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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Story of Indian journalist Exploited and Tortured in Oman



Hundreds of Indians workers are being denied their legal rights in business firms and other institutions across GCC nations. Workers ranging from labourers, domestic helps to professionals like engineers, journalists and even doctors are no exception.

English newspapers published from Muscat are among those who  violate rights of journalists with impunity and many Indian journalists have been subjected to abuse and arbitrary sacking.

However rarely one protests or files a complaint in courts there. Being in an alien land where official language is Arabic and foreign citizen and even locals have limited rights prevents them from approaching courts. Many also fear of their own safety and safety of family to fight a case. While a section of Arab Businessmen are to blame for exploitation of expatriates, a section of Indians act as abettors. Indian political leaders have financial relation with many Arab firms and they have benami investments there. So these people don’t interfere for Indian workers.

Though what I wrote is the norm, One Indian Journalist at Oman Tribune fought against abuse and illegal retrenchments. His open letter to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin  Said says it all.

(This is not against Sultan who is a benevolent administer who treats his subjects well and allows different religions to exist. This is also not against Omanis who consider Indians as friends and who have relations with India for hundreds of years. Let me clarify that Arabs and Indians are friends but crooks should not be allowed to subvert justice, whether they are Arabs or Indians)

To

HONORABLE HIS MAJESTY SULTAN QABOOS BIN SAID

THE SULTAN, SULTANATE OF OMAN


THROUGH: Citizens of Oman; expatriates and others


Your Majesty

I’m Hari Narayanan, journalist, fighting a legal case against Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group for more than two years against breach of contract (I joined Oman Tribune English daily on 17th Nov 2008 as Deputy Chief Sub-editor, copies attached, but my official designation on Resident Card was linguist); illegal termination (my contract was abruptly terminated on March 30, 2011, no reason was cited, copy attached; cheating and Human Rights Violations (three complaints were filed against Indian journalist Ajith Das (my complaint no. 311/2011) in August 2011 with Oman NHRC.

Our experience (with my wife and two small kids) since my termination on March 30, 2011 and till our troubled exit from Oman and back to India on May 6, 2013 (25 months) had been very horrifying, threatening, tiring and to say the least inhuman on the part of my employers.


To start with, The Manpower (labour dept) kept a blind eye when I moved complaint against the illegal and unjust termination on April 13, 2011; Manpower forwarded the complaint as case to the Primary Court in Muscat (case no. 467/2011).The Honorable Judge Emad Abdul Munim Ibrahim delivered the verdict in favour of Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group on May 29, 2012.


An appeal has been made to the Supreme Court (Case no. 118/2013) on March 23, 2013 against the Appeal Court’s judgment. Here, I would appeal to Your Majesty that my case at the Oman’s highest court be heard only by the honorable Omani judges.

Having struggled in Oman for last 25 long months without job in an effort to seek fair justice; we were literally drained out physically, mentally and financially. (I salute to all those Omanis and expatriates who stood with us in tiring times and also to those who wanted to share with our pain and agony, but, unwillingly opted out due to the threat posed by Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group.

Coming straight to the core issue; my contract was terminated on March 30, 2011, no reason was cited. When I asked the Al Watan/Oman Tribune management, they shot back, “how dare you ask the reason.”

In the case of Human Rights complaints against Ajith Das, Oman NHRC member and investigating officer of our complaints, Jehan Al Lamki, tried her best to seek an appointment with Mohammed Suleiman Al Taie a number of times to take up the issues against Ajith Das, but on all occasions Mohammed Suleiman Al Taie let her down. With no option left, Jehan submitted her report to Oman NHRC in Feb, 2012, stating that Mohammed Suleiman Al Taie had refused to cooperate with the Oman NHRC.

We were told that the only option left was that these files would be sent to “His Majesty” for final disposal! What happened thereafter only God knows? Every time we approached Oman NHRC, we got stereotyped answer that something would be done.

Why I was terminated? I joined Oman Tribune as Deputy Chief Sub-editor, thinking that the Oldest Media house would be transparent in their recruitment process, but soon my conscience proved wrong. After 10 months of my joining, I came to know that my designation mentioned in Arabic (violating the government norms and contradicting their own contract letter) was not that of a journalist, but linguist, stated on my official Resident Card, issued by the Government of Oman.

I asked Ajith Das why this faux pas! He told me that it might be due to some mistake and would be rectified in my next renewal i.e. November 2010. Shockingly, I got the same “linguist” designation on renewal of my Resident Card and soon I was after Ajith for cheating me, which finally led to my termination.

During that period I came to know that some 99 per cent expatriate journalists working with Oman Tribune had been cheated. Most of their designations are linguist, mentioned on their resident cards; some are page makers and designers.

Ajith Das, had been instrumental in the exit of more that 70 journalists since the launch of Oman Tribune English daily in September 2004. On an average one journalist was either sacked every month; forced to leave or made to sign his/her resignations, with the Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group knowing fully well the atrocities journalists’ suffered at the hands of Ajith Das.

It is worth mentioning that not a single Oman Tribune journalist was shown the door (in last 25 months) since I took up the case with Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group and till my exit from Oman on May 6, 2013, though, Ajith Das had recommended to sack many and even advised not to renew their contracts.


Legal Case! Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group had tried to justify my termination in court, stating that my post was Omanised and given to a young Omani girl Laila as part of Omanisation Policy.

The suspicion arose when Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group submitted documents in Manpower’s Labour Dept that Laila had replaced me (hari) on March 1, 2011 in Oman Tribune. My contract was terminated on March 30, 2011, that means going by what  Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group had claimed, Laila should have worked with me for 30 days (from March 1 to March 30, 2011.

In each and every documents submitted by Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group in Primary and Appeal courts, the management strongly claimed that Laila had replaced me (Hari) in Oman Tribune English daily newspaper.

Months passed by and no one knew in Oman Tribune who this Laila was? We pressed our claim legally and strongly in Primary Court that Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group had cheated the court, but the verdict went against me. 

I moved Appeal Court (case no. 372/2012) against the Primary Court judgment in June 2012. For six months, I and my lawyer went all out in search of Laila. Soon, by the grace of Almighty and with the support of some trusted Omani friends, we were able to track this young, truthful and dynamic Oman girl.

Laila was shocked to know that her name and documents were used against me in the name of Omanisation. For a few seconds, she was speechless. She said “I never worked with Oman Tribune newspaper.” “I started as a trainee journalist in Futoon (Arabic weekly magazine, part of Al Watan newspaper) in June 2010 and was confirmed employee on March 1, 2011. I resigned from Futoon on 17th September 2011,” she clarified.

When we were very sure that Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group had cheated the courts by producing Laila’s documents against me without her consent or knowledge, we pleaded the Honorable judges to summon Laila in court and unearth the truth.

Thankfully, despite strong protests by Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group lawyers in court, our plea was accepted by the honorable Chief judge Mohammed Attiah and summon was sent to Laila to appear in court on Jan 29, 2013. My lawyer took a daring stand and told the honorable judges that if Laila says that she had worked in Hari’s place in Oman Tribune daily newspaper, we would accept defeat and won’t pursue the case further. My lawyer even told the honorable judges that he had spoken to Laila on this matter.

On Jan 29, 2013, Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group claim was fully exposed when Laila told the honorable judges that she had worked in Futoon (Arabic statement copy attached). The court went in pin drop silence as Laila began her testimony, spilling the beans against the Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group.

Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group lawyer tried to defend an indefensible, but in vain. Chief judge Mohammed Attiah told Al Watan/Oman Tribune lawyer Hussain that whatever he has say, he should give in writing in 10 days time. (by feb 8, 2013).

We were told to give our reply based on Laila’s testimony within five days (by feb 3, 2013). The Chief judge Mohammed Attiah fixed Feb 26, 2013 for judgment.

In the meantime, we submitted our reply within the time frame but Al Watan/Oman Tribune Media Group failed to do so.

On the date of judgment, Feb 26, 2013, some 20 cases were listed for judgment and mine was 15th in the list. As soon as the names were called in my case, Chief judge Mohammed Attiah asked the court official Majid for the file. The judgment was postponed exactly for a week i.e March 5, 2013.

I asked my lawyer why this has happened to us only because five other judgments were announced after our hearing. He said: “the judges might need some more time to study the case.”

On March 5, 2013, despite the strong cool air conditioners in court, my full body began to sweat when the honorable judges passed through the corridors towards the court room. I tried to close my eyes and open again and again, thus, trying to prove myself wrong, what I had just seen.

The full bench was changed and the court had three new honorable judges to deliver the judgment.

Judgment announced. My lawyer sat on his chair in utter dismay. His face turned pale and that was enough for me to understand what was said in Arabic. “Case dismissed; claim rejected….”

Few days later when we went to read the full judgment in court office, the judgment said it all ???.


Friday, June 21, 2013

NSS budget meet decides to continue case against Chandrika

Nair Service Society will go forward with legal action against Muslim League’s mouth piece Chandrika daily for publishing an article against Nair Community and NSS leaders, reports Kerala media.

The decision of Nair Service Society was announced in a resolution moved at the budget meeting of NSS being held at the headquarters of the organization at Changanassery on June 21, 2013 reports media. NSS opined that the explanation given by Chandrika daily on publishing the article is not satisfactory. The resolution pointed out that the article was racial abuse indeed. It pointed out that that Nairs won’t forgive those who defamed the community.

The Chandrika article had contained defamatory statements against Nair community. It had personally attacked NSS general secretary Sukumaran Nair also. Sukumaran Nair said the Chandrika article was an effort to silence NSS general secretary. Nair Service Society is demanding a compensation of Rs one crore and a public apology from Chandrika for the defamatory article against Nairs.

In his budget speech Sukumaran Nair reiterated his criticism against chief minister Oommen Chandy and said some of the acts of chief minister had resulted in creating communalism in the state. The government has turned a blind eye towards the demands of Hindus in Kerala while demands of minorities are liberally considered, said the resolution. When Nair Service Society pointed out this there was an effort to term NSS as communal. Reiterating his earlier positions on an agreement with Congress before last assembly elections in Kerala, Nair said Congress lead by Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala had belittled NSS by unilaterally denying the terms of the agreement.

It was the hostility of Oommen Chandy to providing a key post to a leader from majority community (Hindus) in Kerala that sowed the seeds of current discontent in Congress, Kerala noted Nair Service Society resolution.

On the current controversy involving a lady Saritha S Nair who cheated scores of people in Kerala with the help of influential persons in current UDF ministry, Sukumaran Nair said strong action should be taken against criminals irrespective of caste. NSS won’t support any criminal just because he/she is a Nair, said Sukumaran Nair


Meanwhile Travancore Devaswom Board President M P Govindan Nair has resigned from the director board of NSS, reports media. He resigned following decision of NSS that those Nair Service Society leaders who occupy positions of power should either quit from NSS leadership, or resign their official positions given by present Congress lead UDF government.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kerala’s demographic changes and Hindus



Everybody agrees that Kerala’s demography has changed drastically in the last 50 years and is undergoing further changes. However this does not mean uniform changes in the population of various religious groups in the state. Even though not openly discussed, Kerala’s demographic changes means that population of some religious groups in the state is shooting up while that of others including Nairs is falling down. Kerala’s pseudo-left intellectuals and Muslim groups have always been hostile to discussions on the religious angle of Kerala’s demographical change.

The moment one analyses the connection between religion and this lopsided demographic change one is marked as communal and termed RSS sympathizer or Savarna Nair fedualist by vested interest self proclaimed Secular groups and organized religious groups. Even the intelligentsia in Kerala attacks those who point out that Hindu and Christian population in the state are falling down and Muslim population is rising fast.


Myth of poverty as reason of population explosion

Pseudo-intellectuals spread the lie that it is poverty and lack of education which leads to population explosion and when a group achieves social and economic growth it will attain population control. But they have no answer if we point out that if poverty and absence of education are reasons for population explosion, then the population of triabls in the state should have increased several fold which has not. Muslims in Kerala are economically equal to or better than other communities as per Surveys of credible organizations. In literacy rate, and number of government employees, Muslims match with any other group in Kerala. So it is clear that reason for population explosion among some groups is not poverty but their ideological opposition to birth control.


The campaign of organized groups to silence those who say truths about demographic changes in Kerala has succeeded. The result is population of Hindus, including Nairs which was more than 61 per cent of total population of Kerala in 1961, came down to 56.1 per cent of total population by 2001 and according to unpublicized information Hindus were only 54 per cent of Kerala population in 2011. According to a report that appeared in Kalakaumudi weekly dated June 10, 2012 (Only a lucky few got copies of this magazine as the rest of the copies disappeared from stands swiftly), Muslim population was 17 per cent of total population in 1961 and it grew to 24.6 per cent by 2001. The magazine report says that by 2011 Muslim population in Kerala has grown to around 27 per cent.

In a recent article in Deccan Chronicle newspaper, K C Zachariah of Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram is quoted as saying four taluks in South Kerala district of Pathanamthitta has recorded negative population growth in 2011 census. These are Adoor, Mallapally, Kozhencherry, Ranni and Thiruvalla. Neighbouring taluks of Chengannur, Kuttanadu,Karthikappally (all in Alappuzha district), Pathanapuram in Kollam and Udumbanchola, Devikulam and Peerumedu in Idukki are heading for a negative population growth soon.

All these taluks are having a very high population of Hindus, especially Nairs and Christians. According to Zachariah by 2021the total population of Kerala which stand at 3.34 crore as per current census will either be stagnant or might have gone down.


This is unlikely to be the result of a uniform fall in population across different religious groups. This will mean population of Hindus, especially Nairs and Christians, especially Syrian Christians will fall down significantly. This fall of Hindu, Christian population will also see a sharp rise in Muslim population and change in power sharing among different communities in Kerala. It is pointed out by Zachariah that by 2030 Muslim population in Kerala would be around 33 per cent of total population. It is likely that these estimates are conservative and Muslim population in the state by 2035 will be over 35 per cent of total population.

As per Zachariah’s estimates, birth rate among Christians in Kerala is 1.2, Hindus 1.4 and Muslims 2.1. This means Hindu and Christian population will fall drastically as to maintain a stable population, birth rate should be two. Among Hindus and Christians, it is likely that the fall in population may affect, Nair, Orthodox and Mar Thoma sections.

Population changes and Power sharing


The recent demarcation of assembly constituencies in Kerala saw Hindu and Christian majority southern Kerala losing four constituencies and Muslim dominated areas in Northern Kerala adding four. This definitely means more MLAs for Muslim League in Kerala assembly. Since the total number of MLAs in Kerala assembly will remain same at 120, the decrease in four Hindu/Christian MLAs in assembly will have double effect. By the time of next reconstitution of assembly constituencies in Kerala Muslim League will have more than 30 MLAs in assembly. It is also likely that they may in 20 years become the biggest party in United Democratic Front pushing Congress to second place. This will definitely give the claim of chief minister post to League. In this situation left front may also think twice when the select their chief ministerial candidate.

League already has five ministers in Kerala cabinet and has highlighted its right for deputy CM post. For League, CM post will become its right at the current rate of its growth.


Economic, educational and social influence

It is now evident from the surveys of organizations like CDS, that more than 50 per cent of foreign remittances are by Muslims. This means Muslims have achieved economic growth in Kerala. The largest number of educational institutions and hospitals in the state are owned by Muslims and Christians. A look at the winners of medical and engineering entrances in Kerala every year show that large number of candidates from Muslim community are among winners. All these nullify the myth that Muslims are economically and educationally backward. Even as Muslims in Kerala have emerged as the most powerful group, they are still being given reservations in jobs, and several scholarships for studying .


All these points out to one thing, in a democracy, only those groups with high population will be able to influence decision making process. Even though Muslims are the biggest single group in Kerala, they get benefits of minority. None will oppose this publicly and no government would dare to remove that status.

Remedy

Now how shall we remedy the disparities between different social groups in Kerala. For that Hindus especially Nairs have to become aware of the current social realities first. Right information is the key to it. With right information, we should fight for our rights making use of laws of our country and different institutions. We need to demand that family planning be made compulsory for all communities. If not, we should also reject the idea. Christian church in some places in Kerala has already announced perks for couples having a third child.

Hindus, especially Nairs need to accept more people to their fraternity. If a non Nair marries a Nair boy or a girl, they should be given membership in NSS if willing. Nairs should realize that the idea of exclusivity will be detrimental to our progress. In a democratic society one should grow by accepting more and more people to one’s group. We would be amazed to note that Mannath Padmanabhan, founder of NSS had once mooted the idea of converting others as Nairs.

Myth of danger in population rise

The idea that increasing population will negatively affect economic growth is a wrong notion. Increasing population means more youth who can work and who will buy. This means more generation of more wealth. If there is a negative population growth, it means a region will have to depend on migrants for the workforce. Europe is facing the crisis of demographic change due to migration. It is leading to social problems in countries like France, England and Germany. Increase in number of old people is creating problems in Japan. For maintaining culture and civilization of Hindus we need to maintain a controlled growth of our population.

If one group does not belive in population control and others implement population control measures, eventually the group which is against population control will conquer the whole world without a war.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nairs and Bunts: Two castes with common roots?

Nairs and Bunts

Nairs of Kerala and Bunts of Karnataka and Konkan coast share many features. Some of the websites of Bunt Community have pointed out these similarities. However, Nair community in general and Nair organizations in particular are yet to realize the relations between these two communities. Being from Southern Kerala I never thought that both the communities share similarities. But close contacts with Bunts changed my perception. Both communities are share many things.

My first encounter with Bunts occurred at Kasaragod, the northernmost district of Kerala bordering South Kanara district of Karnataka. Friendly Bunts of Kasaragod and Manjeswaram are hardworking people who have proved their worth in agriculture, business and arts and culture like their Nair counterparts in Kerala.

Numerically Nairs outnumber Bunts. It is estimated that there are more than 75 lakh Nairs in India with around 60 lakh in Kerala and the rest in other parts. Bunts could be less than 20 lakh, mainly in coastal Karnataka and Mumbai. (Estimates are rough and average of figures from different Census)
Similarities

Both castes have been warriors and feudal lords in the past and turned to agriculture in the later years. Bunts and Nairs share many common customs in social life. The form of Hinduism followed by both communities traditionally involves worship of Serpent (Naga) Gods at Sacred Groves (Sarpa Kavu) in Tharavads. Both worshipped mother goddess traditionally (Devi).

The languages of Malayalam spoken by Nairs and Tulu spoken by Bunts have many similarities and number of common words in both the languages is very high. It is said that in the past both Ancient Malayalam and Tulu were written using same script. In business both Nairs and Bunts are especially successful in hotel industry. Both community members share similar physical features too. A large section of Nairs and Bunts are fair complexioned. However, while one could find many people with blue, light brown, grey and green eyes among Bunts it is not that common to find blue and green eye colour among Nairs. However light brown and grey eyes are not that rare among Nairs too. Perhaps Nairs who are mythically from North who migrated to further South might have mixed more with local communities.

Historical evidence of relation between Nairs and Bunts

Nair community’s origin is often attributed to Nagas of Ahichatra in Bareilli taluk of Uttar Pradesh who later migrated to the South. (This is not a verified conclusion as there are many theories) Similarly, myths about Bunts also share the same origin. In Mahabharata it is mentioned that Drupada ruled Ahi Kshetra mening land of Nagas. Thus taking this direction it is likely that first group of immigrants from Ahichatra had settled in coastal Karnataka before a large section moved further South to Kerala settled here and intermingled with existing groups in Kerala. (The blog http://tulu-research.blogspot.in/2008/01/67-bunts-and-nairs.html  has details of this history.)

A visit to a Bunt Tharavad in Kasaragod or coastal Karnataka will itself explain the Bunt-Nair relationship. The architecture of houses and the sacred grove are exact replica of Nair Tharavads in north Kerala and only slightly different from Nair Tharavads in Central and South Kerala. Food habits of both communities have also lots in similar. Both communities enjoy non vegetarian dishes.

Similar to the art form Yakshagana popular in coastal Karnataka, native place of Bunts, Nairs have Kathakali. I am not an expert in history but feel that serious studies need to be done to find the relation between Nairs and Bunts.

Possibility for Bunt-Nair tie ups

Bunts and Nairs will both benefit if the two communities establish relations with each other. Bunts are influential in Karnataka and Nairs in Kerala. While Billavas of south Karnataka has already established relations with their counterparts Ezhavas in Kerala it would be quite natural for Bunts and Nairs also to establish friendly relations.

Now one finds Billavas celebrating Birth anniversary of Sree Narayana Guru, Sage from Ezhava community, in South Kanara and Udupi districts. The Billava-Ezhava tie up has helped both. As now Nairs and Ezhavas are now acting jointly on many fronts in Kerala for protecting interests of Hindus, Bunt-Nair unity would make protection of Hindu interests more easy. In the face, of changing demography of Northern Kerala and South Karnataka, a Bunt-Nair tie-up will have great relevance.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NSS-SNDP unity intact, clarifies Vellappally and Sukumaran Nair


NSS-SNDP unity, is intact and reports suggesting fissures in unity are wrong, SNDP general secretary Vellappally Natesan and NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair have clarified.
Their clarification came amidst rumours by a section of media that fissures in NSS-SNDP unity have started becoming evident. There is no difference of opinion between NSS and SNDP and both the organisations are taking decisions after discussions with each other, said Vellappally Natesan. There is not even a scar on unity of Hindus in Kerala, said Vellappally.

Vellappally said a section of media are concocting news with some motive. Natesan clarified that NSS and SNDP may have different opinion on certain issues. But that should not be interpreted as breaking of unity. He said certain television channels in Malayalam spread such news just because some leaders were unable to take part in channel discussions. Nair-Ezhava unity remains strong, he said.

NSS general secretary Sukumaran Nair said reports of NSS and SNDP parting ways being spread by a section of media are wrong. NSS-SNDP unity is well maintained, said Nair.

Rumors about fissures in Nair-Ezhava unity

Recently, a section of media had started airing doubts that Nair-Ezhava unity has broken. This was after a visit of Kerala industries minister and Muslim League leader Kunhalikkutty’s visit to Vellappally’s home. After the visit Kerala government had sanctioned around 10 educational institutions for SNDP. This happened a day before Chandrika daily published a defamatory article against Nair community and NSS.

Some of the channels had pointed out that Vellappally was silent about the article. But later Vellappally issued a statement denouncing the article. It is now clear that all reports that Nair-Ezhava unity has broken are false.

It seems certain sections in Kerala are itching to break the unity. Spreading rumours that NSS-SNDP unity has broken will create doubts in the minds of many and certain silences and difference of opinion between these two organisations will be interpreted as end of unity. All these points to one factor. Many groups in Kerala have realised that NSS-SNDP unity has effectively checkmated their evil designs. Nair-Ezhava unity has strengthened hopes of deprived section of people for social justice. It seems that slowly Nair-Ezhava unity has been accepted by all sections of Hindus in Kerala and none could break it. Even if NSS or SNDP leaders try to break, it seems, they will fail