian Express that is an absolute MUST-READ. Read it!!... if you haven't done so already!!

Part 1 : Before the whining drowns it out, listen to the new India
And guess what the average age is in the industry? Just 26 and a half! These 26/27-year-olds have changed the world’s perception of India. It’s not just a country of snake-charmers, it’s a country against which protectionist walls have to be erected. Of course, we can also charm snakes.
Part 2 : When sky is the limit
The point is the successes we have encountered above are not fortuitous. India has a score of strengths that others do not.

Cost is one of them. Nor is it a marginal advantage. Indeed, the difference between the cost at which we can provide services and many commodities of comparable quality and what those cost in the developed world is so vast that, should those firms and economies shut themselves out from our supplies, they are the ones who will be severely disadvantaged, they are the ones who will be making themselves un-competitive.
Part 3 : This is India's moment but it's onle a moment, can we grasp it?
So we have many things working for us. In many ways, this is India’s moment, even vis a vis China. For the first time, observers have begun to voice questions in public about China—its statistics; the fact, for instance, as a German investor said recently at a conference I was deputed to attend, that, ‘‘If you want your factory to come up quickly, go to China; if you want to make money, go to India.’’ On the other side, everyone’s noticing Indians make a mark in every sphere: writers, scientists, doctors, IT, cricket, beauty pageants, chess...

So it is the moment for India. It is a moment. But, it is only a moment. What should we do to ensure we grasp it?

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Call for nominations for Bharateeya Blog Mela#26

The 26th edition of the Bharateeya Blog Mela will be hosted here at The Opti Mystic tomorrow, i.e. 29th August 2003.

The directions for nominating entries:

  • Since there was no Mela last week, I will accept entries dated August 16 through August 28.

  • Send an email to sameer @ opti-mystic dot net

  • Drop it as a comment to this post

  • Nominations should reach me by tomorrow (Aug 29) evening, i.e. 5 PM IST

The Rules :

  • Posts must be either written by Indians or focus on India or Indians.

  • Please send the permalinks to the posts rather than the blog URLs. If the permalink does not work, please send the title of the post alongwith the date of that post.

  • You can nominate either your own post or someone else's.

  • All posts except personal jounal entries are allowed to be nominated in a Mela. All the nominated posts shall be included in the Mela without any censoring/editing. A post may be excluded only if it is a personal journal entry.

For more info about the Bharateeya Blog Mela, please visit this detailed post by one of its founding members, Ashwini. You could also head over here to look at the rich archives of past Blog Melas.

So... let the nominations flow!! :-)

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Forensic experts from The State Forensic Laboratory have concluded that RDX was used in the blasts that shook Mumbai on the 25th of August, 2003. Now, this certainly means that these blasts were much similar to the 1993 blasts than the ones that have rocked Mumbai in recent months. The Ghatkopar, Mulund, Vile Parle blasts used crude explosives

This is really interesting. Former top cops give their views on two B's... Blasts and Bhujbal. And it seems that all of them except Rebeiro speak like the politicians that they serve.

On being asked, "How do you rate the performance of the police with respect to the blasts?"... some of them have given some answers that are worth scoffing at...
Sahney: I will not blame police. This is a phenomenon that will not stop as long as there are angry people bearing grudges.
Ohh! ... then why have the police at all?! ... Maybe we should have counsellors instead... or meditation courses for these angry people. Maybe that would reduce the terrorist activities.
Soman: I don’t find anything objectionable. In a city like Mumbai with a population of 1.10 crore, it’s difficult for a police force of 40,000 to know everything.
Well... I do concede that there's an iota of truth in what he says... but then Hello Mr. Soman... police need to know most of these things. That's why its called "intelligence"!! Otherwise why would we need police??!

Rebeiro hits the nail right on the head when he says, "They should have more contacts at the grassroots level, because intelligence comes from there.". Now that's common sense stuff. But sadly, its lacking these days. Gone are the days when Mumbai police were the finest in the world. The network of informants that the police maintained then, was huge and almost legendary. But with the passage of time, the job of police was diluted by the politicians. VIP duty meant that the police were guarding the lives of wretched politicians instead of crime detection and prevention. With proximity to the politicians, came frequent contacts with the high flying dons of the underworld. Thus, the grassroots-level informer network was neglected to a large extent. And the word on the street was no longer heard by the police.

Coming back to the point...

On being asked about Chhagan Bhujbal's (Maharashtra Dy. Chief Minister) performance, most of the former top cops refused to comment. Rebeiro however openly said that "This is the worst administration as far as police is concerned.". He also gave Bhujbal a 'zero' on a scale of one to ten!!

That says a lot, doesn't it?!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Many many happy returns of the day to Gaurav!! :-)

If ever there was a birthday wish worth calling cute, this has to be it!! ;-)

Blast Updates:

Police hunting for the 'family' of four.
Two men in jeans accompanied by a woman and a child are the main suspects in yesterday twin blasts that killed 49 people, injured 161 and struck terror in the heart of an already jumpy city.
But Shivnarayan Pandey, driver of taxi, numbered MH-02-R-2007, that was used in the Gateway blast, had apparently already sold his taxi seven months ago, according to his relatives. Pandey was supposed to be working in a private company as a driver. Why then was he driving that taxi??

And then... why was a taxi allowed to park in a MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) pay-and-park facility? Taxis aren't allowed to park in these pay-and-park area operated by the BMC.

The police seem to be a confused lot. While Police commissioner, R S Sharma, refused to divulge the names of organizations that may have been behind yesterday's blasts, Joint Commissioner, Dr. Satyapal Singh openly said, "These blasts are the work of Lashkar-e-Taiba and SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India."

The people of Mumbai have, as always, bounced right back, refusing to be cowed down. Whether this is resilience or apathy... one thing is certain. The spirit that keeps Mumbai ticking has not died down. An example of that resilience is the fact that the Sensex, which plumetted 120 points during the day yesterday, after the news of the blasts broke... has bounced back by regaining most of the lost ground. The sensex was 108 points up from yesterday's close at the time I posted this entry.

As a mark of condolence for those who've suffered in the blast, all of us at my workplace shall observe a minute of silence at 3 PM IST.

Monday, August 25, 2003

There have been four blasts in Mumbai [see updates below for the latest news]. Looks like the cowardly bastards who have no balls to come out into the open have struck again! :-(

Update: It seems the blasts happened just minutes after it was disclosed that the ASI report indicates that there existed a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Interesting!!

Update No. 2: The police now say that there were in fact only two blasts in the city today... not 4 as earlier reported. Strange!

Update No. 3: After intial reports that about 6 to 10 people had died in the blasts, I just refreshed the page and was shocked to see that the official figures put the number of dead at 42 and the number of injured at over 150!!!

The blasts have happened in South Mumbai this time. If the last few blasts were aimed at creating a sense of fear and panic among the common people of Mumbai (by targetting public transport like trains and buses), I'm afraid the target this time around seems to be sending a forceful message to the Government that the terrorists are here.. right at their doorsteps.... and they aren't afraid of anything. Well, at least the Gateway of India blast was definitely to achieve this particular aim. Reports indicate that it was a very powerful blast. Click here for an image of the mangled remains of a car from the parking lot, near the Gateway, in which this blast occurred.

The second blast occurred in the crowded locality of Zaveri Bazar in Kalbadevi which is a predominantly Gujarati locality. And I don't think this is a co-incidence. Moreover, these blasts in South Mumbai also aim to target the financial nerve centre of the metropolis which is not far away from the scene of these blasts. Not since the infamous Bombay Blasts 10 years ago, has the south of Mumbai been singed by the flames of terrorism.

It's terrible!!

Who is to blame for these incidents? Terrorists??... "Foreign (Pakistani) Hand"??... the government??... the police??

What are your thoughts?

This is cool!! ... Really, really cool!!
Check out The World as a Blog, a real-time display of weblog postings around the world.

It uses a nifty combination of GeoURL, RSS and Weblogs.com :-)

[link via Metafilter]

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Well ok... I had to eat my words about India losing against the in-form Pakistani side in their Champions Trophy match yesterday. But, given the kind of win that India pulled off against their traditional rivals, I'll gladly eat my words!!

I reached home, after office, to find my excited dad at the door. He told me excitedly that it was 4-4 with 15 minutes to go in the second half. I flung my bag and sat in front of the TV.

And, it was wonderful!! ... two superb backhand flicks by Gagan Ajit Singh gave India an almost unassailable lead. And then Dhanraj Pillay's brilliant run down the right flank ended in the 7th goal by Deepak Thakur. Pakistan were dead and buried by that time. And India had scored 5 goals in the second half to Pakistan's 1. It was a famous win!! I was almost whooping with excitement as goals rained.

And now today... Australia have thrashed Argentina 8-3. This means that India is still in the contention for a medal. India will (I think) play Pakistan again to decide the bronze medal winner. Now that... is a match to watch!!

But just to take some wind out of the sails, I would like to remind that the game yesterday (Ind V Pak) was such a brilliant game just because it had two Asian teams playing the Asian flavour of the game i.e. free flowing hockey. Tight man-marking was conspicuous by its absence. This essentially allowed the teams to play freely... which is why we had piercing runs by the forwards of both the teams... and hence the flurry of goals. The Europeans play a different kind of game. They restrict the free movement of players that the Asians love so much. This results in stifling the Indians who then start going in for long passes and overhead balls... which leads nowhere and turns the possession over to the opposing team.

The Indian team, the captain and the coach included, should be well-advised not to let the win go to their heads. They should instead grab at this sliver of a chance to salvage a medal out of this Champions Trophy by repeating the tough-as-nails performance against Pakistan when they meet the next time around in the tournament.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Pistol Pete to retire...
Pete Sampras' virtual retirement has turned, as expected, into the real thing. The winner of a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles will be making that announcement in a special ceremony Monday night at the U.S. Open.
Thus shall end the illustrious career of one of the greatest tennis players of all time!

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Looking at the performance of the Indian Hockey team in the Champions Trophy in Amstelveen, I wonder what went wrong!

After a string of impressive performances, the team even got Sahara India as the sponsors... a noteworthy achievement for any sport other than cricket, in India. But looking at the team perform in the Champions Trophy, I just wonder where is all the confidence and skill that helped them win two international tournaments in the recent past.

All the sports decry the attention that cricket gets in India. But what they fail to acknowledge is the fact that the cricketers are always under tremendous pressure to perform and yet they deliver the goods most of the times against the best in the game. This hockey team was under certain pressure to perform given their impressive recent record. And they crumbled in a grand fashion. The pressure got to them!! It was there for all to see... live on TV... how they were high-strung in all their games. The fear of losing was inhibiting them. The expectations proved too much for a team not equipped to handle such pressures.

I can understand a shock defeat to Holland in a match that the Indians controlled for all of 63 minutes without conceding a goal. But in the very next match, a second-string development side from Germany managed to hold the Indians at bay till the last moments of the match before the Indians managed to save their face. The next loss to Australia could also be forgiven considering the strength of the Australian side. But the match against Argentina that came next should have been an easy one. Argentina, while a good side, is certainly not a major force. But the Indians played pathetically to lose the match.

The next match is against Pakistan on Friday and I don't see India winning given their current form, or the lack of it, and the great form of the Pakistani team. If they lose, the Indians will have a playoff match to decide the last two places... certainly not the result expected from this Champions Trophy!!

Individual brilliance and selfish play will never benefit in a team game. Indians stick to the old formula of brilliant solo runs down the flanks while the need of the hour on the astro-turf pitches is that of extreme speed and short passing, something that the Indian team sadly did not seem to grasp. Moreover, the individual brilliance of wizards like Dhanraj Pillay is wasted due to the crowding tactics employed by the opposition.

Anyways... I could go on and on and on...

But tell me one thing... who was that brilliant chap who decided to have the preparation and conditioning camp for the Champions Trophy, to be played at Amstelveen which is below sea-level, at a place in Himachal Pradesh that is about 6600 feet above sea-level?!! :-o

For a wonderful trip across the world, without leaving your seat, head over to TrekEarth. Some really lovely world photography.

[link via Metafilter]

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

World Markets Research Centre (WMRC) has published the inaugural WMRC Global Terrorism Index. This index apparently assesses the risk of terrorism in 186 countries and against these countries' interests abroad, and ranks them.

The hard copy of the rankings is available for USD 1500 (!!!). But they gave some information during their press release.

Check this out for further details.

Colombia tops the list with Israel following close behind. Pakistan comes in at no. 3 while the mighty US of A is ranked as the 4th riskiest country in the world as far as terrorist threats are concerned. Phillipines follows next while UK is housed at No. 10 (not Downing street!)

No information is available about India, which means it does not figure prominently in the top spots... which is good! But I wonder how many terrorist attacks has Pakistan had to suffer in recent times?! Or... Colombia for that matter!!

[link via Metafilter]

Monday, August 18, 2003

I saw this post on Metafilter about the Landmark Education Corporation and was reminded of a close friend calling me up one day and broaching the subject of a "wonderful transformation" that had occurred in him recently. Naturally, I was interested in what he was saying. He said about how we are insincere in our relationships and how we alone can make our relationships work.

After beating around the bush for a few more minutes, he told me about something known as The Landmark Forum. He gave me sketchy details about what the forum was all about and asked me to accompany him as his guest for a guest session one evening. He also told me how his parents had taken the course too.

Now, I detest all these so called self-help or self-improvement thingies. The prime reason is that if you need someone else to help you do it... then it no longer is "self" improvement, is it?! So, I did not commit and just let the matter hang. I did not refuse outright because I could feel that my friend was pretty passionate about this thing. My friend did not press on further. But he started calling me regularly after that. Each time he would ask me if I could join him for the guest session.

But once I decide to do something... I can be pretty stubborn at times. So, many calls later, I guess my friend took the hint and stopped asking me for the Landmark Forum session.

And now... today, I read about some of the feedback by those who attended the Landmark Forum and I was shocked!!

While its true that it "may have" helped lakhs of people worldwide, I'm glad I didn't go for it!! The accompanying risk (that I now discovered existed) just wasn't worth it.

A former US Congressman who is supposed to have played a major role in the CIA operations in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation has revealed, in his book titled, Charlie Wilson's War, that Ronald Reagan looked the other way when Zia-ul Haq went about acquiring nuclear weapons. The logic behind letting this happen was simple, according to the book. If Zia did not help the US on the Afghanistan issue...
"The Afghan resistance would collapse. The Soviets would triumph. The Zia government would disappear and be replaced by an anti-American one in Pakistan armed with a nuclear weapon"
So, in effect the Americans armed Pakistan with nukes because they were afraid Pakistan would get the nukes from somewhere else. Interesting!!

While Narendra Modi was greeted in London with protests by 200 odd people representing South Asia Solidarity, Awaaz and Indian Muslim Council, there were some Muslim leaders who actually greeted Modi's arrival in Britain with a warm welcome.

Some idiots are actually seeking Modi's arrest through the court of Bow Street Magistrate, for charges of crimes against humanity. It is the same magistrate's court that was in the centre of the whole Augusto Pinochet arrest drama in 1998.

Ooooh!! how very melodramatic!!

If you are tired of getting an opinion, from your significant other, on how a dress looks on you, then you might want to hear what a machine thinks about your fashion sense.
The British firm QinetiQ has invented a "smart" changing room that uses digital camera images to tell shoppers what clothes look good on them.
Hmmm... technology!! It does wonders!!
Around six 3D cameras would be installed in each changing cubicle, to take pictures and record precise measurements from more than 1,000 points on their "subject".
Whoa! ... cameras in the changing room??! ... No thank you!! ;-)

Saturday, August 16, 2003

In case you haven't done so already, please do check out patriotic version of the Bharateeya Blog Mela on Shanti's blog. It has some excellent posts by Indian bloggers on the occasion of India's 56th Independence Day

The regular flavour of the Blog Mela is hosted on JK's blog. Do check it out!

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I was on a whirlwind tour of all the blogs on my blogroll (been a long time since I did that, actually!). I'm linking some of the interesting posts that I encountered...

Shanti ponders over the very concept of religion. I'm sure there will be a good amount of discussion on this one. :-)

Dina talks about some of the wonders of blogs.

Ravikiran looks beneath the surface of the currently raging Cola controversy. Anita on the other hand wonders at the fuss that is being created. She quotes an article from the Times which indicates the impurities that our daily foodstuffs may contain. (Icecream, they say, may contain washing powder!!... No wonder I feel washed out... both, on the inside as well as in my wallet, when I have icecream!!)

Arun has an interesting anecdote which illustrates why the practice of filling out feedback forms in restaurants is useless.

Gaurav seems to be in a pretty poetic/shayaraana mood these days! :-)

Rohini's post informed me that yesterday (13th August) was Left-Handers' Day!! So, in case you are a left-handed person, let me take this opportunity to wish you (albeit, belatedly) A Happy Left-Handers' Day!! :-D
Do you know that while a right-handed person uses more of the left-side of the brain, the left-handed people use both the hemispheres of the brain more or less to equal quantities. Also, since the left side of the body is controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain, left-handed people make more use of the right side of the brain than their right-handed counterparts. The right-hemisphere of the brain controls creativity and intelligence. :-)

Deepali muses a little about drain-drain and brain-gain before ending the post with a lovely poem.

Ahem!... this turned out to be something like a personal Blog Mela. *LOL*
But its essentially just a round up of today's (or yesterday's at the most!) posts from the people who are on my blogroll. By the way, I'm going to revamp the blogroll and remove the dead-links and update the wrong ones. Drop me a comment if you wanna be on my blogroll and aren't already there! ;-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

A couple of days back, I got a mail from one of my school friends, who lives in California. He was excited about Arnold Schwarzenneger deciding to put his hat in the gubernatorial ring. He loved the fact that Arnie chose to announce his candidature on Jay Leno's show.

Even though my knowledge of American politics is lesser than rudimentary, I replied to his mail (which was actually on our school's e-group). Here's that mail. Pardon my lack of grasp of power politics if it seems naive...
When you have a gubernatorial candidate announcing his candidature in a standup comedy show, you know why people say politics is becoming a circus nowadays.

Add to that a list of candidates that boasts of a "smut peddler with a heart" (Larry
Flynt), a "pornstar who wants to replace guns with X-Rated movies" (Mary Carey), a feisty columnist (Arianna Huffington), a "billboard icon" (Angelyne), a "26-year-old software engineer who sells thong underwear as her campaign mechandise" (Georgy Russell), etc. They also have a couple of candidates who are named Bob Dole and Michael Jackson !! (not the real things though)

With a circus like this, I guess California leaves behind even Florida (remember the last Presidential elections... the one that manipulated George W Bush into the White House).

I guess its "Hasta La Vista, Baby!!" to sanity which leaves the state without saying "I'll be back!!"
Indian elections see lots of circuses too... mostly with the clown acts, but this California thing is turning into an international farce!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Hizbul Mujaheedin chief Syed Salahuddin has urged Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes in Jammu and Kashmir.
The outfit promised 'protection' to them.

"They should return home and Allah willing the Mujahedeen (warriors) would provide them all possible protection," Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin said at a meeting in Muzzaffarabad on Monday.
Strange, isn't it?! Syed Salahuddin is offering protection to the Pandits. But who is he going to offer protection from?? ...

Ahh! the terrorists!!... how silly of me!

But then,, isn't Hizbul Mujahideen a terrorist organization?!!


Seriously speaking, the whole thing has to do with the position of Hijbul Mujahideen (HM) in the Kashmir valley. After years of funding and backing by Pakistan's ISI, HM is now without a backing except by its mother organization Jamaat-e-Islaami. The ISI prefers the Jaish-e-Mohammad in addition to the mercenary outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. With the ISI taps running dry and Pakistan Government putting a squeeze on Jamaat-e-Islaami, HM's funding has been severely affected.

HM has always been pro-Pakistan organization which advocates Kashmir's union with Pakistan. This has been the bone of contention between it and other pro-independence organizations like JKLF. Also, HM wants American intervention in the Kashmir dispute while organizations like Hurriyat are dead against it.

So Hizbul Mujahideen is essentially a spent force with a divided leadership. Its call to the Pandits to return to their homes is nothing but empty rhetoric and is inconsistent with their known idealogy. And unless majority of terrorist outfits do not give guarantees (which is a highly improbable event) for their safety, the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley may well start off another gruesome round of "ethnic cleansing".

This is an interesting concept that Mahindra-British Telecom (the company I work for) has introduced in an Indian corporate. They've recruited the services of John Buchanan, the Australian cricket team coach to offer "training and mentoring guidance
Buchanan to grind CEOs

MBT, a joint venture between Mahindra & Mahindra and British Telecom, wants Australia cricket coach John M. Buchanan to grind its executives into match-winners.

Management lessons appear to cut no ice in the cut-throat business world of competition anymore. Like in a one-dayer, killer’s instinct is what decides the clinching score in boardrooms.

“Academic management studies alone might prove inadequate at times. So a holistic approach is needed to take care of the physical and mental abilities and aptitude of executives,” sources close to the deal-in-the-making said.
Also check out this link for the coverage in Economic Times.

Monday, August 11, 2003

NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recounts his chance encounter with Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson at a dinner in Iraq.
As we sat down for a meal of Iraqi fish and flat bread, he introduced me to a small, black-turbaned cleric who was staying as his houseguest.

"Mr. Friedman, this is Sayyid Hussein Khomeini" — the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution.
Now, something like this just before a quiet dinner would spoil my appetite. But that's just me! ;-)

In any case, Sayyid Hussein Khomeini isn't in the same mould as his grandfather. He may have Ayatollah Khomeini's fiery eyes and steely determination (Friedman's description), but he is as liberal a Muslim as you'll get in the Arab world.
The 46-year-old Mr. Khomeini said he's currently advocating a national referendum in Iran to revoke the absolute religious and political powers that have been grabbed by Iran's clergy. But in other interviews here, he was quoted as saying that Iran's hard-line clerical rulers were "the world's worst dictatorship," who have been exploiting his grandfather's name and the name of Islam "to continue their tyrannical rule."
Now, doesn't that come as a breath of fresh air from the mouth of a Muslim cleric (and I'm not referring to the breath, which would not have been smelling anything like fresh air after a hearty meal consisting of Iraqi fish).

This dinner was being enjoyed at the house of another Shiite cleric by the name of Sayyid Iyad Jamaleddine, who like the young Khomeini is a liberal Muslim. His views on religion and state are particularly heartening
"We want a secular constitution. That is the most important point. If we write a secular constitution and separate religion from state, that would be the end of despotism and it would liberate religion as well as the human being. . . . The Islamic religion has been hijacked for 14 centuries by the hands of the state. The state dominated religion, not the other way around. It used religion for its own ends. Tyrants ruled this nation for 14 centuries and they covered their tyranny with the cloak of religion. . . . When I called for secularism in Nasiriya (in the first postwar gathering of Iraqi leaders), they started saying things against me. But last week I had some calls from Qum, thanking me for presenting this thesis and saying, `We understand what you are calling for, but we cannot say so publicly.'

"Secularism is not blasphemy. I am a Muslim. I am devoted to my religion. I want to get it back from the state and that is why I want a secular state. . . . When young people come to religion, not because the state orders them to but because they feel it themselves in their hearts, it actually increases religious devotion. . . . The problem of the Middle East cannot be solved unless all the states in the area become secular. . . . I call for opening the door for Ijtihad [reinterpretation of the Koran in light of changing circumstances]. The Koran is a book to be interpreted [by] each age. Each epoch should not be tied to interpretations from 1,000 years ago. We should be open to interpretations based on new and changing times."
Now only if someone explained that to our politicians... and the so-called guardians of secularism in India (I'm referring to the the separation of the religion and the state), though I know that will never happen!

Seriously though, now that Iraq has been sorted out... and the rebuilding underway, US should give some serious thought to using people like these clerics to promote change and real democracy in Iran... rather than using force or coercion. A religious revolution is needed... from within.

The reason why I say this is that we've seen in Iraq that all it takes is to lop off the top layer of leadership. Wrecking the whole structure of the establishment does not help... in fact it backfires. People have a natural affinity for democracy. So, once the top layer of the leadership is dislodged, either by the use of external force like the one in Iraq or by the way of popular uprising initiated by people with progressive ideals like the two Sayyids, the winds of change start blowing. The good thing about a popular uprising is that the question of an alternative governing body is as good as solved. While this is over-simplifying things, I think this is the way to go in Iran.

Are Khomeini, Jamaleddine and GW Bush game for this?

[link requires free NYTimes registration]

Sameer/Male/27. Hails from India/Maharashtra/Mumbai/Prabhadevi, speaks Marathi, English and Hindi. Spends 60% of daytime online. Uses a Faster (1M+) connection. And likes Reading/Computers.