This melodious composition from the Malayalam film Beena (1978) had a young Sathar wooing the then reigning queen of Malayalam cinema—Jayabharathi. When Sathar, who was only a few films old in the industry, seemed nervous filming the romantic scenes, it was Jayabharathi who saw to it that he was comfortable, and they hit it off right away. The duo would go on to tango in a couple more films till they eventually tied the knot the following year, 1979. More on that later…
Sathar, born Abdul Khadar Sathar in 1952 in Kadungalloor was a final year post-graduate history student at Union Christian College, Aluva when he applied to a casting call advertisement in a newspaper. As luck would have it, Sathar was cast as the lead in the film Anavaranam (1976), directed by the legendary A Vincent. The film was a hit and so was his next, Yatheem (1977). Sathar’s entry into Malayalam cinema coincided with that of Ravi Kumar, Ravi Menon and Jose, just as Soman and Sukumaran were emerging as the big stars. The likes of Sudhir, Raghavan, Vincent and Mohan were also around, along with the aging superstars Prem Nazir and Madhu.
Ram Boolchand Jethmalani (1923-2019), the Maverick of the Indian Courts of Law, was a lawyer by profession and a teacher at heart. I fondly remember he used to tell me that “I am first a teacher who happens to practice law”.
He obtained his degree in law at the very early age of 17 years and the very first case he fought was his own which showed that he was destined to be the man the world knows today. After practicing in Karachi he moved to Bombay as a refugee during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition and set his base in Bombay. Known for his timeless and unfading contribution to the legal justice system of India, he had gained popularity after being involved in the landmark case of a decorated officer in the Indian Navy known as the K M Nanavati Jury Trial.
With his sound knowledge of the law and his vast experience at the Bar, he had turned the trickiest cases upside down. The legendary criminal lawyer defended smuggler Haji Mastan, Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh in securities scam Case, BJP Leader L K Advani in hawala Scam, assassins of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Manu Sharma in Jessica Lal murder Case, DMK leader Kanimozhi in 2G scam, Asaram Bapu in a sexual assault case and late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for disproportionate assets case, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in defamation case filed by the Late Arun Jaitley, assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav in fodder scam, NJAC—the list is endless and I am glad that I was part of a few of these cases which left a mark on the Indian Judicial system.
Ram Jethmalani was the Chairman of the Bar Council of India during the most tumultuous period (1975-1977) for judiciary and democracy in contemporary Indian history.
Under his stewardship, Bar Council of India streamlined the rules for the general conduct of legal profession through the introduction of Bar Council of India Rules, 1975. When lawyers appearing for unpopular and infamous accused in criminal matters were decried, the Bar Council of India under the Chairmanship of Jethmalani provided the much needed safeguard when it stated in the 1975 Rules in no unclear terms that:
“It shall be the duty of an advocate to fearlessly uphold the interests of his client by all fair and honourable means without regard to any unpleasant consequences to himself or any other. He shall defend a person accused of a crime regardless of his personal opinion as to the guilt of the accused, bearing in mind that his loyalty is to the law which required that no man should be convicted without adequate evidence”.
As a crusader for reformation of Islam from within the community, Arif Mohammad Khan veritably is seen as a progressive Muslim face. But above all that, Arif Mohammad Khan has passed the Hindutva litmus test—among the few Muslims who has managed to accomplish that. His appointment as the Governor of Kerala is ample proof of his loyalty to the ruling dispensation and makes him a flag-bearer of the BJP’s ostensible inclusiveness.
In this context it is interesting what Khan has to say about the insecurity of the minorities. He termed Muslim persecution in the present political climate a myth and refused to lend an ear to the worries and anxieties of the minorities. He claimed that the feeling of alienation in the Muslim community actually began in 1986 and not in 2014. Khan reiterated in a newspaper interview that there were no major riots in the first five years of the Narendra Modi government. And he becomes the second Muslim to be appointed by the BJP as governor—the first was Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, who too had a similar perspective.
As far as Khan is concerned, India’s Muslims are responsible for their own problems. In his own words, the seeds of the problems lie within. By saying so, he denies the existence of majority communalism and its hate-manufacturing factories. He has said that Hindutva poses no challenge to the minorities—giving legitimacy to the hate speeches and provocative statements of the proponents of aggressive Hindutva.
Mohiyuddin Nadukkandiyil Karassery, popularly known as MN Karassery, first came to prominence in the Malayalam literary sphere with his appeal for widowed Muslim women of Kerala, published as ‘Ummamarkku oru Sangadaharaji’ (A Petition for Muslim Women). In the Shah Bano era, Karassery’s was the lone bold voice critiquing the Islamic Sharia and its abasement of Muslim women from within the community. He was one among the few people who realized the wrong turn that the Muslim community in India was taking in the Shah Bano case.
Karassery espoused the cause of free speech and rational thought within the Muslim orthodoxy. His forceful style of presentation as well as the clarity of his opinions made him a favourite of the liberal-secular ecosystem in Kerala.
In the wake of the sensational case of Chekannur Maulavi’s disappearance, it was Karasseri who took up the issue through his writings and activism. Chekannur Maulavi, a progressive Muslim cleric who became a nemesis to the orthodox Muslim establishment in Kerala owing to his heterodox views, disappeared one night on July 29, 1993. His remains are still untraced. Till date, Karasseri remains the sole visible advocate for Maulavi to have emerged from within the Kerala Muslim community.
Devavrat, better known as Bhishma Pitama, was virtue personified. And yet, his silence when Yajnaseni, known to us as Draupadi, was disrobed in the Kaurava court, deprived the grand old man of due honour. Bhishma Pitama’s association with Duryodana and his brothers led him to commit acts that were not virtuous in the end. K A Neelakandan’s rendition of the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s eyes—Yajnaseni—leads the reader to hold Bhishma differently and shorn of glean.
This short invocation of the Mahabharata, an epic that holds sway over a people across communities and generations in our society, will help comprehend and locate Arif Mohammad Khan, the Governor-elect of Kerala.
Let me, at the outset, clarify that I am not glossing over some issues of impropriety in making someone a Governor despite his association with active politics in the recent past—a factor that the Justice Sarkaria Commission held as undesirable for healthy conventions in its report in the 1980s. This recommendation, indeed, was followed in its breach more than adhered to in all the years since then and the Raj Bhawans remained, most often, reduced to appointing political persons either to ensure them the comforts of life or to play political games.
It might not be the end of the political career of Palaniappan Chidambaram. Consensus is that the case against him is weak and hence he is unlikely to be convicted even in this ‘Modi-fied’ era.
But the look-out notice, arrest and detention could all be said to have severely dented the image of the former Home Minister who doesn’t walk as much as strut. Since Chidambaram is perched on the ‘wrong’ side of the political line, his prospects in the immediate future seem not all that pleasant.
All the same a talent-starved Congress will do all it can to bail him out. Chidambaram is not exactly a grass-roots politician, not very popular even in his native Sivaganga in southern Tamil Nadu, a backwater with little to boast of for its association with a high-flying leader. He represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha for many years and was a central minister too, but he never bothered to nurse the region. His electoral victories could be largely attributed to the clout of alliance partners.
A Muslim man, with a Muslim beard, and a Muslim face sits in the dirt, bewildered. He was caught with beef (he says it was buffalo meat), was beaten and forced to eat pork by his tormentors. Hindus don’t eat beef, Muslims consider pork as haram. A video depicting this circulates on Twitter as India with an electorate of 900 million votes in a new government in an exercise that started April 11. It shows if the poor belong to a minority community or are Dalit, they can be beaten and bullied.
The dirty online games pay off, it seems.
A man, who hacked a Muslim to death in Rajasthan in 2017, filmed the act and uploaded it on social media, is contesting elections and will try to get into India’s Parliament, which owes its existence to Mahatma Gandhi’s path of non-violent, non-co-operation with British rulers. While the British are derided for what they did to Indian culture, more hated are the Mughals who are considered as foreign despite making India their home. The Mughals, of course, were Muslim.
When Khushwant Singh became the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India in 1969, he changed the world of magazine journalism in India forever. In its way, what he did with the Weekly, was as important as the change Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson and Gay Talese wrought in the world of American journalism, with the ‘New Journalism’—which in the sixties and seventies was hailed as a seismic shift in the way news was reported and non-fiction stories were told.
Or let me put it differently. In regard to his impact on the media, Khushwant Singh was Barkha Dutt before Barkha Dutt, Arnab Goswami before Arnab Goswami, M. J. Akbar before M. J. Akbar, Shobhaa De (the magazine editor as opposed to Shobhaa De the novelist) before Shobhaa De and Vinod Mehta before Vinod Mehta. He was, in short, the granddaddy of them all, a man before his time.
When he took over as editor (a job he had already turned down once in order to write his history of the Sikhs), he was fifty-four years old, and knew very little about either journalism or editing. He had worked briefly for All India Radio, and had founded a government publication called Yojana which no one read, so he wasn’t exactly a seasoned journalist or editor. He was exactly what the magazine needed.